My wife and I took the per cruise package offered by princess Cruise Lines which booked us into the Grand Westin Hotel in Berlin. Hotel is right down town and within walking distance to several interesting sites and restaurants with reasonable prices. The Grand Westin is certainly 5 star in my estimation. They had our room ready prior to official check in time which allowed us the afternoon for sightseeing. Hop on Hop off sightseeing bus tours is around the corner from the hotel. The pre cruise package covers all transfers. The pre cruise package was excellent and we would recommend it. We booked in for only 1 day but should have taken 2 days in order to cover Berlin properly.
What a delightful town. It was very easy getting around especially if you take an organized ship's tour to get the feel of the town and explore later on your own. The old town was excellent in both character and the friendliness of the people. Shopping was not overly expensive and quality of items was good.
My wife and I found the Catharine Palace to be the jewel in our trip. We highly recommend it. The ability to get around is quite good even with the many stairs. Guide usually pause at landings to explain features allowing one to rest while climbing. My wife walks with a cane and with her difficulties had little problems. The stairs were the only obstacle and after that it was normal walking. We were not rushed.
City Tour Rating:
The city tour is excellent!! A great overview of the city. This tour is a must in my estimation. The Russian people can appear to be a dour lot but this can be expected after having been in the soviet union for so long. Our guide explained that they don't smile because they don't know you and are distrustful. They are however very polite. We found St.Petersburg quite safe but were constantly reminded to watch out for pick pockets. We were advised to take close attention to our passports. Good advice. Buy souvenirs ashore they are cheaper than on board ship. Often a third the cost. Use ship's stores after being ashore. Book your tours in advance if you can as you will NOT be allowed off the ship unless you have a visa. Ship's dock is far from town in a highly controlled area.
Hermitage Museum Rating:
A wonderful place to visit. What you will see and experience will take your breath away. Be prepared for long long line ups. Organized tours avoid line ups and are admitted separately from the Gerald population. However, it can be very crowed in the museum but tour guides do their best to avoid crowded situations. It is a bit hurried but can you do in a short period of time. Missing the Hermitage would be a shame!
Neva River Cruise Rating:
Great trip. One sees the city from a totally different perspective. We saw many of the palaces once owned by the many grand Dukes of the time. If you have breathing difficulties you may want to go in the cabin as the diesel fumes are sucked back to the open end of the stern. These cruises sometimes offer glasses of champagne or shots of vodka the Russians refer to as "medicine"
While Helsinki is a beautiful city, which we enjoyed very much, the Temppeliahkio Church and Sibelius Park and city drive left much to be desired. Other than the city drive, this tour was a waste of time and money.
Stockholm is well worth visiting. The "Vasa" museum was outstanding. The Vasa is totally preserved Swedish warship that sunk on its maiden voyage in Stockholm harbor. The brackish water and mud totally preserved the ship. When it was removed from the bottom, it actually floated on its own. Well worth the money!! Sigtuna is the oldest village in Sweden and was established as a Viking settlement. There is an old Viking church there with 2Rune stones. Village is well worth seeing. Shopping is expensive there. There is a bit of a drive to Sigtuna but the countryside is well worth noting.
Really unfair for me to rate Copenhagen as my intransit tour was cancelled by Princess Cruises even thought the tour was confirm on line. Apparently they have to have at least 50 paying passengers. We were not made aware of this until we arrived in Stockholm. There were hop on hop off bus tours. With only 3 to 4 buses available it would be very difficult to obtain a tour as I counted at least 5 huge cruise ships sharing our tie up pier. Imagine all those people wanting to use these buses? We embarked at Warnemunde in Germany and hoped to take intransit tour. Tour staff said we could take a disembarkation tour but have to make our own way back to the ship. Emerald Princess really dropped the ball here. More concerned in making money with 50 paying passengers than providing for their stranded passengers. I suggested to tour office that they could have at least 2 or 3 disembarkation tour buses return to the ship after delivering disembarking passengers to the airport. They seemed uninterested. Shame on Princess!
We took the Fram, Viking and Kon-Tiki museums. These tours were well worth the time effort and money!!! Thor Heyerdahl's' expeditions were well presented and both the Kon-Tiki and Ra1 were exhibited. The original crafts not reproductions. The Fram, the ship Amundsen used in his Polar expeditions is there. You can actually tour this small ship. It is great to experience the history that these vessels represented.. Original Viking ships were also available to be experienced. The museums reeked of history. Anyone interested in this type of history should not miss these museum!!
Aarhus is a good port to visit. The drive through the city was very good! However, the Long drive to the Frykat Viking Fortress and what was there was pitiful. If you like a very long drive to see a small recreated Viking Village and the fortress of only raised earthen walls and bricks painted white where the old Viking buildings were then this is the tour for you. For my wife and I it was a TOTAL waste of time. For the price we paid I expected a lot more. On the way back to the ship we did stop at an old Viking Church dating back to the twelfth century. That part of the your was great and prevented the tour from becoming a total disaster. Think twice for his one.