Having previously cruised (with Princess) on our Honeymoon, we decided to do so again for our 10th Anniversary - this time, with our children (5 and 7) too!! We were very pleased with our previous Princess cruise, although we primarily selected the Baltic Heritage cruise because of the itinerary - the fact that we "knew" the cruise line made our choice even simpler.
Due to an early morning flight, we arrived at the cruise terminal in Southampton slightly early for our embarkation time slot. However, we were checked-in very promptly and were allowed to board the ship shortly thereafter. The check-in/embarkation process was excellent and very "slick". After a brief walk-around the ship and some lunch from the Horizon Court buffet, we returned to our stateroom to find that our cases had all been delivered - again, very quickly indeed!
We had primarily chosen this cruise because of the excellent itinerary, however we did not do any of the ship’s organised excursions. In the majority of ports, we simply did our own thing (very easy to do in most cases – especially Tallin!) and in St Petersburg we booked a 2-day tour via an independent operator – which was excellent and substantially less expensive that Princess’ own offerings. I would add however that the itinerary did not disappoint – it was fantastic – we visited some fascinating places and having 2 “sea days” at the end to simply “chill out” was perfect!
Our cabin/stateroom was larger than we had anticipated (Room E114 - as reviewed separately below) and was more than adequate for our family’s requirements for 2 weeks.
Whilst on-board, we enjoyed a variety of dining experiences - usually a buffet breakfast which was good, but could get very busy - and sometimes difficult to find a table (there are two sides to the buffet - usually only one of which is open at a time - so a good "tip" is to take your plate/food through to the other side which is quieter and usually had plenty of tables - the tea/coffee/water was always available in both sides). We sometimes used the buffet also for lunch - when we weren't ashore - or had a snack from the excellent pizza bar (cooking fresh pizza's throughout the day) or something from the grill (which had very good burgers!) - both of which are very handy for the pool. The evening menu in the restaurants had a "core" selection of dishes available each evening and also varied other dishes each evening. There was always something to suit all members of our family. The waiting staff in the main dining rooms were excellent and made our Anniversary dinner special and also made our son feel special on his birthday!
Our children thoroughly enjoyed the kids activities on-board and the children’s centre staff were all first-class. We were fortunate to be on a cruise with a relatively small number of children (although still an adequate number for them to make friends and enjoy themselves) and as the children's area rooms are not vast, I could imagine they may get crowded on busier “school holiday” cruises.
Similar to the embarkation process, disembarkation was a well-organised and “slick” process. We were able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast on-board prior to leaving the ship at our allotted time to find all our luggage ready and waiting for us. No fuss – just a very easy and fast process.
In summary, I would highly recommend this cruise to anyone interested in seeing the Baltics. There were no particular negative experiences to our cruise and innumerable positives. All-in-all, a fantastic holiday!
Our cabin, although compact, was spacious enough for the 4 of us for 2 weeks. As the top bunks fold away, we usually did this ourselves in the morning when the children woke up to give us a little more space in the room. There was adequate storage space for everything we had with us and our cabin steward maintained our room in excellent order and whenever we left our room (at a variety of different times) it was always refreshed upon our return. Prior to embarking, I was somewhat tentative about our stateroom as I had read reviews of the window being overlooked by the Promenade deck and reports of potential noise from the Princess Theatre directly below our room. However, we were not aware of any noise from the theatre at all (and we were all in bed early some nights!) and the window (which is a good-sized window and not just a "porthole") had a veil as well as curtains and had a reflective/1-way coating to aid privacy. I would happily select this room again. The only negative which I would note - as a "be aware" - is that the room is very close to one of the anchor points for the ships lines - so when the ship docks (usually early morning), there is some noise from the motors for the ships lines as the ship is secured to the dock. The room is also at the opposite end of the ship from the kids club rooms (which are Deck 17 aft) - although the walk didn't bother us at all.