The ship is medium-sized and big enough to have variety, yet small enough to be intimate. As the cruise was port-intensive, being able to easily get off the ship was a real positive. The walk from the ship to the shuttle or excursion buses was short. The entertainment was varied and enjoyable. We had good companions and good food in the main dinning room: what more could you ask for? The Captain was personable and livened-up his announcements with a good dose of humor. We had a female cruise director, something long overdue.
The weather in early September was cool and sunny, with each day beginning with clouds. It was perfect long pants and windbreaker weather. Good weather for comfortable touring. We lucked out: no rain.
We liked all the ports, except for St. Pete. The anachronistic Russian visa requirement effectively forces you to go on a tour, when in reality most cruisers are competent enough to (absent visa restrictions) actually see all the major sights in St. Pete on their own. Many of the major tourist sites are within a several block area. There is no need for old Soviet Union type travel restrictions. Likely, a lot more money would be spent in stores and cafes if we all had the same kind of freedom experienced in all of the other Baltic ports.
Tallinn is a perfect medieval town, having just the right amount of shops and cafes mixed in among the historical buildings. The stylish sweaters, coats, socks, and hats are bargains that will not occur at other ports. In our opinion the shuttle bus is a much better option than a formal tour. St. Pete is good for historical sites, but if you enjoy the simple freedom of walking around and shopping or eating at a cafe, St. Pete may not be for you.
Helsinki was a superb town for walking around. The rock church was the highlight of the trip. The church puts the gold plated artificiality of other churches throughout Europe to shame. Its spirituality is akin to the powerful simplicity of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. The rock church is about you, nature, and god. A good mix. No historical jingoism. Just spirituality. On a more practical plane, the food market is just as good as advertised. We ate in a tent on the harbor.
It takes 4 hours for the ship to make the trip up river to Stockholm. It is like the Alaska Inward Passage, only ten times better. If you get a good viewing seat, you can watch an unbelievable variety of cabins and weekend retreats of many styles, sizes, and shapes. Clean, orderly, and unique. We sat and watched the entire transit, mesmerized by the civilized beauty of the archipelago. When we walked around Stockholm, we were amazed to see people in waders and standing on the river bank fishing for salmon. The noon time changing of the palace guard is not to be missed. The palace is surrounded by shops and cafes, ideal for a self-guided exploration.
If you have identification with you, American-style swipe credit cards are generally accepted. We got a chip-based credit card for the trip, but were unable to use it as we did not have a PIN number. Apparently, PIN numbers are routinely expected. We stuck with dollars and euros and had no trouble. Every taxi accepted American swipe credit cards.
In Copenhagen, we took a train from the airport to Malmo Sweeden, because of the better rates at the Malmo Marriott. There is a unique bridge and futuristic office building in Malmo. Getting the train was effortless and the ride was smooth. Malmo has a number of outstanding outdoor cafes and restaurants. It was no more effort to go to Malmo than to take a train to any other hotel in Copenhagen.