I have been on several cruises previously (HAL/Alaska, several RCCL/Caribbean and Bahamas), as well as traveled in Europe on land, but was very excited for our two week trip through the Baltic on HAL. I was not disappointed! We flew overnight from US into Heathrow and used Smiths for Airport to drive us to Dover. It was expensive, but well worth the price not to have to deal with luggage and bus stations and figuring everything out upon arrival in Heathrow. Arrived in Dover by 2pm, walked around the town, enjoyed the afternoon and had an early dinner. Stayed overnight at the Premier Inn at the ferry terminal and it was reasonable, clean and comfortable.
Embarkation was organized and only took about a half hour. Boarded Eurodam and was impressed....the ship is really beautiful! For a larger size ship, we never felt crowded or had the feeling there were too many on board. Stayed in cabin 1063. One of the cheapest possible categories and that was maybe the best decision we made regarding the trip, because we loved that cabin!! There was no ship movement that low and the cabin was HUGE! Way larger than the outside view and even some veranda cabins we peeked into. We got great nights of sleep with no light coming through the windows. I would recommend it to anyone. The Eurodam is a little confusing to get around, but we had 12 nights to figure it out. Once you realized the mid ship elevators couldn't get you to the Crows Nest area, you were OK! The food was good, on some nights it was great. Surprisingly, the Lido was the best for breakfast. I couldn't make myself turn away from the Eggs Benedict area. They can poach a wonderful egg!! If you have open seating for dinner, I recommend making reservations. We had one night where we waited 45 minutes to be seated. After that, I made a reservation for every night. No problems after that. Had lunch and dinner in Tamarind. I was not impressed with lunch, but the dinner was absolutely fantastic. Also had dinner in Pinnacle and would recommend that as well. The service and food was outstanding. We ate in Canaletto a couple nights to make a change from the MDR and really enjoyed that venue as well.
We enjoyed the food demos in the Culinary Arts Center and saw several presentations about historical aspects of the region (History of the Vikings, Russian Art, Amber, etc.). Also watched a couple movies in the Theatre. The one area really lacking on Eurodam was entertainment, which surprised us. The shows were nothing special, the piano player hopelessly cheesy, Natalie and the HalCats....I don't even want to say what I thought of them. The string quartet was very talented and good, but not my type of music and the guitar player in the Crows Nest, decent. But, even he sang the exact same playlist every evening, which struck me as really weird. There were two visiting entertainers who we saw and liked. But, overall, the entertainment seemed very dated somehow. The passengers on our sailing ranged from young families, middle aged couples and seniors. The entertainment aspect didn't reflect that mix at all. Fortunately, we didn't go on this cruise to see the ships entertainment....it was the ports of call!!
Kiel, Germany: Took a HAL excursion called "Castles, Lakes and Roses" and enjoyed it tremendously. The guide spoke excellent English and was very friendly and chatty. Visited 3 smaller towns...Ploen to visit the castle, Malente to see glass blown and take a boat ride across 3 inland lakes and Eutin, to visit the kitchen garden and castle in town. Throw in a decent lunch and it was a great day!
Warnemunde, Germany: We did not want to go into Berlin and so planned a leisurely DIY day in this small, resort, seaside town. Reminded me of a Germany Mackinaw Island (for those of you familiar with Michigan!). Had a wonderful lunch in a small restaurant right on the canal. I think it was called Skeetiste and it had fantastic fresh fish and lovely service. Everyone was very friendly.
Tallinn, Estonia: Another DIY day. Easy to walk off the ship and find your way to the Old Town, which we absolutely loved! We had a walking tour from the internet and it was perfect, so that we knew what we were looking at as we walked around. Another wonderful lunch of local specialties. Great amber jewelry in the shops.
St. Petersburg, Russia: Had booked the SPB 2 Day Baltic Pearl Tour. The tour was a good selection for us, as it included all costs, even lunches, which made it very easy and no worries once there. Good guide and driver. Viktoria, the owner of SPB, met us at the ship to introduce herself and welcome us to Russia. Very professional. I would recommend SPB to anyone traveling to this region. We saw so much and the guides knew which times would be better for each site. Even in the Hermitage and Catherine's Palace, we didn't wait in line to get in and never felt overly crowded once inside. We also opted to stay in town after the first day of touring to see the Folkloric Show at the Nicholas Palace. Even though we were exhausted, this was my favorite experience in Russia. If you are at all interested in music and dance, don't miss this performance. Wear layers in St. Petersburg. It rained, got chilly, then ridiculously hot and humid. The buildings are not air conditioned, so be prepared to strip down when inside. Your gut tells you that you don't want to drag stuff around, but you can leave whatever you don't need that particular moment in the van.
Helsinki, Finland: Didn't expect much from Helsinki and was surprised by how wonderful it was! Took shuttle from Eurodam and walked the Esplanade to the harbor. Took ferry to Suomenlinna Island, walked around fortress. Back to Market Square for Reindeer meatballs with lingonberry jam for lunch...yum! Senate Square was just beautiful with the Lutheran Cathedral. Could have done the HoHo Bus, but everything we wanted to see was close enough to walk.
Stockholm, Sweden: Got right on the first HoHo Boat we saw when we docked right in town at Stadsgarden. Went directly to the Vasa Museum and were blown away! It is amazing. Don't miss it and go first thing in the morning. We walked right up to the ticket counter. When we left, the line stretched for blocks. That would have taken the fun out of it for me. Back to the boat to see Gamla Stan and a couple other areas. A ton to see in Stockholm. We liked being able to set our own schedule to spend as much time as we wanted.
Copenhagen, Denmark: Booked the HAL tour called Copenhagen by Coach and Canal. Loved getting the chance to see the city by canal boat. Had kind of a dreary day, so that dampened our experience, but enjoyed it all the same. Were out at the Freeport terminal, so we thought it would be easier to take an excursion. We could have DIY, as HoHo buses were sitting right outside the terminal anyway.
Disembarkation was quicker and easier than others lines I have been on. Really well done. Took the pre-paid HAL transportation to Copenhagen airport in plenty of time to catch an 11am flight. In the future, would try to avoid Copenhagen airport. Crazy check in procedure. Took an hour and half in line. Once in the terminal, there was no place to sit by the gate. The seating area completely locked up until just before boarding. Even very old people were sitting on the floor all around an empty, glassed in room full of chairs. Need some restructuring there.
Overall, this was a trip of a lifetime. Mostly due to the ports and cities we experienced. However, I would wholeheartedly recommend HAL Eurodam, as well. Food, service, ship and cabin exceeded my expectations.