April 2014 - Norwegian Star to Mexico
This was my first cruise so I have nothiing to compare to, except the tales of how wonderful cruising is from my cruise loving friends. Maybe it just takes time to get your sea legs, but I did not care for the first 2 days at sea. My wife loved sitting around relaxing, it drove me a little crazy. The food was not as wonderful as I expected. It was good, but my favorite mid-priced restaurants serve better. We did go to one specialty restuarant and it was better than the "free" restaurants, but not so much better that it was worth the cover charge. But at times the choices at the "free" restaurants were less than enticing. I wonder if that was a strategic decision to nudge people into the specialty restaurants. If you are a foodie, consider spending the extra money up front to get the ultimate dining experience package.
Speaking of packages, the nickel & dime approach is not cruiser-friendly. The unlimited soda package is not worth it. Even my teenage son was sick of soda after a few days of unlimited Pepsi and was drinking the "free" juice. I switched to water (not the Water Package, just tap water at the restaurants - the water package would have been a better option for me - HA! the water "package" talk about nickel & dime).
The pool area is great for kids. They tend to overrun the pool so its not as good for adults. If you want to do laps, you can join the health club and use their lap pool (spa package or something like that). I just wanted to go for a relaxing dip now and then without being surrounded by kids screaming and splashing. On the other hand, my son had great fun in the pool. Actually, other than on the port excursions, I rarely saw my son. He is 15 and hung out with freinds the entire time. That was great! (Note to husbands: Do not joke about looking at security footage to see if your child fell off the boat. The consequenses are not as immediate as joking about bombs in an airport, but almost as dire. My wife came out of relaxation mode in a hearbeat and did not go back until we found our son).
Snorkling in Cabo was a lot of fun, zip lining in Puerto Vallarta was awesome (5 guides for 7 people - I never felt so safe hanging from a wire 200 feet off the ground). The Hotel/Beach excursion in Mazatlan was ok. Bring enough cash to do the beach activities like wave runners and parasailing. There were others from the cruise that did not buy the package, they just took a taxi to the resort and saved a ton of money. They did that at other ports as well going to resorts that were not on the cruise package tour list. First time cruisers may be a little leery of the safety issues of venturing out on your own. I would be, even though in hindsight I wish I had.
After the days at the ports and back at sea, the weather was cool and cloudy so we got more into the shows. Second City was fantastic. There are some very talented and entertaining crew memebers, those "crew" shows were always fun. Karaoke Idol was amazing - a lot of talented singers on my cruise. We went to that show mainly to get a good seat for Second City. Karaoke Idol was worth it in itself.
As I said at the start, maybe it just takes time to get your sea-legs. Overall it was fun. I like a little more active vacation. My wife likes to decompress. I would do it again for her, but only after heavy lobbying to go somewhere on a beach so I could get in the water everyday and she can lay on the beach.