Copenhagen and Stockholm, the first stop, were fabulous. We did not have any ship arrangements for Copenhagen as we spent 3 days there prior to the cruise and 4 after the cruise. We booked the Best of Stockholm tour aand were impressed by the quality of the sites, the cleanliness of the city and the wonderful tour guide. I would not call Copenhagen or Stockholm a destination to come in, visit for a week and fly out but it is well served as a cruise destination.
We had looked forward to Saint Petersburg with extreme anxiety. Were somewhat disappointed at the deferred maintenance evident in all historical buildings, including Hermitage, a depository of wworld class art and the Winter Palace for the Czars; and Peterhoff, which looked great with its wonderful fountains but lacked maintenance.
Our guide was a local 25 year old man who had learned English from watching CNN and through the Internet. He was not very keen on the old Russia and sees th new Russia as an opportunity for his generation to shine.
We visited several churches, including the one housing the burial sites of the czars and families. A majestic ssite which was well maintained. Hermitage needs paint and replacement hinges but agaain houses art which is unequal by any other museum including the Louvre in Paris.
At midday we gathered in a large building for lunch (vodka, champagne, caviar, rice, vegetables and chicken a la something, followed by good quality ice cream.
We returned to the ship by 5.
The following day we also visited other historical sites of significance and Peterhoff, a must see. Lunch was similar to the first day's and included in the price. The first and second day included selected stops for shopping. We returned to the ship by 5 and sailed toward Tallin, Estonia.
A very small town, clean and untouched by the bombing in WW II. Unlike other ports, we hadn't booked any onshore excursions and were on our own. A short 10 minute walk put us in the middle of old town and into St. Mary's Cathedral, a very well kept building which is undergoing some restoration inside to preserve its 600 year heritage. The ship only stops here for 5 hours but the site was beautiful and we really enjoyed it. We were back on the ship by 1.
The mere fact that this is where Lech Walensa started its revolution is worth a visit. The quality of the restoration of the bombed buildings during WW II deserves the high rating by itself. The only drawback was that this is the only spot on eart where my dollars were rejected, and by a street ice cream vendor at that. Oh well.
After visiting Old Town and Gdynia wwe proceeded to Sopot, a quaint beach resort with two great 5 star hotels, the Grand and the new Sheraton.
After an extensive day with a quality guide we were back on board by 5.
Like its sister capitals, this Scandinavian city is clean and well maintained. The fjords leading into and out of Oslo were majestic and the subject of many a picture. There is a lot of wealth here and local folks depend on luxury boats for their recreation, rather than automobiles, since public transportation is extensive. During our short trip there we visited the new ski facility which wwill host the 2011 Olympics and nearby resorts, including the Royal chalet.
We witnessed the fjords on the way out as the ship had come into Oslo at 4 in the morning. A site to behold folks and for this 67 year old, a trip of a lifetime with all its Jet lag.