We're just home from 10-day Baltic cruise on Marina. As experienced and seriously independent travellers this was our first cruise other than a Rhine River trip. Here are my thoughts based on a lot of questions I see on this board:
- The ship is fabulous. At 1200 pax it was just the right size.
- I didn't go on a cruise for on-board shopping (?), TV programing or live shows so I have no comment on those things.
- We took an upgrade to a PH suite with a butler and that was a real treat. Canapes delivered each afternoon, dinner reservations made for us, a kind and friendly guy. Nice.
- The food it outrageous in terms of quality and quantity. Wow! The buffet in the Terrace is mind-boggling.
- We liked the change of pace of the specialty restaurants. The only one that was mildly disappointing was Toscana - thought they could do better.
- We like to dine, not rush so in the GDR we had to make sure to tell our server that we weren't in a hurry to eat and get out.
- Fellow travellers were interesting and fun. You have to be prepared to just introduce yourself to people. If you don't gel, find someone else after dinner.
- We went carry-on. You DON'T need two giant suitcases that guarantee a different outfit for every day; it's not that dressy unless you want to pretend you're at the Oscars. No one cares if you already wore that top/shirt/blazer. I'm happy to share my packing list.
- At 48, hubby and I were among the youngest on board but business and travel interests span all ages so it didn't matter one bit except at the disco or karaoke nights where the lounge was almost empty and the (very funny) DJ was struggling to get involvement. However, when you've walked cobblestone streets for 5 hours, eaten canapes and then a wonderful meal along with a few of those glasses of wine, bed looks pretty good around 10 pm!
- We didn't go to any shows - not our thing. After dinner one night we ambled into the theatre just as one of the singers broke out into "Memory" from Cats. Aaaak! I left immediately.
- Go on, take a chance with a Share Table at dinner - you can meet some really neat people with whom you don't have to become new best friends.
- The service is wonderful although there were staff everywhere which seemed kind of overkill. At the Terrace buffet the staff was literally bumping into each other behind the counters.
- There's a ton to do and the Cruise Director was Willie Aames, the curly-headed kid from Eight is Enough (I thought he was a bit of a snob).
- Beware: you gotta go early to get a seat and a team for the 5pm Trivia at Martini's Bar > now that was really fun!
- Every morning and every night you receive in your room the little "What's On" pamphlet about today's town, weather, on-ship activities, when the freebies are , etc. There's no excuse for getting lost, missing an event or anything. Everything's politely laid out for you.
- If you like a drink, TAKE THE PACKAGE. A glass of wine is either $8 or $10 so even if you have a beer/wine at lunch and a couple of glasses over dinner, you're ahead with the $30 package. Be advised, though, when you buy the package you MUST buy it for the entire cruise, not a day here and a day there. So before we even got to our suite we paid $500 for booze we hadn't yet consumed. Still, it's the better deal unless you're a wine aficionado and want to order bottles off the list. The package only allows you to buy "by the glass" but the list is pretty good, about five choices of each of red and white.
- A couple of the restaurants seemed a little slow with the wine service and we wondered that they were slow on purpose in order to pour less (and pay less) once they realize you're going to drink more than one glass.
- Still on the liquor package, remember that you probably won't be on the ship for lunch...
- Take a cooking class - fun, fun, fun and yummy! If you don't book one ahead you'll likely find space on the day everyone else has gone to Berlin.
- The specialty restaurants were great. Jacques was the best, in our opinion, and we ate there 3x. Try 'em all if you can. Don't be afraid of Red Ginger; the decor is amazing and the food was excellent.
- On the day that everyone else attends night theatre in St. Petersburg or takes the 12-hour trip to Berlin, it's easy to get a specialty restaurant reservation! Even if you've already used up your allotted number of specialty rezzies, go and ask; odds are you'll get something.
- For those obsessive planners who don't do shore-ex, there will be a map of the town you're visiting at Destination Services each morning and in some towns, local tourism reps were on board with proper maps and lots of terrific advice.
- Plan your own trip in St. Petersburg. We used SPB and with just us two and the guide we paid a ton less and got in front of all the line-ups of the masses off the busses. The driver dropped us off in front of everything then went off to wherever while we toured and then he appeared at the front door and off we went - while all the bus people lined up and waited. And a car can take you through some back streets a bus can't manage.
- Don't be afraid to book your own excursion through these boards. It's easy and reliable. There are only so many things you can do in these towns so it's not like you'll make the wrong choice of company or itinerary.
- Unless you want to know the entire economic, socio-political and cultural history of any of these places, skip the shore-ex and just go walkabout. It's safe, easy and you won't have to stick to someone else's itinerary or line up with 46 other people on the bus (ugh!).
- Everyone speaks English.
- In Poland, the old town is a bit of a drive but you can easily hire a cab. You don't need a guide unless you want the history lesson. Just secure the price before you get in. This isn't the dog-eat-dog rip-off scenario most people imagine, and are afraid of. It's all very civilized.
- Using info from these forums, I booked a 10-person trip to the Stutthof Concentration Camp and Gdansk and while it was worth it, the guide DID NOT STOP TALKING for the entire 8 hours. Yikes.
- MY ONLY COMPLAINT is that the on-board internet service is terrible and outrageously expensive . Use your iPhone as a hotspot and get a good package if all you're going do is email or text the kids to say you're alive. There's a $3.95 activation fee. Prices range from 0.95/minute a la carte to $150 for 200 minutes. The signal is so bad in some places that you're eating up minutes trying to stay connected. The website and our Oceania rep gave me the confidence to believe I could easily keep in touch with business issues but I ended up spending $300 on internet services. Once you're on board, they "gotcha". I fully get that satellite service is sketchy in some countries but this was terrible. Be warned!
- A massage was $182 ... but the spa is wonderful. Remember that "single sex" sauna means separate Men's and Women's so you don't end up naked with your husband in the MEN'S sauna when another man walks in ... (now THAT was funny!)
- Bottom line: wonderful ship, staff, service, food, atmosphere
The PH suite was wonderful in terms of size, amenities, personal space, bathroom size. The balcony size was terrific.
1. the shower head in the middle of the ceiling is awkward for tall ppl and for washing your hair.
2. the vanity with the magnifier mirror is a great idea but the design is flawed and unless you kneel on the floor you can't actually use the mirror.
3. It really is OK to leave a towel or face cloth for more than one use. I found the fresh towel every five seconds wasteful and kind of annoying - but I know that sounds silly.
Boring. Crappy weather. Not much to see. Could have been good for shopping except for lurking husband ... We had a nice lunch and went back to the ship.
Went solo with SPB booked online.
Nice, walkable city.
Really liked this town.
Fabulous art gallery.
Make sure you cross the river and go see the Nouveau Art architecture on Albert St - out of this world even if you aren't interested in architecture!
Take the boat to Rostock. Very nice.
Seas were too rough to land. Sea Day!
Took a private tour but the guide talked incessantly - boo!
Old Town is lovely but by this time we were getting kind of full up of old towns with similar architecture and stories.