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Kristen

Age: 43

Occupation:Realtor

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Star

Sailing Date: January 11th, 2008

Itinerary: Mexican Riveria

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Star Cruise Review
Mexican Riviera

Kristen G.

My husband and I just returned from celebrating our 1st anniversary aboard the Norwegian Star.  We took the 8 day Mexican Riviera Cruise out of LA.  This was my first cruise and his 5th cruise.  I will share both perspectives which may help you. 

Embarkation was interesting – we were met at the airport and greeted by NCL staff and directed to a bus for our transport.  You can purchase this transport thru the cruise line.  I highly recommend it because they handle your luggage all the way through.  We arrived at the pier where we had to fill out a few more forms and wait a little bit – but it wasn’t bad.  I took the advice of some of the cruise websites and packed a small carry-on with my swimsuit, dinner clothes, toiletries, etc. – in case our luggage was delayed.  Well, apparently everyone had brought too much luggage they wanted to carry on and they made us send all of it together.  This didn’t make me happy – but it all worked out in the end. 

Once on board – our room wasn’t ready yet – because we were early – food was ready, and we had lunch and got the lay of the land so to speak.  All the food is fair.  Some of the restaurants do charge a service charge – we only did this once – in Cagney’s for our anniversary dinner.  It was $20 per person and the food was very good.  The rest of the time we found the food to be good and didn’t bother paying the extra money.  The Thai noodles in Aqua were outstanding as was the wonton soup in the Blue Lagoon.  We thought we were in heaven when we ate smoked salmon and bagels every morning for breakfast in Versailles.  There was rarely a wait for meals.  The service is very, very good.  My husband did miss sitting with the same people every night and getting to know your waiter.  However, getting to set our own schedule was very relaxing.  We like Versailles and Aqua (all free) – the buffet was standard (nothing spectacular but good choices).  The Blue Lagoon that is open almost 24 hours was the best kept secret.  No waiting – limited menu – but good food.  Every night  we had drinks at Gatsby’s where I loved the guitarist and the cheese and olives (you have to ask for them) Amazing olives.  All of the alcohol is expensive – and they don’t let you bring your own – however we did smuggle vodka packed in water bottles in our suite case – then we filled our insulated mugs with juice (only served in the morning) and drank that during the day.  A bucket of 6 beers on ice is $23.  Wine selection isn’t bad – we bought a bottle of wine each night with dinner – if we didn’t finish it – they would save it and it could follow us to our next restaurant or bar.  Wine is $24 and up per bottle.  We spent less than $500 on booze – but didn’t drink heavily either.  We took advantage of beer and tequila in port where they were cheaper.  But if you bring it back on board you have to check it in – then scan all of your bags when you return on ship. 

We booked an interior room without a window.  (The husband said that we would spend very little time there so what was the point).  I found it to be adequate.  Plenty of room for clothes and toiletries (people who complain about the size must be hard to please).  There is a safe for your jewelry and a mini fridge and a hair dryer.  Nice size shower.  They give you shampoo, lotion and soap – no conditioner.  Plenty of pillows , extra towels if you request them.  In room coffee maker, TV.  Pretty complete – and very clean.  The guys that the clean the rooms are very friendly and will bring you just about anything extra that you need.  My only trouble is that because there is no window – it always felt like night time to me.  My body clock got thrown off a little bit.  After breakfast, if we went back to our room – all I wanted to do was nap.  And…if we napped in the afternoon (as everyone does on vacation) – I could sleep all day and had a lot of trouble waking up.  Next time I might try a window or balcony room for the light.  The balconies aren’t big – but the rooms are larger and it does give you a nice place to relax in private.  The movement of the  ship didn’t bother me at all – I came well prepared with all of the goodies and didn’t need any of it. 

The attire is quite casual – but people did seem to clean up for dinner.  You can’t wear shorts at dinner – but you can wear jeans everywhere except Versailles.  The air conditioning made me  cold in most places on the ship – I wish that I had brought more Capri's. They do have one optional formal niter – we saw a few tuxedos – but not many.  My husband says that he thinks that he prefers the traditional cruise with two dinner seating and more formality.  His preference, I guess. 

In the Galleria (gift shop) they have great wraps for your strappy stuff for $10.  They also have a selection of toiletries and clothes, souvenirs, some inexpensive costume jewelry and a large selection of what I felt was overpriced jewelry.  The thing to buy here is Duty Free alcohol.  The prices are amazing. 

The entertainment was average.  They did have one gal in Gatsby’s that was very, very good with the guitar and she had a crystal clear voice.  Everything else was average, music wise, except the guy (who was a fill in – in the Carousel Lounge – Al – he was painful.  Second City did some comedy that was great – they are always good.  A newspaper delivered to your room every night gave you the run down for the days events.  Lots going on – but you don’t have to do any of it.  We didn’t do the pool – our sea days were cool.  The best place to have peace and quite outside is at the front of the ship.  The hot tubs (5) were always very crowded and full of kids.  Would have preferred if the kids had their own area.  They did have a separate pool – but no one seemed to use it.  Mine are grown and I have been there…done that.  You can pay extra $85 per person for the whole trip or $20/day per person to have access to the indoor pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and steam rooms, etc. at the Spa – disappointed that this was available at an extra charge.  The gym was included though and it was nice (yoga, etc.) was extra. 

Best kept secrets…12th floor Spinnaker lounge very front of lounge for fabulous sunsets…the library – if you need a quite moment in bad weather.  Ice cream at the juice bar.

Now about ports of call.  Acapulco is crowded and dirty.  Reminded me of Honolulu/Tijuana.  City with a very high crime rate – police with AK47’s everywhere.  We did NO ship tours.  My husband is a Mexican national and is fluent – so we like to make our own way and get to see much more authentic Mexico and have a great time.  Hate being stuck on a stuffy tour bus!!  This is a port where I left my jewelry in the safe and we did not go out at night here – if you do, travel in a group.  We walked through the old city and toured the cathedral.  Architecture here is much different than the others we have seen, domed ceiling and lots of blue and white tile.  Beautiful.  We then went down to the ocean for the cliff divers.  This was very impressive – because we walked it only cost us $14 for four drinks and the show. We could have seen it for free if we had watched from outside.  I don’t know the cost of the tour through the ship.  We then walked around the old city, ate great tacos then took a taxi to the hotel zone – where I wasn’t impressed.  Probably won’t go back.  We travel Mexico twice a year and have been to many, many out of the way places – this I didn’t like.  At each port we always go to the Mercado (for the arts and crafts), the grocery store (cheap booze, cheap clothes), and always eat in the corner taquerias…the best!!  Ixtapa was by far my favorite stop.  Serene, quite little fishing village on the Zih side and then the Ixtapa has the resorts and super clean streets (all master planned).  We rented a moped here in Zih and drove to Ixtapa.  We loved it so much we will be back there next year.  The streets of Zih are authentic, narrow, cobble stoned with great bungalows with views of the ocean.  Lots of Americans and Canadians winter here.  We bought great Mexican art here and hand woven textiles.  The Zih side has large resorts, Carlos and Charlies, thing is like that – but it is clean and tranquil.  Can’t wait to book a trip here. 

Puerto Vallarta was charming.  There is a Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club here – so if you forgot something – take a left at the pier when you exit.  We took the city bus for like…2 bucks.  To the right is down town PV.  Some old town mixed with the Hard Rock, etc.  Charming and quaint.  Impressive Cathedral (Our Lady of Guadalupe) – Great fish tacos and shrimp cocktail in the back street restaurants.  Very large arts and crafts Mercado here.  Pretty place – may be back. 

Cabo – feels like San Diego.  It is very modern and Americanized.  Nice and clean near the marina – but old Mexico is still there.  We took a city bus to the bus terminal and then took a bus to Todos Santos.  This is where the Hotel California is from the Eagles song!  Very charming artsy town.  Would like to explore it some more at another time. 

We actually caught the ships’ tour bus back…it worked out well for us.  Check out the Tesoro resort on the pier…in their lobby there was an exhibit of a fabulous Mexican photographer.  Wonderful. 

We spend the next day on ship returning to LA – just relaxing and ordering any of the food that we didn’t want to miss – napping and packing. 

Disembarking was pretty simple.  Be prepared to put your luggage out the night before – so pack an overnight bag.  We recommend taking the last group luggage tags and hang out and get off the ship last (depending on your travel plans). 

I booked a late flight out of LAX just to be safe – so there was no rushing.  I recommend you check with your cell phone company on the cost of calls.  Texting seems to be the cheapest way to go.  Pack light – you will invariably take more than you need.  Dress in layers, because the weather is so varied. 

I had a great time – very relaxing and enjoyable time.  Next time we will do the Caribbean in January for better weather.


 







 




 

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