Maintenance on the Mexican Riviera with Norwegian Star
Norwegian Star Cruise Review to Mexico
Sail Date: March 22, 2015
Ship: Norwegian Star
Cabin Type: Balcony
Cabin Number: 9726
Traveled As: Family (young children)
Reviewed: 3 years ago
In this review I'm not going to talk about our experiences while in the ports, but rather keep it focused on the Norwegian Star experience. The embarkation process was pretty easy and painless. We arrived at the port in San Pedro (Los Angeles) at about 12:30pm and only had to wait in line for about 10-15 minutes before we got ourselves all checked in. We had the cruise line take our large pieces of luggage for us (a total of three pieces) and they were in our cabin about an hour after check-in. We set sail right on time at 4:00pm!
Overall our stateroom, room 9726 (aft, with a balcony), was clean and nicely appointed. There were three of us in the stateroom, my husband and I, and our 8 year old daughter. The two single beds were already pushed together, and each night our steward opened up the sofa and made up the bed for our daughter. Prior to our cruise the Star was in dry-dock in Portland, OR for regular maintenance and they replaced the carpet in all of the staterooms and in all of the common areas, so this certainly added to the overall cleanliness of the ship. Our stateroom steward(s) were outstanding. The first time we ran into him, which was at the elevators, he introduced himself and knew all of our names (they take your photos at check-in so he must've had access to those through their computer system). Each and every time we saw him he always greeted us by name, and if our daughter wasn't with us, then he would always ask where she was and how she was enjoying herself. After the first full day our stateroom steward became familiar with our routines and very promptly had our stateroom made up and cleaned first thing in the morning, and always provided us with turn-down service while we were at dinner! The staterooms have adequate storage for two people, but with three of us in the stateroom it was a little tight, but we made it work by storing our empty suitcases under the beds rather than in the closets. It's been about 12 years since I've been on a cruise, and I found the bathrooms on the Norwegian Star to be quite spacious for cruise ship bathrooms. There was a decent size vanity/sink area, with storage below and above for your various toiletries, etc. The shower is to your right, which was a good size and was equipped with shampoo and body soap. Norwegian uses dispensers in the shower (and one next to the sink) to cut down on all of those little plastic bottles -- certainly better for the environment. The toilet is to the left of the sink, and again didn't feel cramped to us. There are dividers for the toilet and shower, but they don't provide 100% privacy! The air conditioning/heating unit worked extremely well, was easy to operate, and always quiet. Most nights we slept with the balcony slider open about a foot so we could hear the ocean!
Overall I found the crew/staff to be pleasant, although it felt like a lot of the employees were either new to Norwegian and/or new to the Star because we didn't have a very good track record of them being able to answer some basic questions, or to go above and beyond to get the answer(s) for us. The restaurant staff always seemed to be on their game, and we found that the restaurants were always well staffed so the service was always good to excellent. Most of our evening dining we did in Aqua because they were more relaxed with the dress code for dinner (you could wear shorts!), whereas in Versailles you had to wear long pants and a proper shirt (no t-shirts allowed). But for sit-down breakfast and lunch in Versailles you could definitely wear shorts and be more casual. For breakfast we generally went to the Market Cafe on deck 12. In the main restaurants we ran into some confusion when it came time to seating, but this was always rectified quickly by the host/hostess. Again, I think this was due to new employees on board. The food was good and the portions weren't overwhelming. If you had a special request, especially at dinner, they seemed more than willing to accommodate you. For example, our daughter ordered from their kid's menu which meant everything came with french fries, but we always asked for a side of steamed vegetables and there was never a problem. I will say that overall we found the food to be salty (high sodium), which they likely do to make everything taste better and so you will consume more beverages -- luckily, we had the ultimate beverage package, which we put to good use!
I was disappointed with the majority of the bar staff. I didn't find them to be friendly and/or courteous at all, with only a couple of exceptions. There were several times when we had to wait 15-20 minutes just to order a drink, and that wasn't because there were a ton of people ahead of us, but because the bartender was just slow or preoccupied in doing something else. This was evident at the Oasis Bar (at the main pool - deck 12), O'Sheenan's (deck 8), and in Spinnaker's Lounge (deck 7), which was primarily with the wait staff. I never felt properly greeted, and no one seemed to crack a smile...the complete opposite of the restaurant staff! The two exceptions were one bartender at the Bier Garten (deck 13 that overlooks the pool) who greeted us and asked how we were doing and made us excellent drinks, and also at Gatsby's (deck 6) where the wait staff was always very prompt and courteous, and the bartender always seemed to be on his game and made excellent cocktails as well.
The whole time we were sailing there was ongoing maintenance happening on the ship -- likely left over from when the ship was dry-docked. This became an inconvenience because certain common traffic areas (deck 7) would be taped off, or limited access was provided, or you just heard constant hammering and drilling (this reminded me of being in the dentist office, which isn't my idea of a vacation!). The "It's 5 O'clock Somewhere" bar/lounge (deck 7) was closed the entire trip and being worked on except for the final night when they finally opened it (I think this used to be the Sports Bar/Pub). Again, there was a lot of noise going on in that general area, especially if you were walking on the promenade deck.
The three shows we saw in the Stardust Theatre were quite good. It seemed the shows got better as the week went on. We enjoyed some of the fun and entertaining game show type of events in the Spinnaker Lounger (Deal or No Deal, and the Newlywed, Not So Newlywed games). We didn't go to any of the bingo games, but they always seemed well attended. We also didn't go to the Casino, which on the couple of occasions that we found ourselves in that vicinity there was plenty of action going on and LOTS of cigarette smoke too!
We didn't dine in any of the specialty restaurants, but one night we were able to get into Ginza -- the Japanese/Chinese restaurant (deck 7) that is included in your fare with a few dishes that have an add-on price of $10 each, but otherwise there was no additional charge. You can't make a reservation at Ginza, so either get there right after they open, or plan on dining after 7:30pm, if you don't want to wait 20-30 minutes for a table.
Because we had our 8 year old daughter with us we took full advantage of the Kid's Club, or as they call it, the Splash Academy (although they don't take your children to the kid's pool area at all....hmmmmm, odd they would call it "Splash" then!). Anyway, the staff was always very pleasant and friendly, and they seem to have a lot of activities for the children to keep them occupied and to tire them out!
One area of the ship that we found disappointing was the Oasis Pool, which was mainly due to the decor. They have it decorated in very bright orange and green, with lighted palm tree lights on deck 13, which only a few of these lights seemed to be in working order (this was one of the maintenance projects while we were sailing). Compared to the rest of the ship, this area didn't seem like it belonged -- I felt we were on an entirely different substandard cruise. I guess the best word to describe the Oasis Pool is "tacky!" Also, the slides they have, which we didn't try, aren't sloped enough so it didn't look like most people, from kids to adults, were able to slide all the way down without pushing themselves along. I'm just not sure how that is supposed to be fun!
Our first port, Cabo San Lucas, the ship had to tender so we had to take tender boats back and forth to the ship. If you were going into port that day then you had to get a "tender ticket" on deck 9. This wasn't very well publicized, so we saw a lot of people confused about the tender process. Our tender # was 9, out of 22, and we didn't get to leave the ship until almost 1:00pm! We were leaving the port at 6:00pm that day. There seemed to be a lot of confusion with the crew on the tender process, or they didn't have enough tender boats operating, or both. If you had an excursion booked then you are automatically on one of the earlier tender boats, so no worries there.
The disembarkation process in LA couldn't have been easier. We got back to LA a little early, and if you are willing to take all of your own luggage (which we did) then you can be the first to disembark at about 7:30am, or anytime at your convenience. We were one of the first people off of the ship at 7:30am, and were in our car in the port parking lot by 8:00am! It couldn't have been easier!
All in all the cruise was enjoyable and relaxing for us, but I wish the overall service from the crew was better and more consistent, and that there wasn't any maintenance going on while on board!!!
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
Most of what you will need and/or looking for will be on deck 7. The gym was always crowded first thing in the morning, so if you're able to workout mid-morning or in the afternoon then you'll be much happier!