We pick cruises based upon the destination and the ports. This cruise included Oslo, Copenhagen, Riga, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm. This was only a seven night cruise and it included 6 countries. No other cruise line offered this same itinerary. Even RCI offered it only once (our cruise in July 2011). We also liked the "one way" nature of the cruise so we could arrive early in Oslo and stay later in Stockholm.
We had never cruised with RCI, lately NCL and Regent. So, we had an Owners' Suite which are the largest 8 suites on the ship (except for the one Royal Suite).
We stayed two nights in Oslo prior to leaving on the cruise. We stayed at the Thon Hotel by the Opera House. This Thon hotel is right next to the train station so was more convenient for airport transportation rather than convenient to the port. The RCI port in Oslo is not far from the main tourist area and downtown but the cab ride was still about 300 kroners.
As a suiteholder, we had access to a speed-line that basically let us cut in front of all other passengers. The check-in was simple and quick and then we took off for our cabin --- no one escorted us to our cabin, offered us drinks, etc., just "go and we'll see you later".
The cabin was very nice and very comparable to the same class of suite on NCL. Kingsize bed which could be separated from the sitting area, nice jetted tub and separate free-standing shower, 2 sinks, 2 TV's and a very large balcony with 2 cushioned recliners.
There was no directly-assigned concierge or butler. When you would call the "special" extension for suite services, you would get various people in Guest Services dept.-- much different from NCL.
For suiteholders, there was free wine and champagne every night in one of the lounges (a come as you want 3 hour designated area). Very nice touch. Also, you had special balcony seating for the shows, however, no one ever checked our cards. One show was completely full and so was our section with non-suite holders.
We bought the pre-paid "My Time Dining" which included prepaying gratuities. This seemed to have no bearing on the service, which was wonderful. However, they seat you in the same general area each night (and try to seat you at the same table) so you have the same staff serving you each night. Because of that, they preferred to know when we planned to arrive each night so it wasn't really my time "just show-up at the door at some random time" dining. The food was great. There was always a steak, grilled chicken or fish on the "everyday" menu but each night there were about 5-6 choices for main entree, starters and desserts. We always ate dinner in the main dining room.
For breakfast, we ate in the main dining room three times (in a separate section for suiteholder where we also had menu service). The other mornings we had room service. For room service, we ordered breakfast items from the regular menu (not the room service card). Room service always arrived exactly when we noted on our card. When we needed other snacks, etc, we ate from the buffet which seemed to be always crowded and chaotic.
Entertainment - The regular ship singers and dancers were ordinary. The special guest entertainers were different. One was a "tennis juggler". Besides being one of the best jugglers that I have ever seen, he juggled tennis rackets too (hence the name). The other unique one was a unicyclist. He was excellent as a cyclist but unfortunately he tried to talk too much instead of sticking to his talent. Overall, I'd rate the shows "average". However, the cruise director was a female (and hot).
On days at sea, the fitness center was crammed. They had 2 pools, one indoor and one outdoor. Both were nice and depending upon the weather were well used. We were not traveling with kids so can't comment on other activities but shuffle board and ping pong appeared to be popular.
On day of departure, we were assigned a waiting area in one of the lounges. Once we got there, they said our bags were on the dock and we could leave. In Stockholm, there was no passport control or anything. We were at our Stockholm hotel by 9:00.
Overall, we had a great cruise. The ports were fantastic and the itinerary perfect.