Just back from a way too short 5 day nordic sailing out of Copenhagen to Bergen to Geiranger and back and wanted to share some of our thoughts for those who may be looking to experience a little slice of heaven on earth. First the basics.
We flew into Copehagen a few days early to do a little sightseeing. After picking up our baggage (which consists of one large backpack for the two of us - the only way to travel, not having to tote suitcases around), we grabbed a couple of train tickets from the kiosk in Terminal 3 to get take us to Central Station (passport control is a breeze, only wish it was so in the US but I understand the security differences). There are a lot of individuals in the main terminal to help with directions and questions. I always get some local currency from our bank before we travel so I don't have to exchange first day. Credit cards are accepted but need to have a 4 digit PIN (at least that's what the sign said at the ticket counter for the train).
Train into the city was comfortable and stops were announced in English which was helpful as you won't see anything that says "Central Station" = Kopenhavn H is the place. Our hotel for the three nights prior to sailing was Hotel Mayfair. Booked this one as it offered free breakfast (buffet of breakfast meats, bread, cheeses, eggs (scrambled and boiled), danish, yogurt, and the like) and free light dinner (some type of interesting entree (small portion), bread, cheese, fruit, dessert, coffee or tea -other drinks cost - cokes were 25DK each). Room was small by our standards, larger than those we had in London, but comfortable, clean and was on a quiet street within easy walking distance to the Tivoli and central station. We got there midmorning so we parked the bags in a locked closeted area at the hotel and started walking.
Copenhagen is an easy city to walk if you're somewhat fit. Crowded as you would expect any major city with more bikes than cars. Do stay out of the bike paths as they will ring their bell at you and scowl should you wonder into their right of way. Most attractions are easily accessible by foot. We had no plans so we just let our feet take us to wherever and whatever looked interesting. First day we did take a canal tour which was well worth the money (we picked ours up right across from Christianborg Palace (GI Strand - DFDS Canal Tours). Lunch consisted of ice cream from one of the many little ice cream shops.
We started Day Two in Copenhagen with a walking tour (Hans Christian Anderson walking tours) which we picked up at the main Tourist Information Center right across from the Tivoli (Vesterbro Gade). No reservations required, just show up and pay your 100DK apiece for a two/two and a half hour guided tour of the area with Hans himself (English speaking exPat). It's a leisurely paced tour and I'd highly recommend it to give you some sense of the lay of the land, the history and insights into the Danish culture. Besides, walking around with a guy dressed up like Hans himself (tophat and topcoat) brings a lot of stares your way. After the tour we headed off to climb the stairs to the top of the steeple of Our Saviours church (Ske Annea Gade, just off Torvegade). You'll notice it right off as it's got an unusual steeple with stairs on the outside. Great views from the top after you catch your breath. One word for those who like to go into the churches to take pictures - Saturdays (at least in the summers I hear) are back to back weddings so don't expect to be able to step inside a lot of the churches. In fact the town hall is crammed full of wedding parties waiting to go inside for their ceremony. It's pretty neat to see all the wedding parties standing around.
Sunday, day before cruise, we took the advice of a stewardess from our flight over whom we happened to sit by on the train going downtown when we first arrived, and got a 24 hour transportation pass and hopped a train to Kronborg castle in Helsinger. It was great advice, easy to get to (about an hour train ride) and the palace (also known as Elsinor in Shakespeare's Hamlet) is a formidable sight. Having visited a lot of historical palaces in Europe, this oen is nothing like those, much less ornate, and more like what you'd expect for a middle ages castle. Word of advice, if you go on a Sunday like we did, be prepared to starve. Not a lot of places open (virtually no shopping in the quaint little town) and few restaurants. We did find a place but they had ran out of chicken and had a limited menu. So I enjoyed a hamburger (cooked rare) and some potato sticks while my wife enjoyed a plate of potato sticks (kind of like homefries to us) a couple of cokes and a heft $45 price tag. But when you're starving it was worth it and yes, we did find an ice cream shop open which is what the doctor ordered.
So enough of the preliminary, now onto the cruise and port reviews. First the ship. Not the largest, not the smallest, it's a right size ship for us. It was in good repair, clean, good food (we didn't eat in the dining room, all Windjammer Cafe for us - can't pack a lot of casual wear in one backpack you know). Staff was a throwback to the 'it's all about service days' when they smiled, talked to you and you went away with the feeling that it's more about a good experience than a tip. Food in the buffet was good, plentiful and we didn't starve. It wasn't 5 star dining but hey, it's a cruise and I don't come on a cruise to experience 5 star dining. I can say the pizza wasn't good but the soft serve icecream outside the Windjammer was.
Entertainment was pretty much standard cruise fare. The magician was good as was the Beatles tribute band. The crowds, being mostly Danes and Swedes, were more reserved than most we've experienced.
Our room was an inside cabin, our first inside cabin in quite some time and will be our last inside for some time to come. Not because it wasn't adequate or that we're balcony snobs, but because we couldn't tell night from day and that was a little disorienting for us. I can say it was very quiet at night. Not sure if it was the composition of the people on board or lack of kids running around (very few young families on board). We sailed on-time and the rain began.