Balmy Baltic, Culture and Holiday Fun
Baltic & Northern Europe
My husband and I have just returned from a Baltic cruise on Discovery. Because we were driving from Manchester (about 4.1/2 hours) we decided to travel down the day before. On arrival at Harwich we were directed to the car park and our luggage was offloaded then we were directed to a car parking space. A shuttle bus took us to the departure lounge. As we have travelled on Discovery before we were entitled to quick check in. This was not the case. There was a separate queue for people in the "Discovery Club" but didn't move any quicker than the other queue. Before boarding we had to use the hand sanitizers. They were obviously worried about swine flu and other bugs! Once on board a steward showed us to our cabin and our cases were delivered while we were having afternoon tea. The whole process was stress free and efficient. I know that Discovery had engine problems in 2008 so when we were an hour late leaving port because of an engine problem I was a bit worried. Fortunately there More
didn't seem to be any more problems throughout the cruise apart from having no water for an hour or so one morning. The captain told us that the ship would probably be in service for about another six years. Discovery is not a grand ship.
The cabins are servicable and clean, the public rooms are comfortable.
The restaurant has two sittings. We chose the main sitting at 8.30pm. There were hand sanitizers at the entrance to the restaurant which everyone seemed to use. The four course meals were good. There was always a choice of fish, meat or poultry and a vegetarian dish. They also had glutin free and diabetic options. We found the waiters, busboys and wine waiters to be very efficient, hard working and cheerful, but we felt that staffing levels were down in comparison to our last cruise, which was 2005. Sometimes service was a little slow, however we opted for a table of six and were happy to chat. Invariably we didn't leave the restaurant until 10.30/10.45pm.The Yacht Club, which you had to book for provided a different menu and was extremely good. Breakfast and lunch could be taken on the Lido deck buffet style.Â
We didn't see any of the theatre shows, apart from The Cafe Concerto Strings, a trio from Romania who played light classical and popular music. We thought they were excellent. The guest lecturers were very good. Lectures were on ports we were visiting as well as subjects such as "The Berlin Wall" and "The Vikings."Â There were plenty of activities on board, from quoits to line dancing and art classes to quizzes. The onboard library was very good.
Other passengers told us they thought the ship tours were very expensive. The only tour we did was to Gdansk in Poland. The ship docked at Gdynia, about 10/15 miles from Gdansk. We were told that there wasn't much to see in Gdynia and a return taxi fare to Gdansk would have been between 80 and 100 euros. We were only in port for 5 hours so a ship tour it had toÂ be. It was efficient and the guide was professional and knowledgeable. In St. Petersburg we organised a private tour and managed to get two other couples to share with us. We had a driver and a guide and we saw a lot more in 2.1/2 days than if we had done ship tours and for around the same price. This had to be organised in advance of the cruise. We did this over the internet and advertised on Cruise Critic for other people to join us. We only received two replies!Â Â
Overall I would describe Discovery as clean and comfortable with friendly, hard working staff. Disembarking at ports of call was quick and efficient. For those days at sea there is plenty to do and at night time there is entertainment if you want it. We spoke to a lot of people who had cruised on Discovery before and will be sad when her seafaring days are finally over.
Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner" Less
Read more Discovery cruise reviews >>
Read Cruise Critic's Discovery Review >>
Cabin review: Discovery 4267
We had a standard cabin. Two portholes, two single beds separated by a bedside table, a desk with mirror and drawer space and a further set of drawers. The shower room and toilet were adequate and the wardrobe space was ample. Could have done with more hangers. We weren't disturbed by staff or other passengers at night.
Port and Shore Excursions
We arrived at Copenhagen at midday and left at 11.30pm. it was very easy to walk into the centre of Copenhagen or you could get a number 26 bus from the pier. The walk along the river is pleasant and you pass the Little Mermaid. She is quite small and some people are disappointed by her. As we have been to Copenhagen before we decided to head for Nyhavn. This is named after the canal that runs through it. It is lined with old sailing barges and on one side there are cafes, bars and restaurants. It is a fantastic place to sit and watch the world go by especially when the weather is kind, as it was to us. We had lunch in Copenhagen but it would be easy to go back to the ship for lunch and disembark again to enjoy the evening.
We arrived in Gdynia (for Gdansk at 7.00am and sailed at midday. Unfortunately this was not long enough, considering we were about 10/15 miles from Gdansk. I felt that it was a stop gap so we didn't arrive in Germany too early. Gdansk is a beautiful town, which was rebuilt after the war. I would have preferred to go on the Gdansk Road to Freedom tour, but we left it until the last minute to book and all places had been taken. We went on the Hanseatic Gdansk & Oliwa Cathedral Tour. Our guide talked about Gdansk and surrounding area the whole way into Gdansk. After all the history of St Petersburg I think I'd had enough! The whole tour felt rushed and it was nice to sit in the Cathedral and listen to the organ recital, although it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Maybe we should have arrange a private tour to Gdansk. This trip cost £36.00 per person. I learnt from another passenger that there was a good tram service into Gdansk. It would be helpful if there was information on board for people who want to sightsee independently.
We arrived in Warnemunde at 7.00am and sailed at 8.30pm. As we disembarked there was a young guy giving out maps and selling tickets for the local trains, boats and trams. I would advise just taking the map unitl you decide what you want to do. You may decide to go no further than Wanemunde. The temperature reached 30 degrees, which was great. We decided it was too hot for serious sightseeing, so we walked through Warnemunde main shopping street, which had tasteful souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes etc. then we turned down to the beach. The beach was a lovely long stretch of golden sand. The wicker sunbathing chairs looked quaint. We walked back along the quayside, past a fantastic chocolatier and back to the railway station, where we boarded a train for Rostock. The train took about 25 minutes. We walked into the town centre, but you could get a tram, we just didn't find it, had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the square, had another walk around and returned to Warnemunde by boat. We were a little disappointed in Rostock but it was pleasant enough. Warnemunde was a lovely seaside resort which only payed lip service to foreign visitors. I think that is why it is so charming.
Visiting St Petersburg was the main reason for taking this cruise. As I said earlier we didn't want to do ship tours. Buying visas was extremely expensive, so the only other option open to us was a private tour. I googled private tours in St Petersburg and came up with Red October, Denrus, Alla and Optima. All four companies had suggested itineries or you could choose your own. Because we were on an organised tour we didn't need a visa. It was Red October who suggested we try to contact other passengers through Cruise Critic. After considering all the companies we decided to use Optima. They came out cheapest and from what we could see, they were all offering the same standard of transport, guide and itinerary. I'm so glad we did it this way. We had tours of Yusupov Palace, St Catherines Palace, Peterhof Palace and gardens, The Hermitage, St Isaacs Cathedral, Church on the Spilled Blood, St Nicholas Church, a Synagogue. We visited a couple of shops, walked through a park, had a ride on the underground. (All marble and chandaliers). She took us to a typical Russian restaurant for lunch. She even took us to the post office to buy stamps for our postcards. A lot cheaper than the £2.00 the ship was charging to post them. It was a fantastic two and a half days. I really would recommend a small group. It is easier to hear, easier to keep up, easier to stop and take photographs, plus we didn't have to queue to get in anywhere. The highlights for me were Yusopov Palace and the Peterhof gardens, but it was all fantastic.
We arrived in Stockholm at 8.30 at sailed at 16.30. The ship was berthed a little way from the city centre. The ship provided a shuttle bus, but charged £5.00 per person return fare. We asked about walking in but were told it was too far. If you are reasonably fit it wasn't too far and probably took about 20 minutes, although it wasn't a particularly attractive walk. Once off the boat I noticed a tourist information office on the quayside. We would have been better going there and asking their advise on getting around Stockholm. I know that you could buy one day tickets for the ferry boats. Stockholm Old Town (Gaml Stan) great. Full of narrow cobbled streets which lead onto the main square. There are pleny of places to visit such as the Royal Palace where you can see the changing of the guard at midday. One of the most popular atttractions is the Vasa Museum. This is where the warship Vasa, which capsized and sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 is displayed. We took a ferry over to the Vasa, but the queue was long so we didn't go in. If you want to visit the Vasa I would recommend you go first thing in the morning. The sail out of Stockholm is fantastic The channel was fairly narrow in places and we sailed past island after island. It took about three hours until we hit the open sea.
We arrived in Tallin at 9.00am and sailed at 6.00pm. The walk into Tallin was straightforward and took about 15 minutes. We arrived at the city walls, took a few photographs then wandered around the old streets in near silence. Nothing came to life until about ten o'clock. We wandered up past the main square, up Pikk Jalg (Long Leg Street).In the middle ages this was the only route up to Toompea Castle. In 1454 they put a gate up to segregate the lords of Toompea from the low townspeople. This gate was shut every night at 9.00pm. We walked down Juhike Jalg (Short Leg) to the old town and eventually back to the main square (Town Hall Square). It was great here. There was a Mediaval Festival and the market traders were dressed in mediaval dress and demonstrating, basketweaving, cotton spinning, woodturning and much more. There was folk dancing and singing. The atmosphere was vibrant.