Emerald Princess Cruise Review by denisedld: Baltic Cruise, June 2011, Emerald Princess
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Baltic Cruise, June 2011, Emerald Princess
Overall, this cruise was excellent, and I would highly recommend it to others. We were traveling with a group of 45 people, and so flew together and stayed in Copenhagen prior to embarkation at the Hotel Copenhagen Island.
The Hotel Copenhagen Island was fine. It was a bit of a walk to the central area, but not too bad, maybe 1.5 miles. They did have a wonderful breakfast buffet.
This was my first cruise, so I cannot compare the Emerald Princess to other cruiselines.
Our embarkation process was extremely well-organized. We were on the ship and all our luggage delivered within an hour or so.
The Emerald Princess was a well-appointed ship. Food was quite good, for the most part, although the fish at dinner was not very good on several occasions, rather tough. The service was quite good and most of the ship's staff were very friendly, and several were really outstanding in their friendliness and service.
The staterooms were very well More organized. We had plenty of room for both my husband and my clothes to be hung up, and folded in drawers, room for the suitcases to be stored, and room for our stuff in the bathroom. While our balcony was not large, it was fine for the two of us to be able to sit out. Our steward did a great job keeping everything tidied up while we were out of the room.
The ship did offer a number of activities, however, we generally used the pool and hot tub after a busy day of shore touring.
We took two shore excursions, canal tour in Stockholm and a city cruise in Helsinki. It was raining and cold during the canal tour, somewhat putting a damper on how nice it would have otherwise been. The bus tour in Helsinki was not particularly good, and I would recommend others to find an alternative.
If you take this cruise, make sure to be up and outside on the way to Stockholm through the archipelago - this is absolutely one of the most beautiful sights you will see!
In St Petersburg, we created a private, customized tour for six of us, using SPB Tours. It was simply outstanding and I would highly recommend it. It was also slightly less expensive than the ship excursion in St Petersburg, and was far better with only six of us, and customized to us. We also used SPB in Berlin, although I'm not sure I'd recommend going to Berlin from Warnemunde again, as it was a long (3+ hr) trip each way, so it was a very whirlwind tour of Berlin, and an exhausting day. Those who stayed in the Warnemunde area raved about how nice it was.
Altogether, although it was a very busy vacation, and we were on the go, we visited ports which we would otherwise probably never see, and which were well worth visiting. This was a great cruise itinerary.
We did have one very bad experience on the ship, with the spa. I would NOT RECOMMEND that anyone use the Lotus Spa, although some of the services themselves were quite good (i.e., my husband had a wonderful massage). We booked spa services online in February. We had a printout of our reservations, along with our shore excursions. When we arrived onboard, we were told that those reservations had been changed, some deleted, because of some vague "issue with the internet booking", which it seemed hinged around the fact that "all the day-at-sea appointments get booked online and then we have no more appointment slots for those wishing to schedule on the ship" - in other words, they moved or cancelled our appointments in order to book what turned out to be longer and more expensive services. When we complained about this, and requested that the services which we had prebooked, be honored, the spa manager had quite a condescending (and noncaring) attitude, but we were given access to a private steamroom, but when one of us went to get her card so marked, the spa manager greeted her with the comment: "Oh, you are the Complains!". I do not appreciate spending a good deal of money, expecting reserved services to be honored, and when they are not, being treated in an insulting manner. As an example, my husband went for what we had scheduled as a 50-minute, $119 Swedish massage. He woke up at the end of the massage and was presented with a charge of $165 for a 75-minute massage, which is what he was told "was in the computer". This is a classic bait and switch. In addition, we were presented with very hard sell for products: me when I went for a facial, and my husband after a massage. When I am paying for services, I do not expect to be given a high-pressure sell on products. DO NOT USE THIS SERVICE. We did take these concerns to ship management, and met with the Manager of Customer Relations, who seemed to take everything seriously. We also reported this on the post-cruise survey. To date, however (now 2 weeks later), we have not heard anything else.
We went to two shows at night, one a magic show, and the other a Cole Porter review, both of which were quite entertaining.
Disembarkation was as well organized as embarkation; speedy and efficient.
We traveled on IcelandAir through Reykjavik and had no problems with our flight, other than on our trip home, the airport in Copenhagen seemed very chaotic at checkin. There were very long lines for check-in/baggage check which were not well-queued, so lines were snaking all over the place making it difficult for travelers to tell where they should be standing. We could never figure out why it was so long! But still uneventful.
On the whole, other than the spa, I would strongly recommend the Emerald Princess, this particular itinerary, and SPB Tours, especially in St Petersburg. Less
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Cabin review: BAa310 Balcony
Emerald Princess: A310. Very well laid out. Plenty of space for two of us to hang clothes, put clothes in drawers, and store our suitcases out of the way. Bathroom had plenty of space for our stuff. Balcony was smaller than some of my fellow travelers had previously (no lounge chairs would fit, but two sitting chairs and a table, which was fine for us). We did not experience hallway noise or any other issues of noise. Because we were on the A-deck, we had great views from our balcony - I had no problems with our room.
Port and Shore Excursions
It is not, however, a particularly beautiful city - many of the buildings at least that we saw were not very esthetic, but looked to be basic industrial /functional. Given that we had such a short time, however, it is probably not fair to Berlin to make such a quick judgment.
Helsinki itself seemed to be a lovely, and surprisingly tree-lined city.
We visited all the usual tourist sites; the Peterhof Fountains were simply beautiful and a "must-see".
We were also able to go to dinner after our first day, and then to the ballet, which was quite a treat.
The city was also very noticeably clean. Very little graffiti, hardly any, and no trash on the streets whatsoever, despite the fact that the previous evening apparently had been a large celebration of graduation for the local students.
While the palaces are notable for their use of gold and incredibly expensive material, while the vast majority of the people were living in very poor conditions, it was still quite amazing to see. We also learned a great deal about the 3-year siege of St Petersburg by the Nazis, during which so many people died of starvation.
I would strongly recommend anyone with the opportunity to visit St Petersburg.
Gamla Stan was quite enchanting; small enough to be walkable at a pleasant pace, be able to see things, and not be rushing through. We took Rick Steves' Scandinavia book, and followed his self-guided tour, which worked out great. We had a pleasant lunch at a cafe in a square. The downside was that it was raining and a little chilly, but the rain was on and off, so we made the best of it.
Since I am a "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" fan, I also researched various points of interest from the book, and managed to visit 5 of them before returning to the ship in time for the ship's Canal Tour. Unfortunately it was quite cold and rainy by the time we did the Tour, which lessened the enjoyment, although the tourguide was quite good, and I think it would have been a great excursion on a nicer day.
The sail through the archipelago was one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.
We enjoyed walking through here and bought some local goods which seemed good quality and reasonably priced for a tourist spot.