Embarkation - went quickly and smoothly, we had no problem with the alcohol we were brining on board at all - a box of wine, several bottles of wine and many mall bottles of gin, rum and port. At ports we had no problem bringing tonics and coke on board as our mixers.
We have never sailed Cunard before, previously only sailing on more casual cruise ships, so were somewhat apprehensive about the dress code.
Dress Code - The apprehension was missplaced completely. In the two week cruise there were 3 ball nights, and we knew the ladies and gents dress codes for them. Apart from that, if you were going to eat in the main Brittania restaurant men had to wear trousers, jacket and shirt (no tie necessary) and ladies normal smart going out clothes. If you wanted to wear jeans and t-shirt and stay completely casual, you could eat in the Lido buffet and drink in the Golden Lion pub, but could not go to the ball room, other bars, the main Brittania restaurant or the theatre. Some nights we stayed completely casual.
Staff customer service - staff always had a smile and a 'good morning/afternoon/evening' whenever they walked past you or dealt with you. We had an enquiry at embarkation when a case was missing. The customer service team where friendly and helpful, finding the case within 10 minutes. Our cabin steward was friendly and welcoming, keeping our cabin immaculate and was always able to bring additional towels or other items we wanted without delay.
Other facilities - there was access to several lauderies on the ship, and these were free!! This included the washing powder as well. The laundry included washers, dryers, washing sink, iron and ironing board. An invaluable resource on a cruise of 14 nights.
State of the ship - the ship was kept spotless and any faults seemed to be sorted quickly - there was some water ingress in the ceiling of the central buffet area in the Lido. When in port the ship looked stunning and traditional in comparison to other cruise ships. The decor of the ship is art deco, with lovely wood panelled interiors and themed art work for each stair well.
- there was excellent choice in the Lido buffet most of the time, ranging from early breakfast, main breakfast, snacks, lunch, afternoon tea, early main tea, later main tea, to later evening snacks (till 1.30am). There was shortages of some items, such as the clotted cream for the afternoon tea, hot chocolate drinks, earl grey teabags etc during the last few days
- The main Brittania restaurant, we were on early sitting at 6.00pm, also had at least 4 - 6 choices for starter, main and dessert. On one occasion my daughter and I could not decide which dessert we wanted, and then asked if we could order two each - no problem at all. You left the restaurant feeling pleasently full but not stuffed.
- There were snack options during the day available in the Cafe Carinthia. Lunch and dinner were also available in the Golden Lion Pub, we enjoyed Friday fish and chips at lunch time here. Waiter served afternoon tea was available on sea days in the Queends Room, this is not to be missed as the sandwich and cake selection is extremely appetising. We also use the Lido grill, deck 9 stern, at lunch time for fish, burgers and chips etc.
- We did not try any of the paid restaurants and were not grills passengers.
Room Service - On some mornings, and one evening, we chose to have breakfast and dinner in our cabin. It was such a treat being able to be served just what you wanted for breakfast rather than get up and queue up. The evening menu was not as varied, burgers and pizzas mainly. The room service menu was included in the cruise and not an additional extra, which was very good.
Drinks - the bars and deck bars were all welcoming and very good, and we did treat ourselves to an occasional glass of wine with dinner, cocktail at sail away, or cider/beer in the evening or day time. The only issue, is that with the value of the pound to the dollar the cost of drinks is very expensive, especially if you are from the north east of England! If we had not brought our own wine, gins, rums and ports on board, plus mixers, it would have been a somewhat dry cruise!
Entertainment - the theatre was exceptional, with proper theatre tiered seating, boxes and an exceptional theatre orchestra!! The ships crew were good (but not exceptional) in the two shows we saw them do. We also saw The Opera Boys both times they performed, they were brilliant. We say a violinist once, she was excellent. There was also a pianist/commedian, Jon Courtenay for the last nights of the cruise who was extremely good. The ball room/Queens Room was a bit of a let down as it was almost like a corridor between the front and back of the ship to one side separating the seating, and there was not enough seating for the passengers who wanted to enjoy the dancing most evenings. There was a ball room orchestra as well, who were also excellent. We did attend some dancing classes during the day and put our steps into practice in the evening when we could. There are some very serious dancers on board, so it did make it a bit awkward for novice dancers if they felt they were getting in the way. Other entertainment we enjoyed was the band Next Steps, both on sailaway celebrations and at the Yacht Club. Also, most evenings, we attended, and enjoyed, quizes in the Garden Lounge and later in the Golden Lion pub - we even won the Husband and Wife quiz in the Golden Lion. As you wandered around the ship in the evening there were other muscians and ensembles to enjoy listening to, such as pianist Andy Law in the Golden Lion, who could play/sing anything.
Sea days - My daughter and husband thoroughly enjoyed the talks by Robin Scagett, about astronomy, space and time - my daughter, as a primary teacher she took a lot away from those talks. My daughter and I both enjoyed the inspiring John Peters talk and question/answer session. There was another speaker throughout the cruise, but we did not attend his talks. I went to the beginners bridge classes with Chris Jarosz, which was pitched at the right level. I attended on my own and that was a slight problem as many others attended as a couple, but Chris found solutions to this. I certainly hope to continue to learn bridge. Otherwise, I loved the afternoon social craft group in the Garden Lounge. I did also treat myself to an afternoon in the spa pool, warm loungers and steam rooms but I did not have any spa treatments. My husband attended the ships choir, who gave a wonderful performance on the last sea day. He made many friends through this group. I would say that all but one of the passengers we encountered, or met through groups, were lovely, engaging and warm people and came from all over the world.
Aside from what we did, there was a wealth of activities to enjoy on sea days, outside there was a full bowling green and other outdoor sports, plus two swimming pools and 4 bubble pools. Indoors, there were card tables, board games, puzzles and puzzle tables, and a two story library that gave out daily quizes, cross words and sudoko. If you just wanted to relax, there were lots of indoor and outdoor quite areas to relax, read and sleep.
Disembarkation - we were going to take our own luggage off, but a very experienced cruiser said to put it out, and explained that at the port luggage was arranged by deck number. She said that you could take yourself off at your own convenience rather than follow the instructions if you wanted to make an early get away - we had a long drive back up north, so got off at 9.00am, and collected our luggage very easily ready for the pre booked taxi back to collect our car from the hotel.
Overall, we would definately cruise with Cunard again. A thoroughly enjoyable cruise with excellent choice of activities, ports that we wanted to visit and the chance to meet some fantastic people.
Our party only did one shore excursion, my daughter and our friend did the segway in Copenhagen and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was $99, which I could have booked on my own for about $79, but not for the times that were best for our days plans. As my daughter and our friend were novice cruisers we felt better leaving them in the care of the excursion team.
Cabin - a deluxe inner 4 berth cabin on deck 1 midships. Excellent, loads of space, particularly wardrobe space, for 3 adults. Of particular note was that the 3rd berth (for my 36 year old daughter) was a very comfortable sofa bed, with joined twin beds for the other two which suited my husband and I very well. We were so pleased that one of us did not have to climb up to a bunk! The shower room was small but functional, and we had plenty of hot water at all times. The cabin was kept spotless by our cabin attendant, with nightly turndown and pillow chocolate.
We took the free shuttle bus into town and hired bicycles for the day to cycle to Grenen, the bunker museum and around town. The day bike hire was £11.21 each, which we thought was very good. It was also great fun. At Grenen we used the Sandormen (30 DKK each) to the point where two seas meet, with the tide coming in. We did not have to wait long to get a Sandormen bus pulled by a tractor once we had parked out bicycles. The bunker museum nearby (40 DKK each) was an interesting visit, again especially for my primary treacher daughter. A pleasant and undemanding day. We found an Alid and stocked up on diet coke and tonic for our mixers.
My daughter and our friend booked a boat tour independently on the Stromma hop on hop off boat for 100 DKK each to join my husband and I after a morning and lunch touring Copenhagen. This worked well, as the hop on hop off Stromma boat stopped at the Little Mermaid after Reffen, so they were easily able to meet up with my husband and I.
My husband and I paid 250 DKK each and there was a shuttle bus waiting to take us to the point where the main bus tours departed from. Do not get the Red Bus offered by the cruise ship, the boat is not hop on hop off. Only the Stromma boat is hop on hop off. We did the full Classic Copenhagen, followed by the Colourful Copenhagen to Reffen, where we had street food. From Reffen we took the hop on hop off boat to the Little Mermaid stop. Finding the boat stop at Reffen was the only problem we had, as it was not clearly marked and nobody new where it was at the Reffen market even though it was only two minutes walk away. My daughter and our friend joined us for a round trip boat tour. We had planned to get off and have coffee at Nyhavn, but rain stopped us.View All 201 City Tour Reviews
My daughter and our friend booked the segway tour with Cunard. The time of the excursion was perfect for allowing them to meet up with my husband and I later on an independent boat tour. They absolutely loved it. We could have booked it for about 20 dollars cheaper ourselves, but not for a time that suited us, so the ships tour was the best option. The Segway left from next to the ship.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We booked the T J Travel Relaxed two day tour at $200 per person. You see less, but with more time at each place you do see and beat the queue tickets. Lunch was included the first day at a lovely traditional restaurant at the Tzars Village. On day two we paid for our own lunch, but went to a blini cafe off Nevsky Prospekt. It was outstanding, and full of young Russian families. We were the only tourists there. It was a local restaurant for our guide Eugene. T J Travel provided me with a wheelchair and our guide made sure I could access lifts at the main places we visited. Our driver, Sergei, helped me in and out of our people carrier and parked as close as he could to places we visited. Day one was spent outside St Peterburg, after a short sightseeing tour in St Peterburg. We first went to Peterhof for the gardens, and then Catherines Summer Palace - both were staggering. Day two we had a more extensive sightseeing of St Peterburg, including St Isaacs Church exterior, followed by a one hour sightseeing cruise with a small group, so plenty of space to move about the boat and get photos. After this we spent nearly 3 hours at the Hermitage (Winter Palace), going in an hour before it opened. Seeing the Hermitage before the doors opened was sheer pleasure. When the doors opened it got extremely busy and noisy, but was still a staggering place to visit. We then visited the Church of the Spilled Blood, again getting beat the queue tickets. This is a must see. After which, we wandered along Nevsky Prospekt and went into Eliseyev Emporium (Nevsky 56) - amazing Art Nouveau building and stunning shopping experience that would match Harrods food market. Eurgene, our day guide, was exceptional in his English language, his enthusiam, and his knowledge. Sergei was a brilliant driver, we never feared we would miss our evening excursion or the ship leaving port.View All 204 Private Tour Reviews
My daughter and our friend booked this tour via T J Travel. They reported back that it was brilliant. There was vodka and refreshments, and stalls to bargain for traditional Russian souvernirs. The entertainment was first class, and they had excellent seating. My daughter came back with a CD from the group they saw and it constantly playing it. The loved the fact they were taken in a car on their own there and back, not a coach. Whilst there they bargained for, and bought, Faberge eggs and the dolls - both at least a third cheapter to half as much the price that we say anywhere else, including the port tourist shops.View All 53 Russian Folk Dance Reviews
The Music Season performance itself was 5 star, the slightly disorganised arrangment to meet with our guide was not quiet 5 star. My husband and I chose to go to the Russian Music season evening and experienced a wonderful evening of Russian classical music which included some staggering talented young Russian musicians. This included a tour of the palace, champagne, and a paper silhouette portrait to keep as a memory of the evening. Given that I have walking difficulties, we were parked quiet a distance from the venue, and seemed to drived around for ages before the driver found the guide who would take us the the Grand Duke Vladimir Palace. We then had to nearly run to get to the venue with anywhere near enough time to enjoy the tour, pre show drinks and have our silhouette potraits done. This excursion, for the two of us, should have been better managed.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We took the ships shuttle to near the centre of town, walked around for a time, then got a local bus ticket that lasts 120 minutes for £2.67 each, taking tram 2 to the Church in the Rock (3 euro I think). We were greeted by an organ recital whilst at the Church in the Rock. We then continued on the tram, changing part way round to tram 3, to do a complete circular tour of Helsinki on the cheap. We ended our time having a fish lunch for 7 euros each at the open air market before getting the shuttle back to the ship. A cheap and cheerful day.
We bought a day ticket for the local transport at the cruise terminal, £7.69 each for seniors. We then followed the blue line to find the bus stop near the terminal and took the bus, later changing to a tram, to the Abba Museum. Having seen this when Jayne Macdonald did the Baltic cruise in her programme, and all being mega Abba fans, this was a must do. Throw yourself in and do all the experiences there. Everybody thoroughly enjoyed their time, some 3 hours, at the ABBA experience. Afterwards, we took the local ferry to Gamla Stan (the old town), which was included in our local transport day ticket where we had a lovely local lunch at Ardbeg Embassy, then wandered and tourist shopped on the way to picking up the ships shuttle. This was when we found that there had been major demonstrations that day holding up the upper end of the old town - none of which had impacted us until now. The ships shuttles had been held up by the stopped traffic. There was no need to worry though, after being directed to the new pick up place for the shuttle, and having a grand tour of outer Stockholm to find a way round to getting back to the ship, there was never any worry that the ship would wait for us. If we had known about the delay though, we would have just used the local ferries and our all day tickets to get back to the ship - it would defintely have been much quicker, if less eventful.
We walked to the local train station in Warnemunde from the ship, no more than 10 minutes, and got a day ticket for the local trains, £3.66 each. We took the train to Rostock, about 20 minutes away, and then a local tram to the old town centre. We enjoyed a coffee and then a stroll around Rostock old town and river side before heading back to Warnemunde where we had lunch at water side snack and fish bars. There is excellent souvenir shopping at the port.