We had a great time on this 11-day Princess Cruise of the Baltic aboard Emerald Princess.
We are experienced cruisers who had done a similar itinerary once before about 11 years ago. We loved Scandinavia on that trip and wanted to go again. We chose this cruise because it also went to Oslo, Norway which we hadn't seen on our first trip.
After watching the weather reports for several weeks prior to our tour, we were prepared for lots and lots of rain. In fact, the cruise before ours experienced rain every day of their trip. We were delighted when we were greeted by sunny skies for most of our trip. We only had rain parts of two days and felt very lucky.
Embarkation was a snap here. We had taken a taxi from our hotel to the pier and were greeted by Princess personnel, who unloaded our luggage and pointed us to the check-in area. We are Platinum members of Princess' Captain's Circle but we didn't even need our preferred check-in benefits. We just walked right up to the counter, showed our passports and were welcomed aboard the ship. One of the best embarkation experiences ever.
Our cabin was the usual (great) balcony cabin. We were on the Caribbe Deck (10) which gives you a much larger balcony than those on other decks. We had taken another cruise on Ruby Princess (Emerald's twin sister) a few years ago and had horrible water pressure and fluctuations in the hot/cold. We were worried this might be the same because the ships were built at the same time. We needn't have worried. Our water pressure and temperature were the best we've ever had on ANY cruise ship. Bravo!
Our cabin was right across the hall from the self-serve laundromat. It was nice and convenient on the one day we did laundry. And we didn't notice any noise from its proximity the rest of the time.
The food on the trip was fine, but in general the food on all cruise ships seems to be going downhill. You now have to pay extra in a specialty restaurant for the quality you received every night in the main dining room every night. There were a couple of nights when there was nothing on the menu that sounded appetizing and we ended up getting the "always" available steak or chicken instead. They did have the one night when lobster was served in the dining room and that was very good. Their cream of mushroom soup is also excellent. And we always found the service in both the dining room and buffet to be top notch.
We dined at the specialty steak house one night and enjoyed a fabulous dinner. The steaks here rival Morton's and other great steakhouses on shore, so it is worth the $25 pp cover charge.
The Horizon Court (buffet) was its usual chaotic experience with people criss-crossing back and forth through the lines and people trying to go both directions in a cafeteria situation. The fact that Emerald Princess has an additional buffet area (Caribbe Court) at the aft of the ship does seem to take a bit of the pressure off the Horizon Courts (port and starboard) but it was still challenging trying to find a table most mornings. I really wish Princess would take a cue from their parent company Carnival in this regard...it's probably the only area in which Carnival is better than Princess. Carnival has a huge buffet area with food stations spread out throughout the area. So you don't find a bottleneck of passengers all in one area at the same time. And they have plenty of tables so it never seems to be an issue trying to find a seat. Please, Princess, take heed and address this when designing your new ships or remodeling your existing ones!
We rated the entertainment lower than normal on this cruise because there were no comedians included. We have been on so many cruises that we generally don't go to the main song/dance shows anymore. But we do love the comedy shows that we have enjoyed on most cruises. This time there wasn't ONE comedian in 11 days. Princess needs to correct this on future sailings.
The one MAJOR problem we had was with an unexpected "course correction" when we were leaving St. Petersburg. We were still in the main harbor in completely smooth water when suddenly at 7:15 p.m. the ship listed violently to port and then just as violently back to starboard. We were in our stateroom watching a movie and we almost fell off the bed. A large bottle of water on top of the refrigerator went flying across our cabin. We were on the 10th floor and when we rolled back to starboard, we could see water and a red buoy directly outside our cabin. It's disconcerting when you are on the 10th floor and suddenly you are at water level. We talked to other passengers who were in the main dining room and had bottles of wine go crashing to the floor and many plates were broken. In the Horizon Court they had a flood when all the pools and hot tubs emptied. The Horizon Court was closed until the next morning, with only the Caribe Court in operation. There were crew member everywhere trying to squeegee water off the decks and use wet/dry vacs to vacuum up the water. One crew member told us that the galley was a total mess. The thing that amazed us was that there was total silence on the part of the captain until a full hour had elapsed. He then came on the intercom and basically blamed the incident on the Russian pilot who had been aboard to get us out of the harbor. Passengers were livid and everyone was speculating that they were too busy contacting their legal department to let us know what was going on. Again, we had NO CLUE what had caused the problem. I thought, what was that? A rouge wave? But you look outside and the water is completely flat! We did speak with one elderly woman the next day who had just gotten out of an elevator when this happened and she was thrown across the elevator lobby and crashed into the opposite wall. She was bruised but was able to continue with the cruise. We wonder if anyone else was hurt. In this day and age after the Costa Concordia incident you would think that cruise lines would be more proactive in communicating with passengers in the event of something like this. We are veteran cruisers and don't plan to stop cruising because of this, but there are other people who will probably never set foot on a cruise ship again because of it. You need to do a better job communicating with people. And for God's sake, don't let that Russian pilot anywhere near any of your ships ever again!