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Sail Date: September 2014
Two cruises dodging storms on the Norwegian Star Our trip to northern Europe started with our drive to Miami to catch our flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. We drove down from Georgia on 16 September to the Holiday Inn, Miami International ... Read More
Two cruises dodging storms on the Norwegian Star Our trip to northern Europe started with our drive to Miami to catch our flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. We drove down from Georgia on 16 September to the Holiday Inn, Miami International Airport (438 miles in about 7 hours). The hotel was near the airport and offers a good rate that includes parking for our car. We were gone 34 days and saved a lot on parking fees. The hotel was newly renovated, as was our hotel room, which was spacious and nice for $122. The hotel staff was friendly and a waitress at the bar brought us some empanadas after we inquired if the restaurant was Cuban. Apparently, it doesn’t have a Cuban theme anymore, but empanadas were found downstairs. They were excellent. We had a light dinner later that was very good. This hotel is a great place to park and fly or cruise, if you want to leave your car while on a trip. One thing, don’t do the breakfast buffet, order off the menu. The free hotel shuttle took us to airport. We used miles on US Airways, so we had three flights to get to Copenhagen. From Miami we flew to Charlotte, where I used our free US Airways club coupon to relax and snack in their nice clubhouse. Then on to Frankfurt, Germany for a change to planes on SAS to Copenhagen. We only had 1.5 hours to change planes, but our flight arrived early in Frankfurt. Customs was very quick and we took the train to another terminal and arrived in plenty of time for our SAS flight. We arrived in Copenhagen on 18 September about 2 PM, found the free hotel shuttle to the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers. There was an ATM machine in the luggage carousel area where I purchased some Danish Krone. I later had a problem using my ATM card to buy Krone. I used the card successfully in Norway and on the ship, but twice it would not work at bank ATMs in Copenhagen. I did find out that when using my visa credit card to tell the cashier it was signature not pin. Our hotel was not far from the airport. Also, it was near a nice shopping mall and rail/Metro station. We had booked the hotel through NCL for about $240 per night, but included was free transport to the ship on the 22nd as well as breakfasts. The hotel was spacious for Danish hotels and had all the amenities. Breakfasts were excellent offering made to order omelets, eggs, bacon, sausage as well as fruit, pastries (great Danishes) and rolls. We were already gearing up for one of the key activies on our cruises, eating. After checking in at the hotel, we walked to the shopping mall which had several restaurants, many with American themes. We ate a lot of fish in Denmark, which was always excellent. COPENHAGEN We had three full days, the 19th, 20th and 21st, prior to embarking on our cruise on the 22nd. After sleeping about 12 hours or more, overcoming jet lag, we purchased the Copenhagen Card for 24 hours (at the hotel) for 339 DKK (about $52) each. The card gave us unlimited use of the METRO, commuter rail, admission to museums and a canal boat cruise. We took the train into the city to the main train station across from Tivoli (a famous amusement park). We then walked a few blocks to the City Hall square, where we met our guide for the Sandeman at the Dragon Fountain. The three hour walking tour was free. I did tip 200 Krone to the guide. Here are the details of the tour: http://www.newcopenhagentours.com/daily-tours/copenhagen-free-tour.html The tour included the following sites or topics. We did not enter any buildings Copenhagen Town Hall Tivoli Gardens Danish Royal Palace The Marble Church Picturesque Nyhavn harbour Hans Christian Andersen Absalon – Warrior Bishop Nazi Occupation WWII Resistance World’s oldest royal family Strøget shopping mile The Lur Blowers Nytorv- a public square Gammeltorv- another square near the Stroget shopping street. Kongens Nytorv- the square in front of the Royal Theater Nikolaj Kirke Danish Parliament The Royal Danish Theater The Academy of Fine Arts Copenhagen Opera House Our guide was very informative, pointing out important national and city history. Apparently, in the past three hundred years, three fires have burned down most of the city, so few building older than that have survived. After the tour ended, Ginny and I took a harbor tour with Netto Boats, which was included in the Copenhagen Card (normally 40 DKK). The other company at Nyhavn charges 75 DKK. The harbor cruise was nice, since the weather was still warm. There are canals all around and through the central city. After the canal cruise, we decided to use the Copenhagen Card to take the commuter train to Lyngby, about ten miles north of the city center. Ginny and I were married in Lyngby 25 years ago. We found the same courthouse, which was closed, as well as the hotel and shopping mall below our hotel. We looked for the ice cream shops were we had eaten rum raison ice-cream, and found a similar shop, but probably not the same one. However, the ice-cream seemed the same. The next day, the 20th, we joined our cruise critic friends, Chris and Jan, from Australia on a full day’s tour outside of the city called the Grand Day around Copenhagen. The tour company was www.granddaytrip.dk The tour included Kronborg Castle in Elsinore (UNESCO World Heritage Site) Roskilde Cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage Site) Frederiksborg Palace in Hillerød The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde The tour was excellent as was our guide Adam. Our first stop was the Roskilde Cathedral, which dated back to 12th and 13th centuries. The cathedral was the burial site for Danish Monarchs for 500 years. There were chapels that dated back to the early years of the Cathedral and others that were added centuries later. We saw many tombs in the cathedral. The cathedral survived the Reformation but lost its bishop and some of its significance. However, it is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Next, we visited the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. This was probably the highlight of the tour. The museum had several Viking ships that had been excavated and reassembled (most not completely). However, full scale replicas were in the nearby harbor for all to see. We were told that those replica ships did venture out to sail. The museum had exhibits explaining how the ships were built and other details. There were two basic types of ships, the fast warships and the larger cargo ships. Frederiksborg Palace was our next stop. This palace was over 400 years old with parts of the place from the 16th Century. It is now largely an art museum. The palace is huge and we could only see so much in two hours. We probably saw less than half of the palace. The larger rooms were impressive and the art was good, but didn’t see many works from great masters. The drive out to Roskilde, then northeast to Frederiksborg, then east to Kronborg took us through the beautiful Danish countryside. Denmark is very flat with many rural farms, most with cattle. Kronborg was a castle sited on the west side of the sound facing Sweden (at the narrowest point). The castle was there to enforce the toll fees that Denmark charged any ship entering or departing from the Baltic Sea. These fees greatly enriched the Danish state. The castle was the site of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The castle dates from the 15th century, but a fire in the 17th century burned most of the building, but it was rebuilt. The Swedes captured the castle and took away the valuables during a war. In its later years, the castle was used as a prison. Not much remains inside. On the 21st, we tried to visit museums that we missed on the 19th. Most notably, we visited the Rosenborg castle, which is now a museum. The castle is walking distance north of Nyhavn. The castle dating from the 17th century was the home of the royal family until Amalienborg Palace. Rosenborg’s admission fees were about $15 per person. Amalienborg Palace is east of Nyhavn. It is known for the changing of the guard there. It's the winter residence of the Danish Royal Family and has been around since the mid-1700s. It is actually four palaces situated around a square. There is a museum there, which we visited after Kronborg. That museum was focused almost entirely on the Danish royal family, including the current royals. Admission was about $10 per person. We could not miss visiting The Little Mermaid statue, which is located a bit out of the central city, to the east, on the water. Ginny and I purchased several statues of the mermaid for gifts. We found the Danish people to be very friendly and helpful. Nearly everyone speaks English, and good English. At times, we would pause on a street corner to check out map, and friendly Danish people would ask us if they could help. Also, in shops, restaurants and museums, the service people were very nice. Our last event of the day was an informal meet and greet of many cruise critic friends that had discovered each other on that website’s roll call for the cruise. Many of us had tours together. We something of each other, but had never met. We did the same for our Black Sea cruise in Istanbul. The event was held in the bar of The Plaza Hotel, located near the main train station and Tivoli. We met at 5 PM and enjoyed ourselves for a couple of hours. It was great to match the person with the cruise critic posts. We had at least 40 or more persons at the bar. There was a group of about 16-20 that went on many of the same tours and socialized with each other once on the NCL Star. It was a great group. Brandy and Dave were instrumental in organizing the event. Our cruise critic group included people from Canada, Australia, New Jersey, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and more. The next day, we packed for embarkation on the Star. Our hotel was filled with people going on the cruise. There were four busloads of cruisers that left from the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers. We turned our luggage over to NCL at the hotel and didn’t see it until delivered to our cabin on the ship. Checking in at the port was very smooth and we quickly boarded our ship, the Norwegian Star. The Star is a Dawn class ship, about 14 years old. NORWEGIAN STAR The Star had many of the features of modern cruise ships. Its capacity is about 2300 passengers. I don’t think we had many vacant cabins on this cruise. Prior to the cruise, I had read many cruise reviews on cruise critic. Some reviews had stated that the Star was in very poor condition. We were on the Star for two cruises (28 days) and did find several items that needed maintenance or repair. There was cracked flooring, rusty steel, worn furniture or carpet and more. We found that the Star’s basic features and structure to be attractive, despite some needed repair. Our cruise critic group seemed to have the same view, that yes, there were flaws, but it didn’t depreciate our enjoyment of the cruises. Ginny had a sticky drawer in our cabin that was a minor irritant, but there was nothing major to inhibit us. We have cruised on the Epic, which holds almost twice the passengers. Although much newer, we would take the smaller, older ships any day. The larger ships always feel crowded, but despite the cold weather for most of the cruises, we never felt crowded. The Star did have some design features that have been improved on with newer ships. 1) The Stardust theatre had seats arrayed for two stories, but the seats seemed closer together, with less leg room than we have found on other cruise ships with NCL and Celebrity. Also, the balconies on the right and left (no balcony in the middle) were not good seats at all. Most balcony seats did not allow for viewing of the entire stage, due to the balcony itself. Also, you sat facing perpendicular to the stage and would develop a crick in your neck constantly looking right or left, depending on which side you were seated. 2) The buffet (Market Café) seemed to have fewer seats than most buffets. Perhaps that was because it did not extend all the way to the aft end of the ship. Most cruise ships have a bar at the aft end of the ship adjacent to the buffet, where in good weather, you can sit outside. 3) On some decks, it was not possible to go from one end of the ship to the other. None of these flaws would keep us from cruising on the Star in the future. RESTAURANTS NCL has “freestyle dining” that means, you eat when and where you want. Once of the strengths of this approach is its array of specialty restaurants. There is a charge for each restaurant ranging from $15 to $30 per person. We ate seven times in 28 days at one of these restaurants, including all. They were all excellent. You could purchase a plan to eat every night in one of these restaurants, but we declined. We tend to eat more than normal on a cruise (go figure) and eating at one of these restaurants seems to encourage eating more. We had the option of purchasing a three meal package on each cruise and did that on the transatlantic, since we wanted to eat at Cagney’s (steak) ($30) and Teppanyaki (Japanese) ($25). The three meal deal was $59 so eating twice at Cagney’s and once at Teppanyaki made sense. On the first cruise we at Moderno (Brazilian Steak) ($20), Ginza (Asian) ($15) and Le Bistro (French)($20) and La Cucina (Italian) ($15). The package was not a savings with any three of those restaurants. The complementary restaurants were the two main dining rooms (MDR), Versailles (largest, located aft) and Aqua, (small, located mid-ship), as well as The Blue Lagoon, a short order, snack restaurant on deck 8, mid-ship, overlooking the atrium. The Blue Lagoon was fine for lunch and we ate there a few times. The wings were ok, fish and chips good as well as soups and burgers. In general, the food in the complementary restaurants has improved recently for NCL. We have cruised seven times on Celebrity and previously three times on NCL and found NCL’s food to be a notch or two below Celebrity’s. The specialty restaurants are excellent; I refer here to the free restaurants. We and others in our cruise critic group found that NCL has improved on the quality of the new menu. We were generally very pleased with our meals; however, there were a couple of exceptions. Overall, NCL’s food is still not on par with Celebrity, but they clearly covered some of the gap. Of course, consistency is important. I would rate the food on the star a 4 out of 5. I had some meals that rated a 5, others rating a 4 or a 3. SERVICE Service ranged from fair to excellent. In the restaurants, the servers were friendly. Service in the specialty restaurants was excellent. In the MDRs, service was inconsistent. Some nights, it was 5 of 5, other nights a 2 or 3. I would rate service overall at 3.5 of 5 for the MDRs. Servers would frequently forget what people ordered. Also, if a butter plate was needed, it might take three times asking to get one. Celebrity always has someone come by the table to ask if everything is OK. This did not happen about half the time in the MDRs. One night my ravioli was cold and the servers were not there to find out the problem, so I just ate it. On the Star the wait staff would take meal orders and serve in a circular manner, not taking the orders (or serving) of the women first. Celebrity always does it properly, by taking the orders and serving the women at the table first. Service in the buffet was inconsistent. I eat a lot of muesli for breakfast and about half the time there was either no bowls or spoons at the buffet line. I waited almost five minutes for a bowl one morning. TV Television on the Star was pretty bad. Of course, we don’t cruise to watch TV, but we like to keep up with the weather, sports and news. The only sports on the TV was soccer, which was ok, after all, we were in Europe most of the time, but it would have been nice for NCL to have posted college and NFL football scores. I mentioned the problem to the cruise director; Drew and he took it upon himself to provide me with the college football scores for three weekends, which was nice. It would be far easier to post the scores on a bulletin board or publish a small newspaper. The best weather information was provided by the Captain before departing for shore, or on sea days at 10 AM. The TV showed the temp, barometric pressure and humidity, but not forecast, except BBC had the weather for South America (occasionally they had Africa and the Far East, NEVER Europe). The weather was a huge factor for this cruise, since two ports were cancelled due to a category 2 hurricane (the Captain told us later) and two other less violent storms, The South American weather became a joke among the passengers. As for news, the BBC was OK with news of Africa, Hong Kong and somewhat in Syria/Iraq, but very little of the USA and not a lot of Europe. We found out about the intruder entering the White House ten days after it happened. There were movies in English, French, Spanish and Germany, but not many to choose from. We didn’t watch much TV. Five days into the transatlantic, we started picking up Fox news, which dramatically improved our US and World news. FITNESS CENTER The fitness center was fine on first cruise, but on the transatlantic, attendance mushroomed. There were several exercise machines to choose from, but only two upright cycle machines. Since I bike a lot at home, I wanted to use one of them. I had to wait to use one a few times on the transatlantic, but it gave me a chance to get in some weights and sit-ups. There were a couple of recumbent cycle machines that were not functioning properly and should have been replaced or repaired. The fitness center was adequate for the size of the ship, but not super. I worked out every sea day except for the first one, due to the cruise critic meet and greet. I generally don’t gain a lot of weight on cruises, but after arriving home, it appeared that I had gained five pounds. After 2 or 3 days I weighted again and had only gained about two pounds. We don’t use a lot of salt at home and I think cruise ships use more salt in the cooking, which may have caused more water retainage. ENTERTAINMENT The Star had excellent entertainment. We went to most of the shows and enjoyed them all. The weakest show was the hypnotist. TerranceB was the hypnotist. His show was ok, but I guess that is the nature of the show. I was not hypnotized. The NCL Star Production singers and dancers with show band were excellent. All their shows were super. We enjoyed the welcome aboard show, “Band on the Run,” The Look of Love-music of Burt Bacharach, and “Paradis.” The singing and dancing was excellent. We thought it was a little better than what we get on Celebrity. Other entertainers that we enjoyed were “The Diva,” Beverly Davison; “Marrambolla” with acrobatic duo Maria and Dimitry; “Duo Platschkov,” from Moscow doing acrobatics and juggling; Duo Yalba were a multitalented pair that could play twenty different instruments; Barry John, a juggling comedian; 4Ever, great male foursome and comedian Tim Kaminski. We missed the Motown show with William Hicks, but heard it was excellent. Entertainment on the Star deserved a 5 of 5. The singing group 4Ever was excellent. They were four young men sang many songs in Spanish, but also, Italian and English. Tim Kaminski was a comedian that tended to pull a lot of people out of the audience up on the stage, and then have a dialogue with each of them about their role on the state. Once you got past the first 10 minutes, his show was funny. We also enjoyed the music in some of the bars from time to time. LAUNDRY We did the bag special for $27.95 three times during our 28 days on the ship, but did a little laundry in the sink as well. Since we were gold on the second cruise, we got 25% of the bag special as well. TOURS I like to research for private tours in each port and compare what is available to the ship’s tours. Sometimes we take the ship’s tour, if the price difference is small. NCL’s excursions for these two cruises were generally significantly higher than what was available from private tours. I have found NCL’s excursions to generally be higher than what is offered by Celebrity. We did take one NCL excursion on the transatlantic, which I will discuss later. Cruise critic website has a roll call for each cruise, and it allows for the easy organization of private tours. I had arranged for five private tours out of the seven ports on the original itinerary. Organizing tours for the two Norway ports proved to be the most difficult. For Bergen, I found an excellent tour company (by reference from someone we had met on another cruise that used the firm). It took them weeks to respond and when I would send an email asking a question, they were usually slow to respond. Also, for Bergen and Alesund, both companies wanted cash in Norwegian Krone only. Further, they insisted that I collect the cash and pay them rather than from each person. The tours in the Shetland Islands, Iceland and Dublin allowed payment in other currencies and individual payments from each person. The Bergen tour had 16 persons, so collecting the cash was not a big deal, especially since the tour cost was about $27 each. However, for the Alesund, Path of the Trolls tour, the cost was about $60 each (NCL’s similar tour was $199 each), and there were 40 persons signed up for that tour. In order to save time on the morning of the tour, I decided to offer the option of collecting the cash ahead of time. After I collected about 2/3 of the money, our port stop in Alesund (also in the Faroe Islands) was cancelled due to a big storm (Category 2 Hurricane). I then had to refund all the cash, which took about three days to accomplish. CRUISE CRITIC MEET AND GREET NCL had arranged for our meeting on the first sea day at 11 AM in the Star Bar, which was small for the more than 100 persons that had signed up to the meeting. Michael arranged for the meeting and it worked out just fine. We were very crowded into the bar even though I don’t think 100 persons showed up. Many of us had met at the Copenhagen meet and greet, but others we met for the first time. For me, it allowed me to introduce myself to the group so everyone on one of my tours would recognize me when meeting on the dock for the tours. As I said before, many of us arranged to have meals with each other during the cruise. THE CRUISE Our cabin was 8056, an enclosed balcony located near the forward stairwell on starboard side. It was a normal balcony, except the sides were enclosed by the steel side of the ship. Otherwise we still had a normal balcony. The cabin was the cheapest priced balcony on the ship and I thought the enclosed feature would reduce our exposure to the wind, which we anticipated to be cold in the North Sea and North Atlantic this time of the year. This was not a bad choice; in fact we hardly used the balcony until just before the Azores on the transatlantic. We were one deck up from the theatre, as well as deck seven including many restaurants, shops and the service desk in the atrium. BERGEN We had never been to Norway and were looking forward to this port. We were not disappointed. Bergen was a Hanseatic port with the famous Hanseatic Wharf. The Hanseatic merchants dominated Wharf for 400 years. I opted for a city tour instead of going inland to see fjords, since our next port, Alesund involved a fjord tour. NCL’s Norway in a Nutshell tour for Bergen was $299 per person and I was not able to find a comparable private tour. Some people did a three hour fjord cruise and said it was good. Our tour was with BERGEN GUIDE SERVICE (www.bergenguideservice.no). The tour included two walking tours and a trip to the funicular. The cost of the tour was 175 NOK per person (about $27). The tour was described as follows: Nordnes: On this walk, which takes us from Torgallmenningen - Bergen’s central boulevard - to the Aquarium, you will hear all about Munkeliv Monastery and how witches were burnt at the stake in Bergen! The Wharf, historical Bergen and the funicular. You can go for a walking tour of the Wharf. The guide will take you through the historical heart of Bergen, and stroll along the world famous Bryggen, which is on UNESCO's World Heritage List. The ancient gables and the narrow alleyways will make you feel like stepping back in time to the era when the Hanseatic merchants dominated Bergen’s trade. You also pass the fish market and the modern harbour of today, and you will see -from the outside- both the Cathedral and the Church of the Cross as well as St. Mary’s church. Afterwards you can take the Funicular up to Mount Fløyen, which is 320 a.s.l., where you will enjoy the magnificent view over the city of Bergen. The price for the funicular is NOK 85 per person. Beate was our guide and she was excellent. She met us at the dock and took us through the old city, showing us the Bergenhus fortress and Haakon's Hall, which date back to the 13th Century. Also, there we saw the five hundred year old Rosenkrantz Tower. This was near the port, where during NAZI occupation an ammunition ship exploded, killing many people and blowing out windows for miles. The stone structures survived. We enjoyed walking through the old Hanseatic Wharf, with its colorful houses, shops and stores. Between tours, we took the funicular up to the mountain and had fantastic views of the city. The view from the funicular was awesome. We then walked through the modern harbor, quaint housing areas, the fish market and more. It was an excellent tour and the price was good. ITINERARY CHANGE After we boarded the ship to depart Bergen, the Captain told us that a large storm was headed in our direction and that our port visits to Alesund and the Faroe Islands were cancelled. On the positive side, we picked up Belfast as an additional port. We were clearly disappointed, since one of the main reasons that we selected the cruise was to see Norway. However, as we discovered later, the Captain’s decision proved to be a good one. The Hurricane still had an impact, even though the Star made every effort to avoid the high winds and waves. Our next port was the Shetland Islands (one day early), and the front desk allowed me to call, without charge, the three tour companies (Alesund, Shetlands and Iceland) affected by the itinerary change. The worst weather on the cruise turned out to be the two days from the Shetland Islands to Iceland. We had winds in excess of 70 mph and 47 foot waves or more (we saw some waves that left their residue on the pool deck. Many people on the ship became sea sick, including many of the crew. Barf bags were placed all over the ship and NCL gave out sea sickness pills. Ginny and I did take ginger tablets for a couple of days, but did not get sick. LERWICK, SHETLAND ISLANDS We arrived at Lerwick the next day after Bergen. The Shetlands are an island group north of Scotland. Our visit there was a pleasant surprise. We very much enjoyed the tour. I had arranged for a tour with Geo tours. Cost was £50 (60 Euro) per person. Soup and sandwich lunch £5 extra. http://:www.shetlandgeotours.com I had found this tour on the roll call from the 2013 Star cruise. The tour had great reviews. We were not disappointed. The tour was described as follows: Lerwick, Shetland Islands, led by well-known island native Allen Fraser of Shetland GeoTours. It will be so much more than geology, combining history and archeology with local lore acquired from over 60 years of living in this beautiful land. After visiting Clickimin Broch, an Iron Age defensive tower near Lerwick, we'll head north for a drive through Girlsta and Petta Dale on our way to the picturesque village of Voe, then across the Mavis Grind, a piece of geological history and Shetland's narrowest point at only 90 yards from coast to coast, on to Ronas Voe (Shetland's fjord) and finally to Eshaness cliffs and sea stacks (Shetland’s volcano), some of the most stunning scenery on the islands. The tour can accommodate a total of eight people with one bus, or if we have enough people, we can add another bus of eight people for a total of 16. We did book a tour for 16 and had two buses with Allen driving and guiding one bus and James the other bus. The tour was super and included the islands history, geology and stunning scenery. We had a wonderful lunch of soup and sandwiches for only £5. After the tour, we had a little time to browse around Lerwick, which was a quaint town. The population of the islands is about 23,000. The North Sea oil industry has added to the economy, but sheep farming appears to be the primary economic activity. We saw many sheep on our tour, as well as some Shetland Ponies. The ponies were more rotund than the one’s in the USA. The islands are Scottish, but have a mix of Scottish and Scandinavian culture. The population is a mix of Scottish and Scandinavian. ICELAND After a stormy cruise for two sea days, we arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland. Iceland turned out to be one of the top highlights of our trip. I had arranged for a private tour with the firm, Iceland Horizon. Over a month prior to our trip, I happened to notice that I had booked the tour with Iceland Horizon for the day before our ship was scheduled to port in Reykjavik. I emailed the firm and they indicated that it was not a problem to reschedule. Ironically, the ship arrived there a day earlier than planned, due to the storm. I had called the firm from the ship to insure that they were aware of the change in the Star’s itinerary. We had a Mercedes bus for our party of 14 persons for the Golden Circle tour. It was super. The tour was described, as follows: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE With Iceland Horizon A tour of around 8 hours. During the day we visit three main sights. The spectacular Gullfoss Waterfall on the mighty glacial river Hvita, The boiling springs and blowing water spouts of Strokkur and Geysir and Thingvellir National Park, where we see the divide between the Eurasian and American continental plates and also home to the ancient Viking parliaments. Each of these stops is around 1 hour in duration. We also make other short stops; Faxafos waterfall and possible other short photo stops, depending on weather and conditions. The actual driving distance of the day is around 270 kilometers and total driving time is around 3 hours 30 minutes, but this is divided into shorter journeys between the stops. Lunch is not included but you will be able to buy something to eat at the cafe/restaurant at Gullfoss. The total tour cost 140,000 Icelandic krona. The price was about $85 per person. The Golden Circle tour is very popular for visitors to Iceland. NCL had many tour buses filled for excursions along the same route as ours. We were able to depart before the buses and largely avoid the crowded venues along the tour route. We visited a crater that charged three dollars to see. Some declined, but I made a short stop to take photos. We visited two waterfalls and had lunch near the large majestic Gullfoss Waterfall. We went to the boiling springs and saw geysers. All through the drive, we were entranced by the majestic scenery of the island. The last stop, the Thingvellir National Park was the best. This is where the continental plates meet between North America and Europe. The rock formations and natural foliage were awesome. The park has preserved the original natural foliage of the island. If you visit Iceland, don’t miss The Golden Circle. BELFAST Belfast was not on our original itinerary, but while in Iceland, Karen, one of our cruise critic friends had an international phone and arranged for a tour with Odyssey. Ginny and I were in Belfast last year and did a tour in the city, so we were glad to be able to go on the Giants Causeway tour. I found their website: http://odysseycoachtours.co.uk/ The Odyssey cruise ship tour is described as follows: Tour Itinerary We will depart from Belfast port and travel inland straight to the Giants Causeway where you will spend 1 hour 15 mins at the stones/visitor centre. We will then make a photo stop at Dunluce castle before making the short journey to Carrick-a- Rede rope bridge where you will spend 1 hour 15 mins at the bridge. After leaving the Rope Bridge we will travel along the Coast road one of the most scenic drives in the world along the way we will stop for a lunch break in Ballycastle where we spend 1 hour in this quaint little town. After lunch we will make our way back to Belfast along the Coastal route for your City Tour before returning to Belfast port in time for your ships departure. The tour was excellent. The two major stops were at the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Both sites had fantastic scenery. The Giants Causeway had some unusual rock formations of basaltic columns. Wikipedia describes the myth as follows: According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn's wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the 'baby', he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal's Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this. There was a good bit of walking at both of these sites. Of course, exercise helped burn last night’s desserts. The rope bridge was quite a hike, but we enjoyed the scenery. Apparently, the rope bridge took us to a small island that was used by salmon fisherman. We had lunch at a small town, Ballycastle, and then proceeded back to Belfast, where we had a windshield tour of the “troubles’ area of the city. Ginny and I had toured this area last year. We saw the Unionist and Republican areas with their political graffiti, flags and such. Interesting, we saw a few Palestinian flags in the Republican areas. Apparently, the Palestinians are the latest IRA pets. We also saw where the Titanic was built as well as the Titanic Museum. GREENOCK, SCOTLAND Our next port was Greenock, the port for Glasgow. Last year Ginny and I took a tour to Edinburgh. This time, we joined a tour organized by Sue. The tour took us to St. Andrews, also on the eastern side of Scotland. The tour was described as follows: 9:30-9:45 Forth Bridges 10:45-11:00 Anstruther 11:30-1:30 St Andrews and lunch 2:30-3:30 Dunfermline Abbey 5:30 Greenock St. Andrews and Dunfermline Abbey were awesome, as well as the beautiful Scottish countryside. The only disadvantage to this tour was the long driving time. We spent more time driving than touring. At St. Andrews, we saw the site of the famous golf course, as well as the 700 year old cathedral that is now in ruins. Apparently, after the reformation, maintaining the cathedral was not a high priority, so it was alloyed to deteriorate into ruin. The city has a university and is very historical. We had lunch at the Dunvegan Hotel restaurant, close to the gold course. The fish and chips were the best. The restaurant is owned by a Scottish American, who happens to be a Texas Aggie. There were some Texas dishes like chili offered on the menu. Dunfermline Abbey was interesting, it dates from 1128. Scottish King, Robert the Bruce is buried in the Abbey. We were able to see the ancient part of the abbey. Our tour guide pushed his luck on getting us back to the ship on time. We arrived at our drop dead time of 5:30 with our ship departing at 6. We did enjoy the tour. Scotland is special. DUBLIN We had been to Dublin last year and used the ho-ho bus, which worked well. This time I arranged for a tour going outside of Dublin to see some of the countryside. The tour was with Paddywagon Tours. info@paddywagontours.com The tour was described, as follows: Wicklow Mountains and Dublin City Tour You will be collected in style by a luxury Paddywagon coach from the Cruise Ship Terminal in Dublin. Your guide will begin the day with a panoramic tour of Dublin City, pointing out highlights such as Trinity College, O'Connell Street, the GPO, Molly Malone, River Liffey, Ha'Penny Bridge, Christchurch Cathedral, and St Patrick's Cathedral. You will continue south of Dublin to the nearby Wicklow Mountains. Here you will visit Glendalough - which means the valley of two lakes. The scenery in the Wicklow Mountains was made famous by movies such as Braveheart and P.S. I Love You. At Glendalough you will be spellbound by the scenery of this special place, and will also have the chance to visit the monastery, founded by St Kevin, which is one of the most historic sites in Ireland. The smaller group tour is in a state of the art Mercedes 16 seater for your own group for a cost of 49 euro per person. Our tour was a value for 49 euros, since we very much enjoyed the scenery of the countryside and the thousand year old monastery, but it started raining about the time we arrived at the monastery. The rain was not heavy and we brought umbrellas, but no more mountain scenery. The guide was good while on the bus, explaining the history and sites, but I would have preferred him taking us down to the monastery ruins and explaining the different buildings, like the tower and church. Upon returning to the bus at the end of our time there (including lunch) we asked about the 1000 year old tower and such, which he explained. The tower’s entrance was at the second story of the tower, where people were pulled up on a ladder. The ladder then kept inside the tower. This was to protect the inhabitants from Viking raids. It would have been better if he took us down there himself. After returning to Dublin, he dropped us off near the Trinity University for 2.5 hours after a windshield tour of the city. We had free time until he took us to the ship. Some of us went to the University to see the Book of Kells. We had done that last year, so we spent most of our time either shopping or in a couple of pubs enjoying the Guinness beer. The Guinness does taste a lot better in Dublin that from a bottle in the US. BACK TO COPENHAGEN Our ports were no more and we returned to Copenhagen around the north end of Scotland. On the way we went through the Hebrides Islands and saw the Isle of Skye. The beautiful scenery just never ended. Prior to starting the back to back (transatlantic) cruise, NCL issued us new key cards good through the next cruise. I arranged for many of our cruise critic friends to meet at the Star Bar the last night of the cruise for a going away farewell. We hated to see our friends go. Ginny and I decided to go into Copenhagen for a little shopping and lunch. We found bus 26 which picked us up near the ship’s terminal and took us to the METRO/commuter rail station less than a mile from the city center. We got off and walked to the pedestrian shopping street, known as Strøget. There were plenty of shops there and we purchased a few items. We found a great place for chocolate, including hot chocolate then later had lunch a Nyhavn on the canal. The restaurant was the Herring Restaurant and Bistro. It was in an attractive old building with tables on the street facing the canal, but since it was chilly, we decided to eat inside. I had Bouillabaisse, which was excellent. The cost was about $50 for both of us, but the servings were large and quality was excellent. Returning to the ship was somewhat problematic. We went back to where bus 26 dropped us off, but the bus did not return. Another bus driver said that bus 26 did not stop there. Not sure what was going on, but we looked at our map and say that the commuter rain had a station about a mile and a half to two miles from the ship’s terminal. We are used to walking a lot and didn’t have a problem with that distance. Unfortunately, the winds out of the east became very strong (we heard up to 50 mph). The last half mile, at least, we were walking into that wind. It was like walking in a swimming pool. We did make it back to the ship in plenty of time to start on our trip across the Atlantic. TRANSATLANTIC 6-20 OCTOBER This cruise was also 14 days but only included two ports, Ponta Delgada in the Azores and St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. We had another active cruise critic group that met, as usual, on the first sea day. The meeting was in the Spinnaker Lounge, the largest bar on the ship. There were definitely more than 100 persons present for this meeting, but we had not met very many of the people as on the first cruise. We met Steve and Pat, from Texas, but living north of Pittsburg, first at the meet and greet, they were on the tour that I arranged in the Azores. We sat together and then met Mark and Sharon, who were working as missionaries in Nigeria. Also, we met Wayne and Betty, from Hamilton, Canada. We decided to dine together that evening and did so for the entire cruise, except with Mark, Sharon, Ginny and I decided to dine in one of the specialty restaurants. The eight of us ate most of our meals in Aqua, the smaller restaurant, but did eat some in Versailles, the larger, more ornate dining hall. We enjoyed each other’s company and sometimes went to the shows together. The cruise critic group organized some activities for all those sea days on the transatlantic. The first was the gift exchange. Everyone brought a modest gift that somehow related to the city of their residence and we drew lots to pick the wrapped gifts. It was fun, with people explaining the nature of the gifts and how they related to their cities. Also, we learned more about our new friends. The cabin crawl was an organized group visit of about 50 to go to about a dozen different cabins, from insides to suites, so we could actually see what they looked like. Some people had chocolate or cookies. It was fun and we enjoyed viewing those cabins. Our cabin was on the list, since we had the enclosed balcony. The last big event was the Murder Mystery. About 40 persons were assigned roles and told to memorize them, which allowed for extemporaneous acting to fill in the blanks. We were to try to discover who the murderer was. Mark turned out to be the bad guy. It was great fun and Ginny and I had major roles. Ginny did very well and won an award for being the “Drama Queen.” We participated in a couple of wine tastings, which were only $15 per person, and we had six glasses of wine with the tastings. It was great fun. Again departing from Copenhagen we encountered two more, lesser storms in route to the Azores. At one point the barf bags were back out, but this was nothing compared to our storm on the first cruise. PONTA DELGADA, AZORES The Azores are a part of Portugal and about a 1000 miles from the mainland. We had visited the same port last year. The island is very scenic and green. Previously, we had done the Furnas Lake and Hot Springs tour which covered the middle of the island. This time, we booked the Sete Cidades tour of the West side of the island. Total cost for six persons was 180 Euros or 30 Euros per person. HALF DAY SETE CIDADES: http://www.azoresprivatetours.com/en/about/azores-tours#1 • Departure from Ponta Delgada; • Carvão Viewpoint • Empadadas Lake • Canário Lake • Vista do Rei Viewpoint • Cerrado das Freiras Viewpoint • Santiago Lake • Sete Cidades Village • Escalvado Viewpoint Our tour included Ludy and Julius, Steve and Pat as well as Ginny and I. We had a minivan. Our guide was excellent. We saw more beautiful scenery, beautiful lakes, seashore and Sete Cidades Village. The tour was a bit more than four hours, and we had some free time to walk around the town and drink a beer. Interesting, a beer cost 1.5 euro instead of $10 in Denmark. We saw several lakes, some filling calderas and a seashore hot springs spa with beautiful volcanic rock right on the ocean. There were the two lakes, one blue and one green (from the algae) that were close to the village. We had six more days until arriving at St. Thomas. Ginny starting having more allergy problems and concluded that it was the antiseptic spray that the stewards used to clean the bathroom. We asked Mike, the excellent steward if he would stop spraying in our cabin. He did stop using the spray and Ginny’s allergy was not a problem. After departing from the Azores, we had no more storms to contend with, except that Hurricane Gonzalo seemed in our way to the Virgin Islands. Good thing, Gonzalo moved away toward Bermuda. ST. THOMAS, VIRGIN ISLANDS We had been to St. Thomas in 2012 and signed up for a zip line excursion with NCL, however, they cancelled the excursion due to non-participation. We switched to a St. Johns Island tour. St. Johns is one of the US Virgin Islands. We took the ferry to St. Johns from the same dock as our cruise ship. The ferry took about 40 minutes, with more islands and reefs to view on the way. St. Johns was beautiful and apparently, homes on the island are very expensive. Once on the island, we were broken up into smaller groups, as we filled up the open air buses. We had a smaller bus with 9 people. Our guide drove us around the island, to visit famous beaches, visiting the ruins of an old sugar plantation, through the national park, which was beautiful. She explained how the US had purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1916, because of fear that the Germans might try to take the islands. Shopping was expensive on the island, so we did little. Upon returning with the ferry to St. Thomas, we visited the large shopping area, with many stores, found a bar/restaurant and had a couple of drinks with a light snack. BACK TO MIAMI After two more sea days, we returned to Miami, said farewell to our friends and disembarked. The immigration and customs process was the quickest that we had experienced. We had priority and left the ship about 8:20am, caught a taxi to our hotel, were we found my car, which started right away (what a relief). About seven hours later, we arrived in St. Simons and picked up one kitty, Bunny, from the vet’s. She boarded there since she is on medication. Ginny commented that we could have taken her along with her own cabin for what it cost to board her. At home, we found Simon, our other cat, who was well and had lost a little weight and again can jump up on the kitchen counters. Since our return, they have been all over us. I think they missed us. It was great to be home again. Our trip was a good one. We came back wanting to see more of Norway, so we may want to do a cruise up to the north cape of the country.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
Overall, this cruise was a good value. My first time with NCL, and we booked because of the ports, all of which we wanted to see. However, after making the trip, I would easily trade Tallin, or even Helsinki for an extra day in St. ... Read More
Overall, this cruise was a good value. My first time with NCL, and we booked because of the ports, all of which we wanted to see. However, after making the trip, I would easily trade Tallin, or even Helsinki for an extra day in St. Petersburg. We upgraded our stateroom so we had some amenities and privileges that I thought made the trip a better experience, and for anyone with a little extra spending money, I would recommend the upgrade. The food was hit and miss. The Versailles dining room (with its cheesy decor) was a dissappointment on the two occasions we ate there. Service seemed rushed, chaotic, confused, and the food was not as good as Aqua (even though food is supposed to be the same for both dining rooms). I think the major factor that affected food quality and service was the time we ate. The later we ate, the worse the food and the poorer the service. Market Cafe was a good alternative. We only ate at one speciality restaurants, Cagney's, which was a very nice experience and good value. Evening entertainment was hit and miss. Beatles group was good, Paradis (last night's show) was excellent, and the acrobats were very good. Except for the last night's Paradis show, the variety shows were not very good. The cruise director, Ian, tries too hard (ditch the joke of the night routine). The Spinnaker nightclub is okay, and the musice group on this cruise (Musique, or something like that) was excellent, but didn't play late enough into the evening. The DJ needs to (a) mix up his music a little better; and (b) learn to play a slow song once in a while as some of us still like to dance close on occasion. Our stateroom was nice (aft facing suite) but our steward was not as up to par and we had to ask a couple of times to have the room cleaned (again). Strangely, they were doing work on our balcony as the cruise got under way, creating a dust and debris problem, but it was stopped when we complained. We didn't really participate in the on-board entertainment (game shows, Bingo, etc), so don't have anything to say about that, but the gym was adequate and the staff was friendly.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
We have cruised more than twenty times, with Celebrity being until recently our favorite, but also having appreciated Regent and HAL. We had cruised on NCL before. We had found the Sun's food absolutely horrible, and the Epic was a ... Read More
We have cruised more than twenty times, with Celebrity being until recently our favorite, but also having appreciated Regent and HAL. We had cruised on NCL before. We had found the Sun's food absolutely horrible, and the Epic was a gong show, with terrible service and bad food. Well... The food has greatly improved on NCL. I would rate it as good, at par with Celebrity, where,in May 2014, we found Celebrity having gone down. The embarkation in Copenhagen was very smooth. The bacony cabin (9036) was quiet and smartly designed : no shower curtain sticking to your behind, a built-in makeup mirror, a good hair dryer! We had a great Stewart, Sheldon. The staff, overall, was friendly,helpful, and appeared to be happy on board. Possibly, the friendly Captain may need to be credited. The Scandinavian poets were wonderful. Unfortunately, two ports had to be missed due to inclement weather. Belfast was an intersting substitute. We absolutely loved Iceland.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
We went on the Star and booked a suite. It started out very nice, lunch in a private dining room, escorted to our rooms. But it went quickly downhill. The food was the worst that we have ever had on a cruise ship...lukewarm to cold, ... Read More
We went on the Star and booked a suite. It started out very nice, lunch in a private dining room, escorted to our rooms. But it went quickly downhill. The food was the worst that we have ever had on a cruise ship...lukewarm to cold, horribly seasoned, under or over cooked meat, just to name a few. The service was terrible in the restaurants. We would have to ask numerous times for the same thing before we finally received what we had requested. I don't know if there were not enough staff or if they just didn't care. We ordered hot tea with dinner every night, and only once did it actually come hot. Usually it was barely lukewarm. Once when it was served, we were told to be very careful, since they didn't have any lids for the teapots, they placed a saucer on the top! We ordered chocolate fondue at one of the specialty restaurants and it was ice cold. When we asked to have it heated, the reply was "you want it hot?". It was then brought back to the table still cold, and we were told to stir it from the bottom. After stirring, it just tasted like lukewarm Hershey syrup. And to think we paid extra for this! We only ate at the buffet once, and the food was even worse than the restaurants! It wasn't just our group that felt the food was subpar, most travelers we spoke with brought that up before anything else about the cruise. I have been told this may be because it is an older ship and other Norwegian ships are much better, but the age of the ship shouldn't have anything to do with food quality or service. Unfortunately for NCL, neither myself or any of our group will travel on their line again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2014
We cruised on this ship (the Norwegian Star) in Feb 2014 doing the 14 day Panama Canal cruise. The decline in the quality of the food and on-board service in the seven month interval was very noticeable. Specifically there was no Lobster ... Read More
We cruised on this ship (the Norwegian Star) in Feb 2014 doing the 14 day Panama Canal cruise. The decline in the quality of the food and on-board service in the seven month interval was very noticeable. Specifically there was no Lobster dinner served in the seating restaurants this time, the quality of the beef was noticeably poorer, many dishes were too salty, and had an excess of sauce. One had to specifically order green vegetables as sides, they weren't on the menu. Overall the food was very disappointing this time. We even ate at the extra cost restaurants on three occasions, and had disappointing meals in two of them. In terms of service the staff did not try to understand what one was requesting and when one persevered with one's request, they were very defensive. This was the case with all levels from cabin staff and bar and restaurant wait persons up to the Customer Service Desk. Overall the service came across as forced and synthetic, not natural and genuine; quite possibly because the staff have never experienced real service themselves. We found our cabin steward from our Feb cruise and were told that more than 60% of the crew were new to the ship in the last few months, the better trained staff having been sent to one of NCL's new ships. We were also told that the Asian owners of NCL want to make more money and are cutting costs across the cruise line, affecting both the food and service. We did enjoy the ports of call, and the cruise director Drew was very good. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
Neither of us have been on a cruise before. We chose NCL because it seemed more flexible. Not keen on dressing up for dinner and the all the other dining rituals. We enjoyed all the ports and the excursion that made the biggest impression ... Read More
Neither of us have been on a cruise before. We chose NCL because it seemed more flexible. Not keen on dressing up for dinner and the all the other dining rituals. We enjoyed all the ports and the excursion that made the biggest impression on us was the St Petersburg 'Meet the Russian People'. An interesting ride on the Metro where we all managed to cram into one carriage. We were told where the market was and left to get on with it. This gave us about an hour to look around ourselves. Later we all went to a vodka tasting and reeled back to the coach. You don't have to drink all the vodkas of course but I couldn't resist! The Hermitage is wonderful but you need the 5 hour trip if you really want to see a fraction of it all. Our balcony stateroom was fine, the service was good, the ship was clean and seemed to be well organised. We tried the Italian themed restaurant on one night but didn't think it was really worth the extra charge. We felt rushed even though the place was half empty. Tomato and mozarella 'salad' was very peculiar, a not quite ripe giant tomato (not Italian) with pieces of rubbery mozarella inserted in the sides. Everything else was great. In my opinion this is a good way of going to the Baltic for the first time. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
First time with NCL and on an American culture cruise ship. Arrived at Copenhagen an hour after our allocated boarding time - it seems almost all the boat had same boarding time ! Took about an hour between arrival to getting on board. ... Read More
First time with NCL and on an American culture cruise ship. Arrived at Copenhagen an hour after our allocated boarding time - it seems almost all the boat had same boarding time ! Took about an hour between arrival to getting on board. We missed lunch in the restaurant, and ended up at the Market cafe - it was ok, but made me glad I had paid in advance for the Ultimate Dining package. The boat was full, with a mix of Americans, Australians, and Europeans. Some areas of the boat are much busier than others but if you look hard there are quiet spots. Cabin spacious - but we did not find the light in the wardrobe until the last day - doh !! Bathroom clean, and room spotless, if a little dated in places - our steward could not do enough for us The reason for picking this cruise was the ports - and they did not disappoint. There were the most incredible views of Stockholm from the top deck of the ship. We had booked tours with NCL for St Petersburg thinking it would make the entry / visa easier. The organisation of getting on the tour the first day was not good - sat in theatre for around 30 minutes before going to wait to get off boat, queue for Customs, walk to bus - took around an hour before the bus left. We wanted to see the summer palace and the fountains - not the most scenic of drives, but the palace and fountains are magnificent. The return took us through the centre with photo stops, but again - a long wait to get through Customs and on boat, as all the tours arrived back at once. The experience led us to decide just to cancel the prebooked tour for the second day, and enjoy the quietness of the ship in the sun All other ports - we waited for about 20 minutes after the door opened, then strolled out, and returned at our leisure. All the posts are very walkable apart from Helsinki which offered us an opportunity to have a brisk healthy walk ! Food - we had the ultimate dining, and tried all the cover charge restaurants - the Italian was a little disappointing, the French lovely - though tables are very close together. Mixed experience of Cagneys - first night fabulous, sea day service so slow we missed the show ! Our favourite was the Brazilian - the lamb chops delicious . Having the choice of restaurants was an advantage, along with the freedom to pick what time to eat. The 8 bottles of wine package was good value ( compared to buying a bottle every night -and especially as any drink you buy ashore is confiscated until the last night ) Lunch we ate either in port, or in the sun on the pool deck from the BBQ Entertainment was mixed - but fellow passengers great fun - especially the Australians. We did hear several people complaint about the boat - but you get what you pay for. We had no issues at all, and found all the staff welcoming and friendly. The weather was fantastic, with it warm enough to wear a swimming costume at the pool, and only one misty/cool day No idea what happened to the Cruise Critic call out - before we boarded about 50 names, but nothing to indicate if or when it happened Now I know what freestyle means, I will pack only half what I took this time !   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
We (2 married couples) thought we'd give NCL's "free-styling Cruises" a try since, after the cruise we were doing a month long car trip thru the Czech Republic and Germany and didn't want to use up valuable trunk ... Read More
We (2 married couples) thought we'd give NCL's "free-styling Cruises" a try since, after the cruise we were doing a month long car trip thru the Czech Republic and Germany and didn't want to use up valuable trunk space with a suitcase or two of "dressy" clothes. The ship-Norwegian Star is beyond repair. It should be scrapped. Dirty, ripped upholstery in the theater and on the seats in every bar/lounge we went to. The food was AWFUL. We got the same menu every night-the left hand side never changed and the right side only changed 2-3 items every night. The desserts were tasteless-after the first night I never bothered to order any...and Buddy-The Cake Boss-is, according to NCL's advertising on the ship, the new provider of all the dessert recipes. If this is true-I would never bother going to his bake shop in New Jersey. The bedding was worn and tired looking...the only bright spot was the crew. They were very friendly and, if asked to do something, were very helpful. I have already removed myself from NCL's email list, as has our friends. We all agree-never cruise with them again! As for the nightly shows-who wants to see an acrobat show every night?? There were only 2 musical shows-both decent-and the woman singer from Scotland was very good. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
I have been on the Norwegian Epic and the Sun, and really enjoyed the meals on board. Unfortunately, the meals at the Versailles dining room (one of the main dining rooms) were not all that good. We noticed that there was also a problem ... Read More
I have been on the Norwegian Epic and the Sun, and really enjoyed the meals on board. Unfortunately, the meals at the Versailles dining room (one of the main dining rooms) were not all that good. We noticed that there was also a problem with food temperature, i.e. meals would arrive at the table lukewarm. I find the meals didn't have alot of flavour and were quite unimaginable and quite frankly, bland. We were told that the chef was newly hired -- whatever that means. I think that the more experienced chefs must be assigned to the new NCL ships like the Breakway and the Getaway, and the less experienced ones go to the older ships. The servers in the Versailles were okay, however I found a lot of them were overwhelmed most nights. However, we seemed to get much better service at the Aqua restaurant (which is the Star's second main dining room). The service at the buffet restaurant were very good. There were always people around to clean your table, always smiling, and they generally seemed happy to be there, especially one of the "washy washy happy happy" ladies :-) As far as our room steward goes, we hardly saw him. When we first arrived in our room, someone had left their souvenirs behind in a drawer, which clearly told me the drawers are not cleaned. I also found that the bedding and pillows really do need to be refreshed. The pillows are either lumpy or flat as a pancake. I also noticed this on the Sun ship. Update your pillows please, NCL. Overall, we would not return to the Star for the above reasons. The ports however were very good and we're glad to do the Baltic Capitals cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
My hubby and I booked this cruise 18 months before, it was a wonderful trip to plan. The Star looks great. There are things here and there that she is showing her age but that would only be seen if you were being picky. There were a few ... Read More
My hubby and I booked this cruise 18 months before, it was a wonderful trip to plan. The Star looks great. There are things here and there that she is showing her age but that would only be seen if you were being picky. There were a few things in our room left from the previous passenger (food in the fridge, coffee in the coffee maker and some part in the shower). These were all remedied quickly once we met our room steward, Mo, who was very attentive throughout the cruise. We like to have ice water on hand so he always made sure a pitcher was full and in our room. There were some instances where the crew was giving out miss information and then becoming argumentative when questioned. For example I was trying to purchase the Viva Vino package, turned in my form and the girl was telling me the opposite of what the instructions were on the card. When I showed here the wording on the card and asked for clarification she walked anyway and started to deal with another guest I had to stand there for about 10 min before the bar manager came over and assisted. He was fantastic. There just didn't seem to be the training needed in some areas. But as a whole the crew was great, friendly and attentive! They work so hard! The Red Lion pub was always a nice place to have a drink and see some entertainment. We enjoyed Tino and Ashley great duo with guitar, key board and sax. Though the sound system in this bar should be looked at it did not do these two justice as we saw them in Gatsbys and they sounded so much better. For the most part we did not go to the shows because we were either not interested or couldn't get there in time around dinner. Trivia was always fun but it was very rushed and was hard to get all of the questions because they were read so quickly. The martini and mojito tastings were so much fun, the bartender was knowledgable and entertaining Putu and Daniello in Gatsby were great always welcoming and friendly. The casino is quite large compared to others I have see on ships. We were mostly in our rooms for two days at sea because of bad weather, we noticed there was only one tv station (other than 2 news and 1 sports) for English speaking guests. So there wasn't any options for watching tv. There were plenty of NCL channels most of these could just be combined instead of running the environmental video on loop for the entire 14 days. The cruise consultants, shore ex and othe NCL items should just be on one channel to open up more for other programming. Love the front of the ship cam as well as the statistics of where we are. Crew - crew is fantastic! As a former cruise line employee (another line). I commend them all! Doing a great job in rocky seas! The hotel director, food and beverage manager and bar manager were always out and about and greeting guests and are very personable and approachable. We only saw the cruise director, Drew, once, he is I plain clothes so he is hard to spot. I have made this comment before, the CD should be in an officers uniform so they look like the rest of of the officers. Also I didn't think Drew did a great job scheduling entertainment especially on sea days. Many "weather permitting " activities on days the decks were closed. Then most everything else was a sales pitch or cost a cover charge. "Board games available" should just be a give-in not a scheduled activity to make the day look full. There could have been more interactive activities with guests rather than passive, more revenue if you have them in venues rather than in their room waiting for something to come along. We did have to skip two ports because of bad weather, but the captain made a good choice. They added Belfast which was a wonderful treat! Photos - so many were good and commemorated a special evening for us but at $12-$20 per photo it was not worth it and we walked away from them. The packages were not that good either didn't drop the price hardly at all and the digital package is deceiving as you have to purchase the print then the digital copy and group pictures are not included!!?? If pictures dropped to $5-$6 a piece I would buy so many more because they are fun! Also no need to print them all...how about digital? And then be able to get them on a flash drive for one price for all the pictures you are in? Meet and greet - one of the CC members organized our meet and greet. We had over 100 people and were put in the star bar which was quite cramped. There was a charter on board so space was tight. I think we could have possibly found another place or shifted around a bit, I don't think they expected for us to all show up. It was nice to see the officers attend and the coffee, juice and danishes were a nice bonus. Thank you for accommodating our group! Embarkation We got to the Copenhagen port early around 9am. They started to check you in around 10 or so. Being early we breezed through security and were able to relax. There is nothing in the terminal for shopping or food. NCL did provide cups of water. By 11:15 they started to let us on and we were in group one. Since we got there so early we missed our embarkation photo and the photo shop was nice enough to take one for us later in the cruise. Port information- I wish that we received information about each ports. Was there a shuttle? How much was it? What types of currency did they take? How far were we from walking distance, how much was a cab (were they available) what types of payment do they accept? Is there a terminal building? What is available? The cruise line I used to work for provided this for all guests and it was very helpful. I know they try to con/scare you into buying a shore excursion by saying to you "there is nothing at the port", or "we have no information about the port". Well being part of Shore Ex. that is your job to know what is at each port regardless of if you have been there or not. This would be a very helpful item to guests who like to explore on their own. Not everyone wants to over pay for a tour with 50 other people. Dining Ginza We ate here on a sea day evening, no lines no waiting no reservations. You can order what you want how you want in whatever order. Not as strict as Lebistro or Cagneys. We ordered an appetizer of steamed BBQ pork buns, very soft and yummy (could have used a bit more filling or possibly change it to duck). Then each of us ordered a soup (corn egg drop and hot and sour ) both very good! Then we shared a plate of vegetable chow fun ( though I think we actually got lo mein as they were the thin noodles) the veggies were perfect and the sauce was not heavy or salty at all. Then it was time for the main course I ordered the orange peel beef and hubby ordered the sesame chicken. Now comes dessert I ordered the creme brûlée trio and hubby got the spice chocolate cake, both were great but the green tea ice cream and green tea creme brûlée had a baby food green pea color to them not as nice on the presentation but delicious none the least. Wow so much food, next time we will order and share. This in my opinion is one of he best kept secrets great food for a low cover $15pp. Market Cafe We ate here a lot, because it was convenient and a wide selection I could always find something I liked, Though it really could use a makeover. Three lines on one side (which one is in another room so there first few days we didn't even know it was there). With salad, soups, bread, hot dishes, cold dishes, pasta and wok stations, and of course desserts (I wish there would be a create your own grilled cheese, Mac and cheese and burger stations similar to the pasta and wok stations ). Breakfast had a wonderful selection as well. ( except for not having any peanut butter on the ship and running out of bananas). My only suggestion would be is to have a small selection from 9pm-11pm or midnight of meats/cheese and crackers, pound cake, cereal, yogurt and whole fruit. I would be hungry between these hours and didn't want the bigger items at blue lagoon or from room service, just a quick snack and a cup of tea. Also one comment when it is busy there doesn't seem to be enough people clearing and there is a lot of junk left around and when you are looking to sit you don't want to sit at a dirty spot. Versailles Beautiful place to dine. We dined here quite a few times. Always a great selection to chose from and the chefs selections are very good. I had clams twice and they we're tender and cooked perfectly. When ordering steak or meat to temperature order it one less done than you like it as sitting under the hoods continues the cooking. The salads and soups are always good. One disappointment is having to chose dessert before dinner and not being offered coffee with dessert. It almost seems like it is a. Inconvenience to many of the wait staff when coffee is ordered. Red Lion Pub Online red lion pub talks about being a place to go to get a beer and a snack of fish and chips and so on. I never saw a menu or it being served anytime. Too bad. Also the Wii really needs to be moved up to the kids area. Who wants to sit in the pub while people are playing bowling? The kids area seems almost vacant and should have been used for more activities. Also karaoke should be moved to the spinnaker because it makes the red lion not a nice place to be. Viva Vino Package We have bought this package many times before, loved it. Either get vouchers or have it sent to your room, this time we were only given the option for vouchers, which you had to carry on you. If you lost them too bad! Anywhere we would turn in our voucher they would have to go someplace else to get it. 15 or more minutes later the wine would show up. Since there is only so many bottles on the list I would think each bar would have at least one bottle of each for this situation, including the dining room. I would love the option again to have them all delivered to the room and I could enjoy them anytime. We liked the new additions and changes to the package since our last time ordering. A tasting of the wines for people who ordered it would be nice, so that if you don't like one you picked you can trade out your slip for something different. Cagney's We ate here as a couple near the end of the cruise. The one food we are very picky about is steak. We both like it a true medium rare, not into the medium or medium well. We had two different cuts and they were done perfectly. Though the meat could have been seasoned a bit with some salt and pepper prior to grilling which helps pull put the taste of the meat. For apps my hubby had the lump crab salad and I had the baked potato soup. For sides we selected Mac and cheese, coleslaw, green beans and potato that we shared. The coleslaw was very soggy with mayo and the green beans were not great but the mac and cheese was nice and the potato was perfect. For dessert we had the macadamia nut coconut ice cream sandwich and the raspberry creme brûlée both were really nice. Aqua This was the mid ship dining room. Not as grand and large as the aft dining room but much more well run and enjoyable. I wish we had had more opportunity to enjoy this gem. The waitstaff in this venue were wonderful! Overall we had a wonderful cruise, we met some great people! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
My wife and I have toured the world by Car, Rail, Coach, Plane, Ship and River Cruises and honestly cannot believe the negative reviews we read regarding the "STAR" of recent times .The reviews we read must be from people ... Read More
My wife and I have toured the world by Car, Rail, Coach, Plane, Ship and River Cruises and honestly cannot believe the negative reviews we read regarding the "STAR" of recent times .The reviews we read must be from people expecting ten star cruises at ten star prices....we have toured and stayed at many different types and quality accommodation and found "THE STAR" to be of a reasonable standard for the price. We have met many lovely people and have seen great places. Yes, maybe some of the meals could have been improved but get a life and "GIVE AND TAKE A BIT". We were disappointed we ran into heavy weather and had to by-pass two port, however we were able spend time in Belfast which was quite nice. Maybe some of you whingers should have spent time in the Military, then you might get some idea what it is to complain....you don't get to get you own way too often. We were on Deck 9 Mid-ships, balcony and loved it, even with 40Foot + waves. Our cabin Steward, Maria was a lovely lass, as was all our crew we came in contact with. Keep going NCL, you have our support....WE WILL BE BACK..... CHRIS from OZ. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
We are Platinum Level Latitudes members and are big NCL fans. It is "our" cruise line -- our first choice when planning cruises. Unfortunately, if our most recent cruise on the NCL Star had been our first NCL cruise, we would ... Read More
We are Platinum Level Latitudes members and are big NCL fans. It is "our" cruise line -- our first choice when planning cruises. Unfortunately, if our most recent cruise on the NCL Star had been our first NCL cruise, we would never book them again. When booking our cruise 14 months in advance (when there was large pool of rooms to choose from) our NCL Personal Cruise Consultant suggested 8 Aft as a "great location". She didn't mention that the room she booked us into is directly over the Spinnaker Lounge's stage and subject to LOUD late night music. When I say LOUD I mean as in we could hear the words to every song, everything that the MC said, and even the winning raffle ticket numbers! My husband is hearing impaired and could hear everything clearly after removing his hearing aides. We had sailed the Star twice before and the Spinnaker was in the forward part of the ship. Because we'd sailed on the Star we thought we knew the ship and thus neglected (our mistake) to look at the deck map when booking. Aft has always been a good choice for us. Important lesson: ALWAYS look at the deck maps before booking; you never know when a ship may have been reconfigured since your last sailing. Many people on 8 Aft endured many sleepless nights on this cruise. We were offered a "sleeping room" where we could sleep at night, but keep our cabin, but if I wanted to carry my toiletries back and forth I'd book a KOA campsite! Moving to a new room was not an option because they would be occupied during future legs of our back-to-back trip. The Star staff is well aware of the problem, but has adopted a defeated, "we can't do anything and you should have not booked that room" attitude. If you like to party at night, 8 Aft is a good location, but if you are an early-to-bed kind of person, avoid 8 Aft on the Star. Also know that 8 Mid is subject to noise from the Atrium -- music in the evening and Blue Lagoon noise in the early AM. Sadly, the service in most of the restaurants was unbelievably BAD this cruise. We'd order coffee or milk and half the time never got it. Often after drinking my iced tea, instead of refilling my glass, the wait staff would just pick up my empty glass and take it away without asking if I'd like something else to drink. Water often wasn't delivered until halfway through our meal. Orders were routinely incorrect or incomplete. Routinely half the table would be served and the remaining people would be left sitting for 20-30 minutes with no food -- people either ate in "shifts" or those who had been served were polite and let their food get cold. We spoke to several officers and supervisors about these problems throughout the cruise and it didn't improve. My husband frequently ordered a cheeseburger for lunch in Versailles or Blue Lagoon and none were delivered as ordered until the last day of the cruise -- they finally got it right after 41 days of errors and ommisions! In Versailles ketchup is never delivered with hamburger and french fries even when asked for as part of the order. We always had to ask for it (again) when the meal was delivered and then it was often forgotten or delivery was so delayed our meal was stone cold. We wholeheartedly support NCL's daily gratuity charge, but meal service was so bad on this cruise, we asked that the wait staff gratuity portion of the charge be removed from our bill and then personally tipped the few wait staff who had given us good service (we also wrote "Hero" cards for those few). NCL has provided us years of outstanding service, so we hope this is just a problem with the Star and not a new trend for the whole line. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
I've waited this long (5 months) to write a review of our cruise, hoping time would improve my outlook. It hasn't! This was our first time cruising on NCL. We've cruised with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean before. As soon as ... Read More
I've waited this long (5 months) to write a review of our cruise, hoping time would improve my outlook. It hasn't! This was our first time cruising on NCL. We've cruised with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean before. As soon as we entered the ship we (4 adults-2 couples) were disappointed. The lounge we had to wait in was very old and tried. The upholstery was torn on the chairs, carpeting worn and torn. The chairs in the big auditorium were even worse-some with string across them because they were briken! This, unfortunately, continued throughout the entire ship. Our balcony room was old looking. The bedding, towels and carpeting all looked and felt like they should have been discarded a few years ago. Our balcony was rusty, chairs nothing I really wanted to sit on without putting a towel down. This ship is one of those "eat when you want-no required times" type of ships. The menu in the dining room was 2 pages. The left hand side NEVER changed. The right hand side had two or three changes every night. The food was horrible. Buddy Valesco (The Cake Boss-not sure I got his name correct) is their "new" dessert guru...if he really concocted all those tasteless desserts, I would NEVER go to his shop!! After the first night, I never ordered dessert again, just tasted the others at our table...all the same-every night-TASTELESS!! We tried both buffets for lunch on our two at sea days. They were terrible. The buffet at the pool served cold food-it seemed like yesterdays leftovers. The breaffast buffet was more of the same. All 4 of us felt very sorry for the people working on the ship. They were obviously trying very hard to make up for the disgusting quality of the ship, but it was impossible. This ship does NOT need to be refurbished. It nees to be taken out of service permanently!! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2014
We have been on many cruises, but never have I seen such horrible service and lack of quality and food!!! The buffet always had the longest lines for food for breakfast and lunch. It felt like a school lunchroom. They were always short of ... Read More
We have been on many cruises, but never have I seen such horrible service and lack of quality and food!!! The buffet always had the longest lines for food for breakfast and lunch. It felt like a school lunchroom. They were always short of something, no more croissants for breakfast, or no more fries at lunch. When the workers would give out food it was a limited amount, like they were on a tight budget. The workers were completely incompetent and slow. The only good service we received was from our room steward, he was excellent! The first cabin we were in was directly underneath a bar which was very noisy night and day, so we asked to change our cabin. The girl who assisted us was very unpleasant, pretended to do us a huge favor by changing our cabin, no opologies, no upgrades, just a very nasty attitude. It is very obvious this ship is run by very poor management. We will not be sailing the NCL again!   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2014
It was my first time cruising alone, and my first time with NCL. I was a little nervous about the ship, having read reports of a 'tired' and 'needing TLC' Star, and also about the Free Style dining, having previously, ... Read More
It was my first time cruising alone, and my first time with NCL. I was a little nervous about the ship, having read reports of a 'tired' and 'needing TLC' Star, and also about the Free Style dining, having previously, on other cruises being allocated a table and dinner companions. All my fears were completely unfounded. The Star is a magnificent ship, gracious, spacious and easily navigated! The Free Style dining is a wonderful innovation and should be adopted by other cruise lines. I was always asked if I'd like to share a table and found myself with many diverse dinner companions, which was wonderful. I dined in Versailles each evening and the food was great, always served with a smile. In the buffet, being on my own never bothered me, as it was always very easy to find space for 1. The ports of call were wonderful. I had tours booked in most and all lived up to and beyond my expectations. To any of my Cruise Critic friends who may be reading this review, "Thank You for making my holiday memorable".   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2014
Just completed our first cruise. Very aprehensive upon booking - heard/read so many horror stories about cruises. This trip fits into a 6 month European trip we are doing and we certianly did not want to have a bad experience. We survived ... Read More
Just completed our first cruise. Very aprehensive upon booking - heard/read so many horror stories about cruises. This trip fits into a 6 month European trip we are doing and we certianly did not want to have a bad experience. We survived the Tras Mongolian and Siberian rail journey so arrived at embarcation of 'Star' holding our breath. What a fantastic greeting and embarcation; absolutely flawless - 46 minutes from taxi to being seated for lunch. As first time cruisers we obviously have no reference points so everyting is based on other extensive travel we have done and service comparisions. Whilst the ship is 13 years old we found the presentation of all areas in top order and would leave some 5 star hotels to shame in respect of upkeep. Attention to keeping things clean was remarkable. All entry points to food areas had service people with hand cleanser which certianly gave on confidence about health. Our balacony stateroom midship deck 9 was ideal. Midship keeps you in handy location to all parts of ship activities. Stateroom steward was excellent - most contact with this crew member and without a doubt they can make your personal space a very nice environment. When you book a cruise like this and there are so many 'free dining areas' it's not too difficult to find an area where dining can be enjoyable and relaxed. Some of the maketing of the on board options can be confusing; example "cover charge" to some may mean in addition to the actual meal cost, but no it's a flat rate for the total meal in a specality restaurant. The package offerred is well worth considering. As is the bulk wine purchasing - you treat the ship as your home - buy the wine at a good discount - keep t in your cabin/fridge and take it with you wherever you go. We found this an extremly cost effective and social way of exploring all bars and cosy spots on the ship. We had done extensive research into various porst we were calling into and made our shore excursions based on this; saves a lot of time when it comes to booking - we chose to book prior to boarding for a couple. Dont be pressured into booking hop on hop off bus trips as it can force you to be dockside on some mornings at 7.30 / 8am whereas a slow breakfast and stroll down to the dock and purchase you bus ticket at a practical time was our way. (Copenhagen do the canal trip as oppossed to the bus.) AND St Petersburg; read up on the requirments of the Visa. Some promotional material will give you the impression that you cannot leave the ship unless you are booked into a ship tour - this is not correct. If you have a valid visa for Russia for the period of time you are in St Petersburg you can come and go as you please for the period of time you are there. Check that out. Some tour costs are eye watering and can take you upwards of 9 hours. If you are independant you simply get the shuttle bus outside the terminal into the metro and often you can fit in about 4 major attractions yourself. Whilst on board you come to expect certian crowds in various areas but the practical traveller will recognise if it's an at sea day and its sunny then there is going to be a demand for deck space - this ship had stacks of it but it was amusing to listen to some who when the sun moved, or was it the ship !, and they were looking for space, they complained that there was not enough room !! youwill never please some people. Overall a wonderfulexperience made all the better by a fantastic crew who simply made your time on board a pleasure. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2014
We had a wonderful cabin...excuse me, stateroom...#12030. It is on the starboard side of the ship, which is an advantage, as the ship travels around the Baltic in an anti-clockwise direction, often in sight of land. Number 12030 is the ... Read More
We had a wonderful cabin...excuse me, stateroom...#12030. It is on the starboard side of the ship, which is an advantage, as the ship travels around the Baltic in an anti-clockwise direction, often in sight of land. Number 12030 is the best stateroom on deck 12, because it has both side- and forward-facing almost floor-to-ceiling windows. While there is no verandah, the large windows allow excellent viewing. Called a "family suite," it could accommodate more than two occupants, but with only the two of us, the suite was extremely spacious, and by far the largest stateroom I have stayed in on any of the five cruises I have taken. The information on the NCL web site calls the bed queen-size, but it is king-size in my opinion, though I did not take measurements. There is also a couch that expands into a queen-size bed. Some of the other family suites on Deck 12 also have a Murphy bed, but #12030 does not, probably because of the "bump-out" that makes it possible to have the forward-looking window. There are also two easy chairs that can be positioned for sightseeing through the picture windows, as well as a coffee table. There is a Keurig-style coffee making machine, which can also make tea, and an extensive collection of coffee and tea packs, including regular and decaf coffee, as well as regular and herbal teas. The bathroom has a bath and a glass-enclosed shower. There is enough space in the bathroom for two people, though it also contains the toilet, a feature that may limit use of the bathroom to one person at a time. Access to the bathroom is through the "walk-in wardrobe," which can be a little awkward when wardrobe doors are open. Family suites come with a butler and concierge, both of whom were most helpful in making our cruising experience pleasant and trouble-free. Our butler made sure we were always comfortable, and also brought us an afternoon snack of finger food and chocolate-covered strawberries each day. He will also unpack your suitcases, if you are comfortable with that service, make reservations at restaurants for you, or bring you room service meals. Our concierge was available to help with advice on shore excursions and with priority embarkation and disembarkation in each port. Dining options on the Norwegian Star include two main restaurants with waiter service (Versailles and Aqua), of which we preferred the Versailles; a buffet-style restaurant (Market Café) and a variety of smaller venues. Access to all these are free. In addition there are several "specialty" restaurants which impose a "cover charge." Family suite passengers get exclusive access to one of these (Cagney's) for breakfast and lunch daily, without cover charge, but like other passengers, need to pay a hefty cover charge to eat dinner there. Ironically, the only bad meal we had on the Star was in one of the "specialty" restaurants, Le Bistro. My escargot selection was so salty it was barely edible, the potatoes on my canard (duck) entrée were cold, and the crème brûlée was very bland. These gripes may sound a bit picky, but when you pay a cover charge of $50 per couple, such issues are inexcusable. In contrast, the food in Cagney's, Versailles and Aqua was excellent. I particularly recommend Cagney's (double) prawn cocktail and flounder for lunch, and steak and eggs for breakfast. Like with most buffets, the food in the Market Cafét ended to be warm rather than hot, and often a bit dry, unless one happened to get to the particular item soon after it was put out. The chocolate dessert evening in the Market Café was the worst example of this special event on any of the cruises I have been on. The line for the chocolate crêpes was very long so we contented ourselves with chocolate cake and profiteroles, but these had evidently been prepared well in advance and were quite dry. As is the case with all large cruise ships, the logistics of handling over a thousand passengers can be problematic. Unlike on my last NCL cruise, this was currently accomplished with minimal confusion. Both embarkation and disembarkation were handled with particular efficiency, though this may have been in part the result of our "Priority" status as Family Suite occupants on this occasion. We did not take the NCL shore excursions other than the "Hop On, Hop Off" city tours by bus in Helsinki and Stockholm, but those were problem free. We were very fortunate in having excellent weather. At the rainiest time of the year in the Baltic countries, we expected rain every day, but were greeted with beautiful, sunny weather almost every day, the main exception being one rain shower in St. Petersburg that lasted about 15 minutes. Entertainment options on the Star were typical cruise ship fare, with a mixture of performances by invited artists and shows by talented crew members. Very enjoyable, if not exactly memorable. In summary, the highlight of our cruise was the Family Suite stateroom, which was the largest and most luxurious stateroom of any of the five cruises I have taken. Of course, it came at a price. The result was an expensive vacation, the most expensive vacation I have ever had. Dining options were extensive, but required some selectivity. Best experiences were in the Versailles and Cagney's restaurants. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2014
This was our 4th cruise on NCL, however it had been 11 years since the last one and things certainly have changed in the world of cruising. We departed from Copenhagen and chose to take a cab ($40) from our hotel the, Hotel Alexandra as we ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise on NCL, however it had been 11 years since the last one and things certainly have changed in the world of cruising. We departed from Copenhagen and chose to take a cab ($40) from our hotel the, Hotel Alexandra as we were pressed for time after a walking tour. The public bus #26 would have worked fine if we had had the time. The Star left from Frihavnen Port and checkin was a breeze. We had a mini-suite which was spacious and had a very large balcony. We hit the buffet at 3:00 having missed lunch and found the food quality poor and the selection small. My hot dog was cold and the bun hard. We ate all our meals, including most breakfasts in the Versailles Room which was pleasant and the tables not too close together. Food was average to above average cross the board, we loved the soups! However, the service was inconsistent. The first night our waiter failed to even make eye contact with use and seemed preoccupied. At other times we had outstanding wait staff. For a quick breakfast or lunch we ate in the Blue Lagoon which had great views and acceptable food. Our one experience in the Market Cafe was a horrible one. Just like eating in your high school cafeteria. However, if you have children with you it might be something to consider. We ate one night in Cagney's and it was very good. We felt we would have received the same quality of food and service 11 years ago on NCL in the main dining room. We also ate in Le Bistro where the for was excellent, but it was too crowded and noisy. Tables were too close together. If you have never cruised free style, you might find this experience quite different. In order to meet other couples and share our port experiences we had to ask specifically to share tables with English speakers, or we usually ended up automatically at a table for 2. Evening entertainment was varied with the high light being a Beetles Tribute Band that was the best you would find anywhere. Lots of bars to choose from, but our favorite that we visited the most was the Star Bar on deck 13. Quiet and a wonderful friendly bartender and wait staff. We enjoyed playing trivia in the Red Lion Pub and also enjoyed a 50's 60's sock hop in Spinnaker. As for shore excursions, we booked 3 through SPB in St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm and used Rick Steves guide book in Tallinn and Germany. Our biggest complaint about the NCL Star in the Baltics is their poor management of moving people off the ship in St. Petersburg and Stockholm. Little to no information was given the day before and morning of our arrival on the process and the end result was mobs of pushing and angry passengers trying to get into nonexistent lines to get off the ship. There were probably as many people doing private tours in St. Petersburg as Ship Excursions, but they gave priority to those on their excursions as far as information and where to exit the ship from. We left the ship late as our flight did not leave until 3:30PM. This time we got in line to take Bus #26 into the city and the Central RailWay station. There were huge numbers doing the same and the bus was very crowed and baggage everywhere. We paid with Danish currency and the ride took 40 minutes. When you consider the bus and the train option (train is 15 minute ride and easy to do), getting to the airport from the cruise ship cost us $15 each, whereas the NCL was $60. Overall, this cruise was about the ports. It was one of the least expensive ways to visit beautiful and interesting cities in Northern Europe. We came away with a greater sense of knowledge and understanding of Scandinavia and an appreciation of the people and beautiful cities they call home. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
We greatly enjoyed our Baltic cruise on the Norwegian Star. The ship is older, but in generally in quite good condition. A balcony room is a little tight for 3 people, but there are minisuites and suites available that would be useful if ... Read More
We greatly enjoyed our Baltic cruise on the Norwegian Star. The ship is older, but in generally in quite good condition. A balcony room is a little tight for 3 people, but there are minisuites and suites available that would be useful if you need extra space (we booked only 4 weeks prior to sailing, so we were lucky to even get a balcony cabin). Our cabin steward was excellent, as was the front desk staff. We were generally quite impressed with the level of service on the NCL line, and it even compared quite favorably to more expensive lines. Embarkation was very fast and easy, and we were very grateful to be sent to a special family line so we didn't need to wait in the regular long lines. The NCL Baltic Capitals itinerary is very strong, and we were quite glad we chose this cruise. Departing from Copenhagen is an excellent choice for people with limited vacation time, since the cruises from England and Amsterdam require more sea days. The price of this cruise seemed to be lower than the other lines we have previously sailed (Princess and HAL) and it seemed quite reasonable that the food was generally not as strong, especially since people can choose to pay more for better food in specialty restaurants. Travelers might also want to bring their own toiletries for this reason. Our one dinner at Versailles was a disaster - it took 30 minutes before our order was taken and the servers cleared my husband's silverware prior to his being served an entree, so he didn't have a fork. It turned out not to be too much of a problem, since when he borrowed my fork we discovered his short ribs were completely inedible so he didn't need any silverware. The food and service at Aqua was better, but below the quality we were used to. We were quite happy with most of the specialty restaurants, and if you enjoy really good food, you should simply factor in the cost of additional dining fees prior to choosing NCL (there is an Ultimate dining package available for specialty restaurants, or else it is $20-30 more per person per meal. The Ultimate dining package might not be your best choice for this cruise if you eat dinners off the ship in Germany and in St. Petersburg, but on other itineraries it would be a great idea for people who like good food). Moderno was my favorite of the specialty restaurants. Moderno's highlights included outstanding lamb chops, roast chicken and delicious pineapple baked in brown sugar. We also enjoyed Cagney's steaks and french fries. Ginza was a disappointment, since its buffet quality food did not justify an additional dining fee. Teppenyani was greatly enjoyed by my son, but unless you have kids you might want to skip it on the Norwegian Star. The chefs struggled a bit, and they dropped utensils and food. My 3 year old was still delighted by the show, and the food was good, so it still might be a decent choice for families. But passengers without children should skip the $25 per person Teppenyani restaurant, since the cooking demonstration is much better on land and that's about the price of Teppenyani off the ship anyway. Breakfast was a bit of a challenge, since the main buffet resembled a rugby scrum with people cutting in and out of lines, and it is was hard to find a table at prime meal times prior to excursions or on sea days. Suite passengers have access to Cagney's for breakfast and lunch, and can have warm meals delivered through room service (non suite passengers can only order cold breakfast items, and must be in their room at the time room service delivers breakfast). Aqua is also open to all guests for breakfast during limited hours (posted in the daily newsletter), and is hopefully a less crowded option. In general, the carving station at the buffet was quite good for lunch, and we also liked the desserts at the main restaurants at dinner. Copenhagen is a lovely city. We were very happy with our stay at the Radisson Blu Royal, located near Tivoli Gardens. The rooms facing Tivoli Gardens have a wonderful view of the Tivoli Gardens fireworks on Saturday nights in the summer. We were jet lagged, but loved the show. Our room (505, a family room) was very large by European standards and had an excellent view of Tivoli Gardens and the train station (my son loved watching the trains go by). There was some limited noise from the street below, but I am a very light sleeper and was not disturbed by it. The buffet breakfast that was included with the family room was excellent. Travelers who prefer a quieter Saturday night can request rooms that don't face Tivoli Gardens, since they probably won't have the noise from the fireworks (it is a really impressive firework show though). Furnishings were a bit worn, but overall I was very happy with this comfortable, well located hotel (it is right next to the train station and many major bus stops, and you can take public transportation from the airport and to the cruise terminal directly from the hotel). This hotel also has air conditioning. Many hotels in Copenhagen lack air conditioning, so you may wish to contact the hotels you are considering booking in advance if you are sensitive to heat. Also, if you are sensitive to noise (or have a toddler who naps) you may wish to contact the hotels you are considering prior to booking to see if there is any construction from the expansion of the metro line near their hotel. The metro expansion is currently scheduled to be finished in 2018. Families should note that for part of the summer in 2014, the Tivoli hotel offered activities for children. If you are interested, please follow up with the hotel directly to see if they are planning to offer services again in 2015, and which dates they will be available. We chose the Radisson Blu because our cruise was in late August, after the end of the children's program at the Tivoli hotel. In Copenhagen. we greatly enjoyed our canal cruise. It can get chilly on the water, so you might want to check the weather report to ensure you pick a good time to take a canal cruise. The Netto Badene boats are now included in the Copenhagen card (along with all public transportation and most museum admissions). They depart every 20 minutes, and the least crowded boats are usually found at Holmen's Church in front of Christianborg palace. The Netto schedule is available at: http://www.havnerundfart.dk/canaltours . We found them to be quite comfortable and lovely on a warm summer day (they use open top boats in August, so the ride might not be as pleasant in the rain or cold). Our son also greatly enjoyed visiting Tivoli Gardens, which is especially lovely at twilight when the grounds and attractions are lit up. For families flying to Copenhagen, you might want to bring your children to Tivoli Gardens during their first night of the trip. My son was able to stay up to a normal bedtime on Central European time because he was so excited by all the rides. He immediately adjusted to the time change from Eastern Standard Time in the US, and really only had trouble with the time change back at the end of the cruise. We were underwhelmed by the Copenhagen Experimentarium, since we arrived when it opened and were surprised to see that some of the exhibits were missing crucial components which rendered them unusable, and the museum itself is not located near any public transportation. Please note prior to selecting a sail date that the National Museum in Copenhagen is closed on Mondays. Please also note that the Museum of Danish Resistance was severely damaged by a fire, and is unfortunately not scheduled to reopen until 2018. Please check http://natmus.dk/en/the-museum-of-danish-resistance/ for updates. Our family was unable to travel to Berlin due to the long travel with our three year old son. If you live far from Copenhagen and want to travel to Berlin, you might want to consider spending an extra day or two in Copenhagen prior to the cruise since the Norwegian Star docks in Germany the day after embarkation, and the trip to Berlin may be quite challenging if you are also battling jet lag. Since my son really loves trains, we decided to spend the day visiting the Moli steam train. You can get a sense of what the Moli is like here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcNrBY8VqGw . The Moli train makes a very scenic tour passing through Bad Doberan very close to the buildings and visits beautiful fields and trees. We took the s-bahn to get from Warmeneude to Bad Doberan. You need to switch trains in Rostock. Please check the schedule, since you might need to wait in Rostock for the next train (we missed our connection and needed to wait a half hour in Rostock). We might have been better off taking bus #119, which is a 30 minute direct bus to Bad Doberan. It leaves once an hour, so you need to check the timetable to see which public transportation option would be fastest, and consider the fact that the bus station is further away than the train station (possibly a 10-15 minute walk). The Molli steam train is timed to meet up with arriving buses and trains in Bad Doberean so you shouldn't have to wait there once you arrive. Bad Doberan has several charming cafes with outdoor seating, where you can enjoy an ice cream and watch as the Moli train passes inches from your table. Due to the rain, we ate at Cafe Zikke, which was off the main street in Bad Doberan and had more indoor seating than the restaurants on the main street. The flammkuchen was excellent (the waitress described these as savory tarts, and it was similar to a pizza). Overall, it was a lovely and enjoyable day, but had we not been traveling with our son we probably would have chosen a cruise that arrived in Germany on a day other than a Monday so we could visit the Schwerin castle and tour historic Wismar. The town of Warnemünde is a lovely seaside village that is very pleasant to walk around. We had an excellent seafood dinner at Twee Linden, which is within walking distance of the port: ( http://www.yelp.de/biz/twee-linden-warnemünde ) For travelers interested in Berlin, please note that both the Gemaldegalerie and the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) are also closed on Mondays. The grounds for the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe are open on Mondays, but the visitors center for both attractions are closed on Mondays. Tallinn was one of our favorite stops, and we really loved exploring its spectacularly preserved medieval center. Please note that this lovely city may be challenging for travelers with disabilities or families that use prams, since cars are not allowed in parts of the medieval center, and the cobblestones will make a stroller or wheelchair use difficult. Because my son has limited mobility without a stroller, our plan had been to take a pedicab around the city. There were some pedicabs at the port when we returned to the ship in the afternoon; however, the pedicabs were not yet available at 9 am when we left the ship. Instead, we took a cab to the top of Toompea Hill (this is where the lovely Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is located) and then walked down. Our son was able to climb the city walls (although the passage is very narrow and steep), and there were gorgeous views. In the main square, we found a pedicab, and we were able to take a very enjoyable 15 minute pedicab tour through the charming city. Since our son loves trains, we also rode on a tourist train that departs from Kullassepa street whenever it is full and makes a 20 minute loop around the city. We were fortunate to sit in the very back, since we had a great spot to take photographs from the back of the train. We ate a delicious lunch at Gloria ( http://www.gloria.ee) , a charming historic restaurant with excellent duck and fish. We also greatly enjoyed our visit to the Lennusadam SeaPlane Harbor Museum in Tallinn. ( http://www.lennusadam.eu/et/ ) . The sea plane name is a bit of a misnomer, since it is more of a general military museum with a lot of fascinating hands on exhibits, including a submarine you can explore and a flight simulator inside of a plane (my 3 year old really loved making the plane crash into the trees). Kids also love the simulated weapons and radio controlled boats at the museum. There is also an icebreaker ship outside that you can explore. It was a really interesting museum, and a highly enjoyable way to conclude your day in Tallinn for both adults and children. Disembarkation in St. Petersburg is a bit challenging, since most of the passengers are trying to get off the ship early. We started early, and beat almost all the NCL lines, but it still took 30 minutes to clear Russian customs. The Russian custom agents are very meticulous on the first day, carefully checking each guests' visa papers prior to stamping passports. They are much faster on subsequent entries to Russia, and therefore the custom lines move much faster. You might want to consider either booking a suite on NCL that will grant you priority disembarkation off the ship, choosing a cruise line you have elite status with if they will give you priority disembarkation, or starting your tour later on the first day after most of the crowds have dissipated (we contacted a number of private tour guides in St. Petersburg, and Alla had recommended starting at 10 am to miss the crowds. You can still start your tour early on the second day when customs is much calmer). I would strongly encourage families to consider booking a private tour so you have maximum flexibility over your schedule, and can return to the ship early if necessary. Our son was absolutely entranced by St. Petersburg, so thankfully we did not need to return to the cruise ship early. However, we greatly appreciated having a private tour since our tour guide could see that we had a limited amount of time to spend in palaces and museums before our 3 year old needed to move on, and she worked very hard to move us around crowds so we were able to see the highlights of each attraction quickly. The private tour also gave us the flexibility to customize our tour (we were originally scheduled to take a canal tour on the second day, but the weather was so nice the first day we were able to switch around the schedule and take the canal tour on the first day). St Petersburg is spectacular, and has so many highlights that cruisers should carefully research to determine which attractions would be most enjoyable during your brief visit. Early entrance to the Hermitage was quite helpful; the museum was nearly empty when we arrived and quite full by the time we left. Please note that early entrance does not necessarily mean that all the exhibits are open early; some of the wings were closed until the museum's normal opening hours of 10:30 am. You should carefully plan ahead of time which art pieces you'd like to focus on prior to arrival since the collection is extremely impressive in both quantity and quality. We greatly enjoyed our lunch at Stolle; their menu is available online in English at http://www.stolle.ru/en/adresa . Please note that not all of their pies on the menu are available everyday, and they will tell you the daily selection upon arrival. My son really loved many of the attractions in St. Petersburg - he loved the historic train stations, and was very impressed that the trains arrive every two minutes. He loved the fountains in Peterhof, especially the trick fountains that soak guests when they run through. If you want to jump in the fountains, you might want to bring a change of clothes, since the trick fountain is not near the entrance and your children might be a bit uncomfortable walking to the exit in wet clothes if it is cold out. Our son happily changed into his bathing suit, and loved getting sprayed by the trick fountain (there is a man sitting on the bench who soaks the visitors. He kindly took it easy on our three year old for the first 4 visits he made in the fountain and only soaked him on his fifth trip into the fountain). The hydrofoil from St. Petersburg is more expensive, but can get you to Peterhof more quickly than driving. Please note the following closures in St. Petersburg prior to selecting a sailing date: The Hermitage and the palace at Peterhof are closed on Mondays (please note that the fountains at Peterhof are open on Mondays even though the palace is closed) The Russian Museum and Tsarskoye Selo (Catherine's Palace) are closed Tuesdays St. Issac's and the Church on Spilled Blood are closed Wednesday (other religious sites may also be closed, on Wednesdays so please check this ahead of time if you are interested). In Helsinki, we took a cab to the Market Square. There, we boarded the 2/3 tram, which will lead you directly to most of the town's tourist destinations. A map of for tourists using the 2 or 3 tram is available here: https://www.hsl.fi/sites/default/files/uploads/helsinki_sightseeing.pdf . An all day transportation pass (8 euros in summer 2014) will also allow you to take the public Suomenlinna ferry. Temppeliaukio (rock church) was very interesting, and the seafood in the stalls near market square is excellent (there are also supposed to be very good marketplaces in other parts of Helsinki, and you might want to research those if you enjoy market stalls with food and locally crafted goods). The lovely Lutheran Cathedral, the charming Esplanade park and the ferris wheel are also near Market Square, making this a highly manageable city once you reach the city center. If you are interested in visiting Suomenlinna, the public HKL ferries leave from Kauppatori (market square) 3 times per hour. JT lines runs ferries from Kauppatori to Kings Gate, and their schedule is available at www.jt-line.fi. The JT lines cost 7 euros round trip, and 4.5 euros one way. The distance between the drop off point for the public ferry and King's gate (JT lines drop off point) is approximately 1.5 km, so some tourists will take the public ferry to Suomenlinna, walk across the island to King's gate and then take JT lines back to save time. Or you can save money by taking the public ferry both ways. Stockholm was another of our favorite cities on this cruise. The archipelago is gorgeous, so please make sure to be outside either as you sail into Stockholm, or as your ship departs. Please also note that because the ship has to pass through the archipelago slowly, your day in Stockholm may be a bit shorter than you would like. This may also lead to extra crowds in the buffet and at disembarkation as most passengers are trying to get off the ship quickly. An absolute highlight of this gorgeous city is the Vasa Museum. The Vasa Museum is one of the most popular museums in Scandinavia, and it can get quite crowded later in the day. The HOHO boats will travel directly from the cruise ship pier to Vasa until 10 am, and after 10 am they will resume a normal loop around the city when the other attractions open. In the summer of 2014, Stromma sold a one ride ticket on their HOHO boats for 50 SEK. Or you can purchase an all day pass from either Stromma or Red Sightseeing for either their HOHO boats or buses or both. Public transportation in Stockholm was quite frequent and easily took us between tourist attractions later in the day. We were quite happy with the Stromma HOHO boat as it quickly got us to the Vasa museum before it became crowded, and the view on the boat was very pleasant. Please note that there is also a very interesting movie that explains the history of the Vasa in English in the small theater (the movie in the large theater is in Swedish with English subtitles). The Vasa ship is fascinating, and we greatly enjoyed our visit. There are a lot of great ways to spend your time in Stockholm, and like St. Petersburg, you will need to research which attractions would be best for you. My family loves animals, so the open lemur exhibit at Skansen was a huge hit. You can't touch or feed the lemurs, but we were lucky and one of them let us sit very close to him and we got some great pictures. The lemur exhibit is located inside of the aquarium in Skansen (the aquarium requires a separate admissions fee from Skansen, but both admissions are included with a Stockholm card). The aquarium is located close to the main entrance of Skansen, which is not the entrance closest to Vasa but there is a tram that we took between the two attractions. Many of the traditional buildings in Sweden were relocated to Skansen so tourists can see what life used to be like, and there are candle making and sewing demonstrations. There is also a zoo with native animals. We skipped everything in Skansen but the aquarium due to time constraints, but you should choose which attractions would be best for you. Tourists who love animals should choose Skansen, since their exhibits in the aquarium are all very well designed to let you get very close to the animals. Our next stop was a temporary hands on Viking exhibit at Historiska (the history museum). During the summer of 2014 they ran a Viking experience for children, in which children can dress up in armor, bake Viking bread in a coal fire, participate in Viking games and crafts and shoot arrows. Their website is (http://www.historiska.se/home/ ) and you may want to contact them to see if they will continue this exhibition next summer. We were very fortunate to visit Stockholm on the last day the exhibit was open, and my son really liked playing with weapons and baking Viking bread. Cruisers on tight time constraints should arrive later than when this exhibit is scheduled to start since some of the exhibits take awhile to set up and not everything was open until 12:30 (the exhibit was scheduled to start at 12, and the main museum opens at 10). Galma Stan was beautiful, and we greatly enjoyed walking around this lovely neighborhood. We had a lovely dinner at Moderno as we sailed away from Stockholm, and it was quite enjoyable to sit by the window and watch the beautiful scenery go by as we enjoyed an excellent meal. This might be a nice night to treat yourself to a specialty restaurant, since they aren't very crowded and you can hopefully get a great meal with an amazing view. For families, I'd like to note that we were extremely impressed with the staff of the kids club. My son has been on three cruises (four if you count when I was pregnant with him) and the kids club on the Norwegian Star was his favorite. His favorite activities were the circus and pirate night. The counselors constantly engaged the children in activities, and they did not use television or the WII with the 3-5 year old children in the Turtle group even at night. The real concern with Norwegian is the kids clubs hours. One of the reasons we chose this vacation was that I didn't think we could sail the Norwegian Breakaway without upsetting my son. Cruises leaving from NY have a lot of sea days, and the kids club on Norwegian is closed from 12-2 and 5-7 on sea days. This may not sound like a huge deal, except my son naps from 2-4:30, and he will wake up and immediately want to go to the kids club. On a previous HAL cruise, my son was really upset when he would wake up from his nap and the kids club was closed. The Baltic itinerary only has two sea days so we decided to take a chance and choose this vacation. The closing hours of the kids club also led to a few other issues: the children's splash pool is really crowded when the kids club is closed, and it takes a really long time to sign the children back in at 2 and 7 pm since everyone arrives at the same time to sign the kids in. Parents of children under 3 should note that the baby room becomes crowded with bigger children for 10-20 minutes prior to the reopening of the kids club, since the older children arrive early and see the baby toys and padding and want to play in there. Princess closes the kids clubs for an hour at lunch and dinner time, and this seems completely reasonable, since you don't want any children staying in the kids club all day long. But the four hour closure on Norwegian creates unnecessary stress for families on vacation. If families are going to utilize Teppanyaki, you might want to consider signing up on sea days during the dinner break while the kids clubs are closed. Please also note that there were substantial difficulties in disembarkation transportation. Norwegian did a very good job of getting passengers off the ship quickly, but the local taxi drivers apparently were having trouble with the new port in Copenhagen (the cab line crossed the disembarkation warehouse three times) Fortunately, Norwegian set up a booth coordinating their bus transportation to the airport and they let people sign up for transport to the airport on disembarkation day. You should consider either booking a cab or car service ahead of time, or signing up for a Norwegian shuttle directly to the airport. Overall, we had a very enjoyable experience on this cruise (and I think if we had been able to book ahead of time and get a suite it would have been a truly wonderful experience) but in the future I think we would need to try to book with a different cruise line for as long as my son naps. But for travelers without children who nap, we can strongly recommend this amazing itinerary on Norwegian since they provide a solid cruise with excellent service. The Baltics are a truly spectacular destination, and we really enjoyed our amazing trip.   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2014
The Baltics cruise on the NCL Star was my 6th cruise, and my wife’s 8th cruise. Majority have been with NCL, but we have also done Carnival and Royal Carribean before. Overall this Baltics cruise was terrific and met my expectations. I ... Read More
The Baltics cruise on the NCL Star was my 6th cruise, and my wife’s 8th cruise. Majority have been with NCL, but we have also done Carnival and Royal Carribean before. Overall this Baltics cruise was terrific and met my expectations. I would rank it somewhere near the middle of my cruise experiences to date. We traveled with our youngest daughter (7). In a separate room my mother in law shared a balcony room with my step daughter and her son (4). Cruise Demographics: Our cruise had a great mix of people. There were families or couples from all over which made the cruise very interesting. There was a good mix of American, UK, Australians, Europeans (it seemed Italians and French well represented), some Asian groups as well. As far as ages there was a mix of old and new as well. There were the typical retirees in their 60’s and 70’s, but there were many (not too many) kids and teens with parents in there mid 40’s early 50’s. NCL Star: The star is a great ship in my opinion. I had previously sailed to Alaska on this very ship so was my second time on board. I have read comments about the age of the Star, but so what. I didn’t have any major complaints about the ship itself. On day 1 we arrived at the dock shortly after 11 am - 1 hour before scheduled embarkation (edocs said do not show up before 1 hour prior to embarkation time of 12 Noon). We had priority embarkation with the suite as well so we were on board within like 10 minutes. But our other half of the family in the non-suite room boarded shortly after us. We stayed near the Aft of the ship in 9736 which is a suite. The Suite came with benefits such as concierge and butler service, a Lavatta coffee maker in the suite, snacks and fruits mid afternoon each day, breakfast and lunch at Cagney’s (premier restaurant on deck 13). Our concierge was great and our butler was responsive when we had requests. We stayed in a suite because there was a very good deal on upgrading to this room a few weeks out. We typically go with a Balcony or Mini suite, and personally I would continue with those rooms and take upgrades to suites when inexpensive as I didn’t feel the additional benefits were so great to be worth a large expense. Being in the aft of the ship was great for us as it was on the same side of the ship as the spa (deck 12), Fitness center (Deck 12), Market Café (Dech 12), Versaille Dining room (Deck 6), Spinnaker lounge (Deck 7), and kids programs (deck 13). Dining: The food was great overall. Our favorite free dining option on the Star is the Versaille dining room and we went there probably 4 of the evenings. The Versaille menu has several meals that are the same each day but have enough changes to make it interesting to continue to go there each night. I had some really good beef dishes on the cruise. Versaille has a striploin on the menu that I would recommend (my stepdaughter had this meal at least 3 times). I also had an Italian Bolgnaise, an Irish Stew, and a Chicken Cordon Blue on the other nights. We also ate at Aqua, the other complimentary restaurant on midship 2 of the nights. The meals were similarly good there. I had a veal dish one night and a prime rib another night. We wife and I alone had dinner at La Cucina another night where I had great service and a chicken parmigiana dish that was great. The cover charge for La Cucina is $15 per person. One night we were tired and there was seafood at the Market Café that our family was interested in. But as always the Market café buffet food simply sucked. While the market Café sometimes seems like a good option when I am tired from a long day and I don’t feel like dress for dinner, I just can not say anything good about dinner there. The food is lousy with few good options and you have to stand in line for it. I have tried the buffet once or twice on my previous cruises, but it is just not a good experience and it seems to just get worse instead of better. On the other hand I do think breakfast there is fine when it is not too crowded. Based on our suite benefits we did go to Cagneys for breakfast twice and lunch twice. Cagney’s was ok but honestly the service was not great there, and the ambience is not good enough to temp me to pay the 30 / per person cover dinner there. Entertainment The entertainment has always been good on NCL, but I have to admit we only saw two shows this cruise as my wife is recovering from a broken ankle and the days at port tended to wear us out a bit more this time. The acrobatic show that we did see was very good though. And we enjoyed watching our daughter in the kids show the last sea day of the cruise. There is a casino on the star and it was quite fun if you can deal with a lot of smoking. I played some blackjack and roulette, while my wife enjoys the ‘quarter pushing’ game – (or whatever it is actually called). I entered the Texas hold-em tournament which was a good time for guys of similar interest even though no good cards were to be found for me that day. They also had blackjack and slot tournements. We did Bingo several times which is always great fun. Unbelievably my wife won the raffle on the last day which won us a free cruise for 2! It is for an inside cabin to Carribean, but I will take it! (hope to see some of you on the Dawn to Western Carribean out of New Orleans Jan 25, 2015!). We usually will attend at least one of the Art auctions as well, but for some reason the scheduling did not allow for it on this trip. That leads to my biggest complaint on the cruise which was the activities scheduling. I am not sure what the cruise director Ian (who actually was barely seen or heard relative other cruise directors I have seen on previous cruises) was thinking when scheduling on the first see day. For example: 1:30 Champagne art auction, 2:00 Pub Hop, 2:00 Wine tasting, 2:00 Deal or no deal, 3:00 Margarita tasting, 3:45 Bingo, 4:00 Martini tasting. For someone who likes the drink sampling and games, you really are forced to choose as these are way too crammed together. He needs to spread things out and push more activities earlier to the noon hour and later toward the early evening hours. Children: There here were a good number of kids on this cruise, but not too many to be annoying or disruptive to some that may be bothered by large numbers of kids. My daughter had a great time at the ‘Splash Academy’ kids program. There are not enough previous reviews on the kids programs, but I have to tell you that I can not say enough good things about this program. They break the kids up into age categories; my daughter was in the 6-9 group – ‘Seals’. It is free up to 10:30pm after which they charge a small fee. They are open most of the time only they close for dining periods on sea days so you have to pick your kids up then. Otherwise you drop them off and let them meet and play with other kids. Even on port days so long as they are potty trained you can drop off there and go spend time in port. My daughter made several friends and really enjoyed her time there. During the cruise the kids work on practicing circus acts of acrobatic type things and on the last day they actually perform a circus show at the theater. We were really happy with this service. Spa and Fitness: I am not sure what goes on at Barong Spa but my wife loves it there. They were good to her there and although it seems quite expensive to me, if it makes her happy then I am happy. I myself am into fitness and will make sure I get some workouts in during my cruises. The facilities on the Star are adequate and you can do what you need to do. There are machines, free weights, treadmills, elliptical machines, and some fitness classes. One comment I have here is that although the treadmills have TV’s on each, they face mirrors. I believe a treadmill on a cruise ship should have a view of the ocean. I love working out early in the morning and watch the boat come into port while running on the treadmill. The Star fitness center set up does not allow for this. NCL please do not set up this way anymore on future ships. Ports and excursions: It was actually cold most days on our late August cruise. High’s in the mid to upper 60’s meant jeans and sweatshirt / jacket most days. We went on ship excursions at each port. Our favorite ports in order were St Petersburg followed by Tallin, then Helsinki. Our excursions were mostly very good and there are several reviews on specific excursions so just a couple opinions here: Regarding the Russian Ballet: Our daughter is a little dancer and so we felt this was a must for us. But if you are not in a similar position, I do not think I would recommend it. It was an ok show, but it was not necessarily spectacular. The venue was at a hotel auditorium and the attendance was primarily just the people on the excursions from our ship. It is not really what I envisioned. We had great excursions in both Helsinki and Stockholm, but actually these are ports in cities that are easy to get to sites and you may be able to do on your own and save some money. Disembarkation – There were several options to get off the ship. You could keep your luggage and walk off if you could carry everything yourself. Otherwise you have to check your luggage the night before. With our priority disembarkation things were very smooth. We ate at Cagney’s and then met the concierge right across the hall at the star bar and he arranged for us to be taken down and off the ship. Grabbed our luggage and got a Taxi right away in the taxi line. No problems.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
A friend and I embarked on the Norwegian Star in July 2014. In Copenhagen we were escorted to our amazing suite and were smitten with it from the begining. It was family suite on deck 12 with ample room and privacy for two single women who ... Read More
A friend and I embarked on the Norwegian Star in July 2014. In Copenhagen we were escorted to our amazing suite and were smitten with it from the begining. It was family suite on deck 12 with ample room and privacy for two single women who like they own space! The highlight of the room was the window configuration...we had not only a view sidewise but also forward thanks to a cantileverd window (suite 12530). Our butler and concierge were wonderful, although we really did not have that many needs. However, it ws a gret pleasure to be able to pick up the phone, ask for a bottle of wine, and have it delivered in minutes! One of the highlights of the cruise was sitting in front of those windows watching the ship depart from the different ports...with the summer in the Baltic having almost 18 hours of sunlight, the vistas and colors were amazing. The ports were excellent...all very interesting and easily accessible from the ship. Except for St. Petersburg, we made our own port arrangements and were happy with the on/off bus tours and the on/off boat tour in Stockholm. In each city we took the bus around to get a sense of the are, then had lunch/shopping in the old part of each city. Lots of fun and very interesting. In St. Petersburg we had pre-booked a small group tour with Marina Wilson tours. We saw everything in St. Petersburg in two days at quite a clip! Our guide really went much too fast and we just skimmed so many wonderful places; however we did see it all in the two days! I would like to go back and do the tour at a more liesurely pace, but if I never do, I can say I saw a great deal of the city! As to the ship...not such a great experience...except for the suite and butler and conceriege. WE both have cruised before many times and we fould the ship to be difficult to navigate. Signage was not very good and we kept getting turned around and not able to find our way, even after 9 days at sea. The ship was definitely showing its age. We did try the complimentary restaurants on two occasions, but then opted for the speciality ones. There was a world of difference between the two...almost felt like it was part of the "business" plan to make the complimentary restaurants mediocre so we would spend the extra to go to the specialty ones. We did not attend shows, go to bars, etc. because our room was such a haven so cannot speak to those amenities. The buffet was adequate for a light lunch. All in all, a good value cruise, although the ship could use some updating. We could find very few areas to sit and read in a quiet place. I had been on the Breakway this winter and loved the wonderful lounge chairs on the decks with lots of privacy. This ship needs some of those comfy chairs! So...all in all...great itinerary, pay for the suite (it is worth it), and put up with old rather worn out ship to visit amazing places. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
First time cruising with NCL. The Baltic capitals were sensational and the Norwegian Star far exceeded my expectations - we very much enjoyed this cruise on the Star. I was under the impression that NCL was a lower-tier cruise line. So, ... Read More
First time cruising with NCL. The Baltic capitals were sensational and the Norwegian Star far exceeded my expectations - we very much enjoyed this cruise on the Star. I was under the impression that NCL was a lower-tier cruise line. So, my expectation for this cruise was not much more than to have a reliable ferry on a great Baltic Sea itinerary. I enjoyed previous cruises with Holland (Alaska, balcony) and also Disney (Eastern Caribbean, balcony), but, overall, I think I enjoyed this cruise on the Star more - the weather was perfect, Freestyle Dining is so convenient, the food quality was adequate and the ports were fantastic. Suggested improvements: 1. An additional day in Stockholm, Sweden; 2. Add a port-stop in Oslo, Norway; 3. A more exciting main dining room menu; and, 4. Baltic cultural and history enrichment lectures. Dining - We only ate in the included restaurants and the food and service were fine, but a notch below the dining rooms on both Holland and Disney. We loved having no set dining time (Freestyle). We ate dinner, on a two-place-table in the ornate Versailles (dress casual) unless we were too exhausted, then we had dinner in the even-more casual Aqua also at a table by ourselves. Both restaurants use the same kitchen and have the same menu which changes nightly. Service was better in Aqua (I think rookie waiters begin their training on the 2 & 4 top-tables in Versailles). We bought the four bottle wine package - This saves about the cost of ½ bottle purchased on the ship. Any unused wine would be re-corked and stored for the next night’s dining. Every meal was served hot on a warm plate (except spaghetti carbonara, really just Alfredo with bacon - I should have sent it back to the kitchen). All medium-rare meat was served medium-plus (being served on a warm, covered plate probably continued cooking the meat - I’ll try ordering “rare” next time). The wait staff had no problem with the number of appetizers, mains or deserts ordered. I had a main for an appetizer one night. If you want to feel younger, skip the Spa, and head over to the buffet, you’ll feel just like you did years ago - eating in your junior high school cafeteria. The buffet food is much better than the Disney buffet, but not as tasty as that in the buffet on Holland America. I didn’t eat so much for breakfast or lunch - saving those calories for dinner. I’d pick up something from the buffet (chaos) and take it out by the pool (pleasant) or up to the Beer Garden (at breakfast) overlooking the pool. The buffet would offer a different themed-menu each night for dinner - sometimes a menu with dishes from the country being visited. We didn’t eat dinner until late in the evening, so just before 5 pm, I’d prepare a plate, from the buffet, with a small sample of each special offering - there was no line or commotion that early. On the first sea-day (Warnemunde to Tallinn), the buffet has a seafood themed menu and one dish is a New Orleans seafood casserole with chopped lobster tails on-top. I’m not a big fan of lobster, but with the casserole sauce they were delicious - I ate several (ask for more to be brought out if someone ahead in line takes all the lobster). The buffet has five serving lines: the two lines on the port side and one of the lines on the starboard side serve the featured dinner dishes. A second line on the starboard side serves pizza, pasta, Indian, vegetarian & Chinese dishes. The third line on the starboard side serves only yummy desserts. There are islands in the buffet where you can get drinks: milk, coffee, water, hot or iced tea, flavored water & orange juice. The Grill, located next to the pool has breakfast items and for lunch/dinner offers hamburgers, hot dogs & good fries. The small, but inviting, Blue Lagoon is always open, has a limited menu, and overlooks the atrium. I didn’t eat there but some passengers liked it for breakfast. Hot dogs and hamburgers are BBQ’d by the pool when leaving Copenhagen and for lunch on the final day-at-sea (with great baby back ribs). Cabin - We had an inside cabin, near the front of the ship, on deck nine, which was functional, well appointed and just big enough for us two. The queen bed set-up could be reconfigured into two twins to provide additional space. I reckoned that the Baltic would be chilly and limit any use of a balcony and our primary purpose for this trip was the itinerary - not lounging in the room, so an inside cabin would be fine. Turned out we had great weather - never chilly outside, even late at night (except when leaving and returning to Copenhagen). My spouse purchased a weekly pass for the adult-only spa (a limited number of passes sold) which allowed unlimited access to an indoor heated lap-pool, whirlpool, jacuzzi and an indoor lounge area with a great view - so we really didn’t need a balcony. Returning to the ship each evening after shore excursions, it wasn’t uncommon to find a maintenance crew noisily, grinding and sanding the outside balconies. This seemed like a job that should be done in the shipyard. One fellow passenger told me her balcony furniture and floor were covered with the sanded-paint-dust. With all that paint dust lying around, I’m glad we didn’t have a balcony. The cabin had a small flat screen TV which had several good channels - including the World Cup soccer final (we were in Germany the day they won the cup) and the British Open later that week. The date-and-time channel was useful as you change time zones four-times on this cruise (don’t show up an hour late/early for your shore excursion - some people did). A GPS channel mapped the Star’s location and gave the weather. Three or four days into the cruise a laundry special is offered. a pillowcase sized bag can be filled with dirty clothes and laundered for $29. This special was repeated a few days later. Synthetic socks, underwear and shirts can be washed (using a little shampoo) in the sink, wrung dry and hung on the line in the shower overnight. There is a hairdryer in the room also. The Ship - The Star is in great shape for her age (12 years old) and has a functional and intuitive deck plan and an attractive decor. The swimming pool is small but has four hot tubs and two spiral slides. Another hot tub is on the stern in the toddler pool area. Another large hot tub is located up front, on deck 13, in the quiet area (with many chaise lounges). There are seven, stadium-like tiers at the swimming pool and tier each holds twenty chaise lounges. I was told the swimming pool water was chilly. I didn’t get in any pools, and if there were bad weather, none could be covered and therefore would have limited utility. Entertainment - Great! The ship’s band and singers were excellent. Other nightly acts included four excellent tenors; a very good, beatles tribute band; and, an American soprano (Jennifer Fair - wish she would have done some Dusty Springfield). The final night was a fabulous night of song, dance and amazing acrobatics. It is in this show that you realize what an amazing theater the Star has. I skipped two of the nightly acts (the juggler and an acrobat) due to shore-excursion “exhaustion”. There were also six other musicians/singers performing in six separate, smaller venues on the Star: two pianists, two guitar players and two bands. If the Star’s band wasn’t needed for the theater show, it might play in the Stardust dance lounge. I didn’t see any comedians performing. This may be because english was a second language for two-thirds of the passengers (there were 800 Spaniards among the 2300+ passengers). Although I think the cruise director did a comedy act. Enrichment Activities - The six Baltic countries visited have a rich cultural and historical context - there were no cultural or history lectures on the Star. The second day of the cruise is an at-sea day, with lots of time for lectures, and there was a cooking demo which I did not attend. I did go to an art history lecture later in the week, that was interesting, but the primary purpose was to sell art of dubious pedigree. Embarkation - We took bus #26 from our Copenhagen hotel to the passenger terminal (Nordhavn Oceankaj) using our Copenhagen Card (otherwise the cost is 36 DKK (about $6.50) for three-zones and is good for one hour of transfers). Enter the bus with luggage from the middle/rear door and place your bags in the handicap area. Insert your ticket into the date/time stamper for validation. Bus #26 only occasionally goes all the way to the Nordhavn Oceankaj cruise terminals (UNICEF Faergehavn Nord stop). It usually turns around at Osterport St. (Slojfen). But, when there is a cruise ship in port, a second Shuttle #26, runs between Osterport St. (Slojfen) and the cruise ship Terminals at Nordhavn Oceankaj (your original ticket is valid on this shuttle). Google “moviatrafik english” for more info. Once on the pier, if you have an assigned cabin number and have already printed out your luggage tags, the Norwegian representative will attach the tags to your bags and you can proceed inside to the check-in counter. If you have a “guaranteed room” (no assigned cabin number), you must wait in line outside at the baggage drop, they will look up your cabin assignment, hand-print luggage tags and then take your bags. You can now go inside to check-in. Check-in was quick. We went directly to the ornate Versailles restaurant, on deck 7, at the rear of the ship, for a pleasant, sit-down lunch (no crowd). Another option might be to go to the Blue Lagoon, mid-ship, above the Atrium for a quiet, sit-down, lunch overlooking all the action below. There always seemed to be a three-man band playing in the Atrium. The Nordhavn Oceankaj pier, besides being a good distance from Copenhagen (and a hassle to travel to), is in an uncharming, industrial area. From the top of the ship, you have a view south to the towers of Copenhagen - where you will see cruise ships (eg: Royal Caribbean, Mein Schiff 2, Europa) docked downtown near Amalienborg Palace. Nordhavn Oceankaj is part of Copenhagen’s recent expansion from seven cruise-ship-docks to eleven. We attended the Sail-Away BBQ at the pool. There is a conga-line dance - which is kind-of-awkward on a Baltic cruise (it would fit-in better on a Caribbean cruise). If you dance in the conga-line you will be given a raffle ticket for a free Caribbean cruise. If you strike up a conversation with one of the dancing Norwegian employees handing out raffle tickets you will make a friend and may be given several more tickets. The raffle is held on the last day of the cruise (at-sea-day) during the second (4:30pm) Bingo session - and you must be present to win. Bingo cards purchased and played at the earlier Bingo session that last day come with lots of extra raffle tickets - so that is the time to play bingo. Good luck! Find your embarkation photo on deck 7, aft, and get a free aerial photo of the Star. No purchase necessary. About an hour after leaving Copenhagen, you’ll sail by Helsingor, Denmark at a very narrow section of water. If you look to the west (port/left) you’ll see Kronborg, or Castle Elsinore in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Disembarkation - We purchased a three-zone public transportation ticket. The ticket (36 DKK) is sold at the pier in the Tourist Info booth (accepts credit cards), on the north corner of Oceanvej & Oceankaj (across from the UNICEF building and Terminal #1). The earlier buses headed into town will not be crowded. Bus #26 picking up at the TI may take you all the way to the Central Train Station/Kobenhavn H or it may just shuttle you to the Osterport St. (Slojfen) stop where you can wait for a Bus 26 on the regular route to pick you up. I don’t know how to tell the difference between Bus #26 on it’s route and the special (cruise terminal) Shuttle #26 - they look the same. Enter the bus at the middle door and place your luggage in the handicap (open) area. Stamp your ticket to validate it. If you are going to the Airport via the train, exit Bus 26 at the Radhuspladsen stop (just after turning the corner at City Hall, on the northwest side of Tivoli, in front of Burger King/McDonalds. Then walk a block south to the train station. Look for a train going to the Lufthavn (airport) - but ask to be sure as you don’t want to end up in Malmo, Sweden. A local told me the quickest way to the airport from Oceankaj would be, Bus #26 to the Kongens Nytorv stop (the first stop south of after the Nyhavn Canal tourist area), then take the Metro to the airport. I can’t vouch for this as I didn’t ride the Metro at all. Our plane didn’t leave until 5:30 pm the day the Star returned to Copenhagen. I had planned to walk-off the ship at 7 am, take Bus 26 & the train to the airport and pick up a reserved Budget rental car ($50/day). Then drive back to the ship, pick up my spouse, at 9am, with the luggage, and drive to visit Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod and/or Land of Legends (outdoor Beowulf recreation in Lejre) and then make it back to the airport by 2:30 pm. But, by the end of this cruise, we were castled-out, so we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast and left the ship about 9:30am and made our way to the airport using bus 26 & the train. Shore Excursions - The website “Cruise port wiki” will have maps locating all cruise-ship terminals for each port/city. This site also explains transport from the cruise terminal into the city. They also have a link to the port administration website for each city which lists the specific terminal, for each ship - so you can determine exactly where your ship will be docking in each port on a specific date. Copenhagen, Denmark - We flew into Copenhagen (on Norwegian Air direct from JFK). The train (to Central Station/Kobenhavn H) or the Metro (subway) will get you to the city center from the airport. Bus 26 will take you by most attractions and will take you to the (far away) Nordhavn Oceankaj cruise terminal #1 (Unicef Faergehavn Nord bus stop. Note, the bus will continue down the long Oceankaj Dock to Terminals #2,3 & 4 also). Pick up the free Official City Map of Copenhagen at the airport tourist info counter - this map has all streets, attractions and all public transport routes and stops. Public transport tickets/passes can be bought from the manned Movia counter directly across from the TI. We had two days in Copenhagen prior to sailing. We bought the Copenhagen Card (48 hours) upon landing at the airport and used it for transportation, from the airport, all around town and finally to the cruise terminal. The card also included a canal boat tour and admission to a concert at Tivoli Gardens one evening. The weather was wonderful so we didn’t go into any museums. The Card also includes admission and transportation to the castles on north Zealand and also Land of Legends. The Copenhagen Jazz festival was in progress and there were free jazz concerts at different outdoor venues. We took the free, two-hour walking tour of the city (yellow umbrella) and the weekend-afternoon, free walking tour of Christianshavn (including a stroll through Christiana). For convenience, we booked a hotel near the central train station (Kobenhavn H). Many of these hotels are in well maintained older buildings but without any air conditioning - and you don’t need A/C in Copenhagen. Wrong! A couple of days each year it gets hot in Copenhagen - and we were there those two days. Our hotel room faced southwest, heated-up, and stayed hot all night long. Our room also faced Istedgade (a Street) which is Party-Avenue all-night-long (on a weeknight!) - I can’t blame Copenhageners for enjoying their short summer. Between the heat and the noise, this was the most miserable night I have ever spent in a hotel. We moved the next morning to a quiet hotel near Nyhavn Canal that had air conditioning (really just a cooler/heat pump thing). We enjoyed Copenhagen and would like to have had another day there to explore. Copenhagen, like all the Baltic cities, is a very expensive city. Warnemunde, Germany - We did the Friends of Dave, Mega Mecklenburg Tour of Wismar and Schwerin Castle. Transportation is by chauffeured van. The 22 participants are given wireless receivers and earpieces (or bring your own earbuds). We ate lunch at the Brauhaus am Lohgurg zu Wismar founded in 1452 with a tasty Mumme (“Mumm-eh”) beer - the most widely distributed type of beer in North Germany for two centuries. Great weather, a fine tour and a fun guide. There is a car rental (Hertz, Europecar, Sixt) lot located directly across the street from the Warnemunde Cruise Center (P berths). Warenmunde’s train station is only a five-minute walk from this cruise ship terminal. Tallinn, Estonia - Uphill, 20-minute walk to the Old Town from the ship. You may want to take a cab (from the ship) or a bicycle-rickshaw (from the gate at the end of the pier) to conserve your energy. The Tourist Info/CityBike booths on the pier will have a useful, free, Tallinn City Map. We walked to town, did the 11am Free Walking Tour (2 hours) and had lunch afterward at Olde Hansa Restaurant (expensive food - but try their cinnamon beer). And walked back down to the ship (should have caught a ride, up the hill, into the Old Town that morning - we were tired, when we got back to the ship, and we had a very long tour in St. Petersburg ahead of us the next day). Our Estonian tour guide (college student) told us Estonian food is meat and potatoes. An inexpensive pancake from the Kompressor restaurant is what she recommended. She also warned us that Estonia has no amber - Russian mined amber is sold in all Tallinn’s shops. Souvenirs made of linen or wood are more likely to be genuine Estonian products. There is also a bicycle tour of Tallinn offered by City Bike for 16 euros. They had a booth set up on the pier for bike rentals (6 euros/day). The tour leaves at 10 am from their bike shop on Uus, just outside the city wall, south of the main city Pikka (north) gate. St. Petersburg - We did a two-day tour with ALLA - very professional. Print you tour ticket at home as this is your 72-hour visa for Russia each day. This is the only country you need your passport and a visa to enter on the cruise (but always carry your passport when going ashore, if you miss the ship it will come in handy). We saw six-days of attractions in our two port days thanks to Polina G., our delightful, young, Russian guide, who loves St. Petersburg and made each sight exciting and interesting. The tour van would drop us at one point and, after walking through an attraction, would magically appear to pick us up - saving lots of walking and time. No Russian rubles were needed. The St. Petersburg New Sea Passenger Port (Marine Facade) is a very large “U” shaped pier built on a desolate and unattractive landfill. It is a 20 minute drive to the Hermitage/Winter Palace. Smaller cruise ships dock up the Neva River - just blocks to the Hermitage. Every attraction was crowded - I don’t think the St. Petersburg attractions can handle any more tourists unless they open 24 hours. Helsinki - The Star docked at Hernesaari Terminal in an unattractive industrial area outside town. We made up our own tour using a Public Transport Day-Pass (“Paivalippu” - in Finnish - write this down and show it to the bus driver), for 8 euros (cash), purchased from from the bus driver. A one-hour bus ticket costs 3 euros. The Tourist Info booth (TI) on the pier will have free Helsinki bus/trolly/ferry route maps with bus stops marked (The map is difficult to read and has no attractions marked so pick up a free GREEN Hop-On/Off tourist bus map to locate attractions. The HOHO tourist bus cost 25 euros and does not go to the Seurasaari Museum). Bus 14 will take you from the cruise terminal to the downtown Kamppi station and it continues on, one or two stops, to a block west of the Rock Church. From this Rock Church bus stop, walk two blocks west and catch Bus 24, one or two stops, to the Sibelius Monument. From the Sibelius Monument, Bus 24 continues another 15-minutes north to the Seurasaari Open Air Museum. It was so nice to look at simple log cabins among pine trees at the Seurasaari Open Air Museum after all the glitter of St Petersburg. Bus 24 turns around here and will take you back to town (every 20 mins.). Returning to town, we got off at the central train station (some nice buildings) and walked south a block to Stockmans Dept. store and then east to the (white) Lutheran Church (wedding in progress - no entry) and continued walking east to the harbor and the Russian Church. To get back to the ship, we caught a trolley heading west to Kamppi station to catch Bus #14. You may want to catch the Bus #14 one stop north of Kamppi to insure you get a seat as all the cruise passengers will be heading back at the same time and many will probably catch Bus 14 from the convenient Kamppi station. The Helsinki Daily Transit Pass also is good for the ferry to the Fortress Island (11am walking tour, fee). Helsinki was fogged in around the harbor the entire day we were there - so any harbor/boat activity would not have had much of a view a view. There are two bus stops at the Hernesaari cruise-ship terminal for going into town: 1) From the terminal gate (TI), walk straight down the street (southeast) two blocks, to the end at Hernesaarenranta St., turn left (north) and walk about 80 meters - you’ll see the #14 bus stop sign. All cruise ship passengers will be directed to this stop. Or, for a less crowded stop, 2) From the terminal gate (TI), walk straight down the street (southeast) one-block to the first cross-street, turn right (southwest) and walk a block to the next cross street and then straight another half-block to the #14 bus stop. Both stops are the same walking distance. Stockholm - Consider getting up early to view the 37 mile-long Stockholm Archipelago as the ship approaches the harbor. The harbormaster will board the ship upon reaching some of the first islands about 3.5 hours before docking. The Star’s forecastle on deck 8 opens for viewing two hours prior to docking. You’ll pass these same islands on the way out of Stockholm later that afternoon - but the morning is very peaceful and the lighting makes for some good pictures. The Star docked at the Stadsgarden Terminal (next to and east of the Viking Line) in Stockholm. Probably a 30 minute walk north to the Old Town (Gamla Stan). Follow the blue line painted on the sidewalk, northwest, past the Viking Terminal. A small, two-window, manned, Tourist Info booth is on the pier and they sell all-day public transit passes (they accept credit cards) for 115 SKK (note: Bus drivers do not sell tickets). This all day pass also includes the passenger ferry from Old Town (Slussen) to Djurgarden (Tivoli/ABBA/Vassa) - every 15 mins. I was told it also included the #80 passenger ferry from Nybroplan (Berzelii Park) to Saltsjoqvarn (just east of the Stadsgarden cruise-ship Terminal). Be sure to pick up a Stockholm transit map at the TI. The closest bus station to the Stadsgarden terminal is Londonviadukten (eight minutes walking). To get there follow the blue line (100 meters) until you get to the big parking lot just before the Viking Line ferry terminal. Look to your left (southwest) and go up the stairs, on the hillside, to the street. There are a couple of bus stops there. To get to the Slussen station take any bus that begins with 400. The Old Town is a ten minute walk north from Slussen station. From Slussen station you can catch another bus or take the subway to another part of town. To get to the Old Town directly from Londonviadukten bus stop, take Bus #53 (with three stops in Old Town). Hop On/Off boats serve the Stadsgarden terminal. These operate just like the hop on/off busses. These boats only travel between Stadsgarden and the Vassa Museum until 10 am, when they start a clockwise-route around the harbor - stopping at six attractions. I did the, two-hour, Free Walking Tour of the new section of Stockholm and used an all day public transit pass for transportation. The tour was entertaining and included an interesting Swedish history lesson. We saw the PUB clothing store where Gretta Garbo was discovered, the bank where the Stockholm Syndrome originated (now an Acne clothing store), the gym where the current Swedish princess met and then married her personal trainer and, the very crowded, changing of the guard in the outer courtyard (southwest side) of the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan. The band and soldiers march in front of the Parliament House on tiny Helgeandsholmen Island (just north of the the Royal Palace) on their way to the courtyard - this is a much less crowded place to see the guards. I walked through the Old Town. Cute, but, lots and lots of tourists and many ice cream shops, restaurants & T-shirt shops - not a fun place to roam. I found the SoFo district (south of Slussen transit station) more interesting. If you walk up the hill in SoFo (Soderledstunneln Street), you can find your way (one block east) to the Katarinahissen viewing platform (which is currently closed for construction, but is free to walk out on and take in the view). I took the steep stairs to get down the hillside, and found myself at a #53 bus stop. Tell the bus driver to let you off at Londonviadukten/ Viking Line Terminal (about four stops). We were in Stockholm on a Saturday, maybe there would be less tourists in Old Town on a weekday (the Star was the only cruise ship in port). Stockholm really deserves two days.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
Let me start by saying I have cruised one time before on Norwegian Jade in Western Mediterennean 4 years ago. This review is divided in sections so you can read only what you are interested in. Pre Cruise: We live in Cyprus, a small ... Read More
Let me start by saying I have cruised one time before on Norwegian Jade in Western Mediterennean 4 years ago. This review is divided in sections so you can read only what you are interested in. Pre Cruise: We live in Cyprus, a small island in the Eastern Mediterennean sea. We took a flight with SAS air to Copenhagen with a stop in Oslo. I travelled together with my family of four and my mother-in-law. We arrived in Copenhagen at 8 pm. We took a cab, which took us to our hotel, hotel the Sqaure. I highly recomend this hotel as it is very central, the rooms are quite spacious, the price is resonable and the port is quite close. Copenhagen is a nice city, with an interesting history, but does not compare to major european cities (e.g. London and Paris). It is also very very very very expesive. The thing that supridsed me the most is that, when you buy a bottle of water, they charge yous 1,50 dkk extra for the plastic bottle. I found that ridiculous. The good thing is that everyone, including taxis, accept credit cards, so won't need any krones. In the morning, we took another cab to take us to the port, which is not very far from the city centre. Embarkation: I was actually amazed by the speed of the embarkation proccess. Ten minutes after the moment we stepped out of the car we were onboard. The staff was very helpful. Once we got in the ship, we walked around the ship and the we heades to the Market cafe (the buffet) to have lunch. Oour cabins were available shortly after that (around 1 p.m.). Dining: Food in the free restaurants was quite good. The buffet was always crowded and sometimes tables were not very clean but the food was good. Main dining rooms were nicely decorated (especially Versailles) but the service was a liitle slow. We had the Ultimate Dining Package so we ate in a specilaty restaurant every night. We tried them all and they were all excellent. The food was delicious, the service fast and staff were very kind and remebered our names when we went to a restaurant a second time. I highly recomend the Ultimate Dining Package, as it offers an excellent value. Public Areas: The Star is a very nice ship. Although it is old, it is very well maintained. Of course, Norwegian Jade was a little nicer when it comes to public areas. For example, the Spinnaker Lounge on the Jade was wonderful whicle on the Star was average, It was dark and sometimes it smelled... old. Service: Tthe staff was very attentive and friendly. They socialized with guests and made every effort to meet every request. No complaints here. Cabin: We had to Mid ship Balcony cabins on deck 11 (cabins 11620 and 11618). They had enough space for 2 or 3 people and were smartly appointed. Oour room steward was very kind and done hsi job very well. The towel animals were a very nice touch. Ports and excursions: As expected, the nicest port was St Petersburg one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. I highly recomend a boat ride in the Neva river and a visit to the Hermitage and Spilled Blood Cathedral. We took an excursion with NCL in every port. Although they were expensive, the were all very oragnized and showed us the highlights of every port. Tallin and Helsinki are not very beautiful cities but they have an interesting history. Also, I highly recomend the Maritime Museum in Tallin, escpecially to families with kids. In Warnemunde we did the tour to Shwerin castle which was very nice. We considered a trip to Berlin but because we had the kids with us we thought it would be very tiring for them. But if me and my wife were alone, we would surely do it. In St Peterburg we did an excursion to the Hdermitage (very titing buy totally worth it) and onethat incuded a boat ride in the Neva River and a visit to the Spilled Blood Cathedral. The boat ride was impressive. This tour is excellent for families beacuse it does not include long walking sitances and at the small time you see and learn lots of interesting things. In Helsinki we did the boat ride and the city tour. Nothing special. In Stockolm we did the tourto Vasa Museum, the Old town and the Ice bar. Stockolm is a very beautiful and impessive city. The Vasa museum was impressive, the Ice bar fun and intersting and the Old town wonderful. All three of them are must-do in Stockolm. Entertainment: I was impressed with the quality of entertainment. Most of the shows would have been very expensive to be seen in any major european city. Singers, dancers and acrobats were all very good. The nices show was the first one, four men singing. Their voices were amazing. I am sure that the same show in London would have costed around 100 pounds per person. Activities: We palyed Bingo a couple of times. it was very fun. It costs $20 per game. We found ten pool to be small for the size of the ship so it felt really crowded. The Jade had two pools and a much nicer sundeck. Shopping: There were several shops in the ship and prices were quite resonable. There was a Russian bazar on the last sea day, which is a great place to get some souvenirs. Overall: This was the vacation of a lifetime!!! We all had an amzing time. I would happily cruise with the Star or any other NCL ship again. The reason we like cruising is that you see a lot of places and you combine sightseeing in major cities and the amenities of a beach resort, something that both grown-ups and kids appreciate. You also get a good value for your money. Can't wait to go on another cruise. Sorry for any spelling mistakes. This review was written on an iPad!   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
The Baltic Capitals cruise with NCL is excellent! We had no trouble boarding early; our cabin steward, Victor, was ready and welcoming. He was there for us for the entire cruise, and we never wanted for anything, His English was ... Read More
The Baltic Capitals cruise with NCL is excellent! We had no trouble boarding early; our cabin steward, Victor, was ready and welcoming. He was there for us for the entire cruise, and we never wanted for anything, His English was impeccable, he was always smiling and helpful and was able to answer all our questions. We selected mini-suite 11536 and it was very quiet and virtually motionless. My only comment is that it was a bit far from the elevator/stairwells. Next time I'm going more towards midship. There were 2 of us in the mini-suite with balcony. I don't think any more than 2 people would be comfortable. The balcony was generous, and we used it quite a bit, especially when we were sailing the Stockholm Archipelago - gorgeous! The food was very good. We purchased the ultimate dining package, and it was worth it! Do not miss Cagney's and The Bistro. The Market Café was our go-to spot for a quick snack or lunch. The Blue Lagoon was our favorite breakfast spot. All the servers were very good. Entertainment was wonderful in the Lounge, thanks to the cruise director, Iaian, who was very talented and personable. I laughed until my sides hurt. The theatre entertainment was so-so and I never stayed for an entire performance except for the Beatles tribute band, who were very good. We used SPB tours for all our tours. They were very good, but often parked further away than the ship's buses. We toured Berlin with Heather (an American living in Berlin) and feel like we got an honest overview of the city. The tour was fascinating and very educational. Tallinn Estonia was a wonderful surprise. I was not looking forward to this tour, but I was so very pleasantly surprised. What a beautiful old city. I would not have been surprised to see Snow White followed by the Seven Dwarves walk out of any door! It was truly a fairy tale city. Our guide was a college student. She was wonderful and told many anecdotes about various places in the city. Aside from Denmark, I think Tallinn was my favorite stop. Next we visited St. Petersburg. If I had to do it again, I would not have done a two-day tour. I'd have done one day, but be sure to include Peterhof. The gardens are magnificent. The city was one gold leaf onion dome after another, and one gold leaf cathedral or palace after another. Overdose. Helsinki was a different story. We had friends there and did not do an SPB tour. Wonderful city, very beautiful. I'd like to return some day. Stockholm with the Nobel locations and Vasa Museum is engaging and fascinating. We had a French tour guide who lives there and was very knowledgeable about the city. As I said earlier, don't miss the cruise along the Archipelago both approaching and leaving the city. The cruise was the trip of a lifetime for me, and I am so glad I did it. In fact, I'd like to do it again! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
My Spouse and I enjoyed this cruise. We rate this adventure as 8 out of 10 . Staff were attentive,friendly and met any request that I made quickly and efficiently. My room was always clean, and often with towel animals. Weather every day ... Read More
My Spouse and I enjoyed this cruise. We rate this adventure as 8 out of 10 . Staff were attentive,friendly and met any request that I made quickly and efficiently. My room was always clean, and often with towel animals. Weather every day was hot and sunny. I generally ate at the Aqua or the Versailles.We ate at La Cacina and at Cagney Steakhouse,both were worth the extra cost. Visited Red Lion Pub and Spinnaker Lounge only once during the cruise; both times it seemed fine. Embarking and Disembarking were quick, easy and hassle free; as were most of the port visits.Our cabin on deck 4 midship, was generally quiet( first night out, those directly above us were noisy but it soon stopped ) and any ocean movements did not affect us, Being on deck 4 made it easy to get on and off the ship quickly on port visit days. There were a few things that kept it from being a 10. I would have liked to have done my laundry myself , I felt that $27.00 was steep for one bag.I had a massage and felt the sales pitch to buy more products somewhat heavy handed, I did not give in to the pressure . I only paid for one excursion thru the ship ( we used Alla tours for Berlin and while in Russia )which was in Copenhagen as we stayed an extra day after the cruise ended. I felt the cost for the tour did not match the quality of what we saw. Guide seemed rushed and her language skills seemed stiff and very bland. She seemed unable or unwilling to answer questions outside the script. I took a walking tour later in the day which was shorter in length,less than half the cost and more informative and fun. I would have liked to have had more time in Stockholm and in Helsinki, both days were much too short to cover all that I wanted to see. I found the Buffett to be crowded, noisy and temperature of food to be inconsistent. Internet service was very inexpensive and only worked part of the time. All that being said. I will consider cruising with Norwegian again. I am for the most part a very laid back and relaxed traveler. I am rather low needs and am accepting when it comes to vacationing as I am just happy not to be working. I would recommend this cruise to anyone who wants a relaxed way to have a taste of what is available to see in Northern Europe . Read Less
Norwegian Star Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 2.0 3.2
Service 4.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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