Our Journey to Copenhagen took us through SEVEN TIMEZONES! Three flights later we arrived at CPH ready to let our adventure begin!
We stayed 2 nights at The Marriott.
Walking distance from Tivoli, we found it to be perfect. Tivoli was a delight... so much so, we went back the second night and were fortunate to be present for their
Midsummer's Eve celebration (Sankt Hans after) to hear them sing & burn straw witches on the water bonfires.
On day 2 in Copenhagen we enjoyed the Hamlet Castle tour. (Elsinore Castle)
For us, the Copenhagen card turned out not to be worth it. Exhausted from travel, we opted for a bus tour to take us to the 3 castles we wanted to see most (an hour away).
Finally- it was embarkation day! Efficiently executed, we boarded and set out to explore while our amazing cabin stewards worked their magic converting our ship over from one set of guests to the next. The Eurodam is beautiful! We promptly made dinner reservations at Canelletto (I had pre-booked the Pinnacle & Tamarind), signed up for the ship's tour, and bought passes to their thermal suite.
Suite 7050 is directly across from the Neptune Lounge (a suite guests' retreat with its own concierge services, snacks, TV, & sofas, etc. Within our cabin we added a fold-out bed so our adult son and daughter did not have to share the sofa fold out. It made the room a bit tight, but it was a very good-sized cabin, so you could shimmy past the beds & sofas and go do what you chose. The veranda was large, with a table for 4, and 2 chairs with ottomans. The curtained dressing area beside the bathroom allowed an extra spot for changing clothes. There was more than enough closet and drawer space. 8 suitcases were placed easily inside each other (making 4) and stored under the bed. The guys bought an internet package for $250 for 1100 minutes and set up a " central macstation" at the desk beside sofa nearest the door. Internet is wireless on the Eurodam and charges for time could easily be minimized by typing e-mails and such in advance and then copying & pasting them into text windows while back on line.
I LOVE THE THERMAL SUITE ON THE EURODAM! Love, love, love it! We have had passes before on the smaller ships and were content with their hot tub, ceramic loungers, & steam room...but this was a real treat. For $199 for the two of us, we soaked in their large thermal spa pool with jets creating a whirl pool effect. There is a high-pressure jet bath in the middle of the pool, and along one side is a lounging bench submerged in the water & 2 shower spouts for water pressure on those aches. There were hot, dry, & sensory steam rooms. And while attempts at occupancy on one of the 7 thermal loungers could at times become frustrating... it was worth it! So soothing after long day touring, or early before heading off!
Day 1 at sea had many offerings for activities and for us... OUR CRUISE CRITIC GATHERING WITH OVER 100 ATTENDING! I spent more time than was probably needed organizing it, but it was worth it. Meeting with fellow posters with whom I had planned for months was great. It felt like meeting "old friends" in many cases. That initial gathering allowed waves in the hall and visits all cruise long and I hope to keep in touch with many!
It was also our first (of 2) formal nights. I saw far more formal dress on this cruise than I have in cruises of the recent past. Since I enjoy dressing up once in a while, this made it extra special! The photographers were wonderful... posed portraits only- no more in-your-face all about the ship. We took several different family portraits each formal evening and by cruise end, gave up on choosing just a few, and bought the full package of all the pictures for $395... and believe me- it was a huge stack!
Our original dining table for 4 could not hold the six of us obviously, so we were moved to the lower dining room to an assigned table on the "anytime dining" level. Actually, it gave us a unique perspective on seeing the difference. People waited quite a bit at times for the dining room- especially formal night. There were far more larger tables on this level of the dining room and fewer tables for two. Being a table for 6, it was just us--- 3 on a sofa & 3 on chairs across.
Because we had main seating starting at 8PM, our table was ready always by 7:30 and we could go right to it without the added stress of "anytime" reservations. After a few days, we figured out we could go to dinner a bit earlier than the standard main seating time since all guests around us were coming & going.
Dining room food was all good, some very good. Pinnacle and Tamarind are exceptional.
I have a severe shellfish allergy and am always impressed how HAL keeps track of cruisers' special needs and spreads the info. Tamarind greeted me with a warm welcome, and "may we recommend the following alternatives!" (I learned on HAL tour that they post the food allergies and ID pics in prep areas so they can serve us wherever we are- and they really do!)
Our family was awarded our 100-day medallions at a pleasant ceremony with other mariners on our last sea day. They made all of us HAL faithful feel appreciated! Then they escorted us on to the Mariners' lunch where we enjoyed reserved seating in "the medallion area".
We took the official behind-the-scenes Eurodam tour at $150 pp. (If you think of it as "an excursion" the cost is easier to accept.)
A perky dancer toured 12 of us about, while different persons in charge of their own departments also showed and shared information.
We toured backstage, crew cabins, kitchens, laundry, mechanics- all about... we trekked up & down the halls & climbed up and down the ship's "hidden" passages.
We were served samples and observed hard-working HAL crew not usually visible. They work 7 days a week... 12-16 hour days- so many more of them than we see about ship on the "guest levels".
We learned about the bridge and its "working parts" that keep us afloat, and had pics with our captain.
Later we shared drinks with the hotel mgr. Stan, and he continued to answer questions & share anecdotes. 4 hours later, we had to get ready for formal night, so we reluctantly ended our visit.
Shows varied; it was such a hard working group of kids. The material tended to be a bit over-the-top... but we sang along at times, laughed at others, remembered when, and generally enjoyed it all.
I very much enjoyed a guest performance by Kimika! They were loads of fun & showed us HAL knew we were not all vintage cruisers & wanted us baby boomers to be entertained as well.
Ports of Call for GEMS OF THE BALTICS 6/24/12:
We booked the Walking tour "Tallinn Old Town". I knew from other cruisers no tour was needed; they were right. Still, I enjoyed hearing our guide's stories and seeing it through a local's eyes. It also provided one of the funnier moments of the week when the skies erupted, turning the charming cobblestone hills into waterfalls and rapids! Our tour guide was determined that we see it all, even if she had to build us a raft to do so! She continued to point things out, even though my glasses were too wet to see through! We laughed so hard as we puddle-splashed about, listening her chatter on... we were so wet... no need to shower that evening!
St. Petersburg, Russia
Inconsistant and irritable customs agents not withstanding, St. Petersburg was my favorite port!
Our SPb guide, Maria, shared with us 2 days of Russian treasures. We arranged a private 2-day deluxe tour. She brought us around the crowds, to the city's high points, avoided delays, and seemed to know just when and where to be for easiest access.
After an exciting, but utterly exhausting, day, she dropped us off at the Marinsky theatre. After helping us pick up our repurchased ballet tickets, she helped us get a table across the street for dinner and left us to dine on our own. SPb then picked us up after the ballet. It was magical, and worth the cost & exhaustion.
Next day we started with early entry to the Hermitage & were out the door before the worst of the crowding.
The only day I felt I truly let my OCD for planning get the best of me. To all of you who said, "no tour needed:" I wish I had listened. We had a 3 hour panoramic tour that would have been wonderful as 45 minutes touring and 2 hours at the outdoor market... but it was a straight 3 hour tour, and there simply is not enough to tour here to warrant that amount of time. Frustrated, we returned ASAP to ship after the tour, and missed out on, what I later learned of from all I chatted with, a lovely day wandering about freely at the open air market :(
For all of you out there eagerly awaiting my review of the ABBA dancing-through-the-streets tour.... it appeared I alone wanted to be a dancing queen and it was cancelled for lack of interest.
My family walked on the rooftops and toured the city with HAL's Historic Rooftop Tour
I soothed my ABBA disappointment with a dry float body massage in the Greenhouse spa ...so take that ABBA boycotters! This winner took it all!
HAL lists cruising in Stockholm Archipelago as if it were a separate sea day, and it really could be. Stunning views as our captain, pilot, and crew maneuvered our ship through tiny water ways surrounded by stunning Stockholm views. Truly lovely.
I was grateful for a sea day before the port of Warnemunde, Germany- (3 hour commute to Berlin). SPB hosted us for the "Berlin Jewish Heritage Tour". I am glad I went... I can cross it off my list now, but it was NOT my favorite city. They put up a fence around "the wall" to protect it. (a fence around a wall... seemed odd to me!). Check point Charlie has been reduced to a photo backdrop with props. For a few euros you could pose with soldiers and flags... or pose with superheros in halloween costumes of holidays past.
Sadly, I really thought Berlin missed the mark on their interpretations of a Jewish museum and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. (2,711 concrete slabs to represent millions murdered... it made no sense to me!
This was our last port and we did not take the ride into Hamburg. This was our last cruise day & I wanted to end it lightly & pleasantly. So, instead we took HAL's Castles, Lakes, & Roses tour. We enjoyed the views, lunched on "swine," and observed blown glass creation. We had a pleasant 1 hour scenic drive and it left me in positive spirits for the stressful packing up.
We disembarked reluctantly in Copenhagen and spent an extra day until our early morning flight next day. We stayed at the Hilton at CPH, a long walk, but you are right there attached to the terminal & we even had valets to help schlepp the luggage.
We finally visited Nyhavn and enjoyed the canal boat tour. We marched the shopping streets until I was truly marched out. I think I was asleep before 8PM!
I wrote this on the plane home. (The second of three, to be specific). It is a long journey from Copenhagen... give yourself as many precruise days as you can to get over the jet lag and traveler issues. We were fortunate. (Just one lost suitcase--- later found in London and shipped to hotel)... but we have friends who camped out at JFK overnight after "mechanical difficulties" and nearly missed the ship, while others sadly did and were forced to play catch up in Talinn.
We toured independently with SPb tours four times. They are WONDERFUL to deal with & I can HIGHLY RECOMMEND THEM!
Of the 4 tours, I loved St. Petersburg the most.
Berlin was a destination that disappointed me- but our guide was great and tour was, after all, what I chose to book...
Neither Tallinn or Helsinki really need organized tours. BUT, I did enjoy learning the Tales & rituals & knowing I had not missed any of the sights.
We toured with Hal in Stockholm & Kiel- Both were well run & enjoyed.
We had exceptional weather on our trip, something our local tour guides all seemed to comment on! A few heavy storms, but mostly it would rain some, and then the sun would peek back out. We never wore jackets, just sweaters, jeans, and I wore capris twice.
Do bring a scarf for head covering for some of the orthodox churches. (They do have them in a bin up front in some of those churches if you forget).
Bring a portadrive for your laptop; there is so much to photograph you will need to keep emptying your camera and make room for the next adventure!
Bring an extra pair of walking shoes in case the first get soaked and need to dry. Carry an umbrella and poncho even if the sun shines.
It is barely ever dark, try to bring clothes pins or clips to hold curtains closed... I found it very hard to sleep in daylight... bring a face mask if you have one.
I have decided to try harder not to plan & book every moment since there was a lot to be said for wandering the local ports this cruise.
(But, for those of you who know me... it is unlikely...)
I need a vacation after this cruise! 6 countries in 10 days! Exhausting---- and I would do it again tomorrow in a heartbeat!!!!
A MESSAGE BROUGHT TO YOU BY TYLERROSE'S ELDEST SPAWN (NOT THE ONE WITH THE ALMOST-INTERNSHIP):
Greetings, nice internet people (some of whom I've had the distinct pleasure of meeting in reality). Having been blessed by the opportunity to join my family on this cruise, I desire both to keep talking about said cruise, and also to pass on my own opinions on various activities, because I occasionally disagreed with Mom about things or -- more rarely -- actually did something without her.
First, the ***ROOFTOP TOUR OF STOCKHOLM***. This tour was partly a tour by bus as you drive into town, partly a walking tour of the old center of the city, and partly traipsing about on a rooftop. It was an enjoyable tour, of course; that said, I will qualify my recommendation. Everyone seems to think that this is that really good tour for young people, and it is certainly true that people in their twenties generally derive a greater pleasure from imitating Santa Claus than people in their eighties do. But, however much a particular young person makes it their point to pull daredevilish stunts the rest of the time, they will probably just so much fail to derive great excitement from walking around while firmly harnessed to a roof. The other cruisers we spoke to before this tour all seemed under the impression that the tour involved daring leaps from ancient rooftop to ancient rooftop. In actuality, we remained on one building, and our path was in the shape of a square: on one side, there was street, and on the other was the building's courtyard. In terms of novelty or excitement, I actually think that middle-aged people enjoy this tour a lot more. I like to imagine that middle-aged people were all secretly outrageous in youth, and that being on a roof, period, brings back fantastic memories. Physically, you need to be able to climb a ladder/stairs-like thing to get from the attic to the roof, you need to be not afraid of heights overmuch, you need to be able to walk a fairly straight path, and to either balance on one foot at times or bend over, in order to pull your harness "dog" through check points. There was one older couple with us, and although they were the most skittish and the slowest, I think they also got the most out of this jaunt. So, that was just a criticism of the immediate linking of rooftops and youth in folk's minds.
The above having been noted, I did enjoy the tour. It was an interesting way to see the city, it was rather beautiful, and it was, admittedly, fairly novel. In some ways, I liked the walking-tour part best. Stockholm is really cool on foot. The buildings are nifty, the stories the guides told were interesting, and it was pretty down there. Truth be told, it is harder to imagine being an old-time townsperson from a building's roof-- and that's half the fun for me.
Oh, dear, what else... I second my mother's praise of SPb in relation to touring St. Petersburg. Other than the fact that Maria herself knew everything about everything, we seemed, whenever possible, to enter buildings before everyone else, and escape before crowds clogged the workings. It was pretty impressive. We took the Jewish Heritage tour in Berlin, and the main thing about this tour is that you pay attention to what it is called: it's not a Holocaust tour, but a tour of historical Judaism in Berlin. Most of the things you see are general Berlin sites, like Checkpoint Charlie and a chunk of the Wall. The things specific to the Jewish tour were the Jewish Museum, the memorial for the murdered Jews, and a walk past the huge synagogue built around 1900 (?). The museum is interesting. There was an architectural effort to do thought-provoking things with space, and on that front there was some success. Most of the museum is a chronological walk through the Jewry of Berlin's past... beginning with the very origins of Judaism, I think. There are a lot of artifacts from old families, stories about Jewish people who lived in the Middle Ages, and a lot of interactive stuff. I liked the museum, but do understand that the Holocaust is more prominent in the building's design than in the proper exhibit. 1940 and onwards is located in the last part of the museum. The stress is definitely on the heritage. (NOT A BAD THING.) Um... our group's opinions on the Memorial ranged from "Oh-kay. I guess that made me think