This was our first European cruise and I must say, it was wonderful. We thoroughly enjoyed being able to see so many countries in a short period of time.
I had originally booked an outside cabin, obstructed view. Imagine my surprise when we checked it to find out we had been upgraded to a Verandah Suite cabin....what an upgrade! We thoroughly enjoyed having the bigger common area, bathroom, and outside deck.
The ship itself was beautiful. I have cruised 3 times before, all on Carnival and always the Caribbean, which tends to draw younger single people. This line is far more upscale. The food and service were much better. The one huge difference I noticed was that there were hardly any younger people (under 45) on the ship. This crowd is A LOT older, I'd say the average age is at least 65. We knew it would be older, due to the destination and the cruise line. Also, I don't think I saw more than 5 children on the entire ship, probably due to the fact that they were all back in school by this time....don't get me wrong, we had a great time (myself, my boyfriend, and another couple ages 37-41), it's just for the most part, there weren't a lot of people near to our age on the ship.
About the only complaint I have about this ship is its lack of a running track. I enjoy exercising, and I used the gym several times. I do not like running on a treadmill, I prefer outside. The only place they have that you can use is on deck 3....it is a walkway that is in some places quite wide and others quite narrow. Everyone out there was walking, and sometimes there were 3-4 people across...not the best way to get by a group. I think this was definitely a mistake in the ship's design.
The countries we visited were great, truly an eye-opening experience for me. We toured on our own with the exception of Russia. Here we used Red October for the tour. There were 10 of us total, which was wonderful. We paid a lot less money and saw a lot more than if we had used the ship's tours. The one thing I will say though is be prepared for them to feel like long days...due to less sleep than I usually get, I was pretty exhausted as the day went on.
In Stockholm, we made a private reservation to go to the Absolute Ice Bar (bar made entirely of ice) at the Nordic Sea Hotel...do this on your own rather than use the ship's tour, it's much cheaper, and you can go on your own time.
In Germany, we made the decision to rent a car and drive to Berlin. Unfortunately I got some bad information from this board, someone told me Avis was the car rental place right by the dock. That turned out to not be true, Hertz is the rental agency by the dock...oh well. We ended up taking a 20 minute cab ride to our car...next time we will know better. Berlin was quite interesting, especially seeing the wall and reading some of the information posted at it.
I highly recommend cruising in Europe as a way to see many places in a short period of time. We have already booked the Mediterranean for next September (this time Carnival Liberty) as the prices they are promoting right now for a 12 day cruise is amazing...