My husband and I, along with three other couples, just completed the 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise aboard the Norwegian Star. This was our 7th cruise on NCL and the second or third cruise for the other couples. We have been on the Wind ... Read More
My husband and I, along with three other couples, just completed the 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise aboard the Norwegian Star. This was our 7th cruise on NCL and the second or third cruise for the other couples. We have been on the Wind three times, and the Dream, Sky and Pearl once each. Check-in, Embarkation and Disembarkation: We drove to the port, since we live only about 6 hours away. A porter took our bags immediately. Embarkation was a breeze; everyone in our group was a Latitudes member, and the processing went very quickly. After checking in, we went to a waiting area and listened for our number to be called, which took perhaps 5 minutes.
Upon stepping on board, we were greeted with a cheery "Welcome aboard," a smile, and a glass of champagne. It was quite early, probably about 12:30 when we boarded, so our rooms were not ready. A crewmember asked us if we would like to store our carry-on bags while we went to have a bite to eat, and we agreed that was a good idea. There was a room where we could check in our bags until our rooms were available. Then he took us to the Versailles Dining Room, where we ate a delightful lunch. The cold Banana and Mango soup was to die for!
After lunch, we were able to occupy our rooms. Our bags were delivered very soon after we arrived in our rooms, so we settled in a bit, awaiting our departure from San Pedro.
At the end of the cruise, we put our bags outside the door like everyone else. Since we were driving, we felt no rush to get off the ship, so we got the yellow tags, which allowed us to stay aboard until 10. We actually were ready to go at 9:30. After leaving the ship, we claimed our luggage, turned in our Customs forms, loaded the car and we were on our way before we knew it. It went very smoothly.
Rooms: The rooms are very adequate, but of course, not spacious. We had a BC balcony room near the bow on Deck 9. We were able to stow everything away, and with a little extra effort, to keep things from getting cluttered. The bathrooms have three separate areas; one with the toilet, one with a sink, and a shower that is large enough to move around in and pick up the soap if you drop it. There are lots of hooks to hang robes, shopping bags, cameras, and other items, and the closet has shelves as well as hanging space, certainly enough space for a 7-day cruise. The balconies have two chairs and a small table. The refrigerator and cabinet are stocked with soft drinks, liquor and water, although we did not consume any of the items in the room. The beds were extremely comfortable.
Dining: We ate in four of the "surcharge" restaurants - Cagney's, La Trattoria, Ginza, and Endless Summer. We found the food and the service to be excellent in these restaurants. The meals were served in a leisurely pace, leaving time to fully enjoy each course. Paying a surcharge does rub us the wrong way a bit, but all cruise lines are going to this type of service. Nothing is "all-inclusive" any more. But if you can pretend that you are just going out to dinner at home, you will find these restaurants to be an enjoyable experience and a good value.
The two "Main" restaurants, Versailles and Aqua, are also very good, but the portions are very small. You may order more, if you wish, but most are not inclined to do that. The service is fine, although the staff is not quite as attentive as in the "surcharge" venues. Our waitress for our first lunch, Jonifa, was very personable and friendly, and we sought her out for dinner that night at the Endless Summer.
We ate a few meals at the Market Cafe, Blue Lagoon, and the Grill on the pool deck. These are fine if you (1) want to stay in your swimming suit and not get dressed, (2) are in a hurry, or (3) have slept too late to eat in either of the Main dining rooms, which close at 9 a.m. We tried to avoid these places after the first couple of days. The Market Cafe is often crowded and full of children. The Blue Lagoon is located in a place where everyone is walking through, and the only meal we tried to eat at the Grill was the Mexican dinner one evening, and we found it to be really sub-standard. On the other hand, the hamburgers being cooked there during the day smelled wonderful, but we did not get a chance to try them.
As a general rule, I would recommend the Main dining rooms for most meals and the "surcharge" restaurants a few times during your cruise.
Entertainment: We attended two of the three Jean Ann Ryan productions, and they were wonderful. The Chinese All-Star Acrobats were amazing. The crew show on the last full day was very good, and the finale, "Fountains," was hysterical. We had befriended some of the Cruise Director staff, and it was really fun to see them performing in this last act.
The lounges all had some sort of musician or musical group each evening, and all of the ones we saw were very enjoyable. There was a folk singer in Gatsby's who was excellent.
Second City put on shows on a couple of evenings, as well as conducting an NCL-U class in comedy. The earlier show is fairly "tame" and we understand the late show is a bit more "adult" humor, although we heard it was not really terribly "adult." They are a very talented group, and we enjoyed them on the one evening we attended their show. In addition, there were other entertainers, a magician, a ventriloquist, but we did not see them.
Karaoke was offered most nights. It was fun for a while, but then some younger singers took the stage and I guess we just are not able to fully appreciate their music. This is the fourth NCL cruise we have been on that offered karaoke, and it was by far the worst karaoke we have encountered. There were several in our group who participate in karaoke when we are at home, but we found the karaoke on this ship not to our liking. Shore Excursions: My husband and I did not do any shore excursions. Two of the other couples did book the Whale Watching in Cabo, and although they did see whales and other sea life on the tour, they saw whales much closer from the ship. Most of the time in the ports, we found a taxi van and driver at the dock, and for a very reasonable fee, they gave us a tour of what they thought we would like to see, along with stopping anywhere we wanted to stop. We found this to be well worth the money, and will do this in the future.
Spa/Fitness: None of us took advantage of either the Spa or the Fitness Center. Shame on us!! The Spa looked lovely, and the Fitness Center was very well equipped.
Families and Children: We were all older couples, ranging from the early 60's to the early 80's, and did not have any children along.
Public Rooms: The public rooms on the "Star" are very nice. Our particular favorite was the Spinnaker Lounge, up top and up front. We had a preferred bartender there, Jose from Peru, and he was very good to us. The public areas are well-maintained. Occasionally we found a rest room that was out of soap, but those times were few.
Service: For the most part, the service was very good, from the cheerful greeting when we boarded until we disembarked. We had only one waiter who seemed to be having a bad day, and one waitress in Ginza who was probably not as familiar with the procedures as she should have been. Otherwise, the service was excellent. We had towel animals on our beds on three evenings. Our room steward got our rooms made up very promptly in the morning and turned down in time for our return in the evening, even if we returned to our cabin early. We had absolutely no complaints about any of the service on board, and found the restaurant staff and bar staff in particular to be particularly accommodating.
Value: We have always felt that NCL has given us good value for our money. They may not pamper you quite as much as some of the other lines, but they do not charge you quite as much, either. We have always had a great time on our NCL cruises, and have never felt like our cruise was not worth what we paid for it.
The "surcharge" restaurants have increased both in number and in their surcharges since our last cruise 18 months ago, and that was disappointing; on our last cruise on the Pearl, the Latin/Tapas and Italian restaurants did not charge a surcharge, and this time they did. Some of the surcharges have gone up $5 per person since then, although some have remained the same.
The "service charge" put on your bill every day has also increased from $10 per day per person to $12. We were very happy to be refunded our Fuel Surcharge in the form of on-board credit.
Future Cruises: We have booked the Panama Canal repositioning cruise on the Pearl in September for a rather large group, and we are looking forward to it. Read Less