The main reason for booking this cruise on the Norwegian Star was to show my wife just how beautiful the Stockholm Archipelago is. We have cruised with the Gem and the Jade and this was our first on the Star and we were considering booking it for the Los Angeles to Dover marathon in March/April 2014; however after our experiences onboard that will not be an option now.
Embarkation We flew into Copenhagen the previous morning and stayed at the Crowne Plaza Towers, which is a great hotel, close to the Metro and shops and used the NCL shuttle bus to the pier which at $60 for two was about equal to a taxi for two. At the pier it was a bit chaotic, with only one line for Latitudes and one for Suites and a lot of people queuing, but eventually we were through, then our keys didnt work and we had to go Guest Services for new ones and eventually got to Cagneys just as it was closing. We briefly saw Omer OBresso the Concierge before going to our Suite 10226 at the back of the ship. We decided to eat off the MDR menu on the balcony on the first night and Made Rana, our Butler kindly set everything up for us.
Warnemunde We elected to walk ashore and soon found a Schokoladenhaus and I introduced my DW to the delights of Schoogy cake, whilst I had a bowl of vanilla ice cream and an excellent strong coffee. We toddled around the town before heading back to the ship, stopping off at Pier 7 for an uninspiring Bratwurst and pomfrites.
Relaxing day at sea Started off with a Platinum Latitudes tour of the ship which included backstage, the laundry, the bridge and the galley, all very interesting. We went to the Latitudes party in the dark and dismal Spinnaker lounge where we met an unfriendly bunch of Senior officers. We were rationed to only two glasses of wine, and there were only three prizes in total for the raffle, maybe on our next cruise it will be one glass and we will be asked to pay! In the evening we went to the Captains Cocktail party, again apart from all the Butlers who said hello we saw little of the Senior officers who, as at the Latitudes party, left for more important things. We ate in the Blue Lagoon that night and it was good grub as usual. We briefly saw Omer again at the Captains Cocktail party event and apart from one or two brief sightings we never saw him again until departure when he turned up looking for his tip. I was not allowed to give him an envelope saying My tip to you is look after your Platinum and Suite passengers like other Concierges do
Tallinn We toured Tallinn on the NCL tour and it was a city of contrasts with the bare concrete of the Soviet era contrasting with the glitz and glamour of the modern hotels.
Saint Petersburg We decided to take two NCL tours here, the open top bus, and Catherine the Greats Palace. Firstly be aware that they only have 60 days of sunshine in St Petersburg, and ours was not one of them, the day started well, but it soon started to rain and we were soaked. They had to stop the bus as people at the back were in danger of drowning, so we sat outside the Hermitage Museum for about half an hour waiting for the deluge to subside. Irene our guide was very good ensuring that everyone was involved and once off the bus pointed out some interesting facts including a restaurant that we decided to try. We had borscht (soup) and Mushrooms and Chicken in cream that came in two very small saucepans but was very filling. We met back up at the open top bus and were then taken to the obligatory souvenir shop approved by NCL. The next day we went with Katherine to Catherine the Greats Palace and had an excellent guided tour followed by the visit to the souvenir shop. At least the vodka was free, reasonable and not rationed! I visited the Stardust Theatre to see the Saint Petersburg Military Ensemble show and it was very entertaining and we all enjoyed clapping along with the band and the two fighting drunks turned out to be one very agile acrobat. That night we had decided on Le Bistro and again got the feeling that if you were in a DOS or a Garden Villa, you got much better service, whilst the table staff were great and the food was excellent, to be ignored by the senior staff was annoying.
Helsinki I had worked in Sweden and Finland in a previous life so it was good to be back as a tourist and to see some of the sights and so we chose an open top bus again and enjoyed looking round Helsinki. We didnt really get off except to changes buses and were back at the ship in time for lunch. We dined in Ginza that night and both the food and service were exceptional. I had asked if I could have my Szechuan Beef more spicy and it was superb, very enjoyable.
Stockholm The journey through the Archipelago in the early morning light was what I had come for and it was a magical journey. We were buzzed by a helicopter that looked closely at us and the ship following, and to see the bulk of the following cruise ship dwarfing the islands and small ferries was great. Again we used the open top bus and saw some great sights in the city. That night Made Rana the Butler served us dinner on the balcony and the weather was perfect for another trip through the Archipelago.
Relaxing day at sea We had a quiet day and I decided not to do a repeat of the behind the scenes tour and we met up with the French couple we had made friends with. It was agreed that we would dine at Aqua and so we met at seven and I asked for English and French menus. At the table we soon found out that German was a better language and the confusion with the waiting staff had us in fits of laughter. Why were English and French people speaking German they asked but it became too complicated to explain, suffice to say that we have an invite to visit them in La Rochelle.
Copenhagen We left the ship and the only people we met at the gangway were a group of young officers. Seen off the ship by Omer the Concierge we headed back to the Crowne Plaza by taxi and stayed there before heading to the airport and home. Compared to cruises on the Gem and the Jade, we felt that there was no interaction between the Senior Officers and the Concierge and us, something we have enjoyed, there was no Dining with the Officers, something we really enjoy and both the Latitudes and the Captains Cocktails left us unimpressed. Back to the Gem and the Jade I think.