My family of four (two adults, two teenage kids) sailed on Norwegian Star's Baltic cruise during August 2013. We chose this cruise for it's itinerary and the dates it sailed. Due to the mixed reviews of the Star, my first choice was Princess but the Emerald doesn't have adjoining balcony staterooms. Overall I was very happy with the trip. The entire ship was very clean. It was actually cleaner around the pool area than Disney Dream or Celebrity Eclipse. The crew was also extremely nice. We had an issue, with the room safe, my fault, and they fixed it immediately. One night in the Versailles dining room, two of our dishes were very salty, we brought it to the attention of the asst food manager, he walked right into the kitchen and reported back we were right, it was being corrected and offered us an afterdinner drink. The food in general was fine to good. I like eating in the specialty restaurants, so booked all six for a nine day cruise (Teppanyaki must be booked on board ). If you book prior to sailing NCL gives discounts.
We arrived in Copenhagen the day before the ship left. Finding a taxi at the airport was very easy and cost DKK 340 to get to the Radisson Blu near the Tivoli Gardens. We took a cab the next day to the passenger ship terminal which cost DKK 290, and took about 30- 40 min. The boarding process was relatively easy. Lunch the first day did confirm all the bad reviews of the buffet. It contains a small unappetizing selection of prepared foods. There is a significant lack of variety and fresh foods. The hamburgers at the Grill are tasteless and had stale buns. That was the last time we ate lunch or dinner at the buffet for the rest of the cruise, which is a shame, because on other cruises it has been the "go to" place for days at sea or late excursions.
In Warnemunde, we booked a private tour to Berlin with SPB tours. We did a package with them for St Petersburg as well. They take everybody to Berlin in the same coach bus, then anybody with a private tour separates from the group with their guide and driver. We have done a lot of private tours on different cruises and our guide Lee was the best we have ever had. On the way back to the ship, people who had taken the group tours with SPB were also very happy with their guides.
In Tallinn, we didn't do any guided tour. The old town is an easy walk from the ship terminals.
In St Petersburg, it is easier to have a tour guide, because there is a lot of ground to cover and they handle the visa. Tour guides can do visas for up to 72 hours. We docked at the new cruise ship terminal, which is about a half hour drive to the historic district. It takes about 1 hour to get through customs, because everybody is in a rush to get off the ship early. SPB's driver and guide met us outside customs. They run a lot of group tours and limit the size of each group to 16 people. We had also arranged for them to provide a driver for our night in St Petersburg, where we went out to dinner at the Caviar Bar. The restaurant was great, it had live music, and the food was really good, if not a bit pricey.
In Helsinki, we decided to try the Hop On Hop Off buses. Which are right at the ship terminal. For Euro 25 per adult, kids were free, it was a great way to get a quick overview of the city. We decided to explore the open market, and then walk back to the ship.
In Stockholm, we used a Hop On Hop Off boat. They are at the ship pier and run a direct boat to the Vasa museum. Total cost for the family was SEK 340. It gets you to the museum right after it opens and you get there before the tour buses. If you get hungry, they have a good restaurant for a quick bite to eat. From there it's easy to jump onto their boats to the old town.
Overall, was happy with the NCL Star. Believe the entertainment and food was consistent with the price paid.