This was our second cruise with NCL, first on the Star. In summary: we were not disappointed, as we got what we expected. Reading some of the reviews below I cannot stop wondering why people book freestyle cruising if they expect something different....
Even before we got out of the taxi at the port in Copenhagen we were already greeted and assisted by the ground staff. Security and check-in was a breeze, we were then immediately met by cruise staff and escorted to the Star Bar on board to meet with Omar the concierge who directed us for the first lunch in Cagney's.
Service in general:
We found the service of the staff of the ship extremely good, they were always attentive, approachable, polite and smiling. They really paid attention to details. I most cases they were quick and we liked their open attitude.
Stateroom and public places:
Similarly to our previous cruise we loved the cabin, it is very suitable for a family. The butler service More
is a nice perk, our butler, Arnie, provided us with great service and we also enjoyed the friendly discussions with him. Similar positive notes towards our cabin steward, Asep, who was very friendly and made a special towel folding demonstration for our kids, just for fun.
The stateroom was well mainatined, however, the ship is a bit used and worn, and it looks, too, scratches and signs of corrections on the walls, and on the furniture. The stateroom was functional, nevertheless they should consider also updating the TV-system during the next refurbishment, to make it interactive.
Nevertheless, in general the condition of the ship was good, and it was clearly visible that staff paid lot's of attention towards keeping it clean and nice. The "washy, washy, happy, happy" mantra was also often followed....
We enjoyed having breakfast in Cagney's, as you could also make use of the buffet in there. We had breakfast in the room twice, and went only once to the Market but we found that very busy.
For lunches we went either for Cagney's or just enjoyed a good early afternoon BBQ by the pools upon returning from the shore excursions.
As to dinners we tried the Market once, but were not so satisfied, also given the crowds.
La Cucina Italian restaurant was okay (again, very friendly and competent staff), but the restaurant we enjoyed most was Le Bistro (went there twice). Versailles was not really our place, and preferred the other main dining room, Aqua much better. Once we had to wait up to 20 minutes for a table in Versailles, but we spent the time in one of the lounges until we were called.
We also went to Blue Lagune 24/7 once, but the menu was rather simple and limited. We also tried the 5 USD pizza, well, not really our taste....
In general we were satisfied with the variety of the restaurants and the menus available, incl. the vegetarian options.
The Chocoholic Evening was nice and tasteful, although not as interesting than the one last year on the Jade.
Others already written that Elements (last night) is a must to see. Similarly to our previous cruise on the Jade this show was spectacular. But we also enjoyed the Russian show (credits to NCL for bringing the local St. Petersburg folk group on board for that), and also some of the other shows were entertaining. The worst was the German folk group (again, locals joining the ship in Warnemunde), you could almost fall asleep... We saw the cruise director's staff a couple of times a day and they were engaged with the guests.
We liked the easy-going atmosphere on board, the music and the BBQ by the pool, and the variety of programs throughout the day. We also attended some of the information sessions which were very interesting (e.g. how does the catering work in such a cruise ship).
This cruise is very port-heavy, full of cities and interesting sites to visit and explore. After the cruise we felt that we need some time to relax...:-))
Warnemunde - we opted for a relaxing stroll in the small town, enjoying coffee, the sandy beach, some shops in the harbour and a good German schnitzel in a local restaurant.
Tallinn - we took a ride on the hop-on hop-off bus, then we walked in the old town, having lunch in the main square. The place was really busy, but the old town is wonderful. On the way back we walked to the ship, it is about 15 mins.
St. Petersburg - we opted for Insider Tour, a local company, and we were fully satisfied with the private tour that they provided us with, it was great value for money. We had a slow pace tour, but still it was full of information, places of interest, and culture. At the same time we were treated like VIPs, having our own minibus, with dedicated driver and guide who were flexible in accomodating our requests.
Helsinki - it was a positive surprise, as we expected this place to be the least interesting. In fact it is a very lively, friendly and bustling place, full of shops, interesting places. Do not miss the market place by the harbour! Take the hop-on hop-off bus, as it is a very good way to explore.
Stockholm - the cruise through the archipelago and the small islands is breathtaking. It is a pity that the ship spends so short time in port as we really had to hurry to see more of this very nice place. Gamla Stan (Old Town) is a must to explore on foot, lovely small streets with miriad of shops (for tourists.) Quite pricey though.
We opted for a late disembarkation, and when our colour was called to leave the process lasted quite longer than expected, there were some lenghty queues and crowds on the corridors while exiting the ship. Once ahsore, everything was organised again, so we quickly got a taxi to our hotel.
Would we return to the Star in the future? Absolutely yes! Less