Frugal panama canal: Norwegian Star Cruise Review by ben55124

Norwegian Star 5
Member Since 2009
104 Forum Posts

Overall Member Rating

Frugal panama canal

Sail Date: January 2010
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Miami
We tend to be frugal in our cruising -- interior room, main dining room for dinner, no drinks, no casino. Our final bill is usually a few ship excursions and auto gratuity.

While our frugality is probably not good for NCL's bottom line, it did not interfere with our enjoyment of our Panama Canal cruise on the NCL Star. Our goal was to get out of January in Chicago and there is likely no better cruise. 2 weeks, warm, and lots of sea days to relax.

Ports - Typical Central American ports. Find a T-Shirt that says you were there and do something fun. Most ports have tours available at walk off for much less than ship tours, but since we had never visited any of the ports, we booked several tours. If we take this cruise again, probably no ship tours.

Panama canal - Must see for frequent cruisers. People get up early (3am) to find the perfect spot -- but there is no perfect spot. Be prepared to go around the ship for pictures -- forward, aft, promenade. We More found the spinnaker lounge to be a good headquarters for watching the canal (air conditioning) and then go outside for pictures.

Ship - Prefer the Jewel class and Spirit layout. We eat at the buffet for breakfast and lunch -- which tends to get congested. No outside aft eating area to handle overflow.

Food - According to the Ma'tre d', the MDR menu has been upgraded (despite cost cuts elsewhere). We were impressed with the food and felt no need to upgrade to the premium restaurants. I'm guessing their menu is geared for 1 week cruises, since the first week seemed the best. I would have been glad to have them reset the menu for week 2 rather than getting creative.

Entertainment - Great overall. 2nd city needs some new material (same show as March 09 cruise).

Rooms - Typical NCL interiors. Good enough to shower, sleep, and change clothes. Carnival has larger rooms, but we like freestyle.

Nickel and diming / cost cuts - NCL gets a lot of grief for this. Yes, there are always options to spend money, but they are optional. My only concern was with the crew who seemed to be stressed. Our room steward had 36 rooms to clean. I'm guessing the food service people had some quotas. I hope NCL doesn't drive their crew to mutiny. To compensate for low ticket prices, cruise lines are cutting costs and adding fees like the airlines.

CC Meet and Greet - Good to see other CCers. The cruise director Ray and other VIP crew showed up to welcome/appease. They seemed concerned about negative CC reviews, so this site has power. They asked to be notified about issues so they could resolve rather than read about them online. Seems fair.

Overall - Great cruise. Will continue to make NCL my preferred cruise line. Less

Published 02/02/10

Cabin review: IB9569 Mid-Ship Inside

Basic NCL interior room. Nice bathroom/closet layout. Table restricts access to one side of bed (twins combined) -- need to climb from foot of bed. Carnival has larger rooms, but overall we still prefer NCL for freestyle.

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Port and Shore Excursions

Huatuluco, Mexico (not in port list)

This seems to be a resort town with lots of new construction. We took a ship snorkeling excursion. They have a coral reef. Warm water 82F (even in January).

This port seems built for cruise stops. If we were to visit again, we would probably skip the ship excursion and go with a local.

There are shops, restaurants, and a public beach within walking distance of the cruise dock.

Read 204 Acapulco Reviews

Our ship tour was canceled, so we ended up saving some pesos going with a tour of the city available at the port. The port has a good operation setup for city tours at about $25US/person. Hits all the city attractions (including cliff divers). No need to plan ahead just walk through the port and a guide will find you.

Acapulco seems to be a has-been port. There are nice areas, but poverty and age make it feel run down. Our post tour walk was a little uncomfortable.

Nice port for pictures, but no interest in returning to Acapulco.

Read 204 Acapulco Reviews

Tourist town. We took a ship para-sailing excursion. Could have easily found something to do walking out of the tender area.

Plenty of restaurants, shops, and tours available within walking distance. In hindsight, would not waste money on ship excursion.

Our only tender port, which shortens time available ashore.

A good option for Caribbean cruses to add a South American port. We took a ship "highlight" tour that visited the church on the hill, old city, and exterior of the fortress. Be prepared to be swarmed by street vendors at attractions (i.e. Old City). Our guide seemed intimidated by the street vendors -- possible repercussions of not exposing tour to enough vendors??? Glad I can say I've been to Columbia, but doesn't make me want to go back.

Industrial port, so not much to do within walking distance. For a cheaper option, take a taxi from port to old city, however, we were happy to pay for the extra security of a ship excursion at Cartagena.

We took a ship Zip lining tour. They claim they are the original zip lining site that started zip lining back in the mid 90s. It was our first experience with zip lining, so can't compare. They are friendly for beginners. 8 runs. They say to bring bug spray, but flying insects were not much of an issue (January).

Within walking distance from the cruise dock, there is a public beach with street vendors selling souvenirs.

Purerto Quetzal, Guatemala (not in port list).

We could not find any ship excursions in Guatemala that interested us, so we arrived in port and just shopped the tents that were setup in port. Vendors had some good deals for negotiation.

There was a free shuttle to a restaurant about a mile away that offered free wifi. Nice to catch up with email. This option seemed popular with the crew as well.

Some friends took a taxi to San Jose. They stayed in the cab and returned to the port -- not visitor friendly.

We were happy to shop the port vendor tents and get some cheap internet access.

Read 4003 St. Thomas Reviews

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