Cruise Review of Norwegian Star

Name: Cruizer Date Submitted: 03/22/2007
Age: 50 Cruise Line: NCL
Number of Cruises: 5 Cruise Ship: Norwegian Star
Overall Rating: Date Sailed: 10/08/2005
Embarkation: Los Angeles, CA Destination: Mexican Riviera

This is a continuation of my NCL Star cruise to the Mexican Riviera in October 2005. Because the review is so long (about 20 type written pages) I have split it in half. For days one through four see the earlier review (click on the link below - I hope this works) ...

What follows is days five through the end of the cruise ...

Day 5 - Zihuatanejo

Well, we arrived on time (7:00a.m.). About 20 minutes prior to arrival the noise started. Sounded like the anchor winches were right under my cabin. However, we were still moving. If I was still asleep, the noise would have been annoying. It sounded like electric motors and winches. Then it dawned on me (yes, sunrise was 6:38a.m. today). One peek down from the balcony confirmed it. The tenders were being readied, and one of the tenders was directly below my cabin (keep that in mind if you like to sleep late and your ship will be tendering in any ports). The tenders were all hanging over the side as we dropped anchor (which I did not hear). Now that we are traveling north my balcony faces west. No more sunrises for me, and no more land (unfortunately Hawaii is just over the horizon). We are actually south of Hawaii. In fact Acapulco is the farthest south I have ever been (one of several firsts for me on this cruise).

Unfortunately the official information is in conflict with the information provided by Norwegian. The itinerary mailed to me by Norwegian (along with my boarding pass) says that we will be here until 4:00p.m. However, the official word on board the ship is that we are scheduled to leave at 2:00p.m. This being a tender port, that really cuts down on the available time on shore. I have no shore excursion scheduled for this port, so I am just going to walk around and explore on my own. According to the TV, we have 360 knots to go to Puerto Vallarta. This distance could be covered in fifteen hours at 24 knots (the ship’s top cruise speed is 25 knots - the ship was doing 25.2 knots at some point while we were on our way to Acapulco, per the TV). Allowing an extra half hour at each end for reduced speed in the harbor, gives us sixteen hours. Allowing an extra hour for a fudge factor makes seventeen hours. I think we could leave at 4:00p.m. and still make it to Puerto Vallarta on time (9:00a.m. - 17 hours later). Given that this is a tender port, the extra two hours would mean a lot.

Tomorrow is Puerto Vallarta. The itinerary mailed to me by Norwegian says that we will be docked. I know the Vision of the Seas will have priority, but I recently learned that Puerto Vallarta can dock two ships at once. However, the official word is that Puerto Vallarta will be a tender port (making three tender ports in a row - and three out of four total). Too bad, I have a long tour scheduled in Puerto Vallarta, and as a result, might not be able to do everything I had hoped to do. If the information I have is correct, there will be three ships in Puerto Vallarta on Thursday; the Vision of the Sea, the Celebrity Summit and this ship. Of the three, the Vision of the Seas is the smallest, so there will be more than 6,000 guests in Puerto Vallarta on Thursday.

Yesterday I picked up my tender ticket for today. I told the person at the reception desk that I did not need an early ticket. So naturally my number was the first one called. Fortunately I was ready. I was not hungry, and thus decided to skip breakfast this morning. As I mentioned, you can follow the progress of the ship on the TV (channel nine). I now refer to channel nine as the travel channel. It has several things going for it:

1) You can follow the progress of the ship. 2) No commercials. 3) It has a nice sound track. 4) PA announcements can be heard on the speaker (which is good when they are calling tender numbers).

Well, I walked along the beach as far as I could in one direction, then back again. Then I crossed over a bridge on the other side of town. I was hoping to reach the top of the mountain and get a great photo of the ship. It was hot, humid and I had used up half of my water, but I made it to the top. I could see the ship. Another 300 feet and I would have my picture. But the street in front of me looked more like a driveway than a road. I asked someone if I could walk along there and was told it was a private house. Rats! So close yet so far. Oh well, I took the best picture I could (it will never end up in a Norwegian brochure) and walked back into town.

This time I hit all the tourist areas. Having already acquired all the trinkets I could want, I felt no need to do any actual shopping, and instead just enjoyed the walk, sights, sounds and smells (food, and I skipped breakfast this morning). I found a place selling cold bottled water. I asked how much and was told 60 Pesos. I gave him three quarters and figured I would get some Mexican money in change. Instead I received a dime and a nickle. I continued my walk and stopped to admire the view of the bay. Before proceeding I checked to see what was in front of me. A good thing I did because what I would have stepped on or walked over was a young boy (about three years old) with an open hat. This gave me a good opportunity to get rid of the only dime and nickle I had on me. And best of all, he was the only child around, so I did not get mobbed, which did happen to someone who bought gum from one young child and suddenly found two of her friends were also in the gum sales business. Well after about three hours of walking and sweating I decided it was time to go back to the ship.

I knew I was a sweaty mess (nothing like sweaty sun screen in the eyes) but this was confirmed by the first comment from the room stewardess. Okay, after I make reservations at Cagney’s, I’ll hit the pool. I made reservations for Cagney’s at 5:30p.m. That should give me time to have dinner, catch a sunset (perhaps from my balcony) and still make the show tonight.

The pool is still colder than it should be. I can only assume they are not draining it and refilling it every morning, as the sea water must be warmer than the pool. The sun has managed to heat the slide water to a very comfortable temperature, and the pool deck to an uncomfortably hot temperature. I’ll have to add deck shoes to my must bring list. While walking around Zihuatanejo I ended up with a craving for hamburger (which I rarely eat at home). The nice thing about being on the ship while the ship is in port is that half the people are on the shore, which means the lines on the ship are much smaller. The hamburgers at the pool side grill were fresh off the grill, and tasted about as good as a hamburger can taste. Then I noticed they set up the pool side bar-bee-ques again. Still pork ribs, but the chicken was very good again. Blue sky, temperature around 80, a slight ocean breeze, fresh grilled and bar-bee-qued food, a live band, a nice pool and a cold one brought to me by a waitress. Remind me again why I like to cruise?

Zihuatanejo has, in my opinion, a prettier bay than Acapulco (an opinion which my diner companions on Thursday night shared with me). With the ship facing the sun, and it being past noon, my balcony is in the shade and I am checking out the sights. I see there are jet skis to rent, banana boat rides and parasailing. In case you are interested, the safest way to parasail is to have the boat winch you in and out. Having the boat pull you from shore and then try to land you back on the shore again is a good way to end up either on American Funnies Videos or in the hospital. Winching is much safer. Also, for some reason we seem to have attracted the attention of several yellow butterflies, which are flying around the boat. Speaking of which, do you know why the boy threw butter out the window? He wanted to see butter fly (butterfly - HA HA HA).

I heard from someone that the prior cruise missed this port because of a hurricane. Too bad, they missed a very nice port. Too bad we could not stay longer, and too bad Zihuatanejo does not have a dock. For those that do not know, a dock saves about 20 minutes per round trip (getting off and then back on the ship).

Well, the thing about anchoring is, you pull it up and off you go - and we are going. Which means soon the captain will turn the ship north toward Puerto Vallarta and my balcony will be in the sun again. So I’ll head up to the photo gallery to see if I can find my Acapulco port side photo. According to the travel channel, we are moving at 21 knots in slight seas (1.5 to four foot waves). Well, the ocean looks like uneven glass to me. Maybe a wave or two is two-foot high, otherwise we have smooth seas. If I did not look outside my window, I would not know the ship was moving. We are heading 280 degrees (which is ten degrees north of due west) so I guess the captain is getting us out to sea before heading north toward Puerto Vallarta.

Well, I found my Zihuatanejo port side photo right-a-way. After searching twice for my Acapulco port side photo, and not finding it, I tried the next time slot. Then I found it (I know it should have been in the earlier photo group, but someone’s watch was off - and it was not my watch). I gave the Zihuatanejo photo back to the photographer and bought the Acapulco port side photo (with a free key chain).

During the swim Olympics my watch fell off. A little girl found it and returned it to me. I said thank you, but I was dead tired and hoped I could find her and say thank you right. I asked one parent on the dock at Acapulco if it was her little girl - no. I asked another parent a dinner last night at La Trattoria, and they said no. Today, while at the pool I asked another parent. I did not recognize him, but it was the same father I asked last night at dinner. However, it turns out his daughter is shy, and thus did not speak up at dinner. She then told her parents that it was she who found my watch. So I found her! They were swimming and I asked the father if her daughter would like the medium shirt I received (which would have been too small for me even when I was in highschool, let alone now). I told him to stay in the pool for five minutes and I would be right back. I got the shirt and gave it to the little girl. Both the little girl and the father seemed genuinely appreciative. Well, now only one parent thinks I am weird (and of course the people at work, but they know me too well, so there is nothing I can do about that). Now I feel much better. When I get home, I’ll buy a more secure watch band.

The travel channel says that we are traveling at 21 knots into an eleven-knot head wind. So after I change for Cagney’s, I am going to check out the wind in the face factor from one of the forward facing observation decks.

Well dinner at Cagney’s was great. I remember some people commenting that the food and service at the extra cost restaurants were better than the food and service at the free restaurants. They thought that Norwegian was trying to get everyone to go to the extra cost restaurants. However, I have my doubts about this theory. How can someone compare the food in the extra cost restaurants, which is cooked to order, to food that has to be mass produced. There are not enough seats / time to serve 2000+ people in the extra cost restaurants. Finally, would you pay extra for the same quality service and food? Cagney’s serves a five star meal.

The sunset was not too good today. There were very few clouds overhead, but the horizon was filled with clouds. As a result, the sun set not into the sea, but rather behind the clouds. Since the sun “set” above the horizon, it was still light, and as a result, the colors were faded.

Tonight’s show was It’s Fame. Much better energy than Sunday night’s show, and unlike the earlier show, this one received (and deserved) a standing ovation. I would rate this show four and one half stars.

Having found the girl that rescued my watch (and providing her with more than a half dead thank you) I decided to celebrate by opening the little box that was also part of my winnings. I am now the proud owner of a Norwegian Cruise Line deck of cards. Well, if the computer stops working, at least I can still play solitaire.

Well overall I give today about four and one half stars. Or perhaps I should say four stars for midnight to noon, and five stars for noon to midnight (yes, I found my watch rescuer after noon).

Well, the next two days I will visit ports I have been to before (another first for me - this is the first time I have repeated a port). Cabo was my favorite port from the Mexican Riviera cruise last year, and I am hoping to see things in Puerto Vallarta this year that I did not see last year.

Day 6 - Puerto Vallarta

I woke up around 7:15 this morning. I don’t know if I am getting lazy, tired, or both. At any rate, I missed the sunrise. However, I had to be in the Stardust Theater at 8:45a.m. this morning for my tour. I got dressed, got all the things together I needed (since we are tendering I am only making one round trip) and headed outside to check out Puerto Vallarta. Already docked was the Vision of the Seas and just in front of us was the Celebrity Summit. It turns out that they are working on the second dock and that is likely why only one ship could dock. Apparently Puerto Vallarta is a very popular port, and the city is upgrading it docking facilities.

I was on the Shopping, Factories & Lunch tour. This tour guide was much more on the ball when compared to the tour guide in Acapulco. I spent six hours with him and he never repeated any information. Also, it was easier to understand his English, even though it was clear that he was still learning the language.

He knew three ships were in port and this could lead to crowding. So he changed the order of the itinerary a little so we could avoid the crowds. Except for the last stop, which included lunch, we did manage to avoid the crowds. The first stop was shopping, at the ship’s approved stores. Someone must have mentioned the flee market (why anyone would want to buy a flee is beyond me) and he replied that he would not stop at the flee market because there have been some problems. He seemed genuine in his warning. Apparently people are buying what they think is really silver and getting a look-a-like metal instead. At any rate we step out of the bus and I recognized where we are. We are at the same store where by sister and brother-in-law bough my nephew his first chest set.

We were supposed to spend 35 minutes there, but some people were late getting back to the bus. Holding up forty people because a few people are not on time is unfair, which I put on the comment card. In fact we did leave a few, who I believe caught up with us at the next stop, which was the main plaza. On one side of the plaza is a famous church (the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe) which I only wanted a few pictures of, and on the other side a boardwalk (Malecon) where I took several pictures of the bronze sculptures. When it was time to board the bus only half the people were on time. So we lost twenty minutes making a loop around while the guide tried to get everyone. We left with two missing.

The next stop was the tile factor tour. Downstairs is the store and upstairs is where the work is done. Not very exciting (the Malecon was my main interest for this tour). Another 35 minutes and it was off to the tequila factory. This was one of the two tequila factories that I visited last year, and my favorite of the two. We were able to sample more different varieties of tequila than last year. The guide was stalling for time, since he knew the lunch line was long. However, I did not hear anyone complain. We had tacos for lunch. For some reason the tacos here taste better than the tacos at Taco Bell back home. I would give this tour four stars. The tour could have earned an extra half a star had we left each stop on time. It lost half a star because the tile factory had no guided tour. Had they explained what they were doing and the process involved in making the tiles, this tour would have earned five stars from me.

After lunch it was time to return to the dock. One of the things I am noticing about Norwegian is that Norwegian is careful about making sure only authorized people get on the ship, but beyond that they are a little loose. I still have my tender ticket for Zihuatanejo and nobody check my tour ticket today when I left the ship on an early tender. When we returned by backpack was x-rayed. The security guard correctly identified the bottle of tequila in my backpack. He told me to turn it in at the next table, but no effort was made to verify that I did so. I thought about it for a second and determined that it would probably be safer with them (where in the cabin would I put it - I am not going drink it, it is a gift), so I did turn it in.

This morning before leaving I obtained my tender ticket for tomorrow (Cabo) and made reservations for Teppanyaki. The only available time was 5:00p.m. This was cutting it close as far as my tour went, but should leave me plenty of time to catch the sunset. After eating there I understand why this one fills up fast. When cooking the meal is part of the entertainment, it takes longer. They have one table that can handle ten people, and the meal took about one hour and forth minutes. So they can only serve thirty people per night (ten each at 5pm, 7pm & 9pm). This is a la carte pricing. I went middle of the road ($12) and had an excellent meal of shrimp and steak. Four and one half stars for this meal (the cooks were funny, but not as skilled as the cooks that do this on land). The service was great.

The people I ate with were great also (too bad they could not be my table mates for eight straight nights). One couple had one of the forward facing cabins. So I asked about the wind in the face issue. They said it was not a problem. There is a windscreen, but even if you stand above it, the wind is not a problem. It turns out the gentleman is doing the same thing I am doing, sitting on his balcony and typing on his computer (though each of us is doing so for a different reason). Of course, on the way down to Acapulco we had a tail wind that was close to the speed of the ship, so in fact there was very little wind. Nonetheless, we have been traveling north for the last two days, so if they were not bothered by the wind in their face, perhaps the view, and the extras that come with a Norwegian suite (far more than Carnival offers) might be worth it.

However, when reviewing the deck plan (when selecting my cabin) I did notice that Norwegian puts its suites in some of the least desirable locations, which my table mates confirmed (FYI - suites on Carnival and Royal Caribbean are in the more desirable locations). The couple with the forward facing suite could not get to sleep one night because of the noise from a party two decks above them. They gave Norwegian credit for trying to find the reason for the noise (since it was two decks up, not one deck up) but Norwegian could not solve the problem (it was the powerful sub woofer that was causing the problem). It was so bad that the couple felt they could not attend the tour the following day (due to lack of sleep) and Norwegian gave them a full refund (even though it was within the 24-hour cancellation period). This couple thought it was easy to get reservations at the extra cost restaurants because most people do not want to pay extra for their meals. We all agreed that Cagney’s was great, and that on land the same dinner would cost $35, so the ship was giving credit for the value of the meal that was included with the cruise fare (Cagney’s cost $20 or $25 extra, depending on what you order). It was this couple’s first Norwegian cruise and they were favorably impressed.

The other couple had two school aged children. One was on fall break (it is not a year round school, the school starts early in August, takes two weeks off in October, two weeks off for Christmas and two weeks off for Easter, finishing in early June). The other was missing school and had received a homework (shipwork?) assignment. He had to write an essay on why people should take a cruise. So naturally I offered my now more than thirteen page review as a start for him. I also explained that I intended to post my review on the Internet. Well, this lead to my learning that this family of four, in a mini suite (which is just below the pool deck) also lost a night’s sleep when there was a loud party on the pool deck one night. Their experience was not as favorable as the other couple, as they were told they are the only ones complaining. At any rate, both couples made a point of saying that the one night lost sleep was their only complaint. Otherwise, all were happy with their cruise experience.

The couple in the forward facing suite also commented on the lack of shopping on board. This ship has only two stores (though one is the biggest I have ever seen on a ship). One store sells liquor. The other store sells everything else. However, though big, the selection is not very impressive. Also, a lot of space is taken up by an on board Colombian Emeralds International store. Colombian Emeralds is one of the stores most cruise lines feature in their port lectures, so I was surprised to find one on board rather than on shore. Nonetheless, I have to agree with my dinner companions, shopping on board this ship is rather limited.

There are also fewer bars / lounges than I normally find aboard a ship (not that I care, I don’t go bar hopping). The reason for this is the amount of room taken up by the many restaurants. I guess if you enjoy the flexibility of Freestyle Dining, this is a good thing. However, if you are just going to eat in one of the main restaurants, and like to visit the bars / lounges at night, this would be a bad thing.

After dinner I went outside to check on the status of the sun. I could not find it. Finally I realized that I had allowed the sun to go down on me while I was eating. At any rate all was not lost. I was on a forward observation deck looking for the sun when someone pointed to my right and said, “There they are.” There what are? All I see is ocean. Then I saw them, dolphins playing chicken with the ship. Great if you have not seen this before. However, I was lucky enough to be on a small (forty foot) sailboat when a very large pod of dolphins caught up with us and played, for what seemed like a very long time, in our wake. A private screening, and best of all, I had a water proof camera with me. I could reach from the deck into the water and obtained a few great photos. This lucky experience will never be topped. As a result, I still like to watch when I see dolphins playing in the ship’s wake, but it does not hold the same fascination for me that it does for others, since I have already had the best view of this behavior anyone could ever have (even the Discovery Channel has not been able to top the experience I had that day).

At any rate, the travel channel (the one on the ship) says we are moving at more than 21 knots and there is a slight, less than two knots, breeze. Thus, all this time I should have had at least a nineteen-knot wind in my face. I was so busy looking for dolphins. I never noticed the wind in my face. So perhaps I will get a forward facing suite next time (taking into account the price and the issues noted above).

On my way back to the cabin someone commented on my swim in the swim Olympics. I wonder if I stood out because I was twice the age of the next oldest competitor? Oh well, an ego boost is an ego boost, so I smiled back and said thank you.

In reading the Freestyle Daily I noted that jeans are okay, after 5:00p.m. in the Market Café (the buffet) and La Trattoria (the Italian restaurant). And I changed into regular pants before eating at La Trattoria several nights ago (oh well, I still had to change my shirt, so I guess it was not a total loss).

Tonight’s show is someone I have never heard of in concert, so I am skipping it to relax on my balcony, type this and review the pictures I took. A coupon arrived under my door for a, “free second set of prints when you develop your film or digital media.” Oh great, I have already taken more than 700 photos, the cost of printing them all would be more than the cost of the cruise. I think I’ll pass.

Although today was a great day, there was nothing truly special about it (which is needed to earn five stars), so I am giving today four stars (perhaps if we were docked it would have earned four and one half stars).

One thing I am wondering about - how often does one run into the same ship, in three different places, in less than two weeks? I took a tour of the Vision of the Seas in San Pedro on the Sunday before leaving on this cruise, I saw the Vision of the Seas headed back to San Pedro on Saturday night while we were on our way to Acapulco, and I saw the Vision of the Seas again in Puerto Vallarta today. We are headed to Cabo and will arrive back in San Pedro on Sunday, as will the Vision of the Seas (which is staying much later than we in Puerto Vallarta today).

Day 7 - Cabo San Lucas

Cabo was my favorite port last year when I took a one week Mexican Riviera cruise aboard the Carnival Pride. As we pull into Cabo, I notice the Carnival Pride is already there. As we get closer, I notice there is a United States Coast Guard ship in the harbor also. I am not sure what it is doing there, since it is about 830 knots south of the nearest United States coast. Well, a quick check outside reveals that the sun has not risen yet. So I hurry up on deck and look for it. We are headed north, so the sun should be rising off our aft starboard quarter. I notice that we are going to anchor between the Pride and the arch. I am sure the people on the Pride are not happy about that.

The cloud pattern is strange. There are always clouds just above the horizon, but none overhead. As a result, when the sun finally does rise, it is going to already be fairly high in the sky and thus it will be fairly light, which mutes the colors. Nonetheless, I notice at least three other people are waiting for the sun to rise. Finally the sun makes an appearance.

Then for me it is off to the Market Café for breakfast. My tour is not until 12:30p.m. so I am in no rush. Finally, they have sliced oranges. I take an extra big helping of oranges, two eggs Benedict, three glasses of milk and I drank a fourth glass of milk. Then it is down to my balcony to enjoy breakfast. While I was out of the cabin, they readied the tender boats, so I missed all that noise this morning. I make reservation for Cagney’s again tonight and get ready to go ashore.

Soon they are calling for tender tickets, and wouldn’t you know it, I have the first one again. Well, I am in no rush, and about one minute later they call for 200 more people. Another couple of minutes and they call for another 300 people. About two minutes later they call tendering open to anyone. About 8:30 I get on the tender for the ride into port. As I take pictures of our ship, I realize why I never hear the anchor. They do not use it. Instead the captain is using the ship’s thrusters and engines to keep the ship in position.

Well I find myself in Cabo with three and one half hours until my tour, so I decide to check out the sites I remember from seventeen months ago. Well, after three hours of walking around in the heat and humidity I realize Cabo has grown, and in the process it has lost its charm. Hot, tired and disappointed I go back to the tender dock to wait for my Historic Carriage tour.

Another disappointment. The carriage ride itself is what I expected, but three is no narration. We go down the street in one direction, then back in the other direction to the center of town. There we get out of the carriage at the central plaza and the nearby church is pointed out to us. Then we walk through the church (again with no narration) and before we get back on the carriages we are asked if we want to stay in town and shop, or return to the ship. I want to return to the ship. Those that want to stay in town and shop are dropped off in the shopping area, and the rest of us are taken back to the tender dock. I grab a tender back to the ship and change into my bathing suit. The best I can give this tour is one star, as quite frankly, nothing was provided beyond what the horse supplied.

This time I am hoping the pool water is cool, because now I want something cool. I take a quick dip in the main pool and the water is cool, but oh it feels so good. Then I go into the small pool next to the main pool. There is no one in this pool, and since it is salt water, I can just float, which I do for about ten minutes.

If there was a pool side bar-bee-que today, it has already been taken down. However, the pool side grille has no line and I grab a couple of pieces of chicken (which are very good) and the waitress brings me a banana smoothie, which I enjoy in the hot tub. I don’t need the hot water, but the bubbles feel oh so good. After twenty minutes of warm bubbles I go into the main pool again for a cool down, then back to the cabin.

The view out my balcony is of Lover’s Beach. I also note there is parasailing, jet skies and I can hear a bunch of people having a great time on a banana boat ride. As I wandered through the four ports, I found that I was not in much of a shopping mood. If it was not a gift I was after I found myself looking at something and thinking I already have it, and I don’t need another one. However, I have never been on a banana boat ride, rode my first jet ski on the last cruise and did my first and only parasailing in Cancun in 1993. Parasailing was fun, and I am glad I did it, but I get sea sick easily and the swaying back and forth was more than I could take. I decide next cruise I’ll bring more cash and enjoy the water sports.

I have had enough of the heat and lay down inside. Then next thing I realize is the view out my window has changed. We are still in Cabo (it is only 3:30p.m.), but now I am looking at the Carnival Pride and the U.S. Coast Guard ship. Apparently the captain has turned the ship around so we can just leave straight out. It also means that now my balcony is in the shade, so I go out to enjoy the view. Soon the Pride has pulled up its anchor and is using its thrusters to get pointed in the right direction. The Pride is first to leave and as soon as the Pride clears, we are off. Now, as we pick up speed I see the Pride is about one half mile ahead of us on the port side. It also means the sun is coming back onto my balcony, so it is time for me to retreat inside.

Well, now there is one sea day left and in about 36 hours we will be docked in San Pedro next to the Vision of the Seas (the Pride will be at its own dock in Long Beach - about a ten minute car ride away from San Pedro). I start to reflect back on a wonderful cruise. However, I have to change for Cagney’s, then find my port side photos, then it will be sunset picture time followed by the show. Then, if I am still alive, tonight is the Chocoholic Buffet. There will be plenty of time after the cruise to reflect.

While I was changing for Cagney’s the Pride disappeared. However, upon my arrival at Cagney’s I discovered that the Star had moved further out to sea and the Pride was now a couple of miles off our starboard side, and we had caught up to it. Cagney’s was a five star meal again. This time I had the 24-ounce porterhouse steak with mushrooms. One of the staff remembered me from two nights ago (another ego boost). I found my port Cabo port photo and did not like it, so I turned it back into the photographer. However, I then remembered that I had not picked up my formal night at dinner photographs. There were two and I liked them both, so I bought them and let the photographer talk me into buying an overpriced display album. Oh well, eleven dollars will not put me in the poor house. There were no clouds in the sky at all, so the sunset was kind of bland (a big orange disk sinking into the sea). We are far enough north that the air cools down once the sun goes down, so now I can keep my sliding balcony door open at night again.

While I was at dinner one of the cabin stewards found my sunglass case and I found my first towel animal on my bed tonight, wearing my sunglasses.

Tonight’s show is the third from the Jean Ann Ryan Company called Cirque Pacific. It is not so much a dance production as it is a show case of Chinese acrobatics. This show was very good and worth five stars. Also tonight we had the chance to thank the crew whose jobs are important to the running of the ship, but who we either never see, or see only in passing through the halls. It is always nice to be able to say thank you in ways that do not involve dollars bills.

Overall I would rate today two and one half stars. The charm of Cabo is gone (probably forever) and the Historic Carriage ride would have been the same if there was no “guide” and used a horse smart enough to move through traffic and stop in all the right places. I mean really, I may not live in Mexico, but I can recognize a plaza and a church when I see one. How about pointing out the things I might be interested in, but do not know about.

Well tonight we gain back the hour we lost on Sunday night. A good thing too, as now the ship has to head back to Los Angeles and it is up hill all the way (take a look at a globe if you don’t understand this joke).

My sister and brother-in-law bought me the soda package. On Carnival you get your soda package drinks in a little Dixie cup. After you finish your swallow you are thirsty again. Here on the Norwegian Star you still do not get the can, but you do get your soda in a full sized glass or cup. So it does not take four trips to the bar to quench your thirst.

Well, I made it to the Chocoholic Buffet tonight. As you can imagine, this is very popular. Fortunately the line moves fast. I was surprised at the number of children awake at midnight. I was even more surprised at the amount of chocolate on one little girl’s plate. She had more chocolate piled on that plate than I would have food - if I was hungry. What made this most surprising to me is, her mother was there with her. The seas are now moderate (four to 7.5 foot seas), and we are moving at a good clip in order to make the 830 knot trip in less than forty hours. I can feel the ship move, though it is nothing that would concern me, unless I was sharing the same cabin as a little girl that had just eaten three pounds of chocolate.

According to the travel channel, we are moving at 23 knots into an eighteen-knot head wind. So I went up to the forward observation deck to check out how a forty-knot wind in the face feels. It is not terrible, but it does get your attention. While there, I noticed a cruise ship ahead of us. I thought we might be catching up with the Vision of the Seas. However, when the ship was a couple of miles out from my balcony, I grabbed my binoculars. There is no mistaking the red Carnival funnel. Last time I saw the Carnival Pride it was off our starboard side and a little behind us. Now it is ahead of us and to our port side. I am wondering if the moderate seas has the two captains headed in a zig zag course. Zigging for comfort and zagging to stay on course.

Well, whatever the reason, it is late and we still have a full day at sea ahead of us, so it is time for me to check out the insides of my eyelids.

Day 8 - day at sea

Well, who knows what time the sun rose today. There are so many clouds in the sky it must have been a half hour after sunrise before I saw the sun. That does not make for very good sunrise photographs. However, I was up and on deck, so I did the best I could with what I had to work with. Then it was time for a light breakfast.

I had the usual, eggs, bacon, oranges (I wish they would vary things, grapefruit one morning, oranges another, not grapefruit three mornings in a row followed by oranges three mornings in a row) and milk. I am so mad at my own stupidity. Every morning I set my tray down and open my door. This time I tried to open the door while holding the tray, and paid for it. Got milk on everything (including me) except the oranges. Still, I cannot be the only person this has happened to. I wish Norwegian would use the short wide juice glasses rather than these easy to tip tall skinny cups.

It is 8:00am and the temperature is less than 70 degrees. After it being more than 80 at this time for the last four days I like it. So I am sitting on my balcony again looking at the Carnival Pride, which is still on our port side, but behind us. I look down just in time to see three flying fish that were scared out of the water by the ship.

During the week I have proven the wrong way rule for elevators. If you are on a middle deck (the lowest passenger deck on this ship is deck four and the highest is deck 13 - unless you are in one of the garden villas on deck 14) and want to go up, all the elevators are above you. If you want to go down, all the elevators are below you.

With the pool still on the cool side and the air temperate about ten to fifteen degrees cooler (it is a cloudy day today), it is going to put a damper on one of the favorite afternoon activities - swimming. Also, Norwegian does not have a covered pool, which makes swimming in the rain less fun. Of course if you are far enough south and it is 80 degrees and raining, go ahead and swim, you are going to get wet anyway. I have gone swimming in the rain. It seems weird at first, but workable.

Well, I attended the disembarkation lecture and started to get organized for tonight’s packing. Norwegian requires that the bags be outside of the door by 1:00a.m. on disembarkation day, which is very convenient. I make reservations for Ginza at 8:00p.m. which I figure will give me time to catch the sunset, have dinner and pack. Then I decide I want more of the bar-bee-qued chicken for lunch. Unfortunately they are not setting up the pool side bar-bee-que today, so I get the grilled chicken from the pool side grille (which is still good).

As I thought, the temperature this afternoon is cool and the pool area is dead. So I decided to soak in the hot tub for a while. Well the hot tub is not very hot today, so I soak for about two hours. Meanwhile, I notice that the waves in the pool are in excess of two feet. These are forward and aft waves, not port to starboard waves. The kids love it, but the reason the pool is not filled with people is because it is cold. The pool has lost some heat since the last time I was in it.

I am beginning to think this ship has a pitching problem. My cabin is about mid ship so I do not notice it much, but I do notice it while in the forward theater. The travel channel says the seas are moderate (four to 7.5 foot waves) but there are no white caps in the sea, so at best I think it is on the low end of moderate. There is no reason the waves in the pool should be as bad as they are. I remember on the Carnival Pride in May of last year the waves in the pool were about eight inches and they were side to side, not forward and aft.

With all the cloud cover I am able to sit on my western facing balcony and watch the sea go by. I lost the Carnival Pride some time this morning and have not seen it since. At about 5:30p.m. I decide to go back to the pool deck to see what is up. The pool has been roped off and emptied, though the hot tubs and water slides are still open. The ship is noticeably quieter than it was one week ago at this time. As I return to my cabin, I notice the Vision of the Seas just a head of us and to our left. It looks like we will be the first one back, which is not real surprising, since this is also the fastest of the three ships headed back to Los Angeles tomorrow.

Well, I have been proofreading this for the last hour (it does not seem that long). I look up and the sun has set and the Vision of the Seas is now well behind us. I guess I’ll have to wait about six months until my next sunset at sea (I am on the Carnival Glory next April). We are about twelve and one half hours from docking and have about 212 more knots to go.

Well, it is getting close to time for dinner, so I have to change, the cabin steward wants to turn down my bed, and I still have to pack.

Dinner at Ginza was another five star meal. Now I have to pack, and prepare for my meeting with the real world tomorrow. Today has been a relaxing day, which I needed, but also sad, as it is the last full day of the cruise, and tomorrow the crew’s only interest will be getting me off the ship as quickly as possible - back to reality. So the day only earns four stars.

Day 9 - Disembarkation

We passed the breakwater around 5:00a.m. this morning and we are docked around 5:30a.m. I am surprised that the captain docks the ship facing the wrong way. We are early (scheduled arrival time is 7:00a.m.) and he could have proceeded up the channel a little further and spun the ship. He would then be able to leave straight out this afternoon, saving him about fifteen minutes. He has already demonstrated that he could use the extra time. About one hour later the Vision of the Seas pulls up next to us.

As I head toward breakfast, the cabin stewardess sees me and says thank you (I left the cabin stewardess and steward an extra tip - they were the only ones I saw on a constant basis as a result of the Freestyle dining). Breakfast at the Market Café is as usual. However, I decide not to take it back to my balcony as all I have is a view of the parking lot. I then collect the tequila I bought in Puerto Vallarta and proceed back to my cabin. A little after 7:00a.m. those willing to carry their own luggage off the ship are allowed to disembark. If they are proceeding per the schedule, I still have about two more hours to go. I have a short drive back home, so I am in no rush.

I had a choice of two eight-day cruises to go on (by leaving on a Saturday and returning on a Sunday I lose only five days at work), given that I wanted to go to Acapulco, this cruise and the Carnival Spirit out of San Diego. The advantage of Carnival is I have been on two of its ships and enjoyed both cruises. Also, the ship visits three ports I have never been to (the Star only visited two new ports for me). I choose this cruise for three main reasons:

1) It visited four ports, and since I did not know anyone on board ahead of time, I was more interested in days in ports than at sea (The Carnival Spirit only visits three ports).

2) We arrive in Acapulco two hours earlier than the Carnival Spirit (which sails out of San Diego). I want to spend more than half a day in Acapulco.

3) I am interested in the cruise to Fanning Island out of Hawaii. Only NCL does that cruise. However, I am not going to invest the time and expense a ten-day cruise requires if I am not sure I’ll enjoy it. Most cruise lines get about 90% favorable reviews. Norwegian seems to get about 50 / 50 mix in its reviews. So, I wanted to try out a shorter cruise on NCL first, and since I can drive to San Pedro, I also save on airfare. I am glad I tried it, and now I know why my boss likes it so much. My cruises for the next three years are more or less set. But if NCL is still offering the ten-day cruise to Fanning Island from Hawaii in 2009 or 2010, I’ll likely book it.

Overall I would rate this entire cruise four and one half stars (to get five stars, my sister, brother-in-law and nephews would have to join me - which they will in the summer of 2008).

Please remember, this review represents one person’s experience on one cruise. My interests, needs and tastes most likely differ from yours. For example, I never ate in the main restaurants for breakfast, lunch or during the busy dinner hour (though I did look at both just before 8:00p.m. on the last night and neither was busy). Being single meant it was easy for me to made dinner decisions and be flexible. You might choose different shore excursions than I did. Nonetheless, this is a long review done while on board the ship, so the details are fresh in my mind. I hope you find this review useful in some way.