There were pros and cons as on any vacation, but we came away satisfied. We chose this cruise because of the ports and the price (a similar Princess cruise was much more expensive, even with our “Platinum” status). The rooms were quiet (except once late at night when we heard loud voice from next door) and comfortable, most of the food was good, there was plenty to do (I never cracked the book I brought along), and we enjoyed the ports, especially St. Petersburg. We booked a 2-day (plus an evening) tour with Alla in St. Petersburg and just went out on our own for the rest of the ports. Although the ship did not feel as crowded as I expected (except on the last morning), the main down side to such a large ship was that we did not port close to the town centers in Warnemunde, Stockholm, or Helsinki which complicated independent travel. But if you do your research, it is still the way to go in my opinion. You can see what you want; you are not traveling with a large group; and you save a lot of money. Plus I think you get a more authentic experience exploring a city on your own.
The Getaway recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, so it did look clean and updated as one would expect. As others have pointed out, the atrium area in particular is very small for the size of the ship and seating is very limited (especially given the number of events held there). But if you arrive early, you should at least be able to get a seat on the next level up overlooking the action (like a balcony). On the other hand, way too much space is devoted to the little-used casino. While I realize that gambling is a good money maker for ships, even at its busiest, I never saw even 10% of the slot machines being used (there must have been hundreds of them). At the most, I saw maybe 25% of the tables partially occupied. Usually, it was much less than that. Plus the smell of smoke wafted beyond the boundaries of the casino. Yuck! A chunk of that space should have been used to enlarge the atrium area when the ship was renovated.
Although seating in other entertainment venues was also limited given the size of the ship, if you plan ahead, it is not a big problem. Make online reservations as soon as you can for what you can (e.g., the main dining rooms, The Cirque show, Million Dollar Quartet, and Burn the Floor); reserve what you can once on board (e.g., Escape the Big Top and Shanghai Noodle Bar); and arrive early for the first-come, first-serve restaurants and activities.
There were no nightly movies on a big outdoor screen like we have had on other cruise line ships, but they did have lots of daytime outdoor activities, including several big water slides, a rock climbing wall, a ropes course, mini golf, a basketball court, ping pong, and a giant chess set. Our adult children took advantage of the first three of these activities, but were a little frustrated by their limited time availability.
They have an “adults only” deck area (Spice H2O) which is nice, but it did not have a real pool, just one that looked like a kiddie pool—small and shallow. It did have two hot tubs. It was a bit frustrating that the staff did not enforce the “adults only” rule for the hot tubs in the main deck area.
We found the staff to all be pleasant, courteous, and hard-working.
Taste/Savor Main Dining Rooms (same menu/food, just on opposite sides of the ship)—we ate here six of the nine nights. We were generally pleased with the selection and food. Yes, they repeat some entrees every night but that means that you always have a choice of beef, pork, chicken, seafood, and two veggie (pasta) entrees, in addition to the seven entrees that are new each night. They also have about 10 appetizer choices (some repeating but we didn’t mind because they were good) and we always found something good for dessert! The portions were relatively small, but we liked that because you could have one (or two) appetizers, an entrée, and dessert without feeling overly stuffed (definitely full though!).
Shanghai Noodle Bar—We ate here for one dinner. The appetizers and soup were good; the entrees were just okay. They only had two desserts—fruit cup and “chocolate cake” (it did not have a cake texture)—which were okay. The service was odd in that we got our soups after our entrees.
O’Sheehans—My daughter and I had most of our breakfasts here. The menu is not extensive and the same every day, but we liked their omelettes (they had more choices of add-ins than the buffet). Our group of five also had one “snack” meal here—just fish and chips and the wings. I didn’t eat these but the fish and chips were described as “good” and the wings “okay”.
Garden Café—this is the buffet. I read very mixed reviews on this prior to our trip. We thought that, in general, the selection was good and most of the food was at least “okay to good.” Nothing was “bad” and some was quite good. Yes, it can be crowded at peak times, but other than the last morning, we could always find a table within a minute or two of looking. The last morning took a few more minutes, but we did eventually find one. The main negative was the limited hours (not 24/7 like we were used to) and only limited snacks were available during non-peak hours. O’Sheehan’s is 24/7.
There are lots of bars. We went primarily to Syd Norman’s Pour House—brand new rock ‘n roll venue with the recent renovation and our favorite place to hang at night. The Pour House Band is excellent in terms of musicianship and vocals, especially with the addition of the two women singers (I don’t think they are formally a part of the band because they were never introduced). Our kids also went to Bliss where they met up with similarly-aged adults (mid- to upper-twenties). In particular, they enjoyed the Glow Party.
Entertainment—besides the bars, we went to:
• Cirque Dreams—they had some acts we’ve never seen before (like one woman using another woman as an acrobatic “swing”). However, the show was short (about 45 minutes); it ended about a half hour before that stated time. Dinner was mixed; the filet and shrimp were good, as was the caprese salad appetizer, but the mini desserts were disappointing—a flan that had little flavor, with a fruit sauce that was good; a red velvet cupcake that was just okay (the cream cheese frosting was the best part); and a fudgy-type brownie? It looked good, but was thick and not very flavorful.
• Burn the Floor—good singing and dancing (samba, rumba, and salsa). Lots of energy and entertaining!
• Million Dollar Quartet—this show’s main characters were Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins at the start of their careers. The voices and musicianship were very good.
• Escape the Big Top—you don’t escape the room, but do have to solve a mystery with other people (groups of 8) using various clues. Our kids and I had fun and our group won! Don’t do it for the prizes though—just a thin drink coozie and deck of cards.
• Dueling Pianos and Howl at the Moon got many good reviews, but we missed these shows.
Fitness Room—my husband reported that they had a decent array of machines and he was able to get on one without much of a problem. He said that you may have to wait for ellipticals and treadmills, but something was always available in the weight room. Another plus—the hours were longer than on other ships. A negative—you have to pay to use the sauna and steam room (same on the other ships, though).
We arrived a day early to spend some time here. I ordered the 24-hour Copenhagen Card on line before we left (you get a voucher). If you plan to visit at least three attractions in 24 hours, the card is worth it, since it covers all of the major attractions and transportation. You take the voucher to the airport information desk (when you leave the baggage area and go down the escalator, heading toward the exits/trains, the information desk is on the right). Once you get the card, just follow the signs to Track 2 to get into the city.
Our first attraction was the Lousiana Museum of Modern Art. Definitely worth the 40-minute train ride). So many interesting and beautiful things to see and experience, especially the exhibits by Pipilotti Rist. From the city center, take the train toward Helsinger, getting off at the Humblebaek stop. Once you exit the train, signs will direct you to the museum. We ate at the café on the corner where you turn (Lind’s Kaffebar). They have sandwiches, wraps, paninis, and omelettes. Good food; reasonable prices. When we returned to the city center, we checked into our hotel (more on that later), then we went to Rosenborg Castle. You can see rooms on five floors, including two basement levels (one for the treasury and the other for wine and weapons). There are many beautiful and unique items, but we were particularly impressed with the 3-D ceiling decorations and intricate ivory carvings. After a nap (flew overnight, so not much sleep), and dinner at L’Appetito (close to our hotel and the central train station; the pizza was good; they gave us free bread; and the service was quick and courteous), we went to Tivoli Gardens. We got there around 9 pm (twilight was at 9:30 and they were open until 11). They have beautiful gardens and lights, and free entertainment. Mamma Mia 2 was playing on a giant screen when we arrived, but they have a variety of other shows that pop up at various times (e.g., pantomime theater, ballet, acrobats, puppets, etc). You do have to pay extra for the rides (which our adult children did for the roller coaster), but my husband and I enjoyed ourselves without spending any extra money.
We booked 3 double rooms (for 5 adults) with private bathrooms at Steel House. The rooms were small, just enough space for the bed and a small area in front of it (with a space to stash luggage in the base of the bed). But the bathroom was a decent size; the room was clean, quiet, and modern; the bed was comfortable; the price was significantly cheaper than other similarly-rated hotels; and it is close to the central train station, Tivoli Gardens, and the start of The Stroget, a pedestrian street with lots of shops. They also have lockers in the basement where, for a small fee, you can store your luggage if you arrive before check-in time. A tour guide stops by at 9:20 and 10:20 am to lead anyone interested in a free 2 1/2 hour walking tour to the meeting area in town (we did not do this). One minor annoyance was that the light in the bathroom was on a timer (you can set it for up to 5 minutes) and it will go off if no motion is detected (including when you are in the shower, but opening the shower door turns it on). Overall, I highly recommend Steel House and would definitely stay here again if I make it back to Copenhagen!
Our berth was LP31 in Rostock. We took public transportation to get into town. To get to the Seehafen Fahre bus stop, go to the main road and turn right. When the road curves, just keep going straight to the large white building and you’ll see several bus stops—“A” right in front of the building, and “B” and “C” together off to the left. You can take bus 19 and 49 from B/C to the Dierkower Kreuz stop, then from there take tram 1 or 4 to Rostock Neuer Markt (New Market Square). We just walked through the market right there and then around town. The only building we went into was St. Mary’s Church, mainly to see the astronomical clock built in 1472, but it also has a beautiful stained-glass window, organ, and pulpit. We stopped in the Tourist Information Office to ask for a recommendation for a German restaurant for lunch. The gentleman gave me two names; one was a bit of a walk and one was just a couple of blocks away which is the one we chose. Hopfenkeller was a disappointment. The food was okay, but the prices were relatively high and service was terrible. We waited more than 20 minutes for the check even after catching the server’s eye once and then going right up to her to ask for it.
Then we went to Warnemunde. From Neuer Markt, take tram 5 or 6 to the last stop (it’s the second one in Warnemunde). This is a beachside resort with lots of little shops (mostly clothing stores on the main drag [Alter Strom] with some souvenir shops on the road one block inland [Alexandrinenstrasse]). There is a lighthouse you can climb and you can just spend time on the beach. To get back to the ship, take the S-train toward Rostock, getting off at the Lutten-Klein stop. Then take bus 45 or 49 back to Seehafen Fahre.
From our port (West Harbor/Hernesaari), we took bus 14 into town (the stop is close to the ship; just walk straight ahead on the road leading out of the port). Armed with a map of the tram routes and Rick Steve’s book, we were able to get around pretty easily. Our first stop was the Hietalahti Market (a flea market). They had a variety of goods—clothing, houseware items (lots of plates, glasses, tea pots), kids games/toys, collectibles, jewelry, books—like you would find in the U.S., but in mostly Finnish styles (duh). They also had stuff from Asian and other European countries. Next, we stopped at Kamppi Chapel (a serene oasis in the middle of a bustling city and cool architecture) on the way to the Church of the Rock (again interesting architecture, blasted out of solid granite). There are also a couple of small but good souvenir shops nearby. Then we headed to Senate Square, Market Square (bought several items here), and Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral (beautiful inside and out). We had lunch at a little pizza place on a corner across the street from Market Square (Vaelsa)—good pizza, good prices, fast service!
We booked the 2-Day Must See tour plus the night Faberge Museum tour with Alla Tours. They were very responsive to questions prior to the trip. Our guide, Paulina, was great—very knowledgeable, easy to understand (actually fun to listen to with an accent that sounded like a mix of Russian, French [which she also speaks], and British English), well-organized, charming, and adorable to boot! The restaurants we were taken to for lunch were both good—tasty food and in pretty rooms. We were dropped off at a more casual restaurant to get a snack on our own between the day and night tours on the first day; they had a wide variety of options, the food was very good, and the prices were very reasonable. All of the sights we were taken to were worthwhile; I would choose the same tours again. My personal favorites were the Hermitage and the Church on the Spilled Blood.
This was the easiest port to do on our own—you just walk off and into town. First, we did the Tallinn Free Tour (they work for tips). Our guide, Helen, did a great job, despite the unusually high heat and humidity, having a double-sized group (the other guide was ill), and sometimes having to speak over the sound of church bells (which went off for a prolonged time). She provided just the right amount of information—enough details to get a general understanding of Estonia’s history, doled out in relatively small doses over a number of stops throughout the town, without being overwhelming and with a good amount of humor throw in! Very enjoyable!! After the tour, we just wandered around town and did some shopping. We ate lunch at Wok to Walk, which had made to order stir-fries—good food, reasonable prices, and quick service!
From the port (Nyashamn), you can get a shuttle bus (it picks you up right outside of the Visitor Center at the pier (where you can buy tickets for both the shuttle and train). You can also walk to the train station, but we thought the shuttle was worth it (less than $4.50). We took the train to Stockholm City (the central station), then tram 7 to Skansen (this is also the tram for the Vasa Museum and the ABBA Museum). Skansen is an open-air museum representing five centuries of Swedish history with over 150 dwellings, people in period dress, and a zoo. It sounded good to us, but we were underwhelmed and decided that it was not a good use of our limited port time (we had seen the Vasa Musuem on a previous cruise and were not interested in the ABBA museum). Maybe it would be worthwhile if you have younger children, but many of the workshops/buildings in “Old Town” were closed and we found only two employees giving spontaneous information about their crafts/history of the buildings; the others remained silent. The zoo was very small and several of the animals were hard or impossible to even spot. Lots of walking is involved, up and down hills. We ate lunch in their sit down restaurant (cafeteria); the food was okay, but a little pricey. From here we went back to the central train station, then took the metro/tunnelbana one stop to Gamla Stan (Old Town). You can take the red or green line, just watch what direction it’s going (I printed out the Rail Network Map ahead of time). Again, we just wandered around town. Read Less