Just OK really
Baltic & Northern Europe
I purchased this cruise as a 65th present for my mother. She comes from New Zealand and has never cruised before. The actual cruise was for 7 nights from Oslo to Copenhagen, Tallinn & St Petersburg.
This is the first "short" cruise I've done and had not previously experienced one of Royal Caribbean's smaller ships. The first thing to say about the Vision of the Seas is that it now has a distinctly tired feel to it. The entertainment over the week was pretty poor with only one real show the remaining nights were filled by single performers, which were "ok". The cruise we were on had period of 2 consecutive days at sea, one of which was raining & windy. This is really where the smaller ship falls down as there is very little to do.
I have to admit that I'm rapidly going off Royal Caribbean as a company as the whole of the cruise experience is becoming a big sales opportunity - & I mean "hard sell". At almost every turn someone is trying to sell you More
Next time I book a cruise I'll be making sure I book on a larger ship. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Copenhagen is a very pleasant city and well worth a visit. We decided to skip the cruise ship tours and booked one of our own with segwaytourscph.dk who do 2-hour tours of the city for groups up to 8 people using segways. I must admit that this was a fantastic & very novel way to see the city whilst having loads of fun at the same time. Even my 65 y/o mother found using a segway easy and had a great time. There are also hop-on, hop-off tour buses going from the port and these also offer great value for money without the restrictions (or expense) of a cruise organised tour.
Pleasant little city with some nice contrasting architecture. The Vigiland sculpture park is well worth a visit, as are some of the local museums and a walk up to the palace is a must. You might want to avoid buying alcohol as it is rather expensive. I love the fact that everyone (we came across)speaks English.
I was slightly surprised that St Petersburg was very much like many other European cities. Yes it has some great palaces, but there are better around. Yes it's big & bold, but there are bigger & bolder cities. Yes the Hermitage is a great gallery, but the Louvre in Paris is better. I was also expecting to get a feeling for the communist era, but in reality this only had a small impact on the architecture of St Petersburg. What it did have was traffic. We ended up sitting in a hot bus for 2.5 hours going a distance of about 3 miles. Of the 4 ports we visited on our cruise, this would rank in third place. Their rather draconian visa rules also don't help.
What a fabulous city. The old town is small but perfectly formed with history coming out its ears. We skipped the cruise organised tours and chose a company called estadventures.ee. They arranged a private walking tour at a very reasonable price to suit the times we had available. Maria, our guide, was exceptionally knowledgeable about the town and not only told us about the town's history, but also about the local culture and life. Being in a small group of only four made all the difference and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend estadventures.ee.