We had not realised until we arrived at the ship that the operator, Shearings Holidays, did not own the ship and had only chartered it for two cruises. This was not, therefore, a Voyages of Discovery cruise.
On the positive side, for us, we had a small ship of 750 capacity, with an excellent RESIDENT crew. We cannot speak highly enough of the waiters, cabin boys and bar staff, all Filipino. Nothing was too much trouble for them and everything was done with a smile on their face. The food itself was varied, of excellent quality and tastefully presented. All facilities were provided on a very clean and well looked after ship. If i was rating the cruise on these factors alone they would get maximum marks.
What spoiled the whole experience for us, however, was Shearings part in it. They got us to the terminal in good time and check-in went well. What transpired over the period of the cruise saw a downhill slide and is the subject of a lengthy complaint direct to the Company's CEO.
Shearings staff introduced themselves as Head Office staff and throughout the cruise exhibited very little cruise knowledge. The trips were poorly organised and subject of many complaints, some resulting in refunds. In the main the staff had not even experienced the places we visited and when things went wrong couldn't deal with the problems. On the ship the staff were scruffy in appearance, unprofessional in dealing with clients and seemed, in the main to be there to enjoy themselves. The entertainment was amateurish, so thank goodness for the cinema.
Passengers experienced varied problems, some of which we saw, others we heard about. In our case i was verbally abused during a discussion with a member of Shearings staff and my wife was shouted at and then had this person "in her face" with a finger pointed directly into her face.
So please take two things away from these comments. Firstly, the ship and its permanent staff were a delight and and in its Voyages of Discovery trips I am certain first class (see other reviews) . Secondly, do not go on a Shearings cruise,it's so unbelievably unprofessional.
Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner"
Front cabin on 4th deck from bottom. Felt the waves even when calm. Good size, location and well maintained.
Walkable from the ship and plenty to see if you don't want an organised trip. Best enjoyed on foot. Attractions/museums are not free as in the UK.
Not walkable unless you are at the town ferry terminal. If not get the hop on/off bus and harbour tour ticket. Well worth it and allows access to all city attractions by jumping on/off the buses/boats. Unlike UK, all museums attract a charge. For a day trip you can see it all yourself by this method and by walking around. Visit the old town in the centre - very quaint, if a little expensive.
Get off the ship and walk into the old town. That's your day taken care of. What a great place to see. Cobbled, narrow streets full of individual shops, cafes, bars, museums. Great viewpoint on top, but mainly flat walking. Don't go on a trip and miss this.
You need an expensive visa to do this alone, so i would recommend trips. Distance between attractions is fairly long if you walk it and you lose the commentary of what we found to be very knowledgeable tour guides. The palaces are always busy, especially the Hermitage, but you have got to see the heritage, it's stunning, as it is in the three or four other palaces available to see (St Catherines, Yusopov for example). Also combine with a river/canal cruise. Russia has come a long way in 20 years.
We were there for three days and didn't see nearly enough, so I would suggest a cruise that docks there for at least this period of time.
Gateway to Rostock, which you can access by train from right outside the terminal. Cost about Â£1 each way, or Â£7 each way if you take the ferry. Rostock has some heritage and shopping, but is a little expensive. When you come back go around Warnemunde itself. It's quaint and a little like our seaside towns as frequented in the summer. The trip to Berlin is 3 hours, so I would recommend doing the local scene. Enough to see and cheaper.
We actually docked 20 minutes away at Gydania and took a trip in.Ggansk has been completely rebuilt after the war using old pictures. Good for a morning's visit to the shops, attractions and amber stores. Pleasant if unspectacular city.