First Time cruiser…and loved it!
Embarkation: We got out of the taxi at the port in Copenhagen and we immediately greeted and assisted by the ground staff. Security was quick, but check-in was a bit backed up due to earlier computer problems. The staff was very apologetic. Our bags were waiting for us when we got to our cabin.
The Stateroom: We booked an inside room figuring that since this was a '"port oriented” cruise and we wouldn’t be spending much time in the room…. We were RIGHT! There was just enough space for the 2 of us. It would have been cramped with 3 or 4 occupants. Room 10103 was a perfect location. Mid-ship and walkable to & from the 12th and 7th floors where we spent most of our '"on board” time.
Service: Many reviewers have commented on the excellent crew of the NCL Star, and I would echo that praise. Friendly, hard working, attentive, approachable, polite, and always smiling. They take excellent care of their guests. They really paid attention to details. Our cabin steward MJ was TERRIFIC! He not only kept our room in great condition, but kept us smiling with our nightly towel animals….sometimes more than one! Staff was very concerned with hand washing, and we were always ready for a spray and a "washy washy” when entering the buffet dining room.
Food: Food was actually better than we expected. Knowing that this was a cruise and not the Four Seasons, we were pleasantly surprised….not only by the variety available, but the quality and dining atmosphere overall. We opted for the buffet breakfast (which was packed with choices) daily, as it was quick and easy, being that we were disembarking very early most days. On the two '"at sea” days, we ate there because we had slept in and wanted '"brunch”. Because the cruise was port intensive, we elected not to dine in the specialty restaurants. Buffet for breakfast, local cuisine in the ports, and dinner at either the Versailles or Aqua dining rooms. The food was fine and the service was excellent. There were plenty of tables for two, but we were given the option to join another couple (who spoke the same language) if we wanted. One night when there was a delay in opening the Versailles dining room, we elected to eat at the Blue Lagoon (which is open 24/7). The food in the Blue Lagoon is very good. The menu is a bit limited, but you get in and out quickly. This helped us that evening as we wanted to go to the early show. If you’re in the mood for an evening snack….the buffet always has something to satisfy your sweet tooth. We didn’t try the BBQ by the pool, but others told us it was delicious. The Chocolate Evening was a real treat!
Entertainment: We didn’t catch all of the shows because we were simply exhausted at the end of some days. The magician, '"Cirque de Soleil” act, Crew show, and the final night show (Elements) were all excellent. We participated in a few daytime activities during the '"at sea” days. Family Feud and the Not So Newlywed Games were fun to watch. Zumba was fun, but not offered often enough. The lounge shows were entertaining. We really enjoyed the martini tasting.
Ports: As I mentioned previously, this is a port intensive cruise and we made the most of each stop, including eating local cuisine for lunch.
Warnemunde (Berlin): We opted to pay for the NCL train transfer to Berlin in case there was an issue returning to the ship on time via a private tour. Once in Berlin, we toured on our own. The 2 ½ hour New Berlin Tours Free Guided Walking Tour is terrific. Great street vendors for Bratwurst near the Brandenberg gate.
Tallinn: Easy walk to town. We opted to walk to the bus station and go to the open air museum, which was simply wonderful. Had our first delicious lunch there…the National Meal with Kama to drink! Took the tram back to town. Plenty of time to tour upper and lower town before having our 2nd delicious lunch…Bear Dumplings in a Russian Restaurant. (Troika)
St. Petersburg: Words do not describe this city. Two days were definitely necessary. Do not book your excursion through NCL. SPb Tours are not only better, but much cheaper. Small vans with private guides. No more than 15 people. We opted to go to the evening Russian Folklore Show through SPb as well. They take care of ALL immigration requirements. DO NOT let NCL try to scare you that you need a visa from the Russian government if you do not go on the NCL excursions. SPb maintained email contact with us in perfect English.
Helsinki: Pleasant surprise. Loved the harbor market and Suomenlinna Fortress (which you get to by ferry). Rather than the hop on/off bus, an easy and inexpensive Helsinki city sightseeing tour can be done using trams 2 and 3. The route passes many of the interesting sights. There's a free booklet available from the Helsinki City tourist office explaining the sights along the route. The route is circular, number 8 shaped. Many food stands at the Market…Reindeer is a must!
Stockholm: The cruise through the archipelago (entering and leaving) is breathtaking. Gamla Stan (Old Town) is fun to explore on foot, with its lovely small streets. Lots of tourist shops. The main shopping street (in the modern area of town) is similar to major cities, but worth a stroll…no shopping as items are quite pricey. We didn’t tour the palace as we were '"palaced out” after St. Petersburg. We were pleasantly surprised to be entertained by a military band and the horse guard as it was the opening day of Parliament. We even got to see the Queen and the Royal Family in '"Cinderella-like” horse drawn carriages.
Copenhagen: Be sure to book a hotel room the night before the cruise. We stayed another night after the cruise as well. It’s easy to get to town by train from the airport. Taxi is needed to get to the port.
Disembarkation: This was our only disappointment with NCL. We opted to disembark on our own, wheeling our luggage. We were not notified in advance that we had to use the elevators at the front of the ship. We took the mid ship elevators down. We had to get off on level 6, walk to the front of the ship to take the elevator down to 4 and then walk back to the middle of the ship to disembark. Extra walking with heavy bags was no fun. We were able to get off the ship by 9 AM, which made it very easy to get a taxi to our hotel.
Final Thoughts: Loved NCL and The Star. This 1st time cruiser is hooked. The Free Style Dining…in a small restaurant atmosphere was wonderful. Actually just booked an Alaska Cruise on the NCL Sun!