The only thing we would change about this cruise is to add a sea day after SPB. It is a very port intensive cruise and by the day after SPB, we were ready for a break. This is rather long as I wanted to include information on many things I had researched myself on these boards.
We took a nonstop flight out of Newark into Copenhagen, arriving early Saturday am. We had planned on taking the train to city center but we ended up taking a taxi to the hotel. You give the taxi driver your charge card and he puts in through the machine at the start of the trip and you sign the receipt at the end. We stayed at the Copenhagen Island, a fairly new modern hotel on the water. It was next to a big mall and a short distance from the new hotel Tivoli. It was nice and quiet but it was a good walk or short bus ride to city center. We took the Hans Christian Anderson tour; it was a very nice introduction to old Copenhagen. You meet in front of the tourist information in city center, the walk lasts about 90 minutes and cost $20 each, able to pay in US dollars or euros or DKK. I think it started at 9:30 am. You can spend hours walking on Stroget and the surrounding streets. We also took the DFDS hop on hop off boat tour, a great value and an easy way to see the sites. We bought our tickets at Nyhaven,, your pass is good for any of the lines and you just get off at whatever area you are interested in and explore. We had the best ice cream with freshly made cones in Nyhaven We went to Christianshavn and walked through Christiania, a modern take on an old hippie commune. Lots of visitors there, when you leave a sign says "now entering the EU". We had lunch at a small restaurant off the Stroget, the 2 of us has smorrebrod, Club soda and coffee, and it was nice to sit outside in the square, lunch total $70! We also had brunch at the famous cafe Norden, it cost around $70 for 2 but the brunch was enormous and we could have easily shared 1. You had a couple of choices to select, ours came with fruit, salmon, cheese, scrambled eggs, bacon, chocolate cake, ham, fresh strawberry preserves. You order at the bar and then sit down; they will bring you the food. Definitely recommend it. Nice again to sit outside and people watch and enjoy the nice weather. Everything we heard about Copenhagen being expensive was true, a cup of coffee cost $ 4-$6, a glass of water in most restaurants cost between $2-$3
On Monday we took a taxi to the pier, a 20 minute trip at the most and got there about 11:30, check in quick and then we waited a solid hour for our number to be called to board the ship. We had booked a sy guarantee and about 2 weeks earlier we received our room assignment, category sy midship, room 6072. Plenty of storage, comfortable bed, a couch and 2 chairs that adjoined the dressing table. Good magnifying mirror and light on the dressing table. Great bedside lamps, double sinks in the bathroom and nice size balcony with 2 rattan chairs with ottomans and a small table with 3 chairs. We had breakfast most days on the balcony and the food was always delivered in the designated time and was always good.
This was our 3rd HAL cruise, we have cruised with Princess and RCL, and there are absolutely no negatives about this HAL cruise; staff wonderful, everything gleaming, food good selection and never a line to leave or return to the ship. We spent more time in the casino than in seeing the shows, but everyone raved about the magician.
The first port was Warnemunde, a great number of passengers took the ships tour into Berlin, and it was too long a trip for us. We planned to go to Rostock and see Warnemunde. We ended up just staying in Warnemunde, very pretty seashore town, lots of stores and cafes. Great long, wide beach. We were told the beach was great for flying a kite since it was always windy. There was no wind and it was very hot that day, 85 degrees at the lowest. We had euros and bought fresh fish sandwiches right at a boat at the pier, $13 for 2. Next day, a sea day and a formal night. We did not attend any formal nights, dined elsewhere on those evenings. Next port, Tallinn, we got off the boat almost an hour after we docked and walked right off the ship. We were going to take a taxi to the old town, no taxis were available, and ended up to be a short walk to the entrance to old Towne. We spent the day just walking around the old town, very pretty pleasant, they take euros, and the stores take credit card. Weather again warm around 82-84degrees, although it felt much warmer
The next day was SPB; we booked a tour with TJ travel. They put together a group of 6 of us from the ship. It was a relaxed tour and we were all exhausted by the end of the day. It was very warm, high 80's and humid. We did a partial tour of the city, hydrofoil to Petergof; visited Catherine's palace, Hermitage etc. We also visited a market, took the metro. Our guide was Tatiana, excellent tour guide, you could not ask for a better one. Cost $ 250 each minus 5 percent for cash. On the 2nd day in port there was a heavy rain with thunder and lightning in the morning, we talked with some folks who took the ship tour to Petergof and they said they were just stuck out in the gardens, basically standing under trees; then some enterprising people started selling umbrellas.Helsinki: We took the ship bus into market center, cost $20 round trip, spent the day walking around, took the 3T tram, all day ticket, saw the rock church. In the afternoon it started getting very cloudy so we went back to the ship a little early. There seemed to be some nice sightseeing boats at the pier offering rides for 1 ½ hours. Stockholm: We took the hop on hop boat first thing in the morning to the Vasa Museum. That early, it only goes to the city center and the Vasa, regular service to all the other stops begin around 10am. There are painted lines leading you from the pier to the boats. We charged the entrance fee to Vasa, 200 sek. Took the English speaking guide, but very difficult to hear, saw the video and it was all very impressive. Definite a must see, but go first thing in the morning, by the time we left, there was a very long line waiting to get in. Then we went to the palace for changing of the guards, then Gamla Stan, where we had lunch for a set price of 80 SEK each, you can pay in credit card. Gamla Stan main street was packed with people shopping and browsing. This was the first day that was cool and you needed a jacket or sweater the major portion of the day. You could easily spend more time in Stockholm. On the way into Stockholm and from Stockholm into Kiel, you pass many of the islands that are part of the archipelago they say there may be over 30,000 islands, very interesting to see, we took way too many pictures of these various shaped islands.
Next stop was Kiel, if you want to shop; Kiel is the place, lots of stores lining a major street about a 10 minute walk from the pier. Some stores took our credit card, others did not, but there were ATM's around. We took the advice I read on the boards and opened a Capital One savings account for the express purpose of using their ATM card. We had lunch at an outside cafe; cost was around $15 each. We took a taxi to the airport, lots of taxis there, cost was $ 40. Unfortunately the flight was delayed over 3 hours so we had a very long trip home.