We chose this Baltic cruise for our Golden Wedding treat principally because it spent 3 days in St Petersburg, which I've never visited, and was a small ship. We flew to Copenhagen, a city we've both visited before, and spent the night there, giving us time to see several sights before our taxi arrived to take us to the port (via a delightful unscheduled whistle-stop tour of Copenhagen!) Embarkation was perfectly smooth, and we had a penthouse suite, on the 8th floor, which, though very expensive, was gorgeous - spacious, tasteful, soothing colours blending with the sea and sky outside, a lovely verandah, and extremely comfortable. The food throughout the trip was quite outstanding - we dined most evenings in the Grand Dining Room, where the menu (including at least 2 vegetarian options per course) changed each day, and every dish was beautifully cooked and prepared. We had breakfast on most days at the Terrace Cafe, which had a huge variety of delicious food, including masses of fresh fruit. Occasionally we had a meal in our room, elegantly served by our butler. Everything was kept spotlessly clean, and all the staff were unfailingly pleasant and polite.
I was impressed with the attention to safety, and the fact that we had well-organised and thorough evacuation drill before we left Copenhagen. This also gave the comforting impression that other important and unseen matters were treated with similar care.
I read comments about the Nautica being 'tired' and 'dated'. Perhaps. But it's like a grand hotel which has been very luxuriously fitted out in the first instance to high standards of craftsmanship and old-fashioned comfort, and scrupulously maintained thereafter. (OK - we're British. Perhaps we view things differently!) The public rooms were lovely - I particularly liked the sumptuously-furnished, panelled library with its splendid selection of interesting books; and we loved sitting in the lounge at the top of the grand staircase to listen to the brilliant string quartet each evening - their enormous repertoire wasn't repeated once during all the time we were on board, and they were stunningly good.
In fairness, one disadvantage of a small ship is the pathetic size of the swimming pool! But there was plenty of room for sunbathers, even if enthusiastic swimmers might be disappointed. (I was, a little bit. But I coped ... )
As first-time cruisers we were very pleasantly surprised at the lack of queues. We never had to wait for more than a few moments for anything (apart from final disembarkation, where the ship was at the mercy of the customs authorities) and, amazingly, you could sometimes go on deck for a spot of sunset-viewing and find no-one else there - just like in the advertisements of cruises! This uncluttered ambiance was very unexpected - and that, despite the fact that the ship was absolutely booked up.
The only real criticism I have is of the excursions, which were very, very expensive. In St Petersburg we took instead a 3-day independent Russian excursion for a small group, which was absolutely outstanding, and far better than anything Oceania had to offer, at half the price. We did in fact take some Oceania excursions because we had a deal that included free ones. Most were rather good, and included interesting insights into local life, but the Stockholm one was pretty pathetic (frankly I am NOT interested in having American-owned hotels pointed out to me at the expense of learning more about life in Sweden, and I'm not sure how thrilling even the Americans on the trip found it!). The onboard enrichment lectures were also variable in quality - we had a wonderful and fascinating one on amber, would you believe, and a couple of rather muddled ones on Stockholm and St Petersburg (historic dates, please, people, and clearer royal genealogies - it does so help to put things in context), so we stopped going to them after that, and relied on our guide books.
My husband looked in on a couple of the evening entertainments, but reported raucous, rather flat singing, so we left this to those who enjoy that sort of thing (of which, I think, there were quite a few, so fair do's.) We didn't patronise the casino or card rooms; and deck shuffleboard didn't speak as an activity, but hey, that's fine.
The few children on board seemed perfectly happy, but this is certainly not an ideal cruise for the average teenager (tho' the non-average one might like it!) It was, however, perfect for a well-travelled couple in their 70s who like comfort, good food, cleanliness, quiet, elegant surroundings - and meeting others who are similarly appreciative. Yes, it's very expensive; and I have nothing to compare it with in my experience. But as a treat it was really fabulous, even given the small caveats above, and it's a memory I shall treasure.
Excellent. Extremely comfortable, spotlessly clean, thoughtful design. Plenty of storage space. Very nice to have a bath. Bathroom tiny, but it worked, and I'd rather have a big cabin than a big bathroom! Lovely thick towels. The impression of spaciousness was further enhanced by the huge and carefully-positioned mirrors.
The Vasa museum part was very good. The commentary around the city was rather poor.
The guide was interesting and informative about life in Finland and what we were seeing.