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101 Copenhagen to Baltic Sea Princess Emerald Princess Cruise Reviews

My wife and I decided to treat ourselves to the September 14 Baltic Cruise on Princess' Emerald Princess. It was our first time on Princess, having cruised several times before on HAL, Celebrity and Cunard. These are just some ... Read More
My wife and I decided to treat ourselves to the September 14 Baltic Cruise on Princess' Emerald Princess. It was our first time on Princess, having cruised several times before on HAL, Celebrity and Cunard. These are just some comments and observations which I hope will be of help to any cruisers planning on taking this cruise. Embarkation - Took place in Copenhagen. Transfer from the airport couldn't have been smoother - you come out of Customs and the good folk from Princess are right there to steer you to the bus to take you to the ship (buying the transfer is, in my mind, a very good deal - a taxi will cost you at least $60.00). After a short 20 minute ride you're at the terminal and after a very brief wait, you're checked in and boarding. Unlike HAL, the staterooms are already ready so you drop off your hand luggage and go and have lunch. Shortly thereafter the luggage arrives. On Board - Life Boat Drill is painless. Unlike HAL and Celebrity you are mustered to different collection places in the ship, and given the "chalk talk" as to how to use your life vest, etc. No standing on the Promenade deck at lifeboat stations, no attendance roll taken. Very quick, very efficient. Stateroom - We took the standard outside stateroom. A little smaller than HAL but better organized. Closets don't have doors which creates tons more space when you're hanging clothes. Shower is tiny (don't try and turn around) but beats trying to get in and out of a tub. Stewards are friendly and conscientious and, unlike some other lines, always seem to be immediately available! Dining - We opted for the traditional dining, second seating in the Botticelli Dining Room. The service was as good or better than Celebrity or HAL, as was the quality of the food offered. (I know there have been negative comments re the food on Princess, and don't know if this being the last Baltic cruise of the year had any impact but we just had no complaints). We didn't try one dish we didn't like, although I've got to admit that by the 2nd formal night (i.e. Lobster tail night) the menu was so predictable that the waiters were astounded that we ordered something else! Particularly notable were the desserts - a myriad of them every night, and since we had trouble choosing, our waiter on his own took to bringing us one of each to try! Definitely bad for the waistline (but great for the Soul!) We didn't think Lunch in the Cafeteria was as good as on HAL or Celebrity. Many cruisers have commented on the strange design of the food "pods" where everyone ambles in and then buts in and out of line at each station with no rhyme or reason, and it is definitely annoying. I thought the overall quality of the food was below standard, but as an offset there were many more options than on the other lines. And, since you serve yourself, portion control is in your hands. No one went hungry, for sure! My negative note on Room Service here - Princess, unlike HAL and Celebrity has an extremely limited Room Service Menu (except for those in the full-price suites). The one night (after Stockholm) we were so bushed that we just didn't want to get dressed and go upstairs to eat , so we had to rely on Room Service. Somehow a Club Sandwich and a Hamburger just didn't do it for me for dinner! I definitely think Princess should re-think this policy. Entertainment on board seemed to be at least or probably above average for this type cruise, and people seemed to be having a good time everywhere we went. I can't comment much more, although the comedians all seemed to be British, which is kind of 'you either like it or you don't' kind of thing... Ports of Call- Copenhagen - it's a beautiful city, but hold onto your wallet! The whole impact of a low dollar plus high European costs becomes evident immediately in the airport. I grabbed a small bottle of Coke at a 7-11 - $5.00! Everything else was commensurately expensive. For my money, try and stay in the City Center if you can, the Airport Hilton is tired and shows it. The carpet in the halls smells reminiscent of a Motel 6 and the rooms, as a table mate so aptly put it, looked like they were furnished by the lowest bidder, IKEA. We thought we'd try the weekday lunch buffet at the Hilton Lobby, until we translated the price and came up with $60 per person! The city itself is lovely and you can see everything you want to by taking the Hop on- Hop Off bus from just past the Central Station.If memory serves the cost of the bus tour is $25 p/p. Stockholm - Just the approach to Stockholm is a show in itself, working your way through an archipelago of some 25,000 islands until arriving at the Swedish capital itself. Don't miss it, particularly at departure!! Stockholm itself is constructed on 14 islands and is very easy to visit. Important note!!! Don't, don't don't get a tour. Get off the ship and head straight for the Hop on Hop off BOAT (not bus) ! The boat makes the great circle that stops at every possible tourist destination and the distance between each part is so small that you're never disoriented. You can literally see four destinations at a time from any stop. If you're in a hurry to get to the VASA museum, you can go there first, and you'll be way ahead of every tour group. Same with the other stops. Don't miss the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace daily. Helsinki - We took the ship's tour - a big mistake. On top of it being a lousy day, the guide spent the whole tour on what was basically a stream of consciousness babble about all the qualities of Finland - how much a teacher makes, why (s)he makes so little, why it's all worth while, etc. etc. The first 15 minutes or so were vaguely interesting but all this was done at the expense of telling us next to nothing (or nothing at all) about the buildings and landmarks we were passing. She was limited to such illuminating discourse as "There's the Railway Station".. "There's another view of the Railway Station", although we already knew that the Railway Station had won an important architectural prize when constructed. Possibly the worst was when we were finally at last left for 35 minutes on our own in Alexander II Square ("Finns don't like Russians") we were never even directed to the important Russian Uspensky Orthodox Cathedral ("Finns really don't like Russians"). Tallinn - A real gem of a medieval city. Don't make the mistake we made and believe the guide books which tell you that you can walk from the ship to the center of town in about 15 minutes - it's true. You can then stroll around this beautifully maintained medieval city on your own and shop (there is genuine good amber and some decent paintings everywhere), but be aware that a lot of the walking when you get to the city gate is steep uphill. It's worth about 2 hours tops, and you can be back to the ship easily in time for lunch and perhaps a well-deserved after-lunch siesta. St. Petersburg - What can you say? This is the absolute highlight of the trip, and rightfully so. One important note - I don't know if Princess has finally given up on their telling people that are on independent tours other than the ship's tour that they would not be allowed to disembark until AFTER the ship's tour had cleared - they certainly still put that warning in all their daily publications. However, I was ready for a fight about this and called the ships' desk the night before to enquire about that policy, and was told that we could disembark as soon as the gangway opened at 7:00 or so. We went down at 6:45 and shortly thereafter the gangway was opened and we disembarked, with no problem from Princess staff. I don't know if this was because this was Princess' last Baltic cruise of the season - I suspect that with the fuller Summer Cruises they may still try and stick independent tour participants with late disembarkation. You should be aware that the independent tour agencies such as Red October and DenRus all have opinion of Counsel that Russian law in no way mandates which group should disembark first, so be aware and prepared for this. Another note - the information you are given states that Russian Immigration requires a photocopy of the information page of your passport - I don't know if it was just us, but the Russian authorities gave it back to us without even looking at it. You do have to fill out a small immigration form (do it VERY CAREFULLY) and you are then given a little red card when you go thru immigration. Be careful and don't lose it! There's a hefty fine for those who do. It's small and you may not even see it at first, since the Immigration officers stick it inside your passport when they return it to you, so look for it and hold onto it. We used DenRus for their Economy Tour, and cannot say enough favorable things about it. We were on the go from 7:00AM to 5:30 PM straight, and saw virtually everything there was to see given the limited 2 day time frame. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and competent and I think it's the best money I've ever spent on a tour. (Note - my daughter took the same tour three years ago and used Red October with identical results. so I think you can feel comfortable using either agency). DO NOT use the ship's tour - you will spend much more and get much, much less in return. We watched the ship's tours hopelessly in line at major attractions while we breezed through! Gdynia - We almost didn't get off the ship, but decided to take the advice of previous cruisers and take the train from Gdynia to Gdansk and we're delighted we did. It's a little bit of an adventure since the Railroad people speak no English, but still well worth doing. You get a taxi from the pier to the train station (about $15 US). Change $20 or so US into Polish Zloties - then buy a RT train ticket for 18 Zloties). The train (a holdover from Soviet days) takes about 30 minutes and drops you at the Central Station in Gdansk. From there, it's only about a 5 minute walk to the Old Town, which is a straight,level street of over a mile lined with absolutely breathtaking Medieval homes and buildings and teeming with commerce, restaurants, etc. It's so well maintained it almost looks like it's something Disney created, but this is the real thing, and photo ops abound. There are plenty to places to stop and rest along the way. We both thought Gdansk was Well worth doing. Oslo - Our only other bad weather day. Took the ship's tour which wasn't as bad as the other ones but still not worth the money to our way of thinking. We got to see the Viking Long Boat museum which is very impressive and some other points of interest. Oslo is clean, green, and very, very expensive. Edvard Grieg park is a real letdown, since the "monument" to Grieg is a horrendous collection of some thousands of steel pipes which hang down and create a horrible noise when the wind blows. The obligatory castle is right where the ship docks, and you can explore it yourself. You can look at the City Hall (another 'point of interest') from the ship, a large brick monstrosity which has been deemed the ugliest building in Norway too. Save your money and, if you're so minded, get the Hop On Hop Off Bus to take you around. Disembarkation in Copenhagen - Again, painless, although Princess is very remiss in not giving passengers vital information regarding what is expected of them. We knew from experience that the suitcases had to be packed and left in the hall by 'x' time, but nowhere was the time laid out. I finally caught a steward and learned that it as 10:00 (not midnight as in other lines). But the morning disembarkation was very rapid and orderly. Note - if you had bought the transfer from the ship back to the airport you will have saved yourself not only considerable $$ but also a 40 minute wait in line to get a taxi. Bottom line - a marvellous ship and a wonderful cruise. Would do it again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
I chose this cruise to see Russia and some of the other wonderful countries in the Baltics, on the promise to my girlfriend that we would go somewhere hot next time! We had never cruised before, and must say everything exceeded our ... Read More
I chose this cruise to see Russia and some of the other wonderful countries in the Baltics, on the promise to my girlfriend that we would go somewhere hot next time! We had never cruised before, and must say everything exceeded our expectations (except some of the entertainment!) In our early 30s, we did seem a little out of place at times but we had not gone for the more social aspects of cruising. Did not see many kids, but we had chosen a date outside of the school holidays. We saw this as a more comfortable alternative to backpacking to see so many countries! Embarkation was quite painless, a coach took us from the airport and we waited excitedly in a large tent. We arrived about 30 minutes before boarding, and we were on the ship in less than an hour. I had booked a mini-suite as a surprise for my girlfriend, and was amazed at the size and the luxury! The food was great, but I missed some of the more spicy food I like at home. My girlfriend laughed when I bought some chilli sauce at port! Main dining room service was hit and miss, some nights was very good... other nights seem like a dressed up McDonalds! Loved the Crown grill, and ate there several times. The buffet was not too crowded and had good options. Also enjoyed the pizza and the hamburgers by the pool. My favourite location was the International Cafe, and my first purchase on board was the coffee card and this was well used! Some of the best mochas I have ever tasted and my girlfriend was nagging me for hot chocolate! Also enjoyed the sandwiches and pastries there too. A hot topic on the boards... had to go to a special desk in Sabatinis on the last sea day to remove auto-tips from account, and was given a brief interrogation! They were less than subtle when asking "where do you come from?", but they seem to be getting the message that the English do not like to have forced tips judging by the size of the list he had in front of him! Tipped in cash to our steward at the end, and filled in a card for him. This might not be popular here, but I like to be honest. Entertainment onboard was mixed... we went to the Motown show in the theater, and it was terrible. They could not sing or dance at all. We werent the first to leave, as we saw several even in the front row get up and leave after the first couple of numbers. Also caught the hypnotist act, very poor although I think that type of show is quite old, and would not blame the performer. The highlight of the cruise was the magician Tony Laffan and his beautiful assistant. They put on a very good show with a mix of comedy and very technical stage illusions. Was quietly hiding behind a rather large drink at the audience participation sections! They also put on a magic school the next day as part of the scholarship at sea program. Some of the bands in the wheelhouse and explorers lounge were very good. Loved movies under the stars, although could be a little cold for some on this cruise. Also had a good choice of films on the cabin TV to relax in front of. Library also had a good selection for those of you who had forgotten to bring anything to read by the pool (like my girlfriend!). We had a quick go shoting some hoops on the basketball court, when approached by one of the crew and encouraged to play a game with some other passengers, he even produced a medal for the winner. Was a nice touch, that shows the class of Princess. Took all our excursions through Princess for ease of use (except a quick bus into Tallinn). They might have been a little more expensive, but the guides were informative and friendly, and the transport comfortable. Disembarkation was a lot smoother than I was expecting. Left the cases out later than asked, as we had a late dinner already booked that night. Only had to wait about 30 mins in the theater before getting on coaches to airport. The airport was packed and our flight overbooked, but can not really blame Princess about this! Overall was very impressed with our first cruise, and will go on more. Already trying to drag my Dad on next one with us! This was an amazing way to get a sampler of some of the beautiful countries in the Baltics and would recommend Princess and this cruise to anyone! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Emerald Princess - muse on the cruise!!! Good things! 1. Bedroom and balcony excellent (but expensive!) 2. Food superb. Service bad on first night, then very good after. 3. Boarding OK as was organisation of trips out. Variable busses!!! ... Read More
Emerald Princess - muse on the cruise!!! Good things! 1. Bedroom and balcony excellent (but expensive!) 2. Food superb. Service bad on first night, then very good after. 3. Boarding OK as was organisation of trips out. Variable busses!!! 4. Fresh fruit in room, and bath-robes! Maybe only balcony cabins? Not so good, but silly little problems! 1. No tea and coffee making in room - could use room service for free, but not always convenient! 2. If you wanted ORDINARY tea / coffee from anywhere other than main self-service restaurant, you had to pay! 3. NO cider on board ANYWHERE! 4. Found some Boddingtons on third night, BUT only in one bar! Could not get them to stock another bar with it - when I asked he finished up bringing THREE cans and CHARGING THEM TO MY ACCOUNT!! ("Well, you can always take it back to the room, Sir!!") 5. Excursions very hit and miss - one of them (Gdansk) VERY BAD - two hours in a bus and half an hour in Gdansk!! Another one was bad value for the price paid! A right rip off to change any money on board (I suppose I should blame myself for this!) 6. Entertainment very hit and miss. They didn't seem to know where to put it on, as they had THREE stages. Often the Ship's entertainers put on the show - not using external entertainers. One comedian on three nights - think he ran out of jokes! 7. All the on board courses / lectures were charged for!! 8. Peculiar (American??) sockets in room and NO ON BOARD ADAPTORS available - this meant NO curling tongs, phone chargers etc. could be used! 9. No BASIC bar with draught beer / cider. All in expensive cans! 10. 15% service charge on EVERYTHING, plus a "discretionary" charge of 10.5 dollars per person per day for "tips" 11. Had to pay for bottled water in room. 12. Could buy cigarettes on board in 200s, but NOT SMOKE THEM. 13. Door lock failed FOUR times!!! Very inconvenient!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We are a mother and daughter traveling together with over 10 cruises between us. Here is our impression of the cruise. We had no problem getting on the ship. It was an easy process; however, the first day on the ship we had so ... Read More
We are a mother and daughter traveling together with over 10 cruises between us. Here is our impression of the cruise. We had no problem getting on the ship. It was an easy process; however, the first day on the ship we had so many Princess employees approach us to sell products (Coffee Card, Soft Drink Card, and etc.) it was absurd and a nuisance. Our room steward was the best one that we had ever had. The rooms are standard (Balcony - Category BA) and they were fine. The food was ok. The type of food was not to our taste. I do have one complaint I had a hair in my dessert. That was pretty disgusting. We did not complain - we just left and never went back to that dining room. Ports: I hated the way they organized the tours through Princess. They would have 5 to 6 different tours meet in the Wheelhouse bar and then they would call you in to the theater and then assign you a bus. You would sit for another about 5 to 10 minutes in the theater until you were called. This created an atmosphere of a rush to be the first in the theater. It was like the day after Thanksgiving shopping every day . On the cruises that I have been on with Royal Caribbean they would have you meet in the theater and you would be assigned a bus and watch for the number to be called. No rush or being stuck in a small room with a lot of people trying to rush the door. We mainly stuck with the tours through Princess. We had the best guide in Berlin. They had to change the schedule because of a sporting event and instead of a bus tour of Berlin we did a walking tour. This allowed us to see scheduled landmarks but also we were able to see points of interest that were not scheduled. This was not the case for St. Petersburg. We pick the tour of Catherine's Place and the Peterhoff Place. The tour description said there would be time to shop at the markets at both places and this did not happen. Our tour was late leaving because a couple missed the bus and we had to wait in a parking lot so a princess representative could drive them to our bus. We advised a Princess staff member that we did not see everything as promised and she told us that she wrote the tour descriptions and that the markets were not scheduled. I advised her that it needs to be address because it was incorrect because it was listed apart of the tour. Getting off the ship was a problem for us. We had ordered a transfer from the ship to the airport. We had an 11:25 flight and they told us to meet in the Club Fusion as a platinum member. They did not take us to the airport until 9:30 and we had 50 people on the same bus and after you pick-up the luggage from the warehouse and checked it in we had no time to spare to get on the airplane. We would not recommend anybody using this service. They did not leave any room for any problems to arise. We would have been better off getting a cab. Princess reason for taking us late was because Delta did not open the desk until 8:30 and you would not want to sit in the airport. Instead we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic with a large group of people trying to get on the plane. The plane was already boarding by the time we made to the gate. This was my second cruise with Princess. My mother just went on the Sapphire in China and loved the ship and Princess. My mother and I had agreed that we are going to stick with Royal Caribbean. We have had better overall experiences with that cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We arrived in Copenhagen a day early and checked into the Marriott. Great value if you book via Priceline. We stayed there one day Pre-Cruise and one day Post-Cruise. $120 plus tax pre and $103 plus tax post. We traveled around a little ... Read More
We arrived in Copenhagen a day early and checked into the Marriott. Great value if you book via Priceline. We stayed there one day Pre-Cruise and one day Post-Cruise. $120 plus tax pre and $103 plus tax post. We traveled around a little the first day until our room was ready and then took a chilled out. Copenhagen is the most expensive city I have been to. If you take Manhattan and double it-that would be about right. The next day we took a tour around Copenhagen by bus. Was pretty good. I think it was around $50 person. We took a cab to the ship around 2 O'Clock. It was about $40. Embarkation was very easy. Even though we are Platinum and get preferred check in, we didn't need it at that time. Room We had an interior room on the Aloha Deck. We had booked this cruise last September, and by following the price drops, we saved about $1600. We were very satisfied with the room, and our room steward was very competent. Ship Even though we have been on many Princess ships, and the Sapphire last Feb., I just kept getting confused on direction on the Emerald. Our room location was perfect in the middle of the ship. Just had to go to the nearest elevator to go to deck 5 every morning and use my coffee card for brewed coffee. Just to let you know-you can save your card from previous cruises. Ours was from our last cruise. The ship was in good condition, and the staff was very nice. Ports This is why most people go on this cruise. Stockholm Due to high winds, we weren't permitted to dock in Stockholm, but had to dock an hour away. Princess had buses there for transportation, and charged $25 per person round trip. They also gave directions on getting to the train station if you wanted to get there that way. There were people that were complaining about the situation, but in reality the Captain could have just skipped the port in these conditions, and I thing they went out of their way to satisfy us. We really enjoyed Stockholm. Don't miss the Vassa Museum. Helsinki We took the Hop On Hop Off bus. It was a good idea. The only problem we had was it started pouring half way through the day. This was our least favorite port. St. Petersburg. It would take forever to tell about this port. One of our worries was regarding getting off the ship in St. P. The Princess Patter said that local authorities would not let anyone not on a Princess tour off the ship before the ship tours got off. I didn't sleep the night before due to the fact that I was sure I would have a confrontation trying to leave the ship. That did not happen. As soon as the ship was cleared at 7 am, we were able to leave the ship. We had a private tour with STP tours. Lubba was our tour guide and she was very capable. We were very happy that we made that decision. Tallin Cute town. You should be able to tour on your own. It is not far to walk to town. The girls shopped and the guys toured the city. Gdansk We also hired a private guide for this stop. Andrew F. He is very knowledgeable and efficient. We were interested in seeing a synagogue. There was only one and Andrew took us there and we were able to meet with a few congregants. It was a great experience. Berlin We took a private tour to Berlin. We again used STP tours. There was an International Track meet going on as well as the day we went a Marathon where many streets were closed. They worked it out and we saw practically everything. What we noticed on all of our tours is we are used to tour guides taking you to tourist traps where they get kickbacks for souveniers. That was not the case on this trip. You almost had to beg the tour guides to let you shop. I liked that. Helsingborg We went to Sophia's Palace. The gardens are beautiful. We were there on a Sunday, and most stores are close NEGATIVE ABOUT THIS TRIP There was only one negative aspect of this cruise. We find one of our most positive experiences of a cruise is dinner. We always book late dining. It has been our experience that being with the same waiter every night is the best way to go. We have had great previous experience doing this. Our waiter was terrible. He had no personality and his service was suspect. He would forget one person's course and never realized it until he was told. He always acted like it was your fault and not his. On lobster night, he served the tails and left them there. Wasn't it strange that he took the tails out of the shells for the table next to ours-but not ours. Believe me, we are not a difficult crowd, and we treat waiters with respect. We also tip them very well at the end since they usually make our trip more memorable. What we should have done, is leave this dining room, and go to Anytime for the rest of the cruise. If you have DAN in Boticelli Restaurant as your waiter, change waiters. By the way, the Ass't waitress was very nice as was the head waiter. Shows Just fair. I feel the quality of shows on Princess has gone down Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Emerald Princess Review Sailing 15 July 2009   Summary   We had a very good vacation on the Emerald Princess.  Several of the port tours were excellent.  We did a mixture of ship and private (DenRus) tours.  DenRus was ... Read More
Emerald Princess Review Sailing 15 July 2009   Summary   We had a very good vacation on the Emerald Princess.  Several of the port tours were excellent.  We did a mixture of ship and private (DenRus) tours.  DenRus was fabulous.    Food was good in the Anytime Dining rooms and very good to excellent in the specialty restaurants.  Public areas on the ship in general were very clean.  With a little prior planning of our day and making dining reservations, we did not experience the feeling of being with a crowd of people.  As can be expected, the shows in the Princess Theater and Explorer Lounges were packed; we arrived 15-20 minutes early to get a good seat.  We did experience crowding in the hot tubs in the Lotus Spa area.   Background We were two couples in our fifties and sixties traveling together.  We have done a number of cruises; it was the first time for our friends.  (They must have liked it; they paid a future cruise deposit.)  Our friends have traveled on organized land tours in Europe.  While we are generally in good health, our knees and ankles are not those of the twenty somethings.  One member of our party had a back injury two years ago; walking for a long time or standing was a concern.  We did some planning to accommodate this constraint that will be discussed in the tour section.  But we can not say often enough how good DenRus was.  Traveling with four turned out to be a great deal.  We do eat out often at good local restaurants.   We have used the same travel agent for the last several years.  He is extremely good.   Pre-Cruise   Flights - We arranged non-stop flights to and from Copenhagen via Princess.  We flew business class to get larger seats and seats that (almost) fully reclined to give seating options for back positions.  The Princess rate was the same as non-refundable rate on the internet.   Worked without a hitch and we because we booked flights early, we got our desired seats.  Our friends used mileage points and thus were not able to fly directly to Copenhagen.  They arrived about 4 hours after we did.    Hotel - The only downer for the trip was the Scandic Copenhagen Hotel (on Vester Soegade).  This was the one downer for the trip because of the staff.  Expedia reported the hotel had air conditioning.  It does not.  It has an "air chiller".  The one in our room did not work very well and when we reported the room as hot, the staff's response was "it is not an ac, it is a chiller."  We could not get them to come to the room.  When the "chiller" finally stopped working altogether on the second night at 11:00 pm, the response was to bring us another fan at 11:30pm and say, "it is really pretty late to move to another room since you are checking out in the morning."  We went around the issue with the management the next day (we were told there was no night manager).  The Scandic finally offered us a discount good at any of their hotels.  That did not work for us.  We will take this up with Expedia.  We also ate dinner one night after walking Copenhagen all day.  It took over 2.5 hours for dinner to be completed because the wait staff basically would not come by our table after serving the entrees.  The one good aspect of this hotel is that the breakfast buffet is included in the price.  The buffet was very tasty and had a wide selection of food.    SKIP this hotel and use priceline or something similar to stay in the Marriott.  We also heard good reports about the SAS Radisson.  Or stay at a hotel that does not have ac and do not pay the extra money.   Now on to the good stuff!   Copenhagen To minimize jet lag on the cruise we were in town for one full day and two half days (arrival and departure).  Changed money at the airport (200 USD).  Took taxi with all of our bags (don't ask how many) to hotel.   On arrival of our friends at noon, we walked from the hotel, bought a CPHcard for free transport, and then walked the Stroget shopping area.  It was a Monday so it was not extremely crowded.  Had lunch about half way down at Cafe Europa. Really enjoyed the club sandwich.  Saw Nyhavn area; Amalienborg Palace and visited the church; the water fountain and statue of the goddess (?) plowing the fields with her sons(?) as oxen (excellent - it is on the John Lawrence DVD) and nearby church; and the little mermaid (over-rated but you have to do it).  Clouds were threatening to rain, so we walked across a metal bridge over the electrified train tracks (smart thinking, there!) to catch the (free with CPHcard) metro back to the Tivoli stop.  Entered Tivoli (free with CPH) and walked around to select a restaurant.  Had dinner at the German place off to the left as you enter from the main gates (it was OK).  Then walked around Tivoli.  We enjoyed the flowers and the large puppet / human show (Love?).  Watched the show at the Peacock stage (we could have passed on this, but to be fair, we were all pretty tired from the overnight flight and it was 7:30ish at night).  Walked back to hotel.   Next morning up and out at 8:30 am to use the CPH card to get a free train trip up to Kronborg Castle.  Walked to central train station.  Verified with ticket agent the card meant free trip on the regional train. "Ride to the end of the line.   Platform 3. Leaves at 9 am."  We scurried down and waited.  A train pulled up on track 4 (same island as 3) and we determined along with the other passengers that this was the train.  Checked with engineer up front. Hopped on and enjoyed the trip - about 45 minutes or so.  Got off at the end.  Our traveling companion said, "Wonder where the castle is?"  We followed the big blue "I" information sign, walked outside, and you can see the castle (Oh, look, a castle!).  It was a short walk (10 minutes, according to the Danes no matter how far the distance is). Okay, it was not a bad walk, but we were ready for it to be done when we got to the castle.  Entrance to maritime museum was free with CPH card, but it did cost (Visa charge) to get in to casements, church, and private apartments.  English tour was well worth the money, including the private apartments.   Took train back to Copenhagen.  Did lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (our first visit ever to a Hard Rock) at Tivoli.  Actually a Dane recommended HRC as the best place in Tivoli to eat.  Got chatted up by the manager Tony.  We enjoyed it.    Then right around the corner and down the street to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.  Great museum for sculptures.  Mother with water babies, several variations of Rodin's "The Kiss", variations on Eve, romans, etc.  Skip the little mermaid and visit here.  In my opinion, one of the trip highlights.  Everyone was tired.  Went to SAS Radisson to eat in the restaurant at the top to see the city sights.  "Closed, every one is on holiday."  So we walked back to the hotel and had the long dinner there.  Then played cards till everyone was sleepy, in addition to just having tired legs.   Next day, after going in circles with the hotel management about non-working chiller (did I mention, do not stay at the Scandic Copenhagen?) and storing our bags, we did the Hop on, hop off bus Mermaid line to see the city again.  The audio quality was very poor, lots of dead air time, and the bus was packed (this now being the day that the ship was to leave and more people were in city).  Did the full circle tour on bus.  Then we walked back to Cafe Europa to have lunch again.  Yup, it was that tasty and very centrally located.  Walked back to Nyhavn area to grab some more pictures.  Then grabbed a taxi back to hotel.  Took a min-van taxi to ship.  (all of our bags, plus all of our traveling companion bags, plus 4 people - deal of a lifetime because our friends picked up the fare!)  Actually, throughout the trip, the four of us grabbed a taxi on occasion (generally the end of the day) and that was the cheapest way to go versus transfers, etc.     Embarkation Very, very smooth.  We arrived about 2 pm.  Initial crowds were gone and others had not yet arrived; we were able to get directly into the balcony cabins on the Baja deck, starboard side, forward.  Dropped off our carry-ons, put stuff in the safe and gave our traveling companions a tour of the ship (their first cruise).  It was fun to see their faces while each new area was revealed.   Checked out the Patter, decided to do an early dinner.  Luggage arrived a couple of bags at a time and clothing and more clothing and more... got put away.  We do like dressing for the formal nights.  Made reservations for two nights at specialty restaurants.   We toasted the trip with champagne and strawberries our friends had pre-arranged to be in the cabin.  Great start to the cruise.     Stateroom Balcony cabins, side by side.  Had steward open the balcony passage way.  This was our first trip traveling with other people with adjacent balcony cabins.  It was nice to be able to sit and see the other folks and pass stuff back and forth without going into the hall.  However, neither side was big enough for the four of us to sit together.   Cabin steward was friendly and efficient; rooms were very clean.  No towel animals, nothing special.  It seemed to us that the steward had an awful lot of cabins to tend to, compared to other sailing on other ships.   Public Area Cleanliness Extremely clean.  Perhaps the swine flu scare had them working hard on this aspect, but the ship was extremely clean, in our opinion.   Dining Food was good in the main anytime dining room.  Presentation was very nice.  Could have been seasoned more for us, but the reality of mass cruising is that seasoning will be middle of the road.  Had good time in both the Crown Grill and Sabatini's.  Worth the extra money for a break in the routine of the dining room.  We had made reservations upon getting into the cabin after embarkation so we got to pick nights and time.  Sabatini's called during the cruise to say that a large party had booked most of their restaurant on the night we had reservations.  Would we consider moving to a different night?  We did and that was probably for the better.  The wait staff talked about the rush the previous night when we were there.   Did also do the English pub lunch in the Wheelhouse bar; Mexican in the Caribe (some of the most tasty food of the trip); pizza, grilled chicken breast; hot dogs by the pool; and Horizon Court for lunch and one breakfast.  We grabbed early breakfast before several of the tours.  All the food was good.  Pizza was not as good as Carnival's though.   The biggest disappointment in the food was the escargot.  No taste, limited garlic; why bother?   Food service certainly met expectations.  More experienced staff in the specialty restaurants, dinner service better than breakfast, some breakfast service better than others (tired waiters?), breakfast better than buffet lines.  Because we planned a bit and returned to the ship 1/2 hour earlier, we were never in long lines at security or for food.  Those squeezing the last bit of happy out of the shore time probably saw more lines than we did.   Princess did not push beer and soda as much as Carnival did.  Only one waiter at dinner was pushy about trying to up sell us on wine.  Lemonade and ice tea were available at the food courts, by the pool only ice tea (or so the waiter told us).  Princess did a good job of bringing water when requested, even with out an extra cost drink.   Entertainment First of all, we found a Cruise Planner overview in the cabin on the first day.  It listed the schedule for major entertainment events for the entire trip.  THANK YOU Princess.  We had not found a similar schedule on previous cruises.  It was very helpful in planning dinner reservations for the rest of the trip.  (While we had anytime dining, we did make reservations based on what we wanted to do for the evening and when our tours ended.)  While on the subject of the Patter, thanks to Lisa Ball and her staff.  The Patter proved to be very accurate about show times and places.  Believe it or not, we have had cruises where the "patter" equivalent was truly hit or miss.   Production shows were good to very good.  (We do like the Las Vegas style shows that Carnival does.) Motor City, What a Swell Party, I got the Music, and Boogie Shoes.  We hit them all, including the Crew show.    Kevin Hughes had us crying from laughter during his relationship show.  While we really enjoyed the Nobel Prize routine he did later in the week, it may have expected too much science knowledge from the audience. I can't be sure.  (Can I get a Nobel Prize for that?)   We thought Pete Mathews was going to hit his head riding the unicycle in the Explorer' lounge.  Another great show.   Uber Rossi was less our cup of tea, but it was amazing to see someone stand on their head on a basketball while the ship was rocking.   The "other" David Copperfield was OK, but it would have been OK to miss him.   We ended every night listening to Sammy Goldstein in Crooner's.  Three of the four of us knew most of the songs.  Sammy was a good entertainer, but also got off the ship the same day we did.  Wilson (a waiter) did nice tricks pouring martini's.  And I'll think of him ever time I hear "Put another nickel in..."   Dancing Good enough, but not a real draw.  Could be that we were very tired from the walking.  Also, it seemed to us that the two bands (Temperature and the Perry Phillips Trio) had fixed sets of songs.  They seemed to open their sets with the same songs.  We asked the Trio for some covers, "oh, we don't know that one."  We did get enough dancing in to satisfy us on this port intensive itinerary.  Had it been a Caribbean cruise, we would have wanted more.   Other Passengers Seemed to be mostly American and UK, but with a mix of 40 other nationalities.   The CruiseCritic.com roll call for this sailing was great.  The meet and greet on the first sea day in Wheelhouse Bar was the best meet and greet we have done.   Disembarkation Very smooth.  We did a Princess transfer to a Princess arranged flight.  We grabbed breakfast on the last morning before meeting to our 6:15 bus departure group (Red 2).  We were actually placed on bus Red 1.  Due to business class tickets, we walked straight up to the SAS desk and checked in.  Spent the next several hours in business class departure lounge.  Our friends joined us for the wait.  They had a later departure from the ship due to a later flight to AMS.   Weather Most tour days started in the mid 60's F and ended in the upper 70's F.  Most were partly sunny to partly cloudy.  We had a 5 minute rain in Tallinn - just enough time to duck into a building, fish out the portable umbrellas from the back pack, open them up, get back on the street and - what rain?  Put the umbrella's away.  In St Petersburg the second day (20 July), it started raining while we were at the Gulf of Finland at Peterhof.  The umbrellas kept some of the rain off.  But it was a damp ride back to the ship and a shower there felt very nice.   There was one day it rained while we were on the ship.  We were heading 20 knots in one direction; the wind was driving the rain at 20 knots in the other direction.  There was some ship movement, but nothing too bad.  Our newbie friends were OK.  We passed on dancing.   Tours   For the most part, we have taken ship tours in cities; we have done beach excursions on our own.  This time, the Princess tours could not accommodate our needs in St. Petersburg.  So we figured out a way to split the tours in St Petersburg to meet our needs.  More on that later.   Stockholm - Ship's tour of City Hall and Vasa Museum (Best of ...).  The good news was that we did not wait in the Vasa's non-tour line.  It was extremely long and did not move.  Our ship tour waited one cycle (another tour that was there waiting when we arrived got in and then we were next.) before entering.   The Vasa was more interesting than I thought it would be.  (I did not give it much respect - I mean, what can you say about a boat that sinks on its first sailing because the "powers that be" decided to add another deck over the advice of the builder.)  But the museum was good and the display of the skeletons and the life stories (on the bottom floor) was very good.  Ship carvings were impressive.    City Hall was good.  We liked the lake view and the Gold Room much more than the Blue room.   Our tour guide was OK to poor.  Did not speak loudly enough for even those gathered around.  She had communication problems with the bus.  Everywhere else, the driver and guide had phones or knew where to find each other   Consider doing this port yourself, but be warned that Vasa Museum could be a big tie up.   Helsinki - Ship's tour to Senate Square and Rock Church (City Highlights).  Rock church is very nice and Senate Square was good.  We saw two weddings at the Lutheran Church.  Left the tour for shopping on our own.  Bought a "hat thingie" for DW at the market.  We bought some bread and then sat on the edge of the water to eat a lunch with meat we had saved from the previous night dinner at the Crown Grill.  Free toilets at the city hall right beside the market and one block from Senate Square.  (Toilets at Rock Church were pay)  Went around the corner from the market to the Orthodox church, but it was closed.  Grabbed a taxi back from Senate Square to the ship.  The A/C in taxi felt good.  Price was right for four people and one fare.   The only thing we missed doing was the Pub tram.  Consider doing this port on your own.  But we did feel the ship tour and the tour guide was very good.   St Petersburg We mixed private and Princess tours, rather than just Princess offered tours. There were two factors - itinerary and handling of physical limitations. Even with Princess offering private cars, they were only for basically 8 hours a day. We had an itinerary of sites we wanted to see in the city that took 12.5 hours to see on the first day. We wanted to focus on cathedrals (inside visit to 5 different cathedrals) and spend 3 hours in the Hermitage, while by-passing some of the common tourist sites. The second day we did a 9 hour Princess tour to Catherine's Palace and Peterhof. The second factor was handling our needs to accommodate physical limitations. We were able to work with the private tour company (in our case DenRus) to ensure that a portable wheelchair was available for the extended first day tour for use by a person with a back injury. We could not have put in the extended time in the Hermitage without the wheel chair. While the other sites had the opportunity to sit occasionally or as we moved by van from one to the other site, the 3 hour block in the Hermitage had basically extremely limited opportunity to sit. We could do the Princess-offered Palaces tour, because there were places to sit occasionally while others were gift shopping or using the toilets.No matter what selection of Princess tours we looked at scheduling (private van, evening at Catherine's Palace, 2 day grand tour), we could not get inside the cathedrals we wanted, spend the extended time in the Hermitage, and see the palaces and grand cascade. Princess suggests "easier tours" for people with limited mobility. It is tough to handle special needs on a bus with 30-40 people. So, there are cases in which Princess is just not able to meet the needs.   We can not say enough positives about working with DenRus.  Prior to the trip we worked with Natalie Gordeyeva to design the custom tour.  She answered al of our questions, including arranging for a wheelchair for the day.  We sent a list of "must visit inside" sites, "would like to see" sites, and we "do not need to see" sites.  She designed a custom tour that actually got us to 5 cathedrals and seeing the outside of even more.  The number that we actually would see was dependent on the time we got off the ship.  Because we did get off early, we were able to convert some "see outside" to "visit inside".  While we were concerned about transferring credit card passport info to a private company, in the end, DenRus had a secure web server that we entered our credit card info into and a non-secure page for the passport info (still better than sending via email).  (Hint for DenRus - Advertise that credit card info is entered via the web site.)  We did not want to pay with crisp American bills at DenRus' office.  We did sign and get a receipt for the trip after getting through immigration.  Other DenRus people will appear in the text below.  Each was great to work with - Ali, Elvira, and Shamil.Now for our disembark in St. Petersburg, because this has been a big topic for the posters on CruiseCritic.com.Our experience - Princess published in the Patter that private tours were to gather at one of the bars at 8:30 so that an orderly disembarkation could occur. The exact wording from the Patter is "The State Boundary and Immigration Office of Russia have advised that we must control the flow of passengers going ashore on the first day of our call in St. Petersburg as follows. 1. Passengers who purchase ship's tours must proceed first. 2. Independent passengers who have purchased tours from local companies go after ship's tours. 3. Passengers holding individual Russian visas, who do not participate in the ship's tours, must proceed to passport control after the above mentioned groups.   [in bold] Failure to follow the above restrictions may result in passengers being refused entry into Russia. [end bold] Announcements will be made advising when you may proceed ashore.  We thank you for patience and understanding.   (more text about passport photos)   [in bold] Passengers going ashore independently: Should meet in Explorers Lounge, Deck 7 Midship from 8:30am. (additional text) Announcements will be made when Independent Passengers may proceed ashore. [end bold]   End of Patter quote. We keyed on the word "should" and the desire for orderly flow.   We had a custom private tour arranged on day one with DenRus scheduled to start at 7:15 or when we got off. We went to the gangway on Deck 5 at about 6:50 am and decided just to stand by the security check station. We talked to all the security people finding out where they were from and what they had seen in St. Petersburg and telling them how excited we were to be there. We let them know that our tour for the four of us was scheduled for 7:15 and agreed with them that getting every one off the boat in an orderly fashion was important. The security guy said they would mix in the private folks with the Princess folks as soon as they got clearance for people to leave the ship.About two dozen Princess tour people went by before the security guy mixed the four of us in with them. We were off the ship by 7:20 and in the hands of our DenRus guide by 7:30. It seemed that Deck 4 people started getting off a little sooner than we did on Deck 5. By the time we left the ship, the line for the private folks on Deck 5 was back around the corner. We do not know how long it was.  (In another posting on CC, the 8 people behind us said they were also mixed in with the ship tour folks fairly soon after we were off.)The largest hang up was the Russian health person taking the temperature of everyone before they left the ship. The skin temperature measurement unit was not working as rapidly as she wanted it to.The actual process we experienced was not bad. We were stressed prior to the actual event by the words published in the Patter that basically let one infer that private tours would not be allowed off the ship until after 8:30. By 8:30 we were already in our first cathedral. There was no line to speak of at Immigration. (Lines in US were much longer when we returned to IAD.) With correctly completed forms (not the pre-printed ones supplied by Princess which had some technical errors), we sailed through the Russian immigration booth.  Ali from DenRus was watching people enter immigration lines. (He was actually just a few feet behind the immigration booth.) When he saw us glance at the DenRus sign while we were still being processed by immigrations, he asked if we were on one of their tours.  We nodded "yes" back (not wanting to annoy the immigrations person by communicating with someone before being processed through).  Ali was waiting when we were cleared and walked through.  We gave him our name, and signed the credit card receipt for the tour while our traveling companions processed through immigrations.  We told Ali who they were so he had their receipt ready.  Ali then took the four of us from the immigration hall to the waiting area.  We meet Elvira, our twenty(?) something guide.  She was studying languages (spoke 6 or 7) and her English was better than mine.  She certainly had a harder time with my accent than I had with hers!  She introduced us to Shamil, our driver for the extended day.  As Elvira was walking us out to the van, she asked about our needing a wheelchair.  We said it would be needed for the Hermitage for the 3 hour block of touring with no sitting.    Everything that we had agreed was waiting for us.  The van had a step stool to reduce the step up / step down height into the van.  The wheelchair was in the back.  The van was air conditioned and neither the driver nor guide smoked. Shamil either got to within inches of every high curb so that the step out / into the van either did not require the step stool or he placed it for us to use every time he stopped.  Shamil helped DW from the van and into the van every time for the entire 12 hour plus tour.  The van was always just steps away when we finished seeing every sight.  DenRus had arranged for a special parking pass for us to use to enter St Peter and Paul Fortress area to eliminate some of the walking one would normally need to do.  We did not ask for that nor expect it; DenRus just made it happen.   That could be the theme song for the first day in St. Petersburg.  DenRus made it happen.  Timed entry tickets were handed to Elvira as we entered the Hermitage; the museum staff held the handicapped door open for the wheelchair; we hardly slowed down. We were first to board the canal cruise boat.  She had us in St Nicholas Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral, Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral, Church of the Spilled Blood, and St. Isaac's Cathedral.  She knew when to hit the side door so we could pick our seats first to listen to the monks chant.  Visited the outside of Smolny Cathedral. Saw all the standard sights, such as the Field of Mars, Admiralty building, etc.  We were never rushed, yet she had us where she wanted us for the next thing to occur.  During the course of the 3 hours in the Hermitage, she used our 4 page list of objects (with room numbers that we had researched on the web) to hit every one, and added a few that she thought we should see to understand the development of painting.  She was never stumped by a question we had in the course of the day.  She said she had studied for 3 months to be a guide.  Do not know if this was a requirement or a test she had to pass, but she was great.  She picked a great "pub style" restaurant for meat and salmon pies; simple food that was simply delicious.  Fresh, flavorful, and a great place to sit after 3 hours of the Hermitage. And every time we were ready to move, Shamil was there waiting with the van and step stool.  We hit two shops for toilets and gifts for the people back home.  We used the ATM in the Hermitage to get rubles for lunch. Lunch was 1500 rubles for 5 of us including one wine, one beer, and two soft drinks, with tip.   On day 2 in St Petersburg, we did a Princess tour to Catherine's Palace and Peterhof.   We chose to use Princess to ensure the ship would not leave without us.  In retrospect, I may have considered DenRus for that day too, because of how great day one was.  However, Princess did a good, not great job.  We did see the inside of Catherine's Palace and some of the gardens.  The gardens were cut a bit short here by the time it took to get people from the tour all collected after the gift shop and toilet break.  But there were just lots of people from our tour as well as others.  Lunch was at a new restaurant probably built just for tour buses.  Great toilets, cool air, so-so food that did no harm but had little taste, and some entertainment / folk dancing / music.  (The pub the day before was better food, but could not have handled the 5 tour buses that hit this place for lunch)  Peterhof was the key site for me, particularly the Grand Cascades.  The Princess tour explicitly said the fountains and we were there in the afternoon when the fountains were on.  That was worth the tour.  Princess tour did stumble - tickets were not available when we arrived at the Gardens - we waited for ½ hour before diverting to see the palace first.  That was a real waste because I suspect the garden tour got cut by ½ hour.  We saw Adam, but not Eve.  We also got caught in the rain, but since the tour was ending, we made it back to the bus before the downpour started.  The bus ride back was all in rain.  Guide was ok, used a transmitter for which we all had receiver headphones.  This worked if you were in about 20 feet of her.  Note this is one place where a woman from the group said someone tried to open her back pack.  Another person had someone try to steal their receiver for the guide's broadcast -  must have been a amateur not to realize that it was not an iPod.  The receiver was knocked off, then let drop to the ground when the pickpocket realized what it was.  (Not an accident.)       Tallinn - The best value port in the itinerary.  We downloaded a PDF file of a walking tour from CruiseCritic.com ports forum.  It was great.  While we were concerned about the effort to do the walking (considering the back injury), we decided to give it a go and just walk from the ship.  Only the stretch from the lower city to the upper city caused an issue.  We had discussed using a cab for this part, but there did not seem any available.  And it was on this stretch that we saw some watercolor paintings that we decided to buy.  So we would not have done that if we had not walked this stretch.  Wander outside the lower city walls - there was a great little garden exhibit - potatoes, strawberry plants, swings and sundials, etc.  At the end of the day, we did grab a cab back from the lower city to the ship.  Once again, 4 people, one fare, great way to go to beat the crowds a bit to enjoy lunch while the rest of the people got on board and then waited in buffet lines.     Gdansk - Did the Ship tour of Gdansk and Oliwa Cathedral.  We believe this was the way to go see these sights.  Guide was very good and had a portable loud speaker system.  After the walking tour of the city, we had about an hour to shop before meeting back at a bridge.  That was just enough time to buy some additional gifts and do some walking around on our own.  Then off to Oliwa Cathedral to tour the gardens, church and then listen to the pipe organ recital.  Good news was that the walking was separated by the bus rides.  Saw an apartment building that was 1 kilometer long on the bus ride.  If you are interested for the Solidarity monument, this bus was really not the way to see it as we motored by it.  (That was not high on our list.)  "...and out the right window is the ship yard..."   Oslo - We had debated doing this on our own since the ship's tours would not do Vigeland Sculpture Park, the Viking Museum, and the Kon-Tiki museum.  In the end, we decided to do the ship's tour of Vigeland and the Viking ship museum due to the limited time available.  We were also running on empty with respect to energy for walking  So the ship tour left a little later than if we had done Oslo on our own.  What we should have considered is what another couple did - do a cruise deviation and disembark in Oslo instead of returning to Copenhagen.  With more time, we could have done all three.  In retrospect, the Vigeland sculpture park was worth much more time than the 45 minutes we spent there - maybe half a day would have been good.  Tour guide was OK, but the Viking ship museum could not handle the number of people there and the guide made little effort to try to talk so that many could hear him at Vigeland.  We got tired of what we took to be the thinly veiled references to tips when he pointed out rich people's houses overlooking Oslo and how he was savings in hopes of buying one of those.  Yep, none of us on the tour could have bought those either. 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Sail Date July 2009
We boarded the Emerald Princess in Copenhagen's modern port facility and were in our cabin within 30 minutes of arriving at the "tent"  Our bags were there shortly thereafter.Exploring the ship was easy as we had cruised on ... Read More
We boarded the Emerald Princess in Copenhagen's modern port facility and were in our cabin within 30 minutes of arriving at the "tent"  Our bags were there shortly thereafter.Exploring the ship was easy as we had cruised on the Diamond Princess, an almost identical ship to the Emerald.  Nikki, a young Filipino man was our cabin attendant and was excellent.The first day we were nickeled and dime ad nauseam as the Wine club or soft drink club sales girls would not leave us alone.  They are well trained and not annoying.We opted for ANY TIME dining as in previous cruises and it was the right choice.  We had two formal dining venues, the buffet on the 15th level and Sabatini's and the Grill, the latter two for an additional charge.  All were well manned and the service was excellent.  The food was too bland for my taste a couple of times but my wife enjoyed her beef dishes quite well.The casino was excellent and no cash was needed.  I guess the one arm bandits were a little generous the first day as I hit a $268 jackpot, cashed it in and never played again during the cruise.Entertainment left a lot to be desired.  A replacement comedian was not there at all, the British Juggler was fantastic and the Emerald dancers were just that.  The only African American girl in the revue had a great voice and some great moves.  Don't miss John Lawrence's lectures.  He is excellent at what he does even if he gets a little carried away with the local amber.Disembarkation was well planned and we rolled our own suitcases at 9:30.  Wanted to delay it as much as possible as our hotel had no rooms before 2 before the cruise or after the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My parents and I were on the July 5th sailing of the Emerald Princess.  What a great time we had.  I had done a lot of research prior to the cruise and had organized our own tours in each of the ports.  We arrived in Copenhagen two days ... Read More
My parents and I were on the July 5th sailing of the Emerald Princess.  What a great time we had.  I had done a lot of research prior to the cruise and had organized our own tours in each of the ports.  We arrived in Copenhagen two days prior to explore the city and adjust to the time change.  Had some issues with our flight, but finally arrived 5 hours later than expected.  Took a taxi to the Marriott where we were staying.  The Marriott was a very nice hotel.  We stayed on the club level, so had breakfast included as well as light appetizers in the evening.  This was very nice.  The weather in Copenhagen was FANTASTIC.  We took a canal cruise, went to Tivoli Gardens, went up in the Keep, had lunch in Nyhavven.  Usual tourist stuff.  When it was time to go to the ship, we took a cab.  There were minimal lines to check in.  We were pleasantly surprised to have been upgraded to a suite when we checked in.  Very nice surprise!  With that came some special services, including a breakfast service in Sabatini's restaurant.  This was very nice - as the food was made to order, whatever you wanted and the service was outstanding.  We ate breakfast at the buffet one day and were wishing we hadn't.  We were really spoiled with the breakfast service that was offered.  The ship itself is nice, found it to be a little confusing - it took until about day 8 until we had finally figured it all out.  This is a port intensive cruise.  Very memorable, but if you're looking for a relaxing vacation, this probably isn't it.  The food was good considering the amount of food they are preparing each day.  We chose the anytime option and it worked out well.  We made reservations and got the same table each night.  We did eat at both Sabatini's and Crown Grill and both are worth the extra money.  Our first day was a much needed day at sea.  The weather cooperated and we spent much of the day out on the sun deck. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We'll go chronologically. The two travelers are a mom and daughter, mom is 62, daughter at the time 29 :) Mom has motion sickness-like none you've ever seen. For a long time, she wouldn't cruise because of it. The patch ... Read More
We'll go chronologically. The two travelers are a mom and daughter, mom is 62, daughter at the time 29 :) Mom has motion sickness-like none you've ever seen. For a long time, she wouldn't cruise because of it. The patch had horrible side effects and Dramamine/Bonine wasn't strong enough. She found a new product, Scopace (trade name scopalamine). She had to tell her Pharmacist and doctor about it. It is used by professional fishermen. The doctors approved and prescribed it. It is safe and effective. It is the patch in pill form. You take 1, every 8 hours as needed. That way, it doesn't build up in your system and you don't have to have any when you are on shore. Scopace.com. I have mild motion sickness and I take Meclazine. It is the generic Bonine, and it works fine. Meclazine can be found 100 tablets to a bottle for about $5, when Bonine is 8 tabs for $7. Before we ever left, we went to Barnes and Noble and spent the best $20 of the trip. "Rick Steves- Scandinavia", also "Rick Steves-Eastern Europe", throughout the rest of this review, we will refer to those books as "Rick," our best travel buddy. Copenhagen. Rick referred us to the best, least expensive hotel. It's called Hotel Bethel, at Nyhavn 22 (corner of a canal). They had a great breakfast, fresh rolls, cheese,eggs, fruit. They didn't mind if you took a few rolls for lunch while you were looking around (great idea b/c a sandwich anywhere in cph was over $10). We arrived a few days early to get over the jet lag and make sure we got therethank goodness we did, of course, our airline experience was tragic. To all travelers out there: DON'T USE "CODE SHARE" FLIGHTS!!!! We did and we couldn't get a credit for our lowered fare. United, Lufthansa and SAS, to name a few, don't cooperate in their charming Star Alliance. Also, for carry on people, they won't print you a boarding pass for any flights after the first connection. That is problematic if you have to make another flight asap! Touring cph was great thanks to Rick. He has great walking tours in his book. The main metro station is Kongens Nytorv-that is the stop for Tivoli Gardens and the hub for most of the main attractions. Rick V. Princess.- Rick walking tour: Free , Princess Tour: on a bus with 50 people and they take you to the start of Rick's walking tour. The city is not that big. It can be crossed in about 30 min at a wandering pace. Fun stores, but extremely expensive, even after $$conversions. Getting on the ship. We took a taxi from Hotel Bethel to the ship, no problem and worth it. We didn't check any bags so we walked right through and into our room around 130. We were able to unpack (didn't have to wait for bags) and go to the fitness center. Ship Experience: Food: We originally chose traditional dining. However, after the first two days we decided we wanted to meet more people so we gave up and did Anytime Dining. It was great and we should have started with that. Food quality: The quality was good, however we came to the conclusion that food did not have to be fancy to be tasty. We skipped the dining room on more than one occasion because they were mixing and matching too many flavors for our taste. Finding the food: There were two buffets on board, Horizon and Cafe Caribe. It took us until the end of the trip to figure out the difference, much less the location. However, they did have different food-that's how we found the Mexican food we had been craving about half-way through. Special dining: We paid the twenty extra dollars for a great dinner at Sabatini's. They sampled the whole menu for us. We highly recommend it. Fitness Center: It opens at 700, but be there to get in line for a treadmill or elliptical. For whatever reason, they "rope off" half of the treadmills in the morning, creating a log-jam. So be there early, or be prepared for every inexperienced treadmill user to fumble with it for over an hour. Shows: The shows were lame. Both of us were unimpressed except for the comedian, Kevin Hughes. We tried each stage production, made it through the first and left in each of the next three. The illusionist, as Simon Cowell would categorize it, a cruise ship entertainer. On board Entertainment: The Princess Patter gave great info and schedules, but rarely did they have things that were free and intriguing at the same time. I played some Bingo, we tried trivia but we aren't into scrapbooking or paying $20 dollars to mix a martini. HIDDEN COSTS!!!!: The only thing they didn't charge for was some of the food and the room (obviously you paid before you got on the ship). They charged for hot chocolate, my ultimate complaint. They charged for all juice during non-breakfast hours (those hours are TBD). Even the cool little International Cafe on Deck 5 went from free to charge after 5 o'clock. It was embarassing to say no after they asked for your cruise card, but we weren't shy. Of course they charge for soda and all other drinks. They even charged for good ice cream!!!! They didn't have a soft serve machine on the pool deck for those late night cravings. Room: C517 Our room was fantastic. The new ship definitely proved to be well thought out. We had a fridge and a spacious closet. We also had an inside cabin which turned out to be great with the 20 hours of sunshine in most of the ports. Ok, enough of that- Ports: Stockholm: Here come all the ways to save money-Take your Rick book- Get off the ship ASAP 1: Get a ticket to the HOP-On-HOP-Off BOAT...not bus. It only cost about 15 dollars and is good all day and stops at all the highlights and leaves every half hour from each stop. 2: Take that boat right to the VASA Museum. We beat the Princess buses by about 25 minutes, stood in the non-tour line and got inside immediately. We also were able to get tix to the video(English) straight away. By the time the Princess people showed up the theater was full. 3: Get on the boat and go stop by stop with the Rick book, he does a walking tour and explains the history behind each site and recommends where to shop, eat and take pics. The whole day we were one step ahead of the ship. It was great. 4: if you have time, go to Skansen. It's the last stop on the boat before the ship. It's a colonial period park (similar to Williamsburg, VA) Helsinki: Take Rick of course: All the Princess tour does is take you to the center of town. Doing it yourself will only cost you about 10 Euros total for the day Get off the ship ASAP 1. Take the #16 bus, which is off the ship past the terminalline up at the yellow curb, not at the cornerwe were able to fake out about 50 people and sneak on the bus third. Have some Euros ready, it cost 4 Euros each. Take it to Market Square not the first square, but the second. Get a tram ticket for the full day pass. you can get on any bus or tramwe found Tram 3 the best. 2. Tram 3 acts like a hop on. You get all the way to the rock church, back to Stockmann's dept store (great snacks in the basementbakery, deli, candies), and around town. 3. In Market Square, they have an enormous flea market, in my opinion, just for cruise ship passengers. However, they have some interesting "local" cuisine. I still refuse to eat reindeer anything!! St Petersburg: WOW! We went with DenRus all the way. I suggest anyone trying to save money and aggravation and get a great tour go with them. It's DenRus.ru. We saved about $700 going with them over Princess. They are the tour sponsor and take care of ALL the visa business. They are based in Florida and Russia. Princess is very threatening and sends out all kinds of propaganda. They are ridiculous and can't hold anyone on the ship. They refer to immigration and penalties and finesall untrue. Everyone gets off the ship to meet their organized tour-Princess tours are no different. All you have to do is present a tour ticket (from anyone) and get off the ship. They tried to corral us on the 5th deck while others filed out from the 4th. We were furious from being kept on board and being lied to by Princess employees. We then marched down to deck four, merged into the line of Princess tour people (that were given stickers to identify them from others) and got off the boat. They tried to stop us, but we got off the boat. They went as far as to try and physically stop others, but they have no legal or authoritative right to do so. RUSSIAN IMMIGRATION COULD CARE LESS AS LONG AS YOU HAVE A TICKET FOR A TOUR!!! Don't let them intimidate you. It's easy to get caught up in the moment. Our other argument was simple: discrimination. They didn't follow that protocol anywhere else, so why do they do it there?? Princess didn't like that word very much. Long story short, we pushed our way off and joined our tour at 715, we made the first bus out of 4. Oh yes, day 2 there was no drama. Princess is just trying to make money on their excursions. All of the DenRus employees spoke excellent English and were very accommodating. We did the 2 day all inclusive value tour, and the night of day 1, added the ballet (Swan Lake, cool, but hoped for the Nutcracker) Their groups are no more than 25, and our guide was excellent. Both days we had individual devices for listening-made touring much easier and we didn't have to crowd everywhere. Seems all the other people on our bus were Rick enthusiasts along with cruisecritic :) . They were our favorite people on the ship for the rest of the adventure-If you make it this far, hi to alex, kathryn, sam and debbie :) Estonia: Take our buddy Rick 1. Get off the boat. Walk to town, it takes 10 minutes crawling. The Princess tour only buses you to the edge of town, and doesn't go in because of the cobblestones and small streets. You walk the rest anyway. 2. It's small but fun. Great views. 3. It is the site of the "knitters market." Go there, but wait to purchase at the flea market by the town gate (by Mcdonalds). much cheaper, same exact product 4. Back on the ship early afternoon-use that like a sea day and take a nap. Gdansk Poland: Don't forget your "Eastern Europe" Rick book like we did. 1. Again, don't do the bus ride to Gdansk. In Poland we are on the good side of the exchange. 3-1 zlotys 2. Share a taxi to the train station (don't pay more than $10). Go to the ticket window and buy a round trip to Gdansk. It costs 9 zlotys round trip (3 dollars). When you come back, share another taxi, so all transportation (for two people, cost about $10 if you share). The Princess excursion bus to Gdansk (which doesn't include tour) is $39 each! 3. Gdansk has signs you can follow if you don't have a map. Neptune is the highlight. The side streets are the biggest garage sale you've ever seen. After this town was leveled in WWII (formerly DANZIG), they separated/gathered doorknobs, book, records, spoons, canes, and anything else into plastic Target bins, lined them up and sell from them to tourists. The city is pretty on one side (the restored side), and the other side looks like 1945. Don't be fooled by the tour books mentioning the largest "crane". They mean a weather vane, not a crane, as in a large ship port. 4. Go back to the ship early and enjoy a quiet lunch. Warnemunde/Berlin: If you're going to Berlin, take Rick and/or denrus Honestly, if you have been to Berlin before, skip it on the cruise. It's a 3 hour trip by train or bus(12 hour excursion) to get to Berlin (one way). We had been before so we skipped it and went to Lubeck (marzipan capital of the world). It was still a 3 hour train ride, but German trains run like clockwork and their train station attendants are helpful. MONEY SAVER!!!! We were there on Sunday-They don't check tix until 10am (in July and Aug) and they are all "family tix". Up to five people can ride for 26 Euros-usually it's 28 Euros eachbig money saver. The ticket lasts all day on any train. 1. After Lubeck, we went back to Warnemunde and hung out. My mom was attacked by a "swarm" of ladybugs-no really, she was. She was actually bitten!!! 2. Warnemunde had great fish and chips and other seafood. The town is relatively small, but there is a good beach at the end of the pier if you make it down there. Helsingborg: Rick doesn't do HelsingborgJohn Lawrence refers to it as "Helsingboring" The main problem was trying to get a tender off of the ship. We were waiting so long, by the time it may have been our turn, we gave upwe would only have had an hour and a half before we had to be back on the ship. We took it as a nice quiet sea day to pack up and settle accounts. People we talked to who went ashore said we didn't miss anything and made a better choice. TIP: If you are flying the day of debarkation, print your boarding pass on the boat-it works great. Of course they charge you for it, but in this case, it was well worth getting ahead of the Princess transfers at the airport (all 2000 of them). Debarkation: We did self-assist with our carry-ons. We were assigned a time, based on our cabin, to get off the ship. It was too late to make our plane, but self-assist was waaay too early. So we requested an earlier time slot. The first person said it was "illegal" to do that, and the second said "no problem, which time would you like?" We picked our time, and walked off the boat. We thought we were slick walking to the train station. DON'T!!!!! take a taxi. TIP 2: Upon arrival in CPH at the beginning, buy your return train ticket to the airport so it's all set when it's time to go home. Trying to figure out what stop you are at and buy tix when you are tired is a pain. To get to the airport from the ship was about an hourit would have been faster with a ticket and a taxi to the train. We still beat the Princess transfer shuttle by over an hour to the airport, and blew by the check in line with our boarding passes. "Chalk this one up to a fantastic time, but it wasn't a vacation" If you made it this far, you get the good stuff with the money comparison: My mom and I and our "self-guided excursionsincluding transportation": $475 each-subtract St. Petersburg, $73 Princess: Each port, doing similar activities and sightseeing: $2200-subtract St. Petersburg, $1400 each. SavingsPriceless!!!!!!! We saved more than the cost of the cruise and gained a ton in experience, laughter and pictures. Happy Cruising Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Sailed on July 15th, 2009 from Copenhagen on Emerald Princess.We had 8 passengers including a 12 yo and 15 yo.We each had a mini suite on Dolphin deck well worth the money!This was our second time in a mini and i don't want anything ... Read More
Sailed on July 15th, 2009 from Copenhagen on Emerald Princess.We had 8 passengers including a 12 yo and 15 yo.We each had a mini suite on Dolphin deck well worth the money!This was our second time in a mini and i don't want anything else.Ship was clean and gorgeous, staff was wonderful.Food was good, not exceptional but, met our expectations as we havenow taken our 14th cruise. Entertainment was good, Troiska Dancers werecanceled this cruise and 2 prior as the Russians think we all have swine flu.They currently do not allow the dancers aboard, what a disappointment.Magician was really great and preformed 3 times, comedian funny!John Lawrence is the port talk specialist and is on until Sept.Don't miss his talks, he is very good and knows everything!We loved Stockholm and did the Vikings and royal armory tour, nice.Don't miss the Vasa Museum. Try to get up at dawn and watch as yougo through the Archipelago into port. Heavenly sights oh my God!!! It takesabout 3 hours total through this passage way, have camera ready.We booked a private tour 2 day, in St.Pete's. book with Alla Tours.Incredible!!! Our guide(Irena) had a masters in art history, she was amazingand wore us out and we were on the moderate tour! She knew everything as wasa doll. She got us into places before the crowds came and knew were to go toavoid long lines. So worth it!!! ONLY $350.00PP based on 8 in a private van withac. It was fairly new very clean and driver had bottled water on the bus. everywhereyou go to sightsee there are lots of people especially at the Hermitage so takeAlla Tours and you won't run into this. They are on the web. You don't even pay themin advance!! It is based on trust that you pay on day 2 in the morning on Visa or cashbut bills must be crisp and clean.  They met us just outside customs and we were on ourway. You DO NOT NEED A VISA as long as you have a pre arranged organized tour thatis with an approved Russian tour guide like Alla. There is no need to book Princess excursionsas they want you to do. The tour company will email you a print out of tickets and that alongwith your passport and tourist card that the cruise will provide is all you need. They say you needa photo copy of passport but they did not want it in customs. Be sure to have one anyway and DONOT wait to have a copy made on board. My god the line was miles long as everyone forgot to do it!Currently you will have your temp taken as you disembark in Russia on day 1. They swipe it with an infer redthermometer and you go on your way. They are paranoid of the swine I am telling you!!!Estonia was really neat and charming we did the shopping excursions with some sightseeing.Finland was lovely and we did our own thing using an all day bus/trolley pass we bought right atthe port. There is a tourist info on shore. Go to the market of the Esplanadi, great fresh berries andsome nice rabbit fur scarves hats etc. Did not have the heart to buy fox fur that is everywhere. SAD.Poland was wonderful but do not need to go again. We did the Tri city tour. Very nice but you do not get a refreshment in Sopot as described, Sopot is really really nice. Wish we could have stayed for a few hours.Gdansk is neat but to me was a large tourist trap with every store selling the same junk. Though the townis a must see. Cobblestone streets everywhere, be ware if you are not stable on your feet. One in our party misjudged her step and broke her ankle. Took cab back to ship and doctors xrayed and cast it for her.She spent the rest of trip in her cabin. sad.  This is not a trip for anyone feeling unbalanced with their footing.Norway was just amazing!! Again, get up earlier and you will see some Fjords and scenery that was evenmore beautiful than Alaska. Yes really!!!Must go to the Vigeland sculpture gardens,free (all nudes). Just wonderful and great flowerseverywhere. Take the hop on/off tour bus on an all day pass. What a great system so easy to go all over thetown. They are at the ship as soon as you arrive and stop every 30 mins at all stops including the ship.Just super for about $35.00 each. Norway is not affordable for anything so do not shop here.25 % vat on all purchases. Expect to pay 4 to 5 times than your are used too. Mcdonalds big mac,fries and cokeis currently $23.00. However they make $30 per hour at the counter as an employee. Oslo is now in the top3 most expensive cities in the world. Sight seeing entrances are either free or a nominal charge.Too bad it is a short stop in Olso, I could have stayed for a week.We had great weather the whole time except 2 short rain showers. Temps are 50's to high 70's.Expect rough seas in some parts others are so smooth you cannot tell the ship is moving.Disembarkation was super fast in the earlier hours, everyone must be off by 8:00 am. It gets crowdedat 7:30 to 8:00 so leave early if you can. The airport is very crowded please allow like 3 hours to check in.We went through 3 security check points and had no time to eat. There are a lot of taxis if you depart on Saturday.They said cabs were hard to get so we booked a private transfer for 8 of us at $35.00 each with world airporttransfers on line. They came in a motorcoach bus for just us, hilarious. Amazing how many cabs werethere even though they insist you can't get one. Again I think it was because it was the weekend and we gotoff early, sorry we did not take the Taxi as we could have gotten to the airport before the 3000 passengersalso got there!!!We did stay at the Marriott pre cruise and loved it!!! So pricey, stay on the concierge floor, well worth it for thefree high speed computers 24 hrs and the great breakfast and cocktail hour. also free bottled water in the frigin lounge. Great views of the canal from the lounge too! Restaurants nearby at Tivoli just 3-4 blocks away.We took the train from the airport to Tivoli Central station then walked. Easy but take a cab as cobblestone streets are toohard to pull your luggage across and it was hot and humid. There is nothing to see from the train anyway as we thoughtthere would be. Canal tour available every morning in summer right from the Marriott. we loved it!! only 1 hour 15 minride. Perfect for families. Cheap trip as well. We did take a taxi to the pier from hotel,however they now have a shuttlethat costs but was already booked full. So sign up in advance for shuttle. Taxi was about 150 DKK total for 4.taxis are always lined up at the hotel door. Also there is a shopping mall with restaurants about 6 blocks fromhotel, nice walk along the canal to get there. They had a nice grocery store where we bought wine to bring on board.Kids ate at McDonalds which they loved! about 2 times the cost as here. i could go on forever but must go for now!!PS Cruise director staff was annoying!!! The only bad thing about the whole trip.      Also you can exchange currency on this neat machine before every port      at the piazza. Get the coffee card if you want fresh coffee from the cafe in      the piazza each day. Starbucks at sea!! yummy coffee drinks of all kinds.  Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We arrived a day early in Copenhagen and stayed at a wonderful unique 4* Botique Hotel, Nyhavn 71. (150 rooms & suites) It previously was two old spice warehouses. Check it out if you like boutique hotels. Ask for the new air ... Read More
We arrived a day early in Copenhagen and stayed at a wonderful unique 4* Botique Hotel, Nyhavn 71. (150 rooms & suites) It previously was two old spice warehouses. Check it out if you like boutique hotels. Ask for the new air conditioned section. We had a great room overlooking the water. The friendly staff speak English well. Excellent buffet breakfast, and the dining room is very nice. The Nyhavn area of Copenhagen is full of bars and restaurants. You can walk to almost all the tourist sights from this hotel. We enjoyed walking around in the evening and morning. At 1:30 we took a short taxi ride to the ship. We were extremely lucky and had beautiful weather almost the entire trip. High 60's, 70's and even in the 80's in Berlin. The Emerald Princess is a beautiful ship. We were on deck 11, stateroom B411, Inside Room. We've done a balcony room for Europe Cruises before, but we just find it unnecessary because of always being off the ship sightseeing. Plus, in the Baltic, it stays light late so we enjoyed our inside room. B411 is very well located, and is very quiet. We love the anytime dining that Princess provides. They do a great job with it. This ship has 3 dining rooms, and 2 of them offer anytime dining. We never waited more than 10 minutes, and only then when we wanted our own table. They give you a buzzer so you can walk around the shops or Piazza and they buzz you when your table is ready. The food was very good, and the waiters were attentive and friendly. Deck 15 has a great bar out back and the buffets are just inside. Several nights we got our food from the buffet and ate outside on the back of the ship as we were leaving port. The buffet food was very good. If we didn't eat out we went there every afternoon for drinks. A very enjoyable, relaxing place to be. We ate breakfast in the dining room when we had time. It wasn't very busy, didn't take long, and we met many interesting people as we requested a "shared table". Fish & Chips for lunch and Afternoon Tea in the Wheelhouse Bar were very good also. The shows in the Princess Theater were very entertaining. Movies Under The Stars are fun. They serve you popcorn, pizza, cookies and milk. There is so much entertainment everywhere you can't possibly do it all. The spa on this ship is very good. I had the hot rock massage and another day had the seaweed wrap and massage. Both are great for getting over jet lag, and/or recovering after a day of sightseeing. Getting on and off the ship for tours, or on our own, was very organized and easy to do. We really enjoyed this ship and itinerary. I think it's the first time in our 15 cruises we had absolutely nothing negative to write about on the survey form at the end of the cruise. If you want to enjoy the ports, this is not a relaxing cruise as you can tell from the itinerary. Only one sea day, but what you "see" along the way is absolutely incredible. Go to the port seminars or watch them on the TV in your room. These are not "shopping talks" like on Caribbean cruises. John Lawrence does an excellent job telling the top sights to see and the history of each. These are especially valuable if you are doing any ports on your own as we did. Three things made this trip exceptional. 1) The Weather. It can be very iffy with rain. We had absolutely beautiful weather, even two sunny days in St. Petersburg.(They only have approximately 50 sunny days a year) 2) Our tour guides. It's really just luck. We talked to people who did the same tours as us but didn't enjoy them because their guides couldn't speak English well, or they maybe didn't know all that they should have. Our guides were wonderful! 3)The people on the ship, and in the ports we visited. We made wonderful new friends on the ship, and everyone was very friendly in every port we visited. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My previous sailing on the Grand Princess was so thoroughly enjoyable that I was taken aback by the differences I encountered on the Emerald Princess. Many of the frustrations I encountered seem to be indirectly related to obvious staff ... Read More
My previous sailing on the Grand Princess was so thoroughly enjoyable that I was taken aback by the differences I encountered on the Emerald Princess. Many of the frustrations I encountered seem to be indirectly related to obvious staff reductions and a change in priorities from passenger satisfaction to passenger sales. While my experiences in port were very positive, they were almost overshadowed by the shipboard frustrations.I had booked all our other excursions through Princess and, discovering that some cities were easily explored by a simple Hop On - Hop Off tour, attempted to make some changes. Because the Tour Desk does not offer passengers a telephone number for simple questions nor the option to book/change tours via the TV or computer (as does Celebrity), the lines get very long. This is compounded by the fact that the Tour Desk is only open for two hours each afternoon (4:30 to 6:30) and only staffed by a crew of three. I was forced to stand in line for one hour and ten minutes to simply confirm some changes I had made! My fellow passengers were very angry and frustrated and, when someone attempted to cut in line, there was shouting and obsenities were tossed about. The anger and tension could have been avoided by adding staffing, increasing hours and/or accessibility. A fourth crew member manned the end of the desk with the sole responsibility of selling CDs of the tours to passengers. He was unable and unwilling to assist in any other way.Currency exchange was handled by two machines that charged $3.50 for each transaction and usually one of the machines was not working. Gone are the days of the on-board  "bank" for personalized currency transactions.I was particularly disturbed by the significant increase in "marketing" that took place on the ship. I was regularly subjected to ship's crew trying to sell me something and there was no escape from it. At every meal, drinks and bottled water were "pushed." After dinner we were asked to purchase liquors and special souvenier glasses. There were three times more people selling bottled water in the buffet area than there were people to pour coffee, tea and free water. At 7 AM one morning, my fellow passengers and I were assembled in the Princess Theater to leave on an excursion and we were subjected to a ten-minute sales pitch by the person responsible for making the CDs for each port, on sale for $35.00. Only after he was finished was he replaced by the Tour Director calling our departure groups. In voicing my concerns to other passengers, many agreed that marketing had become far too high a priority.Staff has clearly been reduced as also evidenced by the fact that our Room Steward was still servicing rooms late into the afternoon each day - around 2 PM. The towel and trash carts sat in the hallways each day until this was complete. On my previous cruises all servicing was completed in the mornings.We chose "Anytime" dining for this cruise and I appreciate the flexibility that it allows. In addition, we were introduced to many more passengers with whom we could swap stories. While dining almost exclusively in the dining room (as opposed to the available buffets) I was very disappointed in the quality, presentation and selection of menu items compared to previous sailings. Portions have been reduced significantly (which certainly reduces waste) but the quality has also suffered. It was not uncommon for me to resort to the standard "Optional" items on the left-side of the menu because I was unable to find a regular selection that suited me. Those "Optional" items have also been reduced significantly - noticably, the steak is no longer an option. Some meals were served lukewarm. One evening I received red potatoes that were cold.The "Optional" Ceasar salad was not an even an option because the dressing was terrible. Salad dressings were a frequent topic of discussion at many sittings. We all noticed that the Ranch, Blue Cheese and Italian dressings were so far from the standard taste they were almost unrecognizable. It tasted like the dressings were all were made from a common base of mayonaise and vinegar. This was the case in the buffet area as well.The anticipation of high-quality shipboard entertainment like I had experienced on the Grand Princess lured me to the theater twice, before I accepted the fact that the singers and dancers were not of the caliber I previously encountered. The productions were poorly produced and the selections questionable. The production of "Shoes" delivered loud, discordant, unfamiliar music and lyrics and chased several passengers out during the course of the show. The only safe option was Sammy in the Crooners Lounge who played the piano and sang and enchanted the passengers with his stories and familiar music. One evening he brought sheet music for a sing along. Great fun. Just be ready for the sales pitch for his CD which is sold in the shipboard store.Finally, if you use the Internet Cafe, don't expect too much support from the Manager on-site. He was generally surly and not helpful. He made you feel like you were wasting his time when, I believe, his primary function should have been to provide support for the passengers. There were many complaints from people who felt they were overcharged for their minutes - the available plans starting at $55 and went up from there. The only other alternative was $.75 per minute which seems  high for a computer that is frustratingly slow!In summary, I found many passengers in agreement that quality has suffered in the areas of dining, shipboard entertainment and the staff reductions have inconvenienced passengers. Until this cruise, Princess was always my first choice but,  I am afraid the negative influence of Carnival as has become the order of the day, and I will look elsewhere for high-quality cruising satisfaction and comfort. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We were pleasantly surprised at the food, and level of service on the Emerald Princess after having just completed two cruises with NCL which we thought were ok. Princess was definitely ahead in many ways. We stayed at the Hilton in ... Read More
We were pleasantly surprised at the food, and level of service on the Emerald Princess after having just completed two cruises with NCL which we thought were ok. Princess was definitely ahead in many ways. We stayed at the Hilton in Copenhagen the night before we embarked and were very pleased with the comfort of our room and that we were able to check in at 9:30 am after rolling our bags over from the attached airport. Our room included complimentary snacks and drinks at night where we met several people who were on the same cruise. We also had a huge buffet breakfast that was included in the room rate. Embarkation was smooth. We arrived after sharing a taxi with another man we met at the hotel. The cost was 305 Danish kroner. We were in a mini-suite on Dolfin deck with an uncovered balcony which we liked because it let in as much sun as possible. We had no problem with any one above us.The only problem we had was the family that had rooms on both sides of us. The children were ramming between the rooms until after midnight. I spoke to the mother and it did stop.Our steward Pinyo was wonderful. The bed was great and I loved having a bathtub after the long days of touring. We ate most dinners in Michelangelo with George at a table for two. The food and service were perfect.We walked in about 6-6:30 each night and asked for a table for two in George's area and never waited at all. We did try the buffet on two nights and it was ok. We liked having drinks brought to us and the plates were as big as trays . Room service was on-time and accurate the mornings were ordered it. A big relief was that the wake-up service also worked perfectly. We disembarked on our own at about 7 am pulling our own bags and had no problem getting a taxi to the airport. We liked 3 of the shows a lot. We left after a few minutes of the Shoes Show, but the rest were good. The only problem we had is so preventable, it's amazing that Princess allows it to keep happening. That was their employees preventing the independent tour passengers from leaving the ship in St. Petersburg until all the Princess Excursion passengers were out. We had booked DenRus for the two days and went to deck 4 about 6:45 where we were rudely told to go to deck 5. We and many others were held there until about 7:40. We still saw more for less money even after their holding us in the ship. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
In July we embarked on a much-anticipated cruise of the Baltic on the Emerald Princess. We had done considerable research on the ship, the specific cabin, the ports of call and Princess cruises itself and were confident we had chosen ... Read More
In July we embarked on a much-anticipated cruise of the Baltic on the Emerald Princess. We had done considerable research on the ship, the specific cabin, the ports of call and Princess cruises itself and were confident we had chosen the best 'product' for our needs. We were wrong. In the late sixties I was an employee of Princess cruises which was then known as an innovator with excellent service. Things have changed. What follows are our impressions of the ship and of Princess cruises, and we'll start with the 'positives'. Positives: Embarkation in Copenhagen was extremely well organised and we were on the ship in no time. Once on the ship our cabin was immediately ready ... which is not the norm on most cruise ships. Our cabin was FABULOUS. It was at the stern of the ship and on the side. It had a simply enormous wrap-around balcony giving us a 270degree view. The sound of the wake was like a soothing waterfall, but if you wanted to shut this out all you had to do was go inside and shut the sliding door, at which point the cabin was silent. Vibration was virtually non-existent. The cabin was spacious and the amenities well thought out. We had to ask for the 'egg crate' for the bed as the bed was VERY hard with no 'give', but once that was arranged it was perfect. Our cabin steward was a joy ... always friendly, always willing to assist and always available. As a matter of fact, we encountered many instances of brilliant service from individual employees. As to dining (more on that later) Sabatini's was excellent ... great service and wonderful food. Disembarkation in Copenhagen could also not have been easier - extremely well organised. Negatives: After embarkation and dropping our hand luggage in the cabin, we proceeded to the MDR where we had learned from CC you could enjoy a leisurely lunch. We were shown to our table (the dining room was empty) and immediately approached by a waiter who showed us sparkling and still water and asked which we preferred. We are savvy travellers and asked if they were chargeable, which of course they were. We asked for and received tap water. He then returned with a bottle of red and white wine and said these were his recommended wines for lunch today. We asked for a wine list and discovered his recommendations were $50 bottles of wine. We now asked for a menu which we still had not received. Before the menu was brought we were shown and offered 'coffee cards'; finally, the menu was brought. So, all in all, three 'revenue opportunities' were realised before any service was offered. Our choices were made and the food was delivered. It was inedible and also looked dreadful (I know that sounds harsh, but it truly was). We ate it anyway, not knowing this was going to be the norm for our cruise. Next we explored the ship. Confusing is probably a good word. Staircases on the outside upper decks lead nowhere and to go from one dining room to another you have to go up one deck and then back down. There is only one deck of public rooms and they are all bars (except the Crown Grill and its 'causeway' outside, and the Princess Theatre) and all DARK. As a matter of fact, the curtains are drawn throughout the ship including in the MDR. Why? There is a tiny library and no 'quiet place' to read or play cards. The solution to this offered in Princess Patters is to use the dining room. We tried, 5 times, it was always locked closed. In any case, with 43 cases of crew swine flu onboard (confirmed privately by the ship's doctor), is it really wise to be using the dining room as a 'lounge'? The top decks have 5 swimming pools ... but this was a Baltic cruise and they were certainly 'underused' except by children. On that top deck day in day out the MUTS screen proclaimed how much we should be tipping and where we could spend our money onboard ... followed by an occasional movie with no-one watching during the day (much better attended at night, even though it was cold at night). The 'customer service desk' was overwhelmed at certain times during the cruise. Towards the end they simply gave up being 'nice' and were less than perfunctory in their attitude towards 'guests'. Many errors occurred on bills and people were trying to correct them, they were being met by an 'I don't care' attitude which we observed more than once. Now to the food. Let's be honest, most of us cruise (at least partially) because it's like going out to eat for three meals a day at a great restaurant. We have certain expectations as to quality. I realise they cannot be met on every occasion, but to have a 'batting average' of 30% is not what I expected. I know one reads on CC constantly that 'everyone else thought the same' ... I cannot speak for others. I can cook, I eat out occasionally at home and I know what I like, but the food on the Emerald was consistently 'below par'. An example: one morning Eggs Benedict were 'touted' as the specialty. When they appeared, it was obvious they had been prepared many hours before. The hollandaise sauce was crisp from having been under the warmers. EVERY person at the tables around us either returned them or didn't eat them. So it was with almost every main course. The starters were better, but still not acceptable. Everything was obviously done to a budget and to 'mass catering' standards. We did not pay 'mass catering' fares and expected better (like on every other cruise ship we have been on .... bar none!). We tried Crown Grill, great ambience, but, the food was served cold and had to be returned and when it re-appeared our steaks were well done! We also were selected for Chef's Table (at $75 per person extra).. We were excited. The 'briefing' was excellent, we donned our white coats, went to the kitchen and washed our hands and were shown the 'working kitchen'. There was absolutely no activity. Everything had been pre-cooked and was simply being dished up 'as and when', having been kept warm under warming lights. We were shown to our table and it had candles and a great atmosphere. The 'starting course' arrived and it was a sea of risotto (honestly, it could have fed a family of 4). When the main course arrived (lamb, veal and beef piled 2 inches high on the plate) we were simply disgusted by the quantity and couldn't eat. Everyone at the table felt the same. That is not to say the food wasn't delicious, just that 'more is not always better'! As to the buffet, what a disaster. We attempted to eat there on two occasions (and went to look on 4 others). Even when it opened the food was already congealed and beyond its 'sell by date'. The taste was like nothing I can describe (and that was each item). We tried sandwiches and they were hard, we tried meat dishes and they were old and overcooked. Not acceptable. I have to say, the staff in all restaurants were very good, and were 'dab hands' at apologising for the food and the presentation. There were, however, more people selling water than there were to clear the tables and assist you in the restaurant. Now to the worst part of the cruise. Two days before St. Petersburg we were informed via Princess Patters and via a special letter in our mailboxes that the Russian authorities had informed the ship that Princess Cruises tour passengers MUST be allowed to disembark first. All other tours were to meet in the lounge and receive a 'disembarkation number'. Princess Tours passengers could disembark at 7:30 ... all others at 8:30 at the earliest. We had read on CC that this was a 'ruse' and designed only to promote 'revenue', so we proceeded to line up at one of the two gangways. The lower one turned out to be for Princess Cruises tours and the upper one for 'others'. There was a line of roughly 130 people at the upper one. When the security guards realised we were not Princess Tours passengers (we had no sticker on our shirts), we were first threatened, then shown a fax from the 'Russian Authorities' (it had, in fact come from their own tour company in St. Petersburg, which was established the next day), then the guards physically blocked us with their bodies to keep us back. Utterly unacceptable in civilized society. We deserted this line and went downstairs and disembarked with the Princess Tours passengers unchallenged. However, this incident was so violent and left such a sour taste in our mouths that I venture to guess that there are 130 passengers who will never set foot on a Princess cruises vessel again. So, how has this served their purposes? There was constantly a wait for elevators (lifts), in fact, many passengers went up just to go down (eventually). The Princess Theater holds only 1/3rd of all the passengers onboard. There were always people sitting on the stairs and there were always people turned away. The restaurants constantly had lines of people and on 5 occasions we were given a 'beeper' because the restaurant was full. Are there enough tables for all the guests? In our opinion there were simply too many passengers for the facilities available. This might have worked in the Caribbean where everyone can be out of doors, but in the Baltic, this was quite simply the wrong ship. As to the ports of call, they were wonderful, with the exception of Gdynia, where we docked on a Sunday. This is not the first cruise we have taken where the port is some distance from the city of interest (in this case Gdansk), however, on all other occasions transport was provided at a minimal (or no) cost. Here, Princess Cruises decided we were on our own. If we wanted transport to Gdansk, we could either take a tour, or pay a taxi driver $100 round trip. This was an industrial port. Again unacceptable. This is not 'par for the course' . other 'quality cruise lines' simply don't do this. Bottom line, on other cruise lines we have always felt like a 'valued guest' .... on Princess Cruises (well, at least on the Emerald Princess), we felt like nothing more than 'revenue opportunities'. On top of that we were being served substandard food. If this cruise had been cheap, this might have been acceptable. It was not. Enough said. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
A few random notes about this cruise: 1. We did this cruise after spending three nights in Copenhagen to start, followed by a trip to NorwayBergen, Balestrand, and Oslo. We basically combined a Norway/Denmark trip and a Baltic cruise into ... Read More
A few random notes about this cruise: 1. We did this cruise after spending three nights in Copenhagen to start, followed by a trip to NorwayBergen, Balestrand, and Oslo. We basically combined a Norway/Denmark trip and a Baltic cruise into one three-week trip. From Oslo, we took the DFDS ferry back to Copenhagen, where we boarded the Emerald. Although not luxurious, the DFDS Commodore class stateroom was more than decent, the ship's food was quite good and reasonably priced, free Wi-Fi was available for my laptop, and the ship had a huge duty-free store where we bought bottles of wine to bring on the Emerald (which was no problem getting on the ship). The cost of passage was less than a 3 or 4 star hotel room in Oslo or Copenhagen and included an excellent buffet breakfast. I would highly recommend this overnight trip if it fits within your travel plans. 2. The DFDS ferry docks at 9:30 AM about a mile or so away from the Emerald. We walked from one ship to the other as we had a reasonable amount of luggage. Normal people would either take a bus from the ferry dock to within a couple of hundred yards of the Emerald, or a taxi right to the ship. 3. We were among the first to arrive at the Emerald waiting area. As are Platinum we waited in the "Preferred" area to board. By the luck of the draw, when the ship started boarding, we were the first ones on a little after 11:30 AM. 4. Upon boarding, we immediately got the primary essentials of any Princess trip�soda and coffee cards. In addition, we made a beeline to Guest Services to sign up for the Ultimate Ship Tour and called in Chef's Table and Crown Grill reservations. More on those later. 5.You are allowed to get off the ship after boarding if you want. As stated above, the bus stop is not far away, the Nordhavn train station isn't much farther, and taxis are available. The small tourist information building by the ship provides excellent local maps and transport/sightseeing information. We took the bus to the �sterport stop, walked about 10 minutes to the Danish Resistance Museum (excellent), then walked back to the ship (about 30 minutes) past the Little Mermaid statue through a pleasant park. On a side street on the way back to the ship (about a 15 minute walk away�one block off the main harbor road closer to the docks through a residential/office building area) there is a small supermarket where we bought bottles of water to bring on the ship. 6. We had the coveted E-731 mini-suite with the extended covered balcony. This was our favorite stateroom ever on Princess. You could easily fit 6 people on the balcony. Due to the excellent weather we had on this trip, we used the balcony quite a bit. On the one sea day it was too cold for part of the time to sit there, but it was fine the rest of the time. This cabin makes it easy to get to the aft areas�the dining rooms, Club Fusion (no noise could be heard from there directly below us), and everything on the Promenade Deck, but it's a long walk to other parts of the ship. 7.Princess has obviously upgraded the mini-suites since we last had one a few years ago�much better mattresses, towels, and numerous other amenities. 8. Our stateroom steward did a good job and provided robes when requested. Nothing beyond the call of duty. 9. I'm trying to avoid 4 massive meals a day on a cruise for a change so I only ate breakfast and lunch once on the ship (I brought my diet cookies with me to eat for breakfast and lunch along with the stateroom fruit items) at the Horizon Court. Nothing new there�still decent food. The burgers and pizza (also succumbed to those one time each) are still above-average. There is now lemonade available at the Horizon Court along with the horrible coffee and iced tea, but you have to ask for it. 10. Thanks to the coffee card, I was finally able to avoid the swill passed off as coffee in the Horizon Court. The International Cafe is the best place by far on the ship for coffee and a small meal or quick snack. The brewed coffee served there is fine as is the latte and cappuccino. 11.  The main dining room food was OK, but nothing special, although as always there were a few standouts. We didn't starve, but we have had tastier meals with the same menu items on other Princess ships. It's the same food as before with a few new items, but a lot of it was simply too bland for my taste. Exceptions included quite good roast duck, lamb, and snow crab legs. I tried one of the new "Home Style" entrees (the pork ribs) which were pretty good as well. One night (the first night in St. Petersburg, when many shore excursions were still running)nothing looked enticing on the menu, we asked our waiter what he recommended from the daily special entrees, and he said stick to the always available items! That was a new one for us. My wife and I ended up each eating an appetizer pasta dish (the signature Princess Fettucine Alfredo is still good, but Princess does seem to be cutting back on the cheese, cream and portion size) and then going to Cafe Caribe, where the Indian buffet items that night were more flavorful than anything that we ate all week in the MDR except for the Chef's Table described below. As for desserts, I usually stick to Princess' great ice cream, after it messed up the Love Boat Dream recipe a few years ago. Our waiter (an 11 year Princess veteran) and his assistant were efficient and after the first night our drink and coffee/tea preferences were always anticipated and quickly refilled. This is why we almost always choose traditional dining. 12. This was by far the emptiest I have ever seen the MDR at night after 14 cruises. I don't know if it was the food, the service, the strenuous port stops (my guess is that) or whatever, but on many evenings, the MDR was no more than half full. In contrast, the Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe were packed every night when we happened to walk through them. 13. We ate the Crown Grill twice�much better food overall than the MDR, and worth the $25 upcharge. The steaks were OK (the meat is not top steakhouse quality, but we didn't expect this), but everything else was delectable, especially the seafood dishes, superb onion soup and the other appetizers. 14. Being a port intensive cruise, we did very little on the ship. We've spent lots of time at art auctions, trivia contests, and the casino, but not on this cruise. As for the entertainment, the Boogie Shoes production show was pretty good (we've seen the others), Kevin Hughes was a good comedian, the Perry Phillips Trio was entertaining as always, but the juggler we saw was simply not very talented. We usually spend a lot of time in Crooners (big Bert Stratton fans). We stopped by Crooners to hear Sammy Goldstein the first night, but he spent most of his time chatting with a few audience members and very little time singing. Not our cup of tea, so we didn't go back. I enjoyed watching Wimbledon at MUTS along with lots of Brits. 15. We loved the Emerald in general�a beautiful ship. We liked the tweaking that Princess has done to its product with the new ship changes and additions�the International Cafe, Vines, a much more impressive central atrium, much better Internet Wi-Fi (it worked most of the time in our far aft cabin�there are access points in the ship's hallways), etc. We didn't use the Sanctuary or the spa. The gym is quite nice and is almost always busy�bring your headphones for the built-in TVs on the cardio equipment. 16. Our two best experiences on the ship were two splurges�the Chef's Table and the Ultimate Ship Tour. Chef's Table has been explained many times on CC so I won't do it again�but the food was excellent and beyond plentiful, the wines were good, and the Executive Chef, his assistants and the Maitre D' could not have been more gracious or accommodating in answering questions, serving us hors d'oeuvres in the kitchen and showing us the galley and its workstations. We also had an excellent interesting dining group that accentuated the experience. It was certainly $75/PP well spent, and I wouldn't have known about it (or how to sign up for it) without the knowledge gained from the wonderful people here on CC. 17. The same superlatives apply to the Ultimate Ship Tour. We were shown completely different parts of the galley and provisions areas than at the Chef's Table dinner and met with different key personnel who would answer any question. Also part of the tour was a backstage look at the Princess Theatre, its chief technicians and performers, the engine control room, the photo and printing areas, the laundry (an amazing operation), the funnel pipes at the top of the ship, and last but not least, the bridge, where Commodore Romano was personable, funny and interesting. We were also supposed to see the medical facilities, but they were occupied by a sick passenger. The robe (the NICE one), chef's jacket and photos Princess gives you of your experience (you can't take your own pix) just sweeten the deal�it ain't cheap at $150/PP, but it was also well worth it. 18. 3200+ on board notwithstanding (apparently, the last remaining unfilled cabins were taken by Royal Princess fire refugees), the ship never seemed crowded, except at the T-shirt extravaganza sale at the atrium shops. 19. As for the ports�an absolute essential is listening to John Lawrence, both before and during the cruise. We bought his Baltic Treasures DVD before the cruise and found it very helpful in deciding what we wanted to do in each port (along with the Rick Steves and Fodor's Scandinavia books), and his port and other lectures were interesting and witty. We had incredible, lucky Baltic weather�warm and sunny everywhere except Germany, where it was hot and sunny. Copenhagen�there is quite a lot to see here. The city is very easy to get around by bus, train and Metro. If you don't have a lot of luggage, the Nordhavn train station is a 15-20 minute walk to the ship, and you can get from there from the airport by taking a train to the Copenhagen H central station and then changing trains. If you will be doing a lot of sightseeing and traveling in the area, get a Copenhagen Card. Our first nights in Copenhagen were spent at the Marriott which we got cheap on Priceline. It's a very nice hotel that's a 15 minute walk from the central train station and walking distance to Tivoli, the Black Diamond library, the Fisketorvet shopping mall, and many other things of interest. The only downside is that the Marriott's buffet breakfast is $40 (ouch) if you do Priceline, so hit a bakery at or near the train station instead or grab the free fruit and coffee offered at the hotel. Stockholm�we ordered Stockholm Cards online in advance�they saved us much time and money. We first took the 10 minute boat ride (leaves from a dock next to the ship) to the Vasa Museum (soon afterward, we were told that the line outside got ridiculously long, so many on the ship didn't bother with it�too bad), the Nordic Museum, Skansen (where we easily could have spent the entire day), and then a walk around Gamla Stan. We walked back to the ship from there, but it took almost 30 minutes, and in retrospect we should have taken a bus. The Stockholm Card covered everything except the boat. Helsinki�in the morning, we took the ship's "Helsinki at 40 Knots" shore excursion, which shows you the city's waterfront areas in small fast Zodiac-type boats with a nice sausage and beer lunch at a pleasant island setting�a very nice trip, although expensive (a theme here?) Only about 15 spaces are available�sign up early. After this 2 � hour tour, we took the Princess shuttle bus into town (really too far to walk), and just strolled around the bus stop Esplanade area and did some shopping at the enormous Stockmann's department store. St. Petersburg�to make a long story short, rumor had it that the reason no one could get off the ship for over an hour after the ship was originally cleared was that some flu-ridden buffoons insisted on trying to get off the ship. Following this delay, everyone got off the ship at the same time (Princess tour or otherwise) in a surprisingly orderly manner, but the Russian authorities took everyone's temperature when disembarking using a non-invasive thermal device (not the device you would expect Russians to use for this purpose) and stopped you if your temperature was too high. Once we got off the ship, going through the passport control process took five minutes. The Emerald stops at the new cruise port, which apparently greatly speeds up this process as many lines are open and available. A Princess rep told us when leaving the ship that we would have serious problems with the local authorities if we tried to take any food off the ship except packaged granola bars, so we ditched everything before we got off. It turned out to be complete misinformation. No one got searched, there were no dogs sniffing backpacks, many people brought sandwiches, cookies and other food off the ship without any problems at all, and we did so ourselves the next day after our tour guide assured us for the umpteenth time that it was OK. We used Red October for our group of 7, and we were very happy. Tallinn�some people stayed on the ship after the grueling two days in St. Petersburg. Don't make that mistake. In our short time here, we greatly enjoyed walking around this well-preserved, compact medieval town (the shuttle bus takes longer than walking) which had the cheapest prices for shopping anywhere on our whole trip. Gdynia�we had an excellent private tour (with the same 7 persons) of Gdansk, the Oliwa cathedral, and Sopot. Gdansk is surprisingly beautiful, as it was completely rebuilt after WW II. Warnemunde�thanks to HeinBloed on the Northern Europe and Baltics CC board, we rented a Hertz car (the well-hidden office is a 5 minute walk from the ship�make a right turn when leaving the ship area and look for the Pier 7 complex) and had a easy, pleasant drive to Lubeck, Schwerin (where the BUGA flower festival is currently running�it was beautiful but it was too hot of a day to really enjoy it) and Wismar. If we had to do it over again, we would have spent most of the day in Lubeck, a quite delightful town with good shopping and great food. We didn't want to do the 6 hour round trip train tour to Berlin that most on the ship took. Positive/negative reactions that we heard thereafter about the Berlin trip ran about 50/50. One couple in our dinner group exited the ship early at Warnemunde and rented a car to eventually fly out of Berlin�no problem once they told Princess about it. The MDR did stay open very late to accommodate the Berlin train travelers, but most of them instead apparently hit the buffets or room service. Helsingborg�in our continuing tradition of death-march type shore excursions, we bought "Around the Sound" 2 day train/ferry/attraction passes at the Helsingborg train station, then took the train to Malm�, an attractive Swedish city across the �resund bridge from Copenhagen with good shopping. (If we had stayed off the ship until its arrival back in Copenhagen, which Princess told us was OK with advance notice, we also would have spent time in Lund and Copenhagen). We then took the train from Malm� to Helsingor to see the Kronborg castle complex, and took the 15 minute ferry ride back to Helsingborg to complete the circle trip. 20. After disembarking the ship carrying off our luggage (you could do this any time after 5:30 AM, so making an early flight was not out of the question), we walked to the Nordhavn train station and took trains to the airport station, from where the Hilton hotel (extremely nice, and relatively cheap on weekends) is a 5 minute walk. The Hilton is wonderfully convenient if you're paranoid like we are about getting to the airport on time through morning rush hour traffic to catch a flight. We flew back to the U.S. the following day.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
A bit of background, my wife and I are in our mid 30s and have traveled on our own around Europe in the past. We wanted to see the Baltic region but it didn't seem realistic on our own so we looked for a company that would allow us to ... Read More
A bit of background, my wife and I are in our mid 30s and have traveled on our own around Europe in the past. We wanted to see the Baltic region but it didn't seem realistic on our own so we looked for a company that would allow us to see St. Petersburg and also was not greater than two weeks. Our top priority is to see sites, so an aggressive itinerary with the least time at sea was preferred. Embarkation was painless when we arrived. Princess didn't provide us the location of our departure. On our paperwork, that section was left blank. It wasn't a big deal as most in Copenhagen knew of our ship. Taking a taxi is recommended and not expensive. Public transportation was not realistic. Check-in was fairly quick as we arrived about an hour and half after the published start.When we first saw the ship, it seemed immense, but by the end of the cruise seemed to be what we needed. The ship was in great condition and the we had an interior cabin which was set up with a queen bed. Now these beds were two twins together but you couldn't tell. We walked around to get our bearings together and found that it was very nice. Now I am quite tall at 6' 6" so the ceiling made it pretty tight with just enough space that I didn't have to hunch over while on the ship. They were promoting a soft-drink card for unlimited drinks while on the ship. I had read previous reviews about this and took the offer. I found the older reviews to be wrong as the card was easy to use on the ship and the staff always asked if you had it when trying to get a soft-drink. Now the staff works like dogs on the ship, and even though they say that there are over 1,000 staff onboard, you may question if it is enough. One area where the service was poor was in the buffet sections of the ship. They had adequate staffing for pushing alcohol, water for shore excursions, and cleaning off tables, but trying to get a drink was a long wait. One of the last mornings, I had three people try to sell me water for the upcoming port but only one person pouring coffee. Also, passenger services was always busy! If you called, there were times they wouldn't answer the phone. Fortunately I didn't need them often. This cruise offered two formal nights. My wife and I have no interest in getting dressed up for vacation as we spend our work days like that all the time. That said, we had no problem eating in the buffet area and many also did as well. In case others are like us, you will have somewhere to go on those nights.Our cabin attendant also worked hard. Not sure how much time they get, but he needed some patience. The first night on the ship, my wife was changing and he knocked and proceeded to open the door. She jumped out of view, but you would think you would wait and see if you got a response before just entering. It was a one-time event, but the ladies should remember to deadbolt the door if you are changing. One of the reasons we chose the interior cabin was because I have a hard time sleeping with light. I heard from others that I made the right call. Remember on the Baltic in summer that the sun is up much of the night. Some guests mentioned that they were trying to find ways to block to light. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Rather than a full review, I'm going to note some things I would have liked to know before I went. We usually avoid ship excursions, so I'll have some comments on what we did. Bring binoculars (we did to that). Shipping is ... Read More
Rather than a full review, I'm going to note some things I would have liked to know before I went. We usually avoid ship excursions, so I'll have some comments on what we did. Bring binoculars (we did to that). Shipping is heavy in the Baltic, and there are lots of interesting things to see.  We were docked next to the HMS Illustrious in Tallinn, and passed a surfaced submarine on the way to Oslo, for example. Binoculars brought lots of things into view. The lounge to the rear of deck 18 is usually quiet during the day, with great views and no music (during the day). The port lectures by John Lawrence are excellent, with not much on shopping.  We should have gone to more of them. The currency exchange machine on board does not offer best rate, and charges $3.50.  Avoid it. In Stockholm & Helsinki, take the cruise bus into town at around $12 RT.  In Helsinki, the cruise through the waterways leaving from Market Square is half the ship's price, and for the same basic route.  In St. Petersburg, we reserved a private car with guide and driver from Den Rus for two days at a cost of $698 for the three of us. They tried to upsell us on a western car, but we liked the Russian Lada (no air conditioning).  Our guide and driver were excellent, and we could go where we wanted, and change plans at a moment's notice.  Den Rus will also suggest that they design a tour for you, at a cost.  I recommend figuring out where you want to go, and working out the details with your guide.  We were very happy with what we got. When we got to the Hermitage, for example, there was the usual huge line for individuals.  Our guide looked, pulled out her black book, made a call, and the next thing we knew, we were somehow entering through the exit.  We're not quite sure what she did....  And, of course, we could see what we wanted there, rather than follow a forced march with a group. I recommend Den Rus highly. When I gave the driver less than I intended as a tip, I emailed Den Rus from the ship.  They replied: "Tell us how much more you want to tip, and we will give the driver the money.  Send us a check when you get back home."   Tallinn is an easy walking city from the ship, assuming reasonable fitness. No need for a tour.  There is no ship bus in Gdynia. To avoid a tour, take a taxi to Gdynia train station ($10).  Cabs just outside will try to sell a $100 trip to Gdansk.  Walk a few hundred yards to the port entrance.  Cab drivers there will try to sell a tour, too, but will take you to the train station if you persist.  From there, take the  commuter train (track 1) to  Gdansk Glówny (About $1.25).  There are ticket machines.  There is no need to validate the time-stamped single ticket.  The thinner ones need to be cancelled in the machine at the entrance ramp to the platform.  It is a 40 minute trip.  Everything in Gdansk is an easy walk from the main train station. The first ATM in Gdynia did not like my American ATM card.  Fortunately, I also have a German one.  However, there were other ATM machines in the area, one of which probably would have worked. In Oslo, the ship docks in easy walking distance of most everything.  Again, no need for a ship excursion. I recommend the national art gallery, which had more paintings I liked per gallery room than most I've been in. No admission fee, so if Norwegian art isn't your favorite, you can turn around and walk out immediately.  Now, we jumped ship in Oslo, rather than going back to Copenhagen.  I'm writing from Oslo.  Tomorrow, we take the train to Bergen, which is supposed to be one of the best train rides in the world.  You might think about that. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
This was our 3rd cruise with Princess and our first on one of their 3,000 passenger mega-ships (the others were to Alaska on the Coral and thru the Panama Canal on the Island).  It was also our first visit to the Baltic ports.  We were ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise with Princess and our first on one of their 3,000 passenger mega-ships (the others were to Alaska on the Coral and thru the Panama Canal on the Island).  It was also our first visit to the Baltic ports.  We were extremely pleased with the ship and the ports. We flew into Copenhagen two days early - and definitely recommend doing so if your schedule allows.  It gives you time to recover from jet lag and there is plenty of sightseeing to do in town.  Even though our boarding pass indicated that boarding would begin at 1 pm, we arrived at the port at noon (the hotel had a noon checkout time) and boarding had already started.  There were no lines and we were on the ship within minutes. The Emerald Princess is huge but the only time it ever felt really crowded was during functions in the atrium or when they set up sales tables outside the shops - cutting down the width of the walkways by 50%.  We've noted that Princess does this routinely and it really can lead to traffic jams and a crowded feeling.  The Piazza area on the lowest deck of the atrium (5th floor) was a great area with piano and string quartet entertainment, an International cafe that we frequented for breakfast (pastries and special coffees) and lunch (salads, small sandwiches, pastries and gelato), and a wine tasting area. Given the iffy weather in the Baltic, we were lucky to reserve a mini-suite with a fully covered balcony.  Cabin E-730, the last on the port side on the Emerald deck, also had an extended balcony - almost twice the size of the 'regular' mini-suite balcony.  We were able to enjoy it on the 80 degree day sailing down the fjord from Oslo but most of the other days it was too cool and or/windy but we're sure it would be a great cabin to have in the tropics!  It is located right above the Club Fusion and we brought ear plugs just in case but we never needed them.  Either the sound proofing is superior or the other passengers were as tired as us on this port intensive cruise and weren't up late partying (or both)! We had anytime dining that quickly became the best of both worlds:  on our first night in the Michelangelo dining room we were lucky enough to get a table for two without a wait.  We enjoyed the wait staff and the maitre'd and were able to reserve that table for the rest of the cruise - and even vary our dinner time between 7 and 8 pm depending upon our daily tour plans.  The food in the anytime dining room and in the two specialty restaurants (Sabatini's and the Crown Grill) ranged from very good to excellent and the wine lists were fairly extensive and reasonably priced.  The culinary highlight was the Chef's Table - one of the reasons we boarded so early was to sign up immediately.  Twelve passengers were treated (for $75 each) to a tour of the galley with the Executive Chef and the Maitre'd Hotel at the height of the dinner rush where we sampled appetizers and champagne.  We then were seated a table in the Michelangelo dining room that had candles and a beautiful flower arrangement for a multi course meal with wine pairings.  It was wonderful!  The guests got along so well that we just about closed down the dining room.  The ladies received a rose and couples received a Princess cook book as a souvenir. The other on board highlight was the Ultimate Ship's Tour (for $150 each and that also required signing up as soon as we boarded) - a three hour tour that included visits to:  backstage in the Princess Theater, the laundry, the galley, the food storage area, the photo lab, the control room, the medical unit, the print shop, the funnel, and the bridge.  At each stop we met department heads for a short presentation and question and answer period and on the bridge we met the fleet commodore who is spending a couple of months on the Emerald this summer.  The only unforeseen drawback:  we were in the midst of a fog bank while on the bridge so we could just imagine what it looked like on a clear day!  At the end of the tour we had appetizers and champagne on the bridge and on our last day souvenir photos, bathrobes (the thick terry cloth ones), chef's jackets, and Princess tote bags (which we really needed since those robes weren't going to fit in our luggage!) were delivered to our room.  Personnel throughout the ship were friendly and welcoming.  A special treat was having John Lawrence on board as one of three guest lecturers (the others were a historian speaking on Soviet history and a bridge master).  We had used his Baltic Treasures DVD to prepare for the cruise and then attended each of his port lectures which expanded on the material in the DVD (the lectures are also repeated on the TV).  With that guidance (and Rick Steves' Scandinavia guidebook) we were confident in tackling Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, and Oslo on our own.  In Russia we did the two day Complete Tour with Alla Tours and in Gdansk we did the Princess tour that combined the old town of Gdansk with the Roads to Freedom exhibit on Solidarity and recent Polish history.  We highly recommend both tours. This was a fascinating itinerary on a great ship with an outstanding crew.  Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Arrival to Copenhagen - Hilton Airport Hotel: We arrived a day early via continental airlines direct from Newark to Copenhagen. Great flight, arriving early in the morning on Sunday. Checked into the hotel by 8am and were happy to get a ... Read More
Arrival to Copenhagen - Hilton Airport Hotel: We arrived a day early via continental airlines direct from Newark to Copenhagen. Great flight, arriving early in the morning on Sunday. Checked into the hotel by 8am and were happy to get a room so early in the morning! The Hilton Airport hotel is literally a walk through a corridor from the main terminal. Great room! We couldn't hear the planes at all. There is a very convenient train station from the airport terminal area to downtown Copenhagen. We slept till 1pm and then hit the train to downtown, purchasing the 24 hour ticket for the train from the ticket counter. Validated our tickets at the track and did a dry run to the Freeport pier via the train. We took the main train from the Airport to Osterport station and then transferred at Osterport to Track #5 where we took another train to Nordhaven station. When you come out of Nordhaven station you head right and then make another right walking under the tracks, go across the highway, turn left and the pier is on the next right. After this we headed back to Norreport station to start our walking tour at Tivoli. My favorite area to tour was Nyhaven. We took a boat tour from here and enjoyed it! The ride back on the train to the hotel took less than 20 minutes. Embarkation: We slept in on Monday, checked out by 12pm and took the train to Nordhaven station. We had only carry-on luggage so it was easy to walk to the pier. Arriving at the pier at approximately 1pm there was a line for check-in / security which went very quickly. We were on the ship within 20 minutes. The check-in process was easy and efficient! The Ship: The Emerald is such a great ship! We previously sailed on the Star and the Diamond. The Emerald met all expectations, and we enjoyed it so much, mostly because of MUTS (movies under the stars) and a few other features like the International Cafe and the Pizza parlor area. I do understand the Star may now have MUTS though! The Emerald has so many wonderful areas to sit and relax. Although there is no enclosed pool, the Sanctuary area seems great. Horizon court and Caribe Cafe were great places to grab good food whenever you wished. I also enjoyed the hotdog/burger stand and the pizza. Another great feature is complimentary Ice Cream offered beside the pizza stand. The other Passengers and mealtimes: This was the first cruise were I experienced rude and disorganized passengers. The first two days were so bad that I was concerned that I may never take a cruise again. The passengers were pushing us, running into us, stopping in front of us, and racing for the buffet like they have never eaten before. Either it was a large group of new cruisers or a full moon. By the third day we decided to give up eating breakfast at the buffet and have it at the dining room. This was the best decision! We also started eating dinner at the dining room early around 6pm. No lines, no crowds, great food and good service! Emerald Staff and Favorite Emerald Public Areas: Some of the staff were so outstanding we filled in nomination cards for employee of the month.  One such person was a server/wait person at the pool that offers movies under the stars. His name is Erik from Mexico. Very friendly, loved his job, and made it such a fun place to be! You'll enjoy being served by him late at night while watching the movies. He offers popcorn, cookies and milk, pizza, etc. Great server, great times watching those movies at night under the blankets! Other areas that are nice to hang out in are the sushi bar across from the international cafe and the Adajio bar across from Sabitini's. Entertainment: The best show was the comedian show. The other shows were just ok. Although some passengers seemed to love the shows, I found them less fun than MUTS. It's all dependent on your taste. But I just loved hanging out people watching with a nice drink J there's more than enough to do even if you don't go to the shows. Ports of call: Stockholm - 10am arrival.  The buffets were packed with people (this was only day 2 so we had faced the hords of people I talked about earlier). Off the ship by 10:15am. Taxi's are very costly (min. $40 each way). We opted for the Shuttle bus which cost $11 return. You pay cash on the bus. We did wait a while for the shuttles to come, but it had us downtown within 20 minutes. The bus left at 11am and we arrived downtown by 11:20am. There is just so much to see in Stockholm, and so little time, but it's such a beautiful city!! We walked the streets near the castle and town square and then took a ferry over to Vasa Museum. Went back to castle area and then walked down to city hall -very nice views at city hall!! By 3:15 we headed back to the shuttle (last shuttle at 4pm). There were long lines for the shuttle but we were on a bus by 4pm and at the pier by 4:20pm in time for some last minute shopping at the pier! Nice souvenirs at the pier! Helsinki - this was the first day we tried the dining room as we had enough of the crowds at the buffet in the morning. Went for breakfast at 8:40am (dining room closes at 9am).  Off ship by 10am and got in line for the shuttle which was to start at 10:30am. Shuttle was efficient and dropped us off close to downtown! Walked to the rock church and then downtown. The Uspensky Cathedral was beautiful! Went back to the ship early and had a nice dinner at the dining room that night. St. Petersburg - we opted for a private tour with Anastasia tours. Our tour was to start at 10am. The ship arrived at 5am and people were up at 4am to have breakfast in the buffet. We slept in and had breakfast at 8:30am. Those with 8am tours were still in line for immigration at 9:30am. We were some of the last passengers off the ship. Got in line by 9:45 am and met the tour guide on the other side of immigration by 10:20am. Our private guide took us to Peterhoff, then took a hydrofoil boat ride to the downtown area. Our driver met us and we went to St. Isaacs Cathedral, Savior of the Spilt Blood, Nvesky Prospect and Kazan Kathedral. Back onboard by 6pm and had a nice early dinner by 6:30pm. Day 2 went to Hermitage then back to ship by 3pm. Tallin - my favorite port!! So little time though since the ship arrived at 7am but we waited for the crowds to get off the ship before having breakfast in the dining room at 7:30am. We were off the ship by 9am, and walked downtown (aprox. 30 mins walk). Gorgeous city! The shopping at the pier is the best shopping! Great deals and great hand made items! Gdansk - purchased "Gdansk on your own" tour from princess. Bus dropped us off by 10:40am and took us back around 3:30pm. Nice town, but not as pretty as Tallin. Nice relaxing day, and enjoyed our time. Oslo - great city! We disembarked early with prior permission from princess. We stayed at Thon Opera hotel. Dropped off our bags then walked back to see the ship at the pier and saw the fortress at the pier. The ship docks at an ideal location! Walked around the pier, saw the many beautiful shops and then took the tram to the statues! What a great time! Overall: Loved the ship, love princess and will definitely sail again!! Wished we were only in St. Petersburg for 1 day and had more time in Stockholm, Tallin and Oslo. We thank all the staff on the Emerald for such a great time! Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Emerald Princess June 15-25 2009.  Weather started "early spring" and ended "early summer".  We used hop-on/hop-off (HOHO) buses in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Tallinn, walked in Oslo, DenRus in St. Petersburg and a ... Read More
Emerald Princess June 15-25 2009.  Weather started "early spring" and ended "early summer".  We used hop-on/hop-off (HOHO) buses in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Tallinn, walked in Oslo, DenRus in St. Petersburg and a taxi driver/private tour in Gdynia/Stopot/Gdansk.  Emerald Princess dinner food is fabulous.  The seafood is kept truly fresh - the executive chef told us that they "blast chill" the food when it arrives on board.  Evening ship entertainment not for us.  The Las Vegas style shows have the performers emoting; the comedian had his moments; the hypotist and the juggler struggled; the string quartet played VERY light classical.Examples of the excellent food: truly fresh Alaska king crab, shrimp and scallops; Beef Wellington and Fettucini Alfredo as if it was from the origins; bisque and cold soups that definitely took time to makeWe spent 2 days in Copenhagen before the cruise.  Restaurants charge USD 6.00 for coffee, orange juice, water, but the shopping for clothing was great - high quality and value.   Emerald Princess is a quieter, spacious ship.  They don't have as much blaring commercials and dinner time is quieter.Our children (ages 16 and 18) immediately made 6 close friends and were consumed with the Teen Center.Copenhagen pier can be reached by a 7-minute walk to Nordhavn train/metro station with 2 stops to Copenhagen central station, and then 3 stops to the airport. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
After cruising the Baltic on the Emerald, I could not help but wonder what has happened to Princess. What used to be an innovator and absolute industry leader has no doubt been shaken by the current economic situation. Princess, however ... Read More
After cruising the Baltic on the Emerald, I could not help but wonder what has happened to Princess. What used to be an innovator and absolute industry leader has no doubt been shaken by the current economic situation. Princess, however has taken completely the wrong approach to try and weather the storm. Slashing prices also means slashing quality of product and experience.  Our June sailing was completely full. So full, we had difficulty changing staterooms after our travel agent booked us into a room at the back of the ship. DO NOT BOOK A ROOM NEAR THE AFT! We lasted one long, sleepless night as the roar of the engines and very strong vibration throughout the cabin rattled our nerves. Thankfully (for us), someone missed the boat and we were told after almost nine hours of 'negotiations' with Passenger Services that there happened to be only one other cabin available. This was located mid-ship on Aloha deck. We could still feel a strong vibration (as everywhere on the ship), but it overall was a better located cabin. The Balcony Staterooms, are, however, poorly designed and extremely uninspired in design. The bathroom is the smallest we've ever seen. The beds were not great but the foam-chip pillows were even worse. The only thing you'll have enough room for is your clothing, as there is a spacious open closet area adjacent to the bathroom. Balconies are also tiny. Do yourself a favor and book at least a Mini Suite if you want any level of comfort in your room. Ours was so tight, we had to sit facing opposite directions to eat breakfast. We had major problems with the food. The nicest thing I can say is that most of it is edible. The assigned-time Dining Room is perhaps a bit better than the "anytime Dining" option, which we heard many complaints about. Food throughout is of very low quality. Especially awful were both the Specialty restaurants, both of which charge a cover fee. Sabatini's is just okay, and we were both very ill the day after dining here. The affair drags on and on, with tiny portions of so-so food coming to your table much too slowly. Crown Grill is a complete joke. Our very odd waiter went on describing how each delicious course would be carefully prepared just for us....how innovative for a steak house!!! Our meal was indescribably ordinary.....the kitchen cannot even bake a potato properly, let alone grill a decent steak. When servers asked how the meal was, I told them it was average and their jaws dropped in amazement. To make up for it, they brought over huge martini glasses filled to the brim with the cheapest Limoncello possible. Desserts were dreadful, here and everywhere. The safest bet is to stick with the buffet, where at least you can pick and choose and are bound to find something you like (menus are the same throughout the entire ship except for the Specialty places). We found the itinerary to be much too busy and intensive. If you can, pick a different ship which offers a 12 to 14 day cruise. We had neither time to enjoy the ports nor the ship, and were up 6 days in a row at 5 a.m., cramming down an average Continental Breakfast in the room while scurrying around trying to get ready for 7 a.m. tours. We were told by several Tour Operators that Princess just does not allow time to properly see the various sights. In St. Petersburg, for example, we were very late coming back to the ship from our morning tour of Peterhof Palace (which we hurried through). Our afternoon tour to the Hermitage allowed us exactly ONE HOUR in the museum (a 4 hour excursion).  Don't even get me started about the chaos and disorganization of meeting for tours on the ship. It was an utter disaster, and woefully understaffed for the throngs trying to cram into a much-too-small meeting venue. The Emerald itself is not a pretty ship. In fact, we thought it looked much older than it is. The decor is cheap and somewhat tacky, and the art is inexcusable (including the embarrassingly awful stuff up for auction). It also rides like an old tug, especially at higher speed. The shimmy and above-mentioned ever-present vibration made us think there is really something wrong with the propulsion system. The good news is that the crew tried VERY hard to make us happy, and we liked the service very much. We also loved the ports, but pretty much every ship in the area covers them. We decided that if this is the best Princess can do, we will not be sailing with them in the future. Our advice is to spend a bit more, and cruise on a smaller ship. The Emerald is not up to snuff. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
This was our ninth cruise; 4th in Europe and 3rd on Princess.  Other Princess cruises were on the Grand and Crown. Travel To Port of Embarkation: SFO to Copenhagen with a connection in Dulles.  Flew economy on United/SAS. Both have no ... Read More
This was our ninth cruise; 4th in Europe and 3rd on Princess.  Other Princess cruises were on the Grand and Crown. Travel To Port of Embarkation: SFO to Copenhagen with a connection in Dulles.  Flew economy on United/SAS. Both have no leg room (I'm 6'4" - wish JetBlue or Southwest flew international routes!).  Had a 1 hr 15 min connect time in Dulles which turned out to not be a problem at all.  In Copenhagen, one of our bags did not show up.  One of the two bags remaining on the carosel looked similar to ours hmm.  We called the number on the tag and got in touch with the husband (in California) whose wife was traveling to visit her mother outside of Copenhagen. He contacted here and sure enough, she had taken our bag by mistake.  Unfortunately, she was already on a train heading out of Copenhagen. Even though we had not purchased a transfer the Princess rep at the airport offered to assist and worked with the SAS folks to arrange for our wayward bag to catch up with us.  The bag was eventually delivered to the ship prior to sailing.  The help given by the Princess and SAS folks is very much appreciated.  Hotel Info: Stayed in room is small relative to US standards.  Bathroom however is large and stylish.   Staff is very friendly and helpful.  The Square seemed to be popular with pre & post cruise passengers.  Location is one block from Tivoli and Stroget.  I would not hesitate to recommend this hotel.Stateroom: We travel on a budget and had an inside cabin on deck 10.  Room was clean and included a mini fridge.  Closet/storage space was ample for the two of us.   As the comedian said during one of the shows, with almost 20 hours of daylight, an inside cabin might not be so bad.  Actually, with the route taken, I'm sure a balcony would be enjoyable.   Ship Info:  This is a very large ship with 3,000+ passengers.  However, it never seemed that crowded.  I spent alot of time reading on deck 15 and most times it did not seem crowded.  There are plenty of places to go if you want to be by yourself.  Ship is well maintained.  The public areas on decks 5, 6, & 7, as well as the dining rooms are very impressively decorated.   Dining:  Food in the main dining room and horizon court/caribe is very good.  Don't expect it to be like a four-star restaurant, as you will be disappointed.  However, while not "four-star" it is very good.  Personally, I found the main dining room menus to be disappointing overall.  As a result we skipped it several nights and went to the buffet instead.  Both have good variety. We did not use any of the specialty dining venues.  Activities:  When on board I prefer to relax and read so did not participate in many activities.  However, the days were full of the standard compliment of things to do if that is what you like.   Service:  Outstanding in my opinion.  See comments under "travel to port" above.  Room steward, MDR staff, and staff at the  buffet were friendly and willing to lend a hand.  Guest services was friendly and helpful in response to our questions.   Entertainment:  I'm not a big fan of the ship's big production shows.  The two I went to were standard fare and entertaining if that is what you like.  I enjoyed the comedian and especially the crew talent show (wish there had been more actual crew and less cruise director staff).  Summary:  Ports of call almost every day which is what we look for.  Overall, a very good experience.    Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Arrival  After finding a super deal online for Iceland Air, we decided to give them a try.  The times were convenient with short layovers.  We knew we would not get a meal on the plane but we took snacks with us. It worked out great. ... Read More
Arrival  After finding a super deal online for Iceland Air, we decided to give them a try.  The times were convenient with short layovers.  We knew we would not get a meal on the plane but we took snacks with us. It worked out great. We flew from Toronto to Copenhagen (via Reykjavik) a day early.  We took the train from the airport to the central train station and then walked to our hotel.    We were very pleased with our room at Hotel 27 (we had booked a larger one with 2 beds).  Although it was on the front, there was a bit of noise but it didn't bother us even though we had the windows open. The hotel is really convenient to most of the sights. The included breakfast and "light supper" were more than adequate.   Embarkation was very quick and efficient especially since we had been upgraded to a suite a few days before we left.  We were very anxious to see our suite (L106 -Guadeloupe Suite) and we were not disappointed. We did enjoy all the perks - especially the free Internet and laundry.  Our room steward Roberto was extremely attentive.   Ship Observations: We had opted for Anytime Dining which worked quite well for us. There was never a wait if you were willing to share a table. You did wait 15 minutes if you wanted a table for 2.  Several large groups had reservations for 8 p.m.  We did enjoy the Crown Grill one evening.  It was not busy the night we went. Princess gives you a Cruise Planner which gives you an overall view of what is happening throughout the cruise, entertainment wise.  The shows are repeated on different nights. Overall, we had great weather. There were people in the pools and hot tubs. Watching Movies Under the Stars, wrapped up in blankets and enjoying popcorn and pizza, was a fun time. We had our Netbook in the room but the reception at the front of the ship was not the best.  We often just went down to the Internet Cafe and used the ship's computers. John Lawrence's talks were very informative.  Although they are repeated on TV, you missed some of the funny anecdotes John shared in person. His DVDs were available on board but you can also order them online.  John also provided a commentary as we cruised through the archipelago leading to Stockholm.    Ports: In Stockholm we did the HOHO boat.  We caught the first boat of the day right near the ship was docked.  It went right to the Vasa museum.  The story of this 17th century warship and its recovery is fascinating.  We then caught the HOHO boat again and went to the palace and downtown area.   We got a late start in Helsinki and took the shuttle to the down area.  After walking through the Esplanade we got the 3T tram and took it out to the Rock Church which was also fascinating.  Unfortunately, we just missed hearing the Finnish National symphony rehearsing for a concert.  Then it was back on the tram to see the downtown sights.   Next stop was St. Petersburg.   Princess directed the "independent tours" to the dining room where we got a number and after a little wait made our way to the gangway. We had booked with Denrus and were not disappointed.  As soon as we cleared customs, a Denrus rep took us to the bus. Our group had 21 people (one gal got sick just after we started and someone from Denrus took her back to the ship.  She was able to join us for the second day).  Our guide Maria had studied art, history and archeology and was very knowledgeable.  We saw all the sights (including the fountains at Peterhof) and were amazed at the splendour of the palaces. The art in the Hermitage was spectacular.  We got some bargain souvenirs near St. Isaac's Church and at the market by the Church on Spilled Blood. Individual headsets let us hear what Maria was saying even if you weren't right next to her. Great weather added to our enjoyment of St. Petersburg. I found postcards were 3 for $1 at the little shops at the Immigration Building. The first evening, Princess brought the Troika Dancers aboard for those of us who had not booked an evening excursion.  The theatre was packed and the show was repeated on TV.   Tallinn was our next stop.  You could walk into town but we opted for the shuttle.  There were 5 ships in Tallinn and  the residents were preparing for a festival so it was very busy (and warm).  We followed Rick Steeves's guide and just wandered around, enjoying the ambience of this quaint city.  There was a little market  near the ship so if you missed getting souvenirs in town , you could get some there. After we got back to the ship, we watched (we could see the bridge from our balcony) 3 ship's officers looking for 4 people who had not returned to the ship.   We did Easy Gdansk through the ship. I had no idea what to expect and this city was a surprise for me.  The architecture and St. Mary's Church were quite interesting. We had a quick stop at the Solidarity Square and the seaside resort town of Sopot,  another picturesque place, before returning to the ship.   In Oslo we did another ship's tour, visiting Vigeland Park (spectacular) with all the statues and the folk museum which is like a Norwegian Pioneer Village. Norway is very expensive and although  the Duty Free Shops took Euros and US dollars, change was given in Norwegian Kroner.  Unfortunately, this is a very short day, with the ship leaving at  2 p.m.  John Lawrence gave another commentary as we left Oslo and cruised down the fiord.  I was on the "secret" deck at the front of the ship right by our cabin and it was a great place to shoot photos.   Disembarkation This process went very smoothly. I had changed our disembarkation time from 6:30 a.m to 9 a.m since we were not catching a flight. We waited in Club Fusion until our colour was called.  After leaving the ship and collecting our luggage we got in the taxi line.  There were actually 2 lines for taxis -one for regular taxis and one for those needing larger ones or vans.  Our wait was less than 5 minutes.   Copenhagen We went back to Hotel 27 for 2 more nights.  We did the HOHO bus, a canal tour and visited the Tivoli Gardens.  We also went to the Icebar which was very touristy but enjoyable.  We found a restaurant just around the corner from the hotel and very close to the HOHO stop by the City Hall.  It is called Ad Libitum. The concept is you "rent" a table for 1hour (59 DKK at lunch, extra hour 40DKK) and you can eat from the buffet (chicken, fish, pasta, salads, vegetables, breads) for the hour. The food was very fresh and tasty. We quite enjoyed it!   Conclusion This is a terrific itinerary. Do your homework and decide/plan what you want to see and do. Just be sure to take comfortable shoes.  There's lots of walking!   Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We flew from Atlanta to Chicago then off to Copenhagen with SAS arriving early afternoon.  We were picked up at the airport and bused to the ship with easy check in at the terminal.  Our trip left Copenhagen on May 26th and returned on ... Read More
We flew from Atlanta to Chicago then off to Copenhagen with SAS arriving early afternoon.  We were picked up at the airport and bused to the ship with easy check in at the terminal.  Our trip left Copenhagen on May 26th and returned on June 5th and every port we visited, we brought along great sunny weather.A few days before my husband and I left on our trip, Princess sent us an e-mail informing us that we had been selected  for an upgrade from a balcony room to a mini suite which blew our minds  We couldn't believe our luck and good fortune.The Emerald was very large and it always seemed we were on the wrong end of the ship and had a long hike to the other end but it was good exercise.I can't say enough about Princess.  They couldn't do enough for us and nothing was impossible and our room stewart was outstanding.  Since my husband and I don't care for eating at a certain time every day, we selected anytime dining which turned out to be great.  The two restaurants were wonderful as was the buffet and we were very pleased with the food and the presentations.Thank you Princess - this was a trip of a life time Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We were a group of 3 (2 boomers and 1 Gen Y) well-seasoned travellers.  As far as cruising goes, this is our second one with Princess. TRANSFER & EMBARKATION We flew from Toronto to Copenhagen through London, and upon arrival at ... Read More
We were a group of 3 (2 boomers and 1 Gen Y) well-seasoned travellers.  As far as cruising goes, this is our second one with Princess. TRANSFER & EMBARKATION We flew from Toronto to Copenhagen through London, and upon arrival at Copenhagen airport, there were only 2 kiosks open at Passport Control.  Once we retrieved our luggage, we were met by several Princess reps.  Transport to the dock and the embarkation process were smooth, and our luggage arrived at our mini-suite intact within an hour after we set foot into the room. Our mini-suite was the same size and setup as the one we had on the Golden Princess, except that the beds were more comfortable, the carpets were brighter and cleaner, and we had LCD tvs.  Our room steward, Ionel, was polite and provided very good service up until we gave him our extra tips the day before disembarkation.   On the morning of disembarkation when we asked him a question, we noted a tone of sarcasm and impatience in his response. EMERALD PRINCESS This ship compared to Golden Princess (pre-renovation) is newer, brighter, and cleaner, but MUCH more crowded (1,000 more passengers).  It generally felt crowded in the Atrium, the buffet areas (more to come), and at the stairways heading to the gangway dor shore excursions. Speaking of buffet areas, Horizon Food Court and Cafe Caribe were absolute nightmares!  Throughout our 10-day trip, there was only one morning where we were able to find a table for breakfast, and we tried going there at different hours ranging from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.  We were constantly walking with our trays bumping into people with the same purpose, while our food turned totally cold.  The same goes for lunch, although the weather permitted us to sit outside, where there were a few more tables available.  As far as service goes in these buffets areas, it appeared that a number of servers did not want to be there, and when we asked for lemonade, we were given excuses like "we are not supposed to serve it out here".  The food itself was ok, and there was a wide variety. The staff at the Trident Grill (where hot dogs and burgers were served) were unfriendly at best, and they practically threw the plate at you.  Would it hurt them to smile?! We wanted to try the pizza after we read a lot of good reviews about it, but found it disappointing - it was dripping with oil, and, in our opinion, there was way too much salt. We really enjoyed our specialty coffees at the International Cafe.  The gentleman that always served us did a superb job with our orders, and was very pleasant and courteous.  Another lady server, however, Rowena, was extremely rude and gave another customer a really hard time...thank goodness we never had to go to her for service! Our experience in the dining room was superb!  We did anytime dining, and our waiters, Antonio, Joszef, and Dame, were absolutely amazing in that it seemed they could not do enough for us, and were practically waiting on us hand and foot.  The gentlemen made sure we had enough food to eat, offered more variety if we wanted, and made recommendations as to what to pick out of the many choices.  They were entertaining as well, always making us laugh and making our dining experience very relaxing and enjoyable.  We cannot praise them enough!  Even the people who greet you at the door at the Da Vinci dining room (maitre d and hostess) were extremely helpful and accommodating!  Talk about service with a smile!  They really made you feel welcome. It was nice to have Movies Under the Stars, although it got cold and a bit wet at night for us to enjoy the outdoor theatre; however, blankets were provided. We were appalled at the lineup at the Shore Excursion Desk during Day 1 (at sea) of the cruise.  On that day, most passengers would be inquiring about, planning, booking, or even cancelling/changing any shore excursions, and yet, there were only 2 people stationed at the counter (there was room and computers for at least 2-3 more staff).   Thank goodness we had booked our shore excursions online ahead of time. While Princess seemed to promote booking future cruises for passengers onboard, the availability of staff at the Future Cruise Sales Desk proved otherwise.  Half the time there was nobody there to even answer questions, and when someone was there, she was at the computer with her back to the customers.  The setup was better on the Golden Princess, where the representative was facing the right direction to address the passengers who may appear interested. A NOTE OF CAUTION REGARDING THE PURSER'S DESK: The final statement of onboard expenses for each passenger is not provided until the early hour of the morning of disembarkation.  One word of caution: mistakes are not uncommon in these charges.  We learned from experience to ask for a detailed list a day before the final statement was produced, so that we can go through the details and verify that the charges really belonged to us.  As an example, we were charged for bottles of wine and beer in a dining room that we never dined at.  Bear in mind that these mistakes need to be corrected before passengers leave the ship, and you can imagine the line up!  Again, as with other counters, staff did not seem to be assigned according to need.  We noticed that during the last 2 days of the cruise, there were only 3 representatives at the Purser's Desk while the line up was a mile long.  We decided to wait until after midnight thinking that it may be better, only to find 2 people working, and we had to wait 90 minutes to be served.  Even if we chose to disregard the wrong charges, we had to line up at the Purser's Desk anyway because, for some unknown reason, we did not get our disembarkation luggage tags.  During peak hours on the last 2 days, there were still only 3-4 reps working.  From the number of cruises that Princess runs, do they not realize what peak hours are for each type of activity?!  On the 3rd day of the cruise, we noticed there were 6 people at the Purser's desk twiddling their thumbs.  We cannot comment on any of the nightly entertainment, as we were too tired from the shore excursions.  Be sure to use the days at sea to rest up, as this is a port-intensive cruise! DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation process and the transfer to the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen were well organized, fast, and smooth.  The Princess reps at the hotel were informative and helpful. TIP: Do not miss John Lawrence's lectures on each port in the Princess Theatre (if you miss the live lecture, you can watch it on your tv).  A lot of interesting information about the port, its history, and the currency were given.  We really enjoyed each port, and our favourite port was Tallinn (Estonia) - the beauty of the city was beyond our expectations.  We also lucked out with the weather, except for a little drizzle in Stockholm and the last day in Copenhagen.  At St. Petersburg, we were docked at the new terminal, which made the drive to the city center a lot shorter.  We took shore excursions at each port and booked a private tour through Princess for St. Petersburg.  The car for the private tour was a Mercedes sedan, but it was pretty crowded for 3 adults in the back.  We highly recommend going to an amber factory/exhibit in Gdansk, if you are at all interested in shopping for genuine jewellery at a reasonable price.  During our one-night stay over in Copenhagen, we booked a tour through the hotel where we visited Amalienborg Palace and the Little Mermaid. The entire cruise experience was good overall, and we may most probably choose to go with Princess again.  Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Emerald Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.5 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.7
Enrichment 4.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.0

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