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Terence Benson

Age: 66

Occupation:Retired journalist

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Sun

Sailing Date: 2011-05-26

Itinerary: Baltic

We wanted to visit the Baltic ports, especially St Petersburg, and we wanted to cruise in an informal environment. Overall, the cruise and the ship met our expectations. The ship was clean, service was very good, our stateroom - with balcony - was roomy, well-equipped and comfortable. Our room steward did all he could to please, even if his English was limited. The shore excursions that we took were expensive but, certainly in the case of St Petersburg, well worth the money. We disliked the constant wailing heart-throb music in the buffet restaurant and the incessant marketing of NCL products and shipboard shops.

We are not foodies. We ate only in the Garden Cafe buffet restaurant. We found the food tasty and sufficiently varied for our liking. We struggled to find a table away from the noisy, tinny music. If the weather was pleasant, as it was most of the time, we ate out on the rear deck. Alcoholic beverages included an 18% service charge and were painfully expensive.

Bigger and more comfortable than we expected. The double bed was large and comfortable, very important for me as I suffer from a bad back. The room came with a safe, coffee maker, fridge, TV, adequate cupboards and drawers, couch-bed (not terribly comfortable) and desk. Wifi internet was available throughout the ship although the price was steep. Cost me $200 for two 250 minute packages. Bathroom was clean and adequate. Great shower, lots of hot water.

The onboard activities were aimed at Mr and Mrs Average. We're in our sixties and pretty good at entertaining ourselves anyhow. We stuck our heads into a few of the rock and roll concerts and decided against staying the course. The amplified music throbbed through the cabins at the stern of the ship, although it was generally over by 10:30. The magician-illusionist was stunning; in our opinion, easily the best act. We avoided the dances, the quizzes, the mega-expensive gym and spa, the smoky casino and the pools/hot pools. Talks on various subjects inevitably came with heavy promotion of shipboard products.

Take the excursions for St Petersburg. They're expensive but worth it. The alternative is to get caught up in a tangle of Russian bureaucracy in a country where you won't easily find help in English. The other city to consider taking an excursion to is Stockholm as the ship lowers anchor an hour away at the port of Nynashamn and you will need to take a train into the capital. Don't take the two-hour Highlights of Stockholm excursion that we took as you simply sit on a bus for two hours with no opportunity for a break. Mind you, the Swedes, unlike the Russians, will speak English to you. The other ports, Warnemunde, Helsinki and Tallinn, you may as well explore for yourself. It's easy enough.

We had great weather, fascinating ports of call, a comfortable cabin, good service, satisfactory food, a smooth voyage and generally good organisation. The highlight was a 15 minute explanation from the captain on the bridge of how his ship worked - during a 2.5 hour $35 "behind the scenes" tour. I wish that we could have escaped the loud, trashy music in the buffet restaurant and the endless marketing promotions.

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