Marina Cruise Review by corpkid: Best Cruise I've Ever Taken....
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Best Cruise I've Ever Taken....
We are just so thrilled with Oceania that we booked TWO MORE cruises with them. I couldn’t imagine sailing any other line after this experience, and we’ve sailed most of the mass market and even some of the premium lines (Azamara, Cunard, etc.). This is my first review, so be gentle. :) This was an 18 day (10 day on Marina) trip from Stockholm to Copenhagen. We spent 4 days in Stockholm prior and 4 days in Copenhagen after.
First off, Stockholm is almost utopia, albeit expensive. I’ve lived in big cities my entire life, and THIS is the city to beat. One almost has to wonder, too good to be true? Then the price factors in. It is VERY expensive, but you do get quality for that price. So I’d translate to say “value”. We stayed at the Sheraton right by Central station (on reward points) and it was perfect.
Day 1 was jet lag day after flying overnight from NYC. We took the Arlanda Express (which you should too) and More it was super. ARN to Central Station in about 20 mins, plenty of room for luggage, and just a well oiled operation - buy your tickets in advance for a steep discount. After walking out of the (busy) central station, they have a dedicated taxi line just for riders of the train. 2 Seconds and we were in a cab to take the 5 block ride to our hotel. Taxis are expensive - this 5 minute ride cost us about $20 US. But we had luggage and were exhausted so that was money well spent. Tipping here is minimal, so keep that in mind (they make a living wage already, so while appreciated, it is not necessary to tip more than a few dollars (round it up)).
We arrived at the Sheraton and our room was not yet ready (granted it was 9am). They had a WONDERFUL coffee shop attached and we sipped and noshed. Again - very expensive by US standards, but it was really really good. Wifi abound we started telling our folks we made it alive and happy, then the front desk manager tells us our room is available.
….5 Hours of wonderful sleep ensue….
We woke up around 4pm and took a shower and got gussied up a bit to head to our Dinner Cruise (en route to Drottningholm and back which just so happened to leave from basically across the street) and we were thinking “buffet food” - Um, NOPE. Let this be the intro into what we found absolutely solid - the food here is TOP notch, and you will pay as such. We drank and ate our way around the archipelagos, and it was simply fantastic. Don’t miss this and it may be the perfect way to start your trip. We got back to the hotel about 10pm and proceeded to pass out.
Day 2 - We woke up bright and early, very refreshed and grabbed a bite from the hotel restaurant buffet which, again, was expensive but VERY good. We immediately headed to the subway (T-Bana in Swedish?) and headed over to the Vasa Museum stop. A nice 15 minute walk - and did I say this place was beautiful? - very enjoyable. We were literally the only ones in that museum as we arrived when it was opening. MY ADVICE - DO THIS. We spent about 3 hours, including a guided tour and it started to get VERY crowded. When we left, there was a 2 hour wait to get in. We made the right call going super early and it was fantastic and not to be missed. Just go early or you run the risk of mega crowds (aka Disney World on Christmas day). We actually high fived each other as we walked out and seeing that line. GO EARLY! We took the train back to our hotel and took a nap. We then got gussied up again, had a drink at the popular bar on the corner, and headed out to our special dinner via subway yet again - and boy was it special. Erik’s Gondolen. Hard to explain so look it up, but think a bridge over the water that you can eat in. Food again was very pricy but SO good - and about ½ way into our dinner, fireworks started going off. I kid you not. Could be one of the best meals/experiences I’ve ever had, and I’ve been around. Do not miss this place. Return to hotel around 11pm and pass out again.
Day 3 - We pack up and checkout after doing that amazing breakfast buffet again. Time to head to the ship (which is in port overnight). We took a cab to the ship as we had that luggage and check in was about as easy as could be. Maybe 5 minutes tops, and a class act.. Dropped our luggage, did the typical check in routine of passport/credit card, and off we were. We had lunch aboard at the pool deck since the rooms were not ready yet. Um - here’s where it gets better. Lobster AND fillet sandwiches? Yup. We noshed and sipped and were just happy campers. I love to cook, but nothing like having this served, included! We then did a quick exploration of the ship (Marina) and by God it was beautiful. And there seemed to be so much to do. Or not. Either way, best ship I’ve been on and it was the perfect size. Our room was available about 2pm so we headed there and unpacked, met our steward who was just as fun as could be, and he grilled us on our likes/dislikes (and took note of the bottle of champagne we brought, and the liquor) and took a nap on those AMAZING beds. We then met another couple from CC for dinner at Red Ginger after taking a very refreshing shower (two showers at a time in a standard verandah? Pinch me). Red Ginger was just great. Very tasteful and TASTY and the miso sea bass was divine! And the foreshadowing begins. After bidding adieu to the fantastic company, we headed to the Martini bar for a nightcap - what a crowd and fun and the piano player was quite the character!! Somewhat tipsy, around 11p we hit the sack and slept so well in those wonderful beds. Turns out our steward had taken care of everything (loungers on the amazing 7008/7009 extended balcony, double ice, fully stocked mini fridge (mixers) and put our champagne on ice). Classy all around and he got an extra tip from us when we saw him next. We started to think we made the right choice….
Day 4 - Ship leaves at 3pm, so we get up early and head out to explore more of Stockholm. We did one of those sightseeing cruises (there were free shuttles via the ship to town). It was great. We hit up the Absolut museum, the Viking museum, and just saw a lot of this city. Unfortunately we screwed up and got off at the WRONG cruise port after a boat tour (the cruise port is NOT YOUR CRUISE PORT) - please be careful here - and ended up almost having to take an overnight ferry to Helsinki to meet the ship. By the luck of God, we found a cab driver who would bring us to the ship. There are three ports - KNOW WHICH ONE! We arrived about 20 mins before gangways up, however my non-chip credit card would not work. Our driver, cool as a cucumber said “do you have euros?” to which I said yes, but up in the stateroom. ME RUNNING UP THE GANGWAY, THROUGH THE HALLS, OPENING THE SAFE, REVERSE, and BACK AGAIN! It’s times like this you just must love the thrill of travel or you’ll be miserable. It was an experience to say the least. Either way, we are now on board and happy (though tired) campers. Guess what? Now we have a Culinary class at 4pm. Frazzled as we were, we headed there and seriously, had so much fun, we stopped being exhausted. Our instructor, Chef Anne was a trip. We ended up making the best dishes, and like 5 of them of varying degrees of difficulty. Don’t miss the Culinary classes. I cook a LOT and I learned a bunch of things from her. This would not be our first run-in. After that we cleaned up/showered and headed to dinner at Toscana. This is the anti-Carnival. Food was spot on, service was spot on, and we met a couple we had seen in town so we asked to be paired up. No problem. A great dinner. Needless to say, we didn’t partake in anything other than glorious sleep after that.
Day 5 - We arrived bright and early in Helsinki. This is our one Cruise Sponsored excursion. We met up with Chef Anne and boarded a little (12 people) bus. Off to the market we go. And what a market! Again, I LOVE cooking and eating and this was just sensory overload. Our mission - find things to make crepes out of, and she even provided us 5 euros each to do so. So we went overboard with the amazing forest berries and mushrooms. We then went to the Helsinki Culinary Institute. AMAZING. Broken up into teams of 3-4 we all conquered a traditional Scandinavian dinner of 5 dishes. Let’s just say a few of us made Reindeer Sausage (self included). It was so gross and yet so much fun. Nobody went away unhappy after that. Who gets to do that? After our heavy lunch, requip with wine, we return to the ship, and have an hour off. Then back to the culinary class to make our findings from the market into crepes. And you know what - I’ve been terrified of crepes for the longest time. WE can now both confidently make them, with a saffron spiked base too boot! That was just fun and we met more people and were actively scheming for each other’s time on board as company. Happy dudes. After that we were kind of wiped so we took an hour nap, then headed up to Main Dining Room. FANTASTIC. So unlike other cruise lines where there is a “banquet” feel to the meal. Food was fresh and on spot and really, very good quality.. We headed to bed as the next day was Russia and we knew it would be a long one.
Day 6 - St. Pete Day one. I won’t elaborate other than to say, it’s a LONG DAY of a “lot of gold” and “opulence.”. Be ready for a long wait to clear customs the first day. It won’t be so bad after that first day, but again - give yourself ½ hour the morning you arrive… (and we were warned via Currents). We left the ship at 7:30am and didn’t get back until 6pm. We used Alla Tours and it was good - just hectic and lots of “stuff” to see….. It was good - but we were wiped. EXCEPT we had the ballet that night. So we literally quickly freshened up and changed, ran back down, cleared customs, and met our hero (more on that later) bus driver and off we went. The ballet was good but we were starving. We got back to the ship around 11:30pm and ordered room service. Fantastic and rather fast. Thanks guys, because….
Day 7 - Moscow. Up at 4:30am to catch the 6am Sapsan express from SPB to Moscow. Our hero bus driver is there waiting for our group of 11 (again, via Alla Tours). We had one late couple who resulted in our group RUNNING behind Dimitri (the driver) to the train. We got there just in time. Then a 4 hour train ride which was comfortable and not that bad since everyone slept it seemed. Moscow was awesome, but again, very long and tiring. It was told to us that for whatever reason, we could not take the train back as it sold out - thus we were to fly back to SPB. I was actually thrilled since the prospect of another 4 hour train ride didn’t really jive at that moment. EXCEPT - Moscow airports are very different! Anyways, we had a nice dinner/drinks and finally got on the plane, all spread out which was weird. We got through it all and landed back in SPB around 11:30pm. Just in time for….
Day 8 - SPB, DAY 2 - Much more sightseeing, and crowds, and of course the G20 was getting ready to convene so it was a mad house. In retrospect, I’m glad I saw Russia, but I probably would not go back. No fault of Alla Tours - it’s just too much. We were so exhausted by of our day that we all agreed - “bring us back to the ship!” And such we were. We proceeded to take a nap around 3pm, then have dinner at Jaques that evening. Jaques was great and we both raved about it. We were asleep by 10pm after a quick nightcap in Reflections where they had a small band playing hits from the 70’s. The ship left sometime that overnight (we were asleep).....
Day 9 - Tallinn, Estonia. What a surprise! We got up early to have breakfast feeling somewhat rested and dined in the MDR. Very good - not exceptional, but good. Service, as a given, was spot on. We scarfed down our food and headed out to meet our next tour, which was great. First, this city shocked me. It’s a smaller picturesque “old town” vibe. But it’s also extremely cosmopolitan. It’s just hard to explain unless you go. We loved not only our guide who was so laid back in comparison to the last 3 days in Russia, but also the whole vibe. This was a unanimous feeling in our group of 16 on our short 3 hour tour. We loved it and spent all day there after our tour (4 hours)... We got back on the ship around 4pm via the ship shuttle, and headed to our balcony to relax for a bit and sip on some locally sourced wine and admire our wonderful craft purchases. It is really a special place and we almost decided to skip the tour since we were so tired - glad we didn’t. We sailed off at 6pm as we headed to dinner again in the MDR. Again, very good. Went to bed after trying our hand a few times at the Roulette table over a nightcap (one of us hit hard twice) then called it a night.
Day 10 - A much-needed sea day… We woke up around 10am. Lazy and Laundry is the word of the morning. We skipped breakfast opting for Baristas (which is AWESOME) and just read, drank coffee and nibbled while loads went round and round. We also sent out a bunch of laundry on their 20 for $20 deal, as well as some dry cleaning. We basically had a lazy sea day, and I’ll remind you - we have had nothing BUT perfect sunny warm weather this whole trip so far. It was fantastic. I had yet another 4pm cooking class which was, like always, a blast. When that ended, it was time to “gussie up” for our La Reserve dinner. DO NOT MISS THIS. Yeah, it’s a big surcharge. But the food and wine you get (7 courses, and tons of very high quality wine) make it worth it. Very intimate, very special. We made so many friends that night we still keep in contact with and the conversation just flows as does the wine. Just fantastic. Needless to say, we were toast after that 3 ½ hour event. Off to bed.
Day 11 - Gdansk, Poland. Got up early, had breakfast at the wonderful lido buffet, and then headed out. We had low hopes for this place. Boy were we wrong. There are groups who offer tours by local people and I suggest you look them up. Private and affordable. Just the three of us took his car, and we saw it all, along with walking some of the not-so-touristy streets. It was just fascinating and we loved it. Of course, the three of us sat down to drink a beer at the local brewery and just really had such a good time. A highlight of this trip. He brought us back to the ship around 2pm and we had a milkshake at the ice cream bar (YUM - and I’m not a “sweets” kinda guy), then got ready for another cooking class. Again, a total blast and we loved it. We headed back to get ready for dinner and dined in Polo Grill - at this point the ship was cruising through VERY rough waters. Literal swells of 12 feet + Thank goodness we don’t get seasick but I can say pouring anything was a challenge and walking after a bottle of wine was even more so. We decided to call it a night after a nightcap at Martini’s around 10 pm. Got back to our room and upon checking our email (we bought internet) unfortunately our tour the next day (independant) was cancelled as the guide was sick. We were kind of happy since 1) we wanted another sea day and 2) we would get our money back. We slept like babies that night
Day 12 - The first day of bad weather/Warnemunde/Berlin (it had been perfect up till now). We stayed on board since there was no reason to wander around Warnemunde in the pouring rain. Many had booked trips to Berlin, where it was also raining. It was nice to have the ship to ourselves for the most part. We drank coffee at Baristas, planned our upcoming 4 days in Copenhagen, and just relaxed. Also, they had good strong non-ship wifi in the port so we skyped home from the balcony. Also gave us time to leisurely pack up since this was the “night before” - and we had our bags out by 7pm. Dinner was in the main dining room, then we partied a little bit at Martinis again with our new friends.
Day 13- Arrive Copenhagen. Disembark. OK - if you get there early, GET OFF EARLY if you plan to take a cab to a hotel or anything. The line was incredibly long and slow. We got off after breakfast around 8am and it took us no less than an hour. Hundreds of people. And it got far worse as we waited. The cabs are in the city taking people around for work, then AFTER 9, they slowly start showing up. Arrange private transport or be prepared to wait. It’s in a covered area, so it wasn’t terrible - and we got to see all the friends we made as we weaved back and forth. So not terrible - just bring your patience. Finally, around 9:15 off we go, and we immediately realized this was ALSO a fantastic city. He dropped us off at our hotel, and we spent 4 wonderful days in Copenhagen at the Hotel Anderson. It’s right near the central station, and near Tivoli (not to be missed at night - plan dinner there!!!!!). It’s such a cool city and we still talk about it and Stockholm. We will be back.
OVERALL: Best cruise we’ve taken, and Oceania and the staff did that. We are hard pressed to find fault, and we’ve already booked 2 more on that same ship. Is it a little more expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? YES. Value is what we saw. See you back onboard friends in 10 months then again in 2015! Don't think twice about a cruise on Oceania. They are fantastic. Less
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