Organized a private tour in Stockholm through Steintours. Steinthor can be reached at email@example.com Our taxi was waiting for us a short walk from the ship. Our guide was Benny and he did a good job. We visited Fjallgatan (beautiful view over Stockholm). Also had a photo stop outside of City Hall (did not go in). The crowns at the top are each the size of a VW Beetle. That was amazing - they sure didn't look that big... From there we went to the Vasa Museum. This is very neat and should be a must on your itinerary. Rather than going to Drottingham Palace, we asked Benny to drop us off in Gamla Stan (Old Town), so we could explore on our own. We then made our way back to the ship. It was a bit chilly today and it poured rain on our way back to the ship.
Helsinki was the only port we used a ship's tour. We had a short amount of free time at Senate Square, where we went inside the Cathedral. We also visited Temppeliaukio Church (in the rock). This is a neat Church as it is built into a rock. We then visited Olympic Stadium where we had a photo stop. Some people went back to the ship, while others stayed in town to explore and shop on there own. This is what we did. We toured Market Square, where they had flowers, food and other souvenneirs. Beware of the Birds, however, they were swooping in on everyone's food.
In St. Petersburg, we booked a private tour with Denrus. Princess tries to tell you that if you have a private excursion, you have to wait until all the Princess excursions have left before you are allowed to get off the boat. They cannot do this. My suggestion is to go to Deck 4 midship and get off the boat. Do not wait in that line! The Russians were afraid we were going to bring swine flu into there country so everyone was wearing masks and there was a physician who was testing everyone's temperature before we were allowed to get off the boat. I assume if you had a temperature, you would not be allowed to get off the boat. Then you wait in the customs line, where the official stamps your passport. You must have your excursion ticket with your passport as well as the immigration form that Princess will give you. We had no problems with the Russian officials. Once you're through, there are many different companies with signs and we just found Denrus and we were ready for our tour shortly thereafter. Our guide for both days was Julia and our driver was Vladimir. Both made this a very memorable experience. On Day 1, we visited Catherine's Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress, Our Savior Church of the Spilled Blood (a must see). We had lunch at a Russian fast food restaurant where we had meat pie. We also visited St. Isaac's Cathedral. We had a half day of rain, but Julia said it wouldn't be St. Petersburg without rain. Day 2 however, was very sunny and warm. First thing we drove about an hour to Peterhoff Castle and Gardens (a must see). There are over 160 fountains there and it is just beautiful. We took a hydrofoil back into town. We spent the afternoon at the Hermitage and ended the trip with a ride on the Metro. We were interested in some nesting dolls, so Julia took us to a neat shop where we got some dolls and other trinkets.
Tallinn is such a neat town, we really needed more time there. Had booked a tour with Ahti Arak (firstname.lastname@example.org). This town is small and you can easily explore on your own. We had a walking tour with Ahti, visiting the upper and lower towns. There was actualy a midieval festival going on, so there were many locals dressed in period clothing and there were booths set up selling local goods. The upper town (Toompea Hill) has great views of the city. Also visited St. Mary's Cathedral and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. At the end of the walk, we had about an hour for shopping in town. Bought some wool sweaters here.
In Poland, we used www.toursinpoland.com Our guide was Joanna and again, she was very knowledgeable. First we drove to Oliwa, where we visited the Cathedral. We were there on Sunday, so actually got to hear the organ and attend part of the Catholic service. Very neat. We then drove about 45 minutes to Gdansk and visited Solidarity Square, Neptune Fountain, St. Mary's Basilica (be sure to go around noon to see the clock). We had pastries and some time for shopping. If you are interested in amber, this is the port to buy it in. Many options and prices good due to the exchange rate. We ended the day in Sopot, where we visited the beach and the pier.
The ship docks in Warnemunde, which is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Berlin. We used Denrus again for Berlin and were pleased with the private tour. Our guide and driver was Hans. We drove the autoban for about 2 1/4 hours. He wanted to make sure his speed was ok with us - when he told us he was going over 100 mph, I immediately reached for my seatbelt! Actually he was a good driver and there were people who were passing us. On our whirlwind tour of Berlin, we visited Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenberg Gate, the Berlin Wall and the Holocaust memorial. Hans treated us to pastries and coffee too!