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We cruised on the Norwegian Getaway in July 2019, embarking from Copenhagen to Warnemuende/Rostock, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm. There were four of us -- me, my husband, my mom (age 86), and my brother. We have cruised several times before but always on Princess Cruises. We chose Norwegian this time because the length of the cruise (9 days) fit our schedule. Overall, I think the cruise was okay but there were a lot of things that could be improved. And, next time I would go back to Princess, mainly because Norwegian seems more focused on families with children. We are in our 50s and don't like to be around loud kids, especially tired kids throwing temper tantrums in the dining room after spending a long day on a boring (to them) shore excursion. Norwegian seems to cater to families, with water sides and children activities, but we don't need that. I'll try to list pros and cons and also discuss the cruise ports, as I typically appreciate finding reviews with a lot of details. We embarked from Copenhagen. I have visited Copenhagen several times before. This time we stayed at the Skt. Annae Hotel, and I can recommend it -- good value for the price. It's a very nice location, close to palaces and restaurants. Copenhagen is a very safe and walkable city. If you are going to be there a few days, I recommend just exploring on your rather than booking a tour through the cruise ship. This time we bought a Red Buses Hop-on Hop-off ticket. I think it was about $35 per person, good for three days, and included a canal boat tour, which we really enjoyed. They even will drop off at the cruise port, but we had a lot of luggage and chose to take a taxi instead. The taxi-van from our hotel to Ocean Quai cruise port cost about 300 Danish kroner, which is around $48. We used Dantaxi with phone number +45 48 48 48 48. The check-in and embarkation process was very quick and efficient. There were crowds and lines but it all moved very fast. Lots of staff were available to direct, help, and answer questions. Once on board, it was about 1.5 hours before we could get into our rooms, so we had lunch in O'Sheenan's, where they have a good burger. I'll skip ahead to debarkation. That was also handled very well. Norwegian offers "Self Assist Debarkation" for people who don't need help with their luggage and haven't scheduled any transfers or tours in the debarkation port. I'll try and include that information in my photo attachments. You just grab your own bags and leave the ship anytime you want, before 9:30 a.m. That's what we did and it was so quick and easy. I was afraid we would have trouble getting an elevator from the 14th deck to the 4th deck, where we debarked, but that wasn't a problem. Within 10 minutes of leaving our stateroom we were out of the ship. The night before I had called Dantaxi from the ship and booked a taxi-van, and they were waiting, holding a card with our name. There were lots of taxis waiting that had been similarly reserved, and some that were free and available to engage. There was a bit of slow traffic getting from the cruise terminal to the city center but it wasn't too bad. I saw that on-ship, Norwegian offered a shuttle from the ship to the city center for $15 or $20 per person (I think) but we decided to just stick with the taxi. - Before the ship left port we had the mandatory safety meeting/practice. This was a joke, so poorly done. People were assigned a meeting place where they were to gather to learn what to do in an emergency. It took about 45 minutes. During that time all we learned was how to correctly put on a life jacket, to leave our bags behind in an emergency, and to not use our electronic devices. We sat in our area for 45 minutes while the loudspeaker repeated the instructions in English, Spanish, French, and German. The loudspeaker kept asking people to please be quite so that everyone could hear the instructions in their own language, but no one respected that. Everyone was talking very loudly and the staff were not doing anything to quiet the guests. I encourage Norwegian to review how they are doing this and come up with a better solution. - Food in the specialty restaurants was excellent. We had a free dining package so tried Ocean Blue, Moderno, Cagneys, and La Cucina. - Food in the main dining rooms (Taste, Savor, and Tropicana) was so-so. Many of the entrees weren't that interesting and some of the deserts weren't that well done. However, compared to Princess, I really liked the layouts of the main dining rooms on Norwegian. They were smaller than on Princess, a little more intimate and quiet. And where Princess always asks and encourages you to share tables with other guests, Norwegian did not do that at all. - I understand that this cruise was geared to families. If that is the case, it's important to provide special areas in the restaurants and dining rooms for those with children. In Cagneys, La Cucina, and two of the other dining venues, we were seated by families with small children that were screaming and crying. It was so unpleasant. If a cruise line is encouraging children to cruise, I wish they would either provide special kids' seating areas in the restaurants or forbid small children in the restaurants. Likewise, parents need to be considerate of other guests and limit their kids to the buffet if they can't behave in the restaurants. And remove them from the area if they start throwing being unruly. - I appreciated that the Garden Café (buffet) had a nice selection of food from around the world. This was very much an international cruise, with guests from around the globe, and it was evident that Norwegian was trying to cater to their customers' tastes. But the buffet was always extremely loud and crowded. - We discovered that Moderno restaurant had a complimentary breakfast buffet every morning, which was a quieter, less crowded place to eat than the Garden Cafe. I recommend it. - We ate twice in O'Sheehans. The food was fine but the incredibly loud noise in that atrium location made for a very unpleasant dining experience. - Noise was a big problem on the ship. The atriums, public areas, swimming and sunbathing decks were all extremely loud. Thankfully, we discovered the H20 adults-only sunbathing area. It was on deck 16 (I think) at the back of the ship, and featured two hot tubs, lots of lounge chairs which were usually open, and a bar. I highly recommend it for grown-ups who don't need to supervise children. - Our room was on deck 14. Right above us, on deck 15, were the pool and lounge chairs. At 3:30-4;30 a.m. every day, a horrible racket would begin above us, waking us every day. We are not sure what it was, possibly staff setting out the lounge chairs, but this was a big problem. - The wireless/internet packages were a joke. The service was so slow that it was nearly impossible to use. And the cost was outrageous for something that barely worked. I encourage you to save your money, disconnect, and enjoy the cruise. - We loved the "Cirque Dreams and Steam" show, even my husband and brother did, and they are somewhat of humbugs. It takes place in "The Illusionarium" theatre and they serve an amazing dinner before hand. It consisted of a tomato salad, filet mignon and shrimp, and an excellent dessert sampler. It was probably my favorite meal on the ship. The show itself featured acrobatics and high-quality circus-type acts, like you would see from Cirque de Soleil. I highly recommend it. It's a very small venue so all the seats are good. The "Banque" seats were basically booths around the back of the theatre, but it's so small they have a great view of the stage. - We also attended Burn the Floor and Million Dollar Quartet, which we enjoyed very much. But get there a half-hour early if you want a good seat. If you wait you will be sitting in the back. You also need reservations if you want to attend. - We enjoyed the library/card room and used it five times. It had six 4-person tables and a selection of card and table games, and seemed to be a very popular place. The ship should make it larger, as the room was full every time we played a game there. Many families would open the door, then leave when they saw the room was full. Unfortunately, the library books were locked in glass cases that were only open two hours in the morning and two in the evening. This was very inconvenient for those wanting to find a book. - Bingo was way over-priced -- $39 for three games. And though the Bingo caller was attempting to be fun, his silliness caused those three games to last more than an hour, which meant that we had to leave before the last game was finished to make our dinner reservation. - We could review our pre-booked activities and our onboard charges, via the TV in our stateroom. That is an excellent feature. You could also make restaurant reservations on the TV, but we didn't do this as we had pre-booked our reservations. - Our balcony stateroom was clean and comfortable. It had a safe, but the safe was not large enough to hold a laptop computer. The mattresses and pillows were comfortable. The beds had very thick down comforters, but since this was July, they were much to hot for the bed. We had to keep the air conditioner running and sleep just in the sheets. Summer-weight comforters or bedspreads would be appreciated. -It costs $9.95 to watch a movie on the TV in the stateroom! And the selection of movies was poor. This is offered for free on Princess. I noticed the ship offered two movies in the theatre, but they were titles I had never heard of. I really missed the "Movies Under the Stars" that they have on Princess, as well as the free movies on the TV. -Between the expensive movies, bingo, internet, and photos, I felt like we were being nickled-and-dimed every time we turned around. It was ridiculous. Let's talk about shore excursions. We pre-booked all our excursions. There weren't that many shore excursion options in each port compared to my past cruises on Princess. Also, not enough specific information was provided online about each shore excursion, which made it difficult to choose. I wish Norwegian would be specific about how long the bus rides are, and the number of stairs that will be climbed or the distances that will be walked. They did give ratings of 1-2-3 related to how strenuous the excursions are, but that was not enough. More details were needed. - Warnemuende/Rostock. We wanted to book the Schwerin Castle tour, but when we tried it was no longer available -- probably filled up. Luckily, I looked online and discovered that there is a rental car lot right across the street from where the cruise ship docks. I pre-booked a car from Hertz and we drove to the castle ourselves, which saved a lot of money. It was 86 Euros for the car and 8.5 Euro/person for admission, compared to $139 per person for the Norwegian shore excursion. We just walked across the street to the car rental lot, got the car, used Google Maps on our phone to drive to Schwerin, which took about an hour on both freeway and quieter roads. So easy -- don't be worried about driving in Germany! There is a parking lot right across the bridge from the castle, and since we arrived early it was mostly empty. (By the time we left the lot was full.) The castle opens at 10, and we were there before it opened, ahead of the cruise ship tours. We were able to wander through a mostly-empty castle. And it was wonderful! It's beautiful inside and out. The gardens are small but lovely. We ate Sunday brunch at the cafe in the castle's Orangery, and it was delicious. An all-together lovely day. - In Tallinn we decided to do our own thing again, so didn't book a shore excursion. (My 86-year-old mom stayed on ship that day.) It was a 1-mile walk from the ship to old-town. A lot of it is up-hill over cobblestones, but if you are in halfway good shape you can do it. We enjoyed wandering through the little streets, looking in shops and churches. We especially enjoyed St. Mary's church, which was different in that it had coats of arms all over the inside. And we also discovered St. Nicholas's Church, which had a museum of Christian art inside. We stopped in the old apothecary that is mentioned in the shore excursions, but didn't think it was that big of a deal. The apothecary is one room where you can read a few things about its history and look at a few things like dried toads and specimens in jars. More interesting to us were the antique stores right next to the apothecary, which had some cool memorabilia from the soviet era. Cautions about Tallinn: Don't do it on your own if you have mobility issues. And be prepared for crowds: There were other cruises in port too, so lots of tour groups on the streets. -St. Petersburg. The harbor has interesting views: a cool new modern skyscraper and a sleek stadium give the place a space-age look. But then you see blocks of ugly soviet-era concrete apartment buildings in need of repair. Supposedly St. Petersburg is a beautiful town, but what we saw on our drives through the town was quite dreary. The tour guide said that almost everyone lives in those awful apartment blocks. Perhaps if we had booked other tours we would have seen the more beautiful parts of the city, but we booked two tours that just drove through town on the way to palaces. Peterhof Gardens and fountains were WONDERFUL! Very lovely, expansive gardens to walk through. Lots of blooms. The tour guide said they are always replanting so that there are continual blooms. And fountains everywhere! We took a bus to the gardens, then rode a hydrofoil boat back. A wonderful day, highly recommended. Again, be prepared for crowds. The second day in St. Petersburg we visited Catherine's palace. Very crowded, and we had to wait in line about 20 minutes to get in. A band played music while we waited. And there was a huge jam of tourists at the coat room, which was a big problem. We could hardly move. Once inside, we quickly moved through the rooms without a lot of time to stop and look. I would have liked more time to look at the artwork on the ceilings and walls. The rooms of the palace were magnificent -- lots of gold on the walls and displays in the rooms such as a dining table set-up. The amber room was nice. It's not that large, but the walls are tiled in amber, almost like a quilt. After we toured the palace we walked past some other pretty buildings on the grounds but didn't go in any of them. Then we stopped at a gift shop where all manner of nesting dolls and other tourist junk was sold. Then back to the ship via bus. Our tour guide, Serge, was great, and on the bus ride back talked a lot about current Russian culture and politics from the perspective of a 30-year-old. I found that super interesting. I would like to get a tourist visa and go back to St. Petersburg so I could really spend time there and see the churches, museums, and cultural things that the city is famous for. The first night we were in St. Petersburg, a group of Russian folkloric dancers and singers gave a free performance on the ship. So no need to sign up for the shore excursion that takes you to that performance! Just get there early if you want a good seat. -Helsinki. We participated in the Suomenlinna Island Fortress tour. We took a ferry between the Helsinki harbor and Suomenlinna. The tour was okay ... not that impressive. We saw a few old buildings but really not very much. Then we went back to the harbor and had about an hour to walk around. The national cathedral was about a block away, so we walked over and looked at that from the outside -- very pretty. Then we went back to the harbor and went through the little market set up there. It was like an American farmer's market or flea market, with people selling produce, or street food, or other goods such as hats, Christmas ornaments, t-shirts, sweaters, etc. I think I enjoyed the market more than the island tour! - Stockholm. In Stockholm we chose the hop-on, hop off bus excursion. The ship docked outside of Stockholm proper, so we took a shuttle bus into Stockholm, and when we arrived they dropped us off and gave us a ticket good for the Red Bus hop-on hop off bus. and boat tour. It was 8:15 when we were dropped off, but the Red Bus didn't start running until 10:00! Luckily Stockholm is very walkable, so we walked about a mile over to the Vasa museum and saw the old Viking ship that was pulled from the harbor. We arrived before the tour groups so the museum wasn't too crowded. The boat was very impressive and well-preserved, and there are other displays there about life on the boat. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to and would recommend it. The museum offers a free English-language tour every half-hour or so. After visiting the museum we walked around to the back side of it where we got on the hop-on boat that was included with our ticket. We cruised around the harbor for a while, then got off by the palace. We considered touring the palace, since it was right there, but instead walked through old town and found a place to have lunch on a terrace. Very nice. Later, we stopped in the Opera House, which is the place where we were to meet our bus back to the ship. We discovered that the opera house had a nice second-floor terrace where we got drinks and waited for the bus. Stockholm was a beautiful city and we would like to go back and explore it more. It turned out that we didn't ride the hop-on hop-off bus at all, but we did enjoy the boat. In every port we visited there were 3-5 other cruise ships, so if you go on this cruise you can expect the ports to be crowded with tour groups. Obviously it's a very popular cruise.

Baltic Cruise Norwegian Getaway - July 2019

Norwegian Getaway Cruise Review by Justdesserts

13 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: July 2019
  • Destination: Baltic Sea
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Balcony Stateroom
We cruised on the Norwegian Getaway in July 2019, embarking from Copenhagen to Warnemuende/Rostock, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm. There were four of us -- me, my husband, my mom (age 86), and my brother. We have cruised several times before but always on Princess Cruises. We chose Norwegian this time because the length of the cruise (9 days) fit our schedule.

Overall, I think the cruise was okay but there were a lot of things that could be improved. And, next time I would go back to Princess, mainly because Norwegian seems more focused on families with children. We are in our 50s and don't like to be around loud kids, especially tired kids throwing temper tantrums in the dining room after spending a long day on a boring (to them) shore excursion. Norwegian seems to cater to families, with water sides and children activities, but we don't need that. I'll try to list pros and cons and also discuss the cruise ports, as I typically appreciate finding reviews with a lot of details.

We embarked from Copenhagen. I have visited Copenhagen several times before. This time we stayed at the Skt. Annae Hotel, and I can recommend it -- good value for the price. It's a very nice location, close to palaces and restaurants. Copenhagen is a very safe and walkable city. If you are going to be there a few days, I recommend just exploring on your rather than booking a tour through the cruise ship. This time we bought a Red Buses Hop-on Hop-off ticket. I think it was about $35 per person, good for three days, and included a canal boat tour, which we really enjoyed. They even will drop off at the cruise port, but we had a lot of luggage and chose to take a taxi instead. The taxi-van from our hotel to Ocean Quai cruise port cost about 300 Danish kroner, which is around $48. We used Dantaxi with phone number +45 48 48 48 48.

The check-in and embarkation process was very quick and efficient. There were crowds and lines but it all moved very fast. Lots of staff were available to direct, help, and answer questions. Once on board, it was about 1.5 hours before we could get into our rooms, so we had lunch in O'Sheenan's, where they have a good burger.

I'll skip ahead to debarkation. That was also handled very well. Norwegian offers "Self Assist Debarkation" for people who don't need help with their luggage and haven't scheduled any transfers or tours in the debarkation port. I'll try and include that information in my photo attachments. You just grab your own bags and leave the ship anytime you want, before 9:30 a.m. That's what we did and it was so quick and easy. I was afraid we would have trouble getting an elevator from the 14th deck to the 4th deck, where we debarked, but that wasn't a problem. Within 10 minutes of leaving our stateroom we were out of the ship. The night before I had called Dantaxi from the ship and booked a taxi-van, and they were waiting, holding a card with our name. There were lots of taxis waiting that had been similarly reserved, and some that were free and available to engage. There was a bit of slow traffic getting from the cruise terminal to the city center but it wasn't too bad. I saw that on-ship, Norwegian offered a shuttle from the ship to the city center for $15 or $20 per person (I think) but we decided to just stick with the taxi.

- Before the ship left port we had the mandatory safety meeting/practice. This was a joke, so poorly done. People were assigned a meeting place where they were to gather to learn what to do in an emergency. It took about 45 minutes. During that time all we learned was how to correctly put on a life jacket, to leave our bags behind in an emergency, and to not use our electronic devices. We sat in our area for 45 minutes while the loudspeaker repeated the instructions in English, Spanish, French, and German. The loudspeaker kept asking people to please be quite so that everyone could hear the instructions in their own language, but no one respected that. Everyone was talking very loudly and the staff were not doing anything to quiet the guests. I encourage Norwegian to review how they are doing this and come up with a better solution.

- Food in the specialty restaurants was excellent. We had a free dining package so tried Ocean Blue, Moderno, Cagneys, and La Cucina.

- Food in the main dining rooms (Taste, Savor, and Tropicana) was so-so. Many of the entrees weren't that interesting and some of the deserts weren't that well done. However, compared to Princess, I really liked the layouts of the main dining rooms on Norwegian. They were smaller than on Princess, a little more intimate and quiet. And where Princess always asks and encourages you to share tables with other guests, Norwegian did not do that at all.

- I understand that this cruise was geared to families. If that is the case, it's important to provide special areas in the restaurants and dining rooms for those with children. In Cagneys, La Cucina, and two of the other dining venues, we were seated by families with small children that were screaming and crying. It was so unpleasant. If a cruise line is encouraging children to cruise, I wish they would either provide special kids' seating areas in the restaurants or forbid small children in the restaurants. Likewise, parents need to be considerate of other guests and limit their kids to the buffet if they can't behave in the restaurants. And remove them from the area if they start throwing being unruly.

- I appreciated that the Garden Café (buffet) had a nice selection of food from around the world. This was very much an international cruise, with guests from around the globe, and it was evident that Norwegian was trying to cater to their customers' tastes. But the buffet was always extremely loud and crowded.

- We discovered that Moderno restaurant had a complimentary breakfast buffet every morning, which was a quieter, less crowded place to eat than the Garden Cafe. I recommend it.

- We ate twice in O'Sheehans. The food was fine but the incredibly loud noise in that atrium location made for a very unpleasant dining experience.

- Noise was a big problem on the ship. The atriums, public areas, swimming and sunbathing decks were all extremely loud. Thankfully, we discovered the H20 adults-only sunbathing area. It was on deck 16 (I think) at the back of the ship, and featured two hot tubs, lots of lounge chairs which were usually open, and a bar. I highly recommend it for grown-ups who don't need to supervise children.

- Our room was on deck 14. Right above us, on deck 15, were the pool and lounge chairs. At 3:30-4;30 a.m. every day, a horrible racket would begin above us, waking us every day. We are not sure what it was, possibly staff setting out the lounge chairs, but this was a big problem.

- The wireless/internet packages were a joke. The service was so slow that it was nearly impossible to use. And the cost was outrageous for something that barely worked. I encourage you to save your money, disconnect, and enjoy the cruise.

- We loved the "Cirque Dreams and Steam" show, even my husband and brother did, and they are somewhat of humbugs. It takes place in "The Illusionarium" theatre and they serve an amazing dinner before hand. It consisted of a tomato salad, filet mignon and shrimp, and an excellent dessert sampler. It was probably my favorite meal on the ship. The show itself featured acrobatics and high-quality circus-type acts, like you would see from Cirque de Soleil. I highly recommend it. It's a very small venue so all the seats are good. The "Banque" seats were basically booths around the back of the theatre, but it's so small they have a great view of the stage.

- We also attended Burn the Floor and Million Dollar Quartet, which we enjoyed very much. But get there a half-hour early if you want a good seat. If you wait you will be sitting in the back. You also need reservations if you want to attend.

- We enjoyed the library/card room and used it five times. It had six 4-person tables and a selection of card and table games, and seemed to be a very popular place. The ship should make it larger, as the room was full every time we played a game there. Many families would open the door, then leave when they saw the room was full. Unfortunately, the library books were locked in glass cases that were only open two hours in the morning and two in the evening. This was very inconvenient for those wanting to find a book.

- Bingo was way over-priced -- $39 for three games. And though the Bingo caller was attempting to be fun, his silliness caused those three games to last more than an hour, which meant that we had to leave before the last game was finished to make our dinner reservation.

- We could review our pre-booked activities and our onboard charges, via the TV in our stateroom. That is an excellent feature. You could also make restaurant reservations on the TV, but we didn't do this as we had pre-booked our reservations.

- Our balcony stateroom was clean and comfortable. It had a safe, but the safe was not large enough to hold a laptop computer. The mattresses and pillows were comfortable. The beds had very thick down comforters, but since this was July, they were much to hot for the bed. We had to keep the air conditioner running and sleep just in the sheets. Summer-weight comforters or bedspreads would be appreciated.

-It costs $9.95 to watch a movie on the TV in the stateroom! And the selection of movies was poor. This is offered for free on Princess. I noticed the ship offered two movies in the theatre, but they were titles I had never heard of. I really missed the "Movies Under the Stars" that they have on Princess, as well as the free movies on the TV.

-Between the expensive movies, bingo, internet, and photos, I felt like we were being nickled-and-dimed every time we turned around. It was ridiculous.

Let's talk about shore excursions. We pre-booked all our excursions. There weren't that many shore excursion options in each port compared to my past cruises on Princess. Also, not enough specific information was provided online about each shore excursion, which made it difficult to choose. I wish Norwegian would be specific about how long the bus rides are, and the number of stairs that will be climbed or the distances that will be walked. They did give ratings of 1-2-3 related to how strenuous the excursions are, but that was not enough. More details were needed.

- Warnemuende/Rostock. We wanted to book the Schwerin Castle tour, but when we tried it was no longer available -- probably filled up. Luckily, I looked online and discovered that there is a rental car lot right across the street from where the cruise ship docks. I pre-booked a car from Hertz and we drove to the castle ourselves, which saved a lot of money. It was 86 Euros for the car and 8.5 Euro/person for admission, compared to $139 per person for the Norwegian shore excursion. We just walked across the street to the car rental lot, got the car, used Google Maps on our phone to drive to Schwerin, which took about an hour on both freeway and quieter roads. So easy -- don't be worried about driving in Germany! There is a parking lot right across the bridge from the castle, and since we arrived early it was mostly empty. (By the time we left the lot was full.) The castle opens at 10, and we were there before it opened, ahead of the cruise ship tours. We were able to wander through a mostly-empty castle. And it was wonderful! It's beautiful inside and out. The gardens are small but lovely. We ate Sunday brunch at the cafe in the castle's Orangery, and it was delicious. An all-together lovely day.

- In Tallinn we decided to do our own thing again, so didn't book a shore excursion. (My 86-year-old mom stayed on ship that day.) It was a 1-mile walk from the ship to old-town. A lot of it is up-hill over cobblestones, but if you are in halfway good shape you can do it. We enjoyed wandering through the little streets, looking in shops and churches. We especially enjoyed St. Mary's church, which was different in that it had coats of arms all over the inside. And we also discovered St. Nicholas's Church, which had a museum of Christian art inside. We stopped in the old apothecary that is mentioned in the shore excursions, but didn't think it was that big of a deal. The apothecary is one room where you can read a few things about its history and look at a few things like dried toads and specimens in jars. More interesting to us were the antique stores right next to the apothecary, which had some cool memorabilia from the soviet era. Cautions about Tallinn: Don't do it on your own if you have mobility issues. And be prepared for crowds: There were other cruises in port too, so lots of tour groups on the streets.

-St. Petersburg. The harbor has interesting views: a cool new modern skyscraper and a sleek stadium give the place a space-age look. But then you see blocks of ugly soviet-era concrete apartment buildings in need of repair. Supposedly St. Petersburg is a beautiful town, but what we saw on our drives through the town was quite dreary. The tour guide said that almost everyone lives in those awful apartment blocks. Perhaps if we had booked other tours we would have seen the more beautiful parts of the city, but we booked two tours that just drove through town on the way to palaces.

Peterhof Gardens and fountains were WONDERFUL! Very lovely, expansive gardens to walk through. Lots of blooms. The tour guide said they are always replanting so that there are continual blooms. And fountains everywhere! We took a bus to the gardens, then rode a hydrofoil boat back. A wonderful day, highly recommended. Again, be prepared for crowds.

The second day in St. Petersburg we visited Catherine's palace. Very crowded, and we had to wait in line about 20 minutes to get in. A band played music while we waited. And there was a huge jam of tourists at the coat room, which was a big problem. We could hardly move. Once inside, we quickly moved through the rooms without a lot of time to stop and look. I would have liked more time to look at the artwork on the ceilings and walls. The rooms of the palace were magnificent -- lots of gold on the walls and displays in the rooms such as a dining table set-up. The amber room was nice. It's not that large, but the walls are tiled in amber, almost like a quilt. After we toured the palace we walked past some other pretty buildings on the grounds but didn't go in any of them. Then we stopped at a gift shop where all manner of nesting dolls and other tourist junk was sold. Then back to the ship via bus. Our tour guide, Serge, was great, and on the bus ride back talked a lot about current Russian culture and politics from the perspective of a 30-year-old. I found that super interesting.

I would like to get a tourist visa and go back to St. Petersburg so I could really spend time there and see the churches, museums, and cultural things that the city is famous for.

The first night we were in St. Petersburg, a group of Russian folkloric dancers and singers gave a free performance on the ship. So no need to sign up for the shore excursion that takes you to that performance! Just get there early if you want a good seat.

-Helsinki. We participated in the Suomenlinna Island Fortress tour. We took a ferry between the Helsinki harbor and Suomenlinna. The tour was okay ... not that impressive. We saw a few old buildings but really not very much. Then we went back to the harbor and had about an hour to walk around. The national cathedral was about a block away, so we walked over and looked at that from the outside -- very pretty. Then we went back to the harbor and went through the little market set up there. It was like an American farmer's market or flea market, with people selling produce, or street food, or other goods such as hats, Christmas ornaments, t-shirts, sweaters, etc. I think I enjoyed the market more than the island tour!

- Stockholm. In Stockholm we chose the hop-on, hop off bus excursion. The ship docked outside of Stockholm proper, so we took a shuttle bus into Stockholm, and when we arrived they dropped us off and gave us a ticket good for the Red Bus hop-on hop off bus. and boat tour. It was 8:15 when we were dropped off, but the Red Bus didn't start running until 10:00! Luckily Stockholm is very walkable, so we walked about a mile over to the Vasa museum and saw the old Viking ship that was pulled from the harbor. We arrived before the tour groups so the museum wasn't too crowded. The boat was very impressive and well-preserved, and there are other displays there about life on the boat. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to and would recommend it. The museum offers a free English-language tour every half-hour or so. After visiting the museum we walked around to the back side of it where we got on the hop-on boat that was included with our ticket. We cruised around the harbor for a while, then got off by the palace. We considered touring the palace, since it was right there, but instead walked through old town and found a place to have lunch on a terrace. Very nice. Later, we stopped in the Opera House, which is the place where we were to meet our bus back to the ship. We discovered that the opera house had a nice second-floor terrace where we got drinks and waited for the bus. Stockholm was a beautiful city and we would like to go back and explore it more. It turned out that we didn't ride the hop-on hop-off bus at all, but we did enjoy the boat.

In every port we visited there were 3-5 other cruise ships, so if you go on this cruise you can expect the ports to be crowded with tour groups. Obviously it's a very popular cruise.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Copenhagen
    his time we stayed at the Skt. Annae Hotel, and I can recommend it -- good value for the price. It's a very nice location, close to palaces and restaurants. Copenhagen is a very safe and walkable city. If you are going to be there a few days, I recommend just exploring on your rather than booking a tour through the cruise ship. This time we bought a Red Buses Hop-on Hop-off ticket. I think it was about $35 per person, good for three days, and included a canal boat tour, which we really enjoyed. They even will drop off at the cruise port, but we had a lot of luggage and chose to take a taxi instead. The taxi-van from our hotel to Ocean Quai cruise port cost about 300 Danish kroner, which is around $48. We used Dantaxi with phone number +45 48 48 48 48.
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  • Helsinki
    -Helsinki. We participated in the Suomenlinna Island Fortress tour. We took a ferry between the Helsinki harbor and Suomenlinna. The tour was okay ... not that impressive. We saw a few old buildings but really not very much. Then we went back to the harbor and had about an hour to walk around. The national cathedral was about a block away, so we walked over and looked at that from the outside -- very pretty. Then we went back to the harbor and went through the little market set up there. It was like an American farmer's market or flea market, with people selling produce, or street food, or other goods such as hats, Christmas ornaments, t-shirts, sweaters, etc. I think I enjoyed the market more than the island tour!
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  • Rostock (Warnemunde)
    We wanted to book the Schwerin Castle tour, but when we tried it was no longer available -- probably filled up. Luckily, I looked online and discovered that there is a rental car lot right across the street from where the cruise ship docks. I pre-booked a car from Hertz and we drove to the castle ourselves, which saved a lot of money. It was 86 Euros for the car and 8.5 Euro/person for admission, compared to $139 per person for the Norwegian shore excursion. We just walked across the street to the car rental lot, got the car, used Google Maps on our phone to drive to Schwerin, which took about an hour on both freeway and quieter roads. So easy -- don't be worried about driving in Germany! There is a parking lot right across the bridge from the castle, and since we arrived early it was mostly empty. (By the time we left the lot was full.) The castle opens at 10, and we were there before it opened, ahead of the cruise ship tours. We were able to wander through a mostly-empty castle. And it was wonderful! It's beautiful inside and out. The gardens are small but lovely. We ate Sunday brunch at the cafe in the castle's Orangery, and it was delicious. An all-together lovely day.
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  • Catherine Palace
    The second day in St. Petersburg we visited Catherine's palace. Very crowded, and we had to wait in line about 20 minutes to get in. A band played music while we waited. And there was a huge jam of tourists at the coat room, which was a big problem. We could hardly move. Once inside, we quickly moved through the rooms without a lot of time to stop and look. I would have liked more time to look at the artwork on the ceilings and walls. The rooms of the palace were magnificent -- lots of gold on the walls and displays in the rooms such as a dining table set-up. The amber room was nice. It's not that large, but the walls are tiled in amber, almost like a quilt. After we toured the palace we walked past some other pretty buildings on the grounds but didn't go in any of them. Then we stopped at a gift shop where all manner of nesting dolls and other tourist junk was sold. Then back to the ship via bus. Our tour guide, Serge, was great, and on the bus ride back talked a lot about current Russian culture and politics from the perspective of a 30-year-old. I found that super interesting.
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  • Peterhof Palace
    Peterhof Gardens and fountains were WONDERFUL! Very lovely, expansive gardens to walk through. Lots of blooms. The tour guide said they are always replanting so that there are continual blooms. And fountains everywhere! We took a bus to the gardens, then rode a hydrofoil boat back. A wonderful day, highly recommended. Again, be prepared for crowds.
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  • Stockholm
    - Stockholm. In Stockholm we chose the hop-on, hop off bus excursion. The ship docked outside of Stockholm proper, so we took a shuttle bus into Stockholm, and when we arrived they dropped us off and gave us a ticket good for the Red Bus hop-on hop off bus. and boat tour. It was 8:15 when we were dropped off, but the Red Bus didn't start running until 10:00! Luckily Stockholm is very walkable, so we walked about a mile over to the Vasa museum and saw the old Viking ship that was pulled from the harbor. We arrived before the tour groups so the museum wasn't too crowded. The boat was very impressive and well-preserved, and there are other displays there about life on the boat. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to and would recommend it. The museum offers a free English-language tour every half-hour or so. After visiting the museum we walked around to the back side of it where we got on the hop-on boat that was included with our ticket. We cruised around the harbor for a while, then got off by the palace. We considered touring the palace, since it was right there, but instead walked through old town and found a place to have lunch on a terrace. Very nice. Later, we stopped in the Opera House, which is the place where we were to meet our bus back to the ship. We discovered that the opera house had a nice second-floor terrace where we got drinks and waited for the bus. Stockholm was a beautiful city and we would like to go back and explore it more. It turned out that we didn't ride the hop-on hop-off bus at all, but we did enjoy the boat.
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  • Tallinn
    In Tallinn we decided to do our own thing again, so didn't book a shore excursion. (My 86-year-old mom stayed on ship that day.) It was a 1-mile walk from the ship to old-town. A lot of it is up-hill over cobblestones, but if you are in halfway good shape you can do it. We enjoyed wandering through the little streets, looking in shops and churches. We especially enjoyed St. Mary's church, which was different in that it had coats of arms all over the inside. And we also discovered St. Nicholas's Church, which had a museum of Christian art inside. We stopped in the old apothecary that is mentioned in the shore excursions, but didn't think it was that big of a deal. The apothecary is one room where you can read a few things about its history and look at a few things like dried toads and specimens in jars. More interesting to us were the antique stores right next to the apothecary, which had some cool memorabilia from the soviet era. Cautions about Tallinn: Don't do it on your own if you have mobility issues. And be prepared for crowds: There were other cruises in port too, so lots of tour groups on the streets.
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