Background information: The participants: Myself, DW, Son (15), and seven additional friends and family, ages ranging from 10 to 70.
Hotel information: Launching pad, Hotel Bethel, Copenhagen. I can't say enough about the people of Copenhagen and the Hotel Bethel in particular. Nothing fancy about the hotel, but the people were fantastic. We had a possible tragedy when we lost a backpack containing medicines and other vitals. Thanks to the tireless work of the Bethel staff and a local pharmacy, the cruise was rescued.
Ship Info: We embarked on June 21 sailing. The taxi from the hotel to the ship was a little less than quoted. I can't recall the specific amount but it was around $20 for the three of us and three suitcases. The embarkation process was smooth, having arrived around 2:00. It took about 30 minutes. Upon arrival on the ship we went up to the Horizon Court and had sandwiches and pizza. Pizza was very good, the sandwiches were adequate. Luggage arrived within an hour. We had an inside cabin on the Dolphin deck. The size was a little bigger than we remembered (having taken the same ship for an Alaskan cruise 7 or 8 years ago). Throughout the cruise the assigned porter was very efficient. For those inclined to use the TV, there was MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC, BBC, ESPN International (mostly Wimbledon and day old baseball games), and a bunch of movie channels (showing mostly year old movies) as well as Princess channels for port previews,etc. Some World Cup soccer games were shown both on the cabin TV and on the big screen on the pool deck. I should note that the Mexican passengers were quite upset when their games were not shown. It appeared that there was some internet/satellite coverage in one of the rooms.
Ship amenities: Pools were open throughout the cruise. Depending upon the weather either the open pool or covered pool would get quite busy, but never a problem finding a chair. The big screen offered movies, soccer. The movies under the stars offered popcorn and a blanket. The lounges seemed to have intermittent attendance. We particularly enjoyed the piano bar performer,with his wry Scottish humor and talented piano playing. The showroom performances were okay, though watching the Motown review was a little awkward. I guess someone who may reflect the culture a little would have been welcomed. However, the performers seemed to really give an all out effort. The comedian/magician was very popular and entertaining (though for those of you old enough to remember Carl Ballantine from the old McHale Navy show, he did the same act 40 years ago). We probably would have enjoyed it more if some of the other guests had been more respectful of the rest of us. Two groups talked consistently throughout the performance despite being asked by others to be quiet. The juggler was not very popular and marginally entertaining. The best show, by far, was the Russian troup that entertained the evening the ship docked in St. Petersburg. I cannot criticize the casino as for the first time in my life I won ($200 on a 36 cent bet on a2 cent machine). I really appreciated the lack of hard sell for any of the tours and/or photos. There were some complaints about the formal photos, taking black and white pictures in color mode and trying to use the computer to adjust. I used the exercise facilities a number of times and almost never had a problem getting a treadmill.
Food: The food was usually pretty adequate, but not necessarilly better than average. In the main dining room, despite the size of our group (8-10) we were always quickly seated (on the anytime schedule). The service, though slow, was quite attentive. Plan on 2 hours if you eat in the general dining rooms (we ate in Portofino). The first and last courses were by far superior to the main courses. In most cases, fish and meat were overcooked (or cooked more than requested). One of our party wrote a scathing review. They received an apology the next day along with a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries...a very class move on the part of Princess. The exception to the average food was the lamb, turkey and lobster dishes. All enjoyed the deserts. We usually grabbed breakfast in the Horizon court and the food was about HOmetown buffet level. Two nights we ate dinner in the Horizon court and the food was similar to that in the dining room We did not utilize the premium rooms. There were two formal nights, but only half of us participated and I was in the half that did not...
Ports: THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TRIP! We took the cruise to get to these ports and were not disappointed. However, we could have used more time in STockholm, Tallin, and Oslo and less in Helsinki.
The Port talks by Mr. Lawrence were quite valuable and should be seen either in person or on the TV before visiting the ports. He was also available in the afternoon before ports for specific questions.
Disembarkation: WARNING!!!!!!!!!!While the disembarkation was smooth the taxi drivers were minor league con artists. Our driver tried to get us to use him to the airport, saying the metro was down. It was not. Another of our group was told there were problems with the train and the taxi was the best way to the airport. This was not true as well. Neither of us fell for the scam...
I just want to add that Oslo was terrific and we needed much more time there (as opposed to the half day). The Froegner Park sculptures are not to be missed. To save time we just took a taxi there. It cost about $25for four us. We also enjoyed the art museum as well as the City Hall murals and a walk down Johann Gate. Be aware of sticker shock. A McDonald's burger (can't imagine why one would go there) was over $10. Two of our party stopped for a half a sandwich,two non alcoholic drinks and a piece of bread for $27.