Cruise and Maritime “Baltic cities and St Petersburg” 12 night cruise aboard the MS Marco Polo.
I booked this as a surprise for my wife’s 60th birthday. Having read previous reviews on the MS Marco Polo, the vast majority of which were extremely positive, my expectations were high. I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed.
The ship is a classic. The MS Marco Polo is a traditional cruise ship and the tone of this cruise was similar. The ships specification is well documented on the Internet so I won’t go into the details, suffice to say, the food, entertainment, lectures, information, cabin service, bar service and so on were all of a very high standard. The wine and pre-booked excursion tickets were waiting for us in our cabin on embarkation and the embarkation and disembarkation procedures were very well organised, which was one area that was not quite as slick on our previous cruise experience from Hull in 2015. In essence, the entire organisational aspects of the cruise ran perfectly.
Regarding the cruise excursions, the ship’s tours were all executed extremely well. We did our own thing in Warnemünde, Tallinn and Helsinki but we stuck to the Cruise and Maritime sponsored excursions in St Petersburg. We did this for two reasons; the possibility of the ship having to amend its itinerary and, therefore, not being in port as and when the independent excursions companies were due to pick up and, secondly, the fact that we were due to be in port on the day of the 3rd/4th place World Cup play off match (which, or course, involved England) which could have influenced the access for tourists in the city. In the finish everything went according to plan but we thought it best to completely de-risk the situation and accept that we would have to pay a small premium for the Cruise and Maritime sponsored sight visits (we more than likely won’t be going to St Petersburg again). Although there will be no World Cup on subsequent visits, I would still recommend future cruisers to do this.
The few people on the cruise who did book through the independent companies in St Petersburg said they were good value and a bit cheaper than the ships own, but we were happy with what we did.
That said, the ships excursions are excellent and, in my opinion, good value. You may save a few pounds here and there booking independently and there is usually the “Hop-on - Hop-off” buses around in port, but, with the ships excursions, you are straight off the ship, onto the coaches and away which maximises your time to see the sights.
In summary, this is my second Cruise and Maritime cruise, both of which have exceeded my expectations. I would recommend Cruise and Maritime Voyages to any potential cruiser.
Just a few observations specific to this Baltic cruise:
The drinks and tips packages appear expensive but they are, in my opinion, still good value and allow you to budget from the outset of the cruise.
Although not mandatory, we did feel more at ease booking the ships excursions when in St Petersburg as we were assisted through the immigration procedures, every step of the way, by the destination services team, who were ever present on the shore during the two days in port.
If there is something you really want to see, pre-book to maximise your chances of getting on the excursion.
Warnemünde is effectively the seaside town for Rostock, which is easily accessible by train (20 minutes, €5.20 for a day rover which includes the tram between Rostock town centre and Rostock railway station). We did this and found Rostock to be an interesting alternative to the excursion to Berlin (which we have already visited). Likewise Warnemünde itself is a nice place but probably not enough to do there for the time in port.
We were advised that Sweden is fast becoming a cashless country so I was unsure if to take the local Swedish Krona (I did take some in the end). When in Sweden however, I didn’t have any difficulty in paying for anything in cash and the tourist areas will, generally, even take euros.
If you are interested in history, don’t miss the tour in Stockholm that goes to the Vasa museum. The story of the 17th century ship, it’s demise and it’s eventual recovery is worth every penny and the techniques and technology used to lift the ship off the sea bed in one piece and preserve it for the future is incredible.
I hope this information is of use.
We were upgraded to an outside cabin. This was a bit small with regard to suitcase storage but that is a minor point. Cabin was clean and tidy and well kept by our cabin steward. Good toilet and shower facilities. No complaints.