Scandinavia & St. Petersburg - when can we come back?: Jewel of the Seas Cruise Review by luvlktahoe

Jewel of the Seas 5
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Scandinavia & St. Petersburg - when can we come back?

Sail Date: July 2009
Destination: Baltic Sea
Embarkation: Harwich
We sailed overnight on the ferry from the Hook of Holland, by Rotterdam, and it was less expensive and stressful than commuting from central Europe by car.

We will definitely cruise again with the kids, because there is so much to do to keep them happy - plus, we can sight see and have fun!The kids area was open 30 minutes before the first shore excursion of the day and closed 30 minutes after the return of the last excursion. We left our younger kids on the ship in 3 ports, because they really enjoyed the kids area and were "bored" with sight seeing(plus the younger ones won't remember much). Our younger kids begged to go back to Ocean Adventure, during dinner every night. This was great for us, because the grown-ups can go have "dates" ;) My middle school daughter did meet a few kids and had fun in the teen zone, but did not feel comfortable there all the time, when the older teenagers were there. She ended up hanging out with friends playing ping pong, etc..., more More often than the teen zone.

We had outstanding service. I have read many complaints about the food, and we found there to be a good selection. The dinner menus changed every night in the many dining room, but the breakfast and lunch menus were almost always the same every day. In the Windjammer cafe, there are several items that are similar but they do have a few main dishes that change every day. We found the food to be better in the main dining room for breakfast, and usually dinner. But lunch was better in the Windjammer or Seaview cafes. It is disappointing that there is not as much seafood and no lobster, as compared to our first cruise, 15 years ago. We also do feel the food quality was better on our first cruise. But let me tell you this: I will not complain too much about food, when I don't have to cook, do dishes, or cut up children's food for nearly two weeks! The real world of food is oh so harsh, for a mother with small children!

The one thing I will complain about is the price for spa services. It was not worth the quality of services rendered. I have had much better facials and pedicures for less than what was charged on the ship. The hot stone massage was very nice, but too pricey. It is so nice to be able to go to a spa on a relaxing cruise, but it left you wanting so much more!

We were in a family suite on the 8th floor, front of the ship. It was a long walk from the center of the ship, but worth it for the quietness!

The entertainment was good, but not great. The first comedian was hilarious, but it was downhill after that, as far as comedians go. The Las Vegas Extreme show was amusing.

Bottom line: you can usually get cheaper transportation in every port than what the ship tells you. There seems to be a hop on/off bus or ferry in every city that you can do on your own, but some cities are pricier than others. Pack layered clothes, as you will have some warm/sunny days and some cold/rainy days. Bring a raincoat, even in July and August. I would consider smuggling a suitcase full of bottled water for your port days - water is very expensive! Regardless of what the ship tells you, we found merchants/transportation accepted euros in every port, and sometimes US dollars. Most places will give you back the change you desire, but some will give change back in the kroner equivalent. So, don't worry about getting the local currency in every port. There are many "safe" stores to use credit cards.

We had a wonderful time, overall! The biggest gem for us was meeting our dinner table mates - they were really fun! Our biggest recommendation is to try something new on the ship, whether it be dance lessons or poker lessons, and talk to complete strangers! Less

Published 08/13/09

Cabin review:

We were in a family suite(no balcony, because of young kids)on the front of the ship, 8th floor. It was a long walk from the main elevators, but we didn't mind because it was quiet, where we were located. We could hear faint music from the Coral Theater(auditorium/theater)only on 3 nights, but it ended by 10pm. Great view. not enough space to hang wet clothes and towels was my biggest complaint. Plenty of drawer and closet space. Plenty of room for our family.

Port and Shore Excursions

We thought Copenhagen seemed pretty, even in the rain. We walked into town, and it is about a 20 - 25 minute walk. This is one of the cities we wished we had done an organized tour. The city did not seem all that welcoming to tourists, and we think a tour would have given us more insight.

You can get off the ship, walk to the left(towards the back of the ship), go to the next street and turn right - on the other side of the street, you can catch bus #16 to Rock Church and National Museum(heard great things about this museum from fellow cruise passengers) or bus #14B to the shopping area, park, town hall, market. The bus only cost 6.50euro/adult and 3euro/kid. This was the cheapest mode of transportation - bus drivers spoke enough english to answer basic questions about the bus service. Do not recommend the Ice Bar here, because it is small and disappointing - they also close for private parties without notice! We walked down to the end of the Esplanade street to the market - here there are stalls with fresh cooked fish, squid, and paella - it was great!
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The ship does not allow for enough time here! Do not take the hop on/off bus here, if you get into port at 2pm, because the bus is done at 4pm. The ferry stops running at 5pm. I would definitely take an organized ship tour here, if I could do it over, so we could have seen more attractions. If you don't care about seeing much of the city, then it is a 5-10 minute walk into the city. We did make it to the Vigeland Sculpture Park and it is brilliant! If you do it on your own, get the guidebook or read from Rick Steve's to get a little more insight into the sculptures.
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2 days was not enough time for our once in a lifetime trip to Russia! We enjoyed the tour of Catherine's summer Palace in Pushkin, but it is very crowded!We had to be quick to take any pictures or buy souvenirs here, because we were given very limited time - but the shops inside were nice and a safe place to use credit cards. I wish I had bought more nesting dolls here, because there was really great quality, for reasonable prices. If you want the cheaper nesting dolls, the quality is not quite as good, but you can get them at the markets. We also really enjoyed our 4 hour tours of the Hermitage(without kids along) and a walking tour that included Church of the Spilled Blood - there was a big market here, and we were able to bargain quite a bit. Offer half or 2/3 of the price they tell you, then say "no" and walk away, if they refuse. Usually, the seller would call me back and agree to my price or slightly higher. The prices at the Russian Bazaar, on the ship, were 2-3 times the price that I paid for everything. Our 5 year old did fine on the tour to St. Catherine's Palace. We did not bring her on the walking tour, but she could have done it, because we had rests on the bus between areas we visited. I would not recommend taking anyone younger than a teenager to the Hermitage. We were so glad we could leave the kids on the ship, part of the time! We did 4-5 hour ship tours here, because of the age of our kids, and it was perfect. If we ever go back, we will do the full day trips with one of the local tour companies - especially so we can attend an affordable evening event.

We are kicking ourselves, because we slept in this morning. This city is so quaint and completely doable on your own. It is a 10 - 15 minute walk into the old Medieval town. There is a lot to see and do here, and people spoke English fairly well. We did take the full loop around the town on the hop on/off bus, so we felt like we were getting some brief history. Lots of affordable souvenirs here in the markets. We followed the Rick Steve's walking tour, and it was perfect for us!
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