Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Star
Sailing Date: October 15th, 2006
Itinerary: Mexican Riveria
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Star Cruise Review
We just returned from an 8-day excursion
to the Mexican Riviera on the Norwegian Star. We chose the Star for two primary
reasons. First, we planned our vacation on short notice and they had space
available on this cruise. And secondly, because this cruise stopped in Acapulco,
Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo, an itinerary that was more thorough than the
other cruise lines. We avoided the smaller ports like Manzanillo and Mazatlan,
which in our opinion were smaller and less attractive.
I’ll summarize the review by saying there are a lot of things to like and dislike about the Norwegian Star. If you know what you’re getting into before you go, you can decide for yourself if this is the right ship for you. We had an open mind heading into it, as this was the first time for us cruising with NCL.
Highlights of the cruise include the great itinerary, the excellent service onboard, the cleanliness of the ship, and the choices available for drinking and dining with their Freestyle cruising options. Lowlights of the cruise include their near total lack of organization on embarkation and disembarkation, the quality of the food in the main dining rooms, the small pool, and the ship’s tendency to try and be all things to all people, which can cause it to fall short for many.
Our embarkation process was a total nightmare. I could write an entire review about that alone. Suffice it to say our cruise was 5 hours late getting starting because a passenger had jumped overboard on the way home from the cruise before ours. Law enforcement had to come on and clear the ship prior to the previous group disembarking, and my group embarking. That said, the embarkation process was a total failure and there was a complete lack of any proficiency or organization. Our embarkation including standing outside in the rain on the outer edge of the parking lot for nearly three hours, waiting in an overcrowded port hall with no seats, no food or beverage options, no signs, no staff, no organization of any kind. Older people had to stand for hours with no chairs, people were breaking into fights in line just trying to board the vessel. It was a complete breakdown in every regard. I understand why the cruise was late, but it was as is every process and procedure went out the window and there was no sign of NCL direction, support or efficiency until 5 hours later we finally found ourselves on the boarding deck. First impressions go a long way, and NCL completely dropped the ball on everyone on this cruise. I honestly felt like I was in a third world country trying to board the boat to start my vacation.
Once onboard, we made a conscious decision to let the embarkation process go and move on, to enjoy the rest of our vacation. The itinerary starts off with two sea days, enough to get your city life behind you and get into vacation mode. It’s also a great opportunity to explore the ship. I liked the ship overall. They keep it immaculately clean. There are numerous dining and bar options, more than on most other ships, as part of their Freestyle Cruising concept. The menus are uniquely different in each restaurant. Our favorites were Cagney’s Steakhouse and Ginza, the Asian restaurant. Here’s my take on the food. If you like all you can eat bland buffets, you’ll be pleased. Breakfast and lunch were generally un-memorable. For breakfast, we preferred the pool deck where you can get made to order omelets, however the lines can get pretty long and they only can cook two at a time. The Marketplace Buffet is fantastic for people watching, not so great for food quality. The Blue Lagoon is open 24 hours for made to order diner food. Service at the Versailles dining room was great, but the food there is hit and miss and sometimes cold. The best dining options were the restaurants with the additional surcharges. We really enjoyed Cagney’s Steakhouse and Ginza, mentioned above. Reservations were fairly easy to make, and if you book for an early dinner you can often get half off of the surcharge fee. Service and food quality in the paid restaurants was significantly better and $10-20 is a small price to pay for filet mignon and live lobster, for instance.
Entertainment on the ship was generally enjoyable. The onboard song and dance crew certainly do their best to deliver. Sometimes they hit and sound great, other times they sound like they needed more rehearsal. The dancers were fantastic. The theater is great, and good seats were generally available for each of the two shows. There was a magician onboard one evening who was great. There are movies onboard in the cinema, however they were not widescreen format and the screen was dark like a bad TV set. Movies also show on your room TV’s. There were numerous bars. I enjoyed the Star Bar on deck 13 with acoustic guitar music at night.
The design and layout of the ship was clean and easy to follow. The pool space is quite large, although the pool itself is tiny. Don’t be fooled. They mention three pools on ship. One is a kiddy pool, the second is in the spa and costs $15 per day to access. The main pool on the main deck is incredibly small for a 2000+ passenger ship. There are numerous Jacuzzis. This ship seems very well geared for kids. From the pool slides to the Kids Zone to the mini-buffets set at kid level, there are lots of kid friendly options.
I had a porthole cabin on deck 4, which was small but comfortable enough. The bathrooms are larger than on some other ships. Storage space is tight. Cabin service is good.
Regarding the ports, we had rough weather in Acapulco, although we did enjoy the cliff divers. Ixtapa was nice enough, Puerto Vallarta was the highlight and Cabo San Lucas was small, compact and too American for my taste. I’ll leave the port reviews to others, although I will mention that we didn’t book any tours on the cruise and frankly were really happy about that. The tours had a lot of waiting in line, follow the leader, etc. You are only as brisk as your slowest tour member. Too much on and off the busses. If you aren’t very mobile you might find the tours to be helpful. But if you can navigate on your own, do so. You’ll find the prices of the tours and taxis drop accordingly to how many yards you are from the cruise terminal. A $30 taxi ride near the dock becomes $20-$15 a few blocks away.
I’m not sure I would seek out another NCL cruise, mostly because of the embarkation issues and food quality compared to other lines, however their service levels were high, they aimed to please where they could, and my overall experience was pleasant. NCL also tends to repeat the same on-board events from cruise to cruise, “Mr Hairy Chest contest,” “Family Feud,” etc, which could get old after repeated cruises. Hope you have a great cruise and bon voyage!