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8 Baltic Sea Holiday Cruise Reviews

My husband & I just got home from our Viking Christmas Rhine Cruise. We're experienced travelers in our 60s who used to do most of our European travel by train, limit our itinerary to 3 cities at most & stay at least 2 nights ... Read More
My husband & I just got home from our Viking Christmas Rhine Cruise. We're experienced travelers in our 60s who used to do most of our European travel by train, limit our itinerary to 3 cities at most & stay at least 2 nights in each city to minimize packing & unpacking. However now that we're older my husband wants to take more cruises because the tour companies handle luggage & airport transfers for us. This was our 1st Viking cruise. (A yr & a half ago we took a Tauck French Art cruise. The price for our Viking cruise was much less than the Tauck cruise.) Overall our Viking cruise was enjoyable & went smoothly, but there were a few things that could have been improved. We took a 3 day Brugges, Belgium extention, which began when we landed in Brussels. Unfortunately no one was at the airport when we arrived to take us to Brugges. We waited 45 mins. & the driver eventually showed up, said he was in a traffic jam due to rain & apologized. When we arrived at our hotel, the Duke's Palace (a real Medieval palace in the center of Brugges) at 11 am. they said our room wouldn't be ready until 3 pm. They had a rigid policy & refused to let us go on a waiting list if a room became available. We were exhausted from our flight, but we knew of a nearby reastaurant, Lizzies that serves excellent waffles, so we had lunch. Then we returned to the hotel lobby around 12 noon & met up with 3 other couples from our tour. We got acquainted & then commiserated about having to wait so long for our rooms. Eventually all 4 couples fell asleep in the hotel lobby on the sofas & armchairs. In all other respects the hotel was very nice including their bar & restaurant. Finally at around 2:45 pm 4 rms became available all at once. The hotel clerk tried to give us a room opposite an elevator, but the desk manager eventually found us a new room. It was nice with copies of old Flemish portraits & had a hi-tech bathroom with a huge shower. So we fell asleep, caught up with our jet lag then had dinner nearby later. The 2nd day an excellent guide took us on a walking tour of Brugges & the following was a free day. The last day we were loaded on a bus with an amusing guide who told us all about Belguim & Holland. We arrived in Amsterdam at the Bragi around 5 pm, so we didn't get to do any Amsterdam sightseeing, but we were tired, so it didn't matter. The weather was unseasonably warm, in the 40s & down around the 30s for the rest of the cruise, except when we were in the Black Forest on Christmas Day when there was a pretty snowfall. The passengers were a mixture of people on their 1st European trip & travel veterans. The majority were in their 60s, but there were a few college-aged, some as old as their 80s & a few disabled people traveling with family members. (Viking does a excellent job of accomodating for the elderly & disabled.) I would guess that most passengers were middle & upper-middle class with a good number of teachers, college professors, ex-military & civil servants. Since the theme of the cruise was Christmas Markets we visted cities with markets & took walking tours of Cologne, Heidelburg, Strasbourg & an optional tour to Colmar. Along the way we saw castles on the Rhine. Viking offered optional tour groups for slower walkers & photograhers. There were other tours & attractions as well, but jet lag & short, dark days made me feel lazy & require an afternoon nap, so I took a pass on some of the scheduled afternoon events. At night there was a fantastic pianist, Emil who could play just about any request. On Christmas Eve there was a sing-a-long of Christmas music & some people got up & danced. All our meals were provided on the boat, which was convenient, helped save money & the time required to figure out where to eat while ashore. At breakfast they served a buffet with all sorts of sausage, cheese, fruit, potatos, breads, veggies etc. plus omlettes & French Toast. At lunch there was a choice of soup, cooked dishes & a fantastic salad bar. There was also a casual dining restaurant in the bar with soup, sandwiches & a less extensive salad bar. At lunch & dinner there was always nice dessert choices. There was a free coffee bar with cocoa, espresso & afternoon cookies. Dinner was a multi-course, more formal event. Many fellow passengers raved about the refreshments at the Christmas Markets, such as Gluwein but I was more focused on chocolate & marzipan. Most passengers we spoke with agreed that the food was somewhat bland, became repetitive by the end of the cruise & was often not hot enough. The wine was good, but they kept serving the same red & white with each dinner. Some variety would have been nice. I think the Christmas tour is more of what I would describe as a "beginners" tour--more low-stress for people who are timid about mixing in with real Europeans, but it was great for people who like to sit on the boat & watch the scenery. Life on the boat is like living in a North American bubble & I felt cut off from real Europeans, except for the Viking staff. I love art & had to break away from the tour & go on my own at one point, so perhaps this wasn't the best cruise for me. I think I'd do better on a specialist art tour, but If you just want some jolly Christmas fun & a chance to make some new friends it was great. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
Just returned from fjord cruise , this was our first cruise and as such was really ok, we chose the all inclusive option and seemed to work fine although there were no premium brand spirited the brands they used were unknown to us. We had ... Read More
Just returned from fjord cruise , this was our first cruise and as such was really ok, we chose the all inclusive option and seemed to work fine although there were no premium brand spirited the brands they used were unknown to us. We had an outside cabin with balcony which was large enough and kept clean and tidy by our steward, on down side only English tv was news channel, mainly Italian and German channels. The food was ok small portions in evening but 5 courses and generally enough choice, for an Italian ship pasta dishwasher poor though. Breakfast and lunch was a bit of a free for all with greedy Germans taking up most of tables but selection of food was good. Late night food was only cheese and tomatoe pizza with salad.. Ship is well fitted out and has plenty to do on board, don't bother to pre book excursions as these are not very good and you can get better deals once you get of ship. Crew on board are helpful and in general good fun, ship is kept spotless, we would use again for sure. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Our third ocean cruise was on the Norwegian Sun to the Balkans, visiting Copenhagen, Denmark; Berlin (Warnemuende) Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; return to Copenhagen. We have ... Read More
Our third ocean cruise was on the Norwegian Sun to the Balkans, visiting Copenhagen, Denmark; Berlin (Warnemuende) Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; return to Copenhagen. We have wanted to visit the Balkans for some time and this trip was well worth it. The Ship: There are plenty of reviews on the Norwegian Sun ... It is one of the older ships in the fleet and some reviews said it was "small". I actually prefer these to the really big ones not sure why just do. It is a "cookie cutter" ship like most of the mid range vessels around today. No serious complaints as always you get what you paid for and the Norwegian Sun is fine. The only complaint was the food. I noted several other reviews that were similar to mine. It wasn't any one big thing just cumulative small things. Some of the most noted included: cold food, poor service in the late night bar and food area, and a less than impressive selection and frankly taste. In regards to taste it must be remembered like most cruise lines much of the food is "shipped in" in the case of Norwegian a good deal of the meat, fish, and dry goods are sent from Miami. The meat and fish is frozen so tasteless. We ate in the dining room two evenings ... and on the first night we had lobster tails ... we sat with three other couples everyone agreed that there was no taste. This was one of a number of incidents of little flavour in the food. They did well in the buffet area to disguise this problem with pretty good curries, perhaps a few too many curries. Desserts were simply not very good ... to many custard/gelatine based ones ... One small annoyance that was consistence was cold gravy. Now it sounds like a small thing but considering the roast beef was often cold, hot gravy would have been nice. This I brought up with the restaurant manager suggesting that a heated pot might work better than an open porcelain bowl ... he was going to look into it. Now just to make it clear this was not a one off but consistent and on one evening I watched and saw them bring a new bowl of gravy to the carving stand so went over with high hopes ... it was ice cold and had just come from the kitchen. The carver nodded and said he knew ... seemed a bit embarrassed. A last nag and one I reported two years before to NCL comments. There is no green tea, my partner is a green tea drinker and is a bit of an expert. They do use "Lipton Brand" that does produce a acceptable product. They do have a "green tea" but it is actually an herbal blend. Yes all small things but generally the organization, management and menu could stand some improvement. As someone who has assisted in managing commercial kitchens there, problems are fixable but there is work to do. These are not big problems but seem consistent and annoying. The Ports Great! I would recommend all the stops. In most cases you do not have to take their overpriced tours. The exceptions are Berlin and St. Petersburg. Berlin can be done on your own but it is a hassle with a long train ride - 2 hours each way. St. Petersburg is just too confusing. Remember there are other tour companies and a number of the people we travelled with used the local talent instead of the tours offered by the ship and liked them. You will stay in St. Petersburg two days. The choice on the second day was limited. Local companies had a much better itinerary and you could buy one for both days. Our dinner companions on two nights and who we got to know a little arranged with a local company to take a tour. They arranged all this with 14 other passengers and had a great time. Next time I would do this rather than the cruise tours. I did separate reviews for Catherine's Palace and the Hermitage so will not repeat them here. Berlin?, interesting but would not repeat it too long and just was not of interest ... the curried sausage and country potatoes was a culinary oddity but if you like junk food quite good. Closer was a world heritage site and several people rented bicycles and just toured the countryside and the site. They all gave it a thumbs up. Your choice. The Stockholm visit was very interesting but only half a day. I believe this has now been extended by several hours. Tours are note necessary. Our favourite stop was definitely Tallinn. Take a walk, visit the museums and eat in a local restaurant. So all in all a good cruise and worth the money. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
We began our holiday at Southampton City cruise terminal. The car parking was slightly different from what we are used to. In the past we have sailed from the Mayflower terminal where they seem to have got it together better in as much ... Read More
We began our holiday at Southampton City cruise terminal. The car parking was slightly different from what we are used to. In the past we have sailed from the Mayflower terminal where they seem to have got it together better in as much as dropping off the car seemed much smoother. This time we had to drop off the luggage and then drive back to the entrance and leave our car. However, both being able bodied the short walk from the car to the Terminal with hand luggage was no problem. Just an observation. Unfortunately there were long queues for checking in and boarding. Much of this seemed to be due to the Xray machine and it wasn't until we were well into the queue that the port authority decided to open another one. Once through we then waited to go onto the ship. The whole process took an hour and three quarters so that we missed lunch arriving in our cabin number 8020 at around 2.30pm. We were pleasantly surprised with our cabin which had a bath and all the amenities. It had a restricted view but this didn't upset us unduly. After unpacking we went to the Neptune Lounge where sandwiches, tea, coffee and cakes were being served. Again there was queueing. We have been on the Balmoral before in 2008 but couldn't recall there being as much queuing,this seemed to be for most things this time. We are easy going and it wasn't the end of the world but some people complained. We had remembered that the food was quite good both in the main restaurant and in the buffet and again were not disappointed this time. We were looked after everyday by our waiter Alvin who was very attentive and good humoured. Nothing was too much trouble when we deviated from the menu, bringing us extra food such as icecream and cheese. The food was of excellent quality, there was even champagne available with breakfast if that was what you required. It was a bit early for us! At dinner in the main restaurant we had a table for 6. We felt very lucky as we had really pleasant company and had a good laugh. The ports Hamburg, Bremerhaven and Antwerp were fine although we were disappointed not to go into Amsterdam due to technical problems. Perhaps we could have been allowed to spend the afternoon in Bremerhaven instead of waiting on the ship in port for 5 hours. However it didn't really spoil our holiday as we found plenty to do. We didn't go on the arranged tours, preferring to find our own way round the ports shopping, sightseeing etc. It is true that the Christmas Markets were not open, but to be honest we have done them before and seem to be full of tinsel and sickly sweets (not our thing). Again we were not disappointed and had not gone on this cruise for them anyway. On reflection we met some nice people, it was relaxing enjoying good food all washed down with a nice glass of wine and beer. Disembarkation was fine although again queueing was the norm, but we were soon on our way home smoothly and efficiently. So to sum up we found the whole experience a pleasure and good value for money. We would recommend the Balmoral if a smaller ship is for you. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We joined the cruise at Amsterdam, having made our own way there and spending a couple of days sight seeing before we embarked. Embarkation was slow and a bit haphazard, but we eventually boarded around 2.30, having arrived at 1.30. Lunch ... Read More
We joined the cruise at Amsterdam, having made our own way there and spending a couple of days sight seeing before we embarked. Embarkation was slow and a bit haphazard, but we eventually boarded around 2.30, having arrived at 1.30. Lunch was provided on arrival and our cabin was ready immediately, our bags arrived quickly too. All good news to start with. The first impression of the ship is that is gaudy and glizzy - one might say full of bling. The colours used throughout are really bright, with loads of lights, which almost hurt the eyes to look at. Cabins, however, were light, bright and much less colourful! The standard of accommodation in the cabin was very good, it was always kept beautifully clean and everything worked, as you might expect on an almost new ship. We picked this holiday for the itinery - Tallin, St. Petersberg, Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen and back to Amsterdam so the programme was quite hectic with lots of time in port. We only did excursions in St. Petersberg and did our own thing in the other ports which worked out well. Most times the ship was 'parked up' quite a way outside the town and Costa put on shuttle buses for passengers, which worked well but were quite expensive. There were times when staff at the tour desk were rather misleading of their description of how long it might take to walk into town, which meant that one bought a shuttle bus ticket when it was not necessary. The standard of the excursions we did was very good but because of the lateness of one arriving back to the ship we were unable to take another trip which we had booked, which was very annoying. Days at sea were full of opportunities to do something but most of it was not to our taste. There were approximately 300 English speaking passengers out of 2200 (ship not full), the majority of the rest were Italian. This resulted in multi-language announcements which could get intrusive. For example, the 'card room' is actually an open space on the side of the biggest lounge area. Whenever cards were being played (e.g. Bridge), there would be a fashion show, quiz or someting else noisy going on right nearby which was irritating. Because of the open plan nature of the lounges as well, smokers were placed quite close to non smokers, so there was often a smell of cigarette smoke wherever you sat. The evening meals were extremely good, although some of our table-mates were critical of the level of choice. Each dinner was at least five courses and some of them were 'themed'. We were on second sitting, which was not until 9 p.m. This meant that often we did not finish eating until 11, after which one could go to the disco or a show if one wanted. The self-service cafeteria was always a bit of a scrum and we ended up trying to avoid it for breakfast, going to the restaurant instead. Lunch was available at both locations too. My biggest grip with Costa is that they try to get more money out of you whenever they can. From the minute you board the ship, they take photographs of you at every opportunity, for which they charge 9.99 euros each. Of course, you don't have to buy them, but it does become irritating. We also had a bottle of water in our cabin with a note saying that if we opened it, the price would be charged to our bill - about 1.30 euros, I think. This is petty when, had we paid full price, the cabin would have been 4000 euros between the two of us. There is also a fee-paying restaurant that one can use as an alternative (20 euros)and cappucino and espresso coffees are also charged as extras. One lovely event is the 'elegant tea' which happened twice within our cruise, beautiful variety of teas, exquisite sandwiches and cakes with strawberries dipped in chocolate. Everyday afternoon tea was supplied in the self-service restaurant, but the elegant one was far superior. Disembarkation was well organised and our luggage easy to find when we got off. I wouldn't go with Costa again because I didn't really enjoy the daytime activities and wouldn't want to pay full price but I suspect that it would suit some people very well. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We had not realised until we arrived at the ship that the operator, Shearings Holidays, did not own the ship and had only chartered it for two cruises. This was not, therefore, a Voyages of Discovery cruise. On the positive side, ... Read More
We had not realised until we arrived at the ship that the operator, Shearings Holidays, did not own the ship and had only chartered it for two cruises. This was not, therefore, a Voyages of Discovery cruise. On the positive side, for us, we had a small ship of 750 capacity, with an excellent RESIDENT crew. We cannot speak highly enough of the waiters, cabin boys and bar staff, all Filipino. Nothing was too much trouble for them and everything was done with a smile on their face. The food itself was varied, of excellent quality and tastefully presented. All facilities were provided on a very clean and well looked after ship. If i was rating the cruise on these factors alone they would get maximum marks. What spoiled the whole experience for us, however, was Shearings part in it. They got us to the terminal in good time and check-in went well. What transpired over the period of the cruise saw a downhill slide and is the subject of a lengthy complaint direct to the Company's CEO. Shearings staff introduced themselves as Head Office staff and throughout the cruise exhibited very little cruise knowledge. The trips were poorly organised and subject of many complaints, some resulting in refunds. In the main the staff had not even experienced the places we visited and when things went wrong couldn't deal with the problems. On the ship the staff were scruffy in appearance, unprofessional in dealing with clients and seemed, in the main to be there to enjoy themselves. The entertainment was amateurish, so thank goodness for the cinema. Passengers experienced varied problems, some of which we saw, others we heard about. In our case i was verbally abused during a discussion with a member of Shearings staff and my wife was shouted at and then had this person "in her face" with a finger pointed directly into her face. So please take two things away from these comments. Firstly, the ship and its permanent staff were a delight and and in its Voyages of Discovery trips I am certain first class (see other reviews) . Secondly, do not go on a Shearings cruise,it's so unbelievably unprofessional. Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner" Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Having never sailed with P&O before we were not too sure what to expect of a British cruise line. Friends who had cruised the Baltic previously with P&O on an adult only ship, which has since left the fleet, were not at all ... Read More
Having never sailed with P&O before we were not too sure what to expect of a British cruise line. Friends who had cruised the Baltic previously with P&O on an adult only ship, which has since left the fleet, were not at all complimentary & were seriously put off cruising. Firstly embarkation at Southampton seemed to go very slowly, it took over an hour to check-in. At one point, no passengers whatsoever were being checked in for about 20 minutes. There were no announcements of any problem so understandably passengers were getting a little impatient. Once checked in however, everything went more smoothly. Our cabin was ready & luggage didn't take too long to appear outside the door. Out balcony stateroom was adequate if not particularly spacious. We liked the fact that a kettle & tea & coffee etc., were provided & there was a fridge which luckily was not full of the cruise lines costly drinks. Just 2 free bottles of water & an ice bucket. So plenty of room to chill the white wine, which P&O (unlike other cruise lines) are happy for passengers to bring on board for consumption in stateroom. We still bought wine with dinner and sampled many of the daily special drinks & cocktails, but taking some of our wine saved us a few pennies. Wines & other drinks on board were very sensibly priced & unlike the U.S. cruise ships no obligatory 15% service charge, which the Brits find very irritating. We took the orientation tour, but still found the ship's layout confusing, as did many passengers we spoke to. The entertainment was excellent but the venues are too small for the size of ship & it was often impossible to get into the shows, in both the theatre & the lounges. Manhattan especially was so badly designed & the chairs took up so much room that once a few people were seated it was impossible to negotiate your way to an empty chair even if there was one. So ensure you get a seat early if you particularly want to see a show, the queue for the 8.45 theatre show started forming at least 30 mins before start - So be warned. Having said that, we opted for Anytime dining and that worked very well - only had to wait once. We also tried all the fee paying dining options & for the most part they were excellent. We ate in the Glass House & tried a wine flight - excellent. Also went to an invitation only wine tasting -v.good. However, having decided to eat there again on the final night of the cruise, we walked out when we were seated, then totally ignored & very irritated to see people being served, who came in after us - unacceptable for that standard of eatery. Seventeen was brilliant, both service & food. The buffet restaurant, was always busy & seemed very cramped, although the food was good. The staff were a little over eager clearing tables, so don't leave your plate or drink to go & get something else unless you leave someone at the table on guard, otherwise it will be cleared away. We didn't sample the spa, apart from a couple of talks that took place in there. Spas at sea are mostly overpriced we find. We took the St.Petersburg tours & our guides were brilliant. Be warned though, If you are doing a full-day & then an evening tour, there is no fast track queue to get back on the ship before the evening tour & some people had barely 10 minutes to get back out to the next tour. P&O should get better organised. One last thing - I have never before had to queue for the Ladies toilets on any ship but on Azura invariably you queue, as there are often only 2 or 3 in each area. I would cruise with P&O again, but would try a different ship next time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We flew into London then bus to Southampton and stayed at the Dolphin Hotel for 2 nights. Embarkation went smooth, the room was well appointed. 1st problem came with the people smoking on their balcony. I called management and they dealt ... Read More
We flew into London then bus to Southampton and stayed at the Dolphin Hotel for 2 nights. Embarkation went smooth, the room was well appointed. 1st problem came with the people smoking on their balcony. I called management and they dealt with it right away. I am very allergic to Smoke Ship Info: Daily schedules were delivered the night before and were well done. Dining: Breakfast - buffet was good. Served Breakfast in Dining room - food arrived cool. Didn't return to served breakfast. Lunch - good. Tried several areas for lunch. Dinner: meals were good (not excellent) except for 2 that had to be sent back. We were not the only ones who had returned their meals. We eat at 2 of the specialty restaurants at 35.00 each and both were excellent. Activities: We sat in the lounges, shopped on board, swam, exercise room, walked the decks. All were enjoyable. Staff Service: Room service - excellent, Dining service was excellent, Specialty Wine tasting room service - excellent, Bar servers - very good, Breakfast and lunch servers- very good. Service Desk - one lady was very abrupt.(more on that under Entertainment) Entertainment: So so but missed the demographics of those on board. We got to meet many others on board who were also disappointed of the type and quality. I must say this was the lowest rated entertainment compared to all other cruises we have taken. Next - we went to the upper deck to hear the musicians and looked forward to Dancing only to experience a large portion of this room was for smokers. We had to leave and never went back. The Main Atrium - there was always live music and when part of the Big Band played the tiled floorarea was filled with couples dancing. We did as well and really enjoyed it. That was one day then the rest of the time there was a Jazz group, however the music they played - nice to listen to but not the beat to dance to. Couples just stood around hoping for a number they could dance to. After the 3rd day of this I went to Customer Service - located in plain sight of the Atrium floor area, and mentioned to the young lady could she get a message to the entertainment manager regarding a change to the music. She was abrupt and told me that the Jazz group was requested??? Well my request fell on deaf ears because this same group continued day after day with no one able to enjoy a dance. I have been on so many other ships where dancing in the atrium is enjoyed by so many. Shore excursions: Brugees- great time there. Had the best Belgium ever at a restaurant in the town square. Berlin: 3 hr bus ride each way. The bag lunch was not only unhealthy but whatever that 1/2 sandwich was - was uneatable. Ever the Apple was bruised. Guide was good except we spent more than an hour driving in circles in the city then rushed to look at some sights - too rushed. Sharon and I broke away to go through the Jewish memorial - one other couple from our bus joined us. Best part of OUR tour. ON bus ride back to ship - given another bag snack - the other 1/2 uneatable sandwich. If ever again I will get the ship to make us a bagged lunch. Helsinki: Great time there St. Petersburg - 2 days - go go go but overall - rushed through palaces, etc, it still was worth seeing. The arranged lunch was OK. Tallinn: Great city to tour - forget the other tours. We went to the Farm - OK then to visit a home (this was a set up by the home owner) waste of time. Stockholm - we loved seeing the City. Problem was our tour guide had an appointment for another tour a 4pm and rushed us through the Ship museum. She actually got off the bus early and the bus driver took over. He knew more history and points of interest than the guide. Copenhagen: After that tour in Stockholm I decided we would do our own walking tour. We got to see so much more than others on board that took Cruise Tours. We took river boat tour - few on board and had plenty of one on one with the guide. We would go back. We went off the tourist beat to where locals shopped and eat and had a great lunch at a sidewalk cafe. Disembarkation: This went smooth. We took a bus to a Heathrow Hotel, spent a night then flew home. This Cruise cost us approx 1000.00US each more than we could have paid for a similar cruise on another cruise line. Unfortunately we have had better consistent meals, service and entertainment on many others. Since this cruise we and 9 other siblings took a 7 day Alaska Cruise in mid September on Carnival. It was better in so many ways- surprise! Best Regards Dwayne Jacobson Read Less
Sail Date May 2011

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