My wife and I went to the Norwegian Star cruise in June 2013 and visited Copenhagen, Rostock/Warnemunde, Talllinn, St. Perersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm. All places are incredibly beautiful and rich in history, art and architecture. We only purchased one shore excursion from the ship - in Stockholm as they are very expensive for their value.
The reason in buying one for Stockholm was limited time in the city and we learned that the ship would dock far from the center, over 45 min. drive. However, the Star docked in the center of Stockholm and I learned that only other trip it docks far from the city. The four hours excursion only included stops at the City Hall and Vasa Museum before reaching Gamla Stan. Then we were given a choice of either complete the tour or to spend more time in the town on our own and return to the ship on foot. We chose the second option and spent additional two hours walking in the old city, watching change of the guards at the royal palace and taking pictures. Slow walk to the pier from the old city was about 30 min.
The second shore excursion we have taken in St. Petersburg and only because we had two days to spend there with a lot of places to see and more importantly we needed a visa. Instead of taking an excursion from the ship, we hired a Russian-American tour company DenRus and we were very happy with their service. Our group was small - only 12 people, which made it more dynamic and easier to manage for our tour guide. Our guide - Ludmila is a rock star of this business. Former university professor of history, she is very knowledgeable, intelligent with great sense of humor. Our driver Andrei was incredibly precise despite terrible traffic in the city. The company provided lunch both days in fancy restaurants "Legran" and "Summer Palace". The second one if truly a palace - a brand new structure built in a 18-century style. Glass of champaign for lunch was a nice touch. They could also accommodate few vegetarians who were in our group. The guide provided us with bottled water, printed materials and a small CD with highlights of our tour and the city.
Other places we covered on foot with maps and information I collected in advance. Main attractions in Tallinn and Helsinki are only 15 min. walk from the pier. In Germany, our ship docked closer to Rostock as opposed to in the center of Warnemunde as it was advertised. However, the cruise line offered free shuttles from the pier to Wandermunde that we running every 10 min. From Warnemunde we took a train to downtown Rostock, which is only 20 min. away. The ride costs about US$2.40 one way and you can buy tickets from a machine with a credit card. We decided not to go to Berlin from there since it is a very long, almost 3 hours drive or train ride from Rostock.
It was nice to have the last day at sea to relax from the busy sightseeing. Evening shows on the ship we very good. Dinners at the main restaurants Versailles and Aqua sometimes required waiting, once it was up to 30 min. However, in this occasion they offered a free glass of champaign in the nearby bar.
We had a balcony cabin, which I think is important for a cruise in Europe where the ship is passing by beautiful islands and you can see the city's facades straight from your cabin. Some of the best pictures of Stockholm and Tallinn I took directly from the balcony.
Overall the cruise is excellent and I very much recommend it to all who likes the old Europe.