So, here we are again .... In 2012 at the ripe old age of 45 I took my first cruise, and after very careful investigation (it was my honeymoon), we decided to see Alaska on a HAL cruise. With no expectation of HAL, we set sail on their 7 day Inside Passage cruise out of Vancouver.
HAL certainly made an impression, returning the following year for an unplanned 7 day cruise to Norway (7 day Norse Legends) - despite the worst week of summer weather for 30 years, HAL not only managed to impress us, but the Ryndam will forever be imprinted in the memory of my then 16yo daughter.
So, now to 2014 - all cruised out? Hell no ..... With 4 weeks notice, we booked on the May 17th sailing out of Dover, enroute to Copenhagen, Rostock (Berlin transit), Tallinn, St Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and finally Aarhus before returning to Dover.
To help keep the price down, we opted for a restricted view cabin ...... Eventually being assigned cabin 700 on Deck A ...... You really can't go any lower or any further forward !!!!!
We pre-booked the following tours before sailing:
Copenhagen with Segway Tours
Berlin with HAL
St Petersburg with Alla Tours
We decided to view Tallinn, Helsinki, Stockholm and Aarhus on foot .... Aided by free maps of the cities.
MS Ryndam - little had changed since last year, always clean and tidy with excellent staff throughout the ship (front office staff could improve their manner but still ok) !!!! Entertainment was a little poor but not enough to make me look to an alternative cruise line.
Here are some reviews I have posted on TripAdviser
“Segway tour of Copenhagen” 5*
Reviewed 2 June 2014
We booked our Segway tour direct prior to arriving on our Baltic Cruise - booking was simple and very easy via the web. Segway's office was an hours walk from the port through the centre of Copenhagen - fairly easy to find following their directions and a free map we picked up on route. Booking in was straight forward and after receiving our safety head gear and leaving personal items in secure lockers we were ready to get going.
After just a few minutes introduction and practice we were ready to go - our group was of mixed age (mid 20s to mid 60s) - oh boy what fun. Our tour weaved in and out of Copenhagen using the bike lanes and roads, taking in all of what Copenhagen has to offer. Our head gear had earphones which allowed us to listen to our tour guide explaining the sites, stopping often to look around.
After an hour we arrived at the Little Mermaid, where we had a 10 minute break before making our way back to the Segway office, completing our 2 hour tour.
The best way to describe our tour was great fun whilst feeling safe in the hands of an experienced Segway rider, great overview of the city with very comprehensive commentary.
For me, a keen photographer, I decided not to take photos whilst on the tour - instead, we went back to the best places we had seen, and took photos whilst on foot and making our way back through the city, new haven and the port.
Price - value for money without a doubt
Equipment - well maintained
Guide - very good, made everyone feel at home and gave good commentary
Recommendation - Just do it !!!!!!
Thanks Segway for making Copenhagen so much fun
“St Petersburg with Alla Tours” 5*
Reviewed 7 June 2014 NEW
When we first booked our Baltic Cruise we decided that our cruise line (HAL) offered a very good 2 day excursion in St Petersburg and we would go with them.
When we started to look into alternatives, we came across Alla Tours and after making email contact and found out that THEY arranged tourist visas and guaranteed that they would ensure we didn't literally 'miss the boat', we decided to go with them, not just because of a 25% saving but a more comprehensive itinerary.
Arriving at the cruise terminal and passing through immigration (if you smile, they smile!!), we were greeted by our tour guide, Anya, and led to our mini bus - our group consisted of 15 clients (all from our ship), Anya and our driver.
This review isn't about St Petersburg, but of Alla Tours, who can make or break your visit !!! Anya spoke perfect English, extremely knowledgable about St Petersburg and always made us feel 'it was our tour' giving us plenty of time to stop and take photos - at no time during our 2 day tour did we feel rushed. A pack lunch and water were made available on day 1, with a visit to a restaurant for lunch on day 2.
In summary, don't feel obliged to go on a cruise line excursion, Alla are extremely professional and I would strongly recommend them to family and friends, let alone strangers!! Definitely value for money.
“Suomenlinna Fortress, Helsinki” 5*
Reviewed 11 June 2014 NEW
If like us, you arrive in Helsinki part way through a tour of the Baltic countries, having dodged the bicycles of Copenhagen, the building site known as Berlin, the beautiful streets of Tallinn, the gold topped domes of St Petersburg and the Old Town of Stockholm, you have a choice to make in Helsinki.
Continue the tour of city centre and the endless list of churches and cathedrals or opt for something different - Suomenlina Fortress falls in the latter.
For the cost of less than a half litre of beer, we jumped onto the ferry leaving from the Market Square for a short journey across the bay to the island fortress. There is no fee for landing on the island.
Despite the fact that this is a UNESCO world heritage site, and appears on many travel guides and tourist blogs, Suomenlina allows you to go at your pace, leaving the stones paths to criss cross the island, imaging how the soldiers manned their positions and aimed the large guns at aggressors.
The museums on the island provide the facts behind the history and for those of you with time to take these in, I'm sure the entrance fee is well worth it.
For little expense, and the opportunity to do 'something' different, I would recommend investigating the gun placements and armament storage bunkers contained within the bricked walls of this impressive fortress.
Tallinn - strongly recommend taking this in by foot, beautiful buildings ..... Welcoming people and a 10 minute walk from the port.
Helsinki - 30 minute gentle and flat walk from where we berthed ..... Nice city stroll
Berlin - very expensive HAL coach ride but a must see city ... Personally I won't return for at least 5 years by which time the building restorations should be complete.
Stockholm - lovely Old Town but be warned that you may have to walk a long way!!! We berthed 30 minute flat walk from Old Town, but at 200 SEK, £20, $30 taxi journey (1 way) pack some walking shoes - hop on/off bus available but we walked - my must see attraction is the Vasa Museum !!!
Aarhus - what can I say .... Do your laundry on board or catch up on your sleep - sorry to the people of Aarhus but why HAL did we go there?
In summing up, fantastic crew, fantastic cities and great company (fellow passengers)
One small request to HAL - when you know ahead of time that the thrusters will be used in the middle of the night (1am), please let the occupants of cabins closest to them know ahead of time. Cabin 700 is one such cabin.
Word is the MS Ryndam becomes the property of P&O Australia in late 2015 ..... DAM shame !!!!!