55 Copenhagen Princess Star Princess Cruise Reviews

Arrived in Copenhagen 1 day prior to the cruise and stayed at the Best Western Hotel City. Excellent Hotel and close to everything downtown. Took a cab to the cruise terminal cost about $26.00. Embarkation was easy even though there was ... Read More
Arrived in Copenhagen 1 day prior to the cruise and stayed at the Best Western Hotel City. Excellent Hotel and close to everything downtown. Took a cab to the cruise terminal cost about $26.00. Embarkation was easy even though there was a large crowd. Our room was a balcony suite on the Dolphin Deck. The room furnishing are dated, but acceptable. My only complainant was the mattress, it was very lumpy. The room Steward service was top notch. We ate in the Capri dining room and the service was excellent. I felt it was much better than the service on Holland America. The food was just as good or better than Holland America. Bar service was the best we've experienced. The bars have a "happy hour" after 8:00 PM, and certain beers and drinks have a reduced price. Princess does not supply a receipt for beverage purchases, so check your bill daily. We found on two occasions we were charged the non "happy hour" price for drinks, but that was corrected immediately. TOURS- numerous people were complaining about the confusion in organizing tours. We only took 3 tours but we did not encounter any problems. ENTERTAINMENT-was excellent DISEMBARKATION- Our ship was due to dock in Civitavecchia (Rome) at 04:00 AM, but it docked well before that. We had a flight leaving at 10:20 AM and some people felt that we would miss our flight. We used Princess transportation and we were off the ship at 6:15 AM and at the airport by 7:30. Overall this was an excellent cruise and after 14 days on a ship we had only 2 minor complaints. We were sorry we had not booked the cruise all the way to Venice Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was a fabulous cruise and thanks to all from cruisecritic who provided so much great advice. We are a married couple (64 and 59) who are reasonably active and love to walk. We cruised with 2 other couples. Air: Traveled from JFK to ... Read More
This was a fabulous cruise and thanks to all from cruisecritic who provided so much great advice. We are a married couple (64 and 59) who are reasonably active and love to walk. We cruised with 2 other couples. Air: Traveled from JFK to CPH on Icelandair Economy. Reasonably priced, no frills airline. Easy connections in Iceland (though going through security in Iceland was a bit of a hassle). Flights were smooth and uneventful (the way we like them). Precruise: Traveled by Metro into the city for 3 Nights in Copenhagen at the Best Western Hotel City. Due to construction and cobble stone streets, walk to hotel was not easy. Should have taken a taxi. Hotel was OK with a great breakfast. No AC, but not an issue during our stay. Good location, convenient to everything. Were able to walk to all the major sites. Loved CPH. Plenty to see and do. Because we had plenty of time, we were able to enjoy this city the most. Star Princess: We're easy to please and we thoroughly enjoyed this ship. In the past, we've had a mini-suite and balcony, but this time our cabin was a partially obstructed ocean view (E712). For this cruise, it served our purpose well since we anticipated cool temperatures (it was mainly mid 50's to mid 60's and mostly cloudy throughout the trip). The view was pretty good and the price was great. Food was very good. We usually like the late seating, but this time we had anytime seating and it worked out well for this itinerary. Were able to get the same table most nights and our Service Assistant Lukasz and waiter Misha provided excellent service and suggestions on what to order. The food was generally very good. Had breakfast every day in the Horizon and we also found it to be generally very good. There was a Noro virus outbreak during the cruise and this put additional stress on the dining staff, but the service continued to be excellent. Entertainment was very good, especially comedian Lenny Windsor and juggler/comedian Steve Rawlings. Thought that the Production shows were good. Stockholm (10 to 5): We decided to see the city using the Hop-On Hop-Off boat. Expecting to get on an express boat to the Vasa, we bought our tickets (boat, including the Vasa entry) at the shop right off the ship. It seems that there are 2 different companies providing this service. When we got to the dock, there was an Aphrodite boat heading straight to the Vasa. We had a Stockholm Sightseeing ticket and could not take that boat. Wound up with a rather long trip to the Vasa that cut into our touring time. The Vasa is a WOW. Outstanding exhibit. One of the major highlights of our cruise. After Vasa, took the boat (another lengthy ride) to the Royal Palace and walked around Gamla Stan for about an hour. After Gamla Stan, took the boat back to the ship. We wound up spending too much time on the boat. Because of the initial delay, we probably would have been better off to take a cab to the Vasa and used other transportation to get to Gamla Stan and back to the ship. Helsinki: (10 to 6): Took the ship's shuttle to and from town, though it would have been just as easy to take the bus into town. Walked to the Church in the Rock, where we viewed the beauty of the church and enjoyed a singer's rehearsal, and from there back to the central city to see Senate Square and the Lutheran Cathedral. The city is easy to do and we enjoyed our day there seeing its sights. St. Petersburg (2 Days): Due to high winds, which resulted in 2 failed attempts to enter the port, the ship arrived about 2 hours late. We created and booked a very extensive 2 day tour for 4 of us with SPB. The plan was to tour for 12.5 hours on the first day and 9 hours on the second. The owner Viktoria and our guide Tim were waiting for us when we disembarked. They promised that we would not miss anything due to the delay. We saw everything that we planned and more. Tim is a History teacher/doctoral student with extensive knowledge of 18th and 19th Century Russian history. His enthusiasm for the subject was contagious. Our tour included Catherine's Palace, the Peterhof Gardens, Peter and Paul's Fortress, Yusopov's Palace, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Church of Our Saviour on the Spilt Blood and, of course, the Hermitage. We also took a subway ride, a hydrofoil ride and a canal boat ride and visited a food market. It also included lunch both days. All of this for the same price as the Princess tour. It was a great tour that we will never forget. Can highly recommend SPB tours. Tallinn (7 to 1): Took the ship's shuttle to town ($6 one way). This was a mistake for us. The ride was less than 5 minutes. The walk to Fat Margaret was probably about 15 minutes. Nice town with beautiful scenery. Would have liked more time there. Didn't have enough time to have lunch. Gdansk: (9 to 6): Took the ship's tour (Walking tour and On Your Own). I think that this was the right choice for us. Traffic is bad so you want to be sure you can make it back to the ship. The DIY trip from Gdynia to Gdansk requires bus or taxi to/from the train to Gdansk. Interesting city. St Mary's Church is a must see there. Actually saw Lech Walesa pass by in his car and got a wave. Oslo (7 to 2): Did this on our own using a 24 hour transit pass, which we purchased at the shop at the dock. Tram 12/11 goes in a circular route around the city. Took it to Vigeland Park, which was another WOW (amazing while somewhat weird since all the statues are nude). From there, we took the tram to the National Museum to view Munch's work, including one of his versions of "The Scream". Hopped on the tram to the Cathedral (only 2 stops, so this was probably not necessary). From there walked on Karl Johann's Gate, a pedestrian street toward the Royal Palace and turned toward City Hall and Akerhus Fortress. This was a very easy city to explore using the tram and walking; just would have liked more time so we could have seen the Bygdoy museums. Post-cruise: Taxi to the Airport Hilton for 1 night. This was a very nice hotel. Easy access into the city in 15 minutes by Metro. Continued to enjoy Copenhagen's sights. Conclusion: Wonderful ship, excellent ports and a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Baltic Cruise August 30 to September 9, 2010 STAR Princess (10 day cruise) EMBARKATION We left our hotel Best Western City Hotel about 11:30am cost was about 250 DKK without a tip from hotel to the pier. About a 10min. taxi ... Read More
Baltic Cruise August 30 to September 9, 2010 STAR Princess (10 day cruise) EMBARKATION We left our hotel Best Western City Hotel about 11:30am cost was about 250 DKK without a tip from hotel to the pier. About a 10min. taxi ride. Luggage was taken right at the drop off point and we proceeded inside to fill out a health questionnaire and then to the Platinum line (although; no line really anywhere). Very fast and easy and we were in our cabin by 12:05pm. We had Piotr from Poland as our room steward, he was very attentative. Our luggage arrived to the cabin by 2:50pm. PRINCESS CREW Captain Wiiliam Kent, CD JJ Ullrich, Heather Harries Hotel-Pursers desk, Paolo Merio executive chef, and Mario Propato Maitre d'hôtel. I will concentrate on the ports since this ship does not always go to these ports or itinerary. PORTS Our first port was Stockholm, Sweden. We docked at Stadsgarden or Masthamnen 167 which on a map is near where the Viking ship terminal is. We took the Aphrodite (www.crss.se) hop on hop off boat (docked right near ship, easy to find) which in the morning went direct to the Vasa Museum (took credit cards paid 110SEK), but we felt after that after we left the Vasa it went in the opposite direction that we really wanted to go and we felt it wasted a lot of time, so I would suggest another mode of public transport or another stop first. The cost for the boats was 100 SEK or 10 Euros or 15 USD; we paid in cash SEK; not sure if they took credit cards. We walked from the Royal Palace boat stop to the City Hall to see it, but the next tour left at 2pm and was a 45 min. tour and we did not have enough time to catch the boat back to the ship. We looked at the Royal Palace from the outside. Just seemed not enough time here at this port. Helsinki, Finland We docked at Hernesarrani area, even though Patter said pier LMA.Took public bus # 14B or you may take 16,(catch it by the heliport area) pay in Euros(2.50-good for transfers up to 1 hr.) on buses you exit ship go out the gates of the pier and go left by the Heliport to catch the bus.. We went to the rock church (Temppeliaukio) first from the port area. Then caught a tram 3T or 3B got off in the main rail station area. We walked from there to Senate Square, Market Square (orange tents), along the Esplanade & walked to the Uspenski Cathedral and went inside. We caught bus 16 back to the ship on the Esplanade area near Marimekko store. Lots to see and do here, not really enough time, but we managed to see the highlights on our own schedule. St. Petersburg, Russia We took the Princesses tour of Peterhof Palace which was Peter the Great's summer palace and the next day took Princesses Hermitage tour ( the Tsar's former Winter Palace-with over 3 mil. worth of art).Was a great way to see the highlights of Russia without being on a tour all day both days. We docked at Marine Façade on Vasilevsky Island. This was the only port that we passed through immigration/passport control. You will get a Visa with your tour ticket. Tallinn, Estonia We walked from the port to the center of town. About 10 to 15 min. walk. When you see the round short tower go up to it and then around to the right and you will see a gate (archway). This will take you to the main area of the old city. Easily walk able city if you are mobile, even with the cobblestones not too bad. Lovely city. Gdansk, Poland We took the Princess tour(Best of Gdansk) which toured the main street area and St. Mary's church which was good, but I would recommend just taking the transportation with Princess (takes awhile to get from dock to town & you don't want to miss the ship) and touring the area on your own, it is very easy to do. Very walk able city once your transportation is taken care of. Prices we thought were excellent for items. Oslo, Norway Dock is right in town by Akershus Fort easy to walk to catch a tram. We took tram 12(blue tram) to Frogner Park to see the sculpture in Vigeland. Then took tram back to dock area and caught the public ferry boat #91 to the Viking museum to Bygdoy (dock opposite city hall). We bought the Dagskort (unlimited transport for 24hrs) right at the terminal building on the dock at the information booth. Cost was 70 NOK for an Adult and 35 NOK for a senior. Not a lot of time in this port, but felt like we saw enough. ENTERTAINMENT Singers were Jim Ambler, Rick Waldock, Tenja Hagenberg, & Rebecca Elliott. Peter Creasey was the Princess orchestra music leader. The production shows were Welcome Aboard show, British Invasion, Variety Showtime with Steve Rawlings a comic, Greg Moreland-magic wasn't suppose to be funny show, Jowita Tabaszewsa on piano in Wheelhouse, David Moore on piano in promenade lounge aka Crooner's,DJ Arisa in Sky Walkers, Vitalized was the house band they played rock & some blues. We also had a Russian Folkloric show performing traditional Cossack song & dance come aboard while in St. Petersburg. DISEMBARKATION This was very easy. We were to meet in Explorer's, but because we are Platinum we met in the Portofino dining room. We were at breakfast in the Amalfi dining room (open 6am to 8:30am) then proceeded to the Platinum lounge and our Gold 7 color had already been called. We found our luggage easily and preceded to the taxi cab lane marked small car; waited about 20min and we were off to the Airport Hilton hotel. The cost I cannot remember from the port to airport. (but it beats walking!) We explored Copenhagen by the fabulous trains right at the airport. MISC. In Copenhagen you may purchase a Copenhagen card just outside baggage claim at the information desk for 320DKK. It allows free entrance into many museums & tourist attractions and unlimited bus, train, subway rides per 24 hr. period. To get into Tivoli without a card it will cost Adult (12+) $ 95 DKK Pre cruise we stayed at the Best Western City Hotel for $1,215. DKK (AAA rate) which included breakfast and all taxes and fees. It was a comfortable hotel close to Nyhavn area (easy walk), but we did not have hot water at check in. Hotel bar prices were Carlsberg beer 25,00 DKK,Soft drink 20,00DKK, sandwich 32,00 DKK, and chips 10,00DKK. Post cruise we stayed at the Hilton Airport hotel for $1537 DKK which included breakfast and all taxes and services charges. It was a great hotel. The most traveled passenger on our cruise was 642 days then 512 days, then 338 days. 43% of passengers on our voyage are repeat Princess passengers. The Wi-Fi in our room worked great with our laptop; slow connection just like in the internet cafe, but it served our purpose of e-mailing our family. There were 2 tours offered in Copenhagen after the cruise for passengers whom had flights departing after 4pm. (Copenhagen city drive & Tivoli from 8:30am to 1:30pm) and (Copenhagen city tour & Dragoer fishing village from 8:45am to 12"45pm) We had a little bit of each currency to buy small souvenirs and snacks while we were ashore; we found this to be helpful. Had a great cruise with Princess and enjoyed this itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Just returned from a super Baltic cruise on the Star Princess at the beginning of July. It wasn't our first cruising experience but it was certainly the best so far, although there is so much to do and see (7 ports and 7 counties and ... Read More
Just returned from a super Baltic cruise on the Star Princess at the beginning of July. It wasn't our first cruising experience but it was certainly the best so far, although there is so much to do and see (7 ports and 7 counties and 7 currencies in 10 days) that you probably need a holiday to recover afterwards! The positives were as follows: The port talks by John Lawrence were extremely good especially if, as well as the historical context of each place, you are going to explore independently and so need to know where to catch the hop on/hop off buses etc. They undoubtedly added enormously to the overall experience. If you miss any of the talks (a couple are scheduled as soon as you return to the ship from the last port!) you can see them on the ship's TV system later on. Tip - before we went, we looked at quite a lot of the Baltic cruise reviews on Cruise Critic, some of which contained excellent advice about what to see, how to get to places etc. Highly recommended. Disembarkation at each port is very quick and simple. We had heard that, on some ships, people not taking the ship's own tours are held back but this is certainly NOT the case on the Star Princess. Tip - don't delay getting off in St Petersburg as the immigration/passport queues soon get quite long. Anytime dining - our first experience of it - was great. We never had any delays and, each night, could choose if we wanted to share a table or sit on our own. The dining room staff were first class. Cabin/Stateroom - very good with plenty of space. I hadn't expected a 'free' safe (very easy to use too) and quite so much hanging space. Bathroom small but completely adequate. On the other hand, if we had to suggest any areas for improvement, they would be as follows: If only one or two of the port stops could be a little longer. For example, Tallinn and Oslo in particular. On several occasions, the announcements suggested the ship was going to have to race to hit the next port on time but, in actual fact, we cruised along at a very stately pace. The entertainment shows were very glitzy but quite short - often 40-50mins and some of the singers were not brilliant. On the other hand, the dancers were generally very good and sometimes so energetic they were quite exhausting to watch! It would have been good to have a pool reserved for adults (or perhaps a time for adult swimming) as sometimes groups of children made it hard to swim in the smallish pools. Formal nights - Having at least taken a suit to wear, I was surprised how many people didn't bother to dress up on the two formal nights. I didn't see any evidence of the restaurant staff restricting entrance to the dining rooms to those who were still in their shorts. All through the cruise, a fat 'tasting' chef kept waddling round the various dining rooms asking people if everything was OK. Since there were plenty of other staff on hand to sort out problems, we felt he did not add any value and, in the end, found him quite irritating! Movies under the Stars - went to watch a good film one evening but found the experience ruined by groups of children shouting and larking around. No staff around to watch out for such things. Navigation info - the ship's TV system is supposed to enable you to see where you are at any time. In practice, it is very poor at doing this and the system needs a radical review to, say, come up to airline standards. Finally, a tip about currency. Don't worry about taking lots of currencies or even converting money on the ship (poor rates of exchange). If you have some Dollars and/or Euros with you, you will be fine in most places. If you really need local currency then ATMs are available everywhere and, of course, most shops will accept credit cards etc. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
General If you enjoy history, sightseeing, and lots of walking this is the cruise for you. With 7 ports in 10 days, it is an exhausting trip with lots of early morning and late nights but cruising makes it all possible. If you have ... Read More
General If you enjoy history, sightseeing, and lots of walking this is the cruise for you. With 7 ports in 10 days, it is an exhausting trip with lots of early morning and late nights but cruising makes it all possible. If you have problems with mobility - this will be a very challenging trip for you. The shore excursions are mainly via grey hound bus with high stairs and all of the cities are old cobblestone with lots of tripping hazards. It is possible to take taxis and guided tours - you need to do the research before you go. The weather is completely unpredictable and can be cold and rainy in Scandinavia and hot and humid (94 degrees F) in St. Petersburg and change within the few hours you have in port. Be sure to pack a raincoat - umbrellas are clumsy. And yes sunscreen is also a necessity. For these cities, researching the ports, reviewing the history and having some idea of what you would like to do and see is essential. Doing the homework before the cruise ensures you will not be disappointed. Note - most of the European ports only accepted Visa and MasterCard and required you to enter your PIN. If you are shopping with Euros, change is generally in local currency. I was happy I had exchanged currency in Toronto before leaving. I also had my wallet size conversion table that was faster than any calculator. In most ports we were instructed to carry our passports. Postcards are available at all port docks - the majority of ports (exception Poland) had a gift shop at the dock that sold international stamps and mailed your post card. Attend all of the port lectures given by John Lawrence - he is both entertaining and extremely informative. I wish I had purchased his DVD before I left for my cruise. Follow the ships instructions for disembarkation at each port - they really do manage crowd control and we did not have to wait to get off the boat. We were able to dock in each port and were not subjected to tenders! The ship is prompt about leaving on time - make sure you are aboard. Ship Star Princess E616 / E102 - Deck 8 - Obstructed view double The Star Princess is a beautiful little "town" with 18 decks, 4-swimming pools, 7 dining rooms and more lounges and bars than I could count. Anytime dining provides lots of choices and there is always room available. We had a standing 8pm for our table of 8 in the Portofino dining room and enjoyed every evening. If you enjoy wine, be sure to ask what specials they have - I had a box of 3 premium wines bottles for $159 USD. We walked through the casino after dinner for the 10pm show in the theatre and had no problem finding a seat. The best swimming pool for adults is located in the spa and is adults only with 2 hot tubs. There is a sauna and steam room in the change rooms with lots of towels and big showers. Be sure to request a robe from room service - it is luxurious! The elevators on ship are confusing - some do not go to the floors you want and they are labeled by deck number and not by name. Afternoon tea in the Amalfi Dining room is white glove service and a must at least for the days you are on the ship. So is a sit down lunch in the Amalfi dining room. The food was excellent - always go with what is recommended by the waiter - he will not steer you wrong. For picky eaters, there is always the left side of the menu with static choices. Do not over pack - I was able to complete 3 loads of laundry on board for $5 USD - go after 9pm there is no one using the machines and there is a machine that provides quarters. The wash cycle is 25mins and dry 40mins at $1 per load. The duty free shopping on board is affordable and so much easier than running around the port looking for local currency. Note - on our first 2 nights, all purchases over $50 were 10% off - I did most of my souvenir and jewelry shopping this night - totally worth it! Note - book your shore excursions before to leave on your cruise - they are easy to cancel once on-board BUT be sure to check your bill regularly. You can only make changes or adjustments through the shore excursion office and they have very limited operating hours. Port 1 - Copenhagen, Denmark We stayed at the Hotel Admiral next to the Amalienborg Palace across from the Dutch Embassy and 1 block from Nyhavn. The back of our hotel overlooked the canal and had a great view of the Opera house. ~$150 CAN / per night - no breakfast. We arrived at 8am the day prior to our cruise - in hind sight we should have purchased the 2-day hop-on-hop-off pass with river cruise. Instead we did the entire city on foot! It was exhausting! But it is possible. It was a short walk to Stroget, town square and the board walk. If you are familiar with North American amusement parks - skip Tivoli. Be sure to get out to the Gefion Fountain near the fort, visit the parliament buildings and Fredrick's Kirke. There are more statues of men on horse back than you can keep track of. If we had more time, it would have been interesting to visit Christiania - the hippy commune. If you happen to be in Copenhagen on a Saturday, be sure to visit the International market - go hungry with lots of local currency. The Italian nougat was outstanding! Sandwiches from local shops are delicious and it was pleasant to sit on the bench on Nyhavn and enjoy our picnic in the square. From our hotel, 3 of us took a taxi to the cruise terminal at a cost of 120 DKK (~$20 CAN) Port 2 - Stockholm, Sweden We woke up early to hear the bridge commentary and see the islands as our massive ship traveled up the Stockholm archipelago the largest in Sweden. It was like cruising along the 1,000 Islands in Ontario. We opted for the shore excursion offered by the ship STO-205 Vasa Museum, Old Town & The Royal Armoury and city drive. For the 5-hours we had in port, this was the best option. ~$150 USD / per person. The Vasa Museum was a must-see on my list. In August the lines for entry into European museums are far too long for a traveler with limited time - the tour was the best option. Princess uses local tour companies and guides (I swear our guide was Ingrid Bergman's sister!) We had headsets and were free to roam the area while she filled us in on the history and specifics of each site. For the few minutes we had in the old town (Gamla Stan) we were able to purchase Aquavait at the only store licensed to sell alcohol. We also purchased the best ground coffee from the grocery store. There is the Sweden book store across from the Royal Palace that sells the Astrid Lindgren books (Pippi Longstocking), post cards and Steig Larsson's books. Take a snack from the ship - you will not have much time to sit and eat. Port 3 - Helsinki, Finland We were the first off the ship and headed straight to the hop-on-hop-off bus located just out side the gate. For ~25 Euro / per person we were able to ride both the yellow and purple line. We stayed on the bus past the square, the antique market, the downtown and got off at the Temppeliaukio Rock Church. A short walk down the street and back on the bus for a photo stop at the Sibelius monument and then again at the Olympic Stadium. We wound our way back to the square and visited the Helsinki Cathedral (it is not worth climbing the stairs to the top - the view is not spectacular and the Lutheran church has a stark interior). We spent time along the esplanade and in the market - try the local food specialties and shop for woolens and woven items. We ate the little white fish from Lapland - it was like French fries served with garlic mayonnaise. Be sure to visit the market's brick building on the waterfront - the salmon and reindeer are sold here. We purchased the smoked reindeer and enjoyed it with our cheese plate on board the ship that evening. Port 4 - St. Petersburg, Russia 2 days (1 overnight) This was the highlight of our visit. I booked the tour through a company called Red October based in Russia with an office in New Jersey that services US and Canadian clients. Mike Finn was outstanding and all arrangements were first class. ~$600 CAN / per person (for 8 in a van) I opted for a jam packed itinerary that left us no time for lunch but took us INSIDE some fantastic places. We had no problem getting off the ship or through Russian immigration at 6:30am to meet our guide Helen and driver Andrew. We started with a few city sights and a stop at the Sphinx for pictures from the Stock Exchange, and then to the cruiser Aurora. We checked our knapsacks at the Hermitage at 10am and toured the massive galleries with Helen. On our exit, we crossed the street to the waiting hydrofoil which expedited our travel to Peterhoff palace. We quickly ate the lunch we brought from the ship on the hydrofoil and took a short 30 min. rest. The grounds of Peterhoff and the fountains were outstanding. Be sure to see the grand cascade from below the palace - the stairs are manageable! In the palace, there is no air conditioning and it gets very, very crowded with tourists. On the day of our visit it happened to be 94 degrees F and people were passing out. Take a few candies - you are not allowed to eat and drink in the palace. We should have ended our day here but went back to the ship for a quick dinner and to freshen up before heading out for our evening performance. If I had known the ship had booked Russian Folklore dancers for that evening, I would not have taken the extra excursion - my group was exhausted and nodded off. But we were pleasantly surprised at intermission with champagne, orange juice and vodka set out just for us! The show was spectacular and the costumes ornate. Note - this is "free seating" and be prepared to "loose" your seat after intermission. Day 2 was a little easier and I was thankful for our private van - we did not need to wait for the group to catch up. We raced off to Pushkin and were able to get into Catherine's palace before the large crowds. On our way back we stopped at the Lenin monument, and a souvenir shop next to Yusupav's palace where Rasputin crawled out after being shot! Note - when on tour all washroom stops were at the souvenir shop or museum. Be prepared to purchase something - they offer free coffee and vodka shots - it's worth the price of a postcard. When booking our visit to St. Isaac's and the Church on the Spilled Blood I specifically requested that we tour inside. This is important as the magnificence is inside viewing the mosaics and brass doors. It is an extra cost on a base tour and very few tours schedule an inside visit as time is limited. We forfeited a visit to St. Peter & Paul Cathedral and the grounds of the fort - there was no time. We ended with a cruise tour along the canals which helps give a different perspective on the city - and is very relaxing. Red October service was outstanding! Our guide Helen was incredibly articulate, knowledgeable and patient - we asked so many questions and she took the time to answer each one. Our driver Andrew was polite and very friendly. We only had 2 days and Red October was outstanding in cramming as much into our agenda as we could physically manage. Mike Finn has excellent attention to detail and was able to answer all my questions on email or by telephone. We did not need another visa - Red October provided us with tickets and documentation but we had no problems on the cruise ship or with Russian immigration. Port 5 - Tallinn, Estonia This is a quaint fairy-tale port and a true medieval old town. We were some of the first passengers off the ship and followed John Lawrence's instructions for walking into town. We got to Fat Margaret's tower and should have stayed to the right and entered the old gate - there was no need to climb all those stairs! Be very careful, the cobblestones are much more treacherous here than in any other city. There are narrow sidewalks on either side but it is difficult to pass other tourists without stepping off the curb. This gate places you on Pikk Street which is deserted at 7am - it was fantastic! We followed it all the way to the little arch entry that leads to a very steep slope to Toompea Hill. At the top of the hill is Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the front of the Cathedral faces the Palace and just around the cobblestone street there are 3 look out points that have a great view of Tallinn, the cruise ship and the port. We were lucky to meet the author of the tourist book on Tallinn selling postcards and souvenirs. As we made our way down at a gradual pace, stopping to enjoy a snack in the shade of some lovely trees near the King's garden and strolled into the town square. If you have time, it would be lovely to stop for a drink at the many outdoor cafes. We raced to the bottom near the old town wall looking for the woolen's market - we were not disappointed. The handmade Icelandic designs were very affordable and the ladies who designed and made them accepted local currency and euros - no credit cards. As we made our way back to the ship, we walked through a set of stalls set up to represent a medieval village with handicrafts, local beer and beautiful linen from shawls to tablecloths. This is a port I wish we had more time - the ship sailed at 1pm. Port 6 - Gdynia, Gdansk, Sopot We were very tired by the time the ship arrived at this port and undecided on what we should do. There are no hop-on-hop-off buses at the port and there are no shuttles. As we exited the ship, we walked towards the large crowd of people waiting, many were taxi drivers. We selected Stanislaus and asked him about a ride to the train station where we thought we would take the train directly to town and spend the day. During our conversation, he offered to take the 4 of us to the old town Gdansk, stop at Oliwa cathedral, a visit to the seaside town of Sopot and a driving tour of Gdynia. We would pay him a total of 100 Euro when he dropped us back off at the ship. This sounded like a really good deal - a private vehicle and a built in tour guide - we accepted! In the old town, we parked by the green gate and saw the old crane, walked up Mariaka street to St. Mary's - the largest brick cathedral in the world, walked to the Golden gate and along Dluga street past the townhall and Neptune fountain. On the day of our visit, there was a local 5km marathon which added to the crowds and congestion. I was very happy to visit the market on the back street and enjoy perogies from a local stall. We jumped back in the taxi and headed out to the 3-cross monument to Solidarity at the Gdansk shipyard. It was a sobering reminder of the cities history. We arrived at Oliwa cathedral and monastery in time to attend an organ concert that was truly magical. I gladly paid the donation to visit the small museum in the monastery which witnessed the signing of the peace treaty in 1660 ending the war between Sweden, Poland and Germany. As we headed out to Sopot the sky clouded over. We were able to walk the esplanade past many lovely shops but never did make it to the beach before the rain started! When we arrived back at the cruise terminal, a number of amber vendors had a few stalls that sold some unique pieces of jewelry that were a little different from items available on this ship. Port 7 - Oslo, Norway There is not much time in Oslo. It is possible to walk into the city but I wanted someone to explain what we were seeing. The city is the largest in square footage with a small population density. I did not see any hop-on-hop off busses here. I would have been nice to visit the Viking ship museum but the rest of the city would have been a driving tour. So we opted for the shore excursion with the ship OSL-380 Walking Tour of Oslo & City Hall scheduled to depart till 10am. Since we arrived in port at 7am, I got off the ship and visited the stalls selling souvenirs at the dock to do some shopping, wrote and mailed postcards and chatted with the locals. It was the best decision as when we returned from our tour the place was overrun. Our 68 year old guide Anne started us marching at a brisk pace from the ship and up and around the old fort. At the top there was a great look out and we were able to see the whole city and the Olympic ski jump in the distance. We walked into the city, past the square, across to the theatre and Royal Palace before an extensive tour in the Oslo town hall. This is where the dinner for the Nobel Peace prize takes place. The plaster murals cover all the walls in all the rooms and tell the story of the city of Oslo and the founding of Norway and Scandinavia. We made it back on board with minutes to spare and watched as we cruised the fjords and returned to the Baltic. As we made our way, we passed under the Great Belt suspension bridge where there were only a few meters between the top of the ship and the bridge. This bridge is the 3rd longest suspension bridge in the world and connects western Denmark to Zealand where the city of Copenhagen is - the bridge commentary from John Lawrence during this crossing is very informative. While at sea, there is a very brief "rough" passage between 7pm-10pm that the captain announces - it was the only time I felt a little ill. When the ship docked in Copenhagen, we took the ships transfer to the airport ~$35 USD / per person and picked up our luggage at the airport. They dropped us very close to the terminal. The Copenhagen airport has lots of shops and places to eat but we only had a short time. The licorice and candy in Scandinavia was really good but I could only bring a little bit home. It was a wonderful holiday and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys history and visiting some great sites. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We flew into Copenhagen airport arriving early morning from Indianapolis via Atlanta on Delta airlines. Stopped at a ATM to get some Kroner's (local currency) and then took the train into Copenhagen's main train station, all of a ... Read More
We flew into Copenhagen airport arriving early morning from Indianapolis via Atlanta on Delta airlines. Stopped at a ATM to get some Kroner's (local currency) and then took the train into Copenhagen's main train station, all of a twelve minute ride. The train ticket office is on the main level of the airport and just below, down the escalator, is the train into town that runs every 20 minutes. We arrived a day early before our ship's departure to explore downtown Copenhagen. We stayed the first night at the Imperial Hotel, a nice four-star hotel just two short blocks from the train station. Globus also uses this hotel. Very good breakfast and free internet included. The local tourist information office is located across from the main train station and Tivoli Park. On our last night we stayed at the Copenhagen Plaza Hotel just across the street from the train station and Tivoli Park. Also a very nice four-star hotel with breakfast and Internet included at no extra cost. SHIP The Star Princess is a beautiful ship, with a wonderful cruise staff. The ships layout makes it very easy to get around and never seemed very crowded which is good on a larger cruise ship like this. The boarding process went smoothly and we were able to board by 1:00 PM, just in time for lunch. The food, dining room service, entertainment, and our mini-suite were all very good. The port and shopping talks with John Lawrence were very helpful to either watch in person or view on the ships TV in our cabin. We did the independent departure and carried off our luggage and never had to wait, just walked off the ship at 8:00 AM after breakfast. This left plenty to time to finish exploring Copenhagen and Denmark before departing for home the next day. We did not purchase any of the ship's tours, rather did our independent tours on our own except in St Petersburg and Berlin which we booked with a very good tour company called DenRus. We highly recommend DenRus for their high quality service at a much low price. They also offered tours in all our baltic ports of call on this cruise. The more often you use them the greater their discount. More on them later PORTS: Copenhagen Denmark. We enjoyed walking through the old town and did the walking tour following our Rick Steve's Scandinavia guidebook. Stroget is the main shopping street. Radhuspladen the City Hall, is very nice to see inside. We particularly liked viewing the canal boats and beautiful houses surrounding the Nyhaven canal. The Rosenborg Slot (Castle), gardens, and treasury were very interesting. On our last day in Copenhagen we took the train 25 miles outside of the City to the last stop on the train route called Hillerod to visit the Fredenborg Slot which is much bigger and nicer. Along the way we also stopped to visit the Open Air Museum Frilandsmuseet which was free. A one day transportation pass will get you unlimited bus, Stog, and train the next morning back to airport. Most places took Kroners or Euros. Stockholm, Sweden. The five-hour archipelago entering Stockholm from the Baltic is worth being outside to see as your leave Stockholm. Very beautiful scenery. We took a short city bus ride into town from the cruise terminal and first stopped at the Vasa Museum, home of the great Viking Ship. This is said to be their biggest attraction and it is worth getting in line to see. It is big and well preserved. Go early. The rest of the day we spend walking through this very nice old town again following Rick Steve's guidebook. Among the places we visited were the Cathedral, and the Palace to see the Crown Jewels (the Armory). Most places took Kronors or Euros. Helsinki Finland. This was to our surprise a very nice stop on the cruise. Again we got of the ship and walked from the Cruise Terminal a short distance into the old town. We visited the Lutheran Cathedral in Senate Square, Uspenski Cathedral, the Rock Church, and the harbor market which had some very nice shopping and food selections. We bought a one-day bus pass which let us to go on a circle the town seeing many sights including the Olympic stadium and the Rock Church. Easy to get off and reboard. With the one-day bus included is a harbor boat ride over to a neighboring island that was very interesting. Most places took Euros. St Petersburg, Russia Probably the best two days of the cruise. We booked a two day escorted tour through DenRus (DenRus.ru) and have nothing but good things to say about them. First of they are very professional and have good English speaking guides. Their cost was $325 per person for the complete St Petersburg Value Tour, which compared to the ships Best of St Petersburg tour of $399 pp. DenRus took care of getting the visa, provided very nice modern buses that have a maximum of 25 passengers so getting on/off was very easy and took less time so we got to see a lot more. They provided us with earpiece/receivers to listen to our guide whenever we were on a walking tour so it was always easy to understand and appreciate what you're seeing. DenRus met us in the Cruise Terminal exactly at the time they told us in their confirmation and newsletter. The highlight of the first day was seeing both Catherine Palace and Peterhof's Palace, Fountains, and Gardens, with a lunch at the Summer Palace restaurant near Peterof's. They made you feel like royalty here. The second day was seeing many of St Petersburg highlights like Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral, the Aurora Cruiser, a canal boat ride, Church of the Spilled Blood Cathedral, lunch at the Russian Club and finally a visit into the Hermitage Museum. Here we saw many original works of art including Michangelo, Leonardo DiVinci, Rembrandt, Van Gough, and on and on. You cannot say enough good things about how beautiful some of the church's, palaces, and buildings are here. The Hermitage must have one of the best collects of art found anywhere. Most places took US dollars or Euros. Tallinn, Estonia. This turned out to be the surprising jewel of the cruise. This is a wonderful old German style small city, very pleasant and easy to visit. We walked the short distance (10 minutes) from the cruise terminal into the old town. Ventured up to the top of the hill in town, Toompea, and then walked back down the many small streets into the Town Hall and Square area where there are many nice shops and restaurants. The Sweater Wall, found along the wall surrounding the old town is not to be missed. Here many of the local women have individual booths selling their beautifully handmade sweaters, hats, and scarf's at very reasonable prices. Most places accepted Euros. Gdansk, Poland At the ships terminal we and another couple hired an English speaking cab for $100 Euros total the four of us for the entire day. We went into Gdansk and the driver parked and walked around the old town showing us the major sights. St Mary's Basilica is huge and worth seeing. Solidarity Square and Kosciuszko Square are of note here. Along the river some of the buildings are still as they were after being bombed in WWII. We then drove to a nearby coastal city called Sopot which has a very nice boardwalk to walk around and see the famous Grand Hotel. We then made a final stop in Gdynia where the cruise ship terminal is located. They have a nice waterfront here worth walking around in. Euros accepted here. Warenemunde (Berlin) Germany. We again booked a Complete Berlin tour with DenRus for $265 per person. Comparable tour the ship was selling for $325 pp. DenRus also give us a discount because we booked more than one tour with them. This tour started with DenRus meeting us at the cruise terminal in Warenmunde and taking the three hour bus ride to Berlin getting to see some pretty countryside along the way. Upon entering Berlin we visited Brandenburg Gate, remnants of the original Berlin Wall both from the East and West Berlin perspective, Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Cathedral, WWII memorial, Reichstag, Bellevue Palace, Gendarmenmarket and Bebelplatz the site of the book burning during WWII. Great typical German lunch at a Borghoff with wonderful Bavarian sausages and sauerkraut. Euros taken here. Helsingborg Sweden This was kind of a disappointment as not a lot to do with the amount of time you are here. We got off the ship and walked into town and saw most of the major sites like the Town Hall, the Keep, Sofiero Palace and gardens. Some of our fellow cruise passengers took the ferry to over to Denmark and saw Hamlets Castle. They said is was worth it. Airport Departure. Plan on arriving a good three hours before departure to get through all the security and checkpoints, we counted at least five. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
My husband and I just returned from the 10 day Baltic cruise on the Star Princess. I won't spend much time reviewing the ship itself (it was exemplary) but instead, I will focus on sharing information on the ports. To give some ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from the 10 day Baltic cruise on the Star Princess. I won't spend much time reviewing the ship itself (it was exemplary) but instead, I will focus on sharing information on the ports. To give some background on the reviewer, my husband and I are both 34 years old, in good health, and are avid travelers including several other cruises. Copenhagen, Denmark Important note regarding credit card use in Denmark - They have changed to a pin code system. So, if you plan to use your credit card, you need to know your pin. At restaurants, hotels, shops, etc. they will ask you to enter your pin into a handheld device. We didn't know ours. Only a few places accepted a signature, but most of the time we had to use our debit card and enter the pin. You can also use your debit card to get local currency from the ATMs as an alternative. You'll find that most places during the entire cruise will accept credit cards, so don't worry about getting out different currencies in each of the countries you will be visiting. When arriving in Copenhagen we chose to come early and stay overnight in a hotel. I reviewed several hotels and chose the Norlandia Star Hotel based on cheap price and ideal location next to the central train station. The hotel was no frills but included breakfast (bread, cereal, soft boiled eggs, coffee, juice, and cold cuts). The room was clean. We planned on cool weather in the region, but were suffering a heat wave at the time, so the room was a bit warm at night (no air conditioning) and if facing the street it can be a little loud. I'd recommend asking for a courtyard facing room. At the airport you can purchase train tickets to Kopenhagen H (which is their central station) for 34.50 Denmark Kroner per adult. (exchange rate is 7:1 USD) You can use a credit card in the machine or buy from the ticket window. Take the escalator down to Track 2 and make sure that you stamp your ticket in the little yellow box. This will put a timestamp and date on your ticket so that if a conductor checks, they know you purchased a valid ticket. No one ever checked our tickets, but we heard if you didn't buy a ticket or didn't stamp yours, that the fines are hefty. The train ride is short (15 min or so) and only a few stops away. At the central station, take the escalator upstairs, and you can exit through a door on the left, turn right, take the first left and the Norlandia Star is on the left side about 2 minutes away. It's a very easy walk. To get to the ship, you need to be aware that there are 2 main ports. You need to go to the port on Orientkaj Road. Your tourist maps will show this road at the top of the map. This is further away than the main dock so don't let a taxi driver bring you to the wrong one. Taxis are expensive and hard to find. We chose to save money by taking the S Train from Central station to the Nordhavn stop. You can use the machine to buy a Zone 2 ticket for 23 kroner each. The Nordhavn stop is within what they call "Zone 1" but you need to purchase a min of a Zone 2 ticket because there is no discount price for just going within Zone 1. Getting tickets in the machines was a little difficult as it didn't accept my credit card, or debit card, but when we tried my husband's debit card (same account) it accepted it. The other option is to wait in the ticket lines to buy your ticket at the counter. Again, the train ride was short (10 min) and only a few stops away. When you get off at the station, you need to follow the signs to the port entrance and when inside the port area, you'll see a blue line painted on the ground that will lead you right to the Star Princess. Total walking time was about 15 minutes. Others that took the bus said they had to walk about the same distance. If you don't want to walk, the best option is to get a taxi. Check-in procedures were super easy and fast. The ship takes good care of you. Note for all Ports of Call: I highly recommend that you attend the talks with the Port Lecturer (John Lawrence) or watch the replays on your stateroom TV. He also has a DVD on the region (called Baltic Treasures) that you can get on board or probably before the trip to get familiar with the ports. He provides invaluable information. Stockholm, Sweden After a day at sea, we spent the first day in Stockholm. We booked the cruise tour called Town and Country where we visited a small village (Sigtuna) which was about a 30 min bus ride away, then came back into the city for a guided tour on the bus and a visit to the Vasa Museum. Vasa is a ship that was poorly designed due to fact no one wanted to tell the king he couldn't have the design he wanted, and therefore sank upon its maiden voyage. It was well preserved in the brackish waters for years and now is inside the museum. It is breathtaking, literally. We booked a tour out of this port because we heard it was difficult to get into the city (you are docked about 2-3 miles away and transportation into the city can be difficult considering the crowd). As we drove through Stockholm, the city was beautiful and I would have liked some time to explore the Old Town area on foot, but the time was limited and our tour did not include this. If I were to do this differently, I would have not booked a tour. When we got off the ship, there were Hop On, Hop Off buses waiting there and selling tickets, I think that might have been a cheaper and better option for us. I'm not sure if they are there every time the ship docks, but no one mentioned it to us as an option so we had pre-booked the ship tour. Helsinki, Finland We did not book a tour in this port. From the ship, we walked into the main part of town. If you are in good health and like to walk, this is quite easy to do. When you get off the ship, follow the green line out of the port. There was construction going on so just look for the pedestrian paths that are marked when the green line ends. To get out of the port area, the walk will take you about 15-20 minutes. Once on the main street you will be facing a Radisson Hotel. You then have 2 options. 1. You can take the tram (John Lawrence will give you details on this), or you will see the staircase next to the hotel on the right, which puts you on a street that goes directly into the main tourist area. Since we wanted to exercise after eating all the good ship food, we chose to walk into town. Total walking time from ship to downtown was about 40-45 minutes. Once in the tourist sections, you will find lots of shopping on their famous pedestrian street (The Esplanada) and there is a nice market area at the end of that. John will also give you information about the famous sites there that are all within walking distance from the main part of town. The tram runs right through this area. We then followed our tourist map and walked to see the "Rock Church" but were not allowed to go in due to a private function from 1PM - 4PM. If you want to see the inside of this church you may want to go early to make sure that it won't be closed for private functions. Instead, we climbed on top of the church and enjoyed it that way. We used the tourist map to find our way back to the ship by foot. It was no problem to walk in Helsinki. We estimate that we walked about 5 miles that day, but the walk was leisurely and we had plenty of time to see all the famous sites and get back before the crowds. Saint Petersburgh, Russia Now this is the port that causes people the most confusion, but let me assure you it is simple. You DO NOT need to get Russian visa if you join a tour. The tour can be with the ship, or it can be with ANY tour agency in Russia as long as you pre-book. The ship tour was priced at $399 per person for 2 days. We found this a little pricey, so instead, we pre-booked a tour with a local company called Den Rus. Booking was easy to do online and the tour was excellent. We chose the package called "Russian Experience" for $255 per person and found ourselves on a tour with only 6 people total in the van. It came with the driver and the tour guide. When booking it said we can be with a tour of up to 30 people, so I'm not sure if we were just lucky but we were ecstatic for such a personalized tour for that price. We ran into the ship tours with herds of people at the sites and were not envious at all. We also heard that Anastasia Tours was recommended. To get off the ship in Russia you need the following: 1. Passport 2. A printed copy of your tour tickets. 3. a 2-part immigration form that the ship will fill out for you and deliver to your stateroom before arriving in port. You need to sign both parts of the form on the bottom. Despite what you may have read, you do not need a copy of your passport photo page anymore. Don't lose your passport once on the land because you will not be allowed to leave the country until a new one is issued (days later). So take good care of it. When getting off the ship, it took us about 20 minutes to get through the immigration line. But after that main rush, there was really no wait. There were many lines open. The immigration people took one half of the form when we entered and took the second half when we got back on ship that night. For day 2, you DO NOT need the immigration form again. The immigration officers will simply open your passport to see that you have the stamp from the previous day and they will let you in. But, you do need to make sure you show them the copy of your tour tickets again to prove you have pre-booked a tour. Once we made it through the immigration line, a representative from Den Rus was standing there with a sign. The tour company arranged 2 full days of touring including all of the key sites and delicious lunches. We had Lilia as a guide and she was very knowledgeable about all the sites, buildings, churches, etc.. She rattled off dates and facts constantly. Our favorite was The Summer Palace (Peterhof) and the canal tour by boat. The Hermitage we found extremely HOT and overcrowded, so unless you are a big art lover, I wouldn't make this a huge part of your day. It is worth seeing, but be warned! As for currency, most places accepted USD and Euro, so no need to get any rubles. Tallin, Estonia When the ship docks you will look over and see the medieval city right there in front of you. There is no need to book a tour in Tallin as you can walk to the town in about 10-15 minutes. The stroll is easy and you can't get lost. When you walk toward the city walls you will see a large tower called "Fat Margaret." (John Lawrence will show you photos of what to look for during his port lectures). Go to the right of the tower and you will enter the city there. There is also a shuttle bus that you can pay for to take you up to the main gate, but if you are able bodied, then I recommend the nice walk. Within the city walls you will find lots of shops, cafes, churches, and sites. The city is tiny and can be explored in only a few hours. There are 2 areas in the city where you can pay 2 Euro to walk on the city walls. That was fun for us. It is also in this city that you will find inexpensive handmade wool products. I bought a sweater for $50 that would cost me $200 at home. Gydnia (Gdansk), Poland We chose to not book at tour in this port as well. If you are a calm, level headed person, you can navigate yourself to Gdansk by taxi and train, but if you tend to panic, then book a tour. For those that like the adventure of finding your own way, it actually isn't that bad. When you get off the ship you will see a few taxis right there inside the gates by the ship. Go past those and out the gate to where the bulk of the taxis are. Don't worry, there are plenty of taxis for everyone. The drivers are all waiting by the gate and you just need to ask someone to take you to the train station. You can pay with 10 Euro, $15 USD, or 40 in local currency (exchange rate is 3:1 USD). When you arrive at the train station you will go in and find ticket windows right there. Those are NOT the ones you want. You need to turn left in the hallway and follow the signs to the SKM ticket window. You can buy a ticket for Gdansk there for only 4.50 (which is about $1.50). Again, at this station you will need to stamp your tickets in the yellow boxes to validate them both on your way to and from the city. The ride takes about 30 minutes and is easy to find because it is the last stop for the train. You will see several signs for Gdansk, but just go the last stop, Gdansk Glownia (which means central). Once you get off the train, you will walk to the road, turn right and walk another 10 minutes or so and you'll find the Old City area to explore across the street on your left. The area is mainly shopping, cafes, and historic buildings. Coming back is just as easy. Just go back to the same train station and find the SKM ticket booth again (it is not inside the main building, the entrance is outside by the tracks where you got off earlier). Take the train back to Gydnia Glowna, go outside and ask the taxi to take you back to the port. The whole experience can be a little intimidating but the locals were friendly and answered any of our questions along the way. We even had a nice guy walk us to the Old City when we inquired where it was. Again, John Lawrence will give you more details during his port lecture. Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany If you want to see Berlin, about the only way to do so is with the ship tour. The ship actually charters trains that pull up right next to the ship for boarding and sends you off to Berlin for the day. Taking local transportation seemed too complicated and risky so we paid the $319 pp for the Best of Berlin tour. If you don't want to go into Berlin, there are plenty of things to do right around the shore there in Warnemunde or other little towns. You won't be bored. We thought that the day would be exhausting, but it was quite pleasant. We were all assigned train cars to ride in for the 3 hour journey to Berlin. Each car had a Princess staff member there to give you directions. They provided coffee, tea, water, and handed out soft pretzels as a snack half way through the journey. When we arrived in Berlin, each train car was met by their tour guide and we were all promptly whisked away on our separate buses. It was nice to see Berlin, but I'll warn you that the stops are very short. We spent about 5-10 minutes in each area (the Wall, Bradenburg gate, Checkpoint Charlie, The place where the books were burned, etc...). Bring some Euro with you if you want to buy drinks or something during these brief stops as they don't accept credit card purchases under 20 Euro in Berlin. Also eat a good breakfast before you go because lunch is late. We toured for a few hours, then around 2:30 we arrived at a hotel for lunch which was included in the tour. After we finished eating we were given about 40 minutes to wander on their famous shopping street called Kurfurstendam before meeting back on the bus. We then went to the Allied museum and spent about an hour there before continuing on the bus tour and making our way back to the train for the ride back to the port. On the train ride home, the ship provides everyone with a sack dinner. The ride home is nice and the views are pleasant. Overall, since we haven't been to Berlin before we were glad to get introduced to it, but by no means did we feel like we saw enough. It was very rushed and we would have liked to spend more time at the stops. Perhaps an alternative would be to use the ship's train as the transportation to Berlin, but then buy a ticket when you are there for a Hop On, Hop Off Bus. That way you don't have to wait for all the people in your tour to be herded on and off the bus all of the time. That wastes a lot of precious time. And, you can eat lunch at an eatery in 10 minutes rather than spend 45 minutes with the group waiting to be served. The risk in this method is that obviously you need to make sure you are back to get the chartered train on time because they are on tight schedule and will leave you behind if you are late. Helsingborg, Sweden I'm sorry to say folks that we were exhausted by this time and did not get off the ship in this port. Instead I enjoyed a massage while my hubby relaxed by the pool. But, I can say that we could see the main parts of town right by the water's edge. The ship used tenders in this port and most of the people seemed to just enjoy their day right there in the main square in full site of the ship. Olso, Norway Our cruise did not include a stop in Oslo, so we traveled to the region early and took a day and flew up to Olso for a visit. Ironically, we did see the Star Princess in port that day so we do know that the dock is within walking distance of the main tourist area. To get around Olso, we bought tickets for the Hop On, Hop Off buses and enjoyed touring this way. When you get off the ship, you can walk up to City Hall (5 minutes) and find the Hop On tours starting right in front of the building. They'll give you a good map and you can see all the main sites in a few short hours. We spent most of our time at the park with sculptures, walking the main pedestrian street, laying on the grass outside the palace, and visiting the Kon Tiki museum. The hotel we stayed in (Comfort Hotel) was right near the Opera House so we also climbed to the top of that. The bus price is reasonable but if you would rather walk on your own, you can hit many of the main sites. Copenhagen, Denmark So, the ship will return to Copenhagen at 9PM the day before you depart, so some people chose to make their own way from Helsingborg (ship left at 6PM) and met the ship that night. You can also get off in Copenhagen to explore if you like. We chose to stay on board, and then we disembarked around 8AM the next morning. The taxi is expensive there so we retraced our steps to the train stop by following the blue line out. Our credit cards wouldn't work in the automated machine again, but we went into the little sundry shop right there at the train stop and they also sold tickets. The credit cards worked there no problem. We took the train back to the central station (Kobenhagen H) and stayed one more night at the Norlandia Star Hotel. In Copenhagen we walked around Tivoli gardens, spent time exploring their pedestrian streets, and just tooled around the city. Note that all of the McDonald's there offer free WiFi, so this is your chance to get caught up with emails. Regarding Tivoli gardens, if you are not sure if you want to ride any rides, I recommend that you buy the entry ticket for 95 kroner, then you can walk around and check out the rides inside. If you want to ride one of the bigger rides, the cost is 75 kroner per person. Should you choose to ride more than 2 rides, the best deal is to get the bracelet for 205 additional kroner, and ride all day. You can buy these bracelets once you are inside so don't stress about making that decision at the gate. To be honest, the rides are not that impressive for adults so you might choose to just stroll around the park instead. To get back to the airport, you can use the automated machines in central station to buy tickets to Kopenhagen Lufthavn / Kastrup. This is the local name for the Airport. We hope that this review makes you feel more at ease about your trip and helps give you pointers in how to get around and save some money. Enjoy your trip! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Awesome is the word! We arrived in Copenhagen a day early and stayed two extra nights at the end of the cruise. There is so much to do and see in Copenhagen. It was a clean and very walkable city from our hotel Radisson Scandinavia. The ... Read More
Awesome is the word! We arrived in Copenhagen a day early and stayed two extra nights at the end of the cruise. There is so much to do and see in Copenhagen. It was a clean and very walkable city from our hotel Radisson Scandinavia. The day of embarkation, we took the Princess city tour and had a very knowledgeable guide and were able to see and learn so much about this wonderful city. Embarkation was a breeze. Our stateroom was ready when we boarded and luggage arrived shortly after. We've been on many cruises previously with Princess as well as other cruiselines and the Star Princess did not disappoint us. It was clean, the staff friendly and helpful and food was great. We chose "anytime dining" and all dining room personnel, from the gracious hostess to our waiters gave us exceptional service. We thought the entertainment ranked among the best we'd had on any ship. The itinerary was perfect. Our only complaint was that we couldn't stay an extra day in each port. Having John Lawrence onboard was a great asset. We went to all his lectures and they were all very enlightening and helpful. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
My husband & I just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Star Princess. I was lucky enough to travel the Baltic on the Celebrity Century in 2007. What cruise line would I recommend??? My vote goes to Celebrity. Food: Celebrity wins ... Read More
My husband & I just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Star Princess. I was lucky enough to travel the Baltic on the Celebrity Century in 2007. What cruise line would I recommend??? My vote goes to Celebrity. Food: Celebrity wins here. The food on Princess reminded me of low end food service. The breakfast buffet in the Horizon was awful (same food served in the sitdown restaurant)in particular. The lunch buffet was mediocre, and while the presentation of dinner in the anytime dining Capri was nice, all the food tasted the same...bland, unimaginative, boring. As compared to the Star Princess, Celebrity was more flavorful and interesting. The breakfast in the sitdown area was more "highend" than the buffet on the Century. On both ships, the coffee was bitter and strong. Tours: We like going on the tours offered by the ship...so stress free. Celebrity wins here. On the Century, the tours were a tad more organized. Paddles were provided for group recognition. Entertainment: Celebrity again. The Century had better singer and dancers...the singers on the Star were a step above average. The Star also had a magician who was bordering on obnoxious. The venues on the Celebrity are better...larger venues to create energy. The Star had too many different bars/rooms which resulted in only a few passengers in each. Being a port intensive cruise with early calls, there was virtually no night life. At 10 pm, the ship was done. At least on the Century, there was music and dancing before dining. Public areas: Varied. The Star's large screen "Movie under the Stars" was impressive. The World Cup was televised live. The decor of the Star is starting to look dated and none of the rooms have a wow factor. The Century had a specific martini bar with a bar constructed of ice. Cabin: Again, Celebrity wins. Our cabin on the Star was a little "locker room" smelling. The Star had more hanging space. Service: A draw. We were disappointed not being able to change our anytime dining to traditional even after talking to the matre'd immediately when he was available. Activities: Princess wins here with lecturer John Lawrence and his port information. Sailing the Baltic for more than 19 years, he provides port information along with history. Both ships have similar activities...bingo, trivia, special "classes" on computers, cameras, etc. Passengers: If you want a more high end fellow passenger, go with Celebrity. For example, on formal night we saw only 10 men in tuxes on the Star, while on the Century about half dressed black tie with the remaining men in dark suits. Very casual on the Star which may be a result of the anytime dining. On the Star, one half were American and there were 300 children on the ship. Overall: Celebrity just feels more high-end and special. It's like comparing a Four Seasons to a Marriott. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Overall the tour of the Baltic was very good. We choose Princess based on ports first and price second. Each of the 7 of us had things we wish we could have changed but nothing except the bland food, less than Cruise level singers and ... Read More
Overall the tour of the Baltic was very good. We choose Princess based on ports first and price second. Each of the 7 of us had things we wish we could have changed but nothing except the bland food, less than Cruise level singers and terrible tour guide in in Gdansk was agreed upon. The entire Princess staff was found to be working as hard as possible to make our trip enjoyable. Some cabin stewards spoke better English and that assisted in some having more positive encounters and receiving what they asked for more expeditously. We asked for and were able to obtain a second seating, the free style for 7 or more has not been a positive experience for us on other Princess Cruises. Service at dinner was what we have come to expect for this line in the last year or so. The service has declined and is not as personalized as it has been. The food choices we made were found to be bland. Breakfast at the coffee bar was quite enjoyable and the coffee so much better than the liquid coffee from a frozen mixture served in the dining rooms and Horizon Court. We each enjoyed a variety of positive experiences on the ship and on our private tours,We did not experience many of the pit falls we heard about from others on their Princess tours since our were arranged by Plan it for you at hot mail dot com. They did our tours when we sailed Holland America in the Mediterranean last summer hence we used the again. Never a problem with them will use them again. I hate to do the work, I recognize others enjoy spending their time on tour selection, its not for me. The Trivia contests were uniquelly difficult :), the lecture/workshops were very good. I do not have photoshop at home but the person giving the lessons was easy to follow and understand. I did not participate in the Journal entry sessions but heard they were very good also. We did not experience the negatives I read about in other reviews but have noticed a drop in attention to detail and WOW what a drop in entertainment talent. I would do this tour again but feel from I have been hearing about Disney which is now cruising the Baltic I would give them a try. Dave is very funny, bright and full on information. You see Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Background information: The participants: Myself, DW, Son (15), and seven additional friends and family, ages ranging from 10 to 70. Hotel information: Launching pad, Hotel Bethel, Copenhagen. I can't say enough about the people of ... Read More
Background information: The participants: Myself, DW, Son (15), and seven additional friends and family, ages ranging from 10 to 70. Hotel information: Launching pad, Hotel Bethel, Copenhagen. I can't say enough about the people of Copenhagen and the Hotel Bethel in particular. Nothing fancy about the hotel, but the people were fantastic. We had a possible tragedy when we lost a backpack containing medicines and other vitals. Thanks to the tireless work of the Bethel staff and a local pharmacy, the cruise was rescued. Ship Info: We embarked on June 21 sailing. The taxi from the hotel to the ship was a little less than quoted. I can't recall the specific amount but it was around $20 for the three of us and three suitcases. The embarkation process was smooth, having arrived around 2:00. It took about 30 minutes. Upon arrival on the ship we went up to the Horizon Court and had sandwiches and pizza. Pizza was very good, the sandwiches were adequate. Luggage arrived within an hour. We had an inside cabin on the Dolphin deck. The size was a little bigger than we remembered (having taken the same ship for an Alaskan cruise 7 or 8 years ago). Throughout the cruise the assigned porter was very efficient. For those inclined to use the TV, there was MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC, BBC, ESPN International (mostly Wimbledon and day old baseball games), and a bunch of movie channels (showing mostly year old movies) as well as Princess channels for port previews,etc. Some World Cup soccer games were shown both on the cabin TV and on the big screen on the pool deck. I should note that the Mexican passengers were quite upset when their games were not shown. It appeared that there was some internet/satellite coverage in one of the rooms. Ship amenities: Pools were open throughout the cruise. Depending upon the weather either the open pool or covered pool would get quite busy, but never a problem finding a chair. The big screen offered movies, soccer. The movies under the stars offered popcorn and a blanket. The lounges seemed to have intermittent attendance. We particularly enjoyed the piano bar performer,with his wry Scottish humor and talented piano playing. The showroom performances were okay, though watching the Motown review was a little awkward. I guess someone who may reflect the culture a little would have been welcomed. However, the performers seemed to really give an all out effort. The comedian/magician was very popular and entertaining (though for those of you old enough to remember Carl Ballantine from the old McHale Navy show, he did the same act 40 years ago). We probably would have enjoyed it more if some of the other guests had been more respectful of the rest of us. Two groups talked consistently throughout the performance despite being asked by others to be quiet. The juggler was not very popular and marginally entertaining. The best show, by far, was the Russian troup that entertained the evening the ship docked in St. Petersburg. I cannot criticize the casino as for the first time in my life I won ($200 on a 36 cent bet on a2 cent machine). I really appreciated the lack of hard sell for any of the tours and/or photos. There were some complaints about the formal photos, taking black and white pictures in color mode and trying to use the computer to adjust. I used the exercise facilities a number of times and almost never had a problem getting a treadmill. Food: The food was usually pretty adequate, but not necessarilly better than average. In the main dining room, despite the size of our group (8-10) we were always quickly seated (on the anytime schedule). The service, though slow, was quite attentive. Plan on 2 hours if you eat in the general dining rooms (we ate in Portofino). The first and last courses were by far superior to the main courses. In most cases, fish and meat were overcooked (or cooked more than requested). One of our party wrote a scathing review. They received an apology the next day along with a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries...a very class move on the part of Princess. The exception to the average food was the lamb, turkey and lobster dishes. All enjoyed the deserts. We usually grabbed breakfast in the Horizon court and the food was about HOmetown buffet level. Two nights we ate dinner in the Horizon court and the food was similar to that in the dining room We did not utilize the premium rooms. There were two formal nights, but only half of us participated and I was in the half that did not... Ports: THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TRIP! We took the cruise to get to these ports and were not disappointed. However, we could have used more time in STockholm, Tallin, and Oslo and less in Helsinki. The Port talks by Mr. Lawrence were quite valuable and should be seen either in person or on the TV before visiting the ports. He was also available in the afternoon before ports for specific questions. Disembarkation: WARNING!!!!!!!!!!While the disembarkation was smooth the taxi drivers were minor league con artists. Our driver tried to get us to use him to the airport, saying the metro was down. It was not. Another of our group was told there were problems with the train and the taxi was the best way to the airport. This was not true as well. Neither of us fell for the scam... I just want to add that Oslo was terrific and we needed much more time there (as opposed to the half day). The Froegner Park sculptures are not to be missed. To save time we just took a taxi there. It cost about $25for four us. We also enjoyed the art museum as well as the City Hall murals and a walk down Johann Gate. Be aware of sticker shock. A McDonald's burger (can't imagine why one would go there) was over $10. Two of our party stopped for a half a sandwich,two non alcoholic drinks and a piece of bread for $27. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Things started off well on June 9th. We boarded our flight in Atlanta. My mom had flown down the day before from Charlotte, to make sure she didn't miss her connection with me to Copenhagen. We decided to fly Delta's version of ... Read More
Things started off well on June 9th. We boarded our flight in Atlanta. My mom had flown down the day before from Charlotte, to make sure she didn't miss her connection with me to Copenhagen. We decided to fly Delta's version of Trans-Atlantic 1st Class...they call it BusinessElite. There was no Business class on the flight, just Economy and BusinessElite. The flight was great as everyone sitting around us, practically, were going to be sailing with us on Princess. We met several people that we would run into, later, on the cruise ship. We arrived a day early, on June 10th. We wanted to make sure we could resolve our jet lag before boarding. We stayed at the airport Hilton. I highly recommend this hotel. Beautiful hotel with nice rooms. The executive lounge was also very posh. The best part: it was connected to the airport; you didn't need to even go outside to get to the lobby! This was great as the day we landed the weather was very rainy. Also, the hotel is connected directly with the Metro. Getting to the city center was a quick 20 minute ride (and again, you didn't need to travel outside). The embarkation was wonderful. Great job, Princess. The folks working here was friendly, kind, and efficient. The line moved fairly quickly (about 30 minutes it took us). The rest of the review deals with the cruise. Therefore I'll divide it into sections of interest. FOOD This gets the lowest marks on our tally card. This was almost the worst food we've ever experienced on a cruise. Mind you, I've only taken 6 cruises, but this one narrowly beat out NCL, and NCL always gets bad reviews on food. Having traveled several mid-brand cruises, Royal Caribbean easily has the best food. RC's buffet is the best and their lunch and dinners (formal) are the best, as are their specialty restaurants. Even the Carnival cruise we took last year had much better food than on the Princess. BUFFET- was horrendous. It was cafeteria bad. The selections were sparse. The selections that were present were often very rubbery/chewy. None of the meat was tender. None. Not one piece I tasted. Many mornings we couldn't eat the omelet as it was so cold, old and rubbery. I was really disappointed with the buffet. RC has much better options and make made to order omelets and waffles. None of that on Princess. During the last 3 days they had wonderful boiled shrimp on the lunch buffet, so I will give them high marks for that. Otherwise, it gets 1 to 2 stars. SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Sabatini's. People raved on here that we should go. So we did. I would rate it our 4th best dinner of the cruise and the normal dinner was not so hot. The appetizers were often cold and lifeless...like the buffet food. The main entree (rock lobster tails) were good and actually were the only saving grace of the meal. Although I will say that the Maine lobster tail available in the main dining hall one night was better than the rock lobster tails at Sabatini's. The wine selection available in the main dining halls were condensed here as well, and we could not find an adequate white wine that we liked. Depressing. The dessert was no better than the main dining. If we travel Princess again, we surely will not dine at Sabatini's or their other specialty restaurant. A pure waste of money. MAIN DINING HALL: We ate in the Portofino, as we were anytime. We originally had signed up for 6:00 (first seating) but when we boarded we were told that this time was wrong and it was actually 5:30. Too early for us. 6:00 was barely a time we would be hungry, so they graciously switched it for us. The first night was horrible. The food was bad and the experience was bad. We decided to opt for a large table (8 people) as there were only 2 of us together, and we wanted to meet new people. That was a mistake. People got seated at different times, so everyone was at a different stage in their meal, and then some were leaving earlier while others left later. It was distracting and uncomfortable. I asked the server (nice Thai lady with absolutely no personality) if the fish was fishy. She responded, "Oh, yes, fish is good." Didn't really answer my question, but she didn't seem to want to engage with us whatsoever, so we just ordered. The fish WAS very fish (a Baltic perch) and I had to send it back. My mom got the prime rib which was excellent and large. I ordered that, though my heart was set on fish. The second night we ate at Sabatini's (see above). The third night we got a table for 2 (and continued this for the entirety of our cruise, thank heaven). Our server didn't recommend anything either. She was nice but more of a formal server. She was from Hungary. Our back waiter also was from Hungary. He was so sweet and adorable. His name was Janus. Loved him. Since we did not get recommendations, we ordered what looked good. Again, our food was average. Fourth nigh was the turning point: we asked for a table for two. We got seated in David Cruz's section. He was an excellent server. I would urge anyone taking the Star Princess to ask for him by name. He always wanted to make sure we were happy with our meals whereas no other server to that point looked like they cared to even be working. He always gave us recommendations and they were ALWAYS correct. When he didn't recommend, and we ordered the item anyway, we were always let down. Always. The big problem with the food in the main dining hall, I think was the head chef. He is from Germany and cooks very heavy German food. He was horrible at cooking Asian inspired dishes. He was very bad with cooking what are supposed to be light dishes. For instance, when I go out to a nice restaurant i almost always order fish. I tried his fish the first 2 nights and they were so overcooked. When David recommended dishes, they were always meat or chicken dishes. Never did he recommend fish dishes, as he always echoed what I was thinking: they're overcooked and rubbery. I was sad that I didn't get more fish this trip, but I was happy with the red snapper I had at lunch on Day 2. Two nights we had seafood and David recommended those dishes (Main Lobster and King Prawn one night and scallops the other night -- the scallops were by far our favorite dish of the week!). If you like a lot of cold seafood pates and goose/duck/elk liver pates, then this chef might be up your alley. Also, spaetzle was used about once an evening as was purple sauerkraut. I like spaetzle and purple sauerkraut but it is heavy handed and it was very average in preparation. My mom and I ended up sending back one dish each during the entire 10 nights and we RARELY do that in a restaurant. Me the first night with the perch and her the 5th night with the pork tenderloin (tough and flavorless). The soups should be avoided on the whole. They serve the same ones on the buffet and none they we sampled (6) were any good. Lacked seasoning and salt. Bland. The pastas were a strong point, however. Almost every pasta dish we had was good. Sometimes we even ordered it in entree portion, if nothing looked good for entree that night. Ok, that's enough for food! SERVICE This had to be the best service we've ever gotten on a cruise, from top to bottom. The buffet servers were attentive and so were the main dining servers (although some lacked personality). The service by the pool areas was quick, efficient, professional, and flawless. I highly commend the service staff. Job well done. Easily the most professional service staff on any cruise thus far. CABIN We had an inside cabin, as we were concerned the sun would wake us too early in the Baltic (sunrise around 2-3 a.m.). The cabin was large for an inside cabin, with a huge closet that was a godsend. The feel of the cabin was a bit dated. It looked more 2000 than 2010. The beds were not bad though not amazing either. No problem sleeping. COMMON ROOMS The main area was beautiful and open, where you could see 3 floors of people walking around, shopping, having drinks, etc. Many afternoons you could see/hear a trio or quartet of string instruments playing classical music. Very nice touch. Very classy. The theaters felt a bit dated (they felt a bit 1995 to be honest), but there was nothing really wrong with them. CASINO Was very large! We only went one night. Mom turned $20 into $54 on the Pink Panther slots. We cashed out quickly cuz we're not big gamblers! POOLS Pools wer the best of any cruise ship we went on. There was an outside pool with 2 decks for lounging. Then there was an inside pool (also with 2 decks for lounging). Both pools were adjacent and both had 2 jacuzzis (that were used often...we went in twice...it felt GREAT to be in a jacuzzi when the nights got down to the high 40's/low 50's!! Try it!). Also, at the back of the ship was a less often used, though very well configured pool. It had one jacuzzi above it, and several kiddie pools were nearby. Because of the ports of this particular cruise, VERY few kids were on board who coulda used those pools....we saw maybe 10 kids under 7 years of age during the entire cruise). SPA We didn't use any of the services, but I went in one day to run the treadmill and work out. Beautiful work out space! I dipped my head into the spa and it was the nicest I've ever seen on a cruise ship. I should have gotten a spa service. DRINKS All the specialty drinks we had were really lame. Almost no alcohol in them. However, Princess does have Happy Hours everyday from 8:00 p.m. onward. You can get Long Island Ice Teas, Singapore Slings, or high balls (rail) for $2.95. That's a good deal on a cruise ship and after a few, you'll finally get a buzz. I found the best deal was the martini bar. I had a wonderful Tanqueray martini (dry) with blue cheese stuffed olives. The price was same as their specialty drinks ($6.95) and it was SO much stronger. My Polish bartender there could really mix martinis! BARS We went to each except the Wheelhouse lounge. We found ourselves mostly at the Explorers lounge, because it seemed to have a lot of ship activities within it. The coolest bar was the hardest to get to: the Skywalker's Lounge. This was the ship's big discoteca and it was the coolest I've ever seen on a ship. At the very back of the ship and on the top floor (17th floor). You take an assisted walkway up to it! And it plays popular dance hits after 11:00. The handful of 20 somethings often went here at night, to get away from their older counterparts...haha. It was great for dancing and really cool...especially late at night, as the sun didn't set in St. Petersburg until after 11:30 and you could watch the ocean in the background as you danced! ENTERTAINMENT This is a big dichotomy: The specialty entertainment was always good. We saw one comedian from Virginia who was hilarious. I can't remember his name, though. He talked with us after his show and was very friendly as well. Also, they had this Jerry Lee Lewis type piano player come on for 2 nights (Kyle Esplin) who was sensational! Go see this guy. He'll amaze you. No formal training. Here's where the dichotomy plays: the on-board entertainment was almost dreadful. The magician guy was pathetic. We were embarrassed for him. The dancers were easily the worst I've ever seen on a cruise ship and their voices were some of the worst too. After the first night seeing them, we didn't waste our time for the rest of the cruise. We heard other shipmates comment on their other shows and saying how ghastly they were. We're glad we avoided them. MISSED PORT We missed Stockholm. We later found out that the ship couldn't dock because a navigation device had broken and the waters were too rough to navigate manually. Everyone was really let down, because it was probably the second most popular port (after St. Petersburg). The letter we got the next day didn't really explain much. But I will give Princess this: they totally did not skimp on an issue that was their fault. They let us know on the 8th night that they were giving everyone on board a SIZABLE on-board credit. I thought that showed a lot of class. Many other cruise companies would not do that. Thanks, Princess! DISEMBARKATOIN was very very easy! Took us just 10 minutes! We took a taxi back to the Marriott Copenhagen where we spending 2 nights. Taxi was not quick but we only waited about 15 minutes. Larger groups waited much longer as big taxis are not as popular in C'hagen as they are in the states. The weather in Copenhagen was tremendous! 72 degree highs with no clouds! Enjoyed our time in C'hagen. WEATHER Weather was typical Baltic weather. Could change from totally cloudy to partly cloudy to windy and cloudy -- all within hours. Only one day did it rain (St. Petersburg - Day 2 of that port). Other days were either Mostly Cloudy (the most common) to Partly Cloudy. The best day was in Poland (it was warm and sunny...we got a tan!). Overall, we would take another Princess cruise. I think the food was an aberration. I think it was just maybe the chef in charge. The service was excellent. And the feeling you got from many of the cruise directors and staff was, "yeah, we know we're good". They seemed very confident in their abilities and their confidence was easily recognized. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We give Princess a very high score for this cruise. We had a couple of 'niggles' which I will tell you about later, but these were not with the ship or its company & crew. Having previously cruised with smaller and more ... Read More
We give Princess a very high score for this cruise. We had a couple of 'niggles' which I will tell you about later, but these were not with the ship or its company & crew. Having previously cruised with smaller and more intimate ships I had concerns that 'Star' would be too big and unfriendly. This is not the case. Large yes, but all of her crew we found to be so helpful, smiley, good humoured and efficient. The ship herself beautiful, and she soon became a home from home and a welcome sight after a busy day sight seeing. Embarkation was painless. just 45 mins after arriving at Copenhagen we were outside the ship. 25 mins later we were in our cabin. Cases arrived half an hour later. # niggle # Princess made our aircraft booking as a group booking for all passengers flying to join this cruise, which gave the two of us problems at Heathrow trying to check in. This also gave us big problems at Copenhagen airport on the return as none of our details were recognised on their computer systems. We had also been unable to check in from our home pc the night before for the same reason. I will be following this up with Princess. All food on board was of a superb quality. For the evenings we had chosen the more formal fixed dining time / table. Friendships were soon formed with new dining companions and our most excellent waiter. Some meals were a little bit fancy, but all cooked and tasted wonderful. For breakfast and other meals we used the 24hr buffet. This catered more for the American market ( and American waistlines - some people just piled it high !! ) but still we enjoyed the food. Finding a table could be a challenge here at busy times as some guests would not leave after their meal and chose to sit and watch the views from their dining table while the staff found tables elsewhere for waiting diners. Coffee and pastries at the 'international cafe' were wonderful. This became our treat after a tour or visit on land. If you do enjoy speciality coffees then we would recommend you purchase a coffee card as this works out better value. Lots of on-board activities to take part in if that's your 'thing'. We really didn't do a lot of these, although enjoyed the mini golf course. Movies ( and sports ) under the stars on the huge outdoor screen was brilliant. A bar sits comfortably along side as well !! Pools; Only used one at the back of the ship - adults only - but quite surreal to be swimming in the pool surrounded by the sea. Four other pools inside and out were all well used by other guests. Entertainment; Thoroughly enjoyed the shows in the Princess Theatre. Big number music and dance to more intimate recitals, plus cinema. Very good even if the English are portrayed with a 'cor blimey, Dick Van Dyke' type of voice in songs !! Bars - plenty. Our favourite being the wheel house bar. Big thank you to Neil and Johan for making us feel so welcome there. Generally though, you can find a bar that suits your taste on this ship - there is a good choice. Shopping; You can buy most things that you need on board(except socks !). Prices are high even though duty free - all priced in dollars of course. Our digital camera failed part way through the cruise. We had fantastic service from the team in the photo gallery and purchased a new camera from them ( happy passenger !! ). All of the above was of course complemented by the most amazing views and sights on our cruise itinerary. We will consider another cruise with Princess in the future based on the excellent service and facilities we had on the 'Star Princess'. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Things started off well on June 9th. We boarded our flight in Atlanta. My mom had flown down the day before from Charlotte, to make sure she didn't miss her connection with me to Copenhagen. We decided to fly Delta's version of ... Read More
Things started off well on June 9th. We boarded our flight in Atlanta. My mom had flown down the day before from Charlotte, to make sure she didn't miss her connection with me to Copenhagen. We decided to fly Delta's version of Trans-Atlantic 1st Class...they call it BusinessElite. There was no Business class on the flight, just Economy and BusinessElite. The flight was great as everyone sitting around us, practically, were going to be sailing with us on Princess. We met several people that we would run into, later, on the cruise ship. We arrived a day early, on June 10th. We wanted to make sure we could resolve our jet lag before boarding. We stayed at the airport Hilton. I highly recommend this hotel. Beautiful hotel with nice rooms. The executive lounge was also very posh. The best part: it was connected to the airport; you didn't need to even go outside to get to the lobby! This was great as the day we landed the weather was very rainy. Also, the hotel is connected directly with the Metro. Getting to the city center was a quick 20 minute ride (and again, you didn't need to travel outside). The embarkation was wonderful. Great job, Princess. The folks working here was friendly, kind, and efficient. The line moved fairly quickly (about 30 minutes it took us). The rest of the review deals with the cruise. Therefore I'll divide it into sections of interest. FOOD This gets the lowest marks on our tally card. This was almost the worst food we've ever experienced on a cruise. Mind you, I've only taken 6 cruises, but this one narrowly beat out NCL, and NCL always gets bad reviews on food. Having traveled several mid-brand cruises, Royal Carribean easily has the best food. RC's buffet is the best and their lunch and dinners (formal) are the best, as are their specialty restaurants. Even the Carnival cruise we took last year had much better food than on the Princess. BUFFET- was horrendous. It was cafeteria bad. The selections were sparse. The selections that were present were often very rubbery/chewy. None of the meat was tender. None. Not one piece I tasted. Many mornings we couldn't eat the omelet as it was so cold, old and rubbery. I was really disappointed with the buffet. RC has much better options and make made to order omelets and waffles. None of that on Princess. During the last 3 days they had wonderful boiled shrimp on the lunch buffet, so I will give them high marks for that. Otherwise, it gets 1 to 2 stars. SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Sabatini's. People raved on here that we should go. So we did. I would rate it our 4th best dinner of the cruise and the normal dinner was not so hot. The appetizers were often cold and lifeless...like the buffet food. The main entree (rock lobster tails) were good and actually were the only saving grace of the meal. Although I will say that the Maine lobster tail available in the main dining hall one night was better than the rock lobster tails at Sabatini's. The wine selection available in the main dining halls were condensed here as well, and we could not find an adequate white wine that we liked. Depressing. The dessert was no better than the main dining. If we travel Princess again, we surely will not dine at Sabatini's or their other specialty restaurant. A pure waste of money. MAIN DINING HALL: We ate in the Portofino, as we were anytime. We originally had signed up for 6:00 (first seating) but when we boarded we were told that this time was wrong and it was actually 5:30. Too early for us. 6:00 was barely a time we would be hungry, so they graciously switched it for us. The first night was horrible. The food was bad and the experience was bad. We decided to opt for a large table (8 people) as there were only 2 of us together, and we wanted to meet new people. That was a mistake. People got seated at different times, so everyone was at a different stage in their meal, and then some were leaving earlier while others left later. It was distracting and uncomfortable. I asked the server (nice Thai lady with absolutely no personality) if the fish was fishy. She responded, "Oh, yes, fish is good." Didn't really answer my question, but she didn't seem to want to engage with us whatsoever, so we just ordered. The fish WAS very fish (a Baltic perch) and I had to send it back. My mom got the prime rib which was excellent and large. I ordered that, though my heart was set on fish. The second night we ate at Sabatini's (see above). The third night we got a table for 2 (and continued this for the entirety of our cruise, thank heaven). Our server didn't recommend anything either. She was nice but more of a formal server. She was from Hungary. Our back waiter also was from Hungary. He was so sweet and adorable. His name was Janus. Loved him. Since we did not get recommendations, we ordered what looked good. Again, our food was average. Fourth nigh was the turning point: we asked for a table for two. We got seated in David Cruz's section. He was an excellent server. I would urge anyone taking the Star Princess to ask for him by name. He always wanted to make sure we were happy with our meals whereas no other server to that point looked like they cared to even be working. He always gave us recommendations and they were ALWAYS correct. When he didn't recommend, and we ordered the item anyway, we were always let down. Always. The big problem with the food in the main dining hall, I think was the head chef. He is from Germany and cooks very heavy German food. He was horrible at cooking asian inspired dishes. He was very bad with cooking what are supposed to be light dishes. For instance, when I go out to a nice restaurant i almost always order fish. I tried his fish the first 2 nights and they were so overcooked. When David recommended dishes, they were always meat or chicken dishes. Never did he recommend fish dishes, as he always echoed what I was thinking: they're overcooked and rubbery. I was sad that I didn't get more fish this trip, but I was happy with the red snapper I had at lunch on Day 2. Two nights we had seafood and David recommended those dishes (Main Lobster and King Prawn one night and scallops the other night -- the scallops were by far our favorite dish of the week!). If you like a lot of cold seafood pates and goose/duck/elk liver pates, then this chef might be up your alley. Also, spaetzle was used about once an evening as was purple sauerkraut. I like spaetzle and purple saeurkraut but it is heavy handed and it was very average in preparation. My mom and I ended up sending back one dish each during the entire 10 nights and we RARELY do that in a restaurant. Me the first night with the perch and her the 5th night with the pork tenderloin (tough and flavorless). The soups should be avoided on the whole. They serve the same ones on the buffet and none they we sampled (6) were any good. Lacked seasoning and salt. Bland. The pastas were a strong point, however. Almost every pasta dish we had was good. Sometimes we even ordered it in entree portion, if nothing looked good for entree that night. Ok, that's enough for food! SERVICE This had to be the best service we've ever gotten on a cruise, from top to bottom. The buffet servers were attentive and so were the main dining servers (although some lacked personality). The service by the pool areas was quick, efficient, professional, and flawless. I highly commend the service staff. Job well done. Easily the most professional service staff on any cruise thus far. CABIN We had an inside cabin, as we were concerned the sun would wake us too early in the Baltic (sunrise around 2-3 a.m.). The cabin was large for an inside cabin, with a huge closet that was a godsend. The feel of the cabin was a bit dated. It looked more 2000 than 2010. The beds were not bad though not amazing either. No problem sleeping. COMMON ROOMS The main area was beautiful and open, where you could see 3 floors of people walking around, shopping, having drinks, etc. Many afternoons you could see/hear a trio or quarted of string instruments playing classical music. Very nice touch. Very classy. The theaters felt a bit dated (they felt a bit 1995 to be honest), but there was nothing really wrong with them. CASINO Was very large! We only went one night. Mom turned $20 into $54 on the Pink Panther slots. We cashed out quickly cuz we're not big gamblers! POOLS Pools wer the best of any cruise ship we went on. There was an outside pool with 2 decks for lounging. Then there was an inside pool (also with 2 decks for lounging). Both pools were adjacent and both had 2 jacuzzis (that were used often...we went in twice...it felt GREAT to be in a jacuzzi when the nights got down to the high 40's/low 50's!! Try it!). Also, at the back of the ship was a less often used, though very well configured pool. It had one jacuzzi above it, and several kiddie pools were nearby. Because of the ports of this particular cruise, VERY few kids were on board who coulda used those pools....we saw maybe 10 kids under 7 years of age during the entire cruise). SPA We didn't use any of the services, but I went in one day to run the treadmill and work out. Beautiful work out space! I dipped my head into the spa and it was the nicest I've ever seen on a cruise ship. I should have gotten a spa service. DRINKS All the specialty drinks we had were really lame. Almost no alcohol in them. However, Princess does have Happy Hours everyday from 8:00 p.m. onward. You can get Long Island Ice Teas, Singapore Slings, or high balls (rail) for $2.95. That's a good deal on a cruise ship and after a few, you'll finally get a buzz. I found the best deal was the martini bar. I had a wonderful Tanqueray martini (dry) with blue cheese stuffed olives. The price was same as their specialty drinks ($6.95) and it was SO much stronger. My Polish bartender there could really mix martinis! BARS We went to each except the Wheelhouse lounge. We found ourselves mostly at the Explorers lounge, because it seemed to have a lot of ship activities within it. The coolest bar was the hardest to get to: the Skywalker's Lounge. This was the ship's big discoteca and it was the coolest I've ever seen on a ship. At the very back of the ship and on the top floor (17th floor). You take an assisted walkway up to it! And it plays popular dance hits after 11:00. The handful of 20 somethings often went here at night, to get away from their older counterparts...haha. It was great for dancing and really cool...especially late at night, as the sun didn't set in St. Petersburg until after 11:30 and you could watch the ocean in the background as you danced! ENTERTAINMENT This is a big dichotomy: The specialty entertainment was always good. We saw one comedian from Virginia who was hilarious. I can't remember his name, though. He talked with us after his show and was very friendly as well. Also, they had this Jerry Lee Lewis type piano player come on for 2 nights (Kyle Esplin) who was sensational! Go see this guy. He'll amaze you. No formal training. Here's where the dichotomy plays: the onboard entertainment was almost dreadful. The magician guy was pathetic. We were embarrassed for him. The dancers were easily the worst I've ever seen on a cruise ship and their voices were some of the worst too. After the first night seeing them, we didn't waste our time for the rest of the cruise. We heard other shipmates comment on their other shows and saying how ghastly they were. We're glad we avoided them. MISSED PORT We missed Stockholm. We later found out that the ship couldn't dock because a navigation device had broken and the waters were too rough to navigate manually. Everyone was really let down, because it was probably the second most popular port (after St. Petersburg). The letter we got the next day didn't really explain much. But I will give Princess this: they totally did not skimp on an issue that was their fault. They let us know on the 8th night that they were giving everyone on board a SIZABLE onboard credit. I thought that showed a lot of class. Many other cruise companies would not do that. Thanks, Princess! DISEMBARKATOIN was very very easy! Took us just 10 minutes! We took a taxi back to the Marriott Copenhagen where we spending 2 nights. Taxi was not quick but we only waited about 15 minutes. Larger groups waited much longer as big taxis are not as popular in C'hagen as they are in the states. The weather in Copenhagen was tremendous! 72 degree highs with no clouds! Enjoyed our time in C'hagen. WEATHER Weather was typical Baltic weather. Could change from totally cloudy to partly cloudy to windy and cloudy -- all within hours. Only one day did it rain (St. Petersburg - Day 2 of that port). Other days were either Mostly Cloudy (the most common) to Partly Cloudy. The best day was in Poland (it was warm and sunny...we got a tan!). Overall, we would take another Princess cruise. I think the food was an aberration. I think it was just maybe the chef in charge. The service was excellent. And the feeling you got from many of the cruise directors and staff was, "yeah, we know we're good". They seemed very confident in their abilities and their confidence was easily recognized. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
This is my first Princess cruise, having previously cruised with Carnival 7 times. We arrived at BWI on Sunday, May 9th around 10:00am for our 1:23pm flight to Atlanta and then to Copenhagen. I tried to check in on line the day before, ... Read More
This is my first Princess cruise, having previously cruised with Carnival 7 times. We arrived at BWI on Sunday, May 9th around 10:00am for our 1:23pm flight to Atlanta and then to Copenhagen. I tried to check in on line the day before, but received a red flashing notice across my computer screen saying that I needed a visa. WHAT???? I called Delta and the first person I spoke to said that I did not need a visa, but he would transfer me to the international desk to confirm, and after talking to the young lady there, she said that I needed a visa. I am leaving the next day, how on earth would I be able to get a visa. I am getting very worried at this time. I told her that was not so, only visits over 90 days required a visa, and after having me on hold for a long time, she finally said that it was not necessary and that Delta did not specify in their data base how many days required a visa. I needed a stiff drink after that, I can tell you. She said that she would make a note in my records, and she did because I was able to check in the next day with no problems. I was also charged $50.00 for excess baggage and not $55.00 since I was unable to check in on line. Our plane in Atlanta was supposed to depart at 6:15pm, but did not leave until 7:45pm, and after a 10 hour flight, we arrived in Copenhagen around 9:25am on Monday. Copenhagen, Denmark - We stayed at the Adina Apartment Hotel for 2 days before our cruise, which was about ten minutes from the cruise terminal and I can actually see the top of the ship from my balcony. It was a great room with a full kitchen and washer and dryer. The bathroom was fairly large with a tub and shower and was very clean. There were two large flat screen TVs, one in the living room and the other in the bedroom, and lots of closet space. I only wished that they had internet access in the rooms and not just in the lobby, where they had a computer for you to use. The desk and restaurant staffs were very friendly and helpful and whenever we needed a taxi, it was there within minutes. Great pool and exercise room. The only strange thing was that in order to turn the lights on you had to insert your key card into the slot by the door, take it out, no lights. There is a grocery store, Netto, and a bakery just around the corner and that was very convenient for snacks, water, etc. There is also a restaurant, Otto's, in the hotel but it was very expensive, one sandwich, one hamburger and a salad was 450 Kroners about $75.00US. According to Forbes, this is the 7th most expensive city in the world. The Little Mermaid, which is within walking distance of the hotel, one of the main attractions in Copenhagen, is in China at the World Expo and even though I read that visitors to Copenhagen will be able to experience a Chinese reinterpretation of her at Langelinie, there was nothing there. The Gefion Fountain also within walking distance, is a large fountain on the harbor front in Copenhagen. It features a large-scale group of animal figures being driven by the legendary Norse goddess, Gefjun. It is located in Langelinie Park and is the largest monument in Copenhagen and used as a wishing well. It is very impressive. We stopped by Tivoli Gardens, a famous amusement park, and currently the most visited theme park in Scandinavia and the 3rd most visited in Europe. The line was too long and we decided to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe which was next door. The next day my husband's wallet was stolen when we visited the City Square and that put a damper on things. Thank goodness for money belts; don't leave home without them, and the only money that was stolen was Kroners, his driver's license, and credit card which were in his wallet. We returned to the hotel to call the credit card company to cancel our credit card, and once again the hotel staff was very helpful. We didn't feel like sight seeing after that, but like my husband said everything that was stolen could be replaced and has been. We had a lovely dinner at the restaurant across the street from the hotel and had an early night. The weather was cold and cloudy and it rained the day we boarded the ship. We check out around 12:30pm, arrived at the Freeport terminal around 12:45pm and were in our cabin at 1pm. We had the mandatory fire drill at 5pm and it was a different experience from Carnival where you actually go on deck and see where your life boat will be. On Princess, we went to the Princess Theatre, sat in our seats and the Princess staff demonstrated how to put on the life jacket, similar to the airlines, and that was it. Some passengers attempted to put theirs on, but the staff told them not to. Day at Sea -- We walked around and got to know the layout of the ship. Stockholm, Sweden -- Due to the intense fog, we were unable to berth in Stockholm and the Captain had to dock several miles from the terminal and we had to be tendered to the docks where the busses were waiting. I stood on my balcony and could not see the ocean or sky, it was so thick. It was rather spooky. We visited the Vasa Museum where the center piece is the 17th century warship Vasa, the oldest fully preserved ship in the world. I did not understand why the lighting here was so poor and none of my pictures came out clearly. Postcards however, showed the ship in bright light. We also visited City Hall, a massive fortress-like brick structure and our tour included the Blue Hall, where the annual Nobel Peace Prize Award banquet is held and the Golden Hall with its immense mosaic illustrating Swedish history. Because we were tendered there was a very, very long line to get back to the ship. Helsinki, Finland -- We took the ship's excursion in this port and visited the Market Square, the perfect place to shop for fruits, flowers, food and arts and crafts, where we were told to try the fish bread, but there was not time to do that. We then visited The Senate Square, home to the Lutheran Cathedral and the University of Helsinki, and my favorite, the Temppeliaukio Rock Church, an amazing church carved into the bedrock. The interior was excavated and built into the rock, and natural light enters through the glazed dome. The Sibelius Monument built to honor Finland's national composer, Jean Sibelius, is a stainless steel sculpture which consists of more than 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern. Next to that is a huge sculpture of Sibelius' face. It is a very interesting piece of work. St. Petersburg, Russia -- We were here for 2 days and I had envisioned seeing armed guards and very unfriendly and stiff people. Just the opposite, not an armed guard in sight and the people was very welcoming and friendly and spoke English very well. We visited St. Issac's Cathedral with its massive gold dome, one of the largest in the world, the Hermitage and Palace Square, The Cruiser Aurora, now a museum on the West bank of the Neva and the Church of the Spilled Blood which has a very ornate exterior. Our guide, Maria, was very knowledgeable and friendly. Euros and American dollars are accepted everywhere. Tallinn, Estonia -- We decided to do this on our own since we were only here for about 5 hours and walked into town instead of taking the shuttle. It took about 20 minutes of leisurely walking to get there. There is a market place down at the end of the pier and the prices for souvenirs were much better here than those in town. There is quite a mixture of modern office buildings and the historic buildings of the Old City. Wear comfortable shoes, cobblestones are hard on the feet. Sights along the way are the Palace Square, Alexander Cathedral and the Dome Church, the city's oldest church. Gdansk (Gdynia), Poland -- The ship actually docks at Gdynia which is about 15 miles from Gdansk and took about an hour by bus to get to the main town, the heart of the old city with an array of buildings styles from Gothic to Baroque. Neptune's Fountain in the center of the Long Market is the bronze statue of the Roman God of the Sea made into a fountain. St. Mary's Church is the largest brick church in the world and can accommodate about 25,000 worshippers. The Monument to the Shipyard Workers near the entrance to what was the Lenin Shipyard commemorates the 42 people killed during the anti-Communist riots of 1970 and is depicted by three steel crosses which rises over Solidarity Square. We also passed by Lex Vacensa's home, but the driver never slowed down so no one was able to take pictures. Day at sea. Oslo, Norway -- We had an excursion planned with the ship but cancelled it, since we were only here for ½ day and I wanted to spend some time at the Vigeland Sculpture Park and didn't want to be rushed. We took the #12 tram costing 46 Krones each -- round trip - to the park which depicted sculptures of stone, iron and bronze by Gustav Vigeland. We purchased our tickets from the 7-11, which was much cheaper than at the tram station. The tram stop is a short walk from the ship near City Hall and took about 15 minutes to get there. I have never seen so many naked statues in my life, and I can see why this park was once considered controversial, but there are amazing pieces of art. At the highest point in the park is The Monolith, a sight to behold. 46 feet high carved out of a single block of stone, it consists of 121 figures and it took three stone carvers from 1929 to 1943 to complete, just shortly before Vigeland died. Everything was very pricey here and according to Forbes, this is the 4th most expensive city in the world. The Star Princess -- The decor was very subdued, I guess I am used to Carnival's bright color scheme and the crowd was definitely of an older generation. We saw a hand full of passengers my daughter's age, but that was not a problem for us at all. We met some very nice people from the States and one couple from Guyana where my husband was born, who now live in Canada. We found Carnival's food to be more flavorful and more of a variety. Princess cooked a lot of fish and chicken in different sauces and we found the meats to be tough and the white rice which was served several times was horrible every time. Not all of it was bad though and we did enjoy some tasty dishes. We did not go to the Dining Room so I can't make any comparisons there. I love to eat a salad everyday and would like to have had the basics - lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, green peppers - to be available, but that was not so. Lots of different beans, mushrooms and other stuff and to my dismay, they did not have French dressing every day. They had a much better internet cafe than Carnival, lots of space and computers, but it was still overpriced and slow. We had a family suite and it was very spacious and very comfortable. Our cabin steward was helpful. Entertainment was not too bad, and the Groove Babies, a female duet, were fantastic. My daughter and I went to their show every night. Our captain, William Kent, with his wonderful British accent, kept us informed, especially in Stockholm, where it was extremely foggy, and where he said that the safety of his passengers was more important than anything else. I didn't see or heard too much from our Cruise Director, Richard Joseph, with whom I had a wonderful conversation in the elevator without realizing who he was until I saw him on TV. Some lucky person won the BMW or $25,000.00 in the casino. There was a presentation to her that night at 10:00pm. We had an 11:15 am flight back to the states and got off the ship around 6:45 am and arrived in plenty of time for our flight. We planned to take a taxi to the airport, but Princess alarmed a lot of passengers with the dire warning that taxis were limited from 7am-9am and suggested that you take their Princess airport bus transfer to the airport. Not so. From my balcony I counted 30 taxis lined up waiting for passengers. Not sure why they would say that. We had to wait an hour at the airport before finally checking in and then 5, yes 5, security check points before getting to our boarding spot. Anyhow, we had a wonderful cruise; I had always wanted to visit this part of the world and was happy to be able to do so. I did however wish that we had more time in the ports. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
My friend and I flew from Houston, TX directly to Paris, changed planes there and on to Copenhagen, Denmark. We had reservations at The Square, but they overbooked and moved us to the Copenhagen Island Hotel. It was located on the water ... Read More
My friend and I flew from Houston, TX directly to Paris, changed planes there and on to Copenhagen, Denmark. We had reservations at The Square, but they overbooked and moved us to the Copenhagen Island Hotel. It was located on the water and very nice. We were compted breakfast for two mornings and a bottle of champagne for the inconvenience. Also they compted us transportation tickets to get to the city center. Our trip to the ship was uneventful...we took a taxi. It was at the farther dock. Getting on-board was one of the easiest I've ever experienced. No lines and no trouble. Our room was ready upon arrival and we received our luggage within an hour of getting on-board. The Star Princess is a beautiful ship. The personnel are some the happiest I've ever experience. They are eager to help and eager to please. I loved everything about the ship except the food in the dining room. The food was bland and uneventful. Nothing special. The food in the buffet was better than the dining room, which is usually not the case. The wait staff in the dining room was wonderful. Some of the best I've ever experienced. You can't blame them for the food. In most ports the places accepted US dollars and Euros. We did change some money in a few places, but you really don't need to. At each port there is transportation to get you to the center of the city. There was no problem at any of the ports. Most everyone speaks English, if you ask someone under the age of 25. Very friendly people everywhere. No worries. Caution....watch out for pickpockets. They ARE everywhere in all ports. I know from first hand experience. Carry your important things in a money belt around your waist, under your clothes and out of sight. Even zippered things are vulnerable. Our weather for the trip was good. Not to cold. A light jacket was perfect. We had no rain except in St. Petersburg. Carry an umbrella. It rains a lot there. Getting off the ship was as easy as getting on. No problems. Took a taxi to our hotel...The Crowne Plaze at the Airport. We had early flights the next morning. There is a mall a short walk from there and a train pick up. We took a taxi to the airport. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was a cruise of firsts in many ways. Bob, Gary and I shared a minisuite. This turned out to work out remarkably well. None of us had spent any significant time in the region so it would be a first exposure for all of us. The only ... Read More
This was a cruise of firsts in many ways. Bob, Gary and I shared a minisuite. This turned out to work out remarkably well. None of us had spent any significant time in the region so it would be a first exposure for all of us. The only other cool weather cruise that we had taken was Alaska so this was a first cool weather, first European cruise for all of us. Bob and I had cruised a lot on Princess, but this was Gary's first time aboard a Princess vessel. Since I am retired, I took on the planning responsibility for the trip. This was my first real exposure to Cruise Critic. I knew of it from my brother-in-law, but hadn't really explored it until confronted with doing all the planning. THANK YOU, CC! You really came through. I read all previous reviews, joined the thread for the upcoming cruise and read a couple of guide books. I cannot stress how much better the experience was because I did my homework. Besides information on shore excursions, visas, transportation and boarding logistics, I immersed myself in the history and culture of the region. It was fun recalling those forgotten memories of things like the Hanseatic league(dust off your high school world hsitory). Now I was to come face to face with where it all happened! Cruise critic also put me in contact with a lot of knowledgeable folks and the information sharing was fast and furious. I think we enjoyed helping each other and looked forward to putting faces to the names once on board. Our journey to get to the cruise almost didn't happen. Between an erupting Icelandic volcano and a British Airways slight attendants strike, our travel arrangements were in a constant state of flux. In fact, friends I had met on line at CC and had planned to meet on the cruise never made it. Our AA flight from San Francisco via Chicago dodged the volcano, but had to cancel direct BA flights from London to Copenhagen and fly Lufthansa/SAS combo via Dusseldorf going and Frankfurt on the return. They were great flights but cut into our Copenhagen and London time. The airport in Copenhagen is easy to navigate. We had no experience with checked bags as we travel light and do laundry (I highly recommend this but check out Rick Steves if the idea challenges you). A taxi was a fast economical way to reach our hotel. It is very easy to take the train into town especially if you are booked near the main station. With three of us, it wasn't too much more and we were tired after all the traveling, but look for the signs. We also found everyone in Denmark very pleasant and more than willing to help if asked so don't be shy. We stayed at the Hotel Strand which is right on the water. Bob and I have stayed there s we felt comfortable. I was able to use American Airline miles to pay for the room. Rooms are basic and comfortable and the breakfast is delicious. I can never get enough of those European breads and cheeses! After settling in, we took Gary out for a walk through Copenhagen. Although it was getting late, it stays light later and so we were able to give him a good tour of the city. we had already eaten on the plane so dinner wasn't of any interest. Besides, we knew we would board the Star Princess the next day and there would be no shortage of food. I'll cover each port but here are some overall impressions of the cruise: a) there just wasn't sufficient time in almost every port b) all the ports are very accessible and you can tour independently if you wish. I highly recommend Rick Steves' book on the area if you want to travel independently. We did for the first time and loved it. We took the Princess tour in Gdansk and I felt that it was a great value. We saw things we wouldn't have gotten to c) there is no shortage of things to do while on board. The Maitre d' wine tasting was a lot of fun and they had some good wines. d) we went to one of the shows and enjoyed it. There were mixed reviews on some of the other shows from fellow travelers, but I don't have first hand experience e) food was classic Princess. After you have cruised with them a few times, you recognize the menus. Food was well prepared and our wait staff kept us all laughing and enjoying our meals if somewhat overfed. Although we had all chosen Anytime Dining, we did meet others and manage to get the same table every night at the same time. Only negative was the early morning feeding frenzy at the Horizons buffet. f) movies on deck were fun, but chilly g) spa services were wonderful and a great way to start the cruise by getting pampered and relaxed h) gym was not as crowded on this cruise as on warm weather cruises. I think this correlates to the age group. I was told that there were only 24 children on board which is remarkably low so this cruise appeals to an older set. i) The Vines wine bar and the specialty coffee service are a great addition. j) Princess staff (especially in Skywalker's Lounge) were outstanding. Much better than a previous Princess cruise where they all seemed to be rotating off the ship at the end of the cruise. Finally, both embarkation and disembarkation were a snap. On the way home, we did take the train which was easy, clean and efficient. we just didn't have enough time I guess the thing to ask is whether I would do this again. My answer is Yes and No. Having cruised, I would rather fly in and spend the time I wanted and then connect to the other cities using the well organized and comfortable Baltic Sea ferry system. I also know I can arrange land tours with Anastasia when I return to Russia. The cruise was a wonderful way to obtain an introduction to the area but a return trip would be more selective with overnight stays to get the feel of the cities. I would also recommend doing your homework and deciding if the various city cards are worthwhile for your individual style of travel. they do make things very convenient. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Captain - Bill Kent Cruise Director - Richard Joseph Maitre D' - Mario Propata Apologies before I start! I had intended this to be a 'live from' but the internet has not been kind this cruise, everytime I try to go on line ... Read More
Captain - Bill Kent Cruise Director - Richard Joseph Maitre D' - Mario Propata Apologies before I start! I had intended this to be a 'live from' but the internet has not been kind this cruise, everytime I try to go on line it seems to be down and then as soon as it's back up, the cafe is full, haven't had time to look for internet ashore so this has turned into a review. I hope the internet improves for following cruises. So apologies for the format of this review. We, Bill and Beth (late fifties) were staying in Europe prior to the cruise and were scheduled to fly to Copenhagen on May 11th.. Flight was delayed due to the ash but we finally made it to Copenhagen near to midnight. We stayed at the Scandic Sydhaven which according to its website was close to the airport, this is not really the case it was a good 15 - 20 minutes away, the hotel is quite basic but clean and does include breakfast in the rate. We woke to rain, grey skies and general gloom, but never mind we had made it. We arrived at the ship around noon and there was only a short line for the check in, we were on board by 1pm. The ship looks very nice, the International cafe is smaller than on the other ships - can you tell that this was our first stop. We left Copenhagen and hopefully the grey skies behind, but the fog descended the next day - things can only improve can't they? Day 1 We attended lectures today, we had fortunately bought John Lawrences DVD before our trip, but we also went to see him in person to get the updated information, he is an excellent speaker and very funny, so armed with all our knowledge we confirmed the tours that we had pre booked and went over our other itineraries. Still very foggy. We also checked out the Russian souvenirs in the shop, they have a great selection and 10% off for one day only, so we did most of the gift buying, more time for sightseeing ashore we hope. We had intended to do the Trivia but didn't get round to that. Also meant to go to dinner in the dining room but fell asleep after sampling a martini - didn't fall asleep in the bar of course!! So we opted for the buffet which was ok - not great but ok - so didn't see the show either, hope to do better tomorrow Day 2 Woke this morning to yet more fog and an announcement from the Captain that we would not be travelling through the 'leads' to Stockholm - presume he meant the Archipelago - as the authorities would not allow us to enter. So we are now anchored in Nynasham - a small town about 60km from Stockholm. We will go ashore in the ships boats and then by bus, taxi or train to Stockholm. The weather has now worsened and the boats to the shore have been suspended for the time being, so it looks as though Stockholm will not be viable. Shame, but these things happen, I'm sure that there will be a full programme of activities for us on board. Will keep you posted. Didn't have time to post the above so here is an update. Ships boats to shore resumed again so off we went, following John's instructions (which were spot on by the way) to the rail station, managed to get the 9.05 train which arrived in Stockholm Central at 10.11, so we didn't really have to revise our plan as I think we were probably there earlier than if we had gone right into Stockholm. We went first to the Vasa, what an amazing ship that was, then to the Royal Palace and then to the Old Town, we caught the 3.19 train back and we were back on the ship by 5, so it turned out to be a good day after all. So glad that we got to see Stockholm even if it was gloomy rather than spending a day at sea. Looking forward to Helsinki tomorrow where the temperature is rumored to be in the 70's and no fog! Day 3 Helsinki, Still no time to post, the internet wasn't working early this morning when I tried. Beautiful weather day today. Captain said that we were docking downtown - not true, we were about 2 1/2 miles from town as we had been expecting. Caught the local 16 bus into town, there was a huge crowd waiting at the bus stop. The market was in full swing as it is a Saturday, bought some lovely hand made jewelry and wooden reindeer. Then we caught the 3T tram and jumped off at the rock church, never seen anything quite like it. We also looked around the church in Senate Square and walked up and down the esplanade, stopped for coffee and people watched it seemed like summer had arrived, everyone seemed to be eating icecreams, and sunbathing. Then caught the ferry over to Suomenlina Island obviously a very popular place at weekends for picnics. A great day, we didn't try to do to much just enjoyed ourselves. Back to the ship in plenty of time for showers and a short nap. Looking forward to the Romanovs presentation later on to get us even more excited for Russia. We received the immigration forms last night so we are all set to go. Will try to answer any questions - internet permitting. Days 4 and 5 Well this lack of internet is getting very frustrating, maybe it's just the time that I try to get on line and others are having more luck. We woke very early to a cloudless sky and expected temps of 65-70, we were so torn with what to do here, ships tours, private tours or on our own, in the end we opted for a mixture, the first day we - having gone through the visa application process - went off on our own, we thought that we would see as much as we possibly could of the city. We asked John Lawrence the best way to get into town and he said that there were taxis outside that were supposed to charge around $25 for the journey into town but would rarely make the journey for less than $50 so the best and most interesting way was to take the local bus. So a 15 minute walk to the main road and then a 30 min ride took us directly into the main street of the city. What a fabulous, fabulous place, the weather couldn't have been better we were absolutely bowled over by everything we saw, we cheated a little and jumped on a hoho bus which took us round to all the sights, I cannot even begin to describe the beauty of everything, we were breathless at every turn, the colours of the buildings were brilliant, the inside of the church of the spilled blood astounding, just near to this church is a little market selling loads of souvenirs, but we were thankful that we had done our shopping on the ship as the crowds were quite thick and the few dolls that we saw were much more expensive than the ones that we had already bought. We did go into the Hermitage but obviously didn't have time to see much, but at least we've been in there. Coming back was even more of an adventure, we came back on the metro, I have never seen such long escalators, or such clean stations, I swear there wasn't a speck of dust anywhere, no gum on the floor not even a candy wrapper. We had the best day, quite exhausted when we got back though, but we did see the local cossack show that came on board and managed to stay awake. They were fantastic and we thoroughly enjoyed that. Day 2 in St Petersburg, we took the ships tour today out to the Catherine & Peterhof Palaces, as we didn't think we were brave enough to go there on our own. Another stunning day and palaces, what wonderful gardens I could have just spent a week looking round them. Inside the Palaces was breathtaking as well, the restoration was magnificent, I think my jaw must have hit the floor several times. What a fantastic couple of days, we will never forget st Petersburg. Day 6 Tallinn Another early start but not too far to walk into Town today. Weather again fantastic, a fabulous place, I just loved all the cobbled streets and twisting alleys, we collected a map from the dock gate and followed the walking tour, I think we saw everything that there was to see including a Russian orthodox church. As we left the fog settled in again, I tried to post this again but still no luck - grrrrrrr. Day 7 Gdynia/Gdansk Rain was forecast for today but apart from the ever present fog we have not seen any rain, another beautiful day once the fog burnt off. We took the train into Gdansk, after catching the local bus from the dock to the station, what another remarkable job has been done here with the restoration, so much to see, it's almost too much to see on one cruise, difficult to take it all in. The size of St Marys church was quite something. Day 8 At last a day to relax. I've given up trying to get on the internet so will post this once we get home. Today was the culinary demonstration, it was so funny, then a trip through the galley - which we passed on. Last lecture today on Oslo, what a pleasure it has been meeting John Lawrence and listening to his very entertaining lectures, he has a wicked sense of humor. Day 9 Oslo A bit overcast today and only a brief stop here but we followed the recommended way around the city and managed to see everything that we wanted to. started with the tram ride to vigeland park to see the sculptures, then over to the museums and back again to walk through the city, what an expensive place though I went to buy a calendar it was $39 - whew. Summary: Definitely do your homework thoroughly, the more you know about these places the better, there is so much to take in. Buy John Lawrences DVD either before you go or when you are on the ship, we found it the best information that we have ever had. Also go to his lectures for up to date info. Be prepared for any sort of weather, our temperatures went from 9degrees to 27degrees I know food is subjective, so all I will say is that we found it very bland everywhere. The staff were great all very friendly and helpful, Cruise Director was very nice, not trying to be funnier than the comedians as some of them do. The entertainment was ok, what we saw of it, but did seem to be repeated alot. The internet was awful, we never managed to get on line at all, so I hope that improves. Sorry that I couldn't manage the 'live from' that I had intended and the lateness of this review, my computer decided to 'misbehave' and I have only just managed to get it working again, also it seems to have lost all my login details so I have had to start all over again with the cc membership - I think it was upset that I left it alone for 3 weeks!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We flew into Copenhagen (over the cloud of ash, which added 1.5 hours to our flight from Newark). We spent a very cold, rainy, windy day touring Frederiksborg Castle and Copenhagen before embarking. The fabulous news was that we had been ... Read More
We flew into Copenhagen (over the cloud of ash, which added 1.5 hours to our flight from Newark). We spent a very cold, rainy, windy day touring Frederiksborg Castle and Copenhagen before embarking. The fabulous news was that we had been upgraded to a balcony stateroom. This made a huge difference every day of our cruise and we would never consider cruising again without a balcony. Day 2 was spent at sea learning which stairway and which elevator went where. We never did completely learn this. Day 3 saw the Star Princess trying to get close to Stockholm in DENSE fog. We knew the ship didn't dock near downtown Stockholm but waiting to board a tender, perhaps a 20 minute boat ride, then walking to the train station for a one hour ride (with a train change), before we finally arrived in Stockholm's train station was not easy nor quick. Then we had trouble finding Bus #47 to take us to the Vasa Museum, where we then waited in line 45 minutes. The Museum was great but that is the only place we got to see as our time had run out. Moral: take a Princess excursion to maximize your time and what you see. Day 4 - Helsinki - fabulous. Followed Rick Steves' advice on what to see and do and it was perfect. Too bad the "incredible views" of the voyage from Stockholm to Helsinki were obliterated by the fog. Hop on/Hop off bus tour was perfect. Cafe Kappeli is lovely and worth the visit. Cafe Esplanade's "famous cinnamon rolls" are A+. Day 5 + 6 - St. Petersburg. Ok, this is where we ran into trouble. We'd booked a 2-day tour with Den Rus Ltd. Tours and this was fine, although I didn't know that "good" was 2 syllables ("goo duh"). Still Anna's English is a million times better than my Russian and she was very enthusiastic and informative. The tour was very comprehensive, the lunches were great, and we completely enjoyed both days. The Den Rus Evening of Russian Ballet ended up being PAINFULLY poor dancing, mediocre surroundings (think high school auditorium), nice costumes, and good music (Swan Lake). When we complained we were told that the dancers were not students. I guess they flunked out. (I've never seen even a mid-level student in the chorus run into another dancer - before this! Also I took 8 years of ballet so know a little bit about it.) Den Rus maintains that this was an acceptable ballet for the price of $138. We would rather pay a lot more and get something we could like. If you want to see ballet in St. Pete make sure it is quality (like at the Marinski Theatre)or stay on the ship as we were told the Russian evening (folk dancing and ballet) were excellent. The Russian White Nights were beginning so we had daylight until about 1am and then again at 4am. (These times are approximate as they were times we were up.) Perhaps the daylight lasted even longer. Either way, it was neat to see! Day 7 - Tallinn. Great!Took a lot of photos. Missed the Kiek in de Kok (Peek in the Kitchen)museum but did tour the Museum of Occupation (quite a walk to it). Follow Rick Steves' walking tour and you'll see everything. No tour needed. Day 8 - Gdansk - We signed up for the bus ride from the ship to town, which was smart. Definitely no tour/excursion needed. Don't miss the waffles! Just follow the locals and then eat them like you would an apple - no plate or fork! Day 9 - at sea. We skipped the second formal night. Enjoyed the spa. Day 10- Oslo - We took the Princess excursion to the 3 museums: Kon Tiki, Fram, and Viking Ship Museum. Great to have someone else figure out where we were supposed to go, what we should see, etc. as we were tired by this time. Were shocked at how expensive everything was. Star Princess: Excellent food, whether on the buffet or in the dining rooms. No need to pay for their specialty restaurants. Room service menu selection was poor, though. Princess Patter (daily newsletter) was of some help except the weather section. We didn't care what the average winter temperatures in Helsinki were. We would have preferred a more helpful weather forecast for when we were there. Information in it was often too late - it warned us of alcohol in Russia AFTER we had been there one day, it told us we'd be charged for anything we drank out of the refrigerator on the FOURTH day (after we had figured out that the water in the refrigerator was complimentary and had drunk it), etc. Also the advice on tipping was wrong for almost every port. Again, check Rick Steves for accurate info - 20% is UNHEARD of in the Baltic - except by Princess Patter! We made a point to get to every John Lawrence talk on an upcoming port. We even bought his DVD at the end of the cruise and have had a great time playing it. His shopping advice seemed right on. Things we learned as first time cruisers: Take an electric toothbrush base with LED light or a night light so you can use the bathroom in the middle of the night without killing yourself. The anytime dining gave us maximum flexibility and the chance to meet more people at dinner. The more countries = the more money you lose exchanging currency constantly. Let the ship's photographer snap your picture each time you disembark. They were our best photos of the 2 of us. Be well rested before you embark. Plan on $100/person/day in extras like excursions, cocktails, photos, spa treatments, and any special (as in additional) tips. Check your bill before you leave the boat!!! (Read between the lines, here.) Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
My husband and I were on the May 12 Star Princess cruise around the Baltic. We had perfect weather and calm seas The ship was lovely, the staff was great and there was much to do in the ports and on the ship. Our flight to Copenhagen ... Read More
My husband and I were on the May 12 Star Princess cruise around the Baltic. We had perfect weather and calm seas The ship was lovely, the staff was great and there was much to do in the ports and on the ship. Our flight to Copenhagen (via Frankfurt) was cancelled 'the morning of' because of the volcano in Iceland, but United Miles Plus found us other flights. Unfortunately our luggage didn't make it to Copenhagen with us, but was delivered to the hotel the next afternoon. Clearly it was a good idea to arrive in the departure port a couple of days early. With the flight problems and resulting loss of luggage, we would have been in trouble if we'd arrived just one day early or the day of the ship's departure. Remember to pack your meds and a fresh pair of undies in your carry-on. (Our hotel gave us toothbrushes, toothpaste and XL white t-shirts to sleep in - Marriott Downtown Copenhagen - $104 a night on Priceline. In the morning of our full day in Copenhagen, we walked past Tivoli and the town hall square in the morning, then down Stroget to Nyhavn for a canal tour. After the tour, we walked back up Stroget and went into the shops. We took a side trip to the Round Tower and to the University of Copenhagen main building. We headed over to the National Museum (free) and spent a couple of hours examining the prehistory to Viking age exhibits on the first floor and the later period exhibits on the second floor. That evening we went to Tivoli and enjoyed the buffet & music at the restaurant Herzegovina right there in the park. (Shopping - paper cut mobiles of Hans Christian Anderson tales purchased at the airport on the day of departure.. about $20 ea) Boarding the ship was a snap. The first day on board was a day at sea. Day 2 was Stockholm. Stockholm was a wonderful surprise. There's so much to do there and it's all reachable by the hop on hop off boats in the harbor. The Vasa was incredible. We went to the King's palace and bought things in the palace gift shop. I bought my 4 yr old granddaughter a postcard with a pic of the royal family (the daughters and Queen Sofia in traditional dress) and a hand towel with a gold crown on it. Pretty Princess Victoria (heir to the throne) is getting married (to a commoner.. gasp!) in early June. My g'daughter was very impressed Old town near the palace is incredible. Make sure you have plenty of time to wind your way around the old streets and in & out of shops. (Shopping highlights - Vasa Xmas ornament, Swedish design tea towels, a colorful apron, hot pads, colorful plastic serving trays, wooden Swedish Xmas horses, Swedish doll in traditional dress, gold crown & rhinestone earrings from the Palace gift shop) Helsinki is lovely. We took a cab to the church on the hill (biggest orthodox church in Finland or Scandinavia) and then walked down The Esplanade of trees and sun worshipping Finns. We stopped for coffee and pastry and did some people watching, too. I think it was in Helsinki that we visited Stockmann Dept Store. Go to the kitchenware section and you'll find a really good souvenirs. (Shopping highlights - plastic trays with pics of Lapland, Lapland stuffed 'animals (costumed boy & girl and a moose), stuffed animals at shops at dock (reindeer and husky puppies) ) Our two-day 12-person tour with the private company SPB was excellent. Viktoria is the owner and Eugene was our guide. ($290 pp + tip) We saw everything from the subway, to the synagogue, the Church on Spilled Blood, Catherine's Palace, Peterhof , Peter and Paul Fortress (Tzar's graves) and the Hermitage. We rode the hydrofoil, had a canal tour on a small private boat and enjoyed two lunches at very nice cafes. We women would have liked more shopping time at the gov't approved store , but fortunately there were a few shops at the dock right outside of immigration. (Shopping highlights - Russian stacking dolls, amber necklaces and a lighter with CCCP (soviet) lettering on it - fake but fun) I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd ever go to Russia Imagine! Tallinn is a gem. The architecture and shops were fantastic. I'd go back there in a heartbeat. I left my heart in Tallinn. (Shopping highlights - beautiful linen , amber, hand carved wooden items) The afternoon after the ship leaves Tallinn is one of the first opportunities for people to do laundry. Get there asap, armed with your quarters and soap and a good book to read. Stay there and guard your things and place in line. My husband called the laundry room "the snake pit." Poland was sort of depressing. Baltic (oil) prosperity has not come to Poland. The people look like they live hard lives and there are sad-looking beggars on the streets of old town Gdansk. For $100 total (plus tip), we hired a taxi to take us to old town in Gdansk , Sopot, to a church for an organ recital, and around Gdynia (e.g, Lech Walenska's house, the Solidarity monument, a scenic view of the harbor, etc). Amber shopping in Gdansk was very disappointing. If we'd known, we would have shopped more in Tallin and St Petersburg but we'd read that Gdansk was the best place for amber. There are fancy pieces with silver in shops on one of the streets, but if you're looking for gifts for the girls-back-home, you'll find better bargains and pieces in Tallin. Sopot is a lovely hotel and beach area . We liked it better then old town Gdansk and the amber shopping was much better price-wise and variety-wise in Sopot. Stop and have a cup of coffee and a pastry at the cute two story restaurant at the pier and then check out the amber stalls and shops nearby. (Shopping/gift idea - amber bracelets on elastic string for $10.00 each - less if you bargain. Amber/turquoise combos are popular now, and those are available in the bracelets too.) Oslo was super. My husband read Kon Tiki before our trip so we made sure to go to the Kon Tiki museum . We also went to the sculpture park. The hop on hop off bus took forever and didn't stick to it's bus-every-half-hour schedule, so we didn't have time to go to the Viking museum or open air museum. My suggestion is to decide where you want to go and take a land or water taxi. (Shopping - Kon Tiki mouse pad) We bought departure transfers to the airport on the ship. As there were very few taxis available, we're very glad we had the ship transfers. They were worth every cent. Our cabin was great. A722. We were conveniently located just one staircase from the Horizon Court buffet so getting to breakfast was a snap. As it turned out, either side of the ship would have been fine. We'd thought that the port side would have the best views, but once you're out at sea, you're so far from land that it doesn't matter. Plus.. it was foggy... The balcony was perfect for watching the fjords outside of Oslo. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We flew from Newark, NJ to Copenhagen 2 days before the beginning of the cruise on Continental Airlines, and stayed at the Hilton by Copenhagen Airport. Comfortable, fine hotel, a 15 min. train from downtown. We took a city the first day ... Read More
We flew from Newark, NJ to Copenhagen 2 days before the beginning of the cruise on Continental Airlines, and stayed at the Hilton by Copenhagen Airport. Comfortable, fine hotel, a 15 min. train from downtown. We took a city the first day to get familiar with the city after stopping at the tourist information center near the train station. The day of the cruise we went to the airport about 2:30 and found the Princess representative and went directly to a waiting bus. We had bought our transfers through Princess. Upon arriving at the dock it was about a half an hour our process to board the ship. We had an inside cabin on the Lido deck, which we found Comfortable and located near the pools and food options. We had anytime dining which worked out fine, after the first day we made a reservation for 6pm every night in one of the two dining rooms that were for anytime dining. The food ranged from good to excellent. The service on the ship throughout the cruise was superior. The first day at sea we were kept busy with different things to do as listed in there daily newsletter. The ships' tour Director John Lawrence ave a comprehensive description and informative information the day before we arrived at each port. Stockholm was the first, arriving at 10 am and leaving at 5 pm, is a bit of a push to see as much of the city as possible with a visit to the Vasa Ship Museum, Old own and City Hall with a tour 12 noon. The next port was Helsinki, we visited the Rock church and walked around the city visiting 2 other churches. St Petersburg was next where we took the 2 day Grand tour from Princess, which was great,with a canal ride and visiting the Hermitage, and The Summer Palace and other major sites. A nice lunch is provided each day at a local restaurant.. On to Tallinn and Gydanisk, both interesting with local historical appeal. Oslo is the last port of call, totally different, with a much more upscale appeal.A tour is highly recommended here,it is very difficult to do it all on your own,the sculpture park is beautiful and amazing, the viking museum is interesting, the city itself is very green and clean with lovely homes and buildings. The Star Princess is a beautiful ship, immaculate, well maintained with an excellent staff. We recommend the cruise to anyone interested in visiting Scandinavia and Russia. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
We are a family of four, with 2 children ages 10 and 14. Let me preface this report by saying that we have lived in Geneva for the last 4 years and have done extensive travel in Europe, seeing an unlimited amount of castles and cathedrals, ... Read More
We are a family of four, with 2 children ages 10 and 14. Let me preface this report by saying that we have lived in Geneva for the last 4 years and have done extensive travel in Europe, seeing an unlimited amount of castles and cathedrals, quaint villages and spectacular scenery. We realize how fortunate we are to have had these experiences so please do not think that we are spoiled (although we are!!). I say this only because if you have not traveled extensively, your experience may be vastly different. And because we are spoiled...that is to say, the impact to us of another church or castle is definitely diminished from when we arrived in Europe. That is not to say that we no longer appreciate these, because we do and our enthusiasm for travel is still unlimited....we adore our trips. Just to say that seeing yet another spectacular church is not like seeing Notre Dame in Paris for the first time (which I still vividly recall) it does not hold the same wonder. Overall, we loved our experience. We had never been on a cruise before and as I said, we have traveled extensively on our own so I was worried that I would feel restricted and/or rushed by the time tables. While we would have liked more time in certain cities (like Stockholm!) and less in others (like Gdansk), overall, we loved this trip and would definitely do a cruise again. The Star Princess is a beautiful ship and the staff was just incredible…I cannot say enough about how well we were treated by virtually every staff member. Princess charges a $10/day per person for tips, which for us adds up to $400 for the entire trip in tips (plus they add 15% to all drinks). At first, I was a bit miffed by this charge, although it is discretionary and you can tell them you do not want to pay. However, by the end of the trip, I had no problem forking this over…the amount of work that goes into running such an operation is mind boggling and many of the people you never see. The food was very good and the menus in the Capri and Portofino had enough variety to keep us happy. We ate at the buffet at least one night in order to save time for swimming and hanging out with the kids…the buffet was good as well. We also ate in both Tequilas (best steak I ever had) and Sabatini's (see more below). My only complaint would be the level of family and children entertainment. While the Star Princess has both a child center (for 8-12) and a teen center (for 13-18), neither hit the mark for our kids. The child center was tiny and geared more to the 8 year old than our rambunctious, sports-oriented 11 year old so he spent all of 5 minutes there. Thankfully, they have a basketball court so he spent virtually all of his time there and met lots of friends. The teen center was impressive, but the activities were not…a hot tub party?? For this age group, would not be my first choice of activities. I would like to see more family entertainment as well…shows that we could attend with our children and also, why not allow kids into the nightclub at certain times/days so they could dance with their parents. We flew to Copenhagen 2 nights early so we could spend some time there. We stayed at theAdmiral Hotel. The hotel had a beautiful lobby, but the rooms were small and rather tired looking. We went in search of some food so we walked to Nynhaven which was about 2 blocks from the hotel. Nynhaven is an atmospheric area of restaurants and pubs along a canal, bustling with activity even at 11PM. We were able to get drinks but no food at the restaurants. We did end up getting the kids 2 sausages from the sausage stands (these were everywhere….like ice cream stands in most cities.) Kids said they were great! The next day, I woke up early and searched out breakfast…hoping for some Danish pastries. The hotel breakfast was 120Kroners per person which I was not willing to pay so I found a small bakery about a block away and while they had great coffee, the pastries were limited to croissants. The place was very busy but most customers were Danish and they buying rolls rather than pastries….appears they eat rolls and coffee for breakfast. We walked first along the promenade to the Danish resistance museum. This was a very good and moving story of the resistance. We had a light but expensive lunch (yes, I know, all of Copenhagen is expensive!) in the restaurant attached to the museum…outdoor terrace with a nice relaxing atmosphere. After lunch, we continued along the promenade and on to see the Mermaid….this was as expected, not too impressive but still very enjoyable. We took a canal tour which was actually more of a harbor tour. We then headed downtown to Stroget but very quickly came upon the entrance to the Guinness Book of World records museum (there was another museum attached as well…cannot remember the name)…these were fun, if overpriced, museums and the kids especially enjoyed them. On the way back to the hotel to get ready for dinner, we stopped to look at menus. At one charming looking restaurant, called restaurante Zeleste on Store Strandstaede 6, a young lady from the staff came outside and invited us in to look at the interior courtyard…it was lovely…beautifully decorated, with tiny lights and candles and even a large brick fireplace. We made a reservation for a courtyard table and headed to the hotel to change. When we arrived at 7:30 for our reservation, the restaurant was packed. We were led to a table on the inside of the restaurant…when we protested, we were told that they never specifically reserve courtyard tables. We were, of course, not too happy about this "bait and switch" but decided to stay anyway. The interior was also very nice but not as atmospheric. We should have left! We did not leave the restaurant until after 9:30 and we did not have either appetizers or dessert….2 hours for one course, which was mediocre at best!!!! We waited unattended for approx 45 to be able to order dessert (only because I had spotted a delicious chocolate molten dessert on the menu) but when the waiter finally came, we were told it would take another 30 minutes to prepare it for us, so we finally left and searched out some ice cream on Stroget………needless to say, we were not exactly thrilled with this place. We noticed that in Denmark they seem to be more preoccupied with cleaning up than serving….in the restaurant, the staff were constantly moving but they rarely approached the tables…we could not figure out what was keeping them so busy, ie were they completely understaffed or just inefficient. This seemed to be the case everywhere we tried to eat or even get a cup of coffee. After dinner, we walked to Tivoli gardens…it was now approx 10:30 and Tivoli stays open until 12 only, but we decided to go in anyway and we were very glad we did. Tivoli is gorgeous and I wished we had eaten there instead. Rick Steves scared us off by saying it was amusement park food but the restaurants were gorgeous with tons of atmosphere. The food may not be great, but it wasn't anywhere else we tried either so why not at least be in Tivoli where you can kick back with a glass of wine, enjoy the view and let the kids run!! The kids rode several rides, including the highest swinging chairs I have ever seen and we saw a magnificent fountain show, with lasers, lighting and music. Love this park…definitely recommend. The next day we slept in so by the time we got moving, we went to the see the changing of the guard at Amelianborg Palace, which was definitely unimpressive. We then got some pastries and ate them on the stairs of the Marble Church (we also went in this church which was very beautiful). We boarded the Star Princess about 2 and wow, we were overwhelmed and excited. Our room was definitely a squeeze for the 4 of us and we were amused to see that the beds for the children come down from the ceiling so we are all basically in bunk beds. However, it works out fine, even for me who is a bit claustrophobic. The deck was spacious enough for 4 chairs and a table. We were on the Caribe deck which is on floor 10…this was a very convenient floor as it was a quick 3 floors up to deck 14 (there is no 13) where the pools, the buffet, pizza and burger bars are as well as the sports deck….the most commonly used deck for us. Also a quick jump down to the restaurants, shops, bars and lounges, which are on 5,6 and 7. We immediately in search of some lunch so we headed for the pool area on deck 14 and got some food from the buffet. I got pizza from the pizza bar and my son got a burger and fries from the burger stand….everyone happy…this is great!!! We then went and searched out several areas of the ship and then went swimming. That evening, we ate in Capri restaurant. Service was great and the food fine. Our first port was Oslo. We wanted to go to the Viking Ship Museum first and had planned to take a boat there, however, the harbor boats were not running due to a boat race We decided to take a hop-on, hop-off bus which was right outside the dock. We regretted this decision. It was raining in Oslo and the rain was leaking right into the bus…many of the seats could not be sat in. Also, the Viking Museum was the last stop…so, we decided to get off at Frogner Park. I loved this park, but my family was not as impressed as me…ok, it was raining and not so pleasant, but the sculptures were definitely original…lifelike and not just a bunch of Romans in towels!! Next stop was the Viking museum, which was good if not spectacular. We took the bus back to City Hall and stopped at a nice pub in the square (really more a circle than a square). Had one of the best bloody Mary's ever and some peanuts (which are pea notters in Norway!) and the family was refreshed. We then walked down Karl Johan's Gate, which was lively with lots of people, lots of entertainers, including people with signs saying free hugs!!!! We had wanted to go to the resistance museum here as well but it closed by 4…as we did not dock until 12:30, there was little time to see everything. A great street…we really enjoyed this part of Oslo. We then walked back to the ship. Overall, we really enjoyed Oslo….this was a very pleasant surprise and there was a lot more to do in Oslo than I would have thought. There were many museums which we did not get to as well as a few art museums I would have like to see…not to mention, exploring more of Frogner Park. Next time, I would do it by tram and/or bus instead to save both time and money. The next day was a sea day and my son's birthday. Princess had placed balloons and a poster on the door to our cabin which was a nice touch. We ate a late breakfast and lounged by the pool for a few hours. Our son was hooked by the basketball court, where there was always a friend to be found. We ate a late lunch and lounged some more!!! Finally, my husband and I went for a run on the track on the sports deck. The evening was a formal night and we definitely felt underdressed. People were decked out in gorgeous black dresses and tuxedos….we simply had a dress and suit on. Ok, we did look a little better than the ZZ top look alike with his denim overalls!!! We ate that evening in Tequilas and it was definitely worth the surcharge as the steaks were some of the best we have ever tasted. We tried to find some family entertainment but Princess does not do a good job of disseminating evening entertainment options. The next day was Gdansk. The ship docks in Gdynia, which is approx 30 minutes from Gdansk. We tried to get a taxi but all of the drivers insisted on a full day rather than a one-way drive into Gdansk, so we finally agreed to go with one of them for 100 Euros for the full day. He took us to see Oliwa Cathedral and then drove us into Gdansk. I have to say this city was a let down. I had read quite a bit about it but was unimpressed. I am sure a big part of the let down was due to the fact that it was a Monday and nearly everything is closed on Monday, including the Solidarity Museum, which was a major draw to me. But it is also due to the fact that the 30 minute drive from Gdynia to Gdansk is through a very depressed looking area of town. Gdansk is a fairy tale tourist town with no real substance, so we just strolled the few streets and had lunch (perogies, which were fine, but I have had better in Warsaw). Our driver then picked us back up and was driving us to Sopot to see the pier. Unfortunately, traffic was a nightmare and it took us over an hour to get to Sopot, so we had no time to get out and walk the promenade. We also drove through the main street and port of Gdynia on the way back to the ship. If you visit this port on a Monday, I would recommend just to stay in Gdynia and walk the promenade, which looked quite nice. Alternatively, you could take a train into Gdansk. Just leave enough time so you don't miss the ship!!!! Next day was Tallinn. The town is a 15 minute walk from the ship and what a gorgeous little town. Very quaint, medieval town with a gorgeous main square and lots of great little streets to explore. We mostly wandered the streets but we did visit the Museum of Occupation, which has great promise but the visit is too short to fully enjoy. There are lots of objects on display with videos of all the differing time periods, culminating in Estonia's freedom phase. Unfortunately, each video is 30 minutes long, so not enough time to listen to them. Next day was ST. Petersburg…..definitely expected this to be highlight of trip and we were not disappointed. However, we did have the tour guide from hell (or at least purgatory). We used Red October because we wanted to see as much as possible, but with the children, we wanted to have maximum flexibility. I stressed this greatly with Red October and they assured me that the tour was totally flexible. The first day we drove to Catherine Palace, which is approx 45 minute drive from the ship. My husband and I both took aspirin when we arrived. Our guide literally did not stop talking the entire way and we had little idea what she was talking about. She literally jumped from subject to subject and we simply couldn't keep up!!! Anyway, Catherine Palace was ok (again, just a reminder that we have seen all manners of castles, so we are hard to impress). We then drove back to the city, stopped at a few spots for pictures, including the Savior of Spilled Blood Church, which is just an unbelievable sight…..ok, yes, we have seen lots of churches, but this one definitely is breathtaking!!! And what is amazing is that they built this church in only 28 years….amazing what can be accomplished with slave labor!! We had lunch at a popular restaurant, of which we were the only patrons (yes, sarcasm intended) and then we went to Peter and Paul Fortress. The church here was beautiful, but once again, our guide overwhelmed us with information to the point of complete overload!!! We took a canal ride which was very enjoyable (and not just because our guide did not accompany us!!). We then asked to be taken back to the ship as it was approx 4:15 and the kids were exhausted and wanting to swim….remember the flexibility??? We made several more stops even though we repeatedly asked to return….finally, I said that I was sick and needed to return immediately….an hour later, we finally returned…… We ate that night in Sabatinis, which was excellent. Essentially, you order your main course and they bring you everything on their menu…yes, everything. Every appetizer, every soup, every pasta, pizza etc.…all in small portions, of course, but still…it's an amazing amount of food and all very delicious. There is a great piano bar which we frequented most often as the guy played very well and good music, with a great range of older (Sinatra) to old (Elton John and of course, Billy Joel) to new (Oasis, which my 14 year old daughter appreciated). Next day, we were refreshed and ready to go again and determined not to let the guide ruin our great time. We went to Peterhof…..this is truly spectacular and not to be missed…absolutely beautiful castle. Again, this was built in something like 20 years, which is inconceivable…no wonder the peasants revolted! We spent the morning enjoying the castle and gardens and fountains and trying to block out the guides constant talking!!! We were supposed to take the hydrofoil back to St. Petersburg but were told it was too foggy for the hydrofoils to run. When we asked why there was a hydrofoil out on the bay approaching Peterhof, we were told it was a different company and they were not concerned with the health of their customers….very strange, no? Anyway, we had to drive back to the city, which was a disappointment to the kids as they were looking forward to the hydrofoil. We had lunch at another popular restaurant…at least we were not the only patrons…the place was filled with Red October clients!!! After lunch, we proceeded to the Hermitage…which was to be the highlight of the trip…I was most excited about this. We had already told our guide that we prefer to enjoy the art, without a lot of talking…subtle hint number 75!!!! We also said that we were interested in certain areas of the art collection, including Dutch and Italian painters and sculptures. Our guide began the tour showing us everything but what we wanted to see and talking our ears off again. We finally demanded to be taken to see what we wanted to see and went to view the Rembrandts. As we were enjoying a particularly beautiful Rembrandt, our guide decided we were not viewing in the correct chronological order and insisted on pulling my husband to the back of the room. This is where he lost it and a few angry words. I finally convinced our guide to wait outside of the room for us and let us enjoy in peace and we had to concentrate hard to focus on enjoying the art. I was determined that I would not let this exchange ruin my appreciation of this magnificent museum! The rest of the tour went ok, but the guide decided she would try to talk to the children and began to try to educate them on art (she really just couldn't help herself!!). I will say that we will really think hard before every using a private tour group again…not to say that Red October was a complete flop because we talked to a few other people on the ship who used Red October and had a fine experience. But it really does depend on the guide and if you are the only clients, you can't just block them out and wander off!!!! Also, we talked to plenty of people who took the ships tour and were delighted…for us, this may have been a better option and the kids may have had some company as well. My husband sprained his ankle this evening playing basketball with my son and some other boys….40 year olds shouldn't try to keep up with teenagers!! We were so exhausted this evening that we ate in the buffet so we could relax and have a better timing. The next day was Helinski…as we were exhausted from culture, etc, we let the kids sleep in and we did not disembark until approximately 11:30. Also, husband could not walk much because of his ankle. There was a shuttle waiting outside the gates which took us to town and back for $8 each, kids under 11 free. We wandered down Esplanade and through the colorful outdoor market, which was lovely, bought some souvenirs, saw the Senate and Lutheran Cathedral and then back up Esplanade to Café Kappeli, a wonderful gazebo type café made of beautiful wrought iron with ornately decorated ceilings. We sat outside and enjoyed coffees and cookies…the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. We then made our way to Stockmann's department store, where we shopped briefly in the ladieswear…This is a gorgeous store and despite what has been written, inexpensive (at least compared to Geneva!)..my daughter bought a gorgeous pair of black jeans. We then got the last bus back to the ship. We ate dinner in the Capri dining room and shared a table with another couple from Philadelphia, where we are originally from!! Day number 8, which is Stockholm and I am very excited to see this great city. I awoke at 5 and went out on the deck to see the fantastic archipelageo scenery….unbelievable!!! Went back to bed and awoke about 7 and again, looked outside…still spectacular. We were supposed to dock at 8 but it was approx 9:15 by the time we finally did…this was the only dock which we were late arriving or leaving so cannot really complain. Again, there were shuttle buses available to take into town for $10 roundtrip, which dropped us off at the Royal Theatre. We walked to the Vasa Museum, which is spectacularly done. The ship just hits you in the face when you walk in….awe inspiring. And all of the exhibits are very well done…the have recreated faces and stories from the bones they found and it is truly fascinating. We then took the ferry to Old Town…the ferry is a bit hidden and there are no signs so you must walk to the left of the museum and go towards the amusement park by the pier. We were quite a motley crew…my husband was limping from his sprained ankle and my daughter broke her flip flop (I know, why was she wearing flip flops!!). Anyway, first order of business was to find new shoes for her that would not cost a fortune. Once we accomplished this and got a quick sandwich, we only had about an hour left. This is a fantastic city…probably the best on the route and I could have spent days here instead of the quick 4 hours we had. The old town is gorgeous with cobbled streets, tons of interesting shops and cafes…and the bakeries…..wow, everything looked amazing!!! Definitely need to go back to Stockholm. Kelsi and I got a bit lost and made it back to the last bus to the ship with only 3 minutes to spare….whew!!!! There was a wine tasting on the ship at 3, which we had signed up for and this was worthwhile, if a bit pricey. It was $25 person and they served 6 wines with canapés for each wine and even a small plate of penne arrabaiata, which was deliciously spicy!!! This evening was another formal night and again, we felt horribly underdressed, but we got over it very quickly!!! After dinner, they had a champagne waterfall and some music in the atrium…fun atmosphere, but absolutely horrible champagne!!! The following day was the last day and spent at sea so we lazed by the pool (lovely day and the sun was shining), played some cards, ping pong, did some shopping, had a few drinks…what a great day. Had a last wonderful dinner in Capri, went to the piano bar (our usual haunt) and sadly went to bed. Disembarking was a bit of a nightmare. I had signed up for express checkout so I did not have to go to the desk in the morning but there was a bit of a snafu and I when I tried to disembark, they would not let me as one of the purchases I had made the night before was not properly on my account before they finalized it and I had to go back upstairs, wait in a godawful line and pay it. By the time I got back outside, the line for taxis was about 200 people deep. It took us another 40 minutes before we were able to get a taxi….. Fantastic trip….highly recommend…let me know if any questions. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Our cruise was of the Baltic Sea. My wife and I chose this destination based on asking three frequent cruisers "What was your favorite cruise?" All three answered "The Baltic Sea" so that made our selection easy. We had ... Read More
Our cruise was of the Baltic Sea. My wife and I chose this destination based on asking three frequent cruisers "What was your favorite cruise?" All three answered "The Baltic Sea" so that made our selection easy. We had only been on one other cruise, about five years ago. That was to Alaska via Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas. My job dictated a late August cruise of less than twelve days and Princess Line's Star Princess' sailing schedule was a good fit. The fact that it round tripped from Copenhagen was good as we wanted to minimize our number of days at sea. Prior to leaving for Europe, I used the Internet to check the average temperatures for the Baltic area in late August. I found that the average high is 65 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low is fifty degrees. We packed our Fall clothing and we were very comfortable. We also packed small umbrellas (they came in handy). We arrived via air into Copenhagen on a Sunday morning and had a day and a half to rest and sightsee before our Monday 8 PM sailing. We stayed at the Phoenix Hotel in downtown Copenhagen. It's well located among the top tourist attractions and moderately priced. The vast majority of its clientele is Scandinavian. However, all staff members were fluent in English so there were no communications problems. The A/C in the room that they initially assigned to us was not working so we requested a change. This was handled quickly and without complaint. In fact, they gave us a free upgrade to a suite! Monday, after sightseeing, we took a taxi to the ship and embarked about 4:45 PM. There was no line at that time and we were on board in less than five minutes. Only having cruised once before, we thought that we had beat the crowd but we soon realized that the crowd had beat us! We went straight to our mini suite which had a verandah. Our luggage was quickly delivered so we immediately unpacked everything. There was plenty of closet, shelf and drawer space and our soft sided luggage fit easily under the bed. My wife was very pleased to see that the bathroom had adequate counter space and included a full size tub. After unpacking, we enjoyed a complimentary glass of champagne on our verandah and then headed off to explore the ship. The Star Princess is one of the largest cruise ships afloat with a length of over 900 feet and gross tonnage over 90,000. Princess provides a handy pocket size profile of the ship to all passengers showing the location of all of the restaurants, swimming pools, the Internet room, spa, fitness center, etc. This was well utilized in the early days of the cruise before we had memorized the ship's layout. A good addition to getting around would be some fore and aft signs near the elevators. The ship cruises so smoothly that some travelers are liable to walk some distance in the wrong direction before they realize their mistake. Because we booked our cruise only three months before sailing, we had no choice between the traditional "assigned seating" dinners and "anytime dining". The assigned seating dining was booked full. This was not a problem since we enjoy meeting people and would tell the maitre de each evening that we'd be happy to share our table with other passengers. We found a table of six to be optimal for hearing everyone without them having to raise their voice. Overall, the food quality was good but not great. The dinner menu did offer good variety and the cold soups and souffles were exceptional. The service was generally good, however, the wait for coffee refills was longer than one would like. Our pet peeve was the wait staff's habit of snatching your plate if it was less than half full and you happened to have your head turned in conversation with a fellow passenger. This was a particular hazard if you were dining after nine since the dining room was scheduled to close at ten and the staff seemed intent on moving you out so that they could end their work day. In fact, staff service was a weak point in comparison to our cruise with Royal Caribbean. Our first cabin steward was borderline surly. He was replaced after a couple of days. Evidently some other passengers in our area were less tolerant than us and requested the change. My wife used the beauty salon on our first day at sea and found the staff there to be less than friendly. The consensus view, based on dinner table conversations, was that Princess' "no tipping" policy put some of the crew in a mindset that it didn't matter how they treated the passengers since they were going to get their tip money from the company. Princess charges each adult passenger $10 per day for a tipping fund that is shared among all staff members. If you visit the pursers desk, you can raise or lower this amount and obtain envelopes in which to distribute individual tips. We didn't do that and I suspect that most people just go with the flow and let Princess charge them the $10 per day. The itinerary for our cruise was Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk and Oslo. St. Petersburg was a two day stop and all of the other ports were one day stops. Therefore, you just got a "taste" of each city other than St. Petersburg. All were interesting with St. Petersburg topping the list. Our actual time spent in Stockholm was only five hours as the Star Princess anchors about fifteen miles from the city. We were disembarked via our tenders and then took a tour bus into the city. I noticed that RC's Jewel of the Sea docked in downtown Stockholm so their passengers certainly had significantly more time to see the city. Because we didn't book our land tours early enough, we had to settle for some tours that would not have been our first choice. This was true in Stockholm where we did the Vasa Museum and City Tour. The City Tour was good but limited by the time available. The Vasa Museum was underwhelming, to say the least. If your time in Stockholm is limited, don't waste any of it there. The only exhibit was the hull of one old large Swedish warship. All that you can do is walk around it and watch a fifteen minute movie that gave some background on the construction of the ship and its excavation from the harbor. After Stockholm, we cruised through the night to Helsinki. We did the City Tour and Porvuu. The city tour was fine but the trip to Porvuu was not worth the time nor money. It included a brief ride on an extremely spartan steam train through some uninteresting countryside. The ride to Porvuu basically took you to a couple of blocks of souvenir stores and a small flea market. In hindsight, it would have been much better to just walk around Helsinki after the city tour. Things got much better in St. Petersburg. We took the two day Grand Tour of St. Petersburg and it was very good. The tour guide had a portable microphone and each member of the tour had a headset. Thus, as we walked along, every tour member could clearly hear the guide whether they were right next to her or 100 feet behind. This worked great and we really missed this feature on the tours in the cities that followed. A frustrating part of our visit to St. Petersburg was the Evening at St.Catherine's Palace. This palace is in the country outside St. Petersburg. To get there from the cruise ship, our bus had to go into the city and then head out. As this occurs in the early evening, it puts you in rush hour traffic leaving the city. Our tour was on a Friday evening and it took two hours to get to the castle due to the gridlock. With a cost of $200 per person, this tour turned out to be more frustrating than satisfying. Other than this, the time spent in St. Petersburg was wonderful. With its canals, palaces, cathedrals and the Hermitage art museum,it's a great city to visit. Tallinn, Estonia was next on our itinerary. We took the City and Old Town tour. The old section of the city sits high on a hill capped by a fortress. With its winding side streets and beautiful churches, it provides many excellent photo opps. Amber jewelry is a specialty of the Baltic region. There were several shops in Old Town that carried a broad selection of this jewelry. Gdansk, Poland was our next stop. My mental vision of this town was of nothing but shipyards as that's all that I saw on TV in the Eighties when Lech Walesa was driving the Communist authorities nuts. In fact, the Old Town section of Gdansk is very picturesque and well worth visiting. Our tour included a bus trip out to Malborg Castle which was the home for the Teutonic Knights. Their history is very interesting. After climbing up and down the many staircases in the castle, the Polish food and beer definitely hit the spot! We reached Oslo after a full day at sea. We did the Glass Factory and Viking Ship Museum tour. The drive to the glass factory took us out of town and into the beautiful Norwegian countryside. If you haven't seen glass products formed by hand, you'll enjoy the factory tour. The Viking Ship Museum was better than the Vasa museum as there were more boats to see and you could get closer to them. If my wife's knees weren't in so much pain, we could have easily walked into Oslo as our ship was docked right downtown. After a day in Oslo, we headed back to Copenhagen to end our cruise. After disembarking in Copenhagen, we had two and one half days for sightseeing before our flight back to the States. The key sights in Copenhagen are all within a two mile radius of the center of the city so, if you are in good health, you can walk everywhere. Otherwise, you can use the bus system which is both excellent and inexpensive. We found the Danes to be very friendly and helpful. Almost all of them are fluent in English so language was never a problem. One of the Phoenix's staff recommended a restaurant that we thought was great. It's the Cafe Copenhagen. It's located on Badstustrade just off Stroget which is the main shopping street. As best we could tell, we were the only tourists in the restaurant on both of the nights that we were there. The food was both tasty and inexpensive. Portion sizes were huge! Sharing an order will leave room for dessert. After the cruise, we again stayed at the Phoenix Hotel. A warm breakfast buffet is included in the price of the room and it was very good. The Danish breads are generally excellent as, of course, are their pastries. Our post cruise stay was marred by the failure of our A/C unit on the last night. We opened our windows to get fresh air but then had to put up with the loud, intermittent noise of a large A/C unit (which probably cooled the lobby). In summary, this cruise was both educational and enjoyable. With the dollar as weak as it is, everything in Europe is expensive. Still, this trip was worth its cost! Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
I received so much help from CruiseCritic.com that I felt I had to write a review. We are 60 and 53 . This cruise was booked to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. This was our 4th cruise, but first on Princess. First, this was a ... Read More
I received so much help from CruiseCritic.com that I felt I had to write a review. We are 60 and 53 . This cruise was booked to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. This was our 4th cruise, but first on Princess. First, this was a large, beautiful, well maintained ship. The Baltic Sea was very calm throughout the cruise. Except for Stockholm, we had adequate time in the ports. Things I liked about Princess--- the bar waiters were not pushy, no constant bingo announcements, the cruise director (John Lawrence) was more of an adult than any previous cruise director we had encountered. Before every port, he gave informative talks about the ports, not just what shops were approved by the cruise line. We also liked the fresh water pools, and the fact that there were not children constantly jumping into the pools. (This may be more of a function of the itinerary and length of the cruise.) Also there were no stupid belly flop contests. We enjoyed the opportunities to dance, and the ballroom dance classes with Winnie. I liked anytime dining. Especially with our different port times, it worked out well. My wife said that she would have preferred a fixed set of table mates, but did like the time flexibility. I enjoyed meeting different people. As someone else put it, "You meet half the passengers" Except for one night, the service was good, though not the same as when you always have the same wait staff. Things I missed----towel animals (not a biggie), free ice cream (though I'm afraid to weigh myself now, so maybe that's a good thing), and lemonade. Lemonade is one of those first love things. Our first cruise was to the Mediterranean on a very hot summer, and I really enjoyed RCL's lemonade when returning to the ship. I did meet others who also said they missed lemonade. And on day 8---there was laundry hell. More on that later. Getting there---- we decided to fly out of Newark instead of JFK. That turned out to be a wonderful decision . Traffic was much less. There was only one 75? toll instead of two bridges. Our directions to the airport and the lot at which we had an internet coupon were very good.. Day 1-- we arrive jet lagged. Yes, I know everyone says get there a day early, but it was just not practical for us. After changing some dollars to other currencies, we went on our transfer bus. And Princess put us in a big waiting room. (I know times are different, but in similar circumstances 5 years ago, RCL gave us a free tour of Barcelona.) After several hours waiting, boarding started at 11:45. We were in group 1, so we were among the first on. I suggested to my wife that she pack one of her bathing suits in her carry on. She claimed to not have room. Since we did not get our luggage until almost 5 (I should not complain---I later met someone who did not get their luggage until day 8!)and the muster drill was at 5:15, swimming was put off until late. We rested some, and explored the ship. We were on the Caribe deck (deck10). This made us very central with the pools and buffet on deck 14 (no 13) and most activities on deck 7. At the muster drill, I ended up standing behind Edna and Steve from our cruise critic roll call. (We had previously met them because they lived one town away from my mother-in-law.) They had had dinner in Copenhagen the night before with most of the others from our roll call, including 6 of the 8 people who would join us on our private Alla tour in St. Petersburg. Edna told me how nice they all were. (And later, I heard how she told them how nice Jeff and Pat were.) We were too late for the show that night. Before trying to catch up on our sleep, we caught the end of a dance. Two bottles of champagne were being given away. It was supposed to be a macarena contest, but we practiced our meringue. At the end, we were called back on stage. Of the 8 people dancing, 4 were on the cruise director's staff, so with 2 bottles being given away, we were by default, one of the winners. Not being drinkers, that bottle lasted us until almost the end of the cruise. day 2---Oslo One of our fellow cruisers from cruise critic had set up a breakfast meeting. Of the 16 on the roll call, 12 were there and the 2 teenagers belonging to one of the couples later made an appearance. We all had a very nice time. Since we had 8 of the 10 from our St. Petersburg tour group, we decided on a time and place to meet. We wanted to be able to disembark before the large Princess groups. I later went to the room of the missing 2 people. After knocking and getting no answer, I left a note about where we would meet. I later got a phone message, that the note was received and apologizing for sleeping through the breakfast. BTW, on the next day, Princess actually had a meeting for members of cruise critic in the Wheelhouse bar complete with free champagne. Previous to this Pat swam her laps. I may have done the mile walk on deck 16; I know I did on several of the days, but I'm not sure on this one. Oslo---our plan was to take the ferry to the Viking Museum and then proceed to the Munch Museum (on no one's excursions, but something Pat very much wanted to see) with directions we received from an Oslo native on the cruise critic boards. But because of rainy weather, the ferry was not running. We got directions at tourist information on how to get to Munch and from there to the sculpture park, and then to the Viking Museum. We found our subway station and did our 4 stops to Munch and 5 stops back to the sculpture gardens. We were impressed with both venues. We then needed the 30 bus to get to the Viking Museum. At the bus stops, the busses are listed along with in how much time the next bus would be there. We were less impressed with the Viking Museum. After taking the 30 and 20 bus back, we realized we still had some time before we needed to be back at 6:30. We went to the National Museum, but it turned out that it closed at 5 on Saturday, and it was now about 5:30. So we returned to the ship. We had seen the 3 venues on our must see list. After dinner, we went to the show. We ended up having to stand in the back. The shows were the only time, you really felt like the ship was crowded. Speaking of the shows, except for the overnight in St. Petersburg when a local troupe of singers and dancers performed, I did not think the shows were up to the standards of our 2 RCL cruises or last summer's cruise on the Norwegian Crown. Not that they were bad, but just not as good. day 3 a sea day---uh oh will our cruise be ruined? Unfortunately, Pat got a migraine and with it nausea. I was afraid our trip would be ruined. (She said it started when we had to stand the night before for the show.) She recovered some to take a Princess@sea course on digital photography, but the felt ill again. Late in the afternoon, she had a ginger ale to settle her stomach. (the first food or drink she had that day). Later, she felt well enough for our first formal night, but I was still apprehensive because these attacks sometimes lasted for days. day 4---Gdansk and our 30th wedding anniversary We took our only Princess tour. They promised that the bus might not be air-conditioned, and they came through. LOL Gdansk was interesting, but kind of shabby, not our favorite port. We did see a demonstration on how to tell if amber was real or fake. Set it on fire. If it burns, it's real; if it melts it's plastic. Of course, this is not recommended in stores. Or you could see if it floats in salt water, though who carries a container of salt water with them. We were then told that the stores all pledged to sell real amber, but watch out for the street merchants. John Lawrence had said buy on the ship instead of the ports. Pat did buy a small piece of jewelry with a certificate of authenticity at one of the stores. There were anniversary balloons on our door. The rose I had ordered for Pat was in our cabin when we returned. At dinner, I mentioned to the maitre' d that it was our 30th anniversary, and we received a cake. Our table mates, a few of the Australians we met, asked us to tell the story of how we had met, and I entertained them with that story. day 5 Tallinn, Estonia John Lawrence had assured everyone that there was enough time at this port to cover it entirely, and he was right. As we walked there with our Rick Steves Scandinavia book, we ran into Ron and Deb, part of our Alla group. Since they also intended to do the Rick Steves walking tour, we decided to stay together. (By the time we were done, we would also run into the others on our roll call except for the 2 who we had not met.) Tallinn is fascinating. It's like being in a fairy tale setting. The walking tour worked out very well. Pat bought a salt and pepper set that looked like little nesting dolls because she wanted a memento of Estonia. days 6 and 7 our Alla tour in St. Petersburg We finally met our last 2 from the roll call and our Alla tour group. We left the ship and cleared customs as soon as the ship allowed us to leave. We found the Alla van and our guide Viktoria and driver Boris. I would highly recommend a private tour. We had flexibility. Our guide, Viktoria, asked if there was anything we would like to add. I mentioned I had heard the subway stations were interesting. She agreed. We ended up seeing 3 subway stations, all with different art work and unlike US stations, graffiti free, before proceeding to our first stop at Catherine's Palace. Our 9 1/2 hours on day 1 and 7 hour on day 2 flew by. We did run out of time to see the Choral Synagogue on day 1 that had been added to our tour, but saw it the second day. At one point, while we had photo opportunities, Viktoria disappeared. She came back with flowers for us for our anniversary and also for Ron and Deb for both an anniversary and a birthday. Later Alla gave everyone a dvd of St. Petersburg. We accomplished much of our Christmas shopping in one of the gift shops, buying several nesting dolls. The shops offer booze and chocolate as you enter. I would recommend Alla to anyone. The other local tour groups also seem to come highly recommended. I have since read on the CruiseCritic.com Baltic board that our wonderful guide, Viktoria, has opened her own agency, spb-tours, with tours in St. Petersburg and Berlin. I wish her good luck with her new business, and I'm sure she will have an excellent product. Most everyone we spoke to who took Princess tours were also happy, but I heard a few exceptions. One person told me his bus' air conditioning did not work the second day. (It was 87 degrees that day and sunny.) We did not have that worry being in an air-conditioned Mercedes van. After I told one person that our guide had 18 years' experience. I was told he had a guide who was 18 and answered one question by saying "Why would you want to know that?". And one other person said that their guide was bitter over the fall of Communism. People thought we must have paid more than for Princess tours especially having to pay for visas. But, the truth was we paid less, and, just as they went into Russia on Princess tour visas, we went on Alla's group visa. Day 8 Helsinki and laundry hell Helsinki was the port of which I had found the least to do. We took the Princess shuttle into Helsinki. We tried again the Rick Steves walking tour. After Estonia and Russia, i did not find the churches here as inspiring. We next went to the outdoor market. I liked it, but Pat wanted to move on. The last of the batteries for her digital camera had seemed to die. We went to a souvenir shop, but they did not carry batteries. We went to a kodak shop, but their credit card machine was broken, and we had no euros. We continued on to the Temppeliaukio Church carved out of rock. That was impressive. Some of Pat's batteries had recharged by then We then went back to the market, and then back to the ship. Pat liked Helsinki; I was not impressed except for the church carved out of rock. Pat then bought batteries on board. Both the send out laundry service and the laundry rooms were closed in St. Petersburg. I think everyone had the idea to now do laundry . It looks from their plans that there are a lot of laundry rooms, but they each have only 2 washers and 2 dryers. And one of the dryers in the one nearest us basically had no heat. After a wait, I finally got a washer. Meanwhile Pat went to the spa where she had an appointment for a free makeover that she had won. After the wash was finally done, I would have had at least an hour wait for a dryer without heat. I found a laundry room on another floor with only about a half hour wait for a very hot dryer, and went there. The floor there was covered in water. I originally took our wash into the laundry room at 3:30. I took it out of the dryer at 6:45. We missed one of the dance classes. Dinner was too late to make the 8:15 show. We will think twice about doing another cruise longer than 7 days. (I know that you can send your laundry out, but on our last cruise I had heard a few horror stories of lost laundry that was sent out. Day 9 Stockholm Our itinerary read Stockholm 8-3. That sounds like 7 hours. But we were in a little late. So we were among the first off at 8;45. You had to be back by 2:30 and the last shuttle was at 2. So there was much less time, and too much to see. We got to the Vasa Museum just as it opened beating the crowds. I did not expect to be impressed after the Viking Museum, but I was. This is definitely a can't miss attraction. We then went to Skansen, which was nearby.Let me quote Rick Steves description: "This is Europe's original open-air folk museum, founded in 1891.It's a huge park gathering more than 150 historic buildings (homes, churches, shops,and schoolhouses) transplanted from all corners of Sweden." We stayed there longer than I wanted and shorter than Pat wanted. We then went to the National Museum. The second floor had Dutch Masters and French Impressionists. As soon as we hit the Dutch Masters, Pat decided we had stayed too long at Skansen. She usually lingers at every picture, but had to move quickly here because of time restraints. And we never got to see the design exhibit on the first floor.. It was now time to get back to make sure we did not miss the ship. There were many more worthwhile attractions to see, but no time. As we got back to the ship, it was now time to swim. However, on deck 14, one pool was closed, while the other had a scheduled volleyball game. Very badly done by Princess. one of the few things badly planned (other than laundry). This was also the second formal night, and it turned out to be "lobster night". day 10 at sea Either this day or more likely the day before, we received our baggage tags. We had been told that 9 AM was too early to fly home, so we were staying an extra day. Pat noticed that one of the tag categories was Continental flights at 9 AM. I looked, and not only was she right, but it wasn't even the earliest category. There was a tag for flights before 9 AM. I won't bore you with what we did that last sea day as this has become very long. We did attend John Lawrence's lecture on Copenhagen, and learned that much of what we wanted to see would be closed as many things closed on Mondays. It would have been nice to at least have the option of taking a transfer and flying out the next day. Instead, we spent a tiring expensive day in Copenhagen. Despite many attractions closed, we went through 100 Kroner notes (about $18) like they were water. (And my wife discovered that you cannot get decaf coffee in Copenhagen.) Two quick notes about Copenhagen Both Rick Steves and Fodors recommend the vegetarian buffet at Riz Raz (a Mediterranean restaurant) as the best bargain in Copenhagen. I agree with them. Rick Steves wrote that the Little Mermaid might just be the most overrated tourist attraction in the world. Unfortunately, I think I agree with him. And we finally flew home. All in all, a wonderful cruise, despite a few glitches. It was a beautiful ship with some great ports. And, of course, our fellow passengers were on the whole a great bunch who really made the cruise as wonderful as it was. Any questions, feel free to e-mail me. JeffGersten@webtv.net Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Finally got around to writing about our 10 day Baltic cruise (July 21-31) on Star Princess and have to say it was our best cruise yet. As a background, my wife & I are 38 and have 2 daughters 12 and 10. This was our 4th cruise, the ... Read More
Finally got around to writing about our 10 day Baltic cruise (July 21-31) on Star Princess and have to say it was our best cruise yet. As a background, my wife & I are 38 and have 2 daughters 12 and 10. This was our 4th cruise, the first with Princess (others being with Carnival in the Caribbean). Booked our own flights into Copenhagen, connecting in Frankfurt. The Lufthansa flights were fantastic. An hour connection in Frankfurt might be tight, so make sure you give yourself a little extra. If it wasn't for our First Class tickets allowing us into special lines, we likely wouldn't have made it. Anyway, we arrived a day before the cruise so we could spend some time in Copenhagen. What a beautiful city. Stayed at the Radisson SAS Royal and thought it was an excellent hotel. You're right across from Tivoli, right in the heart of the city, it included a very nice breakfast buffet, and it was a very clean & modern hotel. If you're a family, do yourself a favor & book direct with the hotel - we got the Family Suite for something like $370 US for the night. Princess wants $250 / pp for regular rooms. For my wife and 2 kids, it's a huge savings. Tivoli is a great place to walk around & spend an afternoon. There are rides, games, some shops, restaurants, cafe's, live music at night, and beautiful scenery. Bring a credit card or Danish Kroner's because they don't take US dollars anywhere. Outside of Tivoli, just walk towards the main shopping area. It's full of history, amazing architecture, and those small cobblestone streets that are so prevalent in Europe. Beautiful area. Lots of shops, but don't expect any huge bargains. Embarkation the next day was a breeze. We arrived about 1, and there was somewhat of a line, but not huge. One of our rooms was a suite, so we had a quicker process. Literally we walked straight up to the person, did the credit card stuff, got our keys, and were on the boat in about 10 minutes, tops. The cruise doesn't leave until 9 that night, so you could get off the boat & tour more of Copenhagen if you want. Quickly, about the ship. It's in very nice shape, beautiful design and decor, and very clean. Staff were absolutely excellent and food was comparable to other cruises we've had, which is to say pretty good buffets and excellent sit-down dinners. We did anytime dining and didn't have any issues with it. Sometimes you had to wait 5 or 10 minutes, but that just meant you could go get a drink at the lounge bar. We had a mini-suite on the dolphin level, towards the back of the boat. The space was nice, but the furniture needed updating. The couch looked like it was 2 years past its replacement date. Our kids were in an inside room across the hall from us. As far as inside rooms go, it was fairly spacious. Perfect for the two of them. It must have been the itinerary for this cruise, but there certainly weren't a lot of kids, nor 30-somethings. I would have thought more of both, given that it was in July, when school is out, but I guess not. Average age was definitely 55+. There couldn't have been more than a couple hundred people, in total, under 40. Not that it was a big issue, but you really noticed it at after-dinner festivities. After the shows, it was like a ghost town. There generally was only 1 bar open past midnight. Even the casino didn't seem busy. In talking to some of the bar staff, they said that the casino & Skywalkers (excellent place to view when leaving a port, by the way) were closing before 1am, even on the nights when there was a day at sea next. First stop, Olso, Norway. If you're up really early, you can see the trip through the narrow channels. Beautiful city, very nice, clean, and you felt safe just walking around. Oslo is apparently the most expensive city in the world, according to the cruise director, so be prepared. We got off the ship & took a double decker touring bus that was waiting right there. I forget the cost ($150 maybe, for 2 adults, 2 kids) but it toured all around Oslo and stopped at all the major sights. You could get off at any of the sights & then just hop on another bus when it came by & continue your travels. In my opinion, probably the easiest and best way to travel around the city (if that's what you want to do). After a day at sea, we then stopped at Gdynia. Not sure why this is on the itinerary, honestly. Anyway, there were a number of vendors where the ship docked, and we got some nice amber jewelry at what we considered to be pretty good prices. A taxi offered to drive us around for an hour for $50. We were going to walk into town, but it didn't look to be the nicest area, so it worked out for the best. He gave us a nice little tour (not that there's much to see), waited for us to do a little shopping on the main pier / marina, then dropped us off at a mall just around the corner. Picked up a couple little things and then just walked back to the ship. It started raining, which wasn't a problem as we had the little compact umbrellas (tip: bring them, as the weather's pretty unpredictable in this part of the world). The rain day, though, was symbolic of Poland - gray and dreary. Next up was Tallinn, Estonia. Definitely a little gem in the Baltics. We just got off the boat & walked 10 minutes to the 'old town' - cobblestone streets, lots of shops, outdoor cafe's... a beautiful spot. Food was great & the beer was too. Did quite a bit of shopping here, as it was relatively cheap (the knit stuff) and shops were everywhere. 3 hand knit sweaters / ponchos weighed in at about 10 pounds and were a fraction of the cost we'd pay in Canada. In addition to the main shops, there was a long row of outside vendors, along a street. They seemed to have the better deals on some stuff, but their high-end knits just didn't have the quality as some of the stores. Good prices on hats & mitts, though! St. Petersburg was our next stop and I know why they stay here two days - what a place! You could do a whole review just on it, but I'll make it quick. We booked a two day private tour just for us 4 through Alla Tours and couldn't have been happier with it. She was awesome through the whole booking process. She customized the tour to our kids, there was lots of flexibility once we were in the vehicle, our guide (Dasha) was just excellent, it was a new Mercedes mini-van, she arranged ballet tickets for us (and arranged transportation for us with our guide & driver), all the immigration stuff, etc. etc. Just excellent. We'd recommend Alla to anyone. You read a lot about people worrying about getting off the ship if they don't book a ship excursion, etc. Don't worry. We were through customs in about 5 minutes - WAY ahead of the Princess Tours, who had a 'special' line. As far as sights go, Catherine's Palace is phenomenal. As is the Peterhof, and its fountains. For something unique (and time-saving), you can take a hydro-foil boat from the Peterhof, right back to St. Petersburg. It's faster than driving and you see more of the city. We also did a boat tour through the canals of the city. Absolutely recommend it. We stopped at one of the large shops that just caters to tourists. There's a chain of them. Quite a selection of things, but I didn't find the prices to be all that great. Our guide then took us to a small shop she knew, just off the main area, where we found the best deals on Faberge eggs and the lacquer boxes. We negotiated them down quite a bit on a high-end egg and box. St. Petersburg was an amazing stop. It's full of history, architecture, and beautiful sights. There was a photo op at almost every turn. We felt very safe with our guide & driver, and have nothing but the fondest memories of our trip. Helsinki was the next day, and we loved it. We just took a shuttle bus to the main downtown and walked around. There are lots of outdoor cafe's, there was a live band at an outdoor stage, there were some beautiful sights and buildings, and there was A LOT of shopping and eating to be done at the tent-vendors, over by the marina. We found the prices to be pretty reasonable, given some of the other countries. Just a warning, though, they take Euros only. No US dollars. But most of the outdoor vendors had wireless handheld credit card machines, just in case. We were disappointed at the next stop, Stockholm. Not because of the city - it was a jewel of a city - but because it was one of our shortest stops. Employees on the ship kept saying that Stockholm was the best stop, the most scenic, etc. Then why did Princess give us the least amount of time of any port? We arrived on a Sunday morning, so virtually everything was closed. The only thing open (and it opened at 9) was the boat tours through the canals. So we took the 2 hour trip. Don't waste your time. While it was kind of interesting just cruising around all the different parts of Stockholm, the historical parts were done in about 30 minutes. All the rest was going by things like apartment buildings, their hospital, residential areas, etc. Take the shorter tour & just see the good stuff. The tall ship races were being held there that week, so the scene along the waterfront was festive (once things started opening up, around 11 - and we had to be back on the ship for 1:30). Right in the main area is the marina, the Castle, City Hall, and the Theatre. It seems to be the main area for people congregating. There were a few shops open later, and we picked up some crystal. The prices were good, but there were also some amazing unique pieces that you just wouldn't find anywhere else. Be sure to have the camera ready for your departure from Sweden. You go through a maze of small islands and channels and work your way out to the sea. The views are amazing and the piloting of the ship is remarkable in the tight areas. After another day at sea, we arrived back at Copenhagen. We decided to carry our own luggage off the boat, as we've always done it without issue. Bad idea. The only way off the boat for this type of disembarkation was the very front gangway. We were at the back. So we had to roll our luggage all the way down the Dolphin deck hallway. Unfortunately, all the room stewards were trying to clean the rooms, so we had to fight our way past their trolleys. There was very little help or signage anywhere, so we ended up getting off at the wrong floors and it took about 15 minutes to finally figure out where we supposed to go and on which floor. Once we were on the right floor, we were off the boat in about 2 minutes. You walk off the gangway into this massive tent where there's this HUGE lineup for taxis. I'd guess maybe 400-500 people. 45 minutes later, we finally get to the front of the line and have to wait further for a mini-van taxi, as most of the taxis in Copenhagen are smaller Mercedes cars, that just can't hold 4 people and luggage. Our taxi driver was like a guide, explaining everything, the history etc, and he did mention that every couple weeks, just the way the timing goes, there are TWO cruiseships disembarking at the same time - and that gets REAL busy. If that was the wait when there's just one ship, I wouldn't want to know with two. Or with THREE, which apparently happens a couple times a year he said. You might want to check other cruiselines to see when their ships get to Copenhagen, so you can plan accordingly. The Princess transportation is very expensive, but given the alternatives... If I can give one piece of advice about the currencies, do your homework. Between all the countries, there is something like 7 different currencies, all with their own exchange rates. In some countries, credit cards are used more than they are in North America, for things maybe as small as coffee and a bagel. Others will take cash only, and only in their local currency. Be prepared to get ripped off if you exchange it onboard. They were giving US 86 cents per Canadian dollar on board, but the real exchange rate at the time was about 96 cents. I'm sure it was similar for all other currencies. And all of the countries have these 'foreign exchange' kiosks, almost like Western Union, where they'll convert your money - but certainly not at great rates. I wanted a little Estonian Kroon. They gave me just over 8 Kroon per US dollar, but the official rate is closer to 11. That's a huge difference. Anyway, bottom line for this cruise is that it was absolutely amazing, it's an incredible part of the world, the people are very friendly, Star Princess is a great ship, and we would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Star Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 4.0 N/A
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness & Recreation 4.0 N/A
Family 4.0 3.8
Shore Excursions 4.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 4.0 N/A
Service 4.0 4.2
Value for Money 4.0 N/A

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