Hello Travelers, I would like to share with you our experiences on NCL Jewel Baltic Capital Cruise with a 2 day extension in London, the good, the bad and the ugly from August 1 thru August 16, 2009. My wife and I flew from Chicago to London on United Airlines while my friends from Tampa, FL flew in on British Airlines. After arriving in London, our Vantage tour Representative was waiting for us. The drive from London to Dover where NCL was docked was 2 hours away with a quick stop in between. Our friends were waiting for us at the ship. If you cruised with NCL before, make sure you sign up as a Latitude member. By doing this you'll able to skip the long registration line, check in at the Latitude registration desk and get onto the ship a lot faster especially after that long flight. You'll be boarding just in time for lunch. There's going to be a couple thousand hungry passengers wanting to have lunch. If you're lucky, you'll find a table to sit down at. What we did was we ate in the kids section with no problem at all. Get use to it. Tables are limited at the Garden Cafe Restaurant on NCL. The food is so, so and we didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants throughout the cruise. I have to get this off my mind about traveling in the month of August. I like kids but, there were too many of them on this cruise. I heard around 800 kids. I'm talking about the 12 - 16 year old kids. I know that NCL Jewel is a freestyle cruise but the parents let them run wild, bumping into you, cutting in front of you while waiting in line for food. They were really rude with no manners at all. Now let's talk about the cruise. I try not to take excursions from the ship because they're over priced and you don't see as much if you do it yourself. Try to take private tours and save money. Be adventurists and don't be afraid ?. NCL preaches on the TV set in your stateroom that you're safe with their tours. Private tours are the best way to go and book early. Get ready to do a lot of walking like I do because I'm a photographer/Videographer my passion is getting the right shot. Remember you have to be back onboard ½ hour before departure. Always get the location where NCL Jewel is docked at each port and mark it on a map. CAUTION! Watch out for the open markets, PPP (Pick Pocket Paradise). For the men, always make sure you keep all your valuables in your front pockets and keep nothing in your back pocket. For the ladies, make sure you keep you purse is zipped, the straps are over your shoulder and your purse in front of you. Don't be afraid, have fun and good luck! Currency: Some countries accept US dollars and some do not. Most of them accept Euros. All I can recommend is that you exchange $75 per couple for that country's currency to get around and charge when necessary. If you need more money, find a bank and have your passport with you. You may or may not need it to exchange money. The only country that asked for our passport was Berlin, Germany and they don't exchange $100 bills for Euro. They exchange $50 bills or less. 1st port is Copenhagen, Denmark. Arrive at 9am and Depart at 6pm. Ask NCL staff for the bus number to return before you leave the ship. Get ready to do a lot of walking. Last time I was here for a week. You only have 8 ½ hours to see it all. NCL docked in a good location where you were able to walk to mostly everything. You walk past the Little Mermaid and the palace. Take a tour if you like. We saw the guards walking around which was a Kodak moment. Find and walk down the pedestrian street where you see the street performers and do a little shopping. Make your way to the boats for a 1 hour tour that I highly recommend. Have a hot dog and a beer. Then you walk to Tivoli Gardens and take a few pictures of the outside. I've been in Tivoli Gardens before and you don't really need to spend your money to go inside because there's really nothing great to see. There are lots of restaurants, rides for the kids and some gardens to see which is no big deal. It isn't worth the money to see unless you really have your heart set on seeing "Tivoli Gardens". Spend your time and money wisely because your there for a short time. Make your way to the City Center and take a picture of Hans Christian Anderson. Getting tired? When you are ready to go back to the ship, you'll find the bus located at the city center square on the other side of the big black bill board. That's where the buses pick you up. Get the number of the bus that takes you back to the ship, take a taxi or walk back. 2nd port is Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany. Arrive 7:30am and Depart 10pm. Get ready for a long day. I had booked a private tour with a guy called Taxi-Harry & his email is firstname.lastname@example.org . He charges 450 Euros which was $640 for the 4 of us. You must have Euros to pay the man. Tipping is extra if you want and any entrance fees are extra. He had a comfortable Mercedes station wagon. One sat in the front and 3 in the back. His colleague named Temo (Mr. T), a young man in his 30's was our driver. He spoke broken English but saved us a lot of money. It took him 2 hours to drive from Warnemunde to Berlin. Was it safe? Of course it was. We saw the Olympic Grounds Tower & Stadium, East Side Gallery, Bebel Platz, Checkpoint Charlie, Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz, Reichstag, Charlottenburg Palace, and Kurfuerstendamm (Ku-Damm). Then we stopped at the Sony Center for lunch. Honestly, we ran Mr. T all day long and he was a good sport. Trying to cash our $100 dollar bills for Euros in Berlin was impossible. You need to exchange money on NCL. Always cash in money the day before when you go to Germany. Remember, it takes at least a week to see Berlin, we saw all this in 1 day and I'm sure there's a lot more to see, but we're very happy and exhausted by time we got back to the ship. You price this tour from the ship and see how much you pay for 4 people. 3rd port is Tallinn, Estonia. Arrive 9am and Depart 5:30pm. Get ready to walk. Take a taxi or Ho-Ho bus (Hop on- Hop off bus) to the Old Town. There's plenty to see and do. Get yourself a map and have fun. Do it yourself tour unless you want to learn all the history, then book a tour from the ship. I just can't stand getting on and off the bus waiting for people. 4th port is St. Petersberg, Russia. Arrive 8am and Depart the next day at 7pm. We arranged a private tour a month or so in advance. We got lucky. We booked with a lady named "Anya" who is a school teacher and does this as extra income. She speaks English very well. Her email is email@example.com. Plus, she sends you a Visa Voucher to enter Russia at no cost to you. She ask for a $400 deposit for the 4 of us up front to book the tour. Don't worry, it was safe to do so. Anya ask you to send her your passport information so she can get you the Visa Vouchers. Anya mailed them to us ASAP. Always make copies and bring them with you. Anya hires a driver which is included in the price of the tour. Anya charges for GROUP OF 4 = $1365 for the 2 days at 8 hours per day. WARNING! It takes a long time to get thru Russian Passport Control because they are slowwww! Make sure you are one of the first off the ship if possible. GO EARLY! At least ½ hour before the ship lets you off. NCL had docked at a cargo port which is farther away than the rest of the cruise ships. On the 1st day she was waiting for us at the gate with a sign in her hand with my name on it. The first day was with Anya and she gave a little to much history of everything, but that's ok. Remember, she's a school teacher and she's only doing her job. 1st Day Tour with Anya; Van and driver from 09:00am till 5:30pm - Guide for up to 8 hours - Driving tour of the downtown of St. Petersburg - You have elected to see both the Catherine's Palace and Peterhof grounds. The Peter and Paul Fortress with Panoramic views of St. Petersburg and the massive fountain on the Neva River. Anya wanted to be paid in full at the end of the day, we so we paid her. 2nd day was with Irina (Colleague)and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. She was great. Irina lived in Florida for 2 years and speaks English. - Transfer from the the ship to the downtown - Tour day to start at 9am - Kazan Cathedral - Largest Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg. - Church on Spilled Blood - Onion Domes and Mosaics - Shopping at an outdoor market Watch out (PPP) - Canal boat tour - You will pay directly to the vendor for this 1-hour tour - Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace - The largest art museum in the world. - Transfer back to the ship by 5pm for 7pm departure. The 2 days in Russia was a great experience and would do it again exactly the same way. Also, I like Irina a little better than Anya as a tour guide due to the fact that she was more open and friendly to be with. I want to share with you a thank you message from Anya. Thank You for joining us! It was wonderful to have you. Please stay in touch! Irina and I send our warmest thanks. I hope that passport control improves in the future as well. I won't even begin to explain the red tape I go through in order to provide the visafree documents and port access in the first place! It is at least 4-6 hours of work per group. There is no reason they can't be faster. They just need to open more passport stalls. They certainly have the facilities to do that! I never no on any given day how many stalls will be open. The good news is that you were able to have the visafree documents from me, so the only headache was the delay getting off the ship. To obtain a regular visa is FAR more complicated and costs $221 per person after the fees and the process takes 2-3 weeks and that is a real nightmare. My "land guests" go through a much more difficult process to get a Russian Visa. Enough about my VisaFree and Visa red tape concerns. The most important to know is how wonderful it was to have you! Please come back to see us. Warmly, Anya and Irra 5th port is Helsinki, Finland. Arrive 8am and Depart 5:30pm We had booked a private 5 hour tour with Paulo from Paulo's Tour and his email is: email@example.com . He speaks English and a very nice guy starting his own tour business. He's a little pricey, but it's better than getting on and off the bus with 50 people. The 5 hour tour cost us 240 Euros which is $335 divided between the 4 of us. He drove us to Porvoo (Must See) and stayed there for awhile. We had some coffee, relaxed with the locals and took lots and lots of pictures and movies. We headed back to Helsinki for a tour. It was so nice there that we asked to be dropped off to walk the market instead of returning to the ship. We had taken a cab back to the ship. Helsinki was a great place to visit and you need more than a day. 6th port is Stockholm, Sweden. Arrive 8am and Depart 4pm Get ready for a lot of walking. We jumped in a taxi and he drove us to the Royal Palace to see the Crown Jewels. The Jewels were beautiful. We took plenty of pictures of the soldiers standing guard at their stations. Then we walked throughout the city and went to the tower to view the city at its highest point. You can pay to go up or walk up to the top for the view. After taking plenty of pictures and movies, we walked back to the city where Stockholm Kulturfestival was taking place. It was time to give our feet a rest and decided to take a boat ride which worked out really well. After the boat ride we jumped in a taxi to go back to the ship when it started to rain. Well, another great place to visit and once again, only enough time to catch the highlights of Stockholm, Sweden. We're back on the ship for 2 days at sea. London, England for 2 days. Our 1st day in London. We arrived in Dover, England for 2 days, staying at the Park Plaza Hotel. We were walking distance to the London Eye, St Margaret's Church in Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square and stopped at the Red Lion Pub for fish & chips and a beer. Get yourself a speed ticket for entrance onto the London Eye and eliminate the hassle of waiting in a long line. You pay more money but, it's worth it. 2nd day in London. We jumped into England's funny looking taxi and went to St. Paul's Cathedral where Princess Diana got married. Then we jumped in a taxi and went to Buckingham Palace for a tour because the Queen was on vacation and that's the only time you can visit the Palace. Then we raced to see the Changing of the Guards taking plenty of pictures and movies. From there we took another funny looking taxi and went to Harrods for some shopping. It was starting to get dark when we decided to take a boat ride down the Thames River. That's when the city comes to life and you see Big Ben, London Eye and the Tower of London all lit up. It was breath taking. At the end of our day we had to stop at a local pub for their famous fish & chips and a ice cold beer. What a way to end the trip. Happy Travels, We love to travel August 2009
We stayed in an inside stateroom. No big thrills but, the washroom was nice in size.