My family (me, my husband and 17 year old son) joined our neighbors (husband, wife, 15 year old boy and 10 year old girl) on a cruise to the Baltic. They were first time cruisers, and were excited to participate after our glowing reports of cruising to the Mediterranean on the Emerald Princess in 2007. The trip started in Copenhagen and ended in Copenhagen.
Our friends arrived in Copenhagen 2 days prior to embarkation. We arrived 1 day early. Both parties were subject to lost luggage. Two bags lost for our friends. Two bags lost for us (me....the only girl in our party...with no clothes to change into.) We were told upon arrival that our bags could arrive later that day...there was another Air France plane coming from Paris...and we could come back and check. When my husband pointed to a wall of baggage (hundreds of bags) piled up in the area and asked if it could be in that lot...they said, no those were lost bags from YESTERDAY that they hadn't had time to scan yet.Baggage is a secure area, so later, upon arrival back to the terminal, we had to call so someone from Novia (a company Air France and other airlines pay to run baggage...and check in) could let us in. They refused...said they were too busy. When we reminded them that we were informed to come back.. they didn't budge. We spent $40 going to and from the airport-wasted.
I bring up the lost luggage thing because Princess was the one who handled it. The pursers office took a very thorough report and called each day...to apprise us of the situation. I had my luggage the first port day we had....sitting like beacons of light in my stateroom, on my return from a day in Stockholm.
A word to the wise....This Novia company is contracting out to do a lot of things for airlines...so far we know SAS and Air France use them. Not only are they poor in baggage handling...they also checked us in at the end of the trip...and they have limited access to the computers. In other words, they couldn't print boarding passes for us for our Boston connection (Delta Airlines). We would have to manage that ourselves in Boston. So in Boston we had 45 minutes to clear customs, get our bags, clear 2nd checkpoint, return our bags, run to another terminal, get someone to print us boarding passes, and then get to the gate that the security guy said would take 10 minutes to run to.....lucky our connection was delayed. My husbands bag didn't make it...but we did.
SO...my point, I don't know how long it will take for this Nokia group to be found out and not get any more contracts...but beware of anyone who uses them. I've never encountered so many lost luggage stories on a trip before. And in our party of 7 people, 4 different people at different times were hit.
So enough of that..beware of Novia....let's talk about the cruise.
EMBARKING THE SHIP: Nobody embarks as quickly and as efficiently as Princess. A dream... both Princess cruises we've taken.
COPENHAGEN: All I have to say is $60 for 3 starbucks drinks and 3 cinnamon rolls at the airport. $10 for Big Mac at McDonalds. Local fare....$10 for cup of onion broth (supposed to be french onion soup.) So-it's expensive...but it's a beautiful city.
Maybe don't go in early, or stay after, unless you plan for the expense. The city is definitely worth seeing, there's lots to see. We went to see the Hamlet Castle, saw all the palaces of the royalty, Little Mermaid statue, Tivoli Gardens. Was a great couple of days.
STOCKHOLM: We fell in love with Stockholm. Lots to see, all well taken care of.
HELSINKI: It wasn't until our tour bus left without us, because we were stuck in line at a shop (with clear instructions on how to find another bus back to the ship)that we got to see some cool local flavor. A high school band playing in a gazebo in a beautiful little park. A nice walk to a bus that returned us safely to the ship. We will always remember our tour guide's words, "Finns don't smile much, they don't make small talk, and they are never late.)
ST, PETERSBURG: We did the 2-day tour and went to see Swan Lake at the ballet. You have to know ahead of time.....It is all amazing, but don't expect Paris. It is dingier than my group expected..so maybe, if you come in knowing that...it will not disappoint. When we got off the boat to go through customs, there was a band of musicians playing the Star Spangled Banner. Russians...playing it, welcome to Russia. When we went to Peterhof...there were more musicians playing American music. Our time in Russia would up being a strange mix of being welcomed and being frowned at. The ballet was wonderful-Swan Lake in St. Petersburg. What more could you ask for? Well, maybe air conditioning. Uh, oh..my dirty americanism is showing.
Tallinn (Estonia): Don't miss it! We almost did. Our cruise only had one at-sea day, so we nearly missed this jewel! Go see the people who so joyously enjoy their 16 year freedom from Communist rule. Go see the Rooca-Al Mare museum, situated in a park with actual farm buildings moved there from different parts of the country, so all can see what life was like 200, 100, 50 years ago. You could still smell the smoke from the stove in one of them. Enjoy the folk dances they do at the end of the tour, with the women and children dressed in authentic folk costumes.
GDANSK & SOPOT (Poland): Another favorite stop, Gdansk is a beautiful town in Poland and Sopot is the seaside resort area attended by Europeans.
BERLIN: Berlin was our favorite!!!! Princess put us in our own comfortable train cars, attended to by cheery local college kids, for our 3 hour trip to Berlin. They time flew by in our comfortable surroundings, and what a town to see...is Berlin! We were taken to all the landmarks you would expect, including a square where one of the book burnings occurred.They have a glass floor in a part of the square, where they have a room underneath with 20,000 books in it. They took us to a museum built in honor of the US soldiers who helped Berliners survive a siege during which they had no food. Speaking of food, they gave us the best food I've ever been given on an excursion during a cruise. If you can't do Berlin, others told us the port town of Warnemunde was an incredible well-day spent, also.
So..the Baltic was beautiful, a fun time for all of us... The Crown Princess was identical to the Emerald Princess we sailed on last year..identical in form, anyway.
I don't know the why of it---but we felt a "cattle-call" experience, unlike the Emerald, when we could never figure out where all the people were! On the Crown, we were hardpressed to find a place to sit together at breakfast.....we were all crowded together in the Princess theatre, prior to excursions. (The Emerald ship divided us into different meeting places prior to excursions) Now, I don't know if it was the fault of the ship management, or if it was the nature of itinerary, but the Emerald way was better-Lines should be minimized....it's what drove me away from cruising years back...only to have my mind changed by our 2007 cruise on the Emerald.
The food on the Crown wasn't as good as the Emerald (except in the Crown Grill) the restaurant, and the buffet were not as good.
D310-mini suite. Great location, great room.