Our December Mexican Riviera (7 night) trip onboard the Star was a blast. The crew were terrific and the ship was fun to explore. We visited the usual ports- Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan.
A little background on us: I’m 41, hubby 51, and our son is 6. We cruise 2-3 times per year, mostly with Princess and Carnival due to geographic availability (we like to drive to port- it’s so much more affordable and convenient, especially with a small child). We cruised on the Star around 2007, just before it was refurbished when the ship was doing a slightly different itinerary. We booked in this cruise 8 months prior to sailing because we got an incredible deal on a mini suite, for the price of a balcony on most similar itineraries. Our hobby is to film cruise ships (link at the end of this video), so we often spend considerable time in the first few days onboard filming as much of the ship as possible.
Impressions of the Ship:
The ship is ready for a refurb and an update, but is certainly not falling apart. We liked the layout, but in some areas (finding dining rooms), it got confusing.
The Cabin: Mini Suite 11002 is at the very end of the hall, forward, starboard side. It was SO quiet and peaceful as it’s in a low traffic area. You will see more officers coming and going from the bridge entrance next door than you will see other passengers. Our room steward was amazing, and used our names from day 1. He made the trip special. The mini bar and bathtub in the suite were wonderful, but our favorite part was the silly little coffee pot that we got to fire up every morning. No rushed calls to room service, or runs to the buffet or coffee shop for coffee. LOVE!
Day by Day Review:
Embarkation Day was smooth and the terminal staff were friendly and warm. We were in the first 10 groups to board (around noon or so), and because our stateroom wasn’t ready, we explored the ship and grabbed lunch at the buffet while my husband ventured off to start filming the ship before the crowds hit. To our disappointment, the kids buffet area was closed. Our little guy had been looking forward to it, but it’s no big deal. The layout was nice, which minimized crowds, and we all found something we enjoyed. I LOVE the Indian food they serve daily and ate it with my salad pretty much every time we visited. I get the sense that it isn’t popular because there were never many people at that end of the buffet, but it’s delicious and healthy. After lunch, we settled in to our stateroom, a reasonably priced mini suite that we loved and unpacked. Dinner in the main dining rooms on night one on most ships is always “interesting”, with lines, changes, etc…but this ship was particularly frustrating. The lines were really long to get into main dining at Aqua, passengers were cranky, and in hindsight, we’d have booked Cagneys or another specialty dining room to start the trip off right. Oh well, live and learn. The food in Aqua on night one was sub par compared to other ships, but we had read this here on cruise critic, and fully expected it. Throughout the cruise, we learned what to avoid on the menu and what time to dine (7pm or later). There ARE great menu items, you just have to be patient. I think this ship puts more quality emphasis on their specialty dining than their main dining rooms, and the dining room food suffers. Don’t get me wrong, we’d sail on this ship again in a heartbeat, and overall, enjoyed the food once we figured it out.
Day 1 was a sea day, so I planned to take the latin dance (aka Zumba) class around 9am. The class was fun, didn’t cost anything, and was held in a lounge. It would have been nicer to have the class in the group fitness area of the gym, but the teacher (part of the cruise director staff) was adorable, and high energy. I even learned something new about cardio- she said you should keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose to preserve energy (avoid getting winded) when dancing…hmmm…I was skeptical about this tip, but it totally worked! Who knew?!
Following the workout, we decided to “try” the Latitudes party which was around 11am or so in one of the larger lounges. I’ve found most of these parties to be dull and overcrowded on most ships, so I was reluctant. This was only our second cruise with NCL, so I was thinking “how good can it be…?”, we aren’t in a high tier of loyalty with NCL, but hey, let’s check it out anyway. It turned out to be the best loyalty reception on ANY line we’ve ever attended. Kudos NCL. The drinks were flowing generously, with spot-on bar service, and the appetizers were plentiful. We arrived a little late, but still found a seat, and were instantly offered a beverage. I had a few glasses of wine, and we enjoyed the cruise presentation, and games. The officers roamed the room getting to know the guests. When they learned it was our son’s birthday on this cruise, they said they were going to do something special for him. A few days later, on his birthday, a beautiful handwritten note and an adorable cupcake were delivered to our stateroom. It was such a thoughtful touch.
For the remainder of the day, we tried lunch Versailles (beautiful views at the aft of the ship). The food was okay, but we learned what we liked after a view days and it got better. Then we explored the kids pool area- super cute- at the back of the ship, and spent some time hanging in the hot tubs and meeting other families. It was too chilly to swim or enjoy the slides, but he hot tubs were just right- and a great temperature for children.
Now for the not so good news- dinner in the main dining rooms on the first night. Ug. This is not commonly a smooth operation on most ships but ew, the lines were unpleasant and the dining room (Aqua) noisy where we sat. The food was just okay, with some weird occurrences…example: the kids pepperoni pizza had the most SPICY pepperoni on it. It was inedible and very odd. Our son likes a little heat, but this was bizarre. Also, some of the servers were terrific, while others were lackluster, slow, and never even offered drinks.
Day 2- Cabo! Yah! We love Cabo! We tendered ashore after the tender crowds died down mid day, and caught a water taxi to Medano beach to enjoy our standard afternoon at Billygans, a restaurant and bar with loungers on the sand. The vendors were plentiful and pesky that particular day, probably because our loungers were in the front row, closest to the ocean, so we didn’t have any cushion around us. We enjoyed tacos, calamari and guacamole, brought to our loungers along with Coronas and a tequila shot- for me. The ocean is the perfect temperature in December, not chilly like it gets in February, so we took swim breaks in the ocean in between lounging. After a few hours, our water taxi driver (he calls himself Six Fingers Tony, and has business cards to match because YES, he has 6 fingers on each hand) picked us up and took us back to the pier where we waited in a short tender line and boarded the ship. We decided, because of our unpleant dining room experience to book Cagneys, and were in for a treat when we were given a free bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner because it was “Norwegians night out”, the optional elegant night. Dinner was excellent (filet mignons were perfect) and we could eat at Cagneys EVERY night. They treated our son wonderfully, and made him mac and cheese (there is no charge for kids if they don’t order off the Cagneys menu- this was really nice for us). Of course, he was far more interested in my steak- as always! Here’s our video review of Cagneys: http://youtu.be/P7wA6iP96Ig
After dinner, we hit the first production show, which was okay. We left early because our son was getting antsy and we found the production to be a little cheesey (they got better later in the week).
Day 3 we arrived in Mazatlan but decided not to get off the ship. We don’t care for Mazatlan, so we celebrated our sons birthday on board with a terrific day of watersliding and ordering smoothies and drinks by the pool, with relatively few crowds. We had a tasty lunch at the buffet and dinner at Aqua, the smaller of the main dining rooms. By this time the lines were under control and we were ready to give main dining another try. Service was a little slow, but the food was good (chicken parmiagana for me) and they sang to our son and brought a HUGE birthday cake for him.
Day 4 we arrived in Puerto Vallarta and contrary to our normal routine of getting off the ship and visiting a resort on a day pass, we just shopped at the port and got back on the ship- very unlike us, BUT we loved the waterslides and pools so much on the Star, that we just decided to save the $$ and enjoy the sunshine onboard. We had dinner again at Aqua and by this time, were really getting a hang of what liked and didn’t like in the dining rooms. The enteraintment that night was amazing. The show was called Marambolla (google it)…the couple was so talented and their little son was adorable. Don’t miss this show if it is offered when you sail.
Days 5 and 6 were our final sea days. The motion of the ship was significant and I felt a little dizzy from these last two days, which I generally do since you’re cruising on the ‘bumpy’ direction, northward. We enjoyed a few breakfasts in Versailles, read magazines, relaxed, napped, and danced on the decks with the cruise staff, took photos all around the deck and played in the arcade. The cruise director put on a fun magic show in the main theatre one night, which was entertaining and cute.
Debarkation was really smooth on our last day and although they ran customs through a lounge on the ship, which seemed slow, it ultimately ended up taking about the same amount of time to debark.
This was a terrific ship and we would love to try the Star again someday- the mini-suite was one of our favorite cabins EVER, for the price, and we’ll be back!
Here’s the video ship tour:
Mini Suite 11002 is at the very end of the hall, forward, starboard side. It was SO quiet and peaceful as it’s in a low traffic area. You will see more officers coming and going from the bridge entrance next door than you will see other passengers. Our room steward was amazing, and used our names from day 1. He made the trip special. The mini bar and bathtub in the suite were wonderful, but our favorite part was the silly little coffee pot that we got to fire up every morning. No rushed calls to room service, or runs to the buffet or coffee shop for coffee. LOVE!And a little tour of the cabin:http://youtu.be/IC7k59kkP30