Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Star
Sailing Date: 2005
Itinerary: Mexican Riviera
Norwegian Cruise Line
8 Day Mexican Riviera
Background: This is the first cruise my boyfriend and I had taken together. I'm in my mid 20s, this being my 5th cruise. My boyfriend is in his mid 30s, this being his 1st cruise. We love to travel far or close and we think of ourselves as being pretty cultured individuals who enjoy the finer things in life, but also enjoy simple things as well. This is our first time traveling with NCL. We sailed on the NCL Star.
We booked our cruise thru www.crucon.com. Very good online travel agency – highly recommended. We booked this cruise about 3 months in advance with Missy.
Embarkation: We were to depart on 12/11/05 at the San Pedro port in Los Angeles. The embarkation process on this cruise was the worse that I have ever encountered. I sailed once w/ Holland America, and three times w/ Royal Caribbean. Usually, even at peak check in hours (11ish – 3ish) there was never such chaos as this. From start to finish it took about 2 long hours. There were some NCL officials who were going around telling people they must get a porter to take all of their bigger luggage before checking in. However, neither the NCL representatives nor the porters were very proactive in helping people getting their big luggage out of their hands. We literally had to flag a porter down, drag our luggage thru another line of people, and put in on his cart. Very unpleasant experience – it was lines after lines until we finally got our shipboard card. The NCL representatives were not helpful at all. Already a bad start.
Room: We booked a room on Deck 11 with a balcony, midship. It was a decent size room with relatively ample living space. There are the typical amenities: coffee machine, hair dryer, safe, small fridge, and a very small TV. There is a drawer with two shelves. Also, there is a decent sized closet with more shelf space inside. However, the shelf space inside the closet is rather hard to get to since you literally have to be inside the closet to grab your stuff. Also – there are no lights inside the closet… which makes it hard to see what you are trying to find.
Dining Rooms: NCL boasts their Freestyle Cruising experience, which basically means we can dine wherever, whenever we want. The main dining room is the Versailles dining room. There are also other specialty dining rooms that specialize in different cuisines. Some specialty restaurants are free – some aren't. Here's my review on some of the dining restaurants we tried:
Versailles (no surcharge): Food quality at Versailles is iffy. There are times when the food is absolutely delicious, and there are times when it's horrible. However, in all cases, I realize that NCL does not care at all about presentation of food. My experience w/ service at Versailles has been negative. There were many instances where I received very poor service. For instance, the first night, we had to wait about 10 minutes before our server even came to acknowledge our presence. When I had asked for pepper, he simply removed a card that was blocking the salt and pepper shaker, and basically hinted I should use that instead of expecting fresh ground pepper from him. However, on the last night I had my best encounter ever - the waiter and jr. waiter for our table were fabulous. I wished they were our waiters all the time.
La Trattoria (no surcharge): While this is your typical pasta joint in Deck 12 with typical pasta dishes, the service I received at this restaurant was superb. These guys at La Trattoria really went out of the way to make their guests feel comfortable and welcome. Don't be expecting a nice Italian themed restaurant here… this "restaurant" is simply a cornered off Market Café buffet area. In the morning, it serves as the other side of Market Café, at night, they turn it into "La Trattoria" by dimming the lights, and adding a tablecloth. Reservations are strongly suggested.
Le Bistro ($15 surcharge per person): I don't think there is anything special about Le Bistro. Maybe if you like Fondue. Even that, the fondue dessert won't be getting any praises from me. I have to admit that it takes place at a nicer setting, with a upscale feel to it, so it's perfect if you want to celebrate a special occasion. The service here was decent – however I did receive attitude from our waiter when I asked for more croutons.
After speaking to other guests on board, I realize I'm not the only one who feels service is horrible at NCL. My expectations are not demanding; I simply ask for polite and speedy service. Common courtesy and speedy service are definitely not how I would describe the waitstaff on NCL Star.
Ports / Excursions:
We received a notice of itinerary change when we were in the port getting ready to embark. There were no prior attempts on NCL's part to notify us of the so called "rotor" problems that prevented us to traveling further down south to Acapulco and Ixtapa. So as a replacement, we were going to stop in Mazatlan and Manzanillo. For this inconvenience, we were credited $50 per person.
We heard that NCL is notorious for leaving people behind even if they are running a bit late. So we joined excursions at 3 out of the 4 ports with NCL even though it will be a lot cheaper by grabbing a cab and taking a tour that way.
Manzanillo: We went with the Comala/Colima tour that involved going to the Pyramids, visiting a cathedral and a museum, and stopping by for lunch in downtown. This tour was interesting, but not great. The restaurant they took us to however, was fabulous. Very authentic Mexican food. The people in Manzanillo do not speak English very well, so try to brush up on a bit of Spanish if you intend on buying something.
Puerto Vallarta: This was my 3rd time in PV, so we decided to take the ATV tour. It was a lot of fun – we went thru the back roads and in some instances went over water banks, etc. My only advice if you want to take this tour: BRING YOU OWN BANDANNA. The ATV place did give us bandannas, but I soon realize they were useless. I guess they weren't made of high quality and therefore didn't filter out the dust. That night I went back home and had so much gunk in my nose and throat. Another thing to do: try to find goggles that are not ripped apart. I had a rock that was stuck in my eye for a better part of the evening b/c my goggles were obviously very used. If you go to this port, try the Zipline - I hear its very cool.
Mazatlan: This is the one port where we ventured out on our own. We just took a cab, asked the taxi driver to take us to the cathedral in the old Mazatlan, then asked him to take us to see the cliff divers before taking us to the Golden Zone. That trip cost about $25 for the both of us. We did a little shopping at Senor Frogs before retreating back to our ship. A taxi ride to head back to the port is $10.
Cabo San Lucas: This was my 3rd time in CSL as well. We took the Deluxe Cruise with NCL. This cruise just sails out to the famous Arch of Cabo, then around the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean. They serve us complimentary drinks and chips and salsa during the entire trip. My advice is that you should head out early, grab a water taxi, and do the same exact tour as I had described above for a fraction of the price. My only suggestion is to keep an eye on your clocks, as we were to all be back on the ship by 1:30pm.
Entertainment / Onboard Activities: Nightly entertainment is so-so. I have definitely seen a lot better. The Jean Ann Ryan Company Singers and Dancers can be missed for sure. The Fallons (Magician) is pretty good – try to watch the Close Up Magic in the Spinnaker Lounge later on in the cruise. The comedian, Dave Heenan is so so. He's ok, entertaining enough, but not extremely funny. They also had a Broadway star, Jeri Sager, she's one NOT to miss if you are a Broadway fan. I loved her – definitely the highlight of the cruise entertainment.
There really isn't much to say about onboard activities since there weren't really anything spectacular. The typical bingo, Mr. Sexy Legs, Liar's Club, etc. The cruise director is dorky, but he's funny in his own way. This ship is definitely catered towards older people.
NCL vs. Other Cruiselines: In my opinion, if you are thinking of taking this cruise line: try considering other cruiselines first. Their soda packages are $46 in comparison to Princess's $18. They do try to take money from us in any way they can. I understand that is the business of things, but come on - $5 bucks daily to get newspapers?! Royal Caribbean offers a daily 1 page of news for free. Internet at NCL is 75 cents per minute, NOT to mention there is a start up fee for $4.50. At RCL, its 50 cents a minute and no start up fee.
Overall: I will probably never sail with NCL again. I also will not recommend it to anyone I know. If anything I have been telling people to steer clear of this cruise line.
While the ship itself is a beauty, the service of the workers there made it very unappealing. The changing of the itinerary without any attempts to notify us, the lack of courtesy of staff on board, the generally poor quality of food, and the money hungry ways of NCL makes me wander back to my favorite cruise line: Royal Caribbean. For those are you who are thinking of taking a cruise: Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Holland America are the way to go.
Hope this review was helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions. We can be contacted at AbeAndKaren@gmail.com