Pampered Baltic Cruise
Baltic & Northern Europe
This was our first ocean cruise after 3 previous river cruises (China, Russia, and Danube)with parents (in their 80s). This small ship had 189 passengers out of total 220 capacity. Our rooms were larger than we expected with plenty of space to relax (couch and 2 chairs) and enjoy the view out the large window. Service was excellent throughout the vessel with all having a smile and most addressing you by name. Minor problems (burned out light bulb) were fixed in a timely manner.
Meals had a variety of choices with something that all 4 of us liked on the menu. Portions were of right size and the servers several times gave us side portions of other mains to try if we wanted a taste. Wine steward never let the glass get empty on this all inclusive ship.
We normally did not stay up for the evenings entertainment after touring all day but couple times we did it was decent. Biggest issue we had was the use on your own washer/dryers were broke several times and since they were More
European style cycles were very long.
Prior to cruise we stayed in Stockholm at Nordic Sea Hotel. Very convenient hotel, less than 100 feet from airport express train stop and short walk (15 minutes) to Old Town. Quiet and reasonable priced for Stockholm.
Port not included in lists below was Mariehamn, Finland. Since we stopped on a Sunday almost all shops were closed. You could walk the whole town in less than a half hour. Did enjoy the sailing museum ship which was next to where we docked. I would rate a 3. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Whole day tour included a city tour of Gdansk, Malabork Castle and Olivia Cathedral. Gdansk old town has been beautifully reconstructed after WWII to 1600-1700 period. Just amazing reconstruction work of this several blocks area. Includes a shopping area of a block for amber jewelry. Malabork Castle was the largest Teutonic Knights castle. Also reconstructed and worth the visit. Inside the Olivia Cathedral is a huge organ with moving parts on which a 15-20 minute concert was played. Very good lunch was provided in tavern next to castle with mix of Polish and German food specialties.
We took a 3 hr bicycle trip around town. Nice views of port and the islands in the harbor. Somewhat disappointing port as not really an old town. Mostly large buildings from 60s-now. Outdor shopping market next to pier mostly tacky souvenirs.
Took a half day city tour "Pearl of the Baltics" and than chose to wander by ourselves. Parts of city reconstructed after WWII. Interesting variety of architecture and buildings. Green areas and parks around and could easily just walk around town without tour but tour did provide interesting facts and visit to Blackheads House an old guild hall plus the story behind the Black Cat House. We also tried the Black Balsam herb remedy recommended to us by one of the vessel's crew from Riga. Settled our upset stomachs just as supposedly did for Catherine the Great in 1700's.
Our vessel docked a short walk from the center of the city. We wandered about this small tourist town for several hours in the morning doing some shopping and over to lighthouse and sand dunes. In the afternoon took a tour which included a short steam train ride through the countryside and visit to a monastery with a stop for traditional cake.
Spent 3 whole days in port. Did 2 half day and 2 full day tours plus went to ballet one night. Tours arranged by Seaborne were of Hermitage Museum (1/2 day), St Petersburg Cathedrals (1/2 day), Romanov's Imperial Residences (whole day) and Royal Palaces and Parks of Peterhof (whole day). All the tours were well managed with not more than 25 people on any one tour. By going with packaged tours did not have to have a Russian visa (cost over $200). Also were allowed into Hermitage/ Catherine the Greats residence, and Peterhof early before most tourists. Made these twice as enjoyable without the crowds that were coming in as we were leaving. All of the tours were done using headphone systems so you didn't have to be right next to guide to hear but could wander up to 40 feet away and still hear. Meals provided on whole day trips were very good servings of local specialties. Second time in St Petersburg and these tours were much more enjoyable than the first time.