Having always wanted to tour Scandinavia we opted for a cruise, as this would enable us to visit all the capital cities in the easiest way possible. We chose Princess because they had one of the best itineraries among the 5-star cruise ... Read More
Having always wanted to tour Scandinavia we opted for a cruise, as this would enable us to visit all the capital cities in the easiest way possible. We chose Princess because they had one of the best itineraries among the 5-star cruise lines. What can I say; we absolutely loved this cruise - "we" being my wife and I in our mid 40s, my daughter (24) and my son (20).
We had a balcony double stateroom and the grown up offspring had an internal stateroom directly opposite us, which worked very well e.g. they could nip into our cabin to use the balcony or borrow things from us!!! The staterooms were of a high standard and were kept immaculate by our stateroom steward "Reynaldo" from the Philippines. They had everything we needed e.g. minibar, hairdryer, plenty of storage space and hangers, a mini safe, full ice-bucket (refilled twice a day), decent TV with good selection of movies, mainstream TV shows, info on upcoming ports and other cruises as well as activities onboard, weather conditions and up to date details of the voyage. A nice touch was the self-service Laundromats on every deck, which cost £1.25 per wash and the same for a dry. Just be aware that you need US $ notes to change for quarter (25c) coins and if you don't have these, you will be charged currency exchange at $4.
This was a port intensive tour with only 2-sea days, one of which was hot and sunny and the other was damp and dull. The food was of an excellent standard, particularly in the main dining rooms. As it was our first time with Princess and the menus were always interesting and of high quality, we did not feel the need to try the speciality restaurants (Sabitini's Italian Restaurant $20 charge each or Crown Grill $25 each). We used the Horizon Court on the first night for dinner, which is a self-service buffet. The food was of a good standard and there was plenty of choice but this is very much casual dining. All other nights we chose Da Vinci's using "Anytime Dining" were we just rocked up when ready to eat and opted to share tables. A couple of times there were just the four of us but for the most part we enjoyed the company of strangers, mainly from the USA but also Sweden, UK, Australia and Canada. This made for a very interesting trip and we met some very nice people. For breakfast we used Horizon Court most mornings with the exception of one day in the Da Vinci and one day we had breakfast sent to our stateroom. Horizon Court has most choice but it is a bit of a zoo on port days. However, we always managed to get a table although on one day we had to find a covered table in the pool area as the dining room was packed. They do have two waiters covering the pool area so we were still able to get water and juice from them.
There was plenty of entertainment, just not enough time to do everything. We liked Movies Under the Stars and enjoyed a few balmy summer nights lying on padded sun loungers watching pretty up to date movies and being served popcorn, cookies and milk by the staff. Embarkation and disembarkation were fast and efficient, we did not join the ship until nearly 4 pm and it was very quiet. We enjoyed the refined but not snobby atmosphere, the staff were attentive, friendly and helpful. Onboard drinks prices were fine, particularly being from the UK. The wines at dinner ranged from around £15.50 (incl 15% gratuity) upwards and they had at least 10 different cocktails permanently priced at around £2.87 (incl 15% gratuity).
A pleasant surprise was the off licence prices for drinks to take home. A 1ltr bottle of Capt Morgan's Spiced Gold was under £8 if you purchased two (£18 for one in Tesco!). Makeup and perfume were also excellent value compared to the UK.
We did our own sightseeing in all ports with the exception of St Petersburg were I had got four groups together via the cruisecritic rollcall for our cruise and used Guide-Guru at only US $240 each for 2 full days of sightseeing in a 16 seater minibus, including lunch on both days, a metro trip and hydrofoil back from the Peterhof. This also included entry to all museums, galleries and palaces. We used public transport in all other ports, usually opting for the day-tickets, which we paid for in local currencies. You do not require public transport in Tallinn, as it is very walkable from the ship. In Aarhus we used the public transport to get to a Viking Moot at Moesgard but that is a once a year event and you don't need transport if staying in the city. I could go on for ages and have written reviews for each port separately but the bottom line is this cruise was top notch. If you want any specific further info regarding the ship or the ports, e-mail me at email@example.com and I'll help you.
Ports of Call:
OSLO (Port Location - Akershusstranda). A lovely city, particularly poignant as there were floral tributes everywhere in memory of those killed the previous week. We used public transport, get a 24 hr card from the Tram stop at Akker Brygge (4 min walk from ship) - you will need Norwegian Kroner (70 each adult and 35 for anyone 20 years or younger) then use Tram 12 from Akker Brygge to Vigelandsparken for the sculpture park then return to the city centre on Tram 12 and get off at the Domkirke then just walk the rest of the city. Top sights are: 1. Vigelandsparken (park). 2. Domkirke (Cathedral). 3. Kvadraturen (Old City Area). 4. Stortingset (Parliament Bldg). 5. Radhuset (City Hall). 6. Oslo University. 7. Nasjonalgalleriet (National Gallery bldg). 8. Det Kongelige Slott (Royal Palace), Changing of the Guard at 1330 hrs. 9. Norges Hjemmefrontmuseum (Norway's Resistance Museum). 10. Akershus Slott eg Festning (Akershus Castle and Fortress). 11. Opera House. 12. Oslo Ice Bar. 13. Aker Brygge Wharf.
AARHUS (Port Location - Cruis3 Terminal, Kovnogade). Decent sized city with some nice residential areas. No need for transport unless you visit sights 8 and 9. Once you cross the main road on leaving the ship, turn left to head towards the city centre. Top sights are: 1. Sankt Clemens Bridge 2. Stroget (pedestrian high street). 3. The Frederiksbjerg Quarter (M.P. Bruunsgade, Jægergårdsgade). 4. The Latin Quarter (Klostergade, Volden, and Borggade). 6. Vestergade district & Møllestien 5. Toldboden. 6. Aarhus Theatre. 7. Den Gamle Nationalbank - Nykredit.
WARNEMUNDE (Port Location - Cruise Centre, 30 Am Passagierkai). We lived in Berlin for 3 years so did not use this port to go to Berlin. Instead we got the train from Warnemunde to Rostock, which was only about 4 Euro each return. When you leave the ship, turn left and train station is about a 5-minute walk. We walked all around Rostock then returned by train to Warnemunde and walked round there. This with Tallinn is a good value for money compared to the rest of the port calls on this cruise. It is a lovely non-tacky seaside resort. Top sights are: 1. Fisch Market. 2. Warnemunder Vogtei (Bailiwick of Warnemunde & Tourist Info). 3. Heimatmuseum (Local History Museum). 4. Wartnemunder Kirche (Church). 5. Seepromenade am strand (promenade and beach). 6. Sand Sculptures on the beach Pier 7. 7. Leuchtturm (Lighthouse). 8. Westmole (Western Breakwater). 9. Alter Strom (mall of Warnemunde). 10. Yachthafen Hohe Dune (Yacht Harbour). 11. Bahnof (Train Station) ROSTOCK 1. Hauptbahnof (Station). 2. Steintor (Stone Gate). 3. Standeshaus (House of the Estates). 4. Rathus (City Hall) & Kerkhoffhaus. 5. Marienkirche (St Marien Church). 6. Hausbaumhaus (House Tree House). 7. Universitatsplatz (University Place). 8. Kloster zum Heiligen Kreuz Convent. 9. Kropeliner Str & Tor (Kropelin Gate). 10. Fischer Bastion view of city harbour. 11. Stadhafen (city harbour). 12. Waterfront. 13. Petrikirche (St Petri Church). 14. City Wall. 15. Nikolaikirche. 16. Document & Memorial Place STASI (closed on Mondays)
TALLINN (Port Location - Old City Harbour, Pier 25). The best place to buy amber and also the best value port call on this cruise. No need for transport, the walled city is about a 10-15 minute walk from the cruise terminal, where there is an open-air crafts market for last minute souvenirs once you have checked out the city. Don't bother with the areas outside the walled city unless listed below (i.e. Freedom Square). Top sights are: 1. Vabaduse Valjak (Freedom Square). 2. Okupatsioonide Museum (Occupation Museum). 3. Kiek in de Kok & Bastion (Bastion and Tunnels). 4. Taani Kuninga aed (Danish King's Garden). 5. Aleksander Nevski Katedral (Cathedral). 6. Toompea Castle and Tall Hermann's Tower. 7. Vaateplatvormid (Viewing Platforms). 8. Toomkirik (Cathedral of St Mary the virgin). 9. Raekoja Plats & Raekoda (Town Hall & Square). 10. Katarlina Kaik (St Catherine's Passage). 11. Meistrite Hoov (Master's Courtyard). 12. Puha Vaimu Kirik (Holy Spirit Church). 13. Suurgildi Hoone (Great Guild Hall). 14. Mustpeade Maja (House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads). 15. Oleviste Kirik (St Olav's Church). 16. Suur Rannavaray & Peks Margareeta (Great Coastal Gate & Fat Margaret's Tower).
SAINT PETERSBURG. It is simply not practical to self-tour St Petersburg. In addition to having to fork out big bucks for a VISA for each member of your group, the distances between some of the major sights outside of the city (Peterhof and Catherine's Palace in particular) coupled with the language just make it too much hassle. So you have to bite the bullet and pay a tour company, that way you don't need a VISA and they will take care of everything. I got four groups together via the Cruisecritic roll call for our cruise to form a party of 16 at a cost of US $240 each if paying in US $ cash. This included two full days of sightseeing in an air-conditioned 18-seater Mercedes mini-bus. Be aware that irrespective of the company you choose (e.g. Guide-Guru, Denrus, SPB, TJ, etc). Your guide is likely to be freelance and they all seem to be very knowledgeable and professional. The Princess organised tour was US $399 each so ours was nearly $200 less but also included lunch on both days, a metro ride and journey back from the Peterhof to the city on a hydrofoil.
HELSINKI (Port Location - Hernessaari Terminal, Hernesaarenranta). Bus 16 from Hernesaaren Laituri (Times: 0719, 0744, 0809 or 0834) to Ritarihuone arr 12 mins. Return from Kauppatori stop 2005 (Times: 1311, 1331, 1351, 1410, 1420, 1430, 1450) arr 15 mins. Buy an all day ticket at 7 Euro each and you can use this for the buses, trams, metro and the ferry to Suomenlinna Island. Top sights are: 1. Presidentinlinna (Presidential Palace). 2. Uspenski Cathedral. 3. Luotsikatu Street (Jugendstil architecture). 4. Senaatintori (Senate Square). 5. Tuomiokirkko (Cathedral). 6. Aleksanterinkatu (Shopping Street). 7. Esplanadin Puisto (Esplanade Park). 8. Pohjoisesplanadi (street with 19th century stone bldgs). 9. Esplanadi (esplanade promenade). 10. Kauppatori (City Market). 11. Kauppahalli (Old Market Hall). 12. Kaupungintalo (City Hall). 13. Kaivopuisto Park. 14. Suomenlinna Island. 15. Mannerheimintie (Main thoroughfare). 16. Central Train Station. 17. Eduskuntatalo (Parliament Building). 18. Rock Church (Temppeliaukion Kirkko). 19. Bulevardi (Eira and Ullanlinna districts).
STOCKHOLM (Port Location - Berth S167 Stadsgarden). Use Royal Sightseeing(Rederi Mälaren Stockholms Taxiflotta) for HOHO boat. SEK 100 each (400 = £40.65). Just short walk from the ship.
More info on www.rederimalaren.se. From the Stadsgården 167 into the Old Town or City Center its about 10 minutes by taxi. Its approx SEK 150-180. We recommend Taxi Stockholm, Taxi Kurir, Taxi 020 or Transer Taxi. You can catch a local bus, a single ticket is SEK 30. From the pier to the bus stop is approx 10 minutes walk. There is also a day ticket for the public transport for SEK 100. Valid on metro, tram and a ferry boat too. Changing of the guards at the Royal Palace is at 12.15 Mon-Sat and at 1.15 on Sun. Main sights using the HOHO boat: Gamla Stan (Old Town area), Kungliga Slottet (Royal Palace), Storkyrkan (Cathedral), Riddarhuset (House of Nobility), Riksdaghuset (Parliament Bldg), City Hall, Blasieholmen (waterfront area), Nybroplan (Hamngatan street, east from Bybroplan, shopping district), Vasa Museum (via hoho boat), Skeppsholmen & Kastelholmen island (via HOHO boat), Djurgarden (island) via Grona Lund (HOHO boat stop). Then back to Cruise Berth Terminal via HOHO boat from Grona Lund. Read Less