Our Best Cruise So Far: Norwegian Star Cruise Review by SA CRUISERS
Overall Member Rating
Our Best Cruise So Far
Destination: Baltic Sea
The Norwegian Star lives up to its nickname "The Happy Ship". Overall the on-board experience was excellent - cabin, staff, food and entertainment which was 5-star. We felt that the service in the Aqua restaurant was rather slow and it appeared as though there were not enough staff. One thing we missed was that there was no quiet area (apart from the library or certain outside nooks) where one could relax. On other ships there was an equivalent of the Spinnaker Lounge where one could relax during the day with an ocean view and relative quiet. On the Norwegian Star the Spinnaker Lounge had no view and was occupied with other activities a lot of the time.
In Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm we used the Hop-on-Hop-off city buses which were waiting at the quay. At EUR25 we found them to be an excellent alternative to organised tours which More can be restrictive (and expensive). The buses allow one to stop off at sights you choose to explore at your leisure and the on-board commentary is generally very good and informative.
We have visited Copenhagen before and on both our visits we have stayed at the Clarion Collection Hotel Mayfair. This is an ideal location - 5 minutes walk from the Central Station and Tivoli Gardens. From Copenhagen airport you can take a train to the Central Station and walk to the hotel. In addition to a very good breakfast they also serve a light evening buffet between 6 and 9pm.
On this visit we opted to take a 90 minute train trip to Ystad in Sweden and follow in Kurt Wallander's footsteps (Henning Mankell's books). It was a Sunday and most shops and restaurants were closed - surprising for a quaint, tourist attraction town.
When in Copenhagen it is also a worthwhile trip to go to Malmo - a 30 minute trip over the Oresund bridge linking Denmark and Sweden.
A taxi (20 - 30 minute ride) from the hotel to the port will cost about USD35 - 50. (From the port to the airport about USD60).
Embarkation and disembarkation at the Port of Copenhagen was smooth and quick.
We decided not to do the Berlin excursion as a large part would be spent on the train getting there and back with only a few hours in the city. Fellow passengers who did the trip said it was worthwhile albeit an uncomfortable and long train trip. The Warnemunde train station and town are close to the cruise terminal. We took the train to Rostock (20 minutes) and had an interesting walk around the town. On our return we spent time in Warnemunde which was a pleasant surprise - a seaside resort feel with many restaurants.
We were greeted by locals wearing medieval costumes. The Old City is like going back in time and contrasts to the new city. Also visited Toompea Hill with beautiful surrounding gardens. A very manageable and interesting city.
We did the ship excursions to Catherine Palace and The Hermitage on day 1 and the Double Decker SP tour on day 2. Both were very worthwhile - awed by the opulence in the palaces and interesting to see the old Soviet era buildings in the city. Luckily we had two consecutive sunny days which is apparently unusual for SP. Our tour guides were very informative and did a fine job in keeping us together. Be prepared for thousands of jostling tourists! As English speaking tourists we would not recommend "going it alone" in this big city.
Here we visited the Olympic Stadium (1952), the Rock Church, the Esplanade and the flea market. Helsinki is a wonderful, relaxed city.
The approach to Stockholm, sailing through the archipelago, is awesome and worth getting up early to view the natural beauty. Unfortunately it was raining on and off for the day so that curtailed our sightseeing. However, we were delighted to discover that the recently opened ABBA museum was on the Hop-on Hop-off bus route. If you are an ABBA fan this is a must - a fantastic, interactive and fun experience. As described by a staff member - "It is a playground for adults".
We visited the Vasa Museum which was really interesting. The Old Town is also worth a visit.
The Scandinavian cities we visited offer a great alternative to other top travel destinations. The cruise was a combination of these together with St Petersburg and Tallinn, all on a great ship. This made for an unforgettable vacation. If you go be prepared for "sightseeing overload". with highlights too many to mention.
We have sailed on MSC, Royal Caribbean, Star Cruises, Cunard and Norwegian Cruise Lines. In this bracket we enjoy NCL with its "freestyle" concept - it is relaxed and we will be booking with them sometime soon.
This trip is highly recommended. Less
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