We did the 14-day Norwegian Fjords & North Cape (we did not do the Baltic Capitals). We have been on over 50 cruises, on most of the major lines. Norway was a Bucket List item and we were pleased with the itinerary and generally pleased with the cruise overall. However there were several specific things that dragged down the rating to just Average.
The Star has been well-updated in many ways; I don't think it feels 15 years old. Decor and furnishings have been appropriately replaced and redecorated. However, important features for an itinerary like the North Cape are lacking--in some cases because they've been removed in a refurbishment. For example, a large section of the Marketplace Buffet has been given over to Teens and Kids areas--almost completely unused on the "special" itineraries the Star is now sailing. Gone are the outdoor eating areas on the back of the Marketplace, and a portion of the starboard side of the buffet area, which causes the remainder to be crowded almost all the time.
A huge "missing venue" is the upfront, upper deck lounge that is so well used on most Non-Caribbean cruises. Virtually every RCCL, Princess, or Celebrity ship I've been on has such an all purpose "lounge with a great view." The Star does not, making it a POOR choice for the Fjords/North Cape itinerary (it would be equally poor for Alaska). The result is that sitting in the Marketplace at the table is your only choice.
The most disappointing aspect of the this cruise was the execution of Shore Excursions by NCL. Compared to competitors, NCL seems to take a "vendor" approach. They sell the excursions to guests, take minimal responsibility for smooth execution, and simply "pass the buck" on any complaints, pointing at the independent contractors at each port who actually provide the service that NCL sold and put its name on.
Excursions were poorly organized, leading to long lines and pushing and shoving among guests as they tried to board buses (at several stops). The excursions were usually behind schedule. Stops were sometimes eliminated or substituted with no explanation. In one case a large portion of the described excursion was simply not delivered. The excuse was "Corporate writes those descriptions. We have nothing to do with them." There seemed to be a general disconnect between the On Board Staff and NCL Corporate.
No issues with food quality or dining experiences. We mostly ate dinner in the Main Versailles dining room, and a couple of times in Aqua. NCL's food has improved in the last year or so, since the merger with Oceania & Regent. O'Sheehan's Grill is a good alternative to the Buffet, especially for breakfast and off-schedule meals.
Our cabin steward was excellent. And overall staff attitude toward customer service was also very good. No complaints.
Entertainment varied by source. The singers/dancers/production shows were excellent. The supplementary headliners were very average: a British comedian, a jugglar, a Beatles tribute band, a couple of singers. House bands were also average--not memorable in any way. The American cruise director did not seem to seek out passenger contact or feedback. The Captain was very good in his occasional PA updates, localizing his comments to the itinerary.
We'll likely cruise NCL again, but will more carefully check the ship's features. Its newer ships don't have some of these issues. The Norway Fjords itinerary is wonderful, probably the most beautiful landscape we've ever visited, ranking with New Zealand and Alaska.
Meanwhile, Celebrity and Azamara remain our favorite lines, with Princess and RCCL also ranking very high.