I recommend this cruise to everyone I know. It's the perfect way to get an introduction to Scandinavia and by far the best way to see St. Petersburg, Russia. Everything about the cruise was stress free and very well organized, the ... Read More
I recommend this cruise to everyone I know. It's the perfect way to get an introduction to Scandinavia and by far the best way to see St. Petersburg, Russia. Everything about the cruise was stress free and very well organized, the medallions were incredibly easy to use.
Embarking in Warnemunde was the fastest and most painless experience I have ever had with a cruise. We took the train from Berlin HBF for about 20 euros per passenger (cheaper, more flexible option than the Princess transport and the train LITERALLY drops you at the cruise terminal), 5 minute walk from train to the cruise check in, then within 20 minutes we were in our stateroom. Highly recommend the embarkation out of Berlin rather than other ports (people board and disembark at almost every port, majority from Copenhagen) because we were able to spend a few nights in Berlin before boarding and still had time after checking in to go explore Warnemunde before our 7:30pm safety drill.
On board experience:
Another benefit of embarking from Germany is that day 1 is a day at sea en route to Oslo. Nice to have a day to explore to ship and rest from jet lag. We had multiple spa services during the cruise and all were great! We enjoyed hanging out on the top deck and watching the movies, recorded concerts and such on the big screen. It was also so easy to go our separate ways and meet up later by using the Ocean Compass app! We could also check the daily schedule there for entertainment, etc. The medallion class experience really is fabulous. We opted into one of the wine tastings and later signed up for the Italian wine tasting dinner at Sabbatini's which was fun! The gym was quite nice and had a lovely view, although it was a little tricky to find. We really enjoyed the live piano/jazz band at Crooners and Wheelhouse, as well as the band in the atrium. The main stage shows were less impressive, but we did enjoy Born to Dance (a Broadway review) and Beatlemaniacs. I think most of the stage entertainment is geared toward seniors, so easy to skip if it's not your thing. HIGHLY RECOMMEND the behind the scenes ship tour - sign up for it as soon as you get on board at the concierge desk!
With suite class, we were able to skip the lines for anytime dining and walk right in to a table in the suite section of the dining room whenever we were ready, which was a sweet perk. That said, we found the main dining room food to be comparable in quality to the buffet, so apart from formal nights and specialty dining nights we mainly ate at the buffet! Buffet had a great selection of literally any type of food you can think of and was much quicker than dining room. Pro tip: the main dining rooms have more upscale menus on formal nights, so best to schedule specialty dining on a regular night. We ate at both specialty restaurants twice and enjoyed both, I'd recommend trying each at least once! If you decide you'd like to go back again, it's easy to make another reservation on board, neither were booked solid on any given night. Another pro tip: if you're slow to get out the door in the morning, use the order ahead breakfast room service. The breakfast sandwiches were perfect to take with us on the way off ship in the morning.
Warnemunde/Berlin - not worth trying to see Berlin in a day with a 3 hour drive each way, instead stroll around Warnemunde and/or take a quick train to Rostock. Or do an excursion to some other points of interest in northern Germany. Warnemunde is a very cute little tourist trap beach town with a nice boardwalk area.
Oslo - we did a bike tour through Princess excursions and would recommend! Good way to see a lot in a small amount of time. The unfortunate thing about Oslo is it's really only a half day stop, all aboard is 1pm. This is because the ship has to navigate the fjord during daylight, as captain explained. But, the ship docks right in town which is convenient. We took an Uber over to the Viking Ship museum after the bike tour and it was very cool! Worth checking out even though it's not very close to the ship.
Copenhagen - the ship docks outside of town, you can either buy a pass for the big red bus to get RT transport or take a taxi if you are not doing an excursion. We opted to explore Copenhagen ourselves for more flexibility. Did a morning free walking tour with Sandeman's which was a very thorough overview, then spent the afternoon in Tivoli gardens amusement park in the heart of the city. Perfect day!
Nynashamn/Stockholm - Instead of booking fixed transport with Princess, you can walk 20 min to the train station in Nynashamn and buy a 24 hour travel pass which includes metro in Stockholm city proper as well. The walk from the cruise terminal is paved and there is literally a painted line path so you can't accidentally get lost. We did a food walking tour in the city (not through Princess) then visited the Vasa museum ourselves in the afternoon. The Vasa museum is an absolute MUST DO. Nothing else like it in the world! Stockholm is a huge city with a million things to do, you won't be able to do it all in a day but you can always go back another trip.
Helsinki - another bike tour through Princess excursions. Would also recommend! Helsinki and Finland have really interesting history I never would have known without the guided tour. The market square is also a cool hub to check out souvenirs. Compared to the other ports, Helsinki is not as high on my list to go back but we still enjoyed it!
St. Petersburg - Truly the highlight of the trip. I cannot stress this enough. Make sure you have your plans in order in advance because you will need a Russian visa if you plan to go offshore without a guided tour. Princess will tell you that you can only visit visa-free if you book with them. THIS IS A LIE. The actual rule is that tourists visiting by cruise ship can be in Russia for up to 72 hours if they have booked a tour with a licensed tour vendor. We booked with SPB tours and I cannot recommend them enough! They were 1/3 of the price of Princess (seriously) and we had a 14 person group in a comfortable mini tour bus which allowed us to navigate much faster and have a more personalized experience than the cruise tours with 60+ people per bus. The two days were jam packed but we did get to see all the major sights! Would have loved a third day. I also liked visiting SPB at the end of the trip because any earlier and it would have overshadowed the ports after it.
Talinn - We knew nothing about Estonia prior to visiting but Talinn was very charming and memorable! A perfect last stop and a nice place to relax after SPB. We did a walking tour of the Old Town with SPB tours and learned so much about the Baltic states! You can walk from the ship to the Old Town or taxi/Uber. We ubered over to Kadriorg Palace (now an art museum inside) to snap some photos of the exterior - it's worth checking out! It's nestled in a lovely park which would be nice for a walk on a day with good weather. Talinn is a big souvenir hub, if you forgot to buy something in a previous port, you can probably find it in Talinn.
Disembarkation: easy! We opted to take our luggage off with us instead of leaving it out the night before. We booked the Princess airport transport as it was worth it to us to get the door to door service on the way back. Only downside was that Princess drops you 4 hours before your flight, which is a bit excessive plus you can't check your bags there until 2 hours before flight, and the Berlin Teigel aiport is not ideal for a long layover. But all in all, easy process.
The demographic of the cruise (August 2019) was surprisingly international, probably only 25% American. I would also say the average age was lower than I expected, though probably still 65% seniors. And not many young children.
All in all, great experience and while 11 days seems like a long time, it flew by! Read Less