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  1. Actually, I think in May, you'll be okay on the ballet. Rick Steves says not to go mid-July to mid-September--we're going to be there 8/3-4, I believe. So, go and enjoy! The Matroyshka painting thing was thrown in by Elena at Red Sun Tours--we didn't specifically request it. But, like you, we thought it would be interesting and different. What a cool souvenir, right? Unfortunately, I have one son who has artistic talent, and the rest of us, well, don't. Still, I think it will be a fun experience.
  2. About the ballet--Rick Steves points out that the main ballet companies take the summer off. So, if you opt to see the ballet, you'll be seeing second-rate dancers in a second-rate venue. This was a big issue in our house--I have 3 ballet dancers who wanted to see an honest-to-goodness Russian ballet, but that's not available during our cruise time. So, we'll be painting Matroyshkas instead.
  3. We're going in July, and are doing a private tour. It saves us a little money, but more importantly, we're doing exactly what we want to do and see. We're a group of 8, ages 14-57, one with mobility issues. We're using Red Sun Tours--they arrange all the visas. I do recommend setting up the private tour on the early side--they need time to process the paperwork. We don't have to pay them until we arrive in St. Petersburg.
  4. If you think your gang would do fine with this, go for it! It will be an amazing experience. I only bring it up because I know this young lady sat out a couple of tours--for example, a walking tour of Rome. She and a parent caught up to the group by taxi at Piazza Navona. That would be trickier on a shore excursion. I have 4 kids, and they have varying levels of interest/energy/tolerance of heat and crowds. On the good side, my most challenging one (DS22, has Asperger's) is looking forward to the Baltic cruise, although he's doing a couple different excursions from his adventure-loving siblings. And that's fine--he didn't even GO on the Europe trip.
  5. Not a cruise, but we did a family trip to Europe last summer. Our youngest was 12--about the typical "kid age" on the trip, but the youngest child was 8. This was an itinerary designed for families. I have to be honest--the 8yo struggled. She was a good kid, and a real sport about trying things, but she did have some issues. She got bored on some of the tours, and also got tired and cranky. No worse than your average 8yo, but at least one parent had to sit things out a few times. She was the youngest of 4, which is why I suspect they brought her at that age. On the good side, we had no language or food issues. But, I'd be concerned about the youngest needing to sit out an excursion last minute--that would be disappointing and pricey. Good luck, whatever you decide. P.S. We're doing a Baltic cruise this coming summer, and my youngest will be 14. I have zero concerns about him at this point (I did have some on the Europe trip, but he did fine).
  6. I found a couple bargains for our July 2020 Baltic cruise. Refreshment package went from $28 pp to $18 pp, internet packages dropped as well. The excursions didn't drop by much, mostly, but the Stockholm, Sweden tour that we wanted anyway was down 25%. So, I got those three--the refreshment package, internet for 6 devices (1 pp, suck it up, kids!), and the one excursion. Other excursion savings were in the $5-10 range--not worth it for us, since they weren't ones we were interested in, anyway. The Sweden one was the only one we all knew we wanted. We're still debating the other ports.
  7. Good idea--I didn't realize they list the muster stations on on-line check-in. My one and only cruise was on the Disney Magic, 16 years ago (I was actually pregnant with my over-thinker), so what little information I have is woefully outdated. And I'm not touching the tipping question. People are very passionate on that, to be sure.
  8. See, that's what I was thinking. Especially if my DD16 tends to get anxious, it's more important, IMHO, that she go where she should be in a true emergency. I told her it's kind of like the oxygen masks on an airplane--the odds you'll need the information is really small, but you're better off, having paid attention.
  9. I don't mind if they attend at their regular muster station--in fact, it would probably be a good idea, so my overthinker knows where she's actually supposed to go in the event of an emergency. It would be different if she were younger or by herself, she'll be with her sister. I already told her this might be the case (different muster stations), and that there's a 99% chance that she'll never have to go to it again. She'll just need time to process. And actually, if she's with her sister, she'll be fine--my oldest is a real hoot, they would have the funnest lifeboat going during an evacuation. Not that I expect one, but again with the overthinker--letting her know that the life rafts are large and equipped with supplies helps her.
  10. Hi all! I'm fairly new here, and to cruising generally, so here's the first of probably several weird questions: We're sailing on the Brilliance next summer (Best of Baltic, departing 7/28/20). We're a family of 6, in three aft cabins. DH and I are in 8170, our sons are in 8172, and our daughters are in 8672--all in a line across the back. My question is, is it likely that our DDs will be at a different muster station, since they are technically on the other side of the ship? It's not a huge deal--my oldest will be 25 at time of sailing, and her sister will be 17. The 17yo tends to get anxious and over-think thing, though. She will rest easier if I can tell her about a different muster station early on. Of course, she'd be with her sister, who is very mature and independent. I'm sure they would manage fine, but knowing ahead of time would go a long way towards easing my younger daughter's anxiety. I assume the boys would muster with us. They're a bit younger--23 and 14 at time of sailing. Our older son has Asperger's, but, even if the boys went with our girls, I think they'd be fine--again, it would help if we knew in advance, so they would know. Of course, you would know which muster station had all 4 of my kids by the loud bickering! Thanks in advance for any input.
  11. Love your photos of St. Petersburg! I have only heard good things about the local tours and guides. We're a ways away from picking excursions, but I'm gathering information. I showed my kids your photos, they really loved them, and are so excited for this cruise! Did you try the Mystery Dinner? That's on our to-do list. Beyond that, I have one super-adventurous kid (my oldest), one who follows her sister (DD17), and then the rest of us are more book nerds. I expect to find my sister in the library on every sea day! I can see my older son trying the English pub. But, if I'm running the kids hard (ish) on the excursions, I don't mind them taking it easy on sea days.
  12. Too funny! We currently live in North Carolina--bye-bye, Dorian!--but previously lived in upstate NY for 20 years (7 feet of snow annually), and after that, in New Hampshire. So, my kids are skiers and one, in particular misses the cold weather--he wears shorts year-round, even though we do get frost and a little snow down here. That's one of the reasons we chose this cruise--they miss the cooler temperatures. So, we expect to be pleasantly comfortable, maybe need a jacket at night. And my oldest lives in Boston--it'll be just a regular day for her!
  13. Thanks so much for posting this! I find your posts very informative and interesting. We're going on this cruise next year--the one departing 7/28/20 (we just changed it--originally, we were on the 6/20 departure, but we had too many conflicts). There will be 8 of us--DH and I, our 4 children (25, 23, 17, and 14 at time of sailing), and my sister and BIL. Like you, I enjoy walking around, but BIL has mobility issues, and may not be able to be on the same tours. Did you find the drink package to be worthwhile on this cruise? We were thinking that we'd try adult beverages on shore, rather than get the drink package onboard. Similarly, we're likely to skip the specialty restaurants, and enjoy local cuisine--glad to hear that the street food is delicious. It sounds like you two had an amazing experience.
  14. Bummer! Well, take good care of her for us! Thanks to all for the hotel information. Our TA was going to book us in whatever RCCL has--is that a bad thing? Am I better off researching my own? I've been on one cruise (DCL-2003), I'm trying to learn. P.S. Good to know about the Anne Frank House tickets--3 of my kids have requested this, so it's on our "must do" list.
  15. We may be on the same cruise! We're boarding 6/22/20. We're planning to fly to Amsterdam (from the US) the Friday before, so we can explore the city a bit. I bought a book, Lonely Planet's "Cruise Ports Scandinavia and Northern Europe" that has lots of maps--I already marked the port location on the Amsterdam one.
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