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Home > Member Reviews > shtexas's Port Reviews of Copenhagen, Riga, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm

shtexas's Port Reviews of Copenhagen, Riga, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm
Vision of the Seas cruise in July 2011
Member Name: shtexas
Cruise Date: July 2011
Embarkation: Oslo
Destination: Baltic & Northern Europe
Member Review: shtexas's Vision of the Seas Review
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
We enjoy walking and here is our walking tour of Copenhagen: We walked from the ship to the Little Mermaid statue. Then, we went to Amalienborg Palace and then to Rosenborg Castle. We toured inside Rosenborg Castle and its treasury. Walked down the Stroget for some shopping and people watching. Paid for entrance into Tivoli Gardens where we stayed for a couple of hours. Walked by City Hall to the National Museum. Took our own tour of the Museum and left thru the Christiansborg Palace. Continued toward the Nyhavn area (via the Stroget). Walked back to the ship along the water's edge, past the Royal Danish Playhouse with nice views of the water and the Opera House. Got back to the ship with time to shop a little bit by the pier. Copenhagen is a very pretty city and a great walking town.

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Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Riga was not a city that we knew anything about prior to our cruise, but we are very glad it was one of our ports. Formerly, Latvia was part of the USSR until 1991. Now, they are very happy to be an independent country. Here is our walking tour of Riga: Started toward Riga Castle (which isn't much of a castle). However, it is not open for tours when the President is in town. Then, walked to Three Brothers. Walking away from the ship, we went thru several parks, past the Freedom Monument and looked at the Art Nouveau houses along Alberta (street). Retracing some steps we went into the Old Town area. Reached St. John's church and paid to go to the top of its tower. Great views of the city but it was very crowded and only about 20 people could be at the top at one time. Had a quick bite to eat sitting in the Town Hall Square. Toured the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia - free, with donations accepted. Basically, for almost all of the 20th century, they were occupied by either Soviets or Nazis (and it was not good). Walked around the Old Town past House of Blackheads, Mentzendorff House and Statue of Roland. We left the Old Town and headed for the Central Market. It seemed like 1/2 of Latvia was there either buying or selling. It is a real market with produce, meat and all sorts of shopping stalls. On our way back to the ship, stopped at a very modern mall and picked-up some souvenirs. Made it back to the ship with plenty of time. Another great walking town.

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St. Petersburg
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
St. Petersburg would get a 5+ except for two reasons, the traffic and the number of cruise ships that dock here. The place is almost a full gridlock. If you are a citizen of the US, you need a visa to visit St. Petersburg, which is too bad. We could have covered all the major sites on foot if there was a shuttle into town. Instead, you must take an excursion from the cruise line. Our ship was in St. Petersburg only one day. Many stay overnight. A second day allows a visit to Catherine's Palace and Peterhof (both of which are outside of town and will take the full day). Since we had only one day, we took the full day tour with the Hermitage in the morning, lunch, and then city tour in the afternoon. We ended with a tour of Peter & Paul Fortress. Because of the number of cruise ships, all of the tour stops are packed. They plan to provide even more port area in the future but the museums and attractions are not designed to hold that many people.

However, our tour guide was great. We absolutely zipped thru the Hermitage and saw all of the "famous" pieces. We did not linger or stroll, we marched thru the museum with a purpose! Lunch was in a nice Russian restaurant but took about 1 and 1/2 hours which was too long. The afternoon was spent seeing the other main sites in the city. Our tour did well to get us to all sites and they let you off the bus for pictures (but not to go inside anything). The rest of the time is spent in traffic jams.

Once the tour ended, you get dropped off at the ship. Even though our ship did not leave port until 11:00, you can not leave the ship. A Russian folk dancing group provided the on-ship entertainment for the one show that night.

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Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Well, we like to walk but we bit off a little too much in Helsinki. The walk from the ship is about 45 minutes to the Market Square. Normally, a nice walk along the water, but it started to rain on us --- and we should have probably taken the ship's shuttle. There is also a public bus that stops right at the pier (of course, no one on the ship told us that - I believe 14A, but check the web-site). Once we got to the market square, we had a very nice walking tour of the city and saw the major sites. Started first to Uspenski Cathedral, then over to the Lutheran Cathedral. We walked along the Esplande (park with shopping along both sides) and past the Swedish Theatre. We walked past the Three Blacksmiths Statue and down past the National Museum and Finlandia Hall. We did not tour the National Museum but continued to the Temppeliaukio Church (church in the rock). It is literally inside a huge rock. We then returned along the same general path walking down the opposite side of the street until we ended-up back at Market Square. We bought some items and then hiked back to the ship. Our ship departed around 4, so we were moving to get all this done.

The weather wasn't very nice on this day but a sunny day would have made everything more enjoyable.

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Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Of all the cities on this cruise, I liked Stockholm the best. This was where our cruise ended and I was glad we had a day and a half to spend here. Day 1 - We walked the main tourist areas starting near the water by the Royal Palace. We went into the Palace and bought the admission to all four museums (buying only one makes no sense since they price the package of all 4 for less than 2). The best of the 4 museums is the Royal Apartments --- which is basically a tour of the Palace. There is also The Treasury, The Tre Kroner Museum and the Gustav III Museum. I have listed them in the order of interest. After leaving the Palace, we walked by the obelisk and then wandered down the shopping streets of the Gamla Stan. Other sites included "Iron Boy Statue", the "Cathedral" and the "Changing of the Guard" at the Palace.

In the afternoon, we left Gamla Stan and walked directly thru the Parliament archway into the main city area. There is a lot of shopping as you head towards Sergels Torg. Once you hit the Tram (trolley) tracks take a right for more shopping/strolling as you head towards Nybroplan where many of the ferries and sightseeing boats are located.

Day 2 --- and if we had only one day, this may be Day 1 ---- we went to the Djurgarden area. We started at the Vasa Museum. The museum centers around a 17th century ship that sank in the harbor on its initial voyage. The ship has been dredged from the sea floor and restored. Very interesting. Then, we went to Skansen. Skansen is in a park-like setting with old homes, churches, shops and many kinds of animals. I suggest going to Vasa in the morning before about a 100 tour buses invade and then spend the afternoon at Skansen.

The fastest way to get to Djurgarden is to take the Tram from Sergels Torg or anywhere along its route. The tram has its own traffic lane right down the middle of the street. Buy tickets at any 7-11.

If going to the airport in Stockholm, take the Arlanda Express from the train station. Direct, fast and leaves every 15 minutes.

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