P&O Arcadia Baltic Cruise -- 8th -- 22nd May 2013 ABOUT US - we are a retired couple with 2 grown up sons, who've flown the nest. We are both 57 years young. We are only occasional cruisers (5 cruises with 5 different companies), but regular travellers and we try to go somewhere overseas approx every 6 weeks and we are in Trip Advisor's top 1% of reviewers. We travelled with 2 friends, who we've been away with before and are great company. We prefer to do things ourselves, rather than take excursions, so I've outlined what we did at each port. I hope you'll find the information helpful.
PRICE - we paid £1,850 each for a balcony (booked August 2012), but we could have got the same level of room in a last minute sale for £799, that's over £1,000 less each. The "Vantage Fare Price Promise" is worthless. It was the first time we've booked a cruise in advance -- well we won't make that mistake again!!!!!
EMBARCATION - we drove down from the Wirral (a 4 hour drive) and arrived at Southampton approx 13.00. Our satnav found Ocean Village perfectly. Go through Gate 4 at the docks and they direct you to the correct shi). We used post code SO14 3QN. Plenty of drop off space at the terminal. Busy, but well organized and not too congested. The porters took our bags straight away (no charge) -- all very helpful and efficient. I dropped our car off with the "Parking4Cruising" team in the Short Stay car park opposite. Again very slick - £97 for 14 nights parking (£150 with P&O). As you enter the Terminal, P&O gave us a letter card (it was W for us) and we took a seat for approx 15 minutes before being called to check in. The terminal is quite modern and very spacious. There is a small snack bar and plenty of seating.
CABIN - we went directly to our cabin from check in. Cabin B154 - ~Deck 7 Bermuda. A deluxe balcony stateroom overlooking the central stern of the ship. High enough to avoid the white noise of the propellers and wake water, but with a lovely relaxing wake view, particularly at sunset. The first time we've had a cabin in this position and we really liked it. Our bags were outside our cabin after we had eaten lunch. Our cabin Simon introduced himself to us. He was a very pleasant and courteous man. He kept our room immaculate throughout our trip.
A good size for a balcony stateroom, with plenty of floor space. A very comfy king size bed, with nice quality linen and pillows. A compact seating area with a 2 seater sofa and a small table. 2 good size bedside cabinets with 2 drawers each. A small desk and chair and a small flat TV with BBC World, Sky News, 3 x film channels, bridge camera view, excursion channels etc - lots of choice. Tea/coffee facilities. A large size fridge with ice bucket. 3 wardrobes, one for full length dresses. A small safe with keypad. A 240v hairdryer. Plenty of lights and good aircon. 1 x UK 240 socket, which was too close to the desk and did not allow all plugs to fit, if they had a thick cable. There were also 2 x 110v US sockets and a 220v European socket. We used a European adaptor upside down for those difficult UK plug leads. All types of adapters are on sale in the ship's shop. No robes or slippers, but perhaps you can get them if you ask your steward.
BATHROOM - reasonably sized with a 3/4 size bath and shower above. Lovely quality White Company toiletries. Lots of storage. Nice towels. Good extraction.
FOOD - times below can vary daily.
Meridian Main Dining Room (MDR) - decks 2 & 3 aft
08.00 - 09.30 sit down breakfast
12.00 - 13.30 sit down lunch
15.00 16.00 sit down afternoon tea
18.30 Dinner 1st sitting
20.30 Dinner 2nd sitting
Belvedere buffet restaurant deck 9 aft
06.30 - 07.00 continental
07.00 - 10.30 breakfast
10.30 - 11.45 brunch
12.00 - 15.00 lunch
15.00 - 17.00 afternoon snacks
18.30 - 21.30 themed dinner
20.00 - 02.00 late snacks
Neptune Bar deck 9 aft
All day snacks - 11.00 - 06.30
Ocean Grill 18.00 - 21.30. Marco Pierre White restaurant. £12.95 pp extra.
Orchid restaurant 18.30 - 21.30. Asian fusion food. £10.00 pp extra.
Room Service -- we had breakfast in our room on a few occasions.
Numerous bars everywhere, with waiter service on deck and in the theatre.
Food generally good. Due to the recession, some cutbacks are inevitable and it showed at times, but you won't go hungry.
Open 24 hours. Very efficient and helpful. Also can be contacted by phone.
SHOWS -- all pleasantly entertaining, but too much singing most nights for my taste. Could have done with a comedian to lighten things up a bit.
We took a bottle of gin each in our main luggage, plus a few bottles of tonic and some limes. We like a GnT in our cabin before dinner. P&O seem quite relaxed about you bringing limited alcohol on board. You can also buy bottles of spirits for consumption in your cabin via room service. I think it was £30 per litre bottle of gin, which includes some mixers too - quite good value. As usual, spirits bought in the Duty Free shop can be picked up at the end of the cruise.
High prices for wifi - £35 for 100 minutes, £62.50 for 250, but to be fair it is using a satellite. You can also do "pay as you go" wifi - £2.50 connection fee and then £0.50 per minute, which was fast and easy to use.
The daily information sheet "Horizon" gives you the entire next days goings on and any other relevant info. There is an information pack in your cabin, which includes detailed information and city maps for each port, so there is no need to take any city guidebooks.
There is also a daily news summary sheet onboard called Britain Today.
Because you are sailing east on the way out, you have to move the clocks foreword one hour on three occasions. This can make things a bit tiring, but you do gain the time back on the way home.
Day 1 -- Departed at 17.00 - a wet and dull sail away. Casual attire in the MDR. The show was the ship's resident singers and dancers - "Headliners".
Day 2 - at sea. A beautiful sunny day. Plenty to do. We walked 4 miles (12 laps) of the Promenade Deck in the morning. After lunch went to see the live Marco Pierre White interview in the packed main theatre and afterwards we went to his book signing. He was on board for 3 nights and was a gentle and modest man. We bought a couple of his books and had our photo taken with him. 1st Black tie night. Free drinks in the Neptune Bar for the Captain's party, with a brief speech by him. Virtually 100% of men were in black tie. We ate in the MDR. The show was "Elite", a female singing trio from London's West End.
Day 3 -- Kristiansand, Norway. Docked at 09.30 directly in the town. Only a 2 minute walk along the quay to the town. It was raining hard unfortunately, but being tough Brits, we soldiered on and walked around the town and got soaking wet. It's quite a pretty town, with lots of quaint wooden houses. We visited the cathedral and the small fish market. We had planned to walk to a number of the parks, but after an hour or two of rain, we succumbed to the warmth and dry sanctuary of the ship. It rained most of the day. All on board 17.00. Departed 17.15. Quite choppy conditions. We walked 9 laps of the Promenade Deck until they closed it due to bad weather. Smart attire tonight (jacket required) in the MDR. Too tired for the show, so straight to bed.
Day 4 - Copenhagen, Denmark. Docked at 09.10. It was only a few minutes walk along the quay into town. The Little Mermaid was a few hundred meters from the ship. The city is very walkable from the ship. Lots of churches and fine buildings to see. Plenty of open squares to relax and have a beer. The currency is the Danish Kroner, but bars were happy to take credit cards. The sun shone most of the day and we walked nearly 8 miles exploring the city (so my satnav watch told me). We departed at 17.20. Casual attire in the MDR. The show was a Vaudeville entertainer - comedy, juggling, escapology etc.
Day 5 - Warnemund, Germany. We docked at 09.30 directly in town. Simply walk through the station underpass and you are in the town. We walked to the lovely harbour area and then to the lighthouse. Then along the nice beach and the long promenade and back to the harbour via the town. All easily do-able in a couple hours.
The boat docks right opposite the train station. We took the train to Rostock - 1.80 euros each way. Trains leave every 15 minutes. The journey takes about 20 minutes. Then a short tram ride from Rostock main station (Hopmanhof) to Rostock centre. The 1.80 euro includes the return tram fare. Plenty to see in Rostock. I thought the highlight was St Marion's Church (1.50 euro entrance). It has a huge 5,700 pipe organ and a massive astronomical clock from 1472. Both are superb and well worth the entrance fee.
We walked Warnemund in the morning and visited Rostock in the afternoon. Plenty of time for both. All on board 16.30. Departed 16.50.
A bit of a crisis before dinner - our toilet overflowed onto the floor. Nothing "solid" fortunately, just water. Simon the steward called the plumber, who fixed it - a blocked pipe Casual attire tonight. After 4 nights in the MDR we fancied a change and tried the themed "Indian night" in the Belvedere buffet. It was really good to have some spicy food. We did not go to see the show, but enjoyed a bottle of wine in the Piano Bar listening to some light live jazz on piano and sax.
Day 6 - at sea. A sunny day with clear skies. Walked 12 laps of the deck, then chilled out in the sun on the balcony much of the day. Later I ran 24 laps (8 miles) of the deck. 2nd black tie dinner in the MDR. The show was "Elite", a trio singing songs from various stage shows. On the way back to our cabin, we called to watch the Karaoke in the Rising Sun bar. The place was packed!! There's something about a tuxedo that makes men want to sing (or is it the drink!!)
Day 7 - Tallinn, Estonia. Docked at 08.15. A free shuttle bus was provided, but the old town is only a 5 minute walk away. We took the shuttle into town, but walked back. Tallinn Old Town has lower and upper parts, the latter is on a hill. Plenty of sights to visit in this very compact city. All on board 16.00. Departed approx 17.00. Smart attire in the MDR. The show was the resident "Headliners".
Day 8 - St Petersburg, Russia. Docked at 07.15. The city looked quite grim from the ship, with lots of grey Soviet style apartment blocks. Virtually everyone goes on organized tours, due to the very strict visa restrictions for independent travel. We did the "Grand St Petersburg & The Hermitage" tour. It took in the major city centre sites in the morning. Then lunch, which included a Russian folk group. Then a few hours tour of the fabulous Hermitage and an excellent choral recital to finish off a long day. As we had an early start for the next days tour (meet at 06.45), we ate at the early sitting in the MDR and saw the early show - "Donovan & Rebecca", an acrobat act. Casual evening. Overnight in St Petersburg.
Day 9 - St Petersburg, Russia. Up at 05.30 and breakfast in our room at 06.00 for a 06.45 tour start. We did the "Palaces of Catherine and Peterhof" tour. Catherine palace and gardens in the morning. Then a nice lunch in an ornate palace. Then Peterhof Palace and gardens with fountains in the afternoon. Both palaces were wonderful and not to be missed. A very long day, but well worth it. All on board by 18.00. Departed 18.30. A bit of a squeeze for Arcadia edging out between 2 other ships in the harbour. A lovely sunny evening for the sail away past the Russian Baltic fleet. Casual attire in the MDR. A really active Queen tribute show by "Headliners".
Day 10 - Helsinki, Finland. Docked at 08.30. A free shuttle bus was provided into the city. You do need to take it, as it's too far to walk. I've been here on business before & it's an unremarkable place, but worth a walk around. All the main sites are easily walkable from the shuttle bus stop. All on board 16.30. Depart 17.00. A lovely sunny sail away party and great views of the many small islands dotting the coastline. The seas were a bit a bit choppy due to the wind. Black and white night - 3rd black tie night in the MDR. The show was top London performer Robert Meadmore doing songs from famous musicals.
Day 11 -- Stockholm, Sweden. We arrived in thick fog, so the sail in was uneventful. We docked at 09.30 near the city centre. A free shuttle bus to the city centre. Lots to see hear - especially the changing of the guard at the palace at noon.
We had a passport inspection on board ship in the afternoon by Swedish Customs Officers before we departed. All on board 16.30. Departed 17.10. A very nice sunny sail away out of the port and through numerous islands. The pilots certainly earn their wages here, as the channels between some islands are very narrow in places. Casual attire tonight, but we decided to wear a jacket, as we were dining in Marco Pierre White's "Ocean Grill". There is a small extra charge of £12.95 per person, but it's well worth it for the superior quality food. It's more like fine dining than the MDR and it makes a change. The show was Headliners doing "swing" music.
Day 12 - at sea. A foggy day. After breakfast, we did 12 laps of the deck. After lunch, Barb did a tap dance class and then went to a talk on acupuncture - I read and snoozed (much more constructive) and then watched the Newcastle v Arsenal Match in the Rising Sun bar. It stayed foggy all day. We ate early in the buffet (Tandoori Night) and went to the early show - Headliners doing songs from UK films. Then we had a drink in the piano bar.
Day 13 - at sea. Another very foggy start. In the morning we went to a lecture by Diane Simpson on Serial Killers, then to a question and answer session with ships Captain Ian Hutley. After lunch, we sat in the sun for an hour and then walked 15 laps of the deck. 4th Black Tie night. We had dinner in the MDR with the "Parade of Chefs", then watched the Robert Meadmore show.
Day 14 - at sea. Our final day of the cruise and another foggy day. 12 laps of the deck and packing our bags for home. Casual attire. Champagne and canapes in the piano bar before dinner in the MDR. The final show by Headliners -- "Sunday Night at the London Palladium".
Day 15 - Southampton. Docked at 07.30. We decided to disembark early, so carried our own bags off at 08.00. We picked up our car at Ocean Terminal from the Parking4Cruising man and our cruise was over. Home safely by 12.30.