Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Star
Sailing Date: January 20th, 2006
Itinerary: Mexican Riviera
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Star Cruise Review
I went on this cruise with twelve members of my family, and we all had a great time despite the unfortunate itinerary change. While we were bitterly disappointed to learn that Acapulco and Ixtapa had been replaced with Manzanillo and Mazatlan, and that we would only receive a $50 credit for this change, we still enjoyed all the ports, and Mazatlan especially turned out to be a great stop.
My take on vacations is that they are what you make them. If you wait around for someone else to manufacture a good time for you, you’re doomed from the beginning. Having that approach in mind, I got more involved in the activities on this cruise, and am really glad I did. With that, I’ll get into the specifics. I’m going to give each category a letter grade based on how it compares to Carnival and Royal Caribbean, the other cruise lines I have traveled with.
I have to agree with some of the other reviews on this one. The main no cost dining rooms, Aqua and Versailles, were merely average. There was no filet mignon night (something I particularly enjoy on Carnival), and the food was a notch below what I expect. It almost seems as if Norwegian is pushing its specialty restaurants (which charge you) by offering the less than stellar food in the free dining rooms. It’s not that the free dinners are bad; they just don’t equal what I’ve had previously.
On the other hand, I felt the breakfast and lunch buffets in the Market Cafe were better than anything I had previously experienced. There was a wide assortment and the food was very good. Also, the Blue Lagoon had a great late night menu of buffalo wings, delicious burgers, Chinese dishes, and other food.
I did not eat in the specialty restaurants, because I refuse to pay for dinners on a vacation where food is supposed to be included in the price. To me, if you’re going to pay for all of your dinners, then the cruise “value” is greatly diminished. Not to mention my alcohol bill was large enough!!!
Entertainment was the highlight of this ship, and it was better than anything on Carnival or Royal Caribbean. We saw a hilarious comedian named Dave Heenan, a magic show from the Fallons, a singing and dancing group that did a couple of great shows, acrobats, and a fantastic tribute to Elton John by a vary talented piano player named Jeffrey Allen. There were also game shows and other interactive forms of entertainment that were a lot of fun. In fact, just about everyone in my party got involved and made it on “cruise TV”. This gets back to my point about your vacation being what you make it. The more we got involved, the better it was.
The cruise director and his assistants were also a major plus. I should also point out that the music acts were all very good. The band Kenosis was fantastic, and the Caribbean style music at poolside was nice to listen to.
The one complaint I have for entertainment is that there is not a night club on the ship. It would have been nice to have a place to go on those late nights when I was hoping to hear some dance music.
The first stop was Manzanillo, a quiet little town with some shopping. Overall, I don’t have much to say as all we did was take a bus to downtown and shop for a couple of hours. The next stop was Puerto Vallarta. We took a cab downtown and did a lot of shopping. I really enjoyed this stop, but wish I would have gone on the zip line excursion to see the jungle. After PV, we stopped in Mazatlan. Here we took taxis to the Golden Zone and did a lot of shopping, lying on the beach, and swimming. We also went to a restaurant on the beach that served very good food and margaritas for very cheap (I wish I could remember the name of it). I thought Mazatlan was beautiful. Finally, we stopped in Cabo San Lucas, my favorite stop. The scenery is gorgeous, and I highly recommend the 2-hour whale watching tour. They served unlimited margaritas, beer, chips, and salsa, and took us to a site where whales were coming out of the water everywhere. Whale watching is seasonal, but if you’re there at the right time, check it out.
Overall, I really wish NCL would have eliminated the Manzanillo stop and added more time to Cabo. All we had was from 7am to 2pm, and this was simply not enough time to fully enjoy this great stop. I could spend a full week there.
The bathroom in our room was very spacious and the shower area was much better than on previous cruises. There was much more room, the shower head had good pressure, and there was a solid door instead of a flimsy curtain. The only complaint I have is for the bed setup. We had four people in our room, and I would have preferred two bunk beds and two floor beds instead of three beds on the floor and one bunk bed. Having three beds on the floor cut off half the room and made things a little cramped. But overall, the rooms were well insulated and comfortable.
The ship is beautiful, clean, and diverse. There are a lot of dining and bar options, and the health club is really nice. I especially liked the Spinnaker Lounge, where there always seemed to be something going on. Overall, I was very impressed with the ship.
Service was not a problem. Bartenders and cocktail waiters and waitresses were very friendly. We made friends with one waitress in particular in the Spinnaker Lounge who rewarded our friendliness with an endless supply of peanuts, snack mix and excellent service. The room stewards were also very friendly and prompt. My only complaint relates to the dining room service. We often had to wait a long while for our food, and one waiter gave someone in my party a difficult time for wanting to try two entrees. But this does not apply to all waiters.
Despite the itinerary change and so-so food and service in the free dining rooms, this cruise stacked up fairly well to all of my past cruises. Luckily, I won a free cruise for two (by pulling the free spin slot machine in the casino), and I’m very glad that I’ll be traveling with NCL again in the near future. I don’t believe that NCL is the evil empire as some people seem to think. I agree that their handling of the itinerary change was sub-optimal, but it didn’t strike me as being full of malicious intent or anything like that.
However, all this being said, if I had to choose a cruise line to travel with, I would probably go back to Carnival. Although NCL has better entertainment, I like that Carnival is more geared toward a younger generation, and the dining room experience is better. But if there’s an NCL cruise with an itinerary you like, and the price is right, give it a try. I can’t imagine anyone having a bad time on NCL. In fact, all the cruise lines I have been on seem to offer something a little bit different, but as a whole they are all very good. Just go with an open mind, get involved if that’s your thing, and realize that a bad day on vacation is much better than a great day at work!!!