ABOUT US: we are in our early 40s, DS is 12, DD is 10. This was our 5th cruise – and our 2nd with NCL. We were able to get a good deal/promo last year and brought my mother along as a gift for her 65th birthday, and also my best friend ... Read More
ABOUT US: we are in our early 40s, DS is 12, DD is 10. This was our 5th cruise – and our 2nd with NCL. We were able to get a good deal/promo last year and brought my mother along as a gift for her 65th birthday, and also my best friend from college who is also in her mid 40s. We booked the family suite which sleeps 6 and had planned on having it be 2/2/2 in the beds but it ended up being 3/2/1 which was just fine as the main bed is large, king size, I believe – and it fit myself, my husband, and my son comfortably. I know some folks think these accommodations are tight for 6 people, but for us it worked just fine. We coordinated bathing to have 3 in the a.m. and 3 in the p.m. We were out of the suite more than we were in it, so there weren’t really any issues with the amount of people we had in the suite.
GETTING THERE: we drove down from Idaho in pieces. We left after work one night and did a 2-hour drive to Twin Falls, Idaho and spent the night there. The next day we did 7.5 hours down to Las Vegas. And the next morning we drove 4 hours down to the Los Angeles area and stayed overnight in Buena Park. We stayed at all La Quinta hotels – free breakfast, free wi-fi, cheap, and we get points to earn free hotel rooms.
EMBARKATION/DAY 1: we arrived at the World Cruise Center in San Pedro at 10am, met our friend who had driven in from the valley in California, got everything unloaded, trucked it over to the island where the porters can come out to, he loaded it all up on one cart, we tipped him and he took our stuff. 10:30ish there was no line outside the terminal, we passed security, and went inside. The staff there told us where to go, we told them we were in a suite, they asked to see our papers showing this, and then gave us the have you been sick paperwork or whatever that’s called and had us sit and fill that out and then escorted us to another, much shorter line (than the others) where we waited for like 5 minutes. We took our pictures, got all registered and were then escorted to the priority lounge.
They were just putting out the food when we got there – 2 kinds of pound cake, finger sandwiches, OJ, water, and coffee. Our concierge Roel handed out the sheet to select our specialty dining time. We decided to wait and do this later – BIG MISTAKE. When we tried to book a dinner at Cagney’s later, everything was booked except for La Cucina at 9pm one night, and 9:30pm another and there was nothing Roel could do for us. So bummed. But I digress. Roel escorted us all on to the ship, embarkation picture, hello and welcome aboard from NCL staff, and took us up to lunch at Cagney’s (open for breakfast and lunch for suite guests). We waited in the Sugarcane Bar right next to it for about 15 minutes, and then were taken in to lunch.
We finished lunch and went to check out our suite #12528. We never received the pre-boarding suite e-mail (where you can choose pillow type, and make any special requests), so I e-mailed NCL just a few days prior to sailing asking for certain snacks in the room when we boarded and in the afternoons. I had read here on Cruise Critic that gummy worms and m&ms for the kids were an option. There was nothing in the room except for a complimentary bottle of champagne and one of water. We were pretty early on-board, I think. We left the room and went out to swim, dance, and eat some more. We went back to the room after the sailaway and there were flowers and fruit on the table. We met our room steward Dani), and then later our butler, Efren. I asked Efren about the e-mail that I had sent and he didn’t seem to know about it. I requested the treats for the children and he told me only if it was available but that he would bring afternoon snacks each day. We never did receive the gummy worms or m&ms, but we did receive cookies, finger sandwiches, fruit, and canapés every day.
Our muster drill was in the Stardust, it took longer to get there, and get it started than it did for the actual presentation itself. It was a tight fit for us – we are big people – so we asked to move down to a row (still in our section) that had more leg room, and the gentleman allowed us to, once there he explained to another NCL staff lady that we wanted to move down there, but apparently we should have gone all the way down the row instead of sit in the middle of it and I heard her use the word “idiota” – that’s idiot in most languages and I’m not sure if she meant us or him. Either way, she was not pleasant and was in a couple of arguments with other passengers. Never saw her again, which I was happy about.
DINING: we ate most of our breakfasts in Cagney’s. On the occasion that we did not get ready in time or wanted a change from that menu, we would go to the Market Café. Breakfast at Cagney’s was always delicious, and the service was great – no delays, no food quality issues, etc. We enjoyed waffles, French toast, steak & eggs, crab cakes Benedict, and a nice buffet of cold cereal, fruit, and assorted breads. Sometimes I would ask for bacon to go with my dish and they would bring me a bunch of bacon - that I shared with the rest of the fam. At the Market Café for breakfast we enjoyed oatmeal – I love oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar – and love that they had a pot of warm milk to go with it. There was a day that the oatmeal was super watery, so I passed on it that particular day and went for some Special K with sliced bananas. Made-to-order omelets were a hit with our group as well.
We ate about half of our lunches at Cagney’s, but got bored with the menu. It was good, but we just wanted something else. We enjoyed the swordfish burger, the steak, and I found the asparagus/artichoke/parm/truffle risotto yummy as well as the spinach, prosciutto, and parm starter. Lunch at Versailles only one time and it was good with no food quality or service issues. Other lunches were at the Market Café and were always good.
As previously mentioned, we waited too long to try and book a specialty restaurant, and missed out. I was really bummed, and will make sure to do this at embarkation next time.
My husband and DS went to O’ Sheehans for lunch one day, and the service was really slow. It took 45 minutes for the starter to arrive. The husband reports that it was a good burger, and they really enjoyed the poutine.
Dinners were almost always at Versailles. We would call Roel and let him know what time we’d like to eat and he would book the table for 6 for us each night. On our last sailing on the Star, I was unimpressed with the service and the food in Versailles but was pleased to see many improvements since last time. I love French onion soup and it was bland with few onions last time. This time it had really good flavor, more onions, and was near perfect. The only thing that would make it perfect is if it had an actual crouton or a heartier bread on it instead of a mushy piece of brown bread, but it was still good and I liked it alright. With the exception of one night, the service was timely and good. One night was slower than the rest, but not too bad. The food was always good, sometimes we’d order multiple starters or multiple desserts, and there were no issues with this request. There was an orange chocolate mousse dessert on that last night that I could not get enough of. We asked our butler to get us some for a late night snack, and he did. We also did this with a dessert another night, wanted more of it, and as we were walking in to a show saw Roel and asked if he could do that for us and it was waiting in the room when we got there later in the evening.
BUTLER/CONCIERGE: Efren was our butler and with the exception of not getting gummy worms & m&ms (not a big deal, just a minor disappointment for the kids as I had told them about it) he was fantastic. My mother had stomach issues (hers, not cruise/cruise food related) and one night she was in the room alone and not feeling well and asked Efren where she could get some Pepto Bismol. He told her the shop was already closed, but he brought her some bananas, some club soda, and some Tums which was very nice of him to do. My son would often call Efren and say “Hi Efren, can I have some food?” – LOL – and Efren would bring whatever it was we were requesting off the room service menu. My son would also order movies and Efren would bring those as well. Dani our room steward would ask when we’d like to have the room turned down at night and he took care of that and did a towel animal for the kids. We’d need extra towels on occasion and they took care of that as well. Dani noticed something wrong with one of the curtains and he had someone in there working on it straightaway. Roel always made sure we had the good balcony seats at the shows, took care of dining reservations for us, and also assisted with the priority tendering.
ENTERTAINMENT: we went to several shows, one was a musical tribute to Burt Bacharach which was quite good, Band on the Run was really good, Marrambolla and Paradis were great too. As mentioned earlier, we also had great seats in the Stardust due to being suite guests. We took in a couple of the game show type events – Battle of the Sexes, Family Feud, Newlywed Game, and Majority Rules – those were all fun and funny. The Mentalist hypnotist we saw twice (2 different shows) and he was really good too.
I remember this from the last sailing, and the arts & crafts classes are not very strong. Helmi is on the cruise director’s staff and he did not do a good job with the origami class. Part of the problem – not his fault, and this happened last time – is that they do not plan for the amount of people that show up. He is only one person and there were about 60 people there. And with origami there are a lot of steps involved and he had to go table to table, and it took too long, people were upset and leaving. But we stuck it out because we wanted to get to the end and see what this origami project was going to be. He was on the other side of the restaurant and said “OK, bye bye!” when it was time for the class to be over even though half the class was still about 19 folding steps behind. It’s kind of funny looking back, but there were people (some in my group) who were pretty ticked off that they spent all that time and patience there and never got to complete the project.
EXCURSIONS/PORTS: we did the beach getaway excursion through NCL in Mazatlán. They took us in taxis to the Hotel Playa Mazatlán where we got to use all their facilities (beach and pool) and then an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch plus 2 drinks; and wi-fi. I thought this was great. The food was excellent – loved the pineapple tamales and the flan, and the beach was nice. The return taxi was included, but I think I may have gotten suckered. I speak Spanish and was chatting with the driver and he was telling me over and over how sad he was today because it was his daughter’s birthday and he didn’t have the money to buy her a birthday cake because today was his first day back working as his taxi was in the shop. He repeated this story several times. Even though the taxi was paid for, we gave him a $10 tip if any of that story was true. And if not, well, good karma will come back to me, right?
In Cabo San Lucas we went on our own via van taxi ($18 for the 6 of us) to Tabascos. No wi-fi there. This was a beachfront restaurant and while it was tasty, they ripped us off. We had printed out the online menu, which matched the menu they had there and the bill was about $20 more than it should have been. I thought it might be an upcharge because there were 6 of us, but most items were billed at a higher rate than what was on their menu. Most, but not all. The beach was nice here too, but a lot of the vendors. I mean a lot a lot. The other beach in Mazatlán had some, but it was overwhelming the amount of people that came up to us every few minutes. I even tried playing like I was asleep on the beach chair (free to use if you spend at least $15 at Tabascos – umbrellas not included and sold by another vendor) but they would still stand there “amiga….amiga…” $18 to take the van taxi back to the ship.
We did not do much in Puerto Vallarta. 3 of us took a $5 taxi to Walmart and went shopping for treats and souvenirs. $5 taxi back to the ship. My mother went to a little restaurant/bar outside of the ship area and had some tacos that she said were really good, and got to use their wi-fi.
SPLASH ACADEMY: the kids participated in the youth program and really enjoyed it, and the staff: Captain Crunch, Pacman, and Kazoo in the 10-12 group. They played dodge ball, time bomb (another ball game), crazy tag, participated in a Circus Show in the Stardust, made beaded lizards, and a whole lot more. You can sign them up to be able to check themselves in and out – we opted not to do this.
DEBARKATION: we got our gold priority tags the night before. They gave us 5, we had to ask for more. The following morning when they started calling colors, we missed ours – the first one – and went a little bit later. We got in the elevator, got in to a fast-moving line, and walked off the ship and in to the terminal. Our bags were there with the priority baggage, we got another porter, checked out of customs, and were done. A breeze.
RANDOM: a teenager vomited on the floor over by the waterslides and it was oddly fascinating to watch how it was handled. It was reported and then it was just sitting there all gross and stinky for like a half an hour. But then they blocked it off and a 3-man crew came out in these astronaut-looking outfits with respirators and threw something that looked like kitty litter on it.
We were invited to (2) VIP events – one was free drinks with the captain for being Latitudes members, free drinks and yummy canapés; the other was for suite guests. The kids got to go to one of them – free drinks for us and sodas for the kids. The rum punch was flowing and I sure did enjoy it. Captain Idar Hoydal said that he was celebrating his 35th year with NCL (started in 1980), there is a crew of 1050 on the Star representing 65 nationalities. He referenced drydock and the 3 portholes that were added to each side of the Spinnaker Lounge that we were sitting in.
We were in room 12528 and felt a lot of movement. I’ve never been that high up in room on a ship before so it took some getting used to. But I self-medicate with Bonine for seasickness and Ativan for anxiety twice a day on every cruise, so I was good. The 6th day was a little too much for my mom and my friend so they were in bed most of the day.
Smoking. I have seen this as a hot topic on the boards here on Cruise Critic and I would usually say that smoke doesn’t really bother us. It kinda did this time because the smoking side on deck 12 by the pool is where we walked through to get to our suite. Granted we can walk all the way around and go down the other hall and then back up to get to our room, but it didn’t make much sense. Also sometimes in the mornings when we’d open our door to go out, the smell of smoke would smack us in the face. So it was pretty noticeable.
The only wear that stood out to me was at the electric sliding glass door going from the pool area to the suites. The wooden ramp there is pretty old, and the door opens super slow. That little area could use some work, I think. Window washers worked on our windows one day. There were areas where touch-up painting was taking place often.
The husband enjoyed the $15 martini tasting - said it was a great deal as you got 18 oz. worth of martinis; and I enjoyed the $10 sale – twice.
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise, enjoyed the Star, and enjoyed "the suite life." Read Less