We have received great info over the years from these Cruise Critic posts. Finally decided to pass along a few observations in return:
1. First of all, this is a great itinerary. Hard to imagine hitting all these cities by plane in 9 days.
2. The ship was in great shape and actually felt larger than we expected, have cruised on the Golden and Grand Princess. This ship felt almost as large, and handled the one or two rough sea days well. We had a standard balcony cabin. We usually opt for a suite, but the expanded balcony and room is not necessary on a shorter and colder weather cruise with so many ports. We had plenty of room and the bed was actually very comfortable. Bathroom is pretty small and shower is tight for a > 6' person. Water pressure, however, was very good.
3. Service board was very good. My bag was ripped during the boarding process and didn't show up until late the first night. I did point it out the next day, and they actually repaired the bag for my return trip home. I was impressed.
4. Food and meal service was also better than I expected on a relatively inexpensive cruise. East Meets West Steakhouse was outstanding. Service and food in the main dining rooms good, not great, most days. Sushi bar was a lot of fun. Garden Cafe buffet is a mess. Bad design. Simply not enough seating and space for all those that must go to the buffet in the morning. NCL obviously recognizes this as they have set up alternative buffets across the hall in the Maderno and Great Outdoors (weather permitting). My suggestion is just go to the main dining room a half hour earlier in the morning. Good table service as well as an adequate buffet. No waiting.
5. The main production shows were pretty good. I would definitely catch one or two. Magician was average.
6. Embarking and disembarking was a breeze. Much better than Princess.
7. If you plan to email or use the on board phone, be advised. This is where NCL gets you. Very expensive and WIFI service is spotty and slow. Unless you plan to use email a lot, leave your laptop at home and just use the computers in the Internet cafe on board. There were quite a few and they were never busy. Calls from the room are about $6/minute.
8. Drinks on board were expensive as well (typically $8-$10), although very good and generous portions. The soft drink sticker at about $70 for 9 days is probably not worth it on a shorter, cooler cruise, although I did purchase it.
9. We did not get to Stockholm due to rough weather, which we understood. The free rum punch as apparent compensation for the inconvenience was a bit lame, especially since the drinks were very weak and served on the pool deck in gale force winds.
10. We booked our tours through SPB. Highly recommend these folks. Cheaper than NCL if you get one of the packages and great tour guides. We were turned away initially in St. Petersburg as our SPB ticket had the wrong date. Victoria was right there and straightened it out with the stoic Russian customs agents.