There isn't much point in going into a lot of detail since this ship is scheduled to be refurbished. I will say that the food was much better than I had expected based on other reviews. The fresh bread each evening was downright wonderful. Desserts had little flavor beyond "sweet." Some entrees were fabulous, like the lamb shank, and others were mediocre. Even the mediocre stuff was still decent. They should skip the scallops as an appetizer though. My scallop was so over-cooked as to ruin it, and that's what I heard from everyone. The buffet food was...well...buffet food. I did appreciate the diversity of the buffet offerings.
The entertainment was pretty bad. When they paid for entertainment staff, such as the Russion folkloric dancers, it was pretty good. But all the energy and enthusiasm in the world cannot make up for the terrible, off-pitch singing of the ship's troupe.
The ambience was typical of a ship. The spa prices were ludicrously high. The casino was typical. The pools were nice.
The rooms definitely need modernizing, including at least one electrical outlet near the bed and not putting the reading lamps for the beds right where you want to sit and watch TV.
First, I have to sat that we loved Helsinki. The city is easy to navigate, clean, and attractive. At the port, w had many options for getting into the city and exploring it: the cruise line offered a shuttle (RCCL), private tour guides were available, and the Hop on Hop off bus. The HoHo was 25 euros each and was good the entire day. It stopped at all of the primary sites, including our favorite, the Rock Temple.
There is also an artisan/souvenir market down by the smaller port (near the cathedral). I also found cloudberry jam there. Since cloudberries are a local fruit, I was delighted. The people were friendly and many of them spoke English. Plus, this port is big enough to absorb 10,000 cruise ship passengers so that you are not fighting crowds the entire time.
Yes, we took an excursion so that we could avoid buying a visa and still get see a lot of this amazing city.
A visa is required in Russia for US citizens. They are expensive and iris challenging to understand the requirements. However, if you book a tour through the cruise line, you do NOT need a separate visa. This system could change in the future, sp be sure to check with your cruise line for details.
We were on a RCCL cruise. And the tour was excellent. Sergei Nevsky was our tour guide. Besides being a professional singer, he knew a tremendous about Russian history, architecture and art. With a blend of wit and detail, he lead is on a nine hour tour of the beautiful sights of St. Petersburg.
It is obvious that the tour route and sights are tightly controlled, yet it is well worth it. The Hermitage Museum alone was amazing, but when you add in all of the other sights, it was quite a wonderful tour. Only two things marred it, first, a coffee/ tea break about 10:00 break would be welcome in mid-morning since we did a LOT of walking....and many of the participants were well past 60 years of age. Second, the lunch was TERRIBLE. Mother Russia should be ashamed for serving such slop to visitors. I noted that at least 50% of the food was returned unbeaten. The so-called beef goulash and mashed potatoes was not fit for a dog and fruit cocktail out of a can was called dessert. I would much rather have one good bowl of soup and some edible, fresh bread than the crap that they served to us. Despite the lousy lunch, I think the tour was worth taking.
Note that, it takes about 30 minutes to get into the city, so if you do two 3-hour tours, you will spend an extra hour driving from the ship to the city.
Stockholm: a city built across 14 islands, full of museums, shopping and restaurants. As other people have said, this city is expensive and you generally need Swedish Kroner there, not Euros. At the port, you again have many options for getting into the city. Our cruise line offered a shuttle for $12 each, roundtrip. We chose to purchase tickets on the Hop on Hop off boat. It was fun to travel around the waterways in this picturesque port.
Although we did not go to any museums, we did hear that the Vas Museum was excellent. And the Royal Palace was dark and not worth a tour. We enjoyed seeing Stockholm, but Helsinki won our heart.
Everyone talks about how charming Tallin is. And it is true. The problem is that 7 cruise ships were in port that day. So, more than 10,000 people were all crammed into the Old Town at one time. We still enjoyed this lovely city, but would have enjoyed it far more if fewer tourists were there.
The cruise ship offered round trip tickets for $10 each to take you from port to a bus stop near one set of gates. It is confusing at first because you don't know where you are. Just orient yourself so that you can find the spot again (we used nearby hotels), turn left as you exit the bus, and you will soon see the flower markets and one set of the old gates on your right.
When we headed back to the bus, we discovered that an open air market had opened on the same street as where the bus was. I bought a lovely sweater there for 20 Euro, and of course, the market was full of souvenirs as well.