This was our 3rd sailing with RCI; having previously been on Mariner & Independence it was nice to try out a smaller ship this time - and we weren't disappointed. It was nice to meet people and then keep bumping into them during the cruise - whereas, on the bigger ships, you can meet someone at embarkation and then never see them again for the whole cruise! The only criticism I would have about the ship is that the Centrum area - where they have a lot of entertainment - just isn't big enough for 2,000+ people to get involved, or even see what was going on; on one occasion we had to resort to riding up and down in the glass lifts to get a view of what was happening in the centrum! Also, the centrum is open right up to Deck 12 - which means that the music carries all the way up to those decks; if you have a cabin close to the centrum (as we did - albeit on Deck 9) you can expect to hear the music in your room. It wasn't too bad, but just something to bear in mind if, like us, you go to bed before midnight!
The food in the restaurant and Windjammer was good; if there was nothing on the evening menu that appealed there was always the option of chicken/steak etc. Entertainment in the theatre was probably the best we've had on any cruise (except for the night they put a film on) - especially the Russian folkgroup who came on board in St Petersburg, and Graffiti Classics.
Copenhagen: Ship berthed about 5 mins walk from the Little Mermaid, and from there it was about 15 mins walk into the town. There is the option of a Hop On Hop Off bus, but we like to get the exercise so opted to walk. As it was a Sunday almost all shops were closed, so we had a coffee in a picturesque area of the city and then visited the Rosenberg Palace, which was very interesting.
Stockholm: Got up at 6am to watch the approach into Stockholm (apparently the archipelago has 28,000 islands!) and it was well worth it. We wrapped up warm and had breakfast on the balcony - fantastic views. Once ashore, we had intended to walk into the city centre but unfortunately we were docked too far out (there were two possible place to berth - one right by the old town and one a lot further out: Costa Cruises, who had followed us in, got the old town berth and we got the short straw!) As we hadn't purchased shuttle tickets on the ship the best option seemed to be the HOHO bus - can't remember exactly how much the fare was, but it took you round to all the sites and then dropped us right by the Royal Palace. The sail out of Stockholm in the evening was just as impressive as it had been that morning; we had a drink and sat in the Safari Lounge, at the back of the ship, watching the view.
Helsinki: Again opted to walk into town - pleasant walk along the coast, which took about 40 minutes. We didn't think that much of Helsinki - it was a nice enough place, but apart from the Cathedral there didn't seem to be very much there. We found a nice hotel opposite the harbourside market and sat outside having coffee in the sun.
St Petersburg: We had opted to do two half-day trips here - first morning was to Peterhof Palace & Fountains, and second day was an afternoon trip to Yusopov Palace & canal trip. Had been a little worried about Russia because we hadn't got any Roubles; we had intended to get them onboard, not realising that the ship don't stock them. Although we didn't intend to buy any souvenirs, we had heard that you needed cash to pay for both toilets and camera permits in Russia; went and spoke to Cintia, who is the excursions expert, and she checked - turned out that cost of permits was included in excursion price (photos inside Peterhof were not allowed anyway) and toilets at both Peterhof and Yusopov were free of charge. Both trips were very interesting and 2 half-days was just the right length as far as we were concerned. The traffic in St Petersburg is horrendous - so, whatever trip you decide to do, resign yourself to sitting in traffic jams! One thing to beware of if you have a balcony cabin: we had to keep the doors closed all the time we were in port because of the horrible flying insects on the balcony.
Tallinn: Apart from St Petersburg, this was the highlight of the visit for us. Tallinn is just a delightful town - like something out of a story book! It looks like a scene from a Disney movie, complete with castle on the hill - and even had Shrek & Donkey outside the Cathedral, posing for photographs.
Gothenburg: Out least favourite port. Nothing much here apart from the Volvo Museum, unless you are interested in shopping! Too far to walk into town, and no HOHO buses, so unless you want to stay on ship the choice is either shuttle bus ($15 return) or excursion.
Harwich Port: On the day we were leaving we arrived just after 11am. We had already booked car parking but the signage for the car park was very bad - there was various car parks but no indication which one to use for pre-booked spaces (turn out to be over the left, a long way from the ship). We ended up driving to a dropping off point near the terminal where my husband dropped me and luggage off before parking and coming back on the shuttle bus. We asked no less than 5 Harwich Port employees where we should go, and not one of them seemed to know! A bit stressful and should have been handled better - seemed pretty amateur after the slick system they have at Southampton. Happily, the RCI procedure for getting us off the ship when we came back to Harwich for very quick and simple.