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jerhardt

Another Review of the Star 3/1

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Flew in from Vancouver, BC on February 28 and stayed overnight in Long Beach at the Coast Long Beach – very nice hotel, right on the harbor about ¼ mile from the Queen Mary (our room had a view of the Queen Mary and the harbor).

Embarkation:

From all the horror stories I have read on this site/forum about embarkation, I was prepared for the worst. Perhaps that was good, because it went without a hitch. We left our hotel at noon and got to the Port at 12:15. We had the wrong tags because we were upgraded, so I found this nice chap under an awning that gave us new ones to reflect the change. The porter took our bags, and the NCL people ushered us upstairs to check in. Check in was a breeze – they take your picture on a hokey web camera, and take an imprint of the all important credit card. After which we were given a number and told to wait. I was prepared to wait a long time. About 10 minutes after sitting, our number was called. Through security we went. On the gangway they take your picture (against a green backdrop, so don’t wear green if you want the picture to turn out properly – I was invisible!). From there, we were escorted to our cabin. 1 hour from arriving at the Port to getting into our cabin (13:15), pretty fair I think.

The room was larger than we had expected and with the balcony made it all the better – get an up-sell to a balcony, it’s worth the extra.

We had ordered the Romance/Honeymoon package and when were arrived in our room, there was a bottle of champagne on ice with chocolate strawberries and a nice letter from NCL.

From that point on, we decided to check out the ship. She’s big. It probably took about an hour to wander around the ship. The buffet opened to guests around 13:30 so we decided to give it a go as the other restaurants weren’t opening for a while. Selection was good, although it wasn’t first class cuisine – perfectly fine for a buffet.

The mandatory life boat drill took place at 16:30 and afterwards they held the bon-voyage bbq on the pool deck (deck 12). A usual assortment of ribs, chicken and other bbq related goods. The weather was nice so we ate on deck, it was at this time we became acquainted with the “photographer”.

Pop Program:

I decided to buy into the soda program because I am not a big drinker. They put a “Sprite” sticker on your cabin key and that’s it. However, trying to get pop with just the sticker is a bit of a nuisance. The next day I broke down and bought the $2.50 Coke mug and from that point on, I didn’t have to show my card at all and got the pop filled wherever I wanted with no questions. In fact I gave it to my wife on a couple of occasions and she had no problems either. So, for the initial $43 and the extra $2.50 for the mug, I think I got my monies worth.

Restaurants:

As mentioned above, the Market Place (the buffet) was alright. We didn’t eat there much except when we had that occasional craving – the mousse was great. Eggs Benedict in the morning was good too. Also a great place to get some fresh fruit if you are on the pool deck during the day.

The Oasis Bar and Grill which is located on the pool deck was okay – the servers were impeccable and always had a smile. One in particular (Ade from Indonesia) had our drinks ready for us as soon as he saw us entering the pool deck area – very special service. The food at the grill was okay – it’s the same as the Market Place only more of a bbq fare. Daily on the pool deck a real bbq was held from 13:00 – 15:00 which served either ribs, chicken, steak and other items (the main items rotated daily).

The Versailles (main dining room #1) was where we ate most of the time (breakfast and dinner). The service there was great. You got the feeling that you were somebody and that made you feel important. The type of menu for the Versailles and Aqua (main dining room #2) were posted in the Freestyle Daily. We had great food every night, except for the Caribbean themed night – the food that night was interesting, but not to my liking or my wife’s. It was on this night we ventured out to the Blue Lagoon. I tried the fish there and it was great. FYI.. the fish served in the Blue Lagoon is the same fish severed in the Red Lion Pub that everyone raves about. Overall the main dining area’s food was great.

We ventured out to two of the specialty restaurants: Le Bistro and Cagney’s. Le Bistro was part of the Romance Package. It’s a nice quiet out of the way restaurant with exceptional service. Hari (the host from India) was very pleasant and helpful. When we were ordering, he mentioned that I could order off the menu (“surf and turf” filet minion with ½ lobster), which I did and it was fabulous.

Cagney’s was exceptional. We did this on the 3rd night of the cruise. I ordered the 16oz t-bone steak with everything, and I must admit it was the first time that I could not finish my steak, it was that big and the portions were that good.

We ate in Aqua one night, but didn’t like the ambiance that was in there and the Romanian servers were a little staunchly, in my opinion.

The other restaurants we didn’t try so I can’t comment on them.

Bars:

We aren’t big drinkers so not much to comment here. We did go to the Red Lion which was great, except that if you sit by the window, you are pretty much sitting in a main walkway for the ship; also there are a lot of smokers in this place. The Martini bar was another great romantic place, but it also has a fair amount of smokers. We did hang about the Carousel bar and found the entertainment there to be alright. The Spinnaker lounge was nice, but don’t venture there when the sea is rough. It’s a nice place to relax out of the sun and get away for a while. We didn’t take in the nightlife in any of the bars or lounges because we are “boring 40-year-olds” as our kids put it.

Stardust Theatre:

Great theater and for the most part great entertainment. We went to every show and liked some didn’t like some, and couldn’t see some. What I mean with the last comment is that they pump the theatre full of smoke at the beginning of every show for lighting effects. So much that if you are sitting half way up in the theatre you can’t see very well. The comedian and magician were our favorites, and the “singing soap star” was okay. We looked forward to Cirque Pacific and from what we saw it was good. But with the combination of the smoke and dark colored lighting, it made it very difficult to see the show.

Spa:

Wow, what a secret hideaway this is. Went there on a few evenings and nobody was there. I am certain that people think you have to pay to use the hydro-therapy pool, Jacuzzi and lap pool but you don’t – and there’s no kids under 18 allowed in the Spa!

Overall this is a very nice ship with a lot of amenities to offer, so much that an 8 day cruise isn’t enough to enjoy it all (that’s why we have booked another on this ship!).

Ports/Shore Excursions:

It’s funny how people tend to want to stand in line forever. On the second day of the cruise my wife and I decided that we would do a simple NCL sponsored tour in each of the ports. We went to the Shore Excusion desk and it was lined up clear through the reception area – forget it we thought. Then as we were heading towards the Red Lion Pub I noticed a 24hour Shore Exursion kiosk. “What the heck,” I said. So, I inserted my keycard, and selected what I wanted and within 10 minutes all our shore excursion tickets were printed (and the line was even longer now!).

Manzanillo: Depressing port town. Has some very old Mexican charm to it, but it appears it still isn’t set up to accept cruise traffic properly even though other lines visit here frequently. You are greeted upon arrival into this port by a belching power plant and an armed military escort! We did the “city and shopping” tour. Had a great tour guide and an amazing bus driver. How they navigate those narrow mountain roads in Las Hadas is beyond me. It was a 3 hour tour with a stop at a silver shop in old Manzanillo (the tour guides buddy, I swear). Free beer, margaritas, water pop (as much as you wanted). The silver here is cheap, in fact it was the cheapest of all the 4 ports we visited.

Puerto Vallarta: I was in this town 15 years ago, and it’s sure changed – the Wal-Mart 10 minutes away from Port is one big change, the stray dogs and children in the downtown area is another change, as well the time-share people aren't as prevalent as before. We did the “Factories and Shopping” tour. But, because it was a Sunday when we were in port, the tile factory wasn’t operating. This gave us more time at the tequila factory – very interesting tour and the free samples were great too. Perhaps they let you drink so much because of the lunch they feed you afterwards, no, I am kidding the food was good too. We bought a bottle of the “gold” tequila and didn’t have it taken away when we got back to the ship (probably because it was in a clay bottle, not a clear bottle).

Mazatlan: Probably our favorite port. Clean, set up for cruise ships, although it is a working port. You need to shuttle to the port exit (mandatory). Did the “City and Shopping” here (do you see a theme). The cathedral downtown is worth a visit. The cliff divers are anything like the ones in Acapulco, however they are jumping into only 4 feet of water. The Gold Zone is where all the action is, and is where you want to go. If you decide to cab it there, it’s about $10 one way. We were back to the port at noon, and did most of our shopping at the flea market just inside the port exit.

Cabo San Lucas: Cleanest of all the ports. The port with the most American influence. Too bad we had to haul out of port at 14:00 (actually we left at 13:30 which surprised even the cruise director staff). The tour of Lands End is worth the early wake up time. Since we were on an NCL tour, we got tendered to port before all others. This tour left us with about 2 ½ hours to kill in Cabo. Did some shopping (great deals at the clothing outlet store next to the Shrimp Factory). The Cabo Wabo is alright, but it’s a bit overpriced. The Shrimp Factory is great, but expensive too. Did most of the shopping at the flea market just off the dock.

It was a very rough trip back and from what I was told, it was common that this happened. The ship started vibrating loudly on the second to last night. I was thinking that it was good she was going into drydock.

All in all the ports were okay. I could have left Manzanillo but it was a vacation and without testing the waters I wouldn’t know any different.

The cabin stewards are awesome. Every night the beds were turned down with a chocolate on each pillow. We managed to get robes out of our cabin steward, and a couple of towel animals too – one scared the wits out of my wife when she came into the cabin one night!

Will I book with NCL again? Yes. Will I book on the Star? Yes. In fact we took advantage of the onboard booking and book a cruise for next May on the Star for Alaska (although May ’07 isn’t posted yet, they alowed us to do it anyway).

My only criticism is the Port Shopping Guides – they are mainly focused on selling jewels and diamonds. I don’t know how many people come on a cruise to buy a diamond, but I wouldn’t mind meeting one with all that money!

Disembarkation:

Disembarkation was a bit of a mess. It's been mentioned before, but it was a wee bit confusing. I don't blame NCL for this as they tried their best to keep to the schedule that was posted the night before. I think that the problem was with customs. With 2000+ people getting off the ship and only 10 customs officials, well this created a bit of a bottleneck.

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Thanks for posting your review. Always enjoy learning more about the Star. We will be on the ship this October.

 

Thanks again.

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I like when I log onto cc in the morning and there's a Star review. Now that's she is in dry dock we won't be seeing many reviews before we sail.

 

I printed it out to read later.

 

Thanks for posting.

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Much thanks for the post. We really enjoy this ittinerary so much that we have signed up again also. Now three years in a row.......Lov it:)

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Thank-you for posting your very informative review. We will be going on the star in April. Now you mentioned that only 18 and over are allowed in the spa areas. Is that true also for the gym? Glad you had a great time and welcome home.

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Good morning all! :)

 

Thanks jerhardt for review.

 

Cruising Tom, loved hearing you say you've signed up again because of the itinerary! This will be our first cruise to the Mexican Riviera and we were excited to begin with because it will be a "new" experience for us - but hearing comments like yours just makes us more excited.

 

Judyf - you getting ready girl? I am! Started laying stuff aside already.:p

 

Later mates.

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Nice review, thanks for taking the time to post. I like the way you did your review with categories.

 

Cruisechat, I feel as you do reading the last of the reviews before we sail it's so exciting, this is our first time to the Mexican Riviera too. No I haven't had a minute to think getting ready, maybe this weekend or next week.

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I must say that this was a very positive experience for a first time cruiser. Since most of the information about cruising came from this message board, I thought it would be nice to share my review as well.

 

I didn't rebook because of this itinerary, rather I rebooked because of the ship. Living in Vancouver and growing up on the West Coast, I've always wanted to see the Inside Passage in more detail (plus see where I was born). So, the Star was an obvious choice.

 

Kids are allowed in the gym, and get this... the ice cream bar is right next to the gym!

 

Something else came to mind that I neglected to include in the review:

The Chocoholic Buffet is on the second to last night of the cruise (sailing out of Cabo). They hold it at 23:45 in the Versailles restaurant. Most people we were with thought that it was too late. Some that went to it said the numbers were down from a previous NCL cruise they had been on in the Carribean (there they held it at 20:45 in the Grand Atrium). We missed it because we were too tired from our rushed day in Cabo.

 

Enjoy your cruises everyone!

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If one remembers the old days there was formal eating and always a midnight buffet. One night of the trip was always set aside for the chocolate buffet with all the ice carvings.........So having it in the afternoon 2 cruises ago just didn't seem right. I am glad they moved to midnight. Helps keep some of the lines down for those that don't stay up that late for the chocolate covered strawberries.....:)

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Being that this was my first cruise I wasn't aware of the older traditional buffets. Nevertheless, we will catch it on our next cruise.

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