We’ve recently returned from a trip to Scandinavia that included the 22 night Majestic Fjords and Vibrant Russia cruise. We started the trip in Finland and southern Sweden before joining the cruise in Stockholm. We also extended the cruise with the Bergen to Oslo rail trip plus extra time in Oslo.
There are things about the cruise that were very good. The boat is small, only about 900 passengers, and the decor is neutral (somewhere between modern Scandi and neutral high end nursing home). The gym and jogging deck were great and we made good use of them. The service is fantastic. Daisy and Ronal, who looked after our room, provided a higher standard of cleaning and organisation than any 5 star hotel I’ve stayed in (and I’ve stayed in a lot of 5 star hotels on five continents). There were a couple of experts who provided lectures and held post lecture discussions. Some of these were excellent. And travelling by ship gave us some spectacular views.
There were things that fell short of our expectations. The food fell way short of my expectations. There are a number of dining options including the World Cafe, which is essentially a cafeteria, Mamsen’s, a cafe open at breakfast and lunch with a number of Nordic inspired options, The Restaurant, which is open for breakfast and dinner and is described as the premium dining option, Manfredi’s, an Italian themed restaurant, and The Chef’s table which offers a degustation experience. We had our first two meals, and indeed most of our meals during the cruise, in the World Cafe. I was quite shocked to see that the offerings included pasta and pizza kept warm under lights (probably reflecting my inexperience with cruises). The Cafe has plenty of options, some of which change from day to day, but generally the options were a bit ordinary and the steamed vegetables were invariably cold and soggy (I like to eat a lot of vegetables). We had one breakfast in The Restaurant and the food was okay but the service was chaotic. This was on our first morning on the cruise and my partner declared he wouldn’t have another breakfast there (a point he was willing to concede after two weeks of breakfasts in the Cafe). We also had a few dinners in the Restaurant and on each occasion some part of the meal would be okay to good but invariably other parts of the meal were substandard. Overall we felt it wasn’t worth changing out of jeans to dine in the restaurant. While we were offered two dates to dine in The Chef’s table, we only dined there once. Two of the courses were excellent, one okay and one unpleasant. The Mexican theme seemed a bit at odds with both the Baltic location and summer season. We cancelled our second dining option. We had a few breakfasts and perhaps five lunches at Mamsen’s but became bored with the food. We also had about seven meals in an additional dining option, The Pool Grill, but hot dogs and hamburgers weren’t really my idea of summer holiday dining and I pulled the plug on further meals at the Grill. We did have two meals at Manfredi’s and some of the courses were good but others not (my partner described them as cafeteria food delivered by a waiter). I should add that the coffee and tea on board are abysmal. A good point about the dining options was that there was seldom a wait. I can’t believe we paid $2,000/day for a cruise with such disappointing food. On top of the food, after booking the cruise that was inclusive of wine with lunch/dinner, we received an offer to upgrade our alcohol options at a cost of about $60/day for the two of us. I was so angry at the suggestion we pay extra just to have decent wine that I refused to consider it. All of the wine we had was drinkable but few wines were good.
The cabin was pleasant. The cabin and bathroom were cleaned to a very high standard.
Too many people and too many inexperienced or unfit tour. Split into smaller groups would have been a higher rating.