I am an equal opportunity cruise line passenger, but I prefer Princess as I like the laid back atmosphere and consistent service. A cruise is what you make of it, so I'm not going to complain about anything.
We flew into Copenhagen and took the ship's transportation to the port. It was about 30-40 minutes to the ship and another 30-40 minutes to go through the check-in process and board the ship. There is not much to do in the immediate port area, so it's best to explore the ship and get your bearings.
Our ship left on May 23rd under sunny skies and temps in the upper 60's. We were very lucky, as this was the first week in many with warm, sunny weather. The Baltic was very calm, as we were sailing close to land most of the time.
Sailing into the fjord of Oslo was gorgeous. I was in the gym around 7am watching as we slowly sailed up the fjord on the glassy water, zig zagging our way through the narrows during the 3 hour approach to Oslo. Unfortunately, the port authority of Oslo decided to go on strike this day, so we were denied entrance and were forced to turn around and sail right back out of the fjord. The day was beautiful as we sailed slowly for 3-4 hours down the fjord while John Lawrence, the port lecturer, narrated our passage. The sun was shining and temps were in the mid 70's, so the day was not a loss.
Because of our denial into Oslo, we arrived in Aarhus at 8am rather than noon the following day. What a cute port town! An easy 10-15 minute walk into town with an ATM on the way, Aarhus is very easy to walk around. Again, the temps were in the 70's with the sun shining, so all of the Danish locals were out enjoying the day. The ship didn't leave until 7pm, so it was great to sit up on deck and enjoy a movie before getting ready for the evening.
One thing about the Baltic cruise is that the sun rises in the 4am hour and sets in the 10 or 11pm hour. It's great to enjoy the outdoors and walk around the deck after dinner and view the beautiful sunsets. If you have a balcony, the sun will stream into any crack in the curtains as early as 4:30am, so be prepared.
We docked in Warnemunde, Germany the following day, Saturday, with another warm, sunny day. All of the Germans were rushing toward the beach in Warnemunde so if the weather is nice, enjoy the day with the rest of the country. The beach is HUGE. You dock right in the town with only a 5 minute walk or so to everything. We chose not to go to Berlin, but to enjoy the local towns. We took a river ferry for about 10 or 15 euros up the river 45 minutes to Rostock. This is a very nice town with a great pedestrian area and a beautiful church. Lots of Germans come here to do their shopping. We ate lunch along the river, then took the return ferry to Warnemunde and walked around with the hoardes of Germans. Many people here do not speak English, as this is part of former East Germany.
We had a lovely day at sea with more sunshine, then the next day in Tallinn, Estonia. Another fantastic port! Maybe a 15 minute walk into the walled city with cute shops along the way. There are two main gates to the city, so make sure to see both of them. This is very walkable. There is an upper town and a lower town with lots of colorfully buildings and some beautiful churches. Great shopping, especially amber. We found a couple of different places to stop for a beer or wine and just enjoyed the people watching. English was not a problem here. This was by far our favorite port!
One thing to know is that you lose 2 hours of time on your way to Russia, then gain it back over the next couple of days. Our arrival into Russia was seamless. We booked a non-ship tour through Alla Tours and lined up to leave the ship at 6:30am. Yes, the passport control was rigid, but we still made it off the ship and through to our tour guide within 30-45 minutes.
The first day in St Petersburg was fabulous and we were lucky to have nice weather. Upon returning to the ship around 6pm, the passport line was very long and you have to be patient. Russia is all about patience.
Our second day was rainy, and it's very important to have a GOOD umbrella. Get one that has wind vents at the top. Sharper Image sells a great one for $29. Every other person on our tour had their umbrellas turn inside out except for us.
After 2 days in opulent St Petersburg, Helsinki was a real let down. We took the bus into town, which was easy. The city architecture is boring and grey. We immediately took the ferry to the fortress of Suomenlinna which is a little island just off shore. It was nice to walk around, but nothing was open yet, so it was boring. We also walked to the Rock Church, but so did 1000 other people because there really isn't anything else to do. The port area downtown is alive with fisherman and you can get lots of fresh fish and reindeer dishes and eat it right there at picnic tables. We tried to find a cafe for a beer, but the beer was 12-15 euros apiece, so we went back to the ship early.
The next morning, we sailed slowly through the archipelago into Stockholm and although it was raining, the scenery was unbelievable. With only a short day in Stockholm, we took the shuttle (for a fee) into town and walked to the Gamla Stan area. This is a very cute island with the palace and lots of shops in narrow streets. I would love to to back to Stockholm when the sun is shining and for longer than a few hours.
Again, the sail out of Stockholm was just gorgeous and sometimes, you felt so close to an island that you could throw a rock from your balcony and hit land. This is a cruise where you MUST have a balcony as you are always close to land and wonderful things to see.
This is a cruise to enjoy the ports and then rejuvenate at night on the ship. We always found good food, good entertainment, nice people and were never at a loss for something to do.
Our flight from Copenhagen left at 10:45, so were were assigned to leave the ship between 7-7:30. Leaving the ship was very efficient and we took the Princess shuttle to the airport. The Copenhagen airport is one of the best airports I've ever been to, so getting there early is no problem. We were lucky enough to get upgraded to first class for our flight to JFK, so this was a fantastic end to a fantastic cruise!