It really was one of the trips of a lifetime for us!

Norwegian Star Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America

Cruises: 1 cruise (first)
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 22

Overall rating:

4.4 out of 5
Norwegian Star

14 Night Panama Canal Eastbound (Los Angeles To Miami)

Sail date: January 04, 2019

Ship: Norwegian Star

Cabin type: Balcony

Cabin number: 11012

Traveled as: Couple

Reviewed: 2 years ago

Review summary

All told for our 1st cruise, and a long one at that, we were very pleased and we believe we got our monies worth out of the cruise on NCL. We would have no problems cruising with NCL again, and we look forward to doing so. It was a wonderful way to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We also made a number of new friends on this cruise.

Embarkation

5 out of 5
Norwegian had a very quick and efficient Embarkation process going out of the Port of Los Angeles. Just make sure you take NCL's advice and do your Check-In on Line documentation preparation at least a week before your NCL cruise. You should not have any trouble. The agent at the NCL desk we dealt with was super nice.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

4 out of 5
Main dining rooms from what we ate in were Very Good to Excellent! We only at in the Versile main dinning room, had great service and food each night. I highly recommend the NY Strip Steak dinner. We did not eat in Acqua main dining room. All other eating places were good. The only disappointment we experienced was with O'Sheans. We had only read and heard (esp. from YouTube) about it, and we were eager to try it. Our first time eating at O'Sheans on embarkation day for dinner, our server was not that great, he seamed to not care, and the food was really just so-so. Ate in O'Sheans twice more, and food was better as so was the service. Just disappointing in the establishment as we had heard so many great things about it. We ate in every specialty restaurants and had WONDERFUL meals in each, with WONDERFUL 1st Class service to boot! We dined in the Garden Buffet mostly for breakfast our ate al fresco breakfasts out on the pool deck at the Oasis grill. (FYI, Oasis grill for some reason could not keep the small coffee pot full during its posted breakfast hours which were from 0600 - 0800 hrs.)--NCL needs to do better at this. We are not huge drinkers, but we did have the unlimited beverage package and we believe we got our gratuity fee (@$470.00 USD) that we paid for the beverage package out of it for what we drank. The 5'O'Clock Somewhere bar was the best and the bar manager Martin from Argentina provided us with excellent service. We also had drinks usually at the Spice H2O bar and it was not crowded, and was nicely located on the fantail of the ship.

Versailles Main Dining Room

5 out of 5

Great service on all 3 nights we ate there. Food was excellent.

Garden Cafe

3 out of 5

Good, it did the job. Sometimes hard to find a seat to sit-down to eat, as it all depends on what time you go for a meal. But there was plenty to eat and the food variety was good. I loved the pretzel rolls. Deserts were good, esp. the crepe station. They "Washy-Washy" staff on guard at the entrances were always nice and polite.

Cagney's Steakhouse

5 out of 5

Just excellent. The dinner as well as the service. We had a very nice meal in it. A place to eat to celebrate our Panama Canal crossing that day. The Ribeye steak I had was wonderful.

Onboard Activities

4 out of 5
First off, keep in mind that this was one of NCL's longer itineraries, on one of its smallest ships. We took this cruise for many reasons, and we did not want to be on a boat with Go-Cart tracks, Rock Climbing Walls, lazer tag, etc., we think you get the point. We wanted a relaxed cruise that gave us the opportunities to choose what we did or did not want to do. E.g. Free-Style cruising. We partook in many of the self-led meet-up groups for folks with various interests. Spouse did many of the crafts classes. I went to a number of presentations on various topic's. Esp. take the ?Behind the Scenes Tour" if it is offered ($79.00 USD), but well worth it! We did a fair bit of shopping while on-board. Roberto, (Cruise Director) and his staff really do outstanding work to get people involved if they want to be. Roberto and his crew really work their butts off for the guests.

Lap Pool And Jacuzzi

5 out of 5

For a person with Arthritis, this was a great place to relax. Never a crowd, met some very nice folks there. The Jacuzzi's could have bit a been hotter in my opinion, but all in all they did the job. The facilities in the Spa were excellent and the staff was just wonderful. The relaxation rooms on the side of the spa were great to just read in in a quiet environment. Certainly worth every penny of the $240 we paid to use it. I will do so again. I did not use the lap pool.

Photo Gallery

4 out of 5

A nice facility, and the staff was cheerful and helpful. Even though we had intended not to at the start of our cruise, we wound up purchasing a photo-package. It's worth the pricing v. per print charges. The only thing we did not care for was that NCL is using a Desktop screen to review your photo's, so you are reviewing them electronically. To protect folks from stealing the image by taking a picture of it, all the projected images are watermarked with the NCL logo. This makes it very hard to view the proofs, esp. to us who wear glasses. It was much easier to go to our assigned photo-book to look at prints that way holding them in our hand.

Entertainment

5 out of 5
All good to great! The NCL Star is the only NCL boat that does 4 full cast production shows. All were really good. We liked "Vegas The Show" the best, The independent entertainers that were brougt in also were very good and entertaining. The only complaint I had is that the seats in the Stardust Theater are spaced (by row) very close together and are somewhat cramped. This made it especially hard on folks who have orthopedic issues to deal with.

Children's Programs

We don't have kiddos. And we picked this sailing hoping there would be few kids on the boat. We got lucky as there were only 17 kids on the whole ship.

Service and Staff

5 out of 5
Can't say enough about how great the staff and service was. We experienced absolutely no problems. Our cabin steward, Mr. Ging, was absolutely wonderful. A very nice man, and he took great care to make sure everything was o.k. right up to our last day on board. All staff went out of their way to greet us warmly and wish us a good morning, afternoon, night etc.

Ship Quality

4 out of 5
This being our first cruise, we do not have anything to compare our experience on the NCL Star to. However, that being said, we found the ship to be very cleaned and well maintained. Staff were always doing exterior cleaning and maintenance when we were in ports of call. NCL star had just taken on brand new deck chairs and pool lounge chairs in L.A. All common areas were kept very clean, and we always saw staff wiping down common use areas, esp. the restrooms. Not sure if it is a ship design thing, but we found the ships elevators to be extremely slow!! Had to wait forever many times to get and take an elevator. Elevators will also only pick up a passenger on their way back down from the top if they already have passengers on them. There were heavy wait times for elevators after each Stardust Theater performance. These are Kone elevators which are known to be very good and reliable, so I do not understand what the issue was. They elevators were all nice and in good repair. Hint, plan to take the stairs...a lot. And if your legs are not in-shape to take the stairs at the beginning of the cruise, they will be by the end of it!

Cabin / Stateroom

5 out of 5
For us, a Balcony Mini-Suite which we had was perfect! If I were to take a long duration cruise again, like this one was, I would certainly go with a mini-suite at a minimum, or possibly move up to a regular Suite. Our cabin was clean and kept that way by our cabin steward throughout or voyage. We never had to ask for anything to be fixed or cleaned up. During the voyage we found three very minor maintenance issues with our cabin which we brought to the attention of the hotel front desk on our debarkation morning--just for their info.

Ship tip

Do use the swimming fish on the carpets,....they help immensely pointing you in the right direction!

Ports of call

San Pedro (Los Angeles), California

4 out of 5
We visited the Port of L.A. a few days before we got on the NCL Star. It was nice and saw a lot of neat things. Their maritime museum was good.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

4 out of 5
We had been to Cabo before (for a land vacation at one of the resorts). So the port area of Cabo had not really changed a lot for us. However because of our excursion we took (Photography Tour), we were able to see how much Cabo has grown up since we had visited there last. Cabo has Cost Club and a Home Despot there now!! Who knew?? Our photography shore excursion was excellent!!

Acapulco, Mexico Did not visit port

Due to our feelings of safety, we decided to not do Acapulco. Upon docking and watching a ton of Mexican Marines around the port, and watching Mexican Federalizes and Marines running up and down the road directly outside the port in up-armored HUMVE's sporting locked and cocked M60 machine guns, I think we made the right decision. Plus, NCL offered very few excursion tours at this port of call,-and none we were interested in. Wonder why? Hmm?

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

4 out of 5
Very good. No problems. Enjoyed our excursion.

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

4 out of 5
Our excursion to the Volcano, (State Park) was very good. Enjoyed it immensely. 1.5 hr. bus ride to get there was a bit much. Our tour buses had escorts from the Nicaraguan Tourist Police force the entire time. On the bus ride, kept seeing teams of two Nicaraguan National Police officer's along the road side every 10 miles or so, or at least a team in every town. Always at least one team member was sporting an AK-47 at the ready. Nicaragua still is very 3rd world in our book.

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

4 out of 5
Very good. No problems. Enjoyed our excursion. The Zip Line and Aerial Tram excusion was Excellent! You should really do it if you can. However, be advised, NCL said this was a level 2 activity. The Zip line facility is really more like a level 3 or 4 facility given some of the terrain that has to be navigated to get to some of the zip line stations. We did all 10 stations, and in a rain-forest rain no less! Fun day.

Panama Canal Transit

5 out of 5
What can I say, it was the highlight of the trip! NCL did open the bow of the ship for folks to view the canal passage from. The Panama Canal Corp. guide provided a very good narrative.

Cartagena, Colombia

4 out of 5
Very good. No problems. Enjoyed our excursion. However, as was pointed out in a previous review here,--watch out for the street vendors, (aka "The Welcoming Committee" ) they are over whelming, and if the Columbian govt. was smart they would try to do something about them, esp. since with (all) the excursions these national governments want the cruisers to come back for land vacations, and/or purchase vacation/retirement properties in these areas. The Navy Museum part of our tour was kind of a waste of time, as all the exhibit descriptors are in Spanish and we do not speak Spanish.

Miami, Florida

3 out of 5
No problems. NCL made disembarkation easy. We did the NCL assisted disembarkation with our baggage and ourselves going to Miami Intl Airport. Getting off the boat was efficient, and Immigration was a snap (maybe it was the Global Entry Memberships we have). We paid a porter $20 to assist with our bags and it was well worth it. However, where the bus dropped us off at MAI was no wheres near a great location, and MAI 's terminal is far from the best. We still don't understand why our hotel in Miami will drop off its guests at the Port but will not pick them up from the Port. Suggestion, fly out of Fort Lauderdale Intl Airport. It is very newly renovated, very clean, and very nice, and not crowded at all.

Disembarkation

4 out of 5
Good, no problems. See our comments for Miami FL, above.
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