My husband and I began planning our 11 Day Scandinavian & Russian cruise over a year ago. The trip was planned as our one year anniversary celebration and we invited my sister and brother-in-law to join us. Overall I think that the cruise was mediocre but the ports were so great that it made up for it. The only port we missed was Oslo because of a strike in the city.
Booking process: I booked online during a promotional week and was promised a $50 on-board credit. Once my sister booked her trip, I e-mailed my contact at Princess to ask that our two parties be sat at the same table. This went fine. One week prior to the embarkation my sister was notified that they received an upgrade from an interior to a balcony room. I contacted Princess to ask why I hadn't received an upgrade since we had booked first. I was told that I didn't mark that I would like one and there was nothing they could do other than add me to the list. Two days later I received an upgrade to a window room. I later found out on the cruise that they took away our $50 on-board credit in exchange for the upgrade. So, basically my sister was able to get a balcony for free and I was charged $100 for a window.
Flight/pre-cruise hotel: I booked air independently through Scandinavian Airlines. The flight was as comfortable as possible and the Copenhagen airport was very easy to navigate. They have a line of taxis waiting to take you downtown. I had booked two nights at the Grand Hotel in Copenhagen. We then arranged a taxi to the ship on embarkation day.
Embarkation: This was the easiest and fastest embarkation I have ever experienced. We got there at about 12:20 and we were on the ship by about 12:45. Our luggage arrived in just over an hour. Very simple, very easy.
Stateroom: We had a window stateroom that was on the Emerald deck. It was a nice location because it was just two floors above our dining room. This was larger than most staterooms and there was plenty of room for all our bags to be unpacked. The television channels offered a lot of good movies and port information.
Ship layout: I was disappointed in the ship's layout. There were several floors that we weren't able to walk from the front to the back of the ship. This became a problem over and over again.
Food: In general, the food was very mediocre. We tried practically every food place (that was free). I think my favorites were the tapas in the Vines wine bar. Dinners each night were good but not much really was great. I loved the pizza but was surprised that it wasn't open 24 hours. The buffet was never good and I eventually gave up. Room service was very prompt each time we ordered but the breakfast choices were very limited.
Service: Our stateroom steward was Zeus and he was great. Our waiters in the Botticelli dining room were Oscar and Menino and they were also fantastic. The servers in the Wheelhouse Bar and Vines were very attentive. Anywhere else I went they just didn't seem to ever see you. I'm used to ships that when you sit down someone approaches right away to get your drink order. There appeared to be only one server for the entire Princess Theater so I never was able to order anything there. The Explorer's Lounge was the worst. I would have to signal the servers for about 5 minutes every time to get someone to come over. I would have just gone to the bar myself but I was playing Trivia so I couldn't get up. The buffet servers were sometimes attentive but it depended on the day. Sometimes it would be 10 minutes before someone would clear our plates.
Spa: The spa services were great. Since we missed our stop in Oslo I was able to reschedule to that day without any problem. I got a hot stone massage that was sooo relaxing.
Entertainment: The shows were very good. We saw the ventriloquist and the magician; I even was brought on stage for the magician. There was a piano player that did a show one night and he was great fun to see. We participated in a lot of trivia games and played Bingo a couple times. We loved listening to the Rick Kilburn Quartet and we stopped by before or after dinner almost every night.
Disembarkation: We purchased a ship transfer to the airport because they sent out a letter stating that there could be a 2 hour wait for taxis. This was not true! There were probably 50 taxis waiting for passengers. The ship transfer was very easy, though. We put out our luggage the night before and then claimed it when we got to the airport. I am always nervous to let go of my luggage but this was not a problem.
Excursions: We only booked one Princess excursion and I will never book another ship excursion again. The guide's commentary was terrible. When we got to the Vasa Museum she asked us to meet back at 10 am. At 9:57 my husband and I went to the meeting spot and no one was there. My brother-in-law finally came back with the guide about 2 minutes later saying that she had tried to leave without us. There were two other couples that also had just gotten to the meeting point and would have missed the bus. I am a very prompt person so when I was told 10:00, I didn't think that meant 9:50.
Ports: I will review the ports individually but I will mention that other than our missed day in Oslo and some rain and a bad tour guide in Stockholm, they were all excellent.