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Eurodam Review: Baltic and North Seas (first of the season--May 22/June 3 sailings

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We just returned from a Collector's Voyage (a back to back) on the Eurodam. This was the 2011 season's debut of the Baltic Sea and Northern Sea cruises; each 12 days long. The common ports are Dover, UK, where each cruise originates and both cruises visit Copenhagen, Denmark. The first cruise emphasizes cities around the Baltic area and the second features Scandanavian, English, and Scottish ports.

 

This was an excellent cruise experience for us. Below are some categories where questions often arise and what we experienced:

 

THE SHIP. We found the Eurodam to be in excellent condition, as would be expected for a ship no older than this and just out of drydock. Still, extensive exterior painting occurred during the time we were in port on several occasions. The usual ongoing interior cleaning and polishing was always in evidence. We were assigned cabin 7088; a nice verandah cabin towards the aft end of the port side with no noise or placement concerns. For those who don't like to walk, however, it's about a third of a mile's trek to the forward elevators/stairs if you're headed to the Crow's Nest, library, Explorations Cafe or to the show lounge. On the other hand, the stairs/elevator to the food is just a few steps away.

 

SHIP ELECTRONICS. Important to us! The internet connection was quite good in the cabin and the speed early in the morning was not bad at all. Later in the day it was common to get a "too many subscribers; come back later" screen, but at least you weren't spending your internet time hoping for something to happen on your browser.

 

There was an issue getting into Cruise Critic from the ship which wasn't a problem in port but Cruise Critic fixed it once I was able to let them know about it; the error seems to have been theirs, not the ship's, even though the issue was only occurring aboard--not in ports at all. And it was a wi-fi problem; not occurring if using the ship's hard-wired computers. A HUGE thanks to Cruise Critic for figuring out the problem so quickly! While ordinarily I wouldn't spend much time on Cruise Critic while on expensive at-sea rates, we were on a back-2-back and in charge of the Meet/Greets. I needed to share some information with the Roll Call for the second group.

 

IN-CABIN POWER. Two plugs (and European equivalents) on the desk were adequate for our needs; we didn't need a power strip even though between us we had 2 laptops, an iPad and 2 iPhones, as well as the usual--electric shaver, etc. A plug in the bathroom worked for recharging toothbrushes.

 

FOOD & DINING SERVICE. Excellent, and wonderful service, as we seem to always find. We seldom go to the Lido; only when there's not another option, so I can really only comment on the MDR, the Tamarind, and the Pinnacle (we went to the Chef Dinner). There was something we were eager to choose every night from the menu; we didn't resort to the "every night available" menu at all. There were items new to us on the lunch menus as well, and while we've enjoyed the new breakfast menu before, there are still many listings there that we're happy to take advantage of. Service was fast, even at breakfast, and we enjoyed our times in the dining room very much. We used Room Service too, and the food arrived quickly, at the correct temperature, and the orders were exactly right each time.

 

 

ENTERTAINMENT. In abundance, and quality was good. This is a very port-intensive cruise so there was far less time to spend "out and about" but we did attend the 4 production shows and all of the individual acts in the show lounge. The times were "reversed" in that late-seated dinner guests saw the shows first which isn't my preference but on an itinerary where so many tours began early in the morning, it was understandable that the attendance at a later show would be low so the reverse scheduling made sense. And we enjoyed music in the lounges before and after dinner, too.

 

One expects that on a back2back the big production shows will repeat but usually there are new shows for the other nights. In this instance only 3 were new; the others repeated from the first segment of the cruise. With so much time spent off the ship in port we found that we didn't miss attending the evening show as much as we thought we would so it worked out for us.

 

AROUND THE SHIP. I found the library to be excellent and available titles varied and plentiful. We have laptops so I can't comment on the computers available in the Internet Cafe. We don't use the spa facilities and we didn't do much shopping or any photo-purchasing so I can't comment on those either. The covered pool area seemed very chilly to me (cover was open sometimes when I thought it was really cold!) and we aren't interested in the cabanas so I can't say anything about those except that I didn't see any cabanas in use. I noticed a shuffleboard diagram painted on the Promenade Deck and playing equipment nearby; I wonder how that works out when a lot of people are walking? I didn't see as many lap-walkers as usual nor did I see anyone trying out shuffleboard; just wondering . . .

 

I'm usually cold all over the ship but on the Eurodam I was comfortable going to meals, the lounge areas, and even the main show room in short sleeves or even sleeveless clothes. Never once did I consider taking a blanket to a morning talk in the main show lounge and that's certainly happened on other HAL cruises!

 

INFORMATION. There's a morning show featuring the cruise director on one of the TV channels that outlines what's going on in port and around the ship each day; it seems to be taped very late in the evening of the previous day and lasts just 5 minutes or so, repeated over and over so you can easily catch it. We used this a lot to see what weather updates there were and to catch any last-minute information about port arrival, transportation in the port, etc. It's a little more current than the daily program (The Explorer) that's delivered each evening to the cabin.

 

Ian Page served on both segments of our cruise as the Port Information person and he's very knowledgeable. His "know before you go" talks prior to each cluster of ports were very helpful; he has photos of the port arrival area and can show the audience exactly where to walk to get a cab, train, etc. or to pick up tourist information. (There wasn't a "port shopping" person aboard--there are very few "recommended stores" in these ports!)

 

Ian also served as the Cruise Director for the second of our two cruises; I don't know what happened there to give him "double duty" but his availability for good port information didn't suffer at all.

 

Since this was a European sailing, with many nationalities aboard, there were daily newspaper summaries in many languages distributed via kiosks at the library or at the front desk. Following the new procedure that seems to be in place, none were delivered to the cabins and if the copies ran out, the Front Desk would print more if asked. (The Library didn't seem able to get more copies; best to go to the Front Desk.) The Dining Room had papers available on some mornings. I'd prefer to get it in our cabin mail each morning but can understand that with so many languages that would be a nightmare to figure out a good distribution system. And I've heard that most people don't read it; that's a lot of paper to just end up in the trash.

 

SHIP DEMOGRAPHICS. This is a port-intensive cruise; there were just 4 sea days (of 12) in the first segment and only 3 in the second. Transportation into the cities being visited varied; very little of it was totally free although there are several within walking distance of the ports. We enjoyed this itinerary very much but to take full advantage of it requires some stamina. Lots of walking, lots of stairs. This may explain why we noticed far fewer guests than we usually see using scooters and walkers aboard; perhaps many self-selected more mobility-friendly cruises? The age-mix aboard was "all ages" I'd say. Some children; all very good travelers.

 

And we noticed that even on "smart casual" nights the diners as a group were better-dressed in the MDR than we've noticed on other cruises. More dress shirts, more jackets, more "nicer" dresses and pantsuits were in evidence. A good number of tuxes on formal nights, even though that's more weight in the luggage. A dining supervisor told us that they would turn away the "inappropriately-dressed" on formal nights if any appeared.

 

MARINER'S LUNCH. Very nicely done, we thought. As 4-star Mariners we were invited to the Queen's Lounge before the lunch where the Captain, Hotel Director and Cruise Director bestowed medallions upon many (probably 35 or so) 100-day cruisers and a couple at higher levels as well. Appetizers and drinks were offered as usual. The line into lunch was kept tight so that as it wound through the lineup of others waiting for the lunch to begin the two groups didn't mingle; we were seated together at reserved tables with others who had attended the pre-lunch ceremony. The lunch menu contained a couple of new options--different from our last Mariner's Lunch on the Oosterdam last March.

 

CRUISE CRITIC EVENTS. We had two excellent Meet and Greets (one for each segment of the cruise); at least 70 at the first and over 90 at the second. The Beverage Manager and his staff came through marvelously for us and we were delighted to welcome many ship's officers to the events: 7 came to the first, including the Captain, and 5 came to the second. I'll post photos as soon as I have them organized.

 

ONE AREA NEEDING IMPROVEMENT. We found several problems with the Shore Excursion Department. Although we tend to only use HAL excursions in situations where time and distance make it not realistic to do some exploring on our own, we've used enough on other cruises to have experienced generally uniform, good service on tours that were realistically described and delivered. The Eurodam's staff seemed disorganized and not product-knowledgeable in several cases but I don't think there's any point in belaboring the specifics; chances are that between some staff changes that happened near the end of our cruise and their increasing familiarity with this season's vendors as the season progresses,the problems will self-correct. I think that many cruisers would find, as we did, that there are areas away from some of the ports that would be wonderful spots to visit, but the distance and transportation availability will be difficult to arrange on your own and still be sure you are back in time for sail-away. Thus, one may need to consider using some HAL excursions even if you are usually an independent traveler.

 

My advice would be that if HAL excursions are going to be important to your cruise satisfaction that you consider purchasing a cruise that is not the first of that season. My conversations with Shore Excursions indicated to me that they are either unwilling or unable to check out each excursion at the beginning of the season for accurate representation of the level of activity, vendor's equipment, guide/driver familiarity with each other and the route specifics, etc I was told that they depend on the first guests' reactions to correct such things. You'll be more satisfied, I think, if you schedule your trip for later in the season.

 

If you're taking this cruise soon and want any shore excursion specifics just e-mail me; I'll share whatever I know.

 

THE UNEXPECTED. Of course there were unexpected events, none desired, but these things happen:

1. The night time arrival of a helicopter to take a seriously ill person ashore for quick treatment. After hearing a "bright star" announcement earlier in the evening it was not totally unexpected to hear an all-ship announcement around 11 pm that a helicopter would soon arrive; "watch from inside or on your verandah only and no flash photography." The helicopter that came was very large, lit up the sky, and efficiently carried the stricken person to a shore hospital; the view of the proceedings was good on the ship's forward cam for those who were interested in how this process is done.

 

Later when I get photos up there will be a couple of shots of the helicopter; we had a good view of it from our verandah and from the cam. We heard the next day that the person arrived "alive" at the hospital and they were hoping for the best; clearly this was extremely serious but all were thankful that the intervention worked out well. A steward told me that from the time that the person was stricken until he/she was airlifted from the ship took less than 45 minutes; quick work indeed considering that a land-based helicopter had to fly out to the ship.

 

2. Later in the trip we learned that during the night another guest was taken ashore for treatment; in this instance a tender boat was used (apparently we could get much closer to land this time) and I don't think most of us knew anything about it until the morning announcement. Although we did hear a loud thump and some grinding somewhere in the middle of the night--I didn't think much of it at the time, but that was probably the tender going down or back up.

 

3. Code Red at the near-conclusion of the second half of the cruise. Since no new passengers had joined the ship for over a week it is most likely that there was an infection source ashore visited by a group of passengers since the first report mentioned 22 cabins affected, all the same morning. A few more followed each day after; the ship was to be sanitized between the end of our cruise and the next but. However, quite a few passengers would continue on for the next cruise so it's not possible to start again with a totally clean ship. We heard that free shore excursions were being offered to them for their in-transit day; probably because that would make it easier to thoroughly clean the ship.

 

As soon as we've sorted through the many photos I'll add some to my blog and post the link for those who would like more detailed information about the ports on this itinerary. Meanwhile, I'm happy to answer questions; my e-mail address is below in the signature.

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Marmey,

Could you tell me which nights are the formal nights as we leave next week on this cruise.

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Chase, I can tell you the formal nights but it may not be the same; there will be a different cruise director.

 

On the Baltic portion the formal nights were the first sea day, St. Petersburg 2, and the next to final night, which was also a sea day. On the Northern Sea portion the formal nights were the first sea day, the second Oslo night, and the Edinburgh night.

 

This is a difficult itinerary to set up formal nights. I found it odd that St. Petersburg 2 was a formal night; everyone was exhausted from two very busy days in port and here we are, at a 5 pm sail-away, with Ian inviting everyone out onto the front bow for scenic cruising--and people should go out there in their best clothes? Very awkward. When I asked about it the CD said that it was hard to plan but it was felt that to have used the sea day we'd skipped for a formal night was too close to the previous formal night. Therefore, I'm not sure what your cruise director will choose.

 

There's no good way to plan 3 sea day formal nights on the North Seas portion. The second Oslo night works out; it's a fairly early departure but there are no sea days toward the end of this cruise; the final day is the only sea day but people need to pack, not worry about formal clothes. So, Edinburgh isn't a bad choice but I can see how a cruise director could easily choose the Newcastle night or even the Invergordon night that's just before that.

 

Regardless, there are 3 formal nights in each segment. At least, there were for us.

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CanadaRocks, here's what we chose, and why; adding them up, it looks like there were 7 in total. I'll have details, maps, more information on my blog as soon as we can organize the photos; I'll put the link up. Meanwhile:

 

Germany: HAL's "Berlin's Top Ten" because if we did our own train trip to Berlin and the train returned late we could miss the ship. This tour included the things we most wanted to see and we thought it more efficient than just taking the train in and transporting ourselves to these things.

 

 

Stockholm/Nynasham: Distance from Stockholm was the reason we picked HAL's "Best of Stockholm." Bus trip in/out was scenic; took about an hour. City Hall's Nobel Banquet Hall was excellent. The best part of the Vassa Museum stop was the ice cream stand outside (kroners best but they'll take euros, dollars); our choosing to eat lunch on our own at the Nobel Museum was one of our "best things" on the entire trip.

 

 

Oslo:

One day on our own; the other day we'd purchased HAL's "Kroderbanen Steam Train" but that was unexpectedly canceled by the vendor the evening before. Instead of pouting about it (we'd really, really looked forward to this unique-sounding trip) we decided to make our attitude "HAL's saved us 400 bucks" and went out on our own, on the bus, to the Vigeland Sculptures which was better anyway, considering how rainy and foggy it turned out to be. Probably couldn't have seen the scenery from the train in all that fog.

 

Kristensand:

After a morning on our own in town we used HAL's boat trip to Lillesand ("Lillesand--Jewel of Sorlandet"). This is a great tour--you'll get to see many types of housing along the waterways as the boat snakes in and out and we found a great little lunch place in Lillesand. No problems at all with this one. We couldn't have done this on our own.

 

Bergen:

Hardanger: Queen of the Fjords. Views of the fjords and other sights were lovely but the "trip across a fjord" was a ferry ride of less than 15 minutes where the entire bus was transported across; we could leave the bus to see the fjord (climb up stairs and look out) but had to be back on the bus before the ferry docked. Other problems as well, but we couldn't have done this one on our own--too far from the ship to be sure of getting back. E-mail me if you want details; it's an expensive trip and you'll want to be sure it's exactly what you expect before you spend the money.

 

Invergordon:

"Wild West Highlands and Donan Castle" where an excellent guide made this one work out better than might have been expected. It's a trip all the way across Scotland so we couldn't have done it on our own and been sure of getting back on time; we were late as it was and one sight point had to be omitted.

 

Newcastle:

"Panoramic North Pennines" which we couldn't have done on our own; complicated route out into the country, really used up every minute of our time in port. Poor driver/guide communication reduced the pleasure of this trip.

 

Hope this helps; e-mail me if you want details. I don't want to bore everybody with what might go wrong if it's not a contemplated trip.

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Thanks for the details. We aren't doing any of the ones you did.

 

Unfortunately in Kristiansand the Lillesand tour isn't offered, as it does sound lovely.

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Thanks for the wonderfully detailed review. We board the Eurodam 3 weeks from today for the Baltics portion, and this just contributed to our fever-pitch of excitement.

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Live4, e-mail me if you want other Baltic details; I won't bore the whole board but I've got some great links and stuff.

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Spinner2 I don't think your boring anybody quite honestly!!! Would love to hear more when you get the time. Great review, will be on the same cruise as Live4cruises.

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Spinner2 I don't think your boring anybody quite honestly!!! Would love to hear more when you get the time. Great review, will be on the same cruise as Live4cruises.

 

I totally agree. Please go ahead and post any/all details that you wish to share. There are a whole lot of CC members about to do Baltic cruises and others that aspire to. You won't be boring anyone! :)

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Thanks for all of the kind words. I do think we picked up a lot of good information and tips that are of interest to those who will be doing the Baltic/Northern Seas this summer; for Americans this is an expensive cruise because of the air fare so it makes sense to get as much out of it as you can.

 

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

 

First, I'd recommend planning, planning, planning before you go. The planning that my DH (mostly!) did before we left was priceless. He made a set of Google-based maps filled with links that can be useful to you and the best part is that because these are other people's mostly commercial links they'll be constantly updated. You'll find tons of information; this is the link for the set. Of course the dates will be wrong for you but the information links are the ones below the date that will show up on the map pop-up when you click the city link on the left. Let me know if you need help in using the maps.

 

Next, if you don't have St. Petersburg plans yet I can highly, highly recommend Anna Artyushina's "I love (the heart symbol) St. Petersburg" aka "I Travel St. Petersburg" (e-mail is contrast@stpetersburgguide.com) for wonderful tour services. We used Anna Glushkov with her; a guide beyond belief for what she knows and how quickly she can move you through the crowds, but I believe anyone this agency sends will be excellent. Anna G. explained that these smaller agencies are preferred by the most experienced of the guides and we certainly found her to be such and the cost was in line with what the larger ones were charging. We hired them for a private (just the 2 of us) tour but they could do as well for 8, maybe 10, people. We even went to tea at the home of a local family which was very interesting indeed! You tailor your own agenda with these folks; get some ideas from their website linked above.

 

3. There is free port internet wi fi in Copenhagen (instructions were on the wall by the security officer who looks at your ship card as you come back to the ship; copy down the details) and especially wonderful in Tallinn; their free source will show up in your wi fi possibilities where you normally see what wi fi is available; it's automatic.

 

4. You may want a bit of local money unless you're just doing a HAL tour; some little places won't take dollars or euros. It'll cost you a bit but since you just need a little money, getting it at the ship's Front Office is probably easiest; we got pounds and euros through a bank ATM. But you may need carfare to go to town to get it!

 

5. Transfer from London (or Heathrow) to Dover: can't beat the price of the National Express bus and I can provide instructions on how you can probably get the driver to drop you right in front of the HAL baggage service instead of at the Priory Station. Let me know; I've given this out in many places on CC so you may already know this.

 

6. We love Rick Steves' guidebooks and website; many of his walking tours you can do right out of the books. If the suggested tour guide in his book is a "no reservations, just show up" type check the website before you go to make sure the service is still operating as the print copy can't update such changes.

 

7. Get out there and look for unexpected opportunities! We call this "our serendipity" and we try to find it in every port. The secret is to eavesdrop a bit on the locals, don't be afraid to ask questions, be willing to try something new (as long as it's safe!) and to have a bit of local money so you can do it. I'm going to start a separate thread for this as I think it would be wonderful if others contributed their own moments of serendipity. We find that these moments are often the ones that end up being the most memorable. "Serendipity" as we define it is accidental; you just come across it; it's not a planned tour or anything.

 

I'm working really hard on the blog for this trip; lots more tips/tricks will be there. It's only the photos that are not done; we have so many to go through!

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Thanks again Marney, I'll be looking forward to any info you provide!

 

I'm glad you stressed the pre-planning.... it seems like I've been organizing this cruise forever! ;)

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Thanks so much, Marney for your tips and overall experience on your Baltic cruise. I am in the middle of planning each port, and your notes have certainly been helpful. We are doing the Baltic repositioning cruise (28 days) from London (Dover) and ending in New York, departing Aug. 12th.

 

Once again, thank you.

 

Cynthia

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Thanks again Marney, I'll be looking forward to any info you provide!

 

I'm glad you stressed the pre-planning.... it seems like I've been organizing this cruise forever! ;)

 

 

DITTO!!!!:) But it's been a blast!! Cant wait! Thanks again for all your insight and help. We will be keeping our feelers out for the "serendipity" at the ports.

So there was no problem getting local cash from the front desk, that's going to be real helpful :)

 

Thanks again and looking forward to the pictures!!!

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Marney; thanks for the report. It sounds like you had a wonderful cruise.

We are doing the North Sea yhe 1st of Aug and are really looking forward to it.

 

Your report has been very helpful. I am going to email you about your M&G asking questions. Thank you

Helen

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Sure thing, Helen; e-mail me; I'll look forward to it.

 

Especially if you're spending a few days in London, the pre-planning's so helpful! Having your Oyster cards ready for the tube, lining up a few things that you can pre-arrange and then fill in with spontaneous stuff--we found that we could manage 3 good-sized activities per day pretty easily--will help a lot when you get there, especially if you'd like to not spend a fortune while you're there.

 

BigJohn, currency at Front Desk was no problem; you'll lose a bit in the transaction but not bad and they'll take all but the coins back at the end. If you have only Euros the ship converts to dollars first. They won't have rubles; if you need a little cash for St Petersburg get some rubles the day before in Estonia. They have them. Major money; bank ATM. Much better rates. And try to use a credit card that doesn't tack fees on.

 

In St. Petersburg the agency was fine with our paying for the tours with a credit card (and no upfront costs; we didn't pay until the end of the second day--all the risk is on them) but we tipped in American money. When we sat down with the agency owner to pay her we showed her the bills we planned to use for the tip; she shook her head at some (even though they were brand new) and exchanged them for some that she had, saying her bank was more "lenient" and that the bills she was exchanging with us would be easier for our guide to turn in at her bank. They seem pretty picky at the banks there!

 

Two more things--take good walking shoes; many cobblestones and some are rather sharp (I could feel them through my Nikons) and take a clip for your cabin curtains. The sun will be up still when you go to bed and will have risen long before you wake up. Unless you don't care if sun streams in through the curtain gap!

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Sure thing, Helen; e-mail me; I'll look forward to it.

 

Especially if you're spending a few days in London, the pre-planning's so helpful! Having your Oyster cards ready for the tube, lining up a few things that you can pre-arrange and then fill in with spontaneous stuff--we found that we could manage 3 good-sized activities per day pretty easily--will help a lot when you get there, especially if you'd like to not spend a fortune while you're there.

 

BigJohn, currency at Front Desk was no problem; you'll lose a bit in the transaction but not bad and they'll take all but the coins back at the end. If you have only Euros the ship converts to dollars first. They won't have rubles; if you need a little cash for St Petersburg get some rubles the day before in Estonia. They have them. Major money; bank ATM. Much better rates. And try to use a credit card that doesn't tack fees on.

 

In St. Petersburg the agency was fine with our paying for the tours with a credit card (and no upfront costs; we didn't pay until the end of the second day--all the risk is on them) but we tipped in American money. When we sat down with the agency owner to pay her we showed her the bills we planned to use for the tip; she shook her head at some (even though they were brand new) and exchanged them for some that she had, saying her bank was more "lenient" and that the bills she was exchanging with us would be easier for our guide to turn in at her bank. They seem pretty picky at the banks there!

 

Two more things--take good walking shoes; many cobblestones and some are rather sharp (I could feel them through my Nikons) and take a clip for your cabin curtains. The sun will be up still when you go to bed and will have risen long before you wake up. Unless you don't care if sun streams in through the curtain gap!

 

 

 

Marney You Rock!!!!!, thanks so much, I could never quite get a clear answer on the money exchange, you made it simple....also thanks for curtain clip advise :) just got a capital one venture card last week and will use that at the bank ATM's

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BigJohn, I forgot to mention that if you'll use the maps link I provided above you'll find that the current exchange rate is being flowed onto each city's page-- up at the top left. You can use that as a guide to how much you might need to exchange.

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Thanks for a great review. We are on the Baltic cruise from 27 June so it was really helpful. Which night was the Master Chefs dinner on the Baltic portion, please?

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A great review and so much great information here for many cruisers. Thanks so much for it all:)

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We were on the June 3rd segment (Fjords & Highlands). Marney, this was an excellent review that you submitted here. (I am submitting a review under the Eurodam member reviews section.) We could not ask for a more kinder, knowledgeable Meet & Greet organizer than you. Well Done!!! Tom:):)

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We were on the June 3rd segment (Fjords & Highlands). Marney, this was an excellent review that you submitted here. (I am submitting a review under the Eurodam member reviews section.) We could not ask for a more kinder, knowledgeable Meet & Greet organizer than you. Well Done!!! Tom:):)

Marney - Great review and information as Tom mentioned - How much do you charge to ghost-write? I'm looking forward to seeing the photos and meeting you and George on another cruise.

Tom - I'll be looking forward to your review as well.:)

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(Blushing madly here) Thanks, but putting the Meet/Greet together was easy with the help I got from the whole group. A special shout-out to David (cruise2rejuv) who handled the collection of cabin numbers for the June 3 group and helped organize the M/G, and to nncruiser (Nick) who organized the roll call list for the May 22 group.

 

Since I was already aboard the ship and with problems getting into CC as well David and Tom (Protseq) both transferred information that I wanted to get to the June 3 group onto the CC board. And thanks to Chemmy who originated that roll call for her help in greeting all of the 90+ people who came to the June 4 M/G!

 

I'll head over now to look at Protseq's wise words; we all have our own experiences on a cruise and I look forward to learning more about his.

 

We got so much valuable information before the cruise and I'm happy to return a bit of the favor to those who still will take this incredible trip.

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Marnie,

Thank you for organising th M&G! It helped make the cruise into a fabulous first cruise for us.

Ps: I posted a much less detailed review in the review section.

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Marney,

Thank you for your well written review.

We were on the Eurodam, Barcelona to Dover, and sadly disembarked on May 22nd. We enjoyed the ship very much and thought the food was the best on any of our HAL cruises.

We thought Ian Page did a great job and would be happy to have him again.

I do wonder about Dominic, the Cruise Director, though. He said that he and his wife were expecting their first baby in August so I hope his was a planned leave and not an emergency. Does anyone know?

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Thanks for the awesome review of your cruise. :D We are booking a Gems of the Baltic cruise for next year aboard the Eurodam roundtrip Copenhagen. I was wondering what your opinions are on the choice of either the cruise departing June 14 or June 24. The difference is the June 14 cruise has an overnight stay in the Warnemunde port for Berlin instead of continuing on to Kiel (Hamburg). Since you mentioned the difficulty in seeing everything in Berlin with enough time to make it back to the ship, do you think staying overnight would be an advantage? We are taking my BIL and SIL on their first cruise so I will be spending a lot of time planning so they have a fabulous cruise. :D Thanks!

Diane

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Divi, I don't know about Dominic. You're right about the baby; it's due in August. I could have misunderstood him but when we discussed the Meet/Greet on Embarkation Afternoon he told me what a fan of CC he is, assured me he'd be there if a little late (Captain's announcement at the same time as the M///g; he has to add stuff at the end) and that he looked forward to both M/G's (May 22 and June 3). We joked about as big as the May 22 one would be, that the June 3 would be even bigger and he said he knew we could cope. Then I learned on his morning show the day before disembarkation that he'd be disembarking on June 3; Ian would be CD and the Travel Guide.

 

I didn't have but a brief moment to talk to him later that afternoon; he said that he'd not been scheduled even for the May 22 cruise but they needed him but he thought his wife would be a bit upset with him if he didn't come home by June 3; let's talk later today. I didn't see him later in the day for more details, so that's all I know. And I wouldn't post this on a public internet forum if I thought any of that was a secret.

 

So, like you, I hope it was routine and that his wife/baby are fine. He's a great CD and especially nice to work with for Cruise Critic events.

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Schoolinmy3, that's an interesting possibility--overnighting in Warnemunde or adding another German port. That's not an option we had. Give me some time this evening to go look at both itineraries and see if I can add any details that might help you with your decision. Can't do it right now, but I didn't want to be seeming to neglect you.

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Thanks Marney! Not an immediate rush, but I am leaning towards the cruise on the 14th - our anniversary is the 18th (24th) so we'd be able to celebrate on the cruise.:D

Diane

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Still working on my review of the Baltic cruise (returned with a sinus infection unfortunately) but one pre-cruise recommendation. If you're a Netflix subscriber, order "The Singing Revolution". This will give you a good background for Tallin and Estonia. I saw it after I returned and wished I had seen it before. Very good documentary and it made me realize how lucky we were to see this city before it becomes too touristy. Estonia hasn't been open to the rest of the world for too many years and this was one of the most unspoiled cities I ever visited. Rick Steve's walking tour is good but our cruise gathered enough folks to book an inexpensive (20 euros) walking tour with a native Estonian throubh SBP. Very nice and she even waited for payment from some of the tour members until they could get to an ATM for Euros.

 

More later in my review but the Baltic cruise was close to perfect. Marney's opinions are close to my own.

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Estonia hasn't been open to the rest of the world for too many years and this was one of the most unspoiled cities I ever visited. Rick Steve's walking tour is good but our cruise gathered enough folks to book an inexpensive (20 euros) walking tour with a native Estonian throubh SBP. Very nice and she even waited for payment from some of the tour members until they could get to an ATM for Euros.

 

More later in my review but the Baltic cruise was close to perfect. Marney's opinions are close to my own.

 

We are doing the same walking tour with SPB Tours in July, and yours is the first review I've read. Thanks! :)

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Thanks for all of the kind words. I do think we picked up a lot of good information and tips that are of interest to those who will be doing the Baltic/Northern Seas this summer; for Americans this is an expensive cruise because of the air fare so it makes sense to get as much out of it as you can.

 

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

 

First, I'd recommend planning, planning, planning before you go. The planning that my DH (mostly!) did before we left was priceless. He made a set of Google-based maps filled with links that can be useful to you and the best part is that because these are other people's mostly commercial links they'll be constantly updated. You'll find tons of information; this is the link for the set. Of course the dates will be wrong for you but the information links are the ones below the date that will show up on the map pop-up when you click the city link on the left. Let me know if you need help in using the maps.

 

Next, if you don't have St. Petersburg plans yet I can highly, highly recommend Anna Artyushina's "I love (the heart symbol) St. Petersburg" aka "I Travel St. Petersburg" (e-mail is contrast@stpetersburgguide.com) for wonderful tour services. We used Anna Glushkov with her; a guide beyond belief for what she knows and how quickly she can move you through the crowds, but I believe anyone this agency sends will be excellent. Anna G. explained that these smaller agencies are preferred by the most experienced of the guides and we certainly found her to be such and the cost was in line with what the larger ones were charging. We hired them for a private (just the 2 of us) tour but they could do as well for 8, maybe 10, people. We even went to tea at the home of a local family which was very interesting indeed! You tailor your own agenda with these folks; get some ideas from their website linked above.

 

3. There is free port internet wi fi in Copenhagen (instructions were on the wall by the security officer who looks at your ship card as you come back to the ship; copy down the details) and especially wonderful in Tallinn; their free source will show up in your wi fi possibilities where you normally see what wi fi is available; it's automatic.

 

4. You may want a bit of local money unless you're just doing a HAL tour; some little places won't take dollars or euros. It'll cost you a bit but since you just need a little money, getting it at the ship's Front Office is probably easiest; we got pounds and euros through a bank ATM. But you may need carfare to go to town to get it!

 

5. Transfer from London (or Heathrow) to Dover: can't beat the price of the National Express bus and I can provide instructions on how you can probably get the driver to drop you right in front of the HAL baggage service instead of at the Priory Station. Let me know; I've given this out in many places on CC so you may already know this.

 

6. We love Rick Steves' guidebooks and website; many of his walking tours you can do right out of the books. If the suggested tour guide in his book is a "no reservations, just show up" type check the website before you go to make sure the service is still operating as the print copy can't update such changes.

 

7. Get out there and look for unexpected opportunities! We call this "our serendipity" and we try to find it in every port. The secret is to eavesdrop a bit on the locals, don't be afraid to ask questions, be willing to try something new (as long as it's safe!) and to have a bit of local money so you can do it. I'm going to start a separate thread for this as I think it would be wonderful if others contributed their own moments of serendipity. We find that these moments are often the ones that end up being the most memorable. "Serendipity" as we define it is accidental; you just come across it; it's not a planned tour or anything.

 

I'm working really hard on the blog for this trip; lots more tips/tricks will be there. It's only the photos that are not done; we have so many to go through!

Thanks for your review. I am interested your experience in requesting the driver to drop you off at the Dover cruise terminal rather than the depot.

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Thanks for the awesome review of your cruise. :D We are booking a Gems of the Baltic cruise for next year aboard the Eurodam roundtrip Copenhagen. I was wondering what your opinions are on the choice of either the cruise departing June 14 or June 24. The difference is the June 14 cruise has an overnight stay in the Warnemunde port for Berlin instead of continuing on to Kiel (Hamburg). Since you mentioned the difficulty in seeing everything in Berlin with enough time to make it back to the ship, do you think staying overnight would be an advantage? We are taking my BIL and SIL on their first cruise so I will be spending a lot of time planning so they have a fabulous cruise. :D Thanks!

Diane

 

Diane, we also debated these dates, but chose the 24th for a few reasons. One, it allowed us to miss less work (important consideration for us). The cruise on the 24th leaves on a Sunday and ends on July 4th. Also, because of the time it takes to get back and forth from Berlin, the only way to enjoy more time in Berlin would be to stay in a hotel in Berlin overnight, which we didn't want to do. Last, if we want to go to Lubeck, which we are debating, it is a shorter trip (we would do it on our own) from Kiel. The one advantage we saw to Warnemunde, is that on the second day, there seems to be more to do in port than in Kiel. Either way, it should be a great trip.

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Marney,

 

Anticipating our upcoming trip, it is great fun to read your review. Thanks so very much for posting such detailed information. It's an invaluable help to those of us who are going on the same itinerary. Among other things, I'd never have thought to pack a clip for the curtains! ;)

 

We are signed up in Bergen for the excursion "Hardanger: Queen of the Fjords" and I'm now having second thoughts. My motivation for taking this tour is a determination to see at least one dramatic fjord while in Norway, and I wasn't certain that would happen without this excursion. I'd love to hear your opinion and details of your experience. If you prefer to e-mail a response, you may send it to businessmailbox@bellsouth.net.

 

Thanks again for all your help!

Melissa

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My wife and I took this excursion while on the June 3rd Fjords and Highland cruise. I was disappointed to say the least. We were on the second tour that was added because of demand. I remember spending the majority of our time riding in the coach, seeing scenery around this fjord. What I was looking forward to was the ferry ride, and actually sailing on the water. What we got was a short 15 minute car ferry ride on our return to Bergen. Don't get my wrong, it was an educational tour, the lunch stop was decent yet I was disappointed of not seeing a dramatic fjord while on the water. This is just my opinion of course. Your experience maybe different. Tom

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Diane, we also debated these dates, but chose the 24th for a few reasons. One, it allowed us to miss less work (important consideration for us). The cruise on the 24th leaves on a Sunday and ends on July 4th. Also, because of the time it takes to get back and forth from Berlin, the only way to enjoy more time in Berlin would be to stay in a hotel in Berlin overnight, which we didn't want to do. Last, if we want to go to Lubeck, which we are debating, it is a shorter trip (we would do it on our own) from Kiel. The one advantage we saw to Warnemunde, is that on the second day, there seems to be more to do in port than in Kiel. Either way, it should be a great trip.

 

Thank you for your feedback. :) I can see your point with missing work days. That may be a factor for my husband. His brother who is travelling with us is a retired state police trooper so not a factor for him. We are combining this cruise with a car trip to Normandy. My husband and his brother have always planned to visit the D-day landings. It is a trek, but we have family in Belgium to break up the trip. So we would be staying for another five days most likely after the cruise and flying home from out of a different airport.

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Protseq, we fully agree with your comment about how the description "cross the fjord" turned out to be a 12-minute (I timed it!) ride in a bus across a narrow part of a small fjord where the only way to see anything was to climb an interior metal staircase on the car ferry and look out, making sure you were back in your seat before the ferry reaches the opposite shore. I know, as do you, that all the description said was that participants would "cross a fjord" but honestly--would anyone have thought that meant to cross it quickly while sitting on a bus or standing on a metal staircase to see out?

 

I'm glad to see that we weren't the only ones that assumed a decent ride on a boat of some sort! I certainly complained about this to Shore Excursions when we returned; she asked me how I thought it might be rewritten to make it more clear. I nicely suggested they'd surely think of something.

 

I sent this information to schoolinmy3--along with a couple of other comments about this tour!

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