Our ten night cruise in an aft Haven suite with a large balcony during a time with fewer passengers and great rates spoiled us forever.
We've cruised NCL several times and were seduced into this cruise because of incredible rates and the chance to try the Haven sailing to a location we had not previously been, the Northern Baltic. Beginning in Southampton, this cruise hit ports in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, and Germany with numerous chances to explore history, food and drink and time for both excursions and personal exploration. It seemed prudent to stick with ship excursions for this cruise and with one exception (Lubeck on Your Own) we were dazzled with knowledgeable guides who told interesting stories, especially about the Vikings.
Overall, we were very happy with the ship. We never had to wait in any lines and while service was awesome in the Haven thanks to Janet, the Maître D, it was excellent everywhere we went. The entire crew was friendly and accommodating and it was hard to leave them at the end of the cruise. The crew in the Haven quickly learned our likes and anticipated our needs even before we asked.
Our two room aft facing suite with large balcony was the most amazing cabin we've ever been in. With a balcony that hugs the aft corner of the ship, there is so much room to stretch out. The balcony has lounge chairs and a dining table and chairs and is quite deep.
The two room set up was amazing, complete with a full garden bathtub, two sinks in the main bathroom, two bathrooms, tons of storage, a mini fridge (which our butler kept stocked with iced tea and fresh milk), two TV's and so much more. It is completely luxurious!
Although the suite is not actually IN the Haven, it isn't a bad walk and the balcony, and the ability to be on the balcony when the ship is moving through cold waters, is worth it.
We were pleasantly surprised with our tour of the Frykat Viking Fortress. Our guide was excellent, reading stories of Vikings to us on the long bus ride. The Fortress is both an archeological site and a village recreation. It was a long day due to the bus ride, and we were happy we did it.
We arranged our own transportation to visit the Keukenhof (Tulip) Gardens), which was a must-see for us on the last week they were open before closing for the season.
We took the Flanders Fields excursion, which, as our guide said, was as much of a pilgrimage as a tour. He was very knowledgeable and struck just the right tone. There was also free time so we enjoyed a local lunch near the Yypres Museum, a place I wish we could have spent more time.
Copenhagen was a great last place on our cruise and we extended our stay a few days in order to see more. Our favorites were the Glyptotech and Rosenburg Slot and we also enjoyed the changing of the guard, the Botanical Garden, Tivoli Gardens (what a wild place!), and just walking around the city. The people were all amazingly helpful and the city is so walkable.
In Kiel we took a Lubeck on your Own tour. We should have stayed in Kiel.
In Le Havre we took a rather expensive excursion to Monet's Garden and Rouen. The garden is amazing, with year-round glory and a peek into Monet's life. Rouen is interesting and I'm glad I read a biography of Joan of Arc before going because it really enhanced the visit.
We enjoyed walking around Oslo right from the pier far more than we enjoyed our tour which was conducted by an inept guide with very little insight. Unfortunately, the Viking Ship Museum is closed for reconstruction and that was the main thing we wanted to see. The other museums are interesting, but it was a bit of a let-down.
From Warnemunde, we took a tour to see the Schwerin Fairytale Castle, which was very interesting and very beautiful. We had the best local meal of the trip at LUKAS (halibut and beet risotto) and still had time after the tour to walk around Warnemunde and find some geocaches near the ship.
Although the port of Southampton isn't much to get excited about, we found a transfer company that took us from our Heathrow Hotel to the pier via Stonehenge, which was amazing.