I am a young adult and I enjoy traveling with my parents when I have the chance. I live in Germany and had been wanting to do a Baltic cruise for quite awhile. We booked our trip on the Royal Princess for August 2014 and had a fantastic time. We chose the Royal Princess because it gave us the ability to board at the Berlin stop. The actual port is three hours from Berlin and called Warnemunde. My parents and I met in Berlin, and then took a German-operated bus to Warnemunde, and then a taxi to the port. Check-in was super easy, as there was no line. It took about ten minutes. We think that most people boarded in Copenhagen a day or two before, so the port at Warnemunde was pretty empty.
We thought the ship was gorgeous. Our room was an obstructed balcony cabin on the 7th floor. The balcony was enormous and we did not mind the obstructed view. It was a small room, but nicely furnished and totally adequate. The television was new and worked great, and the bed was comfortable. We had a small fridge, an American-style and European-style outlet, and a big closet area, which we appreciated. The bathroom was small, but fine, and our only real complaint was that there were very few options to hang towels. We would have preferred to re-use our towels, but we had no way to dry them between use, and they usually ended up on the ground and then were replaced.
We ate most meals in the buffet area, which was split into a more relaxed atmosphere where you could get your own drinks, and into a slightly fancier area, in which drinks were served by waitstaff. There was some repetition on the food for each meal, but there were always so many choices, that the repetition did not bother us (in fact, we found some favorite things, and looked forward to eating them several times). The waitstaff were extremely attentive and friendly, and also seemed to joke amongst themselves, which gave us the impression that they enjoyed their jobs. If we ever wanted something special, they always went out of their way to try to make our wish possible. We were extremely impressed with the staff.
I used the gym almost every day and found the machines to be almost new and in excellent condition. The gym was large, and there was not a single time when I had to wait for an elliptical or treadmill. They did offer classes and seminars, but I did not participate in any of those.
My parents went to a show almost every night, and I joined them occasionally. The illusionist was very entertaining, the hypnotist was very impressive, and the ship's cast of dancers and singers was very talented. My parents also really enjoyed the comedian. We were excited to go to the movies under the stars, but by the very end of August, the weather was just too cold to sit outside for a movie at night. The crew always set it up though, complete with blankets, so we could have gone if we wanted to.
We also really liked the port lecturer, Loie Lennon. She was very friendly and really knowledgable about each city. She provided her own photos and gave us helpful tips. She always plugged the ship's excursions, but not in an aggressive way, and included information for people doing the ports on their own or for those who had booked private excursions. She was also available for questions during her "office hours," and seemed to genuinely enjoy talking to guests about the ports. She did not speak much of the history of each city, but rather focused on the practical information, which was more important anyway.
The highlight of the cruise though, of course, were the ports. We chose to use SPB Tours for the ports where they were offered. We were absolutely thrilled with the company - the booking was easy, the office staff was extremely prompt and helpful, and all of their guides were outstanding. Our first stop was Tallinn and our guide was Silja. She was lovely, very knowledgeable, and did a great job managing the group. We saw some farther away sites in a small bus, and then walked in the old city. Tallinn is lovely and we really enjoyed the day. Our second stop was St. Petersburg, and we had two jam-packed days with Alexander. Viktoria met us at the dock, and it was a wonderful personal touch. We toured the city with a group of 16 people in a small bus. We did everything - subway ride, boat ride, hydrofoil ride, palaces, museums, and even a bit of shopping. It was exhausting, but well-worth it. Alexander is young, bursting with knowledge, and very open to questions. He was a genius at logistics - it is truly impressive how Alexander and SPB Tours in general can pack in so much in such a short time. Our only complaint is that we did not have enough time and felt a bit rushed, but that had nothing to do with SPB Tours or Alexander. Then we went to Helsinki, which was not as exciting as St. Petersburg, but still very interesting, and our guide George was lovely. He focused more on Finnish culture than on Finnish history, and we enjoyed seeing both the downtown of the city, as well as some of the parks on the outskirts. Our final stop with SPB Tours was Stockholm, which is a gorgeous city. Our ship docked pretty far from the city, so SPB Tours organized a bus transfer. Our guide Katja was great, and showed us the town hall, the Vasa Museum, and the old town. We also had a bit of free time for shopping. Due to the distance of the ship from Stockholm, the day was pretty short, but we still had a wonderful time. Overall, we were extremely impressed with SPB Tours and would highly recommend them to anyone considering doing a Baltic cruise!
Once we got back to Berlin, it was time to disembark, and the Royal Princess made it very easy. Since we did not have much luggage, we chose the option to disembark on our own, and we just got off with the other passengers early in the morning.
We had heard some rumors that the ships try to keep private tour passengers on the ship for longer each morning, giving those who booked the ship's excursions priority. We did NOT experience this, as for most ports, everyone was allowed to disembark at the same time and no one asked what sort of excursion we were doing. For St. Petersburg, they did announce that private excursion customers should go to a separate area, but they were allowed to disembark right away, so there was no delay. We also were not asked to fill out a customs form for St. Petersburg.
Overall, we were really thrilled about every aspect of the trip, from the ship, the food, the ports, and especially the excursions. Our only real complaint (mentioned above) is that there were not more places to hang towels, and certainly that did not impact our enjoyment in any way. We would enthusiastically encourage anyone thinking about doing a Baltic cruise to choose Princess and to take the SPB Tours!