My wife and I decided to sail on a Baltics itinerary after meeting passengers on prior cruises who loved the ports. Our September 1 sailing was our 6th cruise and 3rd on Norwegian (both prior were Eastern Mediterranean itineraries on the NCL Jade). I enjoy cruising to sample cultures and regions foreign to Americans. The Baltics cruise with 5 ports in 9 days (only 2 sea days) would not be optimal for someone looking to enjoy a vacation at sea. SBP tours did an excellent job showing all 5 ports and we would strongly recommend their company for future cruisers.
Embarkation in Copenhagen was easy ' while we 'qualified' for the priority line we ended up in the main line which unsurprisingly moved much faster. Many times we have found status lines at airports or cruise terminals are much slower! We met our excellent butler Caesar who brought us to our beautiful suite in the front of the Star. The very spacious double balcony owners suite was amazing! Very well maintained, our 'Van Gogh' suite was a wonderful home to unwind in after the long days of tours. Having sailed twice in Haven suites on the NCL Jade, we really missed not having that facility on the Star but we really couldn't complain about our luxurious accommodations.
Many reviewers have commented on the excellent crew of the NCL Star, and I would echo that praise. Friendly and hard working, they really take good care of their guests. Our cabin steward Hernany kept our home in great condition. One contrast I noted from the NCL Jade is the more 'party' atmosphere which draws criticism from some reviewers. Perhaps because it was a summer sailing (our Jade cruises were in the winter) or the much higher percentage of Americans on board, loud American music filled the pool area, the atrium and dock area. I didn't mind it but our cabin was far away from the atrium and we didn't spend much time lounging around the pool.
NCL rarely gets rave reviews about food, and this one will follow the trend. I wouldn't recommend sailing on NCL if fine dining is the highest priority. That being said, I would continue my opinion made on our Dec 2012 Jade sailing that NCL is improving their overall cuisine. Staying in a suite, we had a few lunches at Cagney's which were very good. I love the New York Steak, fries, and brownie ice cream meal while my wife loves the turkey burger. But we were on tours for much of the cruise and didn't have lunch on board. We usually just grabbed breakfast food from the buffet before the tours. The buffet was smaller than what we were used to on the Jade and didn't have the variety of salads or ethnic foods. The desserts in general, suck, on NCL ' why the Star doesn't have a freezer to keep hard ice cream in between servings is beyond me (they just put the container on a bowl with ice and serve melted ice cream to guests in the buffet). They did serve a killer tiramisu during the cruise though. We mainly ate dinner in the Versailles dining room ' they rarely gave out pagers so I don't think wait times were very long, and Aqua always seemed to be available. Hits during the week included the steak and lobster (first night dinner), baby back ribs/coconut shrimp combination, and pork loin. Service was good, sometimes meals faster than others, but servers were always friendly and especially Versailles was an elegant place to dine. Thanks to a promotion, we did dine at two specialty restaurants ' Cagney's and La Cucina. Cagney's, as expected, had a good rib eye steak but La Cucina was a great surprise ' I loved the lobster fettuccina followed by tiramisu and my wife enjoyed her spaghetti with chili flakes and sausage followed by vanilla affogato. We probably would have eaten at La Cucina more than once if we didn't use the credit so late in the cruise.
NCL entertainment stands out in our experiences on Holland, Princess and Disney. I had seen the Sanders & Alison Magic show as well as the Alexey & Anastasia cirque du solei type act on the NCL Jade and they didn't disappoint. I enjoyed the music of Band on the Run, but I skipped Shout as I didn't like it on the Jade. Elements, as usual, brought the house down. Having seen virtually all of the Las Vegas Cirque shows, I continue to be impressed with Alexey & Anastasia's exploits done on the sea at no added charge.
The NCL Star has a good gym although we missed the ocean views seen in the Jade gym. I used the ' mile running track frequently, dodging the occasional sightseer on the 13th floor track. There weren't many gamblers in the casino and they had to scramble to have any semblance of a blackjack tournament. Our experience with bingo on NCL is the only game worth playing is the last. Port excursions started so early and often lasted all day so I didn't take advantage of late night activities other than listening to the Piano Man sing a couple of nights.
A few comments about the ports ' please refer to our blog for more details: www.rayandtraci.blogspot.com. Berlin was actually my favorite tour ' yes it is a 3 hour bus ride each way, but I loved even a brief visit to the historic city. St. Peters, as expected, was also a wonderful tour. However, previous tourists to France have likely visited the Louvre and Versailles which sort of steal the wow factor of visiting Hermitage and Peterhof.
I would highly recommend the NCL Star (and SBP Tours) for a great Baltics adventure!