Good way to explore the Baltic region in comfort
Copenhagen whizzed by as we headed for Emerald Princess on our way from the airport.
Embarkation was smooth and efficient. A treasure hunt type card was given to us which was useful for people to familiarise themselves with the ship's layout. It also had the incentive that you may win a prize. I did win a prize, a $75 massage treatment in Lotus Spa, but more about that later.
Please note that on this cruise you will be moving the hour forward twice on the way to St Petersburg which can make full day visits very tiring in the first half of the cruise.
We choose to have "anytime dining" and to share tables as we like to meet new people however even with this flexibility and arriving around 8p.m. it didn't mean we avoided queues. We believe this is mainly due to Princess introducing fixed dining in Da Vinci between 5.30 and 7.30. If you dine after 8.30 you should have no problem with queues.
Food was very good with good choices. More
Having been on Ruby Princess for the last two years we noticed the same dishes turning up. For us this meant we had a chance to have our favourite dishes again.
The Baltic is not the Med. During May/June it may be very warm on some days and cool and breezy on others. Inside the ship is the same temperature as always so no changes need to be made to evening/day wear. Bring a waterproof (umbrella's are no use when it is windy) and a warm jacket for trips and on your balcony/on deck on cool days. Also bring some good comfortable walking shoes or trainers for exploring.
Epithani (as spelt on the ship)are a very entertaining cover band and are good both for dancing and listening. Shows in the Princess Theatre included a comedian Cary Long..observational humour..we liked him. Thom Peterson, listed as a comedian but a magician...very entertaining. Various cast shows in Princess Theatre, went only once and wasn't impressed (we left). Atrium acrobats good to watch from Crooners with your cocktail. Pianists both in Adagio and Crooners were also worth a listen.
Films we watched included "The King's Speech" and "Robin Hood" (the Russel Crowe version) We saw both of these in the Princess Theatre.
Tour/Visit guidance was given freely and very expertly by John Lawrence both at lectures in the Princess Theatre (these were repeated later on the TV) and over the loudspeakers as we entered and left ports such as Stockholm and St Petersburg.
He also gave everyone excellent tips for visiting ports "on your own".
I won a $75.00 massage in the treasure hunt tombola. I have never had a massage before. I chose to have a back shoulder and neck massage for the $75.00. I could have paid more and had a full massage but didn't. The massage was wonderful. I did buy some Elemis oils/lotions which I have used regularly on my return home and will replenish when finished. Staff in the Spa are programmed to try and make you book further sessions and hence spend further money. I resisted, not because I hadn't enjoyed the experience but at upwards of $159 a time this is not something I want to do regularly. One tip is that they tend to discount treatments throughout the cruise. Keep an eye on Princess Patter for these deals. I will certainly now have a further massage on Princess and at home.
Airport on departure:
Please note that you have to print your own boarding cards and luggage tags at Copenhagen airport. There are special machines in the entrance area on which to do this and you can choose instructions in English by selecting the correct "country flag". You will need your booking reference. Please check this reference before you leave home as we were given an incorrect booking reference by Princess or our travel agent. We were not the only ones to have this trouble and we had to search for someone to help us. The Princess staff on hand at the airport seemed to only be there to deal with arriving passengers and were no help at all. Less
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Cabin review: BAC509 Balcony
C509 Caribe deck 10
Standard BA cabin with larger balcony. Balcony furniture includes one round table, two fixed chairs and two reclinable chairs. You could use the fixed chairs as foot stools. Balcony is half private/not overlooked and half overlooked by cabin balconies above. We noted that the balconies for the mini suite cabins below us were not as big as ours and were totally overlooked.
Shower room is compact but adequate. Noted pull-out washing line in shower area for hanging any small clothing items you may wish to wash. Shelf below sink area is useful extra storage space.
Plenty of hanging space and hangers for clothes.Plenty of room to store suitcases. Tall narrow cupboard in the same area incorporates a safe for valuables, cash passports etc.
Adequate hair dryer available in main cabin area.
Bed and pillows very comfortable.Bucket style chair and small table available in main cabin area.
Plenty of storage cupboards in main cabin area. Fridge includes items for purchase but is also useful for chilling your own wine and water.
Location of C509 was good for any ship movement as it was fairly central and was very quiet.
Noted that when passing cabins around number 611 on the same deck there was noise from above as they were below the funnel area.
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Port and Shore Excursions
Aarhus: (arrived noon) Waited until rush to leave ship ended by ordering a room service lunch which is free of charge unless you order Pizza (there is a room service menu in the cabin)The town centre was a little further away than was Oslo but we again walked in. We visited the Cathedral and another church with an ancient crypt below. Across from the side of the cathedral is the Nordea bank building. Unusually, in the basement of this bank is a Viking Museum (free). Just go in the main entrance, turn left and go down the steps.
We were treated to a free 3 hour guided tour (excellent tour guide Claus) with stops after we finally left Emerald Princess and before we arrived at the airport. Saw the Royal Palaces, Little Mermaid, opera house and waterside area near there, and visited the library garden. Noted the four dragons and their tails which made up the spire above the old stock exchange. Thank you Princess for providing this tour. This city is worth an extended visit. Please note that meals etc will be twice as expensive as in the UK. The Danes are paid twice as much as Uk residents for the same job ( I used to work for company partly owned by Danes)
Helsinki (arrived morning sailed 4p.m.) The ship moored approx 2 miles from where you need to go and as it was a warm day and we did not want to waste any time we took the provided shuttle $8.00 each for a round trip ( every 15 mins). Pleasant Esplanade, Cathedral (lots of steps up to this) and market with crafts, freshly made hot food and fruit stalls.
Oslo: (arrived 10.a.m.) Ship moored within fairly short walking distance of town centre. We didn't book a tour and instead visited the City Hall (dour brick building from the outside with a fascinatingly colourful interior...also free to enter), the Cathedral and Castle. Toilets on shore were courtesy of McDonald's and were free (not far from the Cathedral. A hop on hop off tour bus was available on the quayside at extra cost.
Warnemunde: We chose to go to Berlin on the organised "Berlin on your own" trip. This is a long day with a 3 hour train trip in both directions. Princess commandeered two approx 12 carriage trains to take both the "on your own" and other organised tours to Berlin. Coffee and muffins were provided free of charge on the way out and a goody bag (cake, nuts, a sandwich and not forgetting a German sausage)plus water on the way back. You could also buy beer/wine etc from a catering trolley on the way back. We were transported to the Hilton Hotel (we could use the toilets here) by coach and arrived at about 11.a.m. Most of the sights including Checkpoint Charlie, remnants of the Berlin Wall (you can also track the wall as there are markings on the ground showing where it was), the Holocaust memorial, Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag are within reasonable walking distance of the drop off point. There is again a hop on and hop off bus available at extra cost and an underground rail system to take you further. We did not use the bus but used the underground. Tickets tend to last 2 hours and don't forget to stamp/compost the tickets before you get on the train in the machine on the platform. We had a lunch break under the "sailed" dome in the Potsdam Plaza/Sony centre. There a a few restaurants/cafes and all have English menus. There is a lot to see in Berlin. A few hours does not do it justice. Don't try to do too much. On return to the ship all restaurants including Botticelli were "anytime dining" so dinner was not a problem with so many people returning to the ship all at once.
St Petersburg (2 full days in this port): We did a fairly full day the first day on an organised Princess tour doing the Catherine Palace and City drive. Catherine Palace was destroyed during the second world war and although it is back to it's former glory we didn't realise that it was so "new". Apparently the Peterhof is the same. Traffic in St Petersbug was bad on our City drive and we didn't have time to stop as often as we would have liked. Our coach driver was also stopped by the police for following a tram which added to the delay. We felt that we were not seeing the real Russia and only what they wanted us to see. The lunch on the tour was so-so and included a double shot of vodka and "champagne". We were entertained with Russian folk song and dance during the meal. The Hermitage was visited on the second morning leaving us the afternoon to recover.It opened an hour early for visiting cruise ships only. This did help us to avoid the main crowds initially. The Hermitage is a magnificent, original palace in its own right which has 3 million exhibits. You can only scratch the surface in the time we spent there. We were surprised at the number of classical artworks held at The Hermitage.We had an excellent guide in Sacha who selectively chose the "best bits", enthralled us with interesting facts, was personable and whose English was excellent. You are a long time on your feet when visiting the Hermitage and there are some staircases to climb so wear comfortable supporting footwear.
Stockholm: (half day only)
The Venice of the north...very attractive city..apparently 25,000 plus islands. Excellent sail in if you get up early. Again quite a walk into the centre from where the ship moored, although we could see Gamla Stam (the old town) from the ship. Shuttle bus provided for $13.00 each round trip took us to the Opera House from where you just walked across the road and over a bridge onto Gamla Stam island. Narrow cobbled streets. Most churches and shops opened normally at 10.a.m. or 11.a.m. Cathedral worth a visit with its black and silver altar. Unfortunately for us it was Ascension Day in Sweden so some of the churches were closed to visitors and some soon closed for sightseeing in order to hold a service. Again plenty of cafes. We enjoyed our visit and plan to return as there seems to be a lot to see in Stockholm. Not sure why we could only stay half a day. Sail out of Stockholm again very interesting as you sail down a low level fjord for about 58 miles back into the open sea.
Tallinn (arrived by breakfast) Its approx a mile+ into the old town. Ok for us but again, buses were available. Tallinn's old town streets are cobbled and very uneven and mostly on a slope. No problem for us but wheelchairs just don't work. The old town is very picturesque. Lots of nooks and crannies, views from the walls, photogenic buildings/churches, a craft market with good knitwear etc and plenty of bars/cafes for a snack. There was a festival going on in the main square whilst we were there.