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We took the June 7, 2019 Northern Europe cruise out of Copenhagen, Denmark in a Haven Spa suite (14728). We are a couple traveling without children from Arizona to Denmark via London. There is a direct British Airways flight from Phoenix to London and then we hopped a short flight to Copenhagen. Arriving the day before departure left us a day to wander around Copenhagen. We had booked an inexpensive hotel in Copenhagen called "Wakeup Copenhagen, Borgergade." It was cheap and clean, but we discovered it was designed for tiny, tiny people. It was so small it was hard to turn around in the shower. We are small, trim people and found it so cramped that we booked a different hotel at the end of the cruise, even though we lost our payment for "Wakeup." The second hotel was the Best Western in Copenhagen and was slightly larger, but still small. I have never been to Copenhagen before, so the room size surprised me. It appears to be the norm, so you are warned. We embarked around 12:30 PM on the 7th. As Haven dwellers, we expected a smooth process and it was not. There was an issue with the NCL keycard printing process. We are both latitude members and in the Haven, but we wound up with a standard keycard for my wife and a latitude card for myself and neither were haven cards. This took 15 minutes and it looked like everyone had the same problem. We had to get the card issue fixed onboard and the woman working on the ship said in not so many words that somebody made a major error. Not sure what happened, but it was a hassle. Haven priority boarding did not really matter as we arrived so early that we just walked on board. Once on board we hung out for a bit in the Haven lounge and then we went to our rooms about an hour later. We had sailed on Getaway before, so we felt no urge to wander around the ship. However, the ship went through a refit the month before, so the furniture, carpeting and some amenities on the ship were updated. Everything looked great and the addition of a full-sized Starbucks kept my caffeine needs in check. I am sure there were many other updates I did not catch, but the main one I noticed was the main theatre looked much updated and the Illusionarium was altered to support the Cirque show rather than the magic show. The Haven Spa cabin was very nice, but something of a letdown. Due to booking late, our Haven options were limited. The spa suites are all outside the Haven area and their main feature is a large jet tub right next to the bed, Haven access and the thermal suite is included. Otherwise they resemble the other mini-suites. The in-room tub was silly, yes it was large and had jets, but it took forever to fill and the experience was lackluster. I used it once to try it out and never even looked at it for the rest of the trip. The Thermal Suite included with our room once again proved to be worth every penny. A great place to recover after a brutal day of excursions or the sea days. That said, the up-charge for the Haven spa room was likely not worth it. Just get a haven room and pay for the Thermal Suite. Likely cheaper and you do not loose 25% of your room to a useless spa tub. The room steward did a good job, but the towel animals went extinct due to their impact on the ship's laundry load. (Someone asked about them during the Q & A with ship's officers. You can get them on request now.) Wife noticed that we no longer got new shampoo bottles every day, or new slippers that come with the Haven. Small things, but it looks like NCL was doing some cost-reduction. Nothing too annoying, just thought I would mention it. Steward also distinguished himself by not bothering us at all. Unlike the butler. Our butler was very annoying. We almost never make use of them and he was clearly fishing for "tippable" moments from us. I guess some people like the attention, but we started putting up the 'do not disturb sign" just to fend him off. Shipboard dining was the usual mixed bag. The Haven restaurant was good as usual, but the limited, unchanging menu hit us hard this time as it included a lot of fish, lamb and duck, not our favorites. Still Haven dining had the advantage of being always available, quiet and tasty. We ate their most days for our meals, but did venture out to some other dining options. The Garden Buffet is both useful and painful simultaneously. Useful in that the food is tasty, available and fast. Painful in that it is too small for the passenger load. Going at peak times before port days means that everyone is trying to eat before the same disembarkation time. It is awful, no seating, crowds and pushy idiots from countries with no concept of "getting in line." We only ate there at odd hours or to grab a snack. "Shanghai's" is a noodle/dim sum restaurant that is a blight on dining. Truly awful noodle dishes came out lukewarm, with soggy noodles and tasteless broth. The only edible thing on the plate was the spring roll that likely came out of a freezer. Avoid this place like it is infectious. Cagney's had a great steak and was excellent. The other places we ate at were fine and not worth mentioning. Just be aware the lines can be long on the sea days and your should book in advance. Entertainment was the usual trivia/bingo/shows/sales pitches. A note on the sales pitches, they were frequent and intrusive. Your cabin has a message system built into the TV and 90% of my messages were some sales pitch for various goods, Cruisenext and services. NCL needs to reduce the load on the sales efforts. It reached the point of satire by the end of the trip. It was just too obvious and silly to not laugh at. A particularly humorous retail moment happened after St. Petersburg. There is a "Russia Bazaar" held on board that the staff talked up as "high-quality products" and "better value" than the souvenir options on shore in Russia. We had already bought our nesting dolls (they are everywhere) on shore, but I happened to be walking by when they set up the "Russia Bazaar." I noticed that the boxes the Russian products were coming out of were labeled "Kowloon, Hong Kong." It is possible the boxes were merely reused to store the Russian goods between cruises. As to the other possibility, I shall let you draw your own conclusion. A word on "CruiseNext," the NCL deposit system. They basically give you a discount if you give them some money up front. In our case, we knew we were going again with the four year time limit, so we put in $500.00 and they gave us $250 in onboard credit. We were happy with that, but on the last day suddenly a new offer appeared that stated if you deposit $500, you get $500 towards your next cruise for a total of $1000. However, you do not get the $250 credit now. I asked to convert from the $250/$250 deal to the $500/$1000 deal. They did it without question. We were just confused why the second option only appeared on the last day of the cruise. We hit the trivia a few times on sea days and the Bingo games were fun (we won twice is the only reason. We played on their money). The only issue with Bingo is NCL is making a killing and the pots are tiny. A $49.00 buy-in to play and pots hovering around $300-$400 is terrible. Given the number of players a similar ashore game would pay much better. Still, it is fun so long as you can afford it. "Burn the Floor" for the second time was nice. Good show and some talented dancers. Haven dwellers had some reserved seats which was great. Cirque Dreams and Steam was the highlight of on-board entertainment. Even on a tiny stage, the performance was impressive. We have seen various Cirque shows and this was among the "tightest" in terms of bang for your buck on a small stage. Well worth attending, even with the up-charge. I also did the "Escape the Big Top" escape room, also held in the Illusionarium. I have done escape rooms before, but this one was very poorly designed. Several puzzles used color coding as part of the puzzle and I am color blind, so that was tough. Also, there are red herring puzzles in the room, which is extremely controversial among escape room designers. You do it in a randomly assigned group and I got a nice group that included some kids. It was an amusing 45 minutes, but the odds of getting out hit zero the moment I saw who was on my team. Your mileage may vary if you go with a larger group you know that likes puzzles. We were on a colder cruise, so the pool deck did not see a lot of action. A couple of mildly sunny days got the kids in the pools, bu the adults stuck to the hot tubs. This means the Haven's separate deck and pool was barely used. We even got confined to the indoor areas on a sea day because of waterspouts potentially landing on the deck! We did not travel with kids, so I have no comment on the kid's activities. Ports and Shore Excursions We never book excursions through NCL due to the massive markup, so all the excursion below were made through Viator Warnemunde, Germany NCL pitches this port as an opportunity to visit Berlin. Sure, if you enjoy hours in a bus and few hours in one of the great cities of the world, burning rubber between photo ops and then more hours in a bus to get back in a single day. We decided to book the more rational "Hanseatic Rostock and Fairytale Schwerin Shore Excursion." It is about an hour away and you spend the day going through a charming medieval city and castle. The Viator tour cost $245 for two people and the entire experience went smoothly. As one would expect in Germany. Lots of great photo opportunities. Tallinn, Estonia Talinn is so tiny that we just got off the boat and walked around. No other transport was needed. We checked out the city and its architecture, ate lunch in a restaurant that was vaguely medieval in style and cuisine (Olde Hansa is the name. A little cheesy, but it was fun and the food was good). We spent a couple of hours in the "Kiek in de Kök" museum. Built inside an old fortress, this was a great museum and be sure to pay for the "Bastion Tunnels" upgrade to wander the old tunnels, now used as a museum. It is quite a hike in terms of length and stairs. Lots of stairs. Worth the effort though. St. Petersburg, Russia (Overnight) Once again, we book the Viator excursion called "St. Petersburg 2-Day Grand Shore Excursion Tour." At $513 for two people it was a good deal for the amount of destinations you see. Here is the tour itinerary Expert, professional and personable guide for two days Experienced and conscientious driver with a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle for two days All port fees & local Russian taxes Lunch on both days Subway ride Canal cruise (boat ride) Bottled still water (one bottle per person per day) Electronic headsets for groups of 7 and more Photo permissions inside museums Entry/Admission - The State Hermitage Museum Entry/Admission - Park And Gardens of Peterhof Entry/Admission - Catherine Palace and Park Entry/Admission - Yusupov Palace on Moika River Entry/Admission - Savior on the Spilled Blood Entry/Admission - The Museum Complex The State Museum St. Isaac’s Cathedral Entry/Admission - Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya Krepost) Entry/Admission - Peter and Paul Cathedral I usually loathe this type of guided-tour-with-headset-transmitters-follow-the-flag, but in this case it was necessary. Russia, unlike the rest of the countries on this cruise made us go through stern-looking immigration officers stamping passports to get ashore. If you do not have a tour, you have to get a separate visa. It is doable, but we were just looking for an easy excursion day with minimal hassle. There is no such thing as an "easy" excursion in St. Petersburg. This was a hard two days. Every stop on the list above is spectacular from both a historical and cultural perspective...and more crowded than any destination I have ever visited. The first day we hit every stop except Peterhof and Catherine's Palace. Turns out we were there starting Tuesday and a couple of places were closed on Wednesday, so they packed it in to he first day. I did not know this at the time, but it made for a long, hard day. Words cannot describe some of the things I saw in St. Petersburg. The art and architecture are among the most beautiful I have ever seen. The Hermitage in particular is stunning. However, the Russian authorities know this and push more people than comfortable through these locations. The Hermitage was packed with tour groups, literally shoulder to shoulder, shuffling along like zombies. That was the worst, but all the urban locations were nearly as bad. Only on the second day did you get some relief at Peterhof because it is about an hour outside of town and is a giant park. Much nicer. That said, still go see these places. It may be miserable, but walking into a room with 26 Rembrandts hanging was remarkable. The tour itself was nice and our guide spoke excellent English. Helsinki, Finland Weather bit us here and we just walked around town taking in the city. We took the "Hop on, hop off" bus around to the Rock Church. As a suggestion, if you go to the cafe run by the church on the left of the entrance you can get a cup of coffee and a discount ticket to the church. The regular ticket line was long and we just walked in. They had a small choir singing and the acoustics were interesting. Too many people though. Death by tourist. For some reason the Sibelius Monument (he was a composer) is a tourist stop. Not much to see, just a large piece of modern art. Took all of five minutes to exhaust that stop and we got on the next bus. We took some photos of old buildings and then headed back to the dock where there was a sort of flea market (tourist junk) and food vendors. I got a reindeer burger (tasty with mustard) and the wife got vendace. Vendace are small fish cooked and salted, basically sardines. However, after taking a few bites a large, aggressive sea gull swooped down and attacked her lunch! The look like an ongoing issue at the port, so hide in a tent before eating. Weather was poor (cold and wet, with wind), so Helsinki was not a truly memorable stop. Except for the seagull. That is burned in our memory forever. Stockholm, Sweden. Again, no excursion because I did not see the need in a country with spectacular public transit. However, I did buy a "Hop On Hop Off" (HOHO) bus ticket from the Stromma company. The ship docks at Nynashamn about an hour from Stockholm and the "Hop On Hop Off" bus makes a couple of special runs between the dock and Stockholm. However, I did not catch that they leave the port at 1000. We got off at 0800. The driver explained that many people get confused by this and they just walk 20 minutes and buy a train ticket at the local station. The trip to Stockholm takes an hour. Once there you can use the HOHO ticket inside the city. We took this option and it worked well. Tickets for the train were inexpensive and you need to buy them at the tourist office just outside the port area. You cannot miss it. Once you have a ticket, just follow a blue line painted on the ground for 20 minutes to the station. We got off at the main station in Stockholm and decided to start with the Vasa Museum. Vasa is a ship that sank and was raised and put into a museum. We hopped into a cab and promptly spent 20 minutes in traffic. After creeping along we got out of our driver that the South Korean president was in town and security had tangled up the entire downtown. The HOHO buses were not running at all! Thanks Stromma for not telling the people who pre-bought tickets about a massive issue with your service. I was not happy. However, while stewing at the thought of losing out on precious time stuck in traffic, I noticed 20 men in full military regalia ride by on horseback. We bailed on the cab and discovered the South Korean leader was getting a full military parade/escort to meet the king. Amazing experience and we felt so lucky to have seen it. Security was super-tight, so we could not get in the palace, but the parade more than made up for it. Traffic was a disaster, but I remembered that our HOHO ticket included their HOHO boat that ran around the harbor. We took it from the palace without issue and hopped off at the Vasa Museum. Vasa is amazing! A huge sailing ship that sank hours after it was launched and basically raised nearly intact in 1961. I loved it and the associated museum is fascinating. We also visited the Nobel Museum. Small, but fascinating history of Nobel winners and the man himself. There was a Martin Luther King Jr. exhibit going and it was interesting to see American history from a different perspective. After a quick lunch at a restaurant named "Paris, Texas" (expensive but very tasty), we headed back to the ship. No real issues navigating the public transit. It was easy. In Nynashamn is a small chocolate shop named "ChokladHuset" that you should see the sign on the way back from the train station. Expensive, but excellent chocolate. Their claim to fame is they do the chocolate for the Nobel prize winners when they visit. Copenhagen, Denmark Although this was the embark/disembarkation port, we were there long enough to do some things before and after the cruise. We basically wandered around. The Kastellet is an old fortress near the center of the city converted to a lovely park. We also visited Tivoli Park, a 100+ years old amusement park. Do not think Disneyland here. It is a small, charming affair with some rides that look better suited to a local amusement park in rural America. Lots of places to eat, play carnival games and generally enjoy the long evenings. We even found an open, unattended fire pit to sit around! Be warned, while entrance is cheap, we got beef stew and a bottle of water for $71.00 USD. Tasty, but clearly your are paying a premium on top of the already expensive Danish restaurant prices. Copenhagen is on the return visit list for us. Wish we had more time here. Disembarkation in Copenhagen, Denmark This next bit got my blood up. We got a letter stating that the port has limited transportation options (including cabs) were limited at the port on disembarkation day. So we bought the $15/person transfer to the main train station offered by NCL. This meant we got off the ship at 0940 in the morning. As haven dwellers we could have been the first off. Instead we had to sit around for hours only to watch perhaps 20 taxi cabs waiting near the port. Because of this we did not go through the Haven disembarkation process and went out with the rest of the passengers. This was painful, long, crowded waits to get off and, my favorite, an idiot decided to carry his own luggage off the ship. Normally you leave it outside your cabin the night before and then pick it up on the dock. This genius (who was elderly and wearing a back brace!) tried to carry all his own luggage off through a crowd of surly people down two flights of narrow stairs. He got some help from good samaritans, but the level of stupid was impressive. Bottom line, NCL oversold the transport issues in Copenhagen to sell their transport option. Summary It was a great cruise with a few glitches. Nothing that would prevent me from suggesting you check it out. My lessons learned include: 1. Skip the spa suite 2. Check hotel room size better before leaving 3. Wear comfortable shoes. The cobblestones are murder on your feet! 4. The weather went from hot to cold and miserable. Pack appropriate gear. Have fun!

Baltic 9-Day Cruise on Norwegian Getaway in Haven Spa Suite

Norwegian Getaway Cruise Review by vicpylon

10 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: June 2019
  • Destination: Baltic Sea
  • Cabin Type: The Haven Spa Suite with Balcony
We took the June 7, 2019 Northern Europe cruise out of Copenhagen, Denmark in a Haven Spa suite (14728). We are a couple traveling without children from Arizona to Denmark via London. There is a direct British Airways flight from Phoenix to London and then we hopped a short flight to Copenhagen. Arriving the day before departure left us a day to wander around Copenhagen. We had booked an inexpensive hotel in Copenhagen called "Wakeup Copenhagen, Borgergade." It was cheap and clean, but we discovered it was designed for tiny, tiny people. It was so small it was hard to turn around in the shower. We are small, trim people and found it so cramped that we booked a different hotel at the end of the cruise, even though we lost our payment for "Wakeup." The second hotel was the Best Western in Copenhagen and was slightly larger, but still small. I have never been to Copenhagen before, so the room size surprised me. It appears to be the norm, so you are warned.

We embarked around 12:30 PM on the 7th. As Haven dwellers, we expected a smooth process and it was not. There was an issue with the NCL keycard printing process. We are both latitude members and in the Haven, but we wound up with a standard keycard for my wife and a latitude card for myself and neither were haven cards. This took 15 minutes and it looked like everyone had the same problem. We had to get the card issue fixed onboard and the woman working on the ship said in not so many words that somebody made a major error. Not sure what happened, but it was a hassle. Haven priority boarding did not really matter as we arrived so early that we just walked on board.

Once on board we hung out for a bit in the Haven lounge and then we went to our rooms about an hour later. We had sailed on Getaway before, so we felt no urge to wander around the ship. However, the ship went through a refit the month before, so the furniture, carpeting and some amenities on the ship were updated. Everything looked great and the addition of a full-sized Starbucks kept my caffeine needs in check. I am sure there were many other updates I did not catch, but the main one I noticed was the main theatre looked much updated and the Illusionarium was altered to support the Cirque show rather than the magic show.

The Haven Spa cabin was very nice, but something of a letdown. Due to booking late, our Haven options were limited. The spa suites are all outside the Haven area and their main feature is a large jet tub right next to the bed, Haven access and the thermal suite is included. Otherwise they resemble the other mini-suites. The in-room tub was silly, yes it was large and had jets, but it took forever to fill and the experience was lackluster. I used it once to try it out and never even looked at it for the rest of the trip.

The Thermal Suite included with our room once again proved to be worth every penny. A great place to recover after a brutal day of excursions or the sea days. That said, the up-charge for the Haven spa room was likely not worth it. Just get a haven room and pay for the Thermal Suite. Likely cheaper and you do not loose 25% of your room to a useless spa tub.

The room steward did a good job, but the towel animals went extinct due to their impact on the ship's laundry load. (Someone asked about them during the Q & A with ship's officers. You can get them on request now.) Wife noticed that we no longer got new shampoo bottles every day, or new slippers that come with the Haven. Small things, but it looks like NCL was doing some cost-reduction. Nothing too annoying, just thought I would mention it. Steward also distinguished himself by not bothering us at all. Unlike the butler.

Our butler was very annoying. We almost never make use of them and he was clearly fishing for "tippable" moments from us. I guess some people like the attention, but we started putting up the 'do not disturb sign" just to fend him off.

Shipboard dining was the usual mixed bag. The Haven restaurant was good as usual, but the limited, unchanging menu hit us hard this time as it included a lot of fish, lamb and duck, not our favorites. Still Haven dining had the advantage of being always available, quiet and tasty. We ate their most days for our meals, but did venture out to some other dining options.

The Garden Buffet is both useful and painful simultaneously. Useful in that the food is tasty, available and fast. Painful in that it is too small for the passenger load. Going at peak times before port days means that everyone is trying to eat before the same disembarkation time. It is awful, no seating, crowds and pushy idiots from countries with no concept of "getting in line." We only ate there at odd hours or to grab a snack.

"Shanghai's" is a noodle/dim sum restaurant that is a blight on dining. Truly awful noodle dishes came out lukewarm, with soggy noodles and tasteless broth. The only edible thing on the plate was the spring roll that likely came out of a freezer. Avoid this place like it is infectious.

Cagney's had a great steak and was excellent.

The other places we ate at were fine and not worth mentioning. Just be aware the lines can be long on the sea days and your should book in advance.

Entertainment was the usual trivia/bingo/shows/sales pitches. A note on the sales pitches, they were frequent and intrusive. Your cabin has a message system built into the TV and 90% of my messages were some sales pitch for various goods, Cruisenext and services. NCL needs to reduce the load on the sales efforts. It reached the point of satire by the end of the trip. It was just too obvious and silly to not laugh at.

A particularly humorous retail moment happened after St. Petersburg. There is a "Russia Bazaar" held on board that the staff talked up as "high-quality products" and "better value" than the souvenir options on shore in Russia. We had already bought our nesting dolls (they are everywhere) on shore, but I happened to be walking by when they set up the "Russia Bazaar." I noticed that the boxes the Russian products were coming out of were labeled "Kowloon, Hong Kong." It is possible the boxes were merely reused to store the Russian goods between cruises. As to the other possibility, I shall let you draw your own conclusion.

A word on "CruiseNext," the NCL deposit system. They basically give you a discount if you give them some money up front. In our case, we knew we were going again with the four year time limit, so we put in $500.00 and they gave us $250 in onboard credit. We were happy with that, but on the last day suddenly a new offer appeared that stated if you deposit $500, you get $500 towards your next cruise for a total of $1000. However, you do not get the $250 credit now. I asked to convert from the $250/$250 deal to the $500/$1000 deal. They did it without question. We were just confused why the second option only appeared on the last day of the cruise.

We hit the trivia a few times on sea days and the Bingo games were fun (we won twice is the only reason. We played on their money). The only issue with Bingo is NCL is making a killing and the pots are tiny. A $49.00 buy-in to play and pots hovering around $300-$400 is terrible. Given the number of players a similar ashore game would pay much better. Still, it is fun so long as you can afford it.

"Burn the Floor" for the second time was nice. Good show and some talented dancers. Haven dwellers had some reserved seats which was great.

Cirque Dreams and Steam was the highlight of on-board entertainment. Even on a tiny stage, the performance was impressive. We have seen various Cirque shows and this was among the "tightest" in terms of bang for your buck on a small stage. Well worth attending, even with the up-charge.

I also did the "Escape the Big Top" escape room, also held in the Illusionarium. I have done escape rooms before, but this one was very poorly designed. Several puzzles used color coding as part of the puzzle and I am color blind, so that was tough. Also, there are red herring puzzles in the room, which is extremely controversial among escape room designers. You do it in a randomly assigned group and I got a nice group that included some kids. It was an amusing 45 minutes, but the odds of getting out hit zero the moment I saw who was on my team. Your mileage may vary if you go with a larger group you know that likes puzzles.

We were on a colder cruise, so the pool deck did not see a lot of action. A couple of mildly sunny days got the kids in the pools, bu the adults stuck to the hot tubs. This means the Haven's separate deck and pool was barely used. We even got confined to the indoor areas on a sea day because of waterspouts potentially landing on the deck!

We did not travel with kids, so I have no comment on the kid's activities.

Ports and Shore Excursions

We never book excursions through NCL due to the massive markup, so all the excursion below were made through Viator

Warnemunde, Germany

NCL pitches this port as an opportunity to visit Berlin. Sure, if you enjoy hours in a bus and few hours in one of the great cities of the world, burning rubber between photo ops and then more hours in a bus to get back in a single day. We decided to book the more rational "Hanseatic Rostock and Fairytale Schwerin Shore Excursion." It is about an hour away and you spend the day going through a charming medieval city and castle. The Viator tour cost $245 for two people and the entire experience went smoothly. As one would expect in Germany. Lots of great photo opportunities.


Tallinn, Estonia

Talinn is so tiny that we just got off the boat and walked around. No other transport was needed. We checked out the city and its architecture, ate lunch in a restaurant that was vaguely medieval in style and cuisine (Olde Hansa is the name. A little cheesy, but it was fun and the food was good). We spent a couple of hours in the "Kiek in de Kök" museum. Built inside an old fortress, this was a great museum and be sure to pay for the "Bastion Tunnels" upgrade to wander the old tunnels, now used as a museum. It is quite a hike in terms of length and stairs. Lots of stairs. Worth the effort though.


St. Petersburg, Russia (Overnight)

Once again, we book the Viator excursion called "St. Petersburg 2-Day Grand Shore Excursion Tour." At $513 for two people it was a good deal for the amount of destinations you see. Here is the tour itinerary

Expert, professional and personable guide for two days

Experienced and conscientious driver with a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle for two days

All port fees & local Russian taxes

Lunch on both days

Subway ride

Canal cruise (boat ride)

Bottled still water (one bottle per person per day)

Electronic headsets for groups of 7 and more

Photo permissions inside museums

Entry/Admission - The State Hermitage Museum

Entry/Admission - Park And Gardens of Peterhof

Entry/Admission - Catherine Palace and Park

Entry/Admission - Yusupov Palace on Moika River

Entry/Admission - Savior on the Spilled Blood

Entry/Admission - The Museum Complex The State Museum St. Isaac’s Cathedral

Entry/Admission - Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya Krepost)

Entry/Admission - Peter and Paul Cathedral

I usually loathe this type of guided-tour-with-headset-transmitters-follow-the-flag, but in this case it was necessary. Russia, unlike the rest of the countries on this cruise made us go through stern-looking immigration officers stamping passports to get ashore. If you do not have a tour, you have to get a separate visa. It is doable, but we were just looking for an easy excursion day with minimal hassle. There is no such thing as an "easy" excursion in St. Petersburg. This was a hard two days.


Every stop on the list above is spectacular from both a historical and cultural perspective...and more crowded than any destination I have ever visited. The first day we hit every stop except Peterhof and Catherine's Palace. Turns out we were there starting Tuesday and a couple of places were closed on Wednesday, so they packed it in to he first day. I did not know this at the time, but it made for a long, hard day.

Words cannot describe some of the things I saw in St. Petersburg. The art and architecture are among the most beautiful I have ever seen. The Hermitage in particular is stunning. However, the Russian authorities know this and push more people than comfortable through these locations. The Hermitage was packed with tour groups, literally shoulder to shoulder, shuffling along like zombies. That was the worst, but all the urban locations were nearly as bad. Only on the second day did you get some relief at Peterhof because it is about an hour outside of town and is a giant park. Much nicer. That said, still go see these places. It may be miserable, but walking into a room with 26 Rembrandts hanging was remarkable.

The tour itself was nice and our guide spoke excellent English.


Helsinki, Finland

Weather bit us here and we just walked around town taking in the city. We took the "Hop on, hop off" bus around to the Rock Church. As a suggestion, if you go to the cafe run by the church on the left of the entrance you can get a cup of coffee and a discount ticket to the church. The regular ticket line was long and we just walked in. They had a small choir singing and the acoustics were interesting. Too many people though. Death by tourist.

For some reason the Sibelius Monument (he was a composer) is a tourist stop. Not much to see, just a large piece of modern art. Took all of five minutes to exhaust that stop and we got on the next bus.

We took some photos of old buildings and then headed back to the dock where there was a sort of flea market (tourist junk) and food vendors. I got a reindeer burger (tasty with mustard) and the wife got vendace. Vendace are small fish cooked and salted, basically sardines. However, after taking a few bites a large, aggressive sea gull swooped down and attacked her lunch! The look like an ongoing issue at the port, so hide in a tent before eating.

Weather was poor (cold and wet, with wind), so Helsinki was not a truly memorable stop. Except for the seagull. That is burned in our memory forever.

Stockholm, Sweden.

Again, no excursion because I did not see the need in a country with spectacular public transit. However, I did buy a "Hop On Hop Off" (HOHO) bus ticket from the Stromma company. The ship docks at Nynashamn about an hour from Stockholm and the "Hop On Hop Off" bus makes a couple of special runs between the dock and Stockholm. However, I did not catch that they leave the port at 1000. We got off at 0800. The driver explained that many people get confused by this and they just walk 20 minutes and buy a train ticket at the local station. The trip to Stockholm takes an hour. Once there you can use the HOHO ticket inside the city. We took this option and it worked well. Tickets for the train were inexpensive and you need to buy them at the tourist office just outside the port area. You cannot miss it. Once you have a ticket, just follow a blue line painted on the ground for 20 minutes to the station.

We got off at the main station in Stockholm and decided to start with the Vasa Museum. Vasa is a ship that sank and was raised and put into a museum. We hopped into a cab and promptly spent 20 minutes in traffic. After creeping along we got out of our driver that the South Korean president was in town and security had tangled up the entire downtown. The HOHO buses were not running at all! Thanks Stromma for not telling the people who pre-bought tickets about a massive issue with your service. I was not happy.

However, while stewing at the thought of losing out on precious time stuck in traffic, I noticed 20 men in full military regalia ride by on horseback. We bailed on the cab and discovered the South Korean leader was getting a full military parade/escort to meet the king. Amazing experience and we felt so lucky to have seen it. Security was super-tight, so we could not get in the palace, but the parade more than made up for it. Traffic was a disaster, but I remembered that our HOHO ticket included their HOHO boat that ran around the harbor. We took it from the palace without issue and hopped off at the Vasa Museum.

Vasa is amazing! A huge sailing ship that sank hours after it was launched and basically raised nearly intact in 1961. I loved it and the associated museum is fascinating.

We also visited the Nobel Museum. Small, but fascinating history of Nobel winners and the man himself. There was a Martin Luther King Jr. exhibit going and it was interesting to see American history from a different perspective.

After a quick lunch at a restaurant named "Paris, Texas" (expensive but very tasty), we headed back to the ship. No real issues navigating the public transit. It was easy. In Nynashamn is a small chocolate shop named "ChokladHuset" that you should see the sign on the way back from the train station. Expensive, but excellent chocolate. Their claim to fame is they do the chocolate for the Nobel prize winners when they visit.



Copenhagen, Denmark

Although this was the embark/disembarkation port, we were there long enough to do some things before and after the cruise. We basically wandered around. The Kastellet is an old fortress near the center of the city converted to a lovely park. We also visited Tivoli Park, a 100+ years old amusement park. Do not think Disneyland here. It is a small, charming affair with some rides that look better suited to a local amusement park in rural America. Lots of places to eat, play carnival games and generally enjoy the long evenings. We even found an open, unattended fire pit to sit around! Be warned, while entrance is cheap, we got beef stew and a bottle of water for $71.00 USD. Tasty, but clearly your are paying a premium on top of the already expensive Danish restaurant prices. Copenhagen is on the return visit list for us. Wish we had more time here.

Disembarkation in Copenhagen, Denmark

This next bit got my blood up. We got a letter stating that the port has limited transportation options (including cabs) were limited at the port on disembarkation day. So we bought the $15/person transfer to the main train station offered by NCL. This meant we got off the ship at 0940 in the morning. As haven dwellers we could have been the first off. Instead we had to sit around for hours only to watch perhaps 20 taxi cabs waiting near the port. Because of this we did not go through the Haven disembarkation process and went out with the rest of the passengers. This was painful, long, crowded waits to get off and, my favorite, an idiot decided to carry his own luggage off the ship. Normally you leave it outside your cabin the night before and then pick it up on the dock. This genius (who was elderly and wearing a back brace!) tried to carry all his own luggage off through a crowd of surly people down two flights of narrow stairs. He got some help from good samaritans, but the level of stupid was impressive.

Bottom line, NCL oversold the transport issues in Copenhagen to sell their transport option.

Summary

It was a great cruise with a few glitches. Nothing that would prevent me from suggesting you check it out. My lessons learned include:

1. Skip the spa suite

2. Check hotel room size better before leaving

3. Wear comfortable shoes. The cobblestones are murder on your feet!

4. The weather went from hot to cold and miserable. Pack appropriate gear.


Have fun!
vicpylon’s Full Rating Summary
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Dining
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Cabin Review

The Haven Spa Suite with Balcony
Cabin H9 14728
The Haven Spa cabin was very nice, but something of a letdown. Due to booking late, our Haven options were limited. The spa suites are all outside the Haven area and their main feature is a large jet tub right next to the bed, Haven access and the thermal suite is included. Otherwise they resemble the other mini-suites. The in-room tub was silly, yes it was large and had jets, but it took forever to fill and the experience was lackluster. I used it once to try it out and never even looked at it for the rest of the trip.

The Thermal Suite included with our room once again proved to be worth every penny. A great place to recover after a brutal day of excursions or the sea days. That said, the up-charge for the Haven spa room was likely not worth it. Just get a haven room and pay for the Thermal Suite. Likely cheaper and you do not loose 25% of your room to a useless spa tub.
Deck 14 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Copenhagen
    Although this was the embark/disembarkation port, we were there long enough to do some things before and after the cruise. We basically wandered around. The Kastellet is an old fortress near the center of the city converted to a lovely park. We also visited Tivoli Park, a 100+ years old amusement park. Do not think Disneyland here. It is a small, charming affair with some rides that look better suited to a local amusement park in rural America. Lots of places to eat, play carnival games and generally enjoy the long evenings. We even found an open, unattended fire pit to sit around! Be warned, while entrance is cheap, we got beef stew and a bottle of water for $71.00 USD. Tasty, but clearly your are paying a premium on top of the already expensive Danish restaurant prices. Copenhagen is on the return visit list for us. Wish we had more time here.
    View All 1,034 Copenhagen Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Copenhagen Cruise Port Review
  • Helsinki
    Weather bit us here and we just walked around town taking in the city. We took the "Hop on, hop off" bus around to the Rock Church. As a suggestion, if you go to the cafe run by the church on the left of the entrance you can get a cup of coffee and a discount ticket to the church. The regular ticket line was long and we just walked in. They had a small choir singing and the acoustics were interesting. Too many people though. Death by tourist.

    For some reason the Sibelius Monument (he was a composer) is a tourist stop. Not much to see, just a large piece of modern art. Took all of five minutes to exhaust that stop and we got on the next bus.

    We took some photos of old buildings and then headed back to the dock where there was a sort of flea market (tourist junk) and food vendors. I got a reindeer burger (tasty with mustard) and the wife got vendace. Vendace are small fish cooked and salted, basically sardines. However, after taking a few bites a large, aggressive sea gull swooped down and attacked her lunch! This looks like an ongoing issue at the port, so hide in a tent before eating.

    Weather was poor (cold and wet, with wind), so Helsinki was not a truly memorable stop. Except for the seagull. That is burned in our memory forever.
    View All 800 Helsinki Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Helsinki Cruise Port Review
  • Schwerin Castle
    NCL pitches this port as an opportunity to visit Berlin. Sure, if you enjoy hours in a bus and few hours in one of the great cities of the world, burning rubber between photo ops and then more hours in a bus to get back in a single day. We decided to book the more rational "Hanseatic Rostock and Fairytale Schwerin Shore Excursion." It is about an hour away and you spend the day going through a charming medieval city and castle. The Viator tour cost $245 for two people and the entire experience went smoothly. As one would expect in Germany. Lots of great photo opportunities.
    View All 19 Schwerin Castle Reviews
  • Private Tour
    Once again, we book the Viator excursion called "St. Petersburg 2-Day Grand Shore Excursion Tour." At $513 for two people it was a good deal for the amount of destinations you see. Here is the tour itinerary

    Expert, professional and personable guide for two days
    Experienced and conscientious driver with a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle for two days
    All port fees & local Russian taxes
    Lunch on both days
    Subway ride
    Canal cruise (boat ride)
    Bottled still water (one bottle per person per day)
    Electronic headsets for groups of 7 and more
    Photo permissions inside museums
    Entry/Admission - The State Hermitage Museum
    Entry/Admission - Park And Gardens of Peterhof
    Entry/Admission - Catherine Palace and Park
    Entry/Admission - Yusupov Palace on Moika River
    Entry/Admission - Savior on the Spilled Blood
    Entry/Admission - The Museum Complex The State Museum St. Isaac’s Cathedral
    Entry/Admission - Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya Krepost)
    Entry/Admission - Peter and Paul Cathedral

    I usually loathe this type of guided-tour-with-headset-transmitters-follow-the-flag, but in this case it was necessary. Russia, unlike the rest of the countries on this cruise made us go through stern-looking immigration officers stamping passports to get ashore. If you do not have a tour, you have to get a separate visa. It is doable, but we were just looking for an easy excursion day with minimal hassle. There is no such thing as an "easy" excursion in St. Petersburg. This was a hard two days.


    Every stop on the list above is spectacular from both a historical and cultural perspective...and more crowded than any destination I have ever visited. The first day we hit every stop except Peterhof and Catherine's Palace. Turns out we were there starting Tuesday and a couple of places were closed on Wednesday, so they packed it in to he first day. I did not know this at the time, but it made for a long, hard day.

    Words cannot describe some of the things I saw in St. Petersburg. The art and architecture are among the most beautiful I have ever seen. The Hermitage in particular is stunning. However, the Russian authorities know this and push more people than comfortable through these locations. The Hermitage was packed with tour groups, literally shoulder to shoulder, shuffling along like zombies. That was the worst, but all the urban locations were nearly as bad. Only on the second day did you get some relief at Peterhof because it is about an hour outside of town and is a giant park. Much nicer. That said, still go see these places. It may be miserable, but walking into a room with 26 Rembrandts hanging was remarkable.

    The tour itself was nice and our guide spoke excellent English.
    View All 178 Private Tour Reviews
  • Stockholm
    Again, no excursion because I did not see the need in a country with spectacular public transit. However, I did buy a "Hop On Hop Off" (HOHO) bus ticket from the Stromma company. The ship docks at Nynashamn about an hour from Stockholm and the "Hop On Hop Off" bus makes a couple of special runs between the dock and Stockholm. However, I did not catch that they leave the port at 1000. We got off at 0800. The driver explained that many people get confused by this and they just walk 20 minutes and buy a train ticket at the local station. The trip to Stockholm takes an hour. Once there you can use the HOHO ticket inside the city. We took this option and it worked well. Tickets for the train were inexpensive and you need to buy them at the tourist office just outside the port area. You cannot miss it. Once you have a ticket, just follow a blue line painted on the ground for 20 minutes to the station.

    We got off at the main station in Stockholm and decided to start with the Vasa Museum. Vasa is a ship that sank and was raised and put into a museum. We hopped into a cab and promptly spent 20 minutes in traffic. After creeping along we got out of our driver that the South Korean president was in town and security had tangled up the entire downtown. The HOHO buses were not running at all! Thanks Stromma for not telling the people who pre-bought tickets about a massive issue with your service. I was not happy.

    However, while stewing at the thought of losing out on precious time stuck in traffic, I noticed 20 men in full military regalia ride by on horseback. We bailed on the cab and discovered the South Korean leader was getting a full military parade/escort to meet the king. Amazing experience and we felt so lucky to have seen it. Security was super-tight, so we could not get in the palace, but the parade more than made up for it. Traffic was a disaster, but I remembered that our HOHO ticket included their HOHO boat that ran around the harbor. We took it from the palace without issue and hopped off at the Vasa Museum.

    Vasa is amazing! A huge sailing ship that sank hours after it was launched and basically raised nearly intact in 1961. I loved it and the associated museum is fascinating.

    We also visited the Nobel Museum. Small, but fascinating history of Nobel winners and the man himself. There was a Martin Luther King Jr. exhibit going and it was interesting to see American history from a different perspective.

    After a quick lunch at a restaurant named "Paris, Texas" (expensive but very tasty), we headed back to the ship. No real issues navigating the public transit. It was easy. In Nynashamn is a small chocolate shop named "ChokladHuset" that you should see the sign on the way back from the train station. Expensive, but excellent chocolate. Their claim to fame is they do the chocolate for the Nobel prize winners when they visit.
    View All 782 Stockholm Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Stockholm Cruise Port Review
  • Tallinn
    Talinn is so tiny that we just got off the boat and walked around. No other transport was needed. We checked out the city and its architecture, ate lunch in a restaurant that was vaguely medieval in style and cuisine (Olde Hansa is the name. A little cheesy, but it was fun and the food was good). We spent a couple of hours in the "Kiek in de Kök" museum. Built inside an old fortress, this was a great museum and be sure to pay for the "Bastion Tunnels" upgrade to wander the old tunnels, now used as a museum. It is quite a hike in terms of length and stairs. Lots of stairs. Worth the effort though.
    View All 947 Tallinn Cruise Port Reviews
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