Norwegian Star - Mexican Riviera: Norwegian Star Cruise Review by ctcruisers

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Norwegian Star - Mexican Riviera

Sail Date: October 2006
Destination: Mexican Riviera
Embarkation: Los Angeles
This review describes our 8-day cruise from LA to the Mexican Riviera on the Norwegian Star sailing on October 5th, 2006. This was our 4th cruise with NCL and our 7th cruise overall. We have sailed on Carnival and Royal Caribbean as well. We are a married couple from Connecticut and both are 50 years old. This was our first cruise on the west coast and we were both looking forward to visiting the ports on the Mexican Riviera.

I work for a company based in Irvine, CA. I had arranged for a business trip to visit the headquarters, so we had spent a few days in Orange County using a rental car out of John Wayne airport. On the day of our embarkation, we dropped the rental car off at the Long Beach airport and took a shuttle to the cruise port in San Pedro.


On the day of embarkation, the Star was the only ship in port, so traffic wasn't too much of an issue. We arrived at 12:30pm and as we walked into the terminal, we were welcomed by staff More that handed us copies of the freestyle daily and directed to an escalator to the processing area. We headed to the Latitudes line and waited about 40 minutes before being processed and given our key cards for our cabin.

We had sailed on the Dawn, a sister ship of the Star, in May, so we were already familiar with the layout of the ship. As we boarded the ship on deck 7, midship, we went directly to the information desk in the atrium and asked for a copy of the daily menus for our cruise in the main dining rooms. They also gave us copies of the specialty restaurant menus as well. Next, we went to our cabin to drop off our carry-on bags.

We booked an inside cabin and were assigned cabin 4009. We prefer inside cabins as we like to sleep late and do not want to be woken by the morning sunlight. Cabin 4009 was situated in the forward part of the deck in a hallway that was off the main hallway which made it very quiet. We usually book a guaranteed rate and are upgraded to a higher level on the ship, but this was the first time where the ship was sold out and we did not get upgraded. The room was only a few steps away from a stairway and elevator and we would only have to walk to mid-ship to get off the ship during port days.

The cabin is set up for 4 possible passengers. There are two twin size beds with an overhead berth for one additional person and a roll-out bed that comes from underneath one of the twin beds. We had two full-size pieces of luggage and a garment bag that we were able to store under the other twin bed. The closet had an overhead light along with several shelves and racks to accommodate several hangars. We were able to store everything. The room has a small fridge which was stocked with an assortment of beers and liquors. We asked the room steward to empty the fridge as we had brought Diet Cokes and Lemonade on board with us. We also stored extra beers we bought on board in the fridge as well.

My wife cannot be in the sun and we really enjoyed the indoor pool and spas on the Dawn. We had read on message boards that the Star was charging a pool pass fee to use the indoor pool area. We went up to the Barong Spa to investigate about the pool passes. They were charging $15 a day or $78 for the 8 days to use the pool area. We do not gamble, go on shore excursions, or go to the specialty restaurants, so as our one indulgence we signed up for a pair of pool passes. They limited the amount of pool passes to 80 people per cruise. This is intended as crowd control, not as much as a revenue generator. On the Dawn, the pool area was free and it was always crowded and noisy, so we could appreciate the ability to use in the pool and Jacuzzis in peace. We have heard that they are now charging for pool passes on the Dawn and other sister ships as well.

We headed up to the Market Cafe for a buffet lunch and then to the muster drill before heading up topside to the Bier Garten bar to stake out a spot for the sail away. The Bier Garten is only a bar and does not offer food. We are beer drinkers and they were offering beer helmets where you would get 6 beers for the price of 5. You had your choice of domestics and imports. The only beer they would not let me buy this way was Foster oil cans. You paid a $5 deposit for the plastic helmet which was refunded when you returned the helmet to any bar on the ship.

For the sail away, the starboard (right) side is the best side of the ship. On this side, your view is of trees and small boats in marinas versus sailing past the container ships and cranes of the LA port. Sailing out of New York City or Miami gave better vistas. The wind was strong, so we wore sweat shirts to keep warm.

For the main pool topside on deck 12, we found that the pool was surrounded by table and chairs and not open areas for lounge chairs. The lounge chairs were found on the tiered decks leading away from the pool up to deck 13. It has two slides that were open several hours a day. There is a smaller pool behind the band stand that is between the two slides. There are also 4 Jacuzzis that surround the pool area.

There are two main dining rooms on the Star that do not require a fee or a reservation, the Versailles and the Aqua. They have the same menu in both rooms, so it is a matter of which atmosphere you prefer. We went to the Versailles for dinner. The Versailles is located aft on deck 6 and has wonderful views with the aft and side windows. We like to eat early between 5:30 and 7:00, we never had to wait for a table. We went to a trivia contest in the Red Lion pub and then up to the Spinnaker lounge for the Welcome Aboard Show hosted by our CD, Simon Murray. Simon is an Australian with a quick wit and seemed very comfortable delivery. He always wished everyone to have a Smashing good time. The show introduced several of the musical acts to be found on the ship during our cruise. Most days they had shows at 7:30 and then again at 9:30 which gave us flexibility for dining plans.


The seas were calm, but the wind was very chilly topside. Most people had jackets and sweatshirts. After lunch we went for our daily trip to the Barong pool and spa. There are two Jacuzzis and a 35-foot long lap pool to use. There are several chairs and loungers. The lounge chairs face the windows that overlook the aft of the ship. We found it very relaxing as we watched the waves caused by the wake of our ship. For the most part, the few people in the area spoke quietly and you could hear the soft music they piped into the room.

For the rest of the cruise they had trivia contests at 9:30am and 5:30pm which we tried to attend. We went to the Aqua dining room on deck 6 midship, which we found to be louder than and not as comfortable as the Versailles.

The show for the evening was sketch comedy from The Second City. We went to the 7:30pm show. We had seen a Second City Troupe on the Dawn in May and were disappointed that more than half of the skits performed were identical to the previous show we had seen. They were funny though.

In the Spinnaker lounge, they had Family Feud games where anyone could put their name into the bucket and could be chosen to play with others. It seemed that the passengers were really eager to play the game and root for the contestants, but they kept having technical difficulties with the computer software used to track the answers and wrong guesses which led to a lot of delays.

At 10:30 in the Spinnaker lounge, they had a 70's disco groove party where they had women lip synch to Gloria Gaynor's I will Survive and men dress up as the Village People to dance to YMCA. They had the same thing on the Dawn, so we decided to head back to the cabin. They taped the show and repeated it several times on one of the TV channels.

Before we went to bed, we changed our watches by moving them ahead by one hour to match the ship's time as we moved east towards Acapulco.


The seas were still calm, but now you could feel heat and humidity as we were passing past the tip of Baja California.

They had a Latitudes party for returning guests in the Spinnaker Lounge in the early afternoon where they introduced the captain and other key members of the ship's staff. They have a few free drinks and finger foods and offered some small gifts to winners that they announced by pulling names from a bucket. My wife had her name picked for a free dinner at the Ginza Restaurant. We remember when they always gave away a free 7-day cruise for two at the Latitudes party, but I guess that is a thing of the past.

We went to the Barong Spa for our daily dip into the pool and Jacuzzis and then up to deck 13 to sit under the canopy by the Bier Garten for a helmet of beer while watching the waves go by. We then went down to Gatsby's for the trivia contest which we won with another couple.

Tonight was one of the formal nights where people could dress up for portraits. We had decided that we would dress casual for the entire cruise. We ate in the Versailles for dinner before the evening's big show in the Stardust lounge. It was the first of several shows by the Jean Ann Ryan troupe and tonight's show was called Music of the Night with music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. We were very impressed with the singers in the show. They were very good and a pleasant surprise from the singers we heard in the shows on the Dawn in May.

To end the evening, they had the Newlywed Not-So-Newlywed game in the Spinnaker lounge hosted by the CD, Simon. They selected 4 married couples to play the game. Simon ran the show differently than other games we had seen on previous cruises. He had the women leave the room while he asked the men potentially embarrassing questions about their wives. This led to a lot of funny remarks between Simon and the men. He repeated this format again by having the men leave the room while asking the wives questions about their husbands. It was a very funny show thanks to Simon.


Seas are still calm with the temperatures in the low 90's and the humidity around 70%. The Star arrived in Acapulco by 10:00am and is docked at the pier by 11:00am. The Star is the only cruise ship in the bay. They announced that we could disembark the ship by 11:30am through one of two gangways that were found on deck 4, midship and forward. They also announced that all passengers must return back to the ship no later than midnight: SHIP'S TIME. This is very important as the ship's time was one hour ahead of Mexican time as we found out when we walked off the ship. We signed up for the Murder Mystery dinner before heading off of the ship.

We had decided that in Acapulco we wanted to go and see the cliff divers at La Quebrada and then go to the Hard Rock Cafe which was at the other side of the bay, several miles away. When you get off of the ship, you walk through an air-conditioned terminal building with shops, an internet cafe, restrooms, and a bar. After that you go through an area that has cab drivers waiting to take you anywhere you want to go. We asked to have someone take us to the La Perla restaurant at La Quebrada and then to the HRC. They brought over a taxi driver who introduced himself by showing us his official ID and then he gave us his card with his ID number and cell phone. We negotiated a price where he would drive us to the cliff divers, wait for us and then take us to the Hard Rock waiting there to return us back to the ship. The cliff diver's first show is at 1:00pm Mexican time which only gave us 15 minutes to get to the La Perla restaurant to watch them. We thought it was 11:45am, but it was 12:45pm Mexican time. A thing to remember is that most of the taxis in Mexico do not have air conditioning. It only took 10 minutes to drive over to La Quebrada where the El Mirador Hotel and La Perla restaurant overlook the cliffs where the divers perform their show. The driver, Victor, brought us to the front desk of La Perla where we paid $28 to sit down to watch the show at a table in the shade while we each would get 2 drinks. There is an observation deck down below that is totally exposed to the sun where several people were already standing to watch the divers up close. It was amazing to watch the divers climb up the face of the cliff and then dive in the small cove below. At the end of the show, the divers walk up to the top of the steps to receive tips from all of the observers.

Victor then drove us along the bay towards the Hard Rock pointing out and offering to stop at various places along the way. We stopped at the HRC to look around at the memorabilia, have a few beers to cool off, and buy some souvenirs. Victor brought us back to the pier terminal by the Star which we gladly walked into to escape the heat and humidity. We quickly changed went to the Spa pool to take a dip and relax.

For dinner, we decided to take advantage of the prize we won and booked a reservation at the Ginza Restaurant. My wife prefers plain steak and potato, so there was a very limited selection of non-spicy food to choose from. Our meal was okay but nothing special.

At poolside on deck 12, they had a live Mariachi band playing from 5:30 to 9:30pm. There was only one main show for the evening at 8:45pm. It was a Mexican Folkloric show that had local performers showing several types of Mexican dance. It was very entertaining.

Last call for passengers to return to the ship was midnight and we were sailing to Zihuatenejo by 1:00am ships time.


Again the weather is hot and humid. It had rained in the early hours of the morning, but the skies were clearing. We had arrived in the bay by Zihuatenejo by 6:00am. We were there along with another cruise ship, the Regal Princess. Both ships used tenders to get their passengers to shore. They announced the start of tender at 7:30am with the last tender returning to the ship at 1:30pm ship's time. The Star carries four tenders that they drop down to use at the various ports.

We had decided to stay on board at this port. We headed up to the Barong Spa to relax and watch the sail away at 2:00pm from the back of the spa.

The main show was It's Fame with the Jean Ann Ryan Company. It had a lot of singing and dancing and was enjoyable to watch. We went to the early show at 7:30pm before heading up to the Spinnaker lounge at 8:45pm to watch the Who Wants To Be A Bazillionaire? game hosted by the assistant CD, Archie. Several people were called up to play and Archie would give each contestant a small NCL prize for every correct question. Archie was very funny as he tried to help people that were getting stumped with early questions.

At 10:30pm they held a 50's & 60's Sockhop hosted by Lisa. They had the band, Cruise Control playing rock and roll songs from those decades. They had a twist dancing contest and then they had an Elvis look-alike contest. One passenger showed up for the event in an Elvis-style white jumpsuit and he was named the winner.


It was another hot and humid day as we arrived into the bay by Puerto Vallarta by 9:00am. The Star anchors in the bay along with the Regal Princess and we have to use tenders to get into town. They started tender service at 9:30am. Docked at the pier is another Princess cruise ship, the Diamond Princess. The last tender back to the ship was scheduled for 4:00pm.

After breakfast, we took the tender into the town. When we got off the tender, we walked a short distance to go through an exit gate. There were a few shops for souvenirs, internet, phone, and food just outside the gates along with a taxi stand area.

We had decided to take a cab to the El Malecon area on the other side of the bay to visit the local Hard Rock Cafe and other sites. The cab ride cost $5 each way. The driver dropped us off a few blocks from the HRC and we walked along the El Malecon looking at statues and window shopping at various shops. A few blocks behind the city hall is a gorgeous cathedral that had very ornate gold gilding all around the altar. In the block between the church and city hall we found an internet cafe that only charged $2 for 60 minutes of internet time. We stopped and went into the HRC to check out the memorabilia before heading back to the ship.

We spent the afternoon in the Barong Spa pool area and then went up to the Bier Garten to watch the sail away just after 5:00pm. We then down for the trivia contest and after that to dinner in the Versailles. The big show in the Stardust lounge was a magician show called Magical Showtime with Gossamer magic. We went to the early show. His show was entertaining. We met up with the magician after the show in an elevator and remarked at how limber his assistant must be to fit inside the small boxes that he used for his show. After that we went down to the Red Lion Pub to listen to the Star Show band play Dixieland jazz music. The show band on the Star is very good. They have a drummer, bassist, and keyboardist along with a 3-man horn section that could play trombone, cornet, trumpet, saxophone, and clarinet. They were able to play just about any type of jazz song. We enjoyed listening to them over the course of the cruise.


Just like Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatenejo, we arrived in Cabo San Lucas under hot and humid conditions and found ourselves along with another cruise ship. This time the ship was Holland America's Oosterdam. Both ships were using tenders. Tender service started at 8:30am using not only the Star's 4 tenders, nut additional tenders from the Cabo port which really sped up the process of going into town off of the ship. The tender was scheduled for 3:30pm.

Cabo was the prettiest port that we saw. Off to one side, you saw large rock formations that seemed golden with the early morning sun. We were near Lover's Beach and the famous rock arch formation. To the other side was a vista of the bay.

We went to breakfast and took a tender into town around 11:00am. Groups of people were coming back to the ship looking wilted and once we landed on shore we realized why. It was very hot and there was no shade to be found for relief. We wanted to visit the Hard Rock Cafe which was at a Mall on the other side of the marina. The walk there took about 20 minutes by which time we were soaked with sweat. After that, we started walking back towards the pier for a few blocks to visit Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo Cantina. It was a really interesting place and the signs said that their evening show was sold out. It was too bad that we couldn't stay late in Cabo, as this place must be rocking at night.

After getting back to the pier, we tendered back to change and go to the Barong Spa to cool off and relax. We wanted to go topsides at the Bier Garten to watch the sail away and be able to take pictures of the arch.

We went to dinner in the Aqua room as part of our Murder Mystery dinner. It was not as much fun as we thought it would be. The fact that we had to read through the clues and discuss our characters while in a noisy dining room made it difficult to relax and enjoy try to figure out who the murderer was amongst our group. (I was able to guess correctly)

We went to the early show at the Stardust Theater called Cirque Pacific with the Jean Ann Ryan Company. The show had a lot of dancing along with acrobats that were phenomenal. As we were walking to the show, they made an announcement that we were missing a passenger from Cabo and that we were going to turn around to return to Cabo, which we thought was unusual. At the end of the show, they stopped the music and paged a women's name several times before finishing up the production by introducing various NCL crew members for a We Are The World salute by the crew to the audience.

We then headed up to the Spinnaker Lounge to listen to the Star Show Band play swing dance music before they had the Second City Troupe return for scriptless improvisation. The format of the improv was the same as what we had seen on the Dawn so we left for walk around the ship before returning to our cabin.


Another smooth sailing day, but now the wind is cool and everyone is back to wearing sweatshirts and light jacket while topside.

I was concerned about the delay we had by returning back to Cabo, so we stopped by the information desk to inquire about how late we would be in returning back to Los Angeles. The desk clerk said that the captain would be making an announcement during the disembarkation briefing that was scheduled for 10:15am in the Stardust Theater. For the first time in all of our cruises, the theater being used for the briefing was backed. I am sure because everyone was concerned about a delay in returning back to our home port. At 10:15am, the captain came onto the PA system to announce that the missing passenger was lost overboard and that after several hours of intensive searching along with Mexican Navy ships, they were unable to find the person. And, due to effort to search for the person, we would be late arriving into Los Angeles by more than 4 hours. He said the scheduled time to arrive in port would be 11:30am. You could have heard a pin drop in the theater as the captain spoke. After the captain spoke, the CD Simon came on stage. You could see he was saddened with what had happened the previous night. He told us that he was with the captain during last evening and that he and his crew did everything they could to find the passenger. He then asked for a moment of silence for the lost passenger. It was a very sad moment. Simon did a great job to try to change our moods and still be respectful of the situation. We later heard that a suicide note was found in the person's cabin and that a body was recovered by the Mexican authorities.

After the announcement of the delay, we left the briefing and headed down to the reception desk to see how we can make changes for our flights as we were clearly not going to return in time to catch a flight back to Connecticut on Friday. The desk clerk informed me that they were setting phone lines for passengers to use to call travel agencies and airlines to make arrangements. They had the phones set up in rooms by the Spinnaker lounge. When we arrived at the rooms there were already a handful of people in line to use the phones. We only had to wait about 15 minutes before being able to call our airline to make changes, which turned out to be very costly for us. My flight ticket was a full fare ticket and I only had to pay a $100 change fee to change my flight from Friday to Saturday. My wife's ticket was a travel award ticket and the airline would not let her fly home until Tuesday unless we bought a full fare one-way ticket for $720. On top of that we would have to book a night at a hotel for Friday night. While we were sad to hear of the tragic loss of the passenger, we were now also frustrated with the way our airline treated us. The lines to use the phones had turned into very long lines of frustrated passengers.

We went to the Market Cafe to get a late breakfast before heading to the Barong Spa for our last day at sea. We went up to the Bier Garten for a final sunset and to say good bye to the waiters and bartenders we had met over the week.

After eating dinner at the Versailles, we went to the early show at the Stardust. It was a comedy juggling show by two men who called themselves Sharkbait. They were very funny and were good jugglers that had the audience participating with them.

After that show we went to the Spinnaker to see members of the Jean Ann Ryan Company perform songs from Broadway. They had three young women that really could belt out songs from Broadway plays. In between their songs, a young man played his guitar and sang an original song of his.

Then after the singers left, they setup a You Are The Weakest Link game hosted by Lisa. She picked several people from the audience to come up and play and I was one the ones chosen. She started the game asking questions and everyone was helping each other to answer the questions. When it came down to the final three people, I was still remaining along with two women we had met at the various team trivia contests over the course of the cruise. Neither one had won any of the contests, so I voted myself off the stage so that one of them could win a prize.


Originally, we were to have arrived in port by 6:00am and disembarking would start by 8:00am. But, our revised schedule had us arriving at 11:00am. We went to breakfast before heading back to our room to pack our luggage. We had originally signed up for the freestyle express program which allowed you to be the first group off of the ship as long as you carried your own luggage. Since we now were in no rush to get off of the ship, we waited until the morning to pack.

We went up to deck 7 to watch us pull up to the dock. We saw that the Regal Princess and Monarch of the Seas were already at the piers. There was a long delay getting the ship lined up and to have FBI and Immigration personnel come on board to clear the ship. The setup for immigration was that you had to go through the Spinnaker lounge to show your ID and custom forms and then go back down to deck 6 or 4 to disembark after they gave you a slip of paper that showed you had cleared customs.

As you can imagine, it was a very chaotic event as the majority of passengers wanted to get off of the ship as quickly as possible to try and make flights or start long drives back home. We walked around for awhile before picking up our luggage, take an elevator up to deck 12 to go to the Spinnaker, and then head back down an elevator to get off of the ship on deck 4. There were a few news crews outside of the terminal as we walked out at 1:30pm to catch a shuttle to take us to the John Wayne Airport where we had our hotel shuttle pick us up to take us to their hotel for the evening. That night we watched a TV news report that showed the ship leaving with its new passengers after dark and that they had recovered the body of the women that had jumped off of the ship.


Dining  We were always able to get breakfast and lunch at either the Market Cafe on deck 12 or the Versailles on deck 6. The Blue Lagoon had a small selection of food available 24 hours a day. On days, when my wife did not find something she liked to eat in the main dining rooms for dinner, she could always order a striploin steak and potato.

Music Entertainment  They had several performers appearing daily on the ship in various locations. For the most part, they were all good, but I think the Star Show Band was the best and had the most variety. Stan Sykes was a performer of Motown and R & B music with a voice who sounded like a husky voiced Lou Rawls. He had a lot of energy.

Crew  Everyone we met on the ship was very cordial and made you feel welcome. A few members of the staff were exceptional. Alvin, a waiter on deck 12 and 13 by the Bier Garten and Rodrigo, a waiter in the Versailles, went out of their way to take care of us and we enjoyed their conversations with us.

Cruise Director Staff  Simon Murray was a true gentleman as he entertained us for the entire cruise and then the way he kept us informed of the tragic news during the final days. His staff of Archie, Lisa, and Marissa were all funny and witty.

Barong Spa  It is worth the money to pay for a pool pass. This was a relaxing refuge for my wife and I. For the most part, other passengers were respectful of the atmosphere and talked in quiet tones which helped to keep the relaxing mood of the room.

Internet  We did not sign up for the internet service on board as we thought it was pretty expensive with rates from 55 cents to 75 cents a minute. We used internet cafes we found in the various ports where we were charged $2 to $4 for 60 minutes.

Ports  We had to use tenders in all of the ports except Acapulco. The fact that the ship carries its own tenders allows them to get passengers back and forth relatively quickly.

Trivia Contests  That had trivia contests every day at 9:30am and 5:30pm which we enjoyed going to.

View of the Bridge - Behind the curtains at the back of the Spinnaker lounge are windows that are above the ship's bridge along with signs that explain what each station's instruments are used for. On one day, they gave a brief tour and explanation of the signs.

Exercise  I am a runner and the Star has a jogging track that is ¼ mile long on deck 13. They also have a fitness center with plenty of treadmills, free weights, ellipticals, etc. to work out on.

Overall  Except for the sad ending, we really enjoyed the cruise and its itinerary. Less

Published 10/19/06

Cabin review: IF4009 Inside

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