Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Jim C Mexico March 31, 2008
My family of 6 just concluded an 8 day Mexican Riviera cruise. This is my 5th cruise, 2nd with my family We were attracted to this cruise by the itinerary and the price, despite the mixed reviews posted here. My wife and I had sailed on the Norwegian Sun in 2005 and thoroughly enjoyed it.
That experience was not to be re-lived. We had taken our three teenage kids on another cruise line and thoroughly enjoyed that cruise as well, so we thought this would be a good experience. We were all wrong.
I use these reviews to look at ships and cruise itineraries. This ship is definitely not for younger children or teenagers. Our children are older, so again we did not think this would be a problem.
I should have had a hint things would not go smoothly when I tried to book the cruise through the NCL website, it was a disaster, I had to call them directly and then received pretty good service. When I had to complete the eDocs on line, the process took over a week, and NCL customer service was no help. Their website is the worst of any of the cruise lines. I sent several emails, none of which were responded to other than to say they would be in touch later; they never did call back. We tried several computers, none of which had much success.
They later had some company send me an online survey about my booking experience in which I was eager to fill out. After 10 agonizing minutes, I was not even half way through their survey, and they had yet to ask a service related question, so I closed the survey and never completed it. But the company kept sending me emails to complete, I had to put a spam block on them to get it stopped.
Embarkation We flew to LA the morning of the cruise; left LA and took a taxi right to the pier. The baggage process was easy, tipped the baggage handler $1 a bag (they all showed up at the cabin promptly). The registration and boarding was quick, professional and uneventful.
The first announcement from the captain was that his stabilizers were not working on this trip. We later found out they had not worked since the ship returned from a repositioning cruise many months earlier. It was only a problem on the last day. I think the fact that these have not been repaired for a long time, is an accurate reflection of the overall care and attention this ship receives.
Food & Drink Norwegian features "freestyle dining" which we really liked during our last cruise with NCL. This ship has the worst service and food of any of the 5 cruises I have been on. It comes no where close to what we experienced on the Sun three years earlier.
Most drinks were outrageously priced at $9.00 with the souvenir cup and $7.00 without. Beer was $5.00+ a bottle with gratuity added.
The buffet line is absolutely awful, morning, noon and night, and the menu selections do not change in 8 days. Honestly, I did not know scrambled eggs was a soup, and cream of wheat a broth.
The two main dining rooms are Aqua and Versaille. We dined at Aqua the first night, the service was terrible, we were actually ignored by the wait staff for over 10 minute at several different times, whenever we wanted refills of drinks the wait staff just walked on by. We dined at Versialle the rest of the trip, the wait staff there was pretty good except for one night. The hostess Olivia, was over her head in being able to schedule people for seating. I counted over 11 vacant tables for 6, yet two groups of six waited almost 30 minutes to be seated. The other group was as disgusted with this cruise as we were.
For people who are flexible, enjoy dining at off-peak hours, and do not want to share tables with other cruisers, freestyle is usually a great way to go.
We did try several specialty restaurants. Cagney's which we had read was good, was terrible. The steaks were good, but the appetizers, soups, salads and desserts were terrible, most were either sent back to the kitchen or we just did not finish them.
We also tried the Ginza restaurant, which we found to be quite good. We also ate at Le Bistro one night and found it to be surprisingly outstanding in service, food quality and taste. One warning however, they sock it to you with a double cover charge depending on which part of the menu you select from, however the food is excellent.
We tried the Blue Lagoon for snacks and light lunch, it was greasy and inedible except for the wanton soup, or I should say the single wanton in the soup soup.
We did not understand the attraction of the Market Buffet, though it was usually very crowded with bland food.
The chocolate night, which on the Norwegian Sun was a spectacular event, was again a joke on this ship. If we could attach pictures to this review, you would easily see what I am talking about.
The wine list is fairly good and many wines still reasonably priced.
Entertainment We found the theater and entertainment very impressive. The theater was comfortable and the performances were top notch. Murray, the magician, was entertaining and the Jean Anne Ryan company put on some great shows. Our cruise director, Ricky Matthews, was also outstanding & entertaining.
Bingo Every cruise ship tries to suck you into bingo, but this was the most expensive we have found with the smallest jackpots.
Casino I had read how bad the Casino was in other reviews, so we stayed away. We did stop by a couple of times but we saw no appreciable winning going on, or any relatively happy cruisers.
Shore Excursions The itinerary attracted us to this cruise.
Alcapulco: Acapulco was great, we explored on our own. The cliff divers were disappointing, though it's what everybody goes to see.
Zihuatenjo: The family went and did the canopy tour while I went scuba diving. The diving was so so, but the dive guide Terry was excellent. The family did not appreciate the canopy tour believing many of their practices to be dangerous. Several people in the tour got off the zip line and walked down rather than complete the course.
Puerto Vallarta: We booked the Misloya "movie" resort and jungle tour. This was a bit misleading because Eden at Misloya is the resort where the movie Predator was filmed, not the resort we were taken to. No movie had ever been made at this place. The resort we were taken to was below Eden, was a cheap lunch and then a hike through the jungle. The cruise ship refunded 45% of the fee to us upon our return.
Cabo San Lucas: This was a nice port. We walked around the shopping area, had lunch, went snorkling; a pleasant day.
Other Ship was clean and cabin was great. We had three mid-ship Deck 8 cabins, near almost everything but not too close to any noise, etc. Seemed to feel less ship movement in this part of the boat. The maid service however was not very timely. If we were not out of the room by the time they came by to clean or turn-down at night, you would go without for the day. Towels only got changed twice in 8 days.
Also, with the ship rocking side to side, there seemed to be a lot of sewer smells in the bathroom and hallways from time to time.
The cruise line objective was clearly to separate you from your money. While the base price of the cruise was less expensive than other 7 day cruises (this was 8 days). The on-ship prices made up for it.
In the onboard shopping Galleria, there are some bargains to be had in liquor and jewelry, but there are also some potential gouges, so buyer be educated and beware.
Service charges and gratuities are automatic and not negotiable. There is no way I would have given this ship half of what they automatically get otherwise.
One nice feature they have added is a baggage service. For $16 a person, they will ship your bags to your home destination. We signed up and placed bags out by 1:00 am the night before disembarkation. The bags showed up in Portland and were the first out on the carousel.
While we did relax and enjoy our family, this was not the super vacation we were looking forward to or expecting. Fortunately the kids were not soured on cruising by this experience. They all had a great time on our previous cruise and know what a great cruise looks like.
We had a great time meeting people who had the same thoughts we did on the food and service. Many people were mad, but it was vacation, we had to take it in stride.
We will never sail this ship again, and it will most likely be some time before we book our next cruise with NCL. They are only as good as their last cruise.
We will be looking at other cruise lines in the future.