My husband, brother, and I booked this cruise 11 months ahead of time, so we had plenty of time to prepare and read reviews from other passengers. The cruise was almost exactly what we expected, however we did have unexpected problems with our flights.
We expected some problems with communication while dining and the quality and variety of foods and there were some. This is not unusual in a place that has staff from 60 nationalities and feeds a full ship of 2800 passengers from, as one crew member said, "over 50-60 nationalities". My brother had requested gluten free foods ahead of time and he was treated royally by the restaurant matre d' Salomero and his staff, but even then there were a few communication and quality problems. My biggest disappointment was the ice cream. There were very few flavor choices and it usually looked and was too melted. The chocoholic buffet was not as artfully presented as on other cruise lines, but it was adequate.
We enjoyed the trivia and sports activities. They were staffed by Iain, Diana, Nicki, Charly (Carlos), Andres, and Roberto who all did excellent jobs with them. Sometimes attendance was not great, so I'd like to urge more people to attend the activities the ship has worked hard to plan. They don't advertise that you can get punch cards for attending the activities which you can redeem for NCL logo awards on the last day of the cruise.
We each got the free card that everyone can get at the first Bingo game. Then my raffle ticket number was called so I got free games the rest of the cruise. My cards won twice! So don't be afraid to try that free game!
We booked our shore excursions with SPb and would highly recommend them. They are reasonably priced and seemed to be the most popular company offering independent shore excursions. Their staff is well educated and well trained.
We booked the cruise through Travelocity. The most helpful agent was Ryan who was able to help with complimentary upgrades to the original cabin we had booked. I was firm but non-demanding when asking and I think this helped.
We booked our flight through British Air which has a code share with American Airlines on November 30. This was almost a disaster. My husband got a call an hour before we were to leave for an evening flight saying our flight had been cancelled. So I had to leave work early, be on the phone for the better part of an hour trying to arrange for another flight, and got to the airport only 57 minutes before our new flight was to leave. Then we found out our original flight actually was not cancelled. When trying to check in for the return trip, we found our names weren't even in the system anymore. We ended up, after a 20+ minute conversation with the check-in agent and 20+ people in line behind us, getting the same flights back but not on the seats I had booked. Evidently there are problems like this more often on code share flights. The only redeeming factor is that the price was less than what we paid for Copenhagen in 2008.
We walked to the train and took it into the city. We went into 2 churches, the art museum gift shop, and a bed & bath type store; compared prices of real estate from ads on windows, and visited a small flea market.
The 3 hour trip to Berlin was well worth the time. Our guide Aria was very dramatic, spoke English well, and talked about Berlin almost constantly. We travelled to Berlin in a bus with 46 people and were divided into 2 groups for the tour in Berlin. It was a 12+ hour day. We got out of the bus to see the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and several other places. The pacing of the schedule was good.
We took the 2-day Russian Treasures tour. Tatiana (Tania), our tour guide gave us excellent information and the schedule was just right. We went to the Hermitage Museum, Catherine Palace, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, Peterhof Palace, Yusupov Palace, and the subway. Everything was awesome, all the gold, the paintings of the masters, the gardens, and the architecture.
We walked into the city. The changing of the guard and the royal mounted band during the noon hour at the Royal Palace was the highlight for us. We also went into City Hall and the Nobel Museum. Stockholm was my favorite city on this cruise.
We walked into Tallinn after an early breakfast. We were glad we started early because we got back onto the ship before an afternoon rain. The cobblestone streets and very old buildings in a small town are what made this port unique.