After reading reviews that were not great on the Sun in the months after dry dock, leading up to our cruise, we were not expecting much. We wanted to see the Baltic capitals that this ship visited and that was our main reason for booking this cruise.
This was our first cruise.
Biggest complaint was whenever we asked the staff at guest reception a question, they did not know the answer and did not do anything to find out and we felt like no one wanted to step up and take responsibility for the answers. They were nice, but we often left knowing no more than before. Second biggest complaint was how NCL handled getting off the ship in St. Petersburg. We went down 20 minutes after the ship had docked and were held at the deck for getting off for almost an hour before being let go. The NCL employees kept telling us, the ship hasn't been cleared yet, but there was no way that could be true. All of us there were on private, non-NCL tours and we later found out that the NCL tours were taken down the crew exit and let off the ship before we were, so they could line up for customs first. It was hot waiting and I really feel unfair. Everyone on our tour got there about the same time, but we left over 1/2 hour late and they had to cut out two things we were supposed to see.
We were in Copenhagen a day early to sight see and took a bus from the Central Copenhagen near the central train station to the first, closer pier. Apparently, the bus doesn't go to Freeport on Saturdays, so the driver let all of us NCL passengers know where we needed to get off and nicely pointed in the direction we were supposed to go. The bus driver was very nice and went out of his way to make sure the many different nationalities there understood how to go. I thought that was above and beyond for what I'm used to in a bus driver.
Check-in was really fast and efficient. Spent about 20 minutes from the point that we got to the tent to the time we were walking onto the ship, maybe slightly less. Once we were on the ship, we were shown the way to the Seven Sea's dining room, where we enjoyed a long leisurely lunch while our room was finished being cleaned. It was nice and very uncrowded.
Room was better than I expected. We had 5 in the room and it didn't feel cramped. There was plenty of storage to stow away all our stuff so that our room stayed organized. People previously on crusie critic commented on the small bathroom, but after some really small bathrooms in London, I didn't think it was as small as those. I also found it functional. Shower head was powerful and hot water seemed to be plenty. Room steward was very good at making up our room when we went to shore or dinner for the towel animals and I found that nice.
Restaurants. Most of all the food I'd rate anywhere from a 3 - 4 on a scale of 5. We ate most dinners in Seven Seas. We had a great waiter the first night and we tried to get him all our nights there. Appetizers in this dining room usually exceeded my expectations and were good enough to want a second night, but that wasn't an option as it was on their special menu for the night. Main meals and desserts tended to be o.k., nothing I thought I'd love to eat this again. My husband sometimes experienced his food coming to him cold as it comes from a main kitchen then is prepped in the dining room. I did not experience this on my dinners. Cafe Garden was a buffet that we did often for breakfast due to convenience. The food was the quality I'd expect at a buffet and did worked fine for our purpose. It was crowded so we sat outside most days. The Outdoor cafe was an afternoon option on the back of the boat, buffet style, that was nice to come back to after shore excursions.
Specialty Restaurants. We at at the Brazilian restaurant and also did the Indian lunch. Both were better than other food on the ship. For me the Indian one was fine one time at $15 a person. The Brazilian restaurant was not very busy and we had excellent service. The food was all enjoyable to eat and since we did it at the end of the cruise, it was a nice change in food choices. It was $20pp.
Shows. Only attended two. We will rock you, which is supposed to be their best, it was o.k. My kids said the good thing about it was that it was only 45 minutes long. The magic show we attended was a pleasant surprise and very entertaining. We enjoyed it a lot.
Overall, we liked this cruise for what we got to see. The 5 ports all had something enjoyable to see & do.
We reserved with Alla Tours, which we had also reserved for our tour in St. Petersburg. Our tickets said 8:00am and we were down there waiting from 7:30am on. By 8:00am, all the NCL, SPB, and smaller tour companies had already left to Berlin as it is a 3 hour drive. I began emailing Alla through our private account, but she was busy in St. Petersburg with their tours, so I did not hear back from her. By 8:45, still no Alla tour rep and we were stressing about how we'd still get to see Berlin. We asked other groups earlier if we could join them and they were full so we could not. At 8:45, my husband went walking around and found a taxi that would take us to Berlin. It was a relief to know we'd still get to go and I'd say he did a great job saving the day. Berlin was fun to see, if only in a whirlwind day. We are glad we did it and that is a city I could go back to and explore in more depth. Alla later answered my email around 5pm, Berlin time, and apparently the tour time had changed to 9:30, but she forgot to tell us. She had told the others from our ship, so we were the only one down there at 8:00 looking for an "Alla" sign. We hit really bad traffic on the way back and we began getting stressed we would not get to the ship in time and nobody would know where we were at. We did make it back in time. We left Berlin at 5pm and we were glad when we were stuck in all the traffic. The boat left at 10:30 instead of 10:00 that night and we think it was because others that had left later were also in the traffic and got back later than they had planned.
Great port. We walked to the city center, which took us an hour. We are used to walking so it was fine to us, but others may want to get a taxi or do the hoho bus, which was there waiting when we got there. We took a ferry to Suomenlinna and that was very enjoyable. The old fortress was pleasant to walk around and we enjoyed it very much. The shopping in Helsinki is fun because the shops have things that crafty and unique from things we see elsewhere.
We did a private tour with Alla tours. Our group was 16 in a Mercedes van that was air conditioned. We got a late start due to NCL not letting us off until all their tours had disembarked, so we missed the Farmer's Market and they Hydrofoil unexpectedly closed so we didn't get to go on that as well. I would say Alla tours was efficient and allowed us to see a lot on our two days there. All the camera fee's were included in the price of the tour, except for one. It was offered to us that if we wanted to take pictures, we could pay the fee, we were also advised by our guide that she did not think it was worth it. Nobody in our group paid the extra fee for this place, and we are fine not having pictures from it. NCL tours do not include photo fee's for museums and the pricing for that is on your day sheet that you get the night before. We picked Alla tours because of the early admission to the Hermitage. Don't let this be your only deciding factor because it looked like all the cruise ships in dock that day were there at the same time and it was a bit of a zoo. We took a picture of the crowd waiting to get in, but not sure how to post it here.
Biggest disadvantage as others have noted is NCL docks an hour away. You tender into port and then you have an hour drive to Stockholm. Reading this ahead of time and not wanting to miss the boat due to being unfamiliar with Stockholm's transportation system, this is the only port we opted to do an NCL tour. At first we wanted just to pay for the 7 hour bus ride, and have free time while we were there. We should have done that. Instead we did the 8 hour bus ride/Vasa Museum/Leisure time in old town. We got to the Vasa and there was a line to get in. In fact, too many people were inside, so we had to wait until groups left until we could go in. Then our tour guide let everyone do a bathroom break and we reunited while she talked for 5 - 10 minutes on the Vasa. She kept saying I will make it quick as I want you to have as much time as possible on your own. Then when she said it was our own time at 11:15am, she said meet me outside at 11:30am. We had 15 minutes and I could have spent longer. I was expecting her to say noon. 45 minutes would have been nice. We then drove to old town and were dropped off at the Opera House for 4 hours of free time.
If I could do it again knowing what I know now, I'd take the NCL bus to get me into town and walk to where we wanted to go. They give everyone a map when you get off the tender boat and the things we wanted to see were not too far if you don't mind walking. The NCL buses begin departing back to the boat around 2pm until 3:30pm. You can pick what any of the buses to come back on. Stockholm is a pretty city.
We talked to someone on the boat and they took the train into Stockholm, transfered to the metro in Stockholm and had a great time with no problems. There was also a HOHO bus at the port, not sure if it's always an option, but that would work as well.
We loved Talinn. What a fun place to walk around. Took about 10-15 minutes to get to the old city wall and enter into the cobble stoned streets. There were buses and taxi's waiting at the pier and some people opted to have transportation take them to the top of the old town and then they explored walking back. We walked both directions to the top of old town and back, taking different routes and felt like we got to see a lot. Prices are better here than anywhere else on the cruise for souvenirs and food.