Norwegian Cruise Line
November 1, 2005
This was my 10th cruise but first on NCL. We chose this particular cruise for its itinerary since I had never been to the Pacific coast of Mexico. I was slightly apprehensive to cruise with NCL, and most of my apprehensions were proven right…
The Norwegian Star was a disappointment. First, its cartoonish appearance and very ordinary décor (cheap furniture and finishes), then the tiny size of the cabin were all a shock. But we got used to all of it and were able to appreciate what it had to offer. However, the cabin is by far the smallest I have ever had. The beds were lumpy, the furniture was not adequate, and forget about storage. It was very tight.
The public spaces were plenty: Lions Pub had great popcorn, library and reading room were comfy, the movie theater had comfortable seating even if most movies were outdated, the atrium was pleasant. The Promenade deck had lots of chairs. Pool was small but had nice slides for the kids, and lots of loungers on a multi-tiered deck – that was nice!
The Stardust theater was awful… you always feel like you’re going to slide out of your chair… very uncomfortable. My favorite spot was the Barong Spa where you could use the lap pool and Jacuzzis at any time. Teak chairs with cushions facing the wake of the ship were very relaxing.
NCL is also famous for its Freestyle. We wanted to try it but I think we’ll stick to either HAL or Celebrity’s traditional, or Princess’ Personal Cruising. They claim Freestyle includes over 10 restaurants. That’s partly true. 6 of those have a cover charge of $15 or $20, and several have à la carte pricing on top of that. So your choices quickly became one or two restaurants and a snack bar (Blue Lagoon – good food but very uncomfortable seating). We tried one Specialty restaurant without extras - Endless Summer - which was a Tex-mex menu. Food was worst than what we had had at the buffet. I would not recommend it. In the main restaurants, food was on average good; not extraordinary nor bland but adequate. Service is definitely less personal than on most other cruise lines, while proficient and for the most part courteous (not always in the Buffet).
The itinerary was great – we discovered many different aspects of Mexico through the 4 very different ports of call :
Acapulco: Do not miss the arrival in port at around 11h00 – it is spectacular! The port is nestled in the Bay of Acapulco which is breathtaking. It was hot and humid. We did a bit of shopping towards old Acapulco but the heat was really getting to us. So we took a cab to the beach, and had a few drinks on the beach. We walked back to the ship while watching Mexicans bringing their fish back on shore. At night, we took a cab to La Perla where we watched the divers at la Quebrada while sipping a Margarita. The view was awesome. Back on the ship, we were able to catch the Folkloric show by a local troupe of dancers, singers and musicians.
Zihuatanejo: Small fishing village, a few miles from Ixtapa which is more touristy. We stayed in Zihua because it was more rustic. Artisans were waiting to show us their crafts and goods made of straw, onyx and silver. I bought a great box of dominoes, all in pink onyx for $10!! We relaxed on a beautiful beach that we walked to – we used the boardwalk after the market and were there in 10 minutes. The view was incredible – the Star anchored in the Bay! We loved this port for its simplicity, the people and the great shopping – the best of the whole cruise.
Puerto Vallarta: The ship docked in Marina Vallarta, a few miles from the city. For $3 per person, a cab took us to the city. He dropped us off at the beginning of the Malecon, the boardwalk along the ocean, where you’ll see wonderful bronze sculptures. We walked to the Church of Guadelupe impossible to miss with its crown. The municipal market by the river Cuale, is also worth a stop if only to chat with the locals. The afternoon was spent on the Los Muertos beach. Waves were very strong, but the sun was great, and it was fun to just watch the many vendors coming by to sell jewelry, donuts or fruits piled high on their head!
Cabo San Lucas: Last but not least, Cabo was my favorite port. Once on the pier, we hired a minivan for the 4 of us. Our guide Teo was outstanding. He had a brand new car, with great AC. He took us to the Finisterra hotel for a great view of the bay, then on to see The Glass Factory – way before all the ship tours arrived!. Then we visited all the new resorts – RIU Palace, Hilton, Westin. We even went in a very exclusive residential area where we saw some celebrities houses and a wonderful cacti botanical garden. Finally Teo took us back to the marina for the second part of our excursion, a glass bottom boat tour to Los Arcos. We were able to see up close the pelican and sea lions colonies, the rock formation of Los Arcos and Lover’s Beach. All that for $35 pp.
After our excursion, we walked through the marina and had our last flavors of Mexico with a great lunch of fish and shrimp quesadillas and a Corona!
In conclusion, we had a good vacation mostly because of the itinerary. We tried NCL for the first time with some disappointments. Given the choice, we will choose another cruise line in the future, such as our favorites HAL, Celebrity or Princess, unless a specific itinerary is only available with NCL.