We joined the 11 day Scandinavia and Russia cruise in Copenhagen. We have travelled previously with Princess and are Platinum members. This cruise has a number of embarkation ports which is quite different and our Roll Call had members joining in different ports. We chose this cruise for both the ship and the itinerary.
We arrived in Copenhagen two nights before our cruise departure. The city is very easy to see by walking and we didn't feel the need to use public transport apart from a one hour canal cruise to get a view from a different perspective. We stayed at the Imperial Hotel which I would recommend. We had a lovely (if small) room with a balcony and the staff were very friendly and helpful. Apart from the castles the highlights for us were Nyhavn, Tivoli Gardens and the local produce market Torvehallerne (a great place to go for breakfast).
We took a taxi to the ship at the new and more distant cruise terminal. Embarkation went very smoothly, we were early and got on board within half an hour. Once on board we immediately made bookings for the Crown Grill and Chef's Table for ourselves and a Winemakers Dinner for a group of 10 of us from CC for the first formal night which was the day following the Berlin embarkation.
First impressions of the ship are great. She is quite spectacular. After a few days you do notice the design flaws that have been widely commented on such as the lack of a full promenade deck and the accessibility to venues at the Aft of the ship. As we were at the front of the ship the lack of central stairs did not really impact us but I could see it being a problem. On one occasion we had difficulty getting to the central piazza as passengers waiting to get into the Princess theatre for shore excursions were blocking the forward stairs. The other aspect I would agree with some other reviews is the use of the Piazza early in the evening for very loud bands. Most of the venues around the Piazza were empty as it was very difficult to have a conversation given the noise from the band.
Apart from St Petersburg all of the other ports are very easy to do on your own. We enjoyed wandering through the cities and possibly seeing things you wouldn't get to see on an organised tour. The major complaint I have about Princess is the preference they give to their own tours. In both Berlin and Stockholm due to distance we took Princess "On your Own" tours. Even taking this option we were relegated to leaving the ship after the other Princess full service tours. In Stockholm our shuttle bus to Stockholm departed 2 hours after the first Princess tour. Given you are in port for only a day a delay of two hours is not good. I am sure there are some passengers who would be happy with a later start but I think for those of us that want to see as much as possible we could be given the choice of an early departure from the ship.
In SPB we chose to go with Alla Tours in a small group of 6. This was perfect. Our guide Natasha and driver Oleg were extremely helpful. It wasn't really much more expensive to have such a small group but it gave us a great deal of flexibility. We did have some issues with our itinerary on the first day but it was taken care of and by the end of the second day we had seen all we wanted to see. We also used Alla to provide us with a driver and guide to stay in SPB in the evening. We just wanted to sit in an outdoor cafe for dinner, go for a walk on Nevsky Prospekt and soak up the atmosphere of SPB. I would highly recommend this as it was very relaxed and an enjoyable way of spending the evening.
On board we had anytime dining but also ate at the Crown Grill, Winemakers Dinner and Chef's Table. We tended to order breakfast in our cabin prior to going ashore each day to save time. The food was very good in all of the venues but at times the restaurants seemed very disorganised. We arrived for dinner with groups varying in size from just the two of us to a party of 10 and the longest we ever had to wait for a table was a couple of minutes. I found anytime dining to be great. We just arranged to meet friends in a bar beforehand and then went to the restaurant as a group.
Given the intensity of this cruise we didn't take part in much of the entertainment on board.
For disembarkation we chose to take the Princess Shuttle to the airport and this went very smoothly with luggage collected at the airport.
In summary this was a great cruise primarily due to the itinerary but made much more enjoyable thanks to the use of Cruise Critic to arrange private tours, pre cruise lunches and the meet & greet on board.