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10 Copenhagen to Europe - Black Sea Cruise Reviews

This was our second cruise with Silversea and we wouldn't have thought they could improve on perfection but they did! Being onboard was like being in a cocoon where our every need was catered to. It was almost as though our butler ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Silversea and we wouldn't have thought they could improve on perfection but they did! Being onboard was like being in a cocoon where our every need was catered to. It was almost as though our butler and the food and beverage staff anticipated our wish and had it taken care of before we could even ask. As we walked down the hall into the bar, Oliver the bartender would have our drinks waiting for us. The shore excursions were fantastic with small groups and knowledgeable guides. We were impressed with the quality of the nightly entertainment. The singers were exceptional and entertained us with opera, broadway and oldies. Vicki, our cruise director, with her dry sense of humor and buoyant personality keep us in stitches the entire time. Our suite was spacious and the twice daily service was meticulous. The variety of dining options and the caliber of the food made each dinner a special occasion. Our only disappointment is we could never get into the Le Champagne, the Relais & Chateaux speciality restaurant. I recommend guests book this restaurant in advance of embarking. My husband and I were celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary and this cruise far exceeded our expectations. The small size of the ship and the friendliness of the other guests and staff made it a trip of a lifetime! Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
This was the best cruise I've ever been on. I was iffy about the teen club, Entourage (was 17, turned 18), but it ended up being one of the main reasons I had such a good time. All the friends I met there were amazing and we had so ... Read More
This was the best cruise I've ever been on. I was iffy about the teen club, Entourage (was 17, turned 18), but it ended up being one of the main reasons I had such a good time. All the friends I met there were amazing and we had so much fun in the room playing fooseball, air hockey, wii, and dancing around. We also saw a show which I absolutely loved. All the entertainers were really good singers and dancers and I was never bored (which was a main concern of mine). The food isn't the greatest, but there are some really amazing dishes. The cakes and steaks are a bit dry. Actually, none of the desserts are good, but I loved all the carb based dishes like pasta, and potato soups. There's plenty to do: work out at the gym, get a massage at the spa, lounge around at the pool, watch shows, and participate in random activities around the ship that happen at all times. I loved the places we visited, but be careful of which tours you book. For example, the Best of Berlin was great, but in Russia, we visited 3 churches in a row which was boring for anyone my age. Hop on Hop off works great for small cities like Helsinki, but not for big ones like Stockholm, in which I spent an hour every time waiting for a bus to come by. Some excursions are also really fun, like the icebar. When you come back on the ship, staff offer you hot towels and cool drinks as you wait to embark. The wait isn't too long either. The staff is AMAZING. Everyone is so nice and always ready to help you. I knew some of the staff by name and they knew me. My friends and I even talked to one of the staff about drama and stuff going on around the ship. When I sprained my ankle in soccer, a staff member made sure that I was okay and could walk fine and even jokingly offered me a wheelchair. The cruise is very considerate as well. My room got flooded, so they moved us to a new one immediately (a bigger one too) and gave us apology chocolates. I even got a cupcake and note for my birthday. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We really enjoyed this cruise. The ports were the main reason we decided to book this cruise, and we really were happy with the places we got to visit. We were in each port just long enough to decide if we wanted to return for a longer ... Read More
We really enjoyed this cruise. The ports were the main reason we decided to book this cruise, and we really were happy with the places we got to visit. We were in each port just long enough to decide if we wanted to return for a longer visit...or not. We had three rooms, and our traveling group ranged in age from 14 to 70. The cabins were nice, clean and well laid out. The TV system will eventually be fantastic for moments of downtime in the cabin. However, it still is working out some technical kinks. In each of our rooms the televisions "froze" multiple times while on board, and a technician had to come to reset them. Getting on and off the ship was a breeze. Dinners were good, but a bit slow in delivery...waiters seem to have too many tables. The shows were all entertaining, and the continuous entertainment in the open lobby area was very nice. The cruise staff was somewhat limited in offerings. There weather was cool, not cold, but cool enough that they never tried to do anything on the pool deck. We used SPB in Berlin and St. Petersburg. Hop On Hop off in Oslo...be sure to go to the ski jump. We missed Helsinki because it was too windy to dock. In Stockholm we rode the train to town...follow the blue line...it couldn't be simpler! Stockholm was a great stop, as was Tallinn. In Tallinn we did a bike tour...but Tallinn is not really a biking town, so I don't recommend it. Copenhagen however was the perfect town to go an organized bike tour! We also did a Segway tour in Copenhagen...be sure to take advantage of this! Great way to see a lot of the city, in a limited amount of time. Before going to Estonia, be sure to watch "The Singing Revolution." Enjoy your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Holland America gets it right with excellent service and superb food. I was hard pressed to find fault with anything on board ship, so my review centers around the ports….all of which were excellent. It was a great itinerary that gave ... Read More
Holland America gets it right with excellent service and superb food. I was hard pressed to find fault with anything on board ship, so my review centers around the ports….all of which were excellent. It was a great itinerary that gave you a good taste of Northern Europe and the Baltic. In many ports we had some difficulty with our American credit cards that don’t have a chip or a PIN. Debit cards seemed to work fine. FLAM, Norway: Despite the fact that the Eurodam was the only ship in port that day tickets were sold out as early as 8:15 AM for the famous Flam Railway. Fortunately, after many hours online, I found a way to purchase tickets for my family of 4 in advance. Our plan was to ride up and bike down. I also booked the bikes (at the top in Myrdal). If you are planning on biking down to Flåm and only going one way by train, it is possible to purchase tickets at the national state railways website, https://www.nsb.no/en/. The earliest departure is 8.35 and another at 9.45 AM. The website www.visitflam.com is only for booking round trips. It is imperative that you purchase your tickets advance, as this excursion is really the only game in town and will sell out quickly. The ticket office opens at 8.00 in the morning. We purchased tickets for the 8:30 AM train and the ship arrived around 7 AM. Flam was the most picturesque port I had ever seen. A village of about 450, it was postcard perfect in every way. The ship docks at the base of Flam with a supermarket, a fantastic sweater/souvenir store which has a HUGE selection of beautiful Norwegian sweaters (reasonably priced given the high quality), restaurants and of course the Flam Railway station. Everything is right there, no more than a 5 min walk. We got to the train station by 8 AM (30 minutes before the train was scheduled to leave) and there was already a very long line of people trying to purchase tickets. The pre-paid ticket line is the farthest over to the right and still we had to wait about 30 minutes. By 8 AM all of the tickets had been sold out except for a few one way tickets and of course tickets after the cruise departs. There were a lot of disappointed people. The ride up was beautiful with many stops along the way at small railway stations. One of the last stops before reaching Myrdal, if not the last, was at a mountain hotel for waffles. I thought we’d hit it on the way down, but we never did. Everything I read about it said it was a nice stop, but our bike trail didn’t take us past the hotel. At the top were of course rest rooms, a café and lots of people appropriately dressed for biking (bike pants, winter hats, fleeces, lightweight jackets, etc). They were all congregating at the café...not sure what they were waiting for... perhaps another train. It was probably 55 degrees and breezy. We located our bike rental guy without any difficulty. We are a family of 4 with kids age 11 and 9 and I myself am not that experienced riding on gravel, down steep hills with hair pin turns so we walked our bikes down the first mile. It was steep, but my husband who bikes to work every day could have handled it no problem. The trail was not at all crowded and we were alone most of the time. After the gravel zig zag road, the gentle ride down on a paved path will amaze and entertain you with beautiful waterfalls, rushing rivers, lush, and green mountains. We stopped at a goat cheese farm (Rollarrosa which opened at 11 AM on your right). You can’t miss it as it is the only farm open to the public. We enjoyed a cheese plate and a pancake for $60.00. Get used to the high prices in Norway. The ride down took us about 2 hours with many stops along the way for scenic photos. This was one of our favorite excursions. At the bottom, we dropped our bikes off at the train station by the ship. On our way down we noticed a sign that read “No Cruise Shit!” and another one that could be seen from the ship that read “No Cruise Ship.” When we asked a cruise officer about the signs he stated that Flam is not crazy about cruise ships coming into port and ruining their beautiful natural landscape. The residents are not necessarily in favor of spoiling their natural, scenic landscape for the economic infusion that thousands of cruise passengers bring. After seeing Flam, I can’t say that I blame them, although I think there is a classier way of saying “No Cruise Shit.” My advice for Flam: Avoid the high mark-up that cruise ships charge for the Flam railway and pre purchase your tickets at half the price. Try and get the 8:30 so you are back on the ship for lunch then go back out for some shopping. If you are fit enough, definitely bike down, you won’t regret it and you’ll feel much closer to the beautiful, natural surroundings. STAVANGER, Norway: I can’t tell you the hours and hours I spent researching how to climb Pulpit Rock with little to no success. We finally determined that it would be impossible because we were only in port for 8 hours (9 – 5) and all the sites said you can’t climb it unless you are in port for a minimum of 10 hours. Holland added a Pulpit hike excursion at the last minute and we bit the bullet and signed up. We paid twice as much as what it would cost us if we did it on our own, but time was not on our side. Since we needed every minute, we were the first group off. Everyone was provided an ample box lunch and a bottle of water, but bring extra water. We boarded 2 busses (80 people) and took a 5 minute ride down the street to the ferry terminal. The bus drove on the ferry. After the 30 minute ferry ride, it was another 20 minute drive to the base of Pulpit. Although ages varied, everyone on this excursion was physically fit, and we got quite a lecture on climbing Pulpit from our guide Anna. The hike starts with about 20 minutes in a “forest” up a dirt pathway. Then you begin the 3 mile hike over large rocks/boulders. There are 2 seep sections each about 15 – 20 minutes where you are climbing on rocks set up like a steep staircase. I would say only 5% is “a gentle walk on a wooden path through the meadow.” As you got closer to the top, you were walking on huge rock surfaces. I’m 50 and not an experienced hiker, so I was a bit concerned. Anna was firm about our time constraints. It would take 2 hours up, with only 15 minutes at the top and we must start our descent at 12:15 in order to make it to the bus by 2:15 with a 2:30 departure time. The weather was in the 60’s with chance of rain which worried me because everything that I had read stated that the rocks become slippery when wet. The narrow route up (about as wide as a double sidewalk) is the same route down, so you are constantly in front of and behind lots of people. There are places to stop if you need a break or to take a photo, but in some locations you need to keep going because the path is too narrow. As we began our climb, the group spread out quickly; the quicker people charged ahead. Everyone was dressed property with hiking boots or sneakers, pants, a fleece and/or rain coat. Anna was right, there are 2 steep sections, but surprisingly they are not bad. I don’t have great balance and not crazy about walking on rocks, but there is a rock/stone/boulder path (and in some cases a steep staircase made of large rocks) that has been created for hikers to make it as easy as possible (I have no idea how that was constructed). People are patient with one another and the hike is very enjoyable, although you are constantly looking down to figure out where to set your foot. Remember to stop and take in the unbelievably gorgeous view. About 3⁄4 of the way up, it began to rain, never more than a light drizzle, but enough to wet the rocks. They are not as slippery as I had feared. At the top, the wind is very strong and many of us did not dare go near the edge because of the wind. My kids stood in the crack, where over time, about half of the top of Pulpit will surely fall into the fjord. The top is much smaller than it appears in photos. It is now raining, cold and windy, so we don’t stay long (maybe about 10 minutes). I’m a little concerned that the slippery walk back might require more time, so I head back. No desire to eat lunch in the rain, but 20 minutes later on a huge boulder we stop for a 10 minute lunch once the rain stopped. The last mile, although gradual was difficult because your knees and legs are tired. Your head is down the whole way, looking for the next rock to place your foot. We made it up in 1 hour 40 min (my kids in 1 hour 30 min) and down in the same time. Everyone made it down safely and on the bus heading back to the ship by 2:30. I couldn’t help but wonder what happens if there is an injury. Twisting an ankle would be so easy, it must be a miserable way down. I’m told they do helicopter airlifts for more serious injuries. Thankfully, we never found out. I’m glad Pulpit was in the beginning of the 10 day cruise before the extra 12 pounds. My advice for Stavenger: If you really want to see the fjords, you have to hike Pulpit. Dress appropriately (in layers) and bring a backpack, extra water and wear hiking boots/sneakers...no open toed footwear. The weather is always cloudy with chance of rain, and every day on our cruise it rained for about 30 minutes so be prepared. Stavenger also has a cute town where the ship pulls right in (bars, restaurants, shops, playground, etc). It is worth exploring which we did in the evening, because the ship stayed overnight. KIRKENSTAD, Norway Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of time here because we had to berth in Stavenger overnight to wait out Hurricane Bertha. Instead of leaving at 5 PM we left at 5 AM the next morning and arrived in Kirkenstad at 3:30 PM with a departure time of about 6 PM. We walked around the harbor area, saw the fort and strolled down the shopping streets dedicated to pedestrians. It was a nice town, but we didn’t go to the water park as planned . This location is great for clothes shopping if you have teens. OSLO, Norway Here we opted for the Hop On Hop Off which comes directly to the boat. It was raining (only for about 45 minutes) and than again later for about 30 minutes so the hop on hop off seemed to be a good option. It took us through the downtown streets with lots of shops/office buildings and we got off at the ski jump location where we had to take a train (up a steep hill and through beautiful neighborhoods). We walked about 15 minutes up to the ski jump and museum. We took a ride in the simulator (which I must admit, my husband and I got a little motion sick toward the end). It was basically an enclosed gondola that took you down a simulated slalom ski run and on a ski jump. The visuals are dated, so don’t expect a Disney experience, but it gives you a decent idea of what it is like to travel that fast down a mountain. Inside the ski museum we took an elevator to the top of the ski jump where we got an outdoor panoramic view of Oslo with our cruise ship off in the distance. We walked back down to the train station and rode down to the center of town to pick up our Hop On Hop Of. Next stop was the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Vigeland is a very pretty park that you can do in 30 minutes. Unfortunately, our wait for the Hop On Hop Off to leave Vigeland was about as long. Only time for one more stop and our must see attraction the Kon TIki Museum detailing the adventure of Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition on a balsawood raft from Peru to Polynesia in 1947. Fortunately, we had shown our kids the Kon Tiki documentary so they knew what they were seeing. It was amazing to see it up close and person. Keeping our eye on the clock, back on Hop On Hop Off and back to the ship. My advice for Oslo: Do the Hop On Hop Off if you want to get a quick bird’s eye view of the city. Don’t miss the Kon Tiki museum, but make sure you see the award winning documentary before going as they only show it once a day in the museum. You’ll have a much deeper appreciation for the men and their voyage after seeing the Kon Tiki in person. The sculpture park was lovely, but the wait for hop on hop off was a drag....maybe it was just bad timing on our part. Avoid the ski jump if you are afraid of heights or can’t walk up steep hills as the walk from the train station to the ski jump museum is up hill about 15 minutes. GOTHENBERG, Sweden We docked a bit further away next to the Volvo museum and enjoyed a complimentary shuttle into the center of town. We gave the kids a break today and took them to Leisberg...and large amusement park. Once off the complimentary shuttle we figured out how to take the train/trolley 10 minutes to the amusement park. We arrived at Leisberg at 10 AM and they don’t open to the public until 11 AM so we waited. We purchased an all-day pass for the kids and there were some very good rides in the park. The park is quite pretty with floral landscape. It reminded me of a little Disney World. My son and husband LOVED the wooden rollercoaster which was quite good. Other rides were very good as well and the kids enjoyed the park. Back on the train/trolley to catch the complimentary shuttle by 3 PM and on the ship at 3:30 for departure at 4:30. My advice for Gothenburg: If you are going to Leisberg, take your time and get there when the park opens at 11 AM. It is a good family take-in and a nice break from the museums and other adult cultural stops you’ll force the kids to suffer through. COPENHAGEN, Denmark Here again, we decided to do the Hop On Hop Off to get a bird’s eye view of what we wanted to come back to at the end of our cruise for our overnight layover. Our initial intent was to ride the whole tour without getting off, but we couldn’t resist Stroget, the world’s longest pedestrian street full of shops and restaurants which then led us to the famous and often photographed Nyhaven. It is truly a picturesque street of cafes/bars along the canal. We found the happy wall where people leave messages on wooden panels that open and close like small doors. From there we walked to Tivoli garden and were surprised that it is entirely walled off and we had to walk around the entire garden in order to find the entrance to pay for admission to the park and rides. We opted to save it for next time since we only had 2 hours left and still had to had to take Hop On Hop Off about 40 minutes to the Little Mermaid stop where we would have to wait up to 45 minutes in order to catch a complimentary shuttle (20 minute ride) back to the boat. In retrospect, we should have done Tivoli and taken a cab back to the boat, but we thought we could finish our Hop On Hop Off tour and get a few more nuggets of information on Copenhagen. TALLINN, Estonia Walt Disney could not have built a more picturesque, cobblestone village. It was so quaint and pretty and well maintained. We docked in Tallinn and walked 20 minutes through some unattractive hints of Soviet occupation before we reached the entrance into the old town next to the church with an observatory tower. We went through the gate of the old city, along the cobble stone streets (hint: wear comfortable walking shoes) passed shops and restaurants. The city was just waking up as it was about 8:30 AM and nothing was open yet. It began to rain and none of us were prepared because we left the ship under blue skies. (Note to self: it rained for a few minutes every day during our 12-day cruise in Northern Europe so take an umbrella or light rain coat everywhere). We took refuge under café umbrellas that were starting to leak when a kind gentleman opened the door to his subterranean restaurant Wana Wiipuri (Pikk 33 street in Tallinn) and invited us in to stay dry. Before we knew it he ushered us (a party of 7) into a private dining room and served us coffee, Coke and water. His name was Heinrick and he was eager to meet us and tell us about his newly opened restaurant. We visited for about 40 minutes and once the rain let up I paid him for the coffee which he never charged us for. We were all touched by his hospitality that we promised to return for lunch later that day. We enjoyed walking the cobble stone streets and looking up at the beautifully maintained buildings from long ago. The city was beginning to come alive, restaurants and shops and cafes had opened, waiters standing outside dressed in clothes of yesteryear speaking with tourists and warmly giving directions and advice on where to go and what to see. Tallinn looked like it was out of a fairytale village that Disney animated artists had created. There was plenty of shopping, especially in the town squares, where vendors had set up an outdoor market. Prices were very reasonable. Woolen hats, mittens, sweaters were plentiful. Wooden souvenirs like kids’ toys, cheese knives, cheese boards, trivets were hand crafted and lots to choose from. Back to Wana Wiipuri for lunch that did not disappoint. Heinrick was happy to see us and saved his best waiter Igor, who spoke perfect English, for us. He welcomed us with complimentary vodka shots and we dined on typical Tallinn appetizers of pickles and pickled onion shoots with a dipping sauce. The food was fresh and delicious. Everyone enjoyed their meal and the warm hospitality Henrick and Igor provided. On our way back to the ship we went to a wonderful chocolate shop across the street from Wana Wiipuri and climbed the observation tower of the church. The climb is not for claustrophobics or people with knee problems. It consisted of about 150 – 200 steps (a ladder type climb at one point) to the top of the tower where you walked around outside and got a spectacular view of Tallinn. It was crowded as the stairway was narrow about 4 feet wide at best and people were coming up and down simultaneously. Often times you had to wait for people to pass before you could proceed. My advice for Tallinn: Walk around the city, bear in mind it doesn’t really wake up until about 10, but enjoy a café while you are waiting. The streets are easy to navigate, just wander and let yourself get lost. There are few cars in the old section, so walking in the street is fine. Prices are a welcome change from Norway, so indulge yourself in a sweater or souvenir. Don’t miss lunch at Wana Wiipuri and if you are game, climb to the top of the church tower only a few minutes from Wana Wiipuri. We found the people to be extremely warm and hospitable and English was not a problem. This was a great port. HELSINKI, Finland I had booked rental bikes a month in advance from Helsinki Cityride only to receive an email 1 week prior to arrival in Helsinki that they couldn’t honor my reservation. A bit disappointed, but on to plan B. Our group of seven took the complimentary shuttle into town and we began walking toward the harbor. Lots of cafes along the way and a nice outdoor market selling all kinds of breakfast and luncheon foods as well as souvenirs like animal fur hides, handmade mittens/hats, T shirts. It was nice meandering through and looking at all the beautiful fruits and local delicacies which the vendors were kind enough to offer samples of. We ended up at the ferris wheel with enclosed cars (Helsinki’s version of the London Eye). It opened at 10 AM and we enjoyed a few times around and got a good view of the city and a rather funny statue of a 40 foot tall, old man peeing. Naturally, the kids got a kick out of that. Only minutes from the Helsinki Cathedral we meandered over, climbed the steps and peeked in. During our daily drizzle, we walked about 30 minutes to the church built into the side of a rock aptly called Rock Church (or Temppeliaukion Church). We went in to check that out. We tried looking for a particular restaurant and got hopelessly lost, but enjoyed our 45 minute walk and ended up at a traditional Finish restaurant. Everyone said you have to see Sibelius Monument dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was in a very remote area of the city. We figured out how to take the public transportation and then walk 20 minutes to a rather unattractive location. Once we got there, we were all a bit disappointed and unanimously decided that it was not worth the 45 minutes it took us to get there. Tired after quite a bit of walking, we caught a public bus to the center of town to catch the complimentary shuttle just before the rain arrived. My advice for Helsinki: Definitely take the complimentary shuttle, explore the outdoor market, take a ride on the ferris wheel and check out the two churches (Helsinki Cathedral and Rock Church) then call it a day. There really is just not that much to do. ST PETERSBURG. Russia Avoid the high cost of HAL’s large bus tours and the hassle and expense of getting your own visa and contact TJ Tours http://st-petersburg-tours.ru/. I found Tatiana, the owner, to be extremely friendly, competent and professional. For the reasonable price of $315/adult and $280/child for a 2 day tour with a private van, dedicated driver and English speaking tour guide. Our guide was Ksenia and we thought she was excellent. Our tour lasted from 8 AM – 5 PM both days and we opted to sign up for dinner with a Russian family at their home for $55/person….worth every penny. Dining with the Russian family was the highlight of the entire trip! Don’t miss out on this wonderful experience. When the ship docks you immediately go through immigration. Expect long lines and delays. It took us over 30 minutes to get through immigration and all kiosks were open. There are separate lines for each kiosk so just pick one and wait. The HAL staff is on hand to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible, but there is really not much they can do to speed up the process...this is Russia after all! Once through and past the kitschy souvenir shops, Tatiana, the owner, was waiting with several of her guides. We started our tour hitting all the sights that I had outlined via email months in advance. We chose to see: Peterhof by hydrofoil, the upper gardens and lower parks. We did not go into the palace. We had a traditional Russian lunch at an out of the way restaurant. The food and service was excellent. Next was a master class of Matreshka doll painting, but my son was fighting a cold and we preferred to go to a typical Russian supermarket (similar to Wal-Mart). My husband was severely scolded by the security officer for taking photos. We returned to the ship to freshen up before our 7 PM pick up for dinner with a Russian family. We had the privilege of seeing a typical Russian apartment and met a lovely woman, Olga who made us a lovely meal and we talked about Russian life. Everyone agreed, it was the highlight of the trip. On the way back, it was 9:30 PM and there was only 1 immigration window open allowing people back on the ship. Russia can and should do a much better job with their immigration procedure. Day 2, we met at 8 AM and caught a boat ride for a guided tour of the rivers and canals, then to the Hermitage museum where our English guide gave us a private tour, traditional lunch at a sandwich shop and a visit to the Church of the Spilt Blood. We were taken to TJ Travel’s office to pay Tatiana. Everyone was extremely happy with the tour guide, driver and the entire experience. To have TJ handle visas, transportation and provide a tailor made tour is worth every penny. Don’t do Russia any other way. Each day, we had one or two obligatory stops at a tacky souvenir shop that provided free vodka and coffee. A small price to pay in my opinion. My advice for St. Petersburg: Use TJ Tours…sit back, relax and enjoy….enough said. Berlin, Germany The city is about 2 hours from the port of Warnemunde. We used ToursByLocals.com and had an excellent tour guide. Months in advance I crafted our own itinerary which included pick up at 8 AM, a 2 hour drive to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp where our ToursByLocals tour guide gave us a complete guided tour through the camp, then off to Berlin where we saw the Berlin wall and a section of “no man’s land.” We also saw the site of Hitler’s former bunker, the memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, through Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, a quick stop at a museum and a church and then said goodbye to our tour guide and the driver took us back to the ship (2 hour drive). Our group of 7 traveled very comfortably and the tour cost approx. $1300 for all 7 which included admission to museums, the camp, the driver and tour guide. My advice for Berlin: Use ToursByLocals. They provide extremely friendly and professional guides. You get to craft your own day and see Berlin the way you want to see it. Kiel, Germany This was our last stop before ending the cruise in Copenhagen and I didn’t think our group would be up for another long day in the car with a 2 hour drive to Hamburg. We walked around Kiel which had lots of shops and malls. It is heaven if you are a shopper. The one cool thing we did find was in the church which has an observatory tower that is only open 2 days a week. The tower was closed, but adjoining the building is a government office which has a set of continuously moving elevators without doors. You’d think my kids and husband were in Disney Land. They got the biggest kick out of jumping on and off the elevators and riding them up a floor or two. You’ll never see anything like it in the States, so check it out. We were back on the ship by lunch. My advice for Kiel: Had it been a nice beach day we would have gone to the beach because it looked beautiful. Unfortunately, it was cool and rainy.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Let's start with the cabin. We paid for a verandah, but when we got on the ship, our 11th floor room had a small 'Romeo & Juliet' balcony without furniture. There was room for two to stand on it, and there were no ... Read More
Let's start with the cabin. We paid for a verandah, but when we got on the ship, our 11th floor room had a small 'Romeo & Juliet' balcony without furniture. There was room for two to stand on it, and there were no dividers from the adjacent rooms (no privacy when on the balcony). We were disappointed and went to get the room changed but were told that since we booked through Expedia, we could not change it. They claimed it was an upgrade, a spa room, but we didn't see that the spa features were a good exchange for a nice verandah on which we could sit and enjoy the view or read. We got a yoga mat, two free vitamin waters and two bottled waters, a deep tub for soaking, and a little fountain which was never turned on. On the other hand, being near The Crow's Nest was very nice, and we spent a lot of time there and also enjoyed the deck above on the 12th floor when it wasn't too windy. Other than our disappointment with the balcony, our room was acceptable and we were well cared for by our stewards. The food was adequate (no Wow factor), and we met a lot of really nice people at our open seating dining. We didn't feel we got the attention from the dining room staff that we were used to on other cruise lines, but perhaps that's because it was open seating. Every night that we ate in the dining room, it took a full two hours for dinner. It wasn't because we were so slow but because the waiters didn't come back to the table for a long time after each course was served. For that reason we missed the early shows in the theatre several times. The performers in the theatre were excellent but the sound quality was not good, or they had to volume turned up too high. It had a tinny quality to it, and I heard others remark upon the same thing as we left the theatre. We enjoyed all the shows we attended, though, and especially the comedian. The BB King Blues group was excellent! We booked four tours with others online before going on the trip. They were all excellent and much cheaper than the HAL tours. It was nice to be in small groups and to have listening devices for the most crowded places. We also booked some tours with HAL and they were good, but so expensive. We didn't feel they were a good deal for what we got. For example, we had 2 full days in St. Petersburg with a private company, and our tours included full lunches with wine or beer, for much less than what a comparable HAL tour cost. Also the HAL tours consisted of much larger groups on large buses. Their tours were driving through a city listening to the guide, getting off to take a photo, then putting us on our own for lunch. My advice is to book tours ahead of time with others, but do read the reviews and see what others have experienced with private operators. Overall it was a good trip, and all of the ports were wonderful and very interesting. We were lucky to have great weather every day, which we were told is rare in that part of the world. We enjoyed the white nights in the far north, and we saw beautiful sunsets most nights. We recommend this trip.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We had a 14 days cruise on Luminose last month(actually in Baltic Sea and Norway) and I would like to share with you some my experience.. There were some new changes started on our trip: no buffet for dinner only restaurant, no free water ... Read More
We had a 14 days cruise on Luminose last month(actually in Baltic Sea and Norway) and I would like to share with you some my experience.. There were some new changes started on our trip: no buffet for dinner only restaurant, no free water on dinner table and no cold and hot and ice water after 5 pm (water stations were closed). Menu was almost same everyday and cooking was terrible. In my mind the food in lunch buffet is better than dinner restaurant. If you were hungry after dinner you had to pay for pizza and only pizza was offered. The on ship drink was very expensive, 50 euro for a bottle red wine. The excursions were expensive too. Have you heard " cheap ticket but expense on board". There was no live band for entertainment and some shows were repeated within a week. The service was quite different from American cruise company. They are two different classes. The first language is Italian and this cruise was tailored for European market, you pay euro not dollar. That is 30% more. Be aware.. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We have cruised on Holland America - can't find any fault there - our friends have cruised with Princess - also could not find any fault. MSC Musica was an experience that we would not want to repeat. The ship was fine, our cabin was ... Read More
We have cruised on Holland America - can't find any fault there - our friends have cruised with Princess - also could not find any fault. MSC Musica was an experience that we would not want to repeat. The ship was fine, our cabin was good and our cabin steward, Ina, and our waiter Sugi were the only crew members who went out of his way to make us feel welcome on the ship. In the 13 night cruise, we only had two meals that were hot. The others were room temperature or less. Out table in the dining room was tucked away in the corner and the waiter could not get around and had to reach across the table to serve us. If one got up the nerve to ask one of the staff a question, you almost felt as if they were sneering at you and would barely acknowledge your question. At one point we observed a senior crew member giving a drinks server a major dressing down. What an uncomfortable feeling that was! That should be done quietly away from the guests as a common courtesy for all. We gave up on the buffet as it was so crowded it was hard to find a place to sit. Ever had cold fried eggs and toast that was prepared hours before breakfast? - that is a treat you certainly want to miss. Even eating breakfast and lunch in the dining room left a lot to be desired. Unless your cabin was on the top three levels, you were barred from dining in Le Maxims, even though we were informed prior to sailing that we could reserve in this specialty restaurant if we desired. The one saving factor were the drinks. Tried every cocktail, except the premium ones, on the list. One thing that was well done was the embarkation. Disembarkation was another story, a real nightmare. Sat in the lounge for over two hours waiting to leave the ship.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
First off, I'll say NCL Star standards have slipped. We ate in the Versailles most of the time, and the dining room staff didn't go our of their way to please passengers. While we did not have to wait long to get a table, once ... Read More
First off, I'll say NCL Star standards have slipped. We ate in the Versailles most of the time, and the dining room staff didn't go our of their way to please passengers. While we did not have to wait long to get a table, once seated the service was really slow. It took an average of one and a half hours for a meal, and often we had to rush through coffee/dessert to catch the show. One time nobody even came to ask us if we wanted tea/coffee. Even breakfast was slow; one sea day our group of 8 sat down at 8 a.m.and ordered a la carte. Three of us got our food 35 minutes later, but the rest had to wait another 20 minutes to get theirs ( yes, I noted the time) ! And this in a restaurant that's half empty! On port days, we availed of the express breakfast which quickly became boring as they had the same offering day after day. Lobster tail was served only once, and on the first night ( Surf & Turf) when passengers who attended the 4 p.m. sail away bar b q skipped dinner. Another thing that was really disappointing for us: for the first time in 5 cruises my request to be served ethnic food during our last dinner was not accomodated, while in tour previous Star cruise we did not even have to ask , they offered it to us for both breakfast & lunch !. One good thing though is that every dinner while we're in port, they had a regional specialty like Chicken Kiev in Russia, meatballs in Sweden, etc. Another observation: public washrooms were noticeably dirtier, and twice I had to call the attention of a staff that it needed cleaning. As for the entertainment, it was all good including the 2 repeat shows ( Shout & Elements). One exception was the " Cabaret" show by the in house performers, which was more like a musical audition. The female performers had great voices ( the guys didn't) but their repertoire did not " connect" with the audience, many of whom left in the middle of the show. I was told later that the acrobatic show originally scheduled for the night had to to be replaced by the Cabaret show because of technical difficulties, but surely NCL could have prepared a better back up show? I had noise issues with my cabin again; I could hear loud footsteps from above and it turned out we were right under La Cucina. Although not looking at the deck plan when I booked the cabin was an oversight on my part, to NCL's credit theyinstantly resolved the problem. They assigned us another cabin and moved our stuff to the new one while we were having dinner.As for destinations, they were all great except Helsinki where there was nothing much to do. St. Petersburg & Berlin were the highlights of our trip; Tallinn was a pleasant surprise, Stockholm was beautiful but we had so little time there. Better to skip Helsinki and stay overnight in Stockholm. All in all, it was a good cruise & we made a future cruise deposit with NCL. We really like their entertainment, freestyle dining, easy disembarkation & no formal nights, but I hope their service will improve. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
On May 11, 2013, we embarked on the Vision of the Seas for a Scandinavian and Russia Cruise. Starting in Copenhagen, with stops in Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden before returning to ... Read More
On May 11, 2013, we embarked on the Vision of the Seas for a Scandinavian and Russia Cruise. Starting in Copenhagen, with stops in Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden before returning to Copenhagen. We booked Grand Suite 8508. Were a husband and wife in our thirties and this was our eighth cruise together (five on RCCL, one on Celebrity, one on Cunard and one on Regent). Boarding in Copenhagen was easy (love the priority line for Suite Guests), and we had about an hour and a half before the rooms would be ready at 1pm, so we went up to the pool bar and met Melvin. Melvin was so welcoming and starting telling us all about the ship and what to do on board. He also confirmed for us that in lieu of a Concierge Lounge, Suite Guests could go to the Viking Crown Lounge nightly from 5-8:30pm for drinks and appetizers. It was nice to get this confirmation early in the cruise because we hadnt really seen a definitive answer. Diamond and above also joined us in the VCL during this time for their nightly event. When our room was ready, we headed down there, and wow, the Grand Suite on the Vision blew the Grand Suite on the Navigator away. Its smaller, but the layout is the same, the biggest difference is the balcony and the windows. Basically, the entire wall is floor to ceiling glass, so you can see everything going by. We loved this because on the days it was a little too chilly to sit on the balcony, we could still watch the world sail by from our couch or bed. No noise complaints or any real issues, we did hear a little thumping from deck nine above as things were being set up, but nothing that bothered us. The cabin is in great ship for a ship that hasnt been refurbed yet, and if you just keep that in mind, youll be pleasantly surprised. Maintenance was always there to fix a leaky pipe or a door that was slightly off-hinged. Again, nothing that detracted from our cruise. Leon, our Suite Attendant, was by far the best attendant weve had on any ship, and we gave him one of our Wow cards. We were then off to explore the ship, and shes in great shape for her age and not having a recent refurb. Very clean, but the decor is definitely dated, and while we loved the layout and openness of the Vision class (the amount of light and views of the sea are incredible), we found that the current layout of the bars and lounges doesnt make sense any longer, i.e. they were designed for a time when cruising was all passengers were being shuffled from event to event, room to room, not the more individual, lots of options (bars, restaurants, nooks and crannies) that cruisers are looking for today. After talking with the staff, there will be lots of options after the refurb, i.e. Chops, Portofinos and some of the bars I cant remember if its Boleros, Vintages, the sports bars, but theyll be options like that on the other ships. The other change thats being made is the silver thing thats hanging in the Centrum will be removed and replaced with an aerial dance show. Because there were no specialty restaurants on board, we had all of our dinners in the main dining room, and the food on the Vision was the best weve had in the MDR on a RCCL cruise. Food is very subjective, so I wont go into a lot of details, but the menus were varied and everything we had was good. Our waiter, Anand, was also very accommodating to anything we would like. It was a very port intensive itinerary, so we didnt eat in the Windjammer once (we actually didnt set foot in there, which was strange for us). Having the Solarium Cafe was nice because we could grab a quick snack when returning from port; if that wasnt there, we would probably go to the Windjammer more. Breakfast was Room Service, which was good and standard for RCCL. The only complaint was the terrible coffee it was so bitter and like tar. We even ordered Room Service for lunch on one of the two sea days, and being able to order off the full lunch menu was a nice Suite perk. The nightly Suite/Diamond event was good and after the first day, the waiters know your name and drink. Because we had the late seating for dinner, the light appetizers were nice before dinner. The Casino was a good size, and they even had sit-down Texas Hold Em with a real dealer, not the computer based tables. The shops are good and have plenty of selection, although the layout is a little strange, and Im sure there will be upgrades with the refurb. We didnt attend any of the shows because theyre not our thing (in eight cruises, weve never been a show). The musicians that played around the ship were good. We did go to the Spa, which was nice, pretty standard for RCCL. What well always remember from the Vision is how eager to please the staff is if theres anything you need, just ask, they will bend over backwards to try to make it happen for you. The service on this ship rivaled the service we received on our Regent cruise; if we interacted more than once with someone, they remembered our name and/or preference, they always asked if there was anything more that they could do for us and if we had a request, they took care of it quickly or gave alternatives. Captain Lis was also the most personable Captain weve met. Captain Lis is one of four female Captains in the ENTIRE cruise industry (one of the others also works for RCCL). We took the Bridge Tour, and she stopped to talk with the guests and even take photos with the kids that were on the tour. She sets an amazing example for her team, and at the Suite Reception, when we were introduced to all the Officers, they also made it very clear how grateful they were for us cruisers and again wanted to express if there was anything that could make our cruise better, to just ask. Bojana, the Guest Departure Officer/Suite Coordinator, was also excellent. Topi, the Cruise Director that joined the Vision with our sailing, was friendly; we didnt have a lot of exposure to him because we dont go to a lot of the events. Other than the dated decor, one thing to be mindful of is that because this is an older ship without the latest technology and is also small, cruisers will feel more vibration in certain parts of the ship than others. Nothing at dinner or in our cabin, but in the Spa especially, which sort of added to the experience, you will feel the ship moving. We loved it because we like knowing were on a boat, and not just a floating hotel. The port itinerary was excellent and highlights just how wonderful a mode of transportation cruising is how else can you see five countries in seven days and travel there in style? We love waking up in a whole other country and only having to unpack once. Cruising Europe is so different than cruising the Caribbean, the former is sightseeing and the latter is relaxing for us. We spent a few days in Copenhagen before boarding, and in Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm, we just did our own thing with a guidebook and walked around the various towns. In St. Petersburg, we opted for a ship shore excursion because we didnt get our own visas. It was a nine hour tour, and it was good we saw all the sights and will return to St. Petersburg to see more. The Hermitage and Winter Palace is unlike any museum or palace Ive been to in the world. We will definitely be back on this class of ship, especially for a non-Caribbean itinerary, and the service that went above and beyond is one of the many reasons were loyal to Royal. Having the two seas days was also nice so that we could enjoy the ship and relax. Being a Baltic cruise, we had also heard that the dress is more casual, and it was. On formal nights, there were still a few tuxes (hubby left his at home this trip) and long dresses, but on the other nights, it was acceptable to where jeans and a nice shirt for the men, and nice top for the ladies. I had never worn jeans in the main dining room before, so it was kind of nice to be so casual. Disembarking in Copenhagen was a breeze; baggage was waiting for us in the tented area and there was no line to the taxi stand to grab a cab to the airport. We docked at 7am, were off the ship and in a cab by 7:45am, and at the airport by 8:30am, easily making our 12:25pm flight. We were surprised how long the line was for the RCCL airport shuttle, which was $37/pp and a taxi with no lines, was only about $65 total. Ive posted pictures of our suite on Flickr below because I know how hard it was to find Grand Suite photos on the Vision. If youd like to see another area of the ship (other than the Windjammer or the Theatre), just let me know, and I might be able to dig up a picture for it because we took over a thousand. Also, let me know if you have any questions, Ill do my best to answer them! http://www.flickr.com/photos/9586028...7633533612436/ Happy Cruising! JV Read Less
Sail Date May 2013

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