Ship & Room
Decor feels a bit dated, but overall is OK. I did not like the water on desks, seemed hazardous for jogging and even walking. The running track deck is not runner friendly. Our room attendant was extremely friendly and personable. The room was comfortable (deck 9 closer to the aft), but it could use a more thorough cleaning (I am a cleaning freak). I saw supervisor's checking room cleanliness, but not ours. Public bathroom cleanliness was uneven.
Took a bit of time to go through security on embarkation, but overall both embarkation and disembarkation were well organized. I just forgot how much I detest ending my expensive vacation being thrown off the ship before 7AM.
Service & Restaurants
Service was superb everywhere. The Tides dining room waiter and his assistants were very good. I think having the tips prepaid (my time dining) completely spared us from any wait lines to be seated and served. The food at specialty restaurants was excellent as was the service. Windjammer food was poor (not a foodie grade), although you would not go hungry. After having a lunch their on the first day, we only went there for breakfast. We went to the Tides dining room for breakfast and lunch on the days at sea. The service at Tides during breakfast and lunch was uneven, since it was not our regular waiter staff. The food was definitely better at a start of the cruise than in the middle and toward the end. Other fellow travelers noticed it too. On a positive note, I had the best veggie vindaloo dish I ever had, just do not expect basmati rice ?.
Entertainment was above average and Tenors Unlimited were the highlights.
Ports of call
SPB was the highlight of the whole cruise, but all other ports of call were also charming and pleasant, except for the poor tour experience at Stockholm. People at Gothenburg are amazing. They offer help with directions and suggestions. They want you to have a wonderful experience and love their city.
The 2-day SPB Tours at St. Petersburg and they were a great choice. They are worth a whole separate review, and I would recommend them without hesitation. They also provided us with a private car for the evening at a very reasonable rate.
RCCLs Stockholm Beauty on Land & Water spoiled our entire day in this beautiful city. The tour guide did not show or tell us anything useful, and the boat ride was a sorry affair. The HO HO ticket in Helsinki included a harbor cruise, so we had a chance to compare and confirm we were totally robbed of a great experience. The boat looked as it was taken out of a salvage yard. The huge busses have hardly enough room to maneuver the narrow streets and find parking, plus there was nothing that we could not see walking few blocks on our own, which we did anyway. What a shame to pay $79pp and have your day ruined.
In London and Copenhagen we used Sandemans New Europe tours. Too bad their Gothenburg tour starts at 10:30AM and the ship only docks at 11AM, so we missed it.
I already mentioned HO HO tour in Helsinki which we picked when we got off the ship instead of the city shuttle. We got the ticket that included a harbor cruise which was definitely a highlight and very pleasant. The open air market food was amazingly good. Just be mindful that the last bus is at 4PM not to miss it and coordinate between two routes appropriately.
In Tallinn, we had took the Old Town Walking tour. Just as Sandemans, they use students as guides, and after having three tours of this format, as long as we can walk and keep up, these tours would be our first choice, and not just because they are free or low cost.
At Gothenburg, we took RCCL shuttle and walk everywhere on our own.