Baltic Sea Cruise June 2011
Baltic & Northern Europe
Overall we were very satisfied with this cruise. We traveled with 2 other active couples like ourselves who are all in our early 60's. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. We know what to expect from Princess and have found them to be consistent in all areas. The food ranges from good to very good. The entertainment is okay. We never feel pressured to make purchases on board like we did on Norwegian. They ask once if you would like a drink, put a napkin down to indicate you were asked and do not bother you again. We never take pictures anymore and saying no thanks one time is sufficient. There is still pressure to take shore excursions through Princess but we know how to get around it and I will talk more about this when I talk about the ports.
Our room steward Tarahut from Thailand was very attentive to detail and Juan in the Michelangelo dining room was outstanding. We had anytime dining, never had to wait and requested Juan each night and half the time he had an More
open table. Otherwise we found the service to be very good from anyone.
Getting on and off the ship was a breeze. We arrived after 2PM to embark as Princess suggested and there was no line. Princess offers a transfer to the airport for $34 pp when leaving. We took the train for $8.00 pp US money which Princess never tells you about. It is a 17 minute walk from the ship on a well marked sidewalk. You change trains once. The person selling tickets will tell you where to change. People in Denmark are amazing. It is a total of 45 mins from the ship to the airport via the train.
We were very lucky on this cruise as the weather was very warm and sunny. Many people only packed for cold weather. Big mistake. Check the forecast before you leave as we did. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Not too much here. We were at this port from noon until 7PM. Easy walk to town. Visited a church and did some browsing in the shops. Back to the ship by 4 PM.
We arrived in Copenhagen on Thursday at noon and our cruise was leaving on Sat. evening. We found this was a good amount of time to enjoy the city. We purchased the Copenhagen card for $47 US pp at the TI. It becomes active for 24 hours when you use it the first time. This allowed us to use all transportation, including a canal cruise, entrance to Tivoli Gardens and all the sights we wanted to visit. We took the train early Friday morning to Hillerod and visited Fredensborg Palace. Highly recommended. It does take you out of the city to see the countryside. Be sure to take the ferry ride over to the palace from the town. It is included in the Copenhagen card. Food is very expensive in Copenhagen but also very good. The people are wonderful and very helpful.
We took city bus #16 to the ferry which took us to Semolina Fortress. Very interesting. Be sure to walk up the hill to see the cannons and the beautiful view of the Gulf of Finland. The whole site was filled with lilacs. We then visited an outdoor market and some shops. Had lunch and again pricey but delicious and we do enjoy sampling local fare.
Here we purchased the Oslo card for $44 US pp. All sights we visited and transportation is included. We took the ferry to the Viking Ship museum. Fascinating. Then we had lunch by the pier. My husband and I shared a sandwich and small side salad for $30!!! Very expensive. Take some food with you from the ship. Back on the ferry to visit the Fram and the Kon Tiki. We loved this and again very interesting. Back on the ferry and then we took a bus to Vigeland Sculpture Park. Great!! Beautiful park although crowded. A park like this would never fly in the US!!
At this port the 6 of us split into 2 groups. One couple and my husband went to Berlin and I along with the other couple went to Rostock and Warnemunde. First off the Berlin group did purchase Berlin On Your Own through Princess. With Berlin over 2 1/2 hours away they did not want to chance the trains going on strike or breaking down. Upon arrival in Berlin on the train a motor coach took them to the heart of the city. Form there they were able to see all the sights on their list in the time they had, about 5 1/2 hours. They had snacks and water both ways, were given a map and had a tour guide to answer questions on the train. Rostock was okay, not the traditional German town I had envisioned. Warnemunde was more scenic but touristy. It had some nice shops and restaurants. Berlin was definitely a 5 rating for the 3 people who went there and were truly interested in German history.
AMAZING!! This port was our main reason for choosing this cruise. We arranged a 2 day private tour with Alex Tours on line before leaving. We heard about this agency through someone else who had used them. We had a private guide named Kristina and a driver in a spacious van. Our first day was from 8 AM until 9 PM and the second day from 8:45 AM until 4:30 PM. The cost was $720 per couple. We paid in US dollars at the end of the tour. We saw all the sights, had a private canal cruise and rode the subway, a must see. We dodged all the lines. Everything is quite crowded. Kristina truly has a passion for her country and her job. She was very intelligent and well spoken with a great sense of humor.
If you arrange your own tour with a private licensed company like we did Princess will tell you you cannot disembark the ship without first meeting in the dining room. Then when there are 50 people there they will escort you off the ship. As you may have already read DO NOT listen to them. They cannot do this. We walked right off. Some other people tried to walk off and Princess tried to detain them and they spoke up and got right off. In my review directly to Princess I did tell them they have to quit making idiots out of people.
Be sure to be out on deck either going into or leaving Stockholm as it is quite beautiful.
Loved Stockholm but way too short on time. We purchased a hop on hop off ferry ticket. Good choice. Went to the Vasa museum first thing as recommended but I would do it later when there was no line to get in. If you go first thing be sure to get off the ship as soon as you can. We left a 1/2 hour later and had to wait a 1/2 hour to buy tickets. After this stop we went to the old town of Gamla Stan.We enjoyed this area a lot. Browsing the shops was nice and we all had some delicious sweet treats.
Because of the short time in this port everyone is going back at the same time so the ferry was crowded. Be sure to allow enough time. Also we wanted lunch on the ship upon returning and the buffet was insane. And Princess had one section of it closed!
Tallinn is a beautiful walled city. We purchased a $7 pp round trip ticket to town. Great shopping especially the hand knitted items and the people selling them are so kind even if you just look. We visited Toopea Fort and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Well worth seeing. Be careful of pick pockets outside the church. One person in our group was targeted on two sides. Luckily his pockets were buttoned.