EMERALD PRINCESS BALTIC CRUISE 15TH - 25TH MAY 2009
Continuing on from the Transatlantic cruise, in Copenhagen we hopped on the ships shuttle into the city, unfortunately it was a very overcast day and rained sporadically throughout, but ... Read More
EMERALD PRINCESS BALTIC CRUISE 15TH - 25TH MAY 2009
Continuing on from the Transatlantic cruise, in Copenhagen we hopped on the ships shuttle into the city, unfortunately it was a very overcast day and rained sporadically throughout, but we managed to see most of the sights without getting too wet. The dock there is quite far away from anything really. We had hoped that we could walk into the city but that wasn't to be. There were over 600 of us continuing on this cruise so it was nice to recognise faces in amongst all the 'strangers'.
We had expected new menus for this portion of the cruise but they were the same as the previous cruise, most of the entertainment and movies was the same as well, they did add Kevin Hughes a very funny comedian to the mix however and we attended two of his 5 shows. We worked out though that Steven Rawlings a comedy juggler, a very funny man was on for no less than 8 days out of our 27 days.
We had done our homework thoroughly for this cruise and had purchased not only travel books but also a DVD that John Lawrence has available, this proved invaluable and I would urge anyone taking a baltic cruise to buy it. It was available on board but we heard many folk wishing that they had known about it before they left home. He also continued on this cruise and I believe will be on for the entire season, he was always available for questions and we thoroughly enjoyed talking to him - an absolute gentleman.
We were lucky with the weather as well, it was pretty cold but the rain held off mostly everywhere except Stockholm. Of course St Petersburg was the highlight and we were lucky in being in a brand new dock (or so they told us) where the immigration was faster. I wouldn't like to be in the old one as they seemed to take an age inspecting all our papers. Some people had their photocopy of their passport returned to them and some didn't, but everyone had to fill in a landing form and these were duly inspected along with the tour ticket and actual passport. We were given dire warnings about Not losing the passport and to beware of pickpockets, but to my knowledge all went smoothly. We had booked with Denrus and they were there waiting when we emerged from the terminal building, getting off the ship was a breeze, despite all the warnings that we had been given, no-one tried to stop us and we walked off among the first group. We did hear that several independent people were turned away by the immigration people, not by the ship, so it would appear that the immigration are the problem Not Princess. Everything was fantastic and completely went to our requested route.We had hoped to pick up some 'bargain' souvenirs while out and about but strangely enough and as cheerfully admitted by our guide alot of the souvenirs are actually made in China, so we were quite content to buy a lovely laquer box on board and know that it was actually made in Russia. Our one disappointment here was that the evening tour to the Hermitage was cancelled due to lack of bookings, if we ever come back we would like to book that privately as well if possible. We were late leaving the dock on the second day as many tour busses were late back to the ship. The traffic in the city is quite unbelievable.
Tallinn was a lovely surprise, pity we didn't have longer there. It's very easy to walk into the lower town and then the upper town, we were lucky again in that when we got to the Russian church around 9.15 they were having a service and we stopped to listen to the lovely singing.
Gdansk was interesting we opted to go in on the local train and were lucky enough to run into John Lawrence and his wife who were going the same route, there was quite a crowd and he very patiently helped us all to buy the tickets and point us in the right direction. We managed to see all that we wanted here and even climbed to the top a tower in the archaelogical museum, just a mere 142 steps with a near ladder at the end, but got beautiful views over the city. We got off the train on the way back at Sopot the seaside town and had a quick look round there, it was lovely, very quaint, wish that we had been able to spend a little longer but had to get back to the train. This of course is the downside to going independently, the little niggle at the back of your mind that something might happen on the way back and you miss the ship.
Then we were in Oslo again and once again it was fantastic weather, this time we visited the Vigeland Park and the statues before continuing over to the museums.
Disembarkation was a bit chaotic, we were over an hour late arriving in Copenhagen and people were getting upset that they might miss the early flights, no reason was given for the late arrival, so I guess that is a good lesson not to book early flights.
We had a fantastic time overall, the only negatives was really the blandness and repetitiveness of the food. The total lack of news programs on the TV which was really strange, perhaps it's all a part of the "escape completely" program. The positives were of course the itinerary where else could you visit so many countries in such a short time without having to pack and unpack, the enthusiasm of the Cruise Director Neil Chandler and his staff, the fantastic port lectures given by John Lawrence, and the general friendliness of most of the staff on board (the only ones that seemed to have 'attitude' were the photographers who were quite pushy).
Just a note for those who seem to be having trouble with the immigration arrangements at St Petersburg, the Russians are the ones who decide on the number of booths that are allocated to Princess tours and independents and they seem to be very fair, one quarter of the booths open are for independents and that seems to tie in with the number of passengers doing their own thing. If you want to see trouble in getting through the immigration then just get behind a Russian Crew member, they were practically given the 'third degree'. Everything works well and I would certainly not endorse the advice given by Guidediva in a recent post to ignore everything that the cruise line says.
If Princess management read this I would urge them to use more staff to reduce the lines that are everywhere. Only two people were ever working at the tour office desk and the lines were always long, same at the shuttle busses, only one person selling tickets, took ages to get on board. There must be a faster way to do these things. Read Less