Carnival Legend Baltic Cruise
July 27-August 8, 2013
PORTS: Copenhagen, Berlin (Warnemunde), Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn and Amsterdam
US: Couple in their 50s celebrating our 30th anniversary this year.
EMBARKATION: Fairly smooth and quick. We did not book our flights with Carnival so we were very pleased that Carnival reps were waiting for us at Heathrow, even though our flight arrived around 6:00 a.m. We were able to find seats in the baggage area and we waited for a few other flights to arrive before we were able to board a bus to Dover. There was a bit of congestion on the highway to Dover, but nothing too terrible. It was raining, but we were going on a cruise so we were happy, and also exhausted from not being able to sleep at all on our flight. We arrived at the port and the process to board did not take too long. Once onboard we went to the Lido for lunch. After lunch we checked and our cabin was ready for us. We napped a bit until the muster drill.
CABIN: We had an extended balcony cabin on deck 7. It was mid-ship and was really a great location for getting anywhere on the ship. We did not hear our neighbors at all, but we did hear children running up and down the halls on this cruise. It sounded like it was on the deck above us. We had plenty of room in the cabin, including closet space, and our steward, Mart, was very gracious and took good care of us, including bringing ice for my ankle after I fell getting off the train from Berlin. Very few amenities in the basket in the bathroom, but it did include a tube of toothpaste which I used throughout the cruise and did not have to use my travel tube. Beds were really hard. I felt sore, but I'm used to my memory foam mattress pad at home. We were able to adjust the room temperature to our satisfaction. We were able to get 3 of our 4 suitcases under the bed. We could have used more hangers in the closets, but it wasn't worth taking up room in our luggage or the added weight to bring our own. We both sleep with CPAP machines so it would have been wonderful to have an outlet anywhere near the bed. But I always travel with an extension cord in my CPAP case, so we were able to use the outlet at the vanity. We brought a travel alarm clock with us, but as we were frequently setting the time ahead and then back after Russia, it was easier to just use the ship's wake up call.
DINING: We were pleased with the food on the ship. We ate breakfast and lunches on the Lido and were satisfied with the selection and the quality of the food for the most part. Being that this was a European cruise, there were many cruisers from the UK on board and some of the stations served typical English breakfast. I had to hunt to find the good old American bacon. ? We had early seating in the MDR for dinner and ate with a couple from NY. Our meals in the MDR were mostly great. I had prime rib at least twice and it just melted in my mouth. Our wait staff, Wilton, Simona and Stanismer, were great. They always addressed us by our names and brought anything we asked for. They were quick to fill our water glasses and bring us bread. We even got a special dessert from Carnival one night because we were celebrating our anniversary. I just wish they had offered creme brulee more than once during this 12 day cruise.
One night we ate at the steak house. I wanted to try it based on recommendations here on CC, but I would not do it again. I think that the food we got was probably worth the extra fee, but I was perfectly satisfied with the food I had been getting in the MDR. Some of the items in the steak house were a bit fancy or fishy for my taste. The onion soup definitely had wine in it, which I know many would enjoy. I'm not a drinker, though, and the taste bothered me. I also felt the wait staff was a bit put out that we were not ordering wine with our meal. We just really don't drink. My steak was delicious, and I barely had room for any dessert. I ordered just the tiramisu part of the chocolate sampler. My husband was able to eat an entire dessert.
SPA: I had 2 massages in the spa. One was deep tissue and the other was hot stones. Both were very good, although very much overpriced. I did cave and buy one of the products used on me in the deep tissue massage, primarily because it was supposed to contain a topical anti-inflammatory. After my accident in Warnemunde, I was glad I had purchased it. I used the Jacuzzi in the spa once.
SERVICE: Our cabin steward and assistant and our dining room wait staff were excellent. Pretty much every Carnival employee we encountered was smiling, courteous and helpful. It was a pleasure. Even the bar staff was quick to serve us and friendly, even though we mostly ordered soft drinks that we pre-paid by purchasing the Bottomless Bubbles program. (This has not always been the case on our previous cruises.) I had an incident where I had to visit the infirmary, and the nurse was very kind and helpful. The only crew that actually annoyed us was a very abrupt photographer that came to our table every night in the MDR and ordered us around. She seemed to show up every night as soon as I put a forkful of food in my mouth to chew. She was also at one of the photo stations onboard and we avoided her station. But everyone else was smiling and friendly.
ENTERTAINMENT: We did not get to every show, especially the Welcome Aboard show, as we were completely exhausted that night. The music shows were fairly good and the costumes and sets for The Big Easy were great. The illusionist show bothered us. We hated the music and the costumes and choreography had kind of an S&M feel that I felt was inappropriate for kids. They did make several announcements about the costumes, but it was more than that. There was a definite sexual overtone to the show. And the music was very loud and annoying. We only attended one of the comedian shows and it was the family friendly version. We might have attended more of them or other events on the ship, but frankly we were pretty pooped on port days. This was not a relaxation cruise. The ports were the main thing. Even though the sun was still shining at 11:00 p.m., we were ready to call it a day and did not have the energy to stay up late this time. We enjoyed the show band. Some of the other musicians on board were okay. My husband particularly missed the classical trio that used to play in the atrium on some of our other cruises. The musicians they had seemed to have very limited repertoires. We did not get to the piano bar at all.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: We booked all but 2 of our shore excursions with Carnival. In Copenhagen we did the city tour with Tivoli Gardens. It was a disappointment, especially as it was our first port. We felt we saw very little of the city and had no time during the tour to wander around. We had 2 hours on our own at Tivoli, which was nice, but we had no Danish currency, and could not even purchase a drink. We used a debit card to purchase some tickets to ride one roller coaster ($26 for two of us for ONE RIDE!) because we had forgotten to have the pin# to our credit card with us. You had to have a pin # to use a credit card in Copenhagen. I had read this and had all the numbers in a binder with all of our cruise docs, but I just wasn't thinking and didn't write the number down and take it with me. As this was our first stop, a short day, and we were still recovering from jet lag, etc., we did not do anything else in Copenhagen.
In Germany we took the Carnival excursion to Berlin. Carnival rented a private train to transport all the cruisers that wanted to go to Berlin. It took about 3 hours each way. For the excursion we chose, we saw some highlights including the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, and remnants of the Wall. We had free time which my husband used to check out some museums and I browsed and relaxed at a mall and the area nearby.
In Helsinki, we did the Carnival's Highlights of Helsinki tour. This was a bit of a letdown for me. First of all it was raining pretty hard all morning. We went to Sibelius Park, the Rock Church, and as the rain got heavier and heavier, people didn't even want to leave the bus. At one point we stopped to look at a church and were supposed to have 30 minutes to explore the area. Someone said, "Just open the doors so we can take some pictures." The guide asked who wanted to return to the ship and most of us did. My husband and a few others stayed in town, and lucky for them the rain cleared. My husband had a lovely time including lunch in a market with lots of fresh fruit and veggies and a trip to an art museum.
We chose a private 2-day tour of St. Petersburg. We went with St. Petersburg Tours (TJ Travel). This was a very intensive 2 days. I believe we saw more than those on the Carnival 2-day tour. But we walked our legs off. I highly recommend St. Petersburg Tours, though. They were able to get us into the Hermitage before regular hours, although the Hermitage seemed to offer the same deal to many other tour groups. Everywhere we went was super crowded, and I would not want to be on my own in this city. We also visited Catherine's palace and the Peterhof palace and gardens with the beautiful fountains (took a hydrofoil back from there), the Spilled Blood Cathedral, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Yusopov Palace, St. Peter and Paul Fortress/Cathedral, the subway station and had boat ride on the canals. The tour included "a typical Russian lunch" both days. The two days were exhausting but well worth it.
Tallinn was the city I least was looking forward to seeing and it turned out to be my favorite. It was quaint and lovely. It was also a long way from port. We were told we could easily walk into the center of the old town, but for me it wasn't such an easy walk, especially after the two intense days in Russia. They have a hop on/hop off bus that I ended up riding around town, as I was not up for the private walking tour I had signed up for by the time I got to the starting point. I could have ridden this bus all day, especially on the open air top level. However, they have 3 different routes and they did make you exit when you had completed one of the routes. The scheduling was funky. Not all of the routes passed the same places, although all seemed to go to the port. But the drop-off spot for the port was nowhere near the ship. It was another long walk to get to the Legend and not easily defined. I spotted the ship and just kept walking until I found my way to the entrance of the dock. My husband chose to hop off the bus and make his way to the Festival Hall where they hold the music festivals. This was quite a ways outside of the old town. He was able to hop back on a bus and find his way back to the port but experienced the same frustration as I did because it wasn't anywhere near our ship and there was no clear way to get back to the Legend.
In Amsterdam we chose the Carnival tour that would take us to Anne Frank's House and also show us some city highlights. It was a good thing we chose the tour as we were able to get in much quicker than those who bought tickets on their own. Even so, it was a long wait and it was very crowded inside. Still, it was memorable and moving and worth seeing. It rained the entire day we were in Amsterdam, so it made sightseeing difficult and I'm sure everything would look much nicer on a sunny day. Again, I went back to the ship at the end of the scheduled tour, but my husband opted to head to some art museums on his own.
OVERALL: This was a fantastic cruise. We saw some wonderful things and our time onboard was a pleasure as well. Too bad Carnival chose not to continue this itinerary. I know everyone we talked to loved it.