Intro--We are a working couple in our early 60s & have sailed the Caribbean approx. 10 times; also sailed Alaska, Panama Canal, Amazon & Mediterranean. We sailed the NCL Star Feb. 12-19, 2012 sailing from Tampa & stopping at four ports: Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico & Cozumel, Mexico. We arrived in Tampa the day prior to sailing to be sure there were no weather issues from western PA causing delay on arriving for embarkation. We booked a room at the Hyatt Regency on N. Tampa St. (downtown) to enable us to visit nearby Ybor City.
Embarkation--The Hyatt provides transportation to the pier for a nominal charge ($5 pp) & we arrived around 11:30 a.m. Embarkation process for Latitudes members was quick; however, boarding had not begun upon completion of this process. There were several hundred people who had completed this process prior to us & they began boarding first. We had a 20 min. wait before we were allowed to board. Although cabins were More
not available, we dropped our carry-ons off in the cabin & proceeded to the Versailles Main DR for lunch. Lunch was good (as were all meals in this DR & elsewhere on the ship) & we returned to our cabin & spoke with our steward. At our request, he removed all beverages from the fridge so we could have room to store our own items. He did his job well & left various towel animals on 5 nights. Our cabin was small, but adequate & storage was more than ample, especially shelf space. Bathroom was larger than most ships we have sailed, with a separate toilet & a shower with sliding door. Full length mirror was located in cabin & lots of hooks (for hanging wet items or whatever). Bathroom had magnifying mirror built into wall also (for ladies to put makeup on). Hair dryer was mounted at the desk area. Outlets are limited--one in desk area & one in bathroom.
Ship--The Star's physical layout of public rooms was very choppy--to get to some locations, it was necessary to go up/down one or more decks in that area of the ship to reach a specific room. An activity that we usually participate in which was not available was "dance lessons". There are shuffleboard courts on two different decks & two table tennis tables. NCL does not issue complimentary tote bags or leave chocolates (for lowest level Latitudes) at turn-down. Their menu is also lacking in # of courses served which can speed up total time needed to eat. I was concerned we would not be able to complete dinner prior to the first show, but this was not the case. We frequently chose to share a table & enjoyed meeting other passengers. Dress code for dinner was casual (to the point of being allowed to wear shorts in the other DR (Aqua) & jeans in either. We liked the fact that extra clothing for dressing up was not required & therefore cut down on luggage weight. We also ate lunch in the DR whenever possible as we are not fond of buffets. The buffet was good & did offer numerous selections and it is open 24-hrs/day. Bar-B-Q lunch was available poolside. Pizza & ice cream (both soft & hard) available in buffet. We only utilized one extra-charge DR, the Italian La Cucina ($10) & service/food were above complimentary dining locations.
Crew--all crew we encountered was friendly & provided good service. We had joined the cruise "critic roll call" prior to sailing & were treated to a meet & greet the first sea day, where the Capt. & many officers spoke briefly. Also, all attendees were invited to a private bridge tour which was enjoyable. The roll call group also arranged for a "cabin crawl" which was conducted on the first sea day also. This was a "tour of various cabin categories" as volunteered by the roll call members (and we volunteered for this). This was very interesting to see the other cabin types including Penthouses & we completed our tour in a Deluxe Owners' Suite located above the bridge (one of only 4 on board).
Entertainment--all shows we attended except Second City (which was a total waste of time as they were NOT FUNNY) were good to very good; however, we have attended better shows on other lines. Most shows were available twice each evening (7:30 & 9:30). Poolside band Xcite was very good.
Our main purpose for this cruise was to snorkel which is why we chose this itinerary. We did this in 3 of the 4 ports. We booked 3 NCL excursions & one independent. Please see the port reviews for descriptions of shore excursions.
Disembarkation--Quick & easy. Luggage very well organized.
Would we cruise with NCL again? Probably, if the itinerary was what we wanted. Less
This was our first visit to this port & we intended to do reef snorkeling & picked the Barrier Reef Snorkel & Beach Break from NCL. Snorkeling was excellent; however, there were a lot of people & none of the "guides" were in the water; they were floating on the surface in small boats. The Beach Break was at a private-type island called Bannister Island. Snacks were available for purchase but no food was included. There was another tour from the other NCL ship in port as well as the Beach Break only tour from the Star also using the island for their excursion (plenty of room). Cost was $74.99 pp.
We had previously visited Tulum & wanted to visit a different Mayan ruin location. The ruins were worth the visit, though much smaller than Tulum. Our guide was excellent. At the top of the plateau there is an excellent view (top of the tree line). Bus ride was approx. 50 min. ea. way, however. Cost was $79pp booked prior to sailing, more on board. Bring water.
We wanted another reef snorkeling adventure, but for this excursion there were too many participants to be able to snorkel freely without constantly trying to avoid others. Also, the water was deeper (not able to see as much coral/fish close-up). Location was at the Cozumel National Marine Park. The catamaran then took us to Playa Mia for lunch (included)/beach break. Unlimited drinks were available (complimentary) after snorkeling. Cost $79.99 pp.
We had been to Roatan previously & booked a private tour at Upachaya for reef snorkeling. It is a bed/breakfast with snorkeling/kayaking excursions available. A retired couple (the Thoresens) from Wisconsin built this facility (& run it). We went to two locations for the snorkeling & since there were only 8 of us, we got a very private tour. Cost was $60pp ($25 deposit & balance of $35 cash upon arrival) & included pick-up & return to ship & homemade lunch. See website www.upachaya.com for info.