Norwegian Star Cruise Review by wfried980: Great Baltic Cruise!
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Great Baltic Cruise!
This was our 8th cruise, the 3rd with Norwegian, and our first cruise outside of North America. Since this was our 8th cruise we had reasonable expectations. Seven of our cruises were on what I would call the lower tiered lines – Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. One cruise was on Holland America, which was much nicer than the others and worth the extra cost. We were a group of four, my wife and I and her sister and our brother-in-law – all in our early to mid 50’s. We left Newark on Tuesday, 1 July flying on a United 777, connecting in Brussels and on to Copenhagen arriving late Wednesday morning. The flight was fine, we “splurged on Economy Plus seating ($109/each) in order to get the extra leg room for the overnight flight. Suggestion – if you’re a Premier card holder (Silver or higher) there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to upgrade to Economy Plus during check-in (or even earlier based on the level of your Premier More
status) for free. I foolishly spent the $200+ needlessly, when there were plenty of upgrade seats available. We took the metro from the airport to our city hotel – wanting to save on the cab fare. Despite the large suitcases, the metro travel was very easy – the metro station at the airport was an easy walk from baggage claim in Terminal 3; then about 7 stops to the Nyhaven area station and about ¼ mile walk to the Phoenix Hotel for our one night in Copenhagen. Good hotel; reasonably priced through Expedia; free Wi-Fi; small rooms; very warm, welcoming service; and an ideal location for all Copenhagen sights. Did not partake in the $40+ breakfast buffet; instead went around the corner to a great bakery; also a super market close by. Be warned – Copenhagen prices are extraordinarily high! The next morning we grabbed a taxi to the port for about $30+. No problems whatsoever boarding around noon; very quick. We went up to the buffet, grabbed lunch, while we waited for our cabin to be ready. We were in our oceanview cabin on deck 8 by 2 PM.
OK, the bad and the goods regarding the Norwegian Star. The buffet food was not great. Very similar to cafeteria food. Abundant, but repetitive and not of the highest quality – but go in with reasonable expectations. Watermelon was available at all meals, but after the first day it was incredibly mushy and unappetizing. Breakfasts were fine, but lunches and dinners just so-so. We did not partake in any of the specialty restaurants at additional cost. Of the two main dining rooms – the Versailles and the Aqua, we preferred the Aqua. It was a bit smaller and less formal. Additionally you could dine in the Aqua wearing shorts, while in the Versailles men had to wear at least jeans. A suggestion – take advantage of the Aqua for breakfast. It serves a buffet, but is far less crowded than the main buffet, and hey, you get table clothes. Some have complained about the age of the Star – we thought it was fine. The entertainment was great! On most ships there are about 8 singers/dancers; on the Star there were 15 – and they were terrific. They also had a variety of other acts – we enjoyed all. The show on the last night was really good as well. Highly recommend attending all shows if you can. The cruise director, Iain (no typo) was a Brit and was great. Probably the best cruise director we’ve had. Several times we saw him around the ship and he would always stop and chat.
On this 9 day Baltic Cruise the focus was obviously the ports. By the way we had perfect weather for all 9 days – we lucked out! OK here goes…..
Rostock/Warnemunde: Many people travelled to Berlin – a 6 hour roundtrip, that we just didn’t feel was worth the time. Instead we rented a car at the Warnemunde port through Sixt. I found them on the internet and they were waiting in a kiosk right off the ship. I had reserved some non-descript make/model, and instead they gave me a really nice BMW. At 66 Euro’s I thought it was a very good alternative for the four of us to avoid taxi’s and trains, and gave us the flexibility to drive around the small towns. One of our credit cards provided us full primary insurance coverage. Both Rostock and Warnemunde were nice towns; we parked and roamed about.
St. Petersburg: through the internet we booked a 2 day guided tour with Red October. The four of us had a Russian guide (Svetlana) and a driver (Dmitri). The cost was a bit steep at about $980 per couple plus another $150 in tips. But it’s the only way to see St. Petersburg. They won’t let you through immigrations unless you show evidence of a booked tour. In previous reviews everyone raved about St. Petersburg. I thought in general it was nice. Four or five great sites; in between very gray and drab. Peterhof was beautiful – both the palace and especially the grounds. Catherine the Great’s palace was beautiful as well – but you need to consider that it was destroyed during the war and completely rebuilt – so what we saw was not original, but was rebuilt (for tourism perhaps?, while the rest of Russia went hungry? Nevermind). Some of the churches were stunning. All in all, very glad we visited Russia – one of those bucket list things.
Helsinki: in previous reviews Helsinki got a bad rap. We thought it was great. The people were incredibly warm and friendly. We did the hop-on hop-off bus, but ended up more hopping off and walking. Really nice town. Unfortunately the ship departed at 3:30 PM – would have been nice to have more time there.
Stockholm: again we used the hop-on hop-off bus; we hopped off a bit early when our bus broke down shortly after departing the ship. Walked a lot here as well. Saw the ABBA museum. Nice town, but again another 3:30 PM early departure cut the visit short. Got up at 5:15 AM that morning to see the approach to Stockholm through the archipelagos. I’d sleep in, and see the same scenery (nice, but not great) during departure later in the day.
Arrived back in Copenhagen and departure off the ship was easy. I was stunned to get a taxi immediately and a quick ride back to the Phoenix hotel for a final night before a departure back to NJ the next day. We did another hop-on hop-off bus tour of Copenhagen. But again hopped-off more than hopped-on and walked a huge amount around Copenhagen. Amazing as to the number of bicyclists. Really unbelievable. We were told that to buy a car you have to pay a 180% tax (yes, you read that correctly) so pollution is low, and bicycles are many. We left the hotel at 4:30 AM and travelled to the airport via taxi, instead of the metro. For our flight back to Newark we were able to upgrade to Economy Plus with my Premier Silver (for free) which was nice.
Great trip in all. Very glad that we did it. Norwegian Star – eh, so-so. Less
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