We are a young-ish couple who mainly do independent travel so this was only our second cruise but we loved it. I travel a lot but have never been to many of the countries we docked in so this was exciting and all were really interesting. I ... Read More
We are a young-ish couple who mainly do independent travel so this was only our second cruise but we loved it. I travel a lot but have never been to many of the countries we docked in so this was exciting and all were really interesting. I also work a lot so wanted a little bit of rest and comfort. This was definitely a comfortable, elegant ship, but I would say the itinerary is a little hectic, wish there were more sea days in between. I didn't do too many activities on sea days just opted to rest. But Balloon drop night and champagne waterfall night were very nice. The nightly band in the main ship Atrium with a Filipina singer, I think their name was Evolution, was VERY, very good and they worked really hard - played for hours all night long. Ship of almost 4000 though never felt crowded - skews on older side, I would guess a third Americans or Canadians, a third Europeans/Latin/Russian, and a third Asian (primarily Chinese and Japanese). Running down some other ship notes and some pros and cons: I thought the rest of the entertainment were really fun - esp the Broadway quality shows. Good selection of new movies on the TV. Also able to watch port/enrichment lectures and some of the audience participation shows from your cabin TV. The low key Outrigger bar with made-to-order fresh juices (extra cost) was great as was their bar staff and the patrons there. Fitness center was spacious, but I always got lost trying to find the right way to get there. Liked laundry on every floor and free zumba morning class. I wish they gave you a complete list and full information on ALL the dining options and what any costs were, but I feel like I had to ask and do all the research myself. Anyway, we mainly ate in the dining rooms - sometimes at assigned table, sometimes at "any time dining" table, and I found the food fantastic. We always tried to ask for a table by the window. Tried one specialty restaurant - Sabatini's - which exceeded expectations. Filling, delicious courses. A first class dining experience! We also tried the casual Alfredo's (included) for a made-to-order, fresh pizza one time - so good. We sampled the buffet a few times and they often had large variety and also lots of international dishes. My partner had specialty coffee at the 24 hour International Cafe every day. Room service was SO lovely! Wish they would expand more of the menu options. Usually at least once on the cruise they will have a fish and chips pub lunch (included) -that was good to change it up a bit - and a Crab Shack (extra cost, but we didn't try it) and an afternoon tea service with sandwiches and scones, etc (didn't try but looked nice).
Cons: The new Ocean medallion technology was convenient (opening cabin door automatically, getting on/off ship) but the apps were a pain to log in and didn't work all the time. I also figure they are tracking our movements all the time with the medallion but what can you do. Would have done the spa but they stopped essentially offering day passes. Service in general was typical - some were really exceptional, some were just ok. Couldn't utilize much of the outdoor deck spaces/outdoor movies, etc because weather in Baltic really unpredictable and chilly. Would probably opt for June/July if I could do it over.
But for me, the highlight was really getting to visit the various cities and I truly enjoyed them all - there was rain in the forecast constantly but in the end, it didn't really come to fruition, Tallinn was the only one that had some rain. Copenhagen it threatened to rain the whole time but it didn't, although that meant we didn't do a bike tour around but did the HOHO bus which worked out perfectly. Most people boarded and left the ship in Copenhagen, but we embarked/disembarked in St. Petersburg (we have visas) so we didn't really have a "welcome" per se and no real lines, but it was interesting to see a new, totally different crowd on the ship. You could also embark in Germany or Oslo I think. I didn't really end up using the cruise excursions - we booked an independent excursion in Warnemunde. Again, all ports were great. I would advise bringing/reading Rick Steve's guide book on these ports - it has maps too, etc. And always write down the name of the port you are docked in if you end up taking an uber, taxi or public transportation back - there can be several diff ports in some of the cities. Another good read on a trip like this - with a mix of humor, culture, and history - is The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth. Highlights in each port: Tallinn (12pm free walking tour Old Town, Nevsky cathedral, viewpoints in Old Town, try Old Hansa almonds and freshly squeezed pomegranate juice from the carts, Telleskivi aka Creative City - esp F Hoone restaurant). Warnemunde (Friends of Dave tour with their fun and friendly guide, brewery lunch, seeing the charming towns in Rostock/Wismar, beer near sand castle in Warnemunde, and the breathtaking beauty of Schwerin castle garden - I felt like I was in a fairy tale - totally unexpected surprise for me). Oslo (port time there was short so we didn't have time for the viking museums - but Vigeland Sculpture Park a must, Opera house both outside and inside, stroll down Karl Johan gate, pic in front of Nobel Museum and fish lunch by the harbor before walking right to the ship. And the sail away - don't miss it! View from Regal Princess sailing in or out of Oslo and the tiny "fjords" - spectacular!). Copenhagen (Christianhavn is nice place to walk around and different than the "main" island, the Freetown Christiania is a VERY interesting community and a bit of a walk but for me was worth it to see - others may opt for Tivoli Gardens instead. Nyhavn a must of course and then catch Little Mermaid on way back to ship. Didn't have time but the glimpses of the gardens and some of the palaces looked really lovely.) Nynashamn (Stockholm is an hour away so maybe an excursion is worth looking into but we took the train - ship provided a shuttle to the station which is 5 mins away for about $5. Get a map and the day card - can be used for the train, the tram, the ferries, etc. This was one of my favorite ports - Gamla Stan a must. Vasa museum. Some like the Abba museum - although we didn't go. Lunch at Gondolen was interesting. Enjoy a fika break. Walk around City Hall - where the Nobel Prize banquet is held every year). Helsinki (easily walkable city, Market Square - beware the seagulls!, Cathedrals, try moose and reindeer, Lappi restaurant opens at 4pm very unique place, Rock Church a must, Loyly sauna is fairly close to ship - don't have to sauna but can still enjoy the views, wine, terrace and relax). St. Petersburg of course is amazing but since we spent several days there, would be too long to talk about here, and can't speak to the excursions.
Anyway, as you can see I had a great time on this cruise and personally would recommend it to others Read Less