Boarding was very good, the ship is old and my upgrade to a basic suite was good, but the bathroom needed a complete refurbishment. There were drain smells emanating from the plug hole. Breakfast and lunch were mediocre, but the ... Read More
Boarding was very good, the ship is old and my upgrade to a basic suite was good, but the bathroom needed a complete refurbishment. There were drain smells emanating from the plug hole. Breakfast and lunch were mediocre, but the evening meal was good. The shore trips were very expensive, wi fi had to be paid for and the photographers were over the top.
You had to fill in little forms for more water which hung from the existing water bottles. It does strike you that they are trying to make money from the most basic item. Staff were lovely. Captain we did not see at the introduction nights. They did push the boat out on Captain's night, Celebration nights with lots of snacks and free wine. The entertainment was enjoyable. There is a lot of competition for cruising and basically they need to upgrade to be more competitive and review their pricing policy. Read Less
Just completed the cruises in search of the Northern Lights. Embarkation was very slick and easy, having been picked up from home and transported to Dover by a very efficient and professional driver. A great added bonus with Saga. Cabin ... Read More
Just completed the cruises in search of the Northern Lights. Embarkation was very slick and easy, having been picked up from home and transported to Dover by a very efficient and professional driver. A great added bonus with Saga. Cabin was large, (inside deck 7) bigger than the normal cruise liners we have sailed on like HAL, RCL etc. Decor not quiet up to a brand new cruise ship but plenty of space for hanging clothes and draws . Shower and toilet efficient and clean if a little smaller than the top cruise liners. Dining and entertainment were superb. Top quality, attentive and pleasant staff and all inclusive in restaurants and drinks. The Sapphire was above the mainstream cruise liners and just below the six star Silverseas, Seabourn, Viking cruises which we have done. Value for money, quality, ambiance and enjoyment made for a memorable cruise. Not the last time we will sail with Saga, who have two new ships coming into service. Do not let Saga’s reputation for catering for the very old put you off, this is not true. Whilst it is for the over 50’s the age profile was no different to those other lines like Silverseas, Seabourn, Viking. It did cater very well for those with mobility issues, but I have seen many more mobility scoooters on Caribbean cruises. Lots of people got up dancing to great dance music in both the main Britannia lounge and the Drawing Room. Sunday lunchtime was just fabulous. Lunchtime jazz in the drawing room followed by transitional sunday lunch in the main dining room. Just idyllic. Entertainment was outstanding. Great lectures by Gary Fildes on the Northern Lights and astronomy in general. Had 700 pax enthralled. The cruise was well worth the money just to listen to him speak. Read Less
Having been all over the world with Saga on land based holidays , when we looked for a Cruise to celebrate my wife’s birthday we automatically looked to Saga having been entirely satisfied with our previous holidays with them. Well that ... Read More
Having been all over the world with Saga on land based holidays , when we looked for a Cruise to celebrate my wife’s birthday we automatically looked to Saga having been entirely satisfied with our previous holidays with them. Well that was the right decision, we fancied a winter Norwegian Cruise, and one which specifically aimed at experiencing the Northern Lights seemed an exciting prospect
As ever every detail was taken care of, from being picked up at your front door with your luggage through a seemless boarding process at Dover all promised a wonderful holiday experience,which is exactly what we got
An upgrade to deck 10 was an unexpected bonus,but all passengers got the same attentive service wherever their cabin was. The whole cruise was ammended to all inclusive which was another nice touch,and we opted for fixed dining which was a delight. The food on this ship is awesome, and the after dinner cheeseboard is the best we have ever experienced anywhere
Evening shows were professional and Ancora joining the cruise for week two ensured some never to be forgotten performances, the whole entertainment package was outstanding for a relatively small ship
Lectures from accomplished speakers about destinations and other related subjects were interesting and thought provoking, and the library would meet anyone’s taste, complete with librarian.
This is proper cruising, no razzmatazz or gimmicks, just traditional formal nights, sumptuous food and well chosen wines and a feeling everyone simply wanted you to enjoy yourselves
Saga Sapphire is an old ship, but she is immaculately kept and polished to within a inch of her life morning, noon and night.
At every port a free shuttle bus service to the town is available unless the berth is literally in the town centre
We were incredibly lucky to see the Northern Lights on three separate nights due to high levels of sunspot activity and on our official included trip to “hunt” the Lights in a dark sky area we were treated to an hour long display of the Northern Lights which were absolutely breathtaking
Overall we had a wonderful cruise, seeing the Lights was the proverbial icing on the cake
Let’s be clear, Saga isn’t the cheapest cruise provider, but the quality of their cruise experience is truly 5star and on an all inclusive cruise like this you genuinely don’t need to spend any money for the whole cruise unless of course you choose to go on optional excursions
The real test is would we Cruise with Saga again; in our case the answer is definitely yes. Read Less
This may take a while. There were so many great things to mention. Disney is great with details. From the "Mickey" shaped face for my daughters ketchup, to the Disney themed menu each night, they really do a great ... Read More
This may take a while. There were so many great things to mention. Disney is great with details. From the "Mickey" shaped face for my daughters ketchup, to the Disney themed menu each night, they really do a great job at providing those little extras in everything they do.
The Oceaneer Lab and Club are exceptional. I could barely get my daughter to leave. The staff was friendly and courteous. The actual area was awesome. I wanted to go in in play! I also loved their security features. I never worried about my daughter while she was there.
The cabin in clean and large. We actually stayed in a room with just a porthole and never felt like we were missing out or that the room was too tight. It was actually perfect for the three of us.
I also LOVED that they had two interpreters for the hearing impaired at every show. We didn't need the services but there was a family there that did. I can tell you- they did an amazing job considering the length of each show. It must have taken a ton of preparation on their part. I am sure they don't receive enough credit so I wanted to mention.
Dining in the 3 restaurants was always fun. I loved the Animators Palate. The food was pretty good although it wasn't amazing. The service, however was spectacular and my daughter could always get whatever she wanted even if it wasn't on the menu.
The ports were just okay. We stopped in Newcastle, England (meh), Kirkwall, Scotland (huge disappointment!), Iceland and Norway (which were fab.) I really would recommend that Disney rethink the first two stops. They just weren't that great.
Another downside- if you are a first time cruiser with Disney, you don't get on the "special" email about events going on. We overheard someone talking about the character breakfast or we would have never known. We also found out about the princess meet and greet after it was over. Sorry Disney but if I am paying 10k for a vacation, I should have the option to participate in these things.
After speaking to numerous cruisers, there is definately a sense that the Castaway Club members are treated better. I get it to an extent, you have to give them perks but when the cruise director walks past your table to focus on those with gold or black lanyards (that they get when boarding), you feel slighted.
The spa is a huge letdown. I enjoyed my massage and facial but they are obviously incentivized to sell you on items and they are super pushy. I can't tell you how many times I stated that I did not was facial cream, massage oil, etc. It really was uncomfortable.
Overall, I really enjoyed this cruise and will use Disney again. We had a great time and my daughter was in heaven. Well worth the extra money. Just be aware of the downsides. Read Less
We chose this cruise as we have always wanted to go to the Fjords and with this being a special "Frozen"-themed cruise to Norway, we couldn't resist! The challenge in researching the cruise was that there was very little ... Read More
We chose this cruise as we have always wanted to go to the Fjords and with this being a special "Frozen"-themed cruise to Norway, we couldn't resist! The challenge in researching the cruise was that there was very little information about it out in the web and so mostly we went on faith and Disney's reputation. We have sailed with Disney once prior to this sailing in the Caribbean on the Dream, the larger ship. The Magic has had a major overhaul within the past 3 years... but I will discuss that later. Onto the experience itself...
The ship was mostly Brits and Americans... there were more Americans than I had anticipated and many of us had pulled our kids out of school early for the opportunity to take this cruise. We flew in a few days prior and stayed with family in the area. I highly recommend traveling in early to get rid of the jet lag. It takes us about 3 days to get our bodies in a 5 hour time change difference, so I was glad we did. On the return we took the Disney transportation back to London Heathrow airport (LHR) and it was very smooth - especially for a Sunday morning.
Check-in went smooth and we had taken advantage of pre-booking everything online, so we needed to handle little paperwork prior to boarding. The check-in area was very similar to Florida, and the procedure was the same. We were given credentials with badges and lanyards as a Silver Castaway Club member. That was a nice surprise as it was our second cruise. We boarded the ship with no issues and just needed to wait about 20 minutes before we could access our cabin. We had two adjoining cabins, starboard, with balconies on Deck 7. The connecting door was easy to unlatch and we had access between both cabins for the duration of the cruise without having to go into the hallway. On both beds were Castaway Club backpacks... a welcome surprise!
We left port late as I believe they held the ship for late arrivals and last minute cargo loading. We missed the spillway party as my daughter is 5-1/2 and we just needed to slow everything down a bit as she was bouncing off the walls in excitement. We also didn't have our baggage. For arriving at 1PM, right on time, we didn't get a single piece of luggage until almost 6PM. As we were assigned the early dinner seating, we had to just go "as is". We were very disappointed it arrived so late.
The English Channel is usually pretty rough coming out of port, but the only time I really felt it was standing up after dinner. With rotational dining, we ate in Caricoas and then moved onto Animators Palate and then Luminere's for the duration of the cruise. We also switched after the first night to the second seating as frankly, the smaller children are at that service time and it was filled with small children. We are used to a pretty quiet dining environment, so we opted to ask for our own table at the 8:30pm seating. It was the best decision for our family and we ended up with fantastic service team including Plamen from Bulgaria (our main waiter), Vincent (our assistant waiter) and Cindy (our head waiter)... they were all fantastic and went out of their way to provide us with consistent, personalized service. They as a team exceeded our expectations. A shout out to Silvio, from Italy, our Sous Chef.... can't say enough about the special cannoli's that he made us.
The cruise itself went from Dover to Stavanger to Alesund to Geiranger to Bergen and back to Dover. We were on sea days from Dover to Stavanger and Bergen to Dover. The seas were unusually calm and I was very thankful that except for the wait time sailing into the Geiranger Fjord (we couldn't access the Fjord until past 3AM due to traffic), the weather and the sailing was very smooth. We truly lucked out with the seas and weather. I have been in the Med during rough seas, and it is not fun.... I was truly thankful and it just heightened the enjoyment of the experience.
The Oceaneers Club and Lab were both great options for my daughter. The kids crew did a great job of keeping the kids entertained and having a good time. The cruise ended with a performance with the kids on the Walt Disney Stage with Mickey and Minnie singing and dancing along. My daughter received a moment t-shirt and loved the experience. The Oceaneers Club and Lab is one of the main reasons we choose Disney - it is time for my daughter to have with other kids and also for my husband and I to have some time alone together. We appreciate what a good job they do.
We took a number of excursions off of the ship and two of the three were specifically designed for the kids. In Stavanger we took the Maritime Museum tour... the main reason was that our daughter would learn about the Viking experience, but also got to build and decorate her own boat that she got to bring home.
The Alesund excursion was a "once in a lifetime" as we went to Sunnmore Village (outdoor Norwegian historical site that showcases their way of life) which included a meet and greet with Anna, Elsa and Kristoff from FROZEN. It was a bit of a mad crush, but the Disney folks did an excellent job of managing to keep themselves engaged from the first person in line all the way to the last person over an hour an a half. It had rained in the morning, but managed to stop within an hour and we had a really enjoyable time learning about the historical Norwegian way of life. My daughter was interested in the obvious... a very special meet and greet with the FROZEN characters. As we departed we were all given a special Norwegian cookie/cake and also a Disney pin in the shape of a Norwegian flag. Very special....
The Geiranger excursion was equally special, but in a very different way. We took a motor coach into the mountains and had excellent views of the major sites including the seven sisters waterfalls from a high vista lookout. From there we went deeper into the area and ended at a local farm, The Gjaera Farm, run by Martin and his wife. Disney Youth Counselors accompanied us as well and the children went off and learned about stamping with antique wooden stamps from Norway and other countries. The children each made their own pillowcase souvenir with their own stamps. The adults, on the other hand, hung out with Martin and enjoyed is fabulous hand-crafted beer, cheese and other dried meats. We had an incredible view of the fjord below... a slice of Heaven, truly. It was a great couple of hours to watch his sheep and other farm animals graze in the area and then the children came back out and showed us their crafts. They then got to feed the animals... what a perfect morning/early afternoon excursion to have taken.
In Bergen and the rest of the cities that we visited, there was always time to do a little shopping. We docked very close to the city center, if not right in the middle of it! At most, there was a 10 minute walk into Bergen, the docking was ideal. As for the shopping, there is the usual tourist souvenirs, but if you look hard enough, you were able to find some really special artisan shops with local flair. I found that Stavanger had the best clothing and Bergen the best artisans in the historic wharf area. Many of the shop owners participated in the tax refund program, so I was able to get my VAT tax (approx. 20 percent on base price) equivalent refunded to me at the airport when I departed. It is worth taking the time and the hassle at the airport to do the paperwork.
As for the Disney shows, they were pretty spectacular... even on a moving ship. We saw a new production of Tangled... about an hour and a half production on the stage. The performers were fantastic and the staging for a cruise ship was incredibly well done. This was the best one that we saw... but I know that they are all good and well worth planning to see whether before or after your dinner time.
The character meet and greets were not well run. Many of them bumped up on either side of dinner seating times and we had to leave the line after 40 minutes to go to dinner and miss one of the few Minnie/Mickey dual meet and greets, for example. We said something to the crew member running the meet and greet and was met with canned explanations that we did not receive well. We gave up after that.
Room service was run well and was efficient. I wish there were more selections including breakfast (having the option to select in the morning and not just the night before).
We did get to Palo one evening. The surcharge is $30 per person, and the experience was excellent... especially sailing out of the Geiranger Fjord. Most of all, it was a very quiet dining experience, which my husband and I appreciated. My daughter happily enjoyed dinner in the kids club. Is it worth $30 per person? I am not so sure, from a food quality standpoint... but you are also paying for the location/view and the exclusivity. The culinary teams in the rotational dining rooms do an amazing job of preparing the food and adjusting to your personal dietary needs as much as possible.
For a 7 day cruise, there were a few bumps in the road, but nothing major for me to speak of beyond what I have mentioned. I will say that the only negative was the condition of the staterooms. They have had a refurbishment, but the deck chairs were old, had tape on the tops and bottom of the feet, rust was exposed in many areas and the shower was not the greatest. Our beds in both cabins were lumpy and not comfortable... both need new mattresses. The towels and linens were fresh and clean... the towels were cleaned every day, but the bedding could have been changed out, but wasn't when we had a spill by my daughter. But that was it for the most part.
All in all, the Disney consistency shown through... we had a wonderful time in a magical place and look forward to another European adventure again soon! Read Less
First time cruisers, our trip to the Baltic capitals was the most wonderful experience and excelled our expectations. The staff were wonderful and they made us feel comfortable at all times, welcoming us back on board after each trip on ... Read More
First time cruisers, our trip to the Baltic capitals was the most wonderful experience and excelled our expectations. The staff were wonderful and they made us feel comfortable at all times, welcoming us back on board after each trip on land and entertaining us when we were at sea. The food was wonderful and so were the nightly shows and the lectures on the places to visit very informative.
If you are reasonably active and confident, most of the cities visited can be explored with a good travel book as there are shuttle buses that run frequently to the city centres and you can explore at leisure. You do need to go ashore as an organised group in Russia because of visa requirements. Although expensive, we thought the Exclusive Hermitage excursion at night one of the highlights of our trip; a magical experience! The 40 piece St Peterburg orchestra were fantastic and the glass of champagne an added bonus. Read Less
This is a remarkable trip but very fast paced. It is also a very tiring trip due to 3 different time changes traveling from Dover to St. Petersburg and 3 time changes leaving St. Petersburg back to Dover. In our case, we spent 3 days prior ... Read More
This is a remarkable trip but very fast paced. It is also a very tiring trip due to 3 different time changes traveling from Dover to St. Petersburg and 3 time changes leaving St. Petersburg back to Dover. In our case, we spent 3 days prior to the cruise in London (Fri-Sat-Sun) including a day trip on the Eurostar to Paris (another 1 hour time change)on Saturday. Those wishing to do this trip please keep in mind, the train does not run on Sunday. Where ever you stay, you will need to be up around 4 AM and depart your hotel to be at the train station to check in and head to Paris on the 7 AM train. It is a 2 hr 15 minute trip at 186 MPH. This is a great experience and well worth the cost.
As for the ship. This was our 2nd time on the Carnival Legend and was very enjoyable. The crew was wonderful and very friendly. Always a smile and a hello.The food was some of the best we have had on a Carnival cruise. The only complaint was they only served creme brulee (our favorite) once in the 12 days. There were several kids on the cruise that were not well supervised and were running and pushing through the common areas and playing on the elevators while parents just looked on. We did have a cabin steward with over 20 years service and by far, the best steward we have ever had.
Dover: Ship departs here, but if you choose to be port side (balcony is great) then you get a great view of the White Cliffs of Dover.
Copenhagen: Beautiful city, we did a tour of the Carlsberg Brewery and got a few free samples. This was a very nice tour.
Berlin: We opted to take in the Top 10 sites via a train ride for 3 1/2 hours to Berlin. This is a very informative tour and really enjoyable. The train is not air conditioned, but choose your dates accordingly. We went in July and ride was pleasant with windows down. The countryside was really nice and the tor of Berlin was remarkable.
St. Petersburg: Although this is a remarkable cultural city, it was not one of our favorites as it turned out. An awful lot of walking when you do the 2 day experience. It was very beautiful, but you need to secure your wallets and valuables. One of our friends got hit by a pickpocket at the Hermitage and Tour Guide never bothered to contact the Police or the Hermitage Security People even though we were pretty sure we spotted the elderly lady who picked his pocket. Smoking is not allowed on the tour buses, but at each stop, the drivers would smoke and you could smell it once you returned. The driver or tour guide never inquired about the comfort of the passengers. It was usually way too hot and folks shedding jackets, etc.
Tallinn: What a pleasant surprise. After this visit, I can clearly see why this is a break-a-way republic of the old Soviet Union. I can't say enough nice things about this stop. A wonderful tour guide to start with on our trip to Old Town Tallinn. First thing was the comfort of her passengers. A lot of walking, but also a lot of stopping a long the way for pictures and to hear the history. A concert at the old church was remarkable and then to Old Town Center where we had a wonderful lunch and even our guide sat with us.
Helsinki: Another wonderful stop. We went to Old Town Porvoo which is very quaint and a nice place to visit. After that, we were served pasty and coffee at a nice resort, more like a bed and breakfast.
Amsterdam: Another remarkable stop. To get into Amsterdam, you go through a set of locks and follow the canal into the city. This was such a nice stop that if one would choose a place to stay and visit, this would be one of those. We did a tour to Edam and got to see the local countryside and all the farms and land recovered by building dykes over the years. In Edam, we visited a farm making Edam Cheese and had our choices of many different types of cheese from cows, goats, and sheep. We decided the smoked cheese (cow) was the best. Before heading to Edam, we did a tour to see the old windmills and a shop making wooded shoes. This was also a fairly long walking tour of the city of Edam, but did have time to takes some nice pictures.
Pre-cruise: London, our 3 day stay just was not long enough, we did see a lot, but so much more to see and do. Actually, you can get around pretty easy in London using the Tube, city buses,taxis,or hop-on hop buses. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace happens at 11:30 AM each day. You need to be there around 10:30 if you want to get close to the Palace Gates.
The itinerary for this cruise to Spitzbergen was excellent. Being quite a small ship (some 900 passengers) we were able to sail between the Norwegian coast and the many coastal islands. Much of the area is almost deserted and the views ... Read More
The itinerary for this cruise to Spitzbergen was excellent. Being quite a small ship (some 900 passengers) we were able to sail between the Norwegian coast and the many coastal islands. Much of the area is almost deserted and the views were terrific for much of the journey, including a memorable visit up Trollfiord, where we seemed to just squeeze through.
Svalbard was magical but we were only able to make one stop (at the tiny scientific settlement of Ny Alesund)as the fiord entrance to our second one (Longyearbyen) was blocked by sea-ice due, apparently, to a particular set of climatic and wind conditions. The weather was reasonably kind; mostly dry with 5 degree C temperatures and moderate winds. The other ports of call in Norway, including Bodoe, Lifoten Islands (a welcome but unexplained last minute addition to the itinerary), Honningswag (for North Cape),Tromso and Bergen were all very attractive. We were pleased that in all cases the ship was moored close to the centres of the towns and, as not particularly agile OAP's we were mostly able to walk round the ports. We rented a car at Bodoe (cheaper for 4 than the tours) and took short but interesting tour at Bergen; otherwise we strolled around.
The service on board was efficient and mostly cheerful and friendly. The reception desk was sometimes not very good; there seemed to be a problem with understanding English for anything but the routine questions. The food was mostly good and occasionally excellent. Wines at £13 a bottle and up were cheaper than on many other cruises.
The evening song and dance shows were severely limited in scope by the facilities. My wife liked the Fourth Dimension trio who performed most evenings in the Coral Lounge, although I found them over amplified. The comedian was worth seeing both his shows; old fashioned material but not rude and quite funny.
We can get bored on 'days at sea' and there were 6 or 7 of these. One of the themes of the cruise was Bridge, and as very modest players we found this excellent. On all days at sea, there was an hours lesson in the morning (one for intermediates and one for beginners) and then about 3 hours of duplicate play in the afternoons. All this was run most efficiently and in a very friendly manner and was an unexpected bonus on the holiday. There were also some port lectures (quite good) and other general lectures (Concorde, Bletchley Park etc) which were reportedly good.There were some shortcomings. Our cabin (3051) was rather small, and particularly short of drawer space. We managed, but I would not wish to make a long trip (4 weeks or more) in it. The airconditioning did not work at first, but was repaired fairly quickly (change of controller required) when reported. Our friends in the next cabin also had similar trouble, which took longer to fix. Also, quite often, one of the 4 elevators was not working for short periods. Do they do any preventative maintenance?
At these high latitudes, satellite services (television and Internet) suffer badly. I was frustrated by the frequent reference in the Daily Times to 'occasional poor reception' when there was absolutely none for most of the trip.
I found that information on location, weather prospects etc. was poor. There were screens dotted around the main deck purporting to show location but their scale was such as to make the information indecipherable. Weather reports seemed to consist of out of date notices telling us what the actual conditions were the day before, with no hint of any forecasting; important in those climes. The captains daily report at noon was OK if you didn't miss it; it wasn't repeated.
Overall, a lovely, interesting trip, but the ship could be better run. Read Less
We(2 adults & 1 child) recently returned from another HAL cruise. This time is was a 12 day Baltic cruise from Dover, GB. We were attending a conference on board (lectures just on the sea days)and flew on our own into London 1 1/2 days ... Read More
We(2 adults & 1 child) recently returned from another HAL cruise. This time is was a 12 day Baltic cruise from Dover, GB. We were attending a conference on board (lectures just on the sea days)and flew on our own into London 1 1/2 days early but had arranged a transfer by HAL from there base hotel of Marriott Grosvenor House in Hyde Park for the morning of departure. We a half a block away at Hilton located at the Hyde Park Corner.
5 buses took fellow cruisers from Hyde Park to Dover aboard a bus. We left at 9:30 am and arrived by noon. Dover is a small terminal; we were checked in and given colored boarding passes. When our color was called we walked to the gangway and went on board.
First thing, checked out the stateroom. We were assigned a Superior Veranda (SY) 5001, which is starboard and to the fore. This is designated as a handicapped equipped room. This stateroom is large and spacious. The patio is double sized due to being all the way to the front of the ship. Nice. This was our second cruise so we knew to go up to Lido and eat while luggage was being loaded on board. After a huge lunch we walked around and discovered the rest of the ship. This ship has another premium restaurant located mid ship on the 11th floor called Tamarind, a Asian themed restaurant, along with Canaletto in the Lido and Pinnacle Grill. Get your reservations in early. Tamarind is no additional cost for lunch but reservations do fill up quickly.
This cruise is a Baltic Cruise that heads out of Dover to Copenhagen then to Warnermunde, Tallinn, Saint Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and back to Dover. The seas were calm and on our trip at the end of June into July the weather was varied. We had warm days of 90+ and most days in the 60-70's.
I did order a expensive Internet plan to stay in touch, but found that the port of Copenhagen has free WiFi dockside. In addition Tallinn had free Wifi at the port near the shopping booths near the docks. Keep in mind that you have to share with others and it could be difficult to log on because of the crowds.
We arranged tours through HAL and liked the tours, although a little pricey. But this is vacation and we travelled half way around the world to get here we should see the sights. Warnermunde/Berlin was memorable because of the tour guides. We had Jay for the train ride from the port to Berlin, a German student home for summer but studying in Colorado, who was great. In Berlin we were lucky enough to have Berlin resident/actor/tourguide Burkhart. He was excellent and made each stop interesting, fun and educational. Highly recommend going into Berlin.
We ate most dinner's on board in the Rembrandt dining room in open seating. Because of the jet lag we always ate early. We found that the meats were cooked to perfection, unlike a year early in Alaska were we ate later. We think that in serving thousands those who eat early get better choice in doneness of the meats versus coming in for the huge rush at 7-8 pm.
As always the room stewards were great, we went to a few shows at the Mainstage and found the dancers, singers, performers thoroughly entertaining.
Our 10 year old we especially looking forward the Club HAL. She spend most days there in the mornings,afternoons and evenings playing with other kids her age. She had a great time and therefore we had a great time. Read Less
I went with a group tour, so the travel agent chose NCL. None of the group were impressed. Embarkation went very smoothly and i must say professionally. However, upon entering the ship, you were on your own. I finally asked one of the ... Read More
I went with a group tour, so the travel agent chose NCL. None of the group were impressed. Embarkation went very smoothly and i must say professionally. However, upon entering the ship, you were on your own. I finally asked one of the employees, "Where do I go?" she stated if i was hungry go up to the 11th deck. That was it. I went to 11th deck. a very nice bbq was underway. The band was playing, all in all it was good.
My room was ready right on time, with luggage waiting. I called room service and asked for an iron, this was a BIG mistake. i was informed VERY rudely, that this was not done on the day of embarkation. So, I went to dinner wrinkled. I made the second mistake by calling and asking for an iron the second day. Let me state, i am aware of the fire hazard, and even MORE aware that they want you to pay for their services, however, i did not want to wait 2 days for a pressed shirt. I was told even more rudely that I would have to be in my room for the next 15 or 20 minutes, if I wanted an iron. i said, "NO,problem, I am calling from my room..." I waited and hour and twenty minutes and still no iron, second night of "wrinkled dinner."
I have fun going to the grocery store, let alone on a cruise! I could not let rudeness pass,I called and asked for a manager. Explaining what went on I told the manager that I did not travel thousands of miles to get worked up over an iron, but I could not allow rudeness to go unreported. He apologized profusely and said he would look into it. the next day he sent word for me to meet him, and told me he had spoken to the lady in housekeeping, i said good and went on to enjoy my vaycay. They next day a bottle of wine and a fruit and cheese plate arrived to my room. This was nice, but i don't like merlot and don't eat cheese! I just wanted an iron! 12 days later and still wrinkled dinner shirts!!moving on.
The public room looked dated and that about cover it. As for the constant sales pitches from photos to colombian emeralds international, I felt I was on the set of home shopping network with no off button.
Dining..NOTHING special. I don't sing praises over adequate food and out of the 12 days, only five meals were above average. The best meal cost me $30.00 extra at the french bistro. Worth every penny. The other 4 good meals were in the Seven Seas and the Four Seasons restaurants. The buffet was ok for breakfast but seating was horrible. 50 degrees makes dining outside a little rough and as people like to linger, this was a challenge EVERYDAY. I skipped dessert at dinner to go to the much talked about "Chocolate Buffet". What a disgusting joke.I like to eat and can find something anywhere, no here. Everything was inedible, i sat at a table with 13 other guest and we just looked at each other. Someone actually worked all day on this?! It ALL tasted like it was made from cheap Palmer's Easter candy chocolate,Gross beyond words.
The waiters came around saying,"Would you "LIKE" a glass of champagne? Not would you "WOULD YOU LIKE TO BUY A GLASS OF CHAMPAGNE". They made plenty of very vocal enemies right then. I just left the room.
The shore excursion were very enjoyable, keep in mind I only purchased one from NCL.
The Norwegian sun was a perfectly fine floating Super Eight Motel, taking me from port to port, but what a huge disappointment! the staff was for the most part VERY young filipinos that became too comfortable performing their jobs as the two weeks passed by. i don't want to hear the sing, make passes at co-workers, while i am walking to my dinner table. Read Less
hi there i thought i would do a review of my cruise.
BOOKING i booked this as a group cruise. i managed to get a share in an outside cabin which saved me £100.
EMBARKATION i got train from waterloo east to dover priory where a free ... Read More
hi there i thought i would do a review of my cruise.
BOOKING i booked this as a group cruise. i managed to get a share in an outside cabin which saved me £100.
EMBARKATION i got train from waterloo east to dover priory where a free shuttle bus was waiting to take me to the cruise terminal. the newer terminal terminal 2 was used. i entered and filling out form to say i have not been ill. i went upstairs to go through x ray and check in. there was only a short queue for check in. i told them that i had the only ticket, they said when he turned up he would be allowed onboard. after having my picture taken i entered the ship showing my cruise card. then was told where my cabin was.
CABIN i had 4136 on coral deck 4 i entered to to find mike's bag already there. a large cabin with a picture window and another locked window inside spoiling the view a bit. loads of drawer space much more than both of us needed. nice size bathroom with a shower, a safe that did not seem to work! after meeting mike my cabinmate who seemed very nice. we saw our stewardess NOON who i told about the safe. they got some batteries and it was up and running.
MEET AND GREET as i had a welcome aboard at 1800 i had a quick meet in the observatory lounge with a few couples which was very nice.
WELCOME ABOARD at 1800 a welcome aboard was arrange from ships monthly at the lido lounge with wine and canapes which was a nice way of meeting the other 39 in our group.
DINING at 1830 1st sitting we went to deck 6 the BALLINDAROCK RESTAURANT we all were seated together which was good. the food was nice, the waiter was very helpful TEN. but they were trying to push the bottled water a bit. later we all got tap water which was free. i ordered a bottles of wine which was cheaper than a glass of wine everynight, as mike did not want any wine. we had 2 formal nights,1 western, 1 british night and 1 casual. there was turkey served and christmas pudding and the baked alaska parade which is always worth seeing. the creme brulee was ok but not as good as others i have had. i went to the buffet in palms cafe one night it was indian buffet which was nice. there were 6 of us there. for breakfast there was open sitting in palms cafe and ballindarock restaurant both doing a buffet. the other 2 restaurants spey and avon we did not try. they had the swiss muesli in the dining room it was good but not as good as i have made at home(there was something missin)
EXCURSIONS the ones they had for AAHUS did not look very good but through SHIPS MONTHLY we got a free excursion in each port. AAHUS we had a trip to eemshaven to see the wooden frigate that was the highlight. unlike the christmas market that was the LOWLIGHT. as it was dark only a few stalls there and a few old houses to look at. we did not want to wait another hour to get on the coach. so we made our way back to the ship on our own. HAMBURG we did a did on a steamship and the refrigerator ship CAP SAN DEIGO i thought it was an english tour but it was a self guided one. AMSTERDAM we had a canal trip and saw a lot, the captain had great sense of humour and was passed very close to our ship.
ENTERTAINMENT was 1st rate DON REID comedian was good, as was ANDREW ROBLEY thew singer. the highlight was DOMINIC HALPIN AND THE HONEY BEES a fantastic group. the production show i missed but hear it was not the best dave
SHOPS not a great selection of souvenirs, no t shirts with the ship on, no pin badges. or the key ring with the ship on i got on the braemar.
PHOTOS good selection but no prices up 8.95 for most but portaits were 19.99. the dvd wasc good value though.
MY THOUGHTS i love the ship after hearing many mixed reviews she was very easy to get around,. shame we could not get a bridge tour though Read Less
NORWEGIAN JEWEL BALTIC CRUISE
We just returned from a 12-night Baltic Cruise aboard Norwegian Jewel. This was our family's 9th cruise (4 on Norwegian, 3 on Royal Caribbean, and 1 each on Celebrity and Carnival). In our group ... Read More
NORWEGIAN JEWEL BALTIC CRUISE
We just returned from a 12-night Baltic Cruise aboard Norwegian Jewel. This was our family's 9th cruise (4 on Norwegian, 3 on Royal Caribbean, and 1 each on Celebrity and Carnival). In our group we had 20 people traveling, 18 of whom "did the cruise together," and a mother and daughter who preferred to spend time alone outside the group. Of the 18 who hung out together, we had 2 grandparents in their early 80's, 7 seasoned adults (late 40's to early 60's traveling with their kids), 4 young adults in their early 20's (all single), and 5 teenagers between 14 and 17.
PRE-CRUISE: While it's possible to fly transatlantic overnight and make your way to Dover to board the ship in one Herculean effort, this didn't appeal to our group as we'd be starting the cruise exhausted. Instead, one family flew to London several days ahead to do some sightseeing, and the rest of us flew to London two days before the cruise. This gave us an overnight in London to collect our wits and start recovering from jet lag, and then we took the train to Dover and spent a night there before boarding the ship. TIP: We selected a hotel near Victoria Station in London to help reduce the friction factor of travel. Victoria Station is the collective melting pot for the Gatwick Express Train, the Heathrow Airport Coach, and the train to Dover. By staying at a hotel within easy walking distance of Victoria Station, we never had to worry about finding enough taxis to move a large group and their bags about town, nor did we have to haul our cruise luggage up and down stairs between platforms in the London Underground. The Tube is enormously convenient if you are traveling light, but it would be a nightmare to negotiate with large suitcases. Keep that in mind when you make your travel arrangements. There are several reasonably priced small hotels and guest houses near Victoria Station; contact me if you would like more information.
In Dover we stayed at the Churchill Hotel (managed by Best Western) which has the perfect location right down on the waterfront and which offered us a good price for a comfortable night's rest (beware of the sea gulls; our friends left their bedroom window open and went out to eat, then returned to discover a wily gull had apparently popped in and enjoyed unwrapping and eating their tea biscuits, leaving crumbs all over the bed!).
STATEROOMS: Norwegian Jewel is a beautiful ship; this was our second cruise on Jewel. We also sailed a 12-night Mediterranean Cruise on this ship in 2007. Our group was divided between interior and oceanview staterooms. The balcony cabins are a little larger, but we all managed in the smaller rooms which are cramped, but well designed with good storage space if you follow a couple simple rules. #1) Don't try to live out of your suitcase. Unpack as soon as your bags are delivered; put things away in the closet and drawers, then stash your suitcases under the bed. #2) Repack dirty clothes that you do not plan to wear again as you go instead of allowing them to pile up around your cabin. This will also make your packing at the end of the cruise a breeze because most of it will already be done. TIP: I bring Downy dewrinkler spray in travel sized bottles (available at Wal-Mart) to keep our clothes wrinkle-free, but on this cruise NCL was offering some very good discount prices to press clothes, so a couple of the guys got some of their shirts pressed - $2 per shirt I believe it was.
While the interior and oceanview rooms are on the cozy side, the bathroom design on NCL is better than most other ships in this class. The showers have a glass door (no icky shower curtain that sticks to you while allowing water all over the bathroom floor), and there is decent counter space for toiletries. A hairdryer is provided, and the electricity is wired for 110 small appliances. I believe there was a plug for 220 as well (please check on that to be sure).
FREESTYLE DINING: There are two main dining rooms with open seating for dinner (NCL's signature "Freestyle" Dining). Tsar's Palace is the larger and dressier of the two, while Azura is smaller and more informal, although guests are requested to not wear jeans or shorts at night (especially Tsar's Palace and the specialty restaurants). We found to our disappointment, however, that despite posting the dress code in the Freestyle Daily, the rules were not well enforced on this cruise (two years ago the dress code was enforced on Jewel, which made the dinners onboard more pleasant). Both main dining rooms serve the same menu on any given day. We made reservations for the first formal night (Tsar's Palace) and also for a surprise birthday party for my husband (Azura), but otherwise never had reservations in the main dining rooms, and never had to wait to be seated despite that we regularly had a sizable group eating together.
If I had one criticism of the main dining rooms, and I offer this reluctantly, it was that the service was slower and uneven on this cruise by comparison to two years ago. The exception was my husband's birthday party where the staff in Azura could not possibly have knocked themselves out more to make it a success. Otherwise it seemed as if the main dining rooms were a bit short staffed, and my hunch is that this is a cost savings measure on the part of the cruise line as they tough out the recession like the rest of us. We paid a little less for this cruise than we did for our 12-night cruise on the same ship exactly two years ago, and I don't know about you, but I am paying more these days for just about everything from gas to food at home compared to a couple of years back. The travel industry is trying very hard to weather the storm, and in the process they surely must be forced to cut a few corners here and there to stay afloat while offering folks like you and me a swell vacation, and doing it at a price cut. All in all the meals in the main dining rooms were delicious and the staff was both cordial and attentive.
Jewel also has a cafeteria style buffet, alfresco dining at the Great Outdoors, Blue Lagoon is open 24 hours a day for burgers, chicken fingers and fish and chips fare (the teenagers and twenty-somethings regularly went there for a "second supper" in the wee hours of the morning after dancing the night away at the disco), and a tapas bar that serves light fare if you are not especially hungry. These are all included in the price of your cruise. Additionally there are a number of specialty restaurants onboard, each with a modest cover charge: Mama's Kitchen Italian, Tango's TexMex, Chin Chin Asian with an adjacent Sushi Bar, Teppanyaki Japanese (like Benihana or Kanpai of Tokyo), Le Bistro French and Cagney's Steak House. We ate at both Le Bistro and Cagney's on this cruise and both were excellent. The doting service was measurably better than the main dining rooms, but of course, for a cover charge one expects better. On our 2007 cruise on Jewel we tried Tango's (immense burritos) and Mama's, the latter not being as splendid in our opinion as Impressions Italian restaurant on Norwegian Dawn. There are electronic boards throughout the ship that offer updates on seating availability so that in a pinch you can check to see which dining room or restaurants are full and which have room for your party. Two families in our group were able to make last minute reservations at Teppanyaki (one family even went twice!), which is often the hardest specialty restaurant to nab because of its small size and the "show" that goes along with dinner.
Breakfast and lunch are offered in a dining room (Tsar's Palace I believe?) but we preferred to eat at the Great Outdoors. There was always a substantial selection of tasty dishes available plus fresh fruits, made to order omelets at breakfast, and salads at lunch. We enjoyed The Great Outdoors, even if it was just for a cup of coffee or tea, taking in the fresh air and the passing sights. Freestyle Dining worked like a charm on this cruise.
TRAVELING WITH KIDS: Although we still have teenagers in our group, none of them used the teen center on this cruise as they are all "veteran cruisers" and have no trouble meeting others their age onboard. Having offered that caveat, Norwegian ships offer a marvelous staffed program for kids from toddlers through teens divided by age group. My own kids claim that they have enjoyed the best counselors on NCL ships. Note also that while most cruise lines start their little kids' program at 3 years old and potty trained, NCL has organized programs for 2-year olds where parents are given a beeper to be paged when needed for a diaper change (no staff on any cruise line can change diapers due to health regulations). All cruise lines end their teen program at age 17, which can often leave the 18-20 year old crowd in limbo ... they cannot participate in the teen activities, but they are also not allowed in the adult venues either. On most NCL ships (I believe the exceptions are Alaska and Hawaii where the ships remain in US waters) your 18-20 year olds are allowed to hang out in the adult disco and bars and if you sign a consent form, they are permitted to have beer and wine onboard (no hard alcohol). Perhaps we are lucky, but our kids in this age bracket have not abused this privilege and they have a terrific time joining in with the early 20's crowd dancing and going to the clubs at night.
NCL initiated a change in their booking policy on this cruise which caused considerable last minute heartburn for our group. In the past we have been able to book our kids in the cabins next door to the parents. We have sailed NCL for years and never had any trouble reserving 3 and 4 staterooms for a large family; in fact, this is one of the reasons we liked NCL. When I set up this group last November, that booking policy was still in place. When I went to pay all the final bills in April, however, I discovered the policy had changed, and now NCL is requiring all staterooms to have someone over 21 booked in each cabin (I was told that this has always been the policy, but I know for a fact that this is not the case as we are not newcomers to NCL). This new policy is a nightmare for large families because we need more than 2 staterooms for a family with only 2 parents over 21. In the end we had enough people in the group to shuffle folks around on paper, sometimes placing people who had never even met in the same cabin in order to show somebody over 21 in with each under 21 passenger (all involved were people we knew ahead of the cruise who agreed to this of course), but what if we had not had a surplus of older people in our group? Would we have had to cancel our cruise at the last minute? As it was, once onboard, it was like an episode from a Pink Panther spoof with people swapping rooms the first afternoon - crazy! I am hoping NCL will come to their senses and change back to their former policy (and change the online check-in which they have also monkeyed with, to the detriment of family travel). NCL is in every other way so well suited to families; it would be a shame to have to cross them off my list, giving all our business to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity (among others) who remain family-friendly in their booking policies.
ENTERTAINMENT: Norwegian has the best entertainment at sea, and Jewel was excellent both this year and back in 2007 too. We have seen superb magicians, jugglers, comedians, and singers in the main theater, plus they always have a quiet piano bar or guitarist (our cruise had both) playing in one bar or another throughout the evening. The pianist, Michael Chio, in particular was wonderful - nobody whispered a word over drinks when he played Phantom of the Opera. In addition to their main shows, often the entertainers put on a cabaret on another night in a smaller venue, such as a magician act doing a big, glitzy show one night in the theater, and then a more intimate sleight of hand cabaret for a smaller audience in a lounge another night.
The Jean Ann Ryan Company put on performances like you will see nowhere else at sea. Most cruise ships have competent Broadway / Las Vegas style reviews, but in my experience, not up to what you will see from the Jean Ann Ryan Company. On the 12-night cruise they put on two high energy shows with singing, dancing, and some gymnastics. But where they really shine is their cirques; on Jewel it's the Cirque Bijou. Gymnasts fly overhead, East European aerialists are exquisitely agile and graceful, and the singing and dancing are spectacular - everything from Latin to Bollywood to Irish Riverdance. Bravo! Norwegian Jewel also has its own show band onboard (no canned music for theater shows like on some ships). On our cruise we were delighted to discover the band was Rama 111 from Poland. We had seen them before (Norwegian Majesty, Christmas Cruise 2006), and we were so impressed then that we bought their CD. They are apparently quite well known in Eastern Europe as they play all the jazz festivals there. As a show band they can play anything from country to Broadway and pack a wallop, but we were especially glad that they had occasions on our cruise to play a few sets in Spinnakers - big band one day, jazz or bossa nova another - a welcome change for many of us from the rock and roll band (Crossroads) that played more often than not at night in that club.
There was also a string quartet on the cruise which played classical selections (unfortunately often in the Atrium Lounge which is too noisy with people passing through - a pity because the quartet was quite good), and a Latino guitar trio that offered a wide range of music in their sets. On Norwegian Jewel there is a wide variety of entertainment to carry you through until about 1am daily, and after that usually the only people still going strong are the younger generation tearing it up dancing in Spinnakers at the late night disco.
ONBOARD ACTIVITIES: We enjoy participating in the trivia competitions, which usually got a good turn out on this cruise. Bingo also attracted a crowd, although that isn't our scene, nor is the casino. In fact one of the things that I appreciate about the design of Norwegian Jewel is that the casino is completely self-contained, and you are not obliged to walk through it to get places like on most ships. Norwegian doesn't go in for cultural or naturalist talks onboard like some cruise lines (Celebrity comes to mind) and we would go if talks of this type were offered. They did have assorted seminars on wine / beer / and martini tasting. We did the martini class and it was fun, not to mention getting a bit loopy sampling the drinks. Two of the most accomplished Jean Ann Ryan dancers, Svetlana and Roman, offered dance lessons. We attended one session and they did a first class job. There was lots of humor to keep it fun, and they didn't skimp on offering detailed instruction with personal attention. I have remembered the steps (now if my husband will join me on the dance floor we may have accomplished something!). I could do without all the overhead loud speaker announcements, but given that sometimes people even in our own group hadn't read their Freestyle Daily, I guess half the ship would never know anything that was going on if they didn't make announcements. We also found that the ship seemed to always have muzak playing ... I don't remember that from our cruise on Jewel in 2007, and we preferred the quiet over hearing recorded background music all the time.
Here's some information on the ports of call:
COPENHAGEN: On European itineraries we tend to wing it rather than book cruise line shore excursions. In Copenhagen we walked over to Tivoli; the adults enjoyed a light lunch while the kids did some rides. Then we went to Nyhavn and did a canal cruise. It was enjoyable, but Copenhagen is a large city and we discovered we spent a fair amount of time just getting from here to there, hobbling over cobblestones past lots of buildings that we often could not identify. The grandparents did the HoHo (Hop On Hop Off double-decker bus) and I think they got the better deal in Copenhagen. In addition to being taken round to see the narrated highlights of the city, they had a convenient stop at Nyhavn for everyone who wanted to take the canal cruise or enjoy a canal side pub, then hop back on the bus to the port. For $25 (US) the HoHo here is a good deal - take it.
WARNEMUNDE: We loved this port of call! Hundreds of people opted for pilgrimages into Berlin, and I use the word pilgrimage advisedly because the trip is long and arduous (that night onboard it was dead as a doornail. If the Berlin folks were not penitents setting out for the journey, they perhaps wished they'd done something else in port as they collapsed from exhaustion after). About half our group got up and out early enough to catch the ferry to Rostock and we had fun there. The kids played at a city park (teenagers and 20-somethings having a hoot - helped to offset that none of them had a decent night's sleep the night before), we walked the city walls and ate lunch outdoors in the beautiful old Hanseatic town square, then paid a visit to the maritime museum. Warning - they don't speak English at the museum. Fortunately my husband speaks German and one of the staff was delighted to give us a private tour. We returned to Warnemunde mid-afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful little seaside resort village; the other half of our group spent the entire day there. We swilled a couple pints at the sidewalk cafes and met some German couples who were either there on holiday, or were catching an Aida cruise from Warnemunde the following day. This is a charming, relaxing port. Unless you just have to get to Berlin right now for some reason, skip it on the cruise, and take your trip to Berlin another time. It's a LONG way from Warnemunde.
TALLINN: Another absolutely delightful town. We were fortunate to arrive on a sunny, warm day with a marvelous youth orchestra playing in the town square. We pulled up chairs at a sidewalk cafe and stayed awhile over refreshments to enjoy the performance, which was outstanding (mostly violins and accordions - hundreds of them). Tallinn's old town is a magical fairy tale place full of turrets and pointy roofed skinny buildings along narrow, twisty cobblestone streets. It's small so you can't get lost, and each turn offers more eye candy to those of us whose countries (US and Canada) only date back a few centuries. Tallinn was a Hanseatic town, like Rostock, but more of the original medieval city remains intact here (it helps that it wasn't bombed to smithereens during World War II). Make the most of your visit by having lunch at Olde Hansa. The restaurant has no (apparent) electricity - it's dark inside with candles and the menu is about as medieval as the atmosphere - we loved it:
SAINT PETERSBURG: This is the one port of call where I would NOT recommend you try to wing it. First of all, you would have to obtain a visa to do so, and then what? You are docked in an industrial port many miles from anything you want to see, and at each attraction you will stand in line for hours while those of us on tours zip right in ahead of the throngs of independent visitors. My recommendation is that you do as we did and book a private tour. It cost us about half what the cruise line shore excursions charge (we paid $260 for 2 full days; $234 for those with student IDs and also for our octogenarian grandparents), plus we had a comfortable midi-van for 20 people with a private guide rather than a big bus with at least twice that many people being herded about. We used Natalia at Guide Guru and I would recommend her highly (feel free to mention my name):
I was able to work with Natalia to customize our tour (impossible with a cruise line shorex) so we got to see exactly what we wanted to see for the amount of time at each place that suited us. The first day we spent the morning at Catherine's Palace, and the afternoon seeing the gardens and fountains at Peterhof plus the inside of Montplaisir, and ended the day with a stop at Saint Isaac's Cathedral before heading back to the ship. An evening program was available but we passed on it because we knew the older members of our party would be tired, and the teens and 20-somethings would want to enjoy the social activities onboard the ship in the evening. The second day we did a bus tour of the Nevsky Prospekt, took in a long visit at the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, then visited the Hermitage for a few hours and topped off the day with a relaxing canal cruise. There has been much discussion about cruise ships making life difficult for passengers who book private tours, so heads up on this matter! Natalia warned us about it, and true enough hundreds of people on OTHER cruise lines have been hassled if they did not book shore excursions with the ship. I am pleased to say that Norwegian is one of the very few cruise lines which did NOT interfere with us trying to disembark and join our tour as soon as we docked. Evidently most other cruise lines have been telling their passengers that the Russian authorities insist that they clear all the cruise line shore excursions through immigration before allowing any private tours or independent travelers to disembark. This is baloney! It's a perk the ship is offering to passengers who bought their tour from the cruise line at the expense of others; it has nothing to do with Russian immigration policy (they could not care less whether you are on one tour or another so long as your documents are in order). On Norwegian Jewel those who had private tours were asked to use one gangway and NCL tours use another, but as far as I could tell this was mostly to help them keep their own tours organized as groups. Immigration the first day was slow for everyone, but we were being processed just the same as everyone else. On other cruises I have read that passengers were delayed by as much as 2-3 hours before being allowed to disembark. I would be livid!
HELSINKI: I am sure Helsinki is on the itinerary due to its convenient location, but in my opinion there isn't enough here to warrant a full day of sightseeing. Since there wasn't a priest on our cruise (disappointing, as in the past we have had priests on our NCL cruises), we spent our Sunday morning seeking out and attending Mass. Fortunately the church was located along the HoHo bus route so that's what we did, although in 20/20 hindsight the HoHo here is expensive (25 euros or $35 and change at today's exchange rate) and frankly not worth it because there is so little to see, and the docks are not that far out for most folks (not the elderly) to just walk into town. After Mass we wandered through town and saw the humungous Lutheran Cathedral (very plain - not worth the hike up all those stairs unless you are into huge, plain white buildings). From there we walked over to the lovely conservatory-styled Kappeli Cafe near the gardens. It's charming, but OUCH, I paid about $100 bucks for four of us to have a snack / light lunch (ie a croissant filled with tuna salad or a slice of pie) with coffee or cokes. We then strolled over to Uspenski Cathedral (Russian Orthodox) which was beautiful, though small after the spectacular churches we visited in Russia. We took the HoHo out to the rock-cut church (Temppeliaukio) but it was closed so we didn't get to go inside. All in all we exhausted Helsinki in a couple of hours. It was very clean, which was nice, and everything was in tip top repair (given how expensive everything was, small wonder they have the resources to keep the place tidy and maintained), but I could enjoy similar countryside vistas visiting Wisconsin, and find livelier pubs there at a better price. If I had my druthers we would have skipped Helsinki and gone straight to Stockholm, spending the extra day (or even just an extra half day) with an overnight there instead.
STOCKHOLM: I was worried that with a 4pm sailing time we would be cut short here as we could have easily spent two days at this port. In the end, how much you will have time to see depends on where you are docked, and if you are planning a Baltic Cruise, this is one of the questions you need to ask. We were docked at Stadsgarden which is right in the center of town. It could not possibly have been a better location. Many cruise ships however, including Norwegian Jewel in 2010 I believe, dock at Nynashamn which is way the heck outside of Stockholm (it really shouldn't be called Stockholm at all it's that far away). Check them out on Google Earth and you will see what I mean. In our case, we were in the heart of the city, and the HoHo ferry (a real bargain at something like $12 or $13 per person) docked literally about 30 feet from the bow of our ship. The HoHo circuit runs continually at half hour intervals with stops at most of the places anyone would want to visit. We spent half a day at the Vasa Museum (the actual 1628 galleon raised from the sea - it's a magnificent ship to behold and the accompanying museum exhibits are superb) and then had to choose whether to do the Nordic Museum next door, or Skansen, or Gamla Stan, and opted for the latter. It was a very low-stress fun day. Once back onboard we understood why we set sail at 4pm rather than crowding the dinner hour. The sail away through the Stockholm Archipelago was magnificent, and it goes on for hours before the ship reaches open water. We nabbed prime seats up in Spinnakers, and the views were awesome. Sometimes the shipping channel cut in so close to wee little islands that it seemed like we were cruising through people's front yards; on one occasion a couple of pugs came out to bark at the passing ship, the way dogs do at cars back home. Awhile later we spotted a deer swimming between islands. Immense ferries passed by us like any two vehicles on a thoroughfare, sounding as the ships slipped past each other. It was a splendid finale as we departed our last port of call heading back to Dover.
Please feel free to contact me directly (JBFLeBlanc@aol.com) if you have any questions about Norwegian Jewel, or about Baltic Cruises.
Janet LeBlanc Read Less
It was with real surprise to have received a letter from the MSC Club asking if I would contribute 'a short, impartial review of your experience of your cruise with us' to this web site. Why you might ask, well simply put our ... Read More
It was with real surprise to have received a letter from the MSC Club asking if I would contribute 'a short, impartial review of your experience of your cruise with us' to this web site. Why you might ask, well simply put our cruise was the worst we have ever experienced. You might think that MSC would have done a little more background checking before mass mailing a letter to all its previous cruisers, especially when we spent 6 months trying to get some form of acceptable compensation from them. Anyway some background. Having cruised before we thought we would try something different and so choose MSC's 'Italian' sophistication for my milestone 40th. We really wish we hadn't. We chose the inaugural sailing of the MSC Poesia taking in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy with a two night stay in Venice at the end. Now with anything new I expect some issues it's only natural, however I didn't expect them to happen before we even boarded. The major problem was when MSC changed our specifically booked hotel accommodation without notice and instead gave us a room in business hotel situated by the junction of a motorway, which we got a nice view of from our window. After I didn't some comparisons I found that the hotel we got was over £200 cheaper for the two nights than the one we booked and paid extra for. I raised the issue with reservations in the UK before we boarded and then again when we got on board. All I got was assurances it would be sorted out before we departed the ship in Venice - in short it wasn't. As for the ship well when we got on the ship things started ok but it didn't take long before a number of other things came up. For instance - The gym did not have a supply of water, you were expected to pay for it at the bar just outside. - Tap water was not freely available and took the restaurant staff 3 days to get to grips with the idea. - Tea and coffee - not specialities, had to be bought everywhere except in the restaurants. - Only one English speaking hostess available on the entire ship that was carrying over 1500 people who spoke English as their first language. - The Italian crew members were at best unhelpful, probably due to their lack of understanding basic English, thank God for my Italian which was better than their English and that is saying something! - Oh and of course being Italian they and were more concerned with their appearance and self importance to be of any use when you were able to communicate your needs. - Cabin staff that needed to pay more attention to actually dusting and cleaning the glass and mirrors. - The cinema mentioned in the literature that wasn't available/finished - we never did find out which. I could go on with numerous other small points that when you put them altogether really puts a large black cloud over the whole experience. At the end of the day my numerous letters of complaint did nothing to sway MSC and in general they just weren't interested in resolving anything once they had our money. Would I cruise with MSC again? Well not at my expense. However, if anyone wants to send me on one to see if anything's changed and provide another impartial review on that feel free to get in touch. In short, my opinion - 5 star hotel, 3 star food and 2 star service. If MSC are trying to develop their business in the UK market, they have a long, long way to go. I know of other lines that for less than the £3,000 we spent give better service, have friendlier staff and are more customer focus than this lot. Read Less