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sue117

Eurodam Baltic Review June 15-27

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Hello from the Eurodam! We are on our last day at sea and we disembark tomorrow. I thought since we had some minutes left on our plan that I would start my review today! :)

 

It might be a bit disjointed, but bear with me, and feel free to ask any questions along the way. I'm going to split it up, and post some pics. Also, we will be flying home all day tomorrow (Monday) so don't be anxious if I'm not back on right away!

 

We were on the Baltic Cruise from June 15-June 27.

 

Wednesday June 15, 2011-London Hotel

We slept not so good. I think we were concerned about making sure we got up in time to catch our shuttle back to the airport. I had arranged for the shuttle back home via the Internet. Our pick up time was between 6-6:30. We made it downstairs at 5:55 and our shuttle driver was already there. Excellent! He was very polite and we had a nice chat while picking up the other passengers and getting to the airport. We arrived back at the baggage claim around 730 or so. We beat the plane that we supposedly were coming in on. For the ship transport you have to give Holland America flight details on a plane that arrives on the morning the ship leaves. Otherwise they won’t have you on their list and they won’t pick you up. Since we beat all the people coming off the planes (it was very busy there today! Perhaps because it was a weekday. So it was most likely taking people longer to go through customs). So we sat for about 45 minutes and waited for our turn to board the bus. The HA lady was very nice and made sure she didn’t leave without us! We boarded the bus and made our way towards Dover. The bus ride took about 2 hours, the traffic wasn’t too bad.

 

 

 

The bus ride to Dover took about an hour and a half. The bus was nice and most people took a nap on the way there. We arrived in Dover around 10:30am. We learned when we arrived that we would not be able to get onboard the ship until 1 or 1:30 because of the code red and the extreme cleaning of the ship because of the outbreaks of the noro virus from the cruise before us. That actually worked in our favor as we really wanted to go up to the visitors center at the White Cliffs of Dover. There was a free shuttle bus that they offered us to go both into the city proper and/or to the Dover castle. We went up to the castle. We asked and the lady said to go up and around and take the next right to get to the visitors center. No problem. There was a sign that said there was no sidewalk, again, no problem. We started off. We were able to get a geocache (google "geocaching" for more info...basically a "scavenger hunt" everywhere in the world). that I didnt think we were near, so that was a bonus.

 

At one point my husband said we need to cross the road and walk on the other side because of the bushes on this side and that curve coming up. We were doing the right thing and walking into traffic. We hadnt seen a car in about 10 minutes even, and I thought he was being a bit silly, but I humored him. So DH crossed the street and I started to follow himright at that moment a car came screaming around the corner.right at me. I squealed like a little girl, and for a moment I didnt know if I should go back or go forward.Finally I leaped forward and the car whooshed past me. Seriously. I almost got run over. It was so scary! My heart was beating really fast and DH was not happy at all. Not mad at me, just his reaction to me almost being hit!

After that we continued on our walk up the road, being extra cautious now, but of course we didnt see too many more cars!

 

Finally we made it to the top. We had a great view of the Dover Castle and the Eurodam! Took some pics and continued to the visitors center for the White Cliffs. It was beautiful up there! Took some pics and hung out, then decided it was time to head back down. DH decided he was NOT going to go back down the road where I almost died, so we took the footpath back down to the ferry. We wouldnt be catching the shuttle back to the ship, but I figure that was a good tradeoff for not dying!

It was about 2.5 miles back to the ship, but the day was lovely, the sun was out and I was living and breathing! By the time we got back to the ship it was 1:30 and people were boarding! We got our boarding card (yellow) and waited in the staging area for about 20 minutes or so. When we were called we went through security and were on board! It was a bit different than in the past because we didnt board IN the ship, the gangplank went onto the Promenade deck, THEN we went into the ship.

We made our way to the 8th floor and entered our room. We are in the last room on the port side, aft. Our little balcony is fine, and I was glad that we were on the left so when we left I could take some pics of the white cliffs without the ferries and other noise in the frame.

 

We ate a quick lunch in the Lido. Overall people seemed to be behaving themselves! Lol. Since it was a code red we were served rather than self-serve, but that worked out fine. I love salad and thats what I got. DH got a ruben sandwich. We ate and headed back down to unpack.

I did go down to the front desk to sign up for the private ship tour. I had read all about it on Cruise Critic and decided that it was something I wanted to do. DH didnt have any desire to do it, but told me to go for it. The lady at the front desk clearly was confused as she kept telling me to just go upstairs and go on the tour, finally I got it through to her by saying that I wanted to go on the expensive paid tour. She then understood. She didnt know what day it was going to be on, but she charged it to the room. Later tonight she called and said that they didnt know if they would even have the tour because of the code red, but that I would be informed later in the cruise if it would happen. I sure hope it does! Im looking forward to it!

Oh and did everyone know that you don't have to wear your lifejacket to the lifeboat drill anymore? What a surprise! And they didn't take roll call either! Hummmm. They say it's mandatory, but don't take roll call. That was a first for us!

We left a bit late, I think because of late arrivals and something about the ferry. I had wanted to get pics of the cliffs before we went to dinner, but just as it was 5:30 (early dining) the ship starting moving. So I went with DH to the dining room, saw where we were seated, told him what I wanted and rushed out to the promonade to take my photos. I even got some of the Dover Harbor guide going down the rope ladder back onto his ship once we got out of the harbor area.

Our dinner table is lovely. We are at the back of the dining room right by a window. We have a great view of the back of the ship. Of course for the first night it was mostly a few of water and ferries criss crossing their way back and forth to France. Dinner was good. We always like the food. Maybe we are too pedestrian, but we arent food critics and always enjoy the food, We like the three courses of food and eating slowly and talking with our table mates. We are at a table for 6, and are with 2 other couples from the States. I thought that this cruise might have a more international feel to it as we left out of England, but so far I dont see it.

We are not the type to want to hang out in the bars and listen to the music, so I cant give any thoughts about those. We went to bed early as we had had a long 4 days prior to getting on the ship and were tired from the long day of walking.

 

more later!! :)

 

Below is the "road of death" that goes up to the White Cliffs Visitor Center. NO sidewalks...they do warn you, but that didn't help when I almost got run over!

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The beautiful White Cliffs of Dover and the Castle

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Room 8160 and my DH on the Eurodam

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And me and DH on our verandah ready to start our vacation!

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Hi Sue

 

We are leaving tomorrow on the 27th June Baltic cruise. Thanks for the review. Which night was the Chefs Dinner with all the baked alaska parading, please? We were hoping to book the Tamarind for that night, but weren't sure which night it was.......

 

Thanks

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Hi Milamber,

 

All being well, we will be with you tomorrow on the Eurodam! We are driving to Dover in the morning. Hoping daughter will be there in time too - she's planning on leaving Glastonbury at 4am and travelling via her house in London (for a shower and to pick up her suitcase) to Dover! If she doesn't make it, she will just have to find a cheap flight to Copenhagen on Tuesday!

 

We were on the Eurodam a few weeks ago in the Mediterranean and the Masterchef Dinner was on the last night of the cruise. From memory it has been the last night on every HAL cruise we have done, so I expect it will be the same on this one ie on Friday 8th July - the night before we arrive back at Dover.

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Hi Sue

 

We are leaving tomorrow on the 27th June Baltic cruise. Thanks for the review. Which night was the Chefs Dinner with all the baked alaska parading, please? We were hoping to book the Tamarind for that night, but weren't sure which night it was.......

 

Thanks

 

Yes, it was tonight, the 26th, the last night before we dock tomorrow. can't say I was much impressed with it, it was exactly the same as it was when we cruised last to Alaska...but the tenderloin that I had tonight was yummy! :)

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First day at sea

Today was a very lazy day for us, especially me. Again, I go on vacation to be on vacation, so we got up late, went up to the Lido, had a bagel, came back to the room, read some of my vacation books. Went up for lunch, went back to the room, read some more, got dressed up and went to dinner. Now Im back in the room. Some people will be flabbergasted that I did nothing but hang in the room all day, but I love to read and having the time to read while being gently rocked by the ship is MY idea of vacation!

 

DH did a bit more than I did today! He roamed the ship, wrote 2 pages on an 8 page paper that will be due soon, changed some dollars to Euros in preparation for Germany, read some in the room with me, wandered the ship some more, ran 2 miles in the gym, then went to dinner with me!

So for todays review you dont get too much. I am not allowed to play Bingo anymore onboard because my husband says that I am too competitive. I get mad when I dont win and its not fun! Lol. I dont sing, neither one of us drinkso Im not sure how much this review will help anyone as we are both pretty laid back when it comes to our vacations. Put us on a ship and were happy! We tend to go with the flow and not complain about stuff. But honestly so far I dont have any complaintsok, maybe onethe hand sanitizer squirter people standing at the doors to the Lido take their job way too seriously! Lol. On our way into the Lido we got squirted. We found a seat. I wanted a diet coke, so I went out to the pool deck bar, presented my drink card, was told I needed my room key to activate it, went back into the Lido, got squirted. Went back out to the pool bar, got my Diet Coke and went back into the Lido and they wanted to squirt me again! Lol Its not really a complaint as I would rather people be squirted with the hand sanitizer than have me get sick. It was just amusing.

Tomorrow we are in Copenhagen. We have not signed up for any tours, but we will be paying for the shuttle to get into the city proper (around Triviloi Gardens). We will be geocaching in the area, and if I can prevent us from having to walk another 10 miles Ill be happy! We figure that we will see a lot of the city while geocaching and many of the caches are placed in tourist spots anyway.

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looking forward to the next part of your review and just love the pictures. very, very nice:) thanks so much:)

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Thanks, both. Thought it might be the last night, but had read a couple of Eurodam reviews saying it was the penultimate night.

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Tomorrow we are in Copenhagen. We have not signed up for any tours, but we will be paying for the shuttle to get into the city proper (around Triviloi Gardens). We will be geocaching in the area, and if I can prevent us from having to walk another 10 miles Ill be happy! We figure that we will see a lot of the city while geocaching and many of the caches are placed in tourist spots anyway.

 

OOOH. :D We love geocaching. Our daughter's homeschool group had a geocaching class this year. The teacher even had the class make a travel bug - Guy Smiley. We also have been finding caches as a family since 2005 off and on. We haven't tried one in Europe yet and we will be on a Baltic cruise next year so please let us know the best ports to look for the caches.

Diane

Edited by schoolinmy3

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sue117

Thank you for reporting on your cruise.

It's reassuring to know that the crew are vigilant with passengers using the hand sanitizer.

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Love your pictures. Very pretty indeed.

Please keep the review coming, love reading it. I am also a geocacher too. Maybe one day I will be able to visit the Baltics. I had a desire to go there for a long time since I have been to Alaska now and really love the mountains and cool weather.

 

David

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We will be geocaching in the area, and if I can prevent us from having to walk another 10 miles Ill be happy! We figure that we will see a lot of the city while geocaching and many of the caches are placed in tourist spots anyway.

 

DH and I enjoy caching while traveling. It's a great way to find some spots we might never see, and beyond the initial investment, it's a great bargain! I'm currently lining up my cache list for our upcoming Alaska trip!

 

I have a travelbug in Germany that has traveled almost 23,000 miles.

 

Thanks for sharing!

Edited by trvlcrzy

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Where'd you leave your luggage when you went to the White cliffs?

 

Once we handed over our suitcases ta the airport we didn't see them again until we were in our room. So we didn't have have to worry about them while in Dover. We did have our "carry ons", but they were backpacks, so we could carry them around.

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O We haven't tried one in Europe yet and we will be on a Baltic cruise next year so please let us know the best ports to look for the caches.

Diane

 

ALL of them! :) There are caches everywhere. The closest one to the ship that we found was in Helsinki, it was 200 feet from the ship!

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Copenhagen

Copenhagen was good. We paid for the shuttle bus to take us into town because we didn’t have any official excursions scheduled. You have to pay to get into Trivili gardens, and we didn’t want to do that, so we just walked around and geocached. We saw lots of neat buildings, walked around the pedestrian only shopping area and got rained on. We didn’t bring an umbrella, but that was ok, we had our raincoats. (but I would recommend that you bring a travel size one…it could come in very handy!) We actually ended up walking about 6 miles because we had to walk an extra 2 miles to go back to where we had already been in the city because of a mystery geocache that I had the wrong coords for, but overall it was a good day. We saw many people that had the Holland American sticker on their shirt so we knew that we were seeing lots of the “right” places downtown as a result!

 

 

 

I’m sure that everyone wants to know about life on board the ship. Well, I will admit up front that my husband and I are hermits. We work all day with people. Meeting new people, talking with people, solving people’s problems, so when we go on vacation, we like to relax. And that generally doesn’t mean “making nice” with strangers.

 

So we didn’t participate in the team trivia, we didn’t go to the Ocean bar and hang out. We didn’t go to the Northern Lights and trip the light fantastic. We hung out together, read a lot of books in our room and in other nooks on the ship. I’ll tell ya, the Silk Den is a gold mine for being quiet! Most of the time people weren’t in there, it only started hopping towards the evenings. We didn’t order room service in the mornings, we went upstairs and got a nice hot omelet each morning. We ordered breakfast room service in the past and usually it was a bit chilled. Not that they did anything wrong, but I prefer hot toast right out of the toaster.

I DID take someone’s advice here on Cruise Critic and order club sandwiches for our trips ashore. What a life saver!!! I ordered them the night before, ordered them DRY (with no mayo), stuck them in the little fridge (wrapped up in the linen that the silverware came wrapped up in since I had no plastic baggie (that would be a great thing to put on your list if you are going to go on a cruise….plastic baggies)). They came in handy in Russia and also in Germany and when we were walking around on our own and weren’t near the ship.

 

 

This is looking out into the port from being docked. The windmills were beautiful!

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Patrick and our first cache in Copenhagen. If you look VERY closely, you can see the geocache under the bench on the right hand side! It is a film canister.

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Thought this picture was hilarious. "probably" the best beer?? lol

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Edited by sue117

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Germany

We opted for the Holland America excursion to Berlin in Germany. Neither of us had been to Berlin and I really wanted to see it. We had the “city tour” and time on our own. We figured that a bit of a bus tour wouldn’t be a bad thing. The train pulled up right next to the cruise ship docks. It was very convenient. It was a train car only for the cruise passengers on excursions going to Berlin. So we didn’t stop for any other passengers or any other people getting on and off. That was helpful.

We DID stop on our way there because there was a man who had had a mild heart attack. He had passed out twice before we stopped, and finally the decision was made by the tour manager to send him to the hospital. His lips were blue and he was very pale, but he was conscious and talking. But she figured it would be better to be safe, so off he went in an ambulance to the German Hospital. We heard on our way back that he had been discharged and sent back to the ship, so it was good that he didn’t miss any of the cruise (although he DID miss Berlin!).

Our tour guide was very good, although she talked non stop. Don’t get me wrong, she was very knowledgeable, but I’m not sure we needed to know what every single building was that we passed. Eventually we did get “released” from the bus and we had 4 hours on our own in Berlin. It was honestly amazing to be standing by the destroyed wall, and to be in East Germany. I guess because all that history happened in my lifetime it made it more “real” or something. Then we had the 3 hours train ride back to the ship.

 

It was an exhausting day. The trip was long and we were glad to be back on the bus. I’m not sure that we will ever take an excursion that was that long again. We’re more happy to stay in port and be able to go back to the ship when we are tired and not have to wait for the bus, and the train….

 

At the Brandenburg Gate

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Checkpoint Charlie --DH..the retired Army Sergeant was NOT happy with the "fake" soldiers set up for pictures on the other side of the little building here in the middle of the street. So you won't see it in the picture!

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In the old East Germany

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Everywhere the wall USED to be and isn't anymore they have put down these cobblestones to "commemorate" it. I thought it was neat.

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The Holocaust memorial. Very well done and interesting.

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(I have no idea why the "up and down" pictures aren't up and down! They are that way on photobucket! Oh well, you can turn your headsideways to look at them! lol. Sorry about that!)

 

And one of many photos I took of the parts of the wall that are still standing

 

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More examples of the cobblestones showing where the wall used to be. This is, of course, now in the middle of a street.

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Tallin

Tallin was beautiful. Very easy to walk from the ship to the old town. It really is a town of contractions…the new city right next to the old city with its cobblestone streets and the old castle wall. I must admit that we were happy every time when we were walking around and saw people with the Holland America excursion stickers on their shirts. Means that we were seeing things that others paid for…and we didn’t!

We had a hard time finding geocaches here though! We must have had about 6 or 7 that we tried to find that we couldn’t. Either they were hidden very well, or we weren’t good at finding them, or we were just bad lookers that day!

The memorial to the sinking of the ferry in 2002 (I think) that killed over 800 people was very moving. And scary too. We saw a lot of ferries when we were in that part of the world and it’s no wonder so many people died. Think of a small cruise ship that would just suddenly sink or roll over. It’s not like those ferries are open aired boats…they have enclosed cabins, with no verandas, just like a cruise ship. So if it suddenly tipped over…there is no way that people could escape.

 

 

 

 

 

We also avoided the photographers like the plague on the cruise. I know that my weakness is photos, so we just went around them and refused to have our pictures taken when we got off the ship and when they came around at the formal nights at dinner. HOWEVER, if I had known this little piece of knowledge, it might have changed my attitude towards those pictures…..there was a note on like our 3rd to last day in the daily program that said that you could get ALL the pictures taken on the cruise of you for $300…if I had known that I would have made my husband get all sorts of photos taken! Every time we got off the ship, at EVERY station set up at nights before dinner. The photo people set up the photo shoots…5 different backgrounds most nights). We would have gone to each one and had our photos taken. THAT would have been a deal. I’m not sure if there was “fine print” attached to that $300 offer, but if one of the nice photos was $40 (an 8x10 and 2 wallets) that would have been a bargin!

We did sign up for a “blacklabel photo” experience on this cruise. We did it on the formal night when DH was in his tux and I was also dressed up. Samantha took a million photos (ok, maybe 300) and then we set up an appointment to come back and look at them on another day. They were all very nice (of course) and even nicer that Sam could photoshop our out wrinkles on the extreme upclose shots. We did buy a package, but be warned…they are NOT cheap! (was it worth it?....maybe. Since we didn’t really buy any knick knacks as souvenirs I think it was ok, but if we spent a ton on excursions and other things then we probably wouldn’t have splurged on the photos). We went with the “digital” package, so we could have the photos on a CD Rom to do with what we pleased when we got home. If (of course) was more expensive than getting the package when they ship the photos to you all done up and nice on cork board. But now we can use them in holiday cards and do up our own presents for people. The black and white photos are very nice…I think that black and white does wonders for anyone…makes us all look nicer I think! Lol I'll post one or two here and you can decide!

 

 

This is the memorial to the sinking of the Ferry in Tallin

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Wall of the "old town" Tallin

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"Fat Margaret" In Tallin

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One of our "Blacklabel" photos

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Another of our "blacklabel" photos

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Great review! One question - do you know if HAL provided a shuttle to the Old Town in Tallinn and how steep was the climb to see the sites once you got there?

Thanks

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Great review! One question - do you know if HAL provided a shuttle to the Old Town in Tallinn and how steep was the climb to see the sites once you got there?

Thanks

 

I'm glad that someone is still reading! :)

 

I don't think there was a ship shuttle because we were so close. But there was a "hop on, hop off" bus in every port. You would pay them and it would make loops to the tourist sites and you could get on and off at will. I'm sure if you google it you could find info.

I do recall Ian the port guy/cruise director saying that at Tallin it didn't really go into the town because of the curvy streets. A bus is just too big. I think even the excursions on the ship couldn't get the buses in there. There were also taxis at the pier that you could take too. There were some hills in old town but they didn't seem too bad. :)

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Really been enjoying your great pictures and review! We did this itinerary on th Eurodam last year and loved it--Tallin was a highlight. This year, our family of five was on the cruise before yours--Fjords and Highlands--and the ship was hit with noro, although we were thankfully spared! The crew were really working overtime, though. There was some concern about your sailing because several hundred passengers from our leg were continuing on for the Baltic trip. I see you boarded a bit late because of the cleaning, but did you eventually get out of Code Red? Just wondered how it all turned out. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip! Your black and white photos are lovely.

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Everyone on our sailing actually was offered a free refund if they didn't want o go because of the sickness. I have no idea if anyone took them up on it or not. The code red was cancelled after our first day in St Petersburg. I think that was day 6 or so. And I am sure the crew was relieved because it LOOKED like a lot more work for them!

 

Thanks for your Kind words about the review. I'll get the Russia review up tonight. :)

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So greatful for you review! We are doing the trip on the Rotterdam sailing 26th so has been really good to read reviews, looking forward to your Russian one!

 

My husband and I are rather like both of you, younge but prefer a good book to the nightlife so your reviews have helped us a lot!

 

Keep posting because I will definately keep reading

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Also, have to add this .... we live in Rotterdam so went to see the Rotterdam in port today getting ready or the crossing to New York, and as I am writing this we are listening to her sounding her horn sailing down the river close to us. All adding to the excitement!!:)

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St Petersburg, Russia

In SP we opted to go with a private company. I’m not sure that I’m allowed to talk about which one we took here, but it was an excellent decision! We had a mini van bus thing and there were only 10 of us. We were able to get in and out of traffic a bit easier than the big busses and it was easier to stick together in the crowds at the touristy spots. I had to been in the USSR and Leningrad about 20 years ago, and it’s amazing what has changed…and what hasn’t! Our guide, Olga, was SOOO knowledgeable about her city. We didn’t have any problems understanding her with her accent at all. She knew every building in that city and she knew the history with all the czars backwards and forwards. She didn’t breathe when she was lecturing us either!

There was no way to butt in with a question because she didn’t stop talking! (in a good way!). The other thing that was handy, that the big tours had too, was an individual ear piece radio. You can hear the guide talking and she/he doesn’t have to yell to be heard over all the other tours. Olga could walk and talk in a regular voice without having to walk backward or strain her voice. Very handy.

 

We saw the Hermitage the first day. It was crowded, but not obnoxiously though. One of the couples that sat with us at dinner said they went the second day and it was horribly crowded. We saw Peterhof and the beautiful gardens, took a hydrofoil boat ride, ate lunch at a Russian café, Church of the Spilled Blood, and had several photo stops. Honestly? That really was enough for my husband and I, but off we went the second day, since we had signed up for the 2 day tour. We went to Catherine’s Palace first. Oh. My. God. It was horrible. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery was to die for. The Palace was amazing. Wow. Beautiful. But it was really hard to appreciate it when we were packed in like cows going to slaughter. Olga, of course, kept a running commentary of every room we went through (and there were only like SIX rooms total!!) and all the furniture and every portrait on the wall, but it was too crowded, it was too hot, and we were more than happy to get out of there.

 

The traffic in SP is horrible. Too many cars, not enough roads. So we crawled back into town and tried to go on a boat ride in the canals. Something was off with the timing, so we went and got lunch. Olga was amazing. There was a huge line, she was stressing about getting everything in that was on the schedule before we had to go back to the ship. So she snagged someone that worked in the café and told them that we would all take ours to go. So they took all of our orders right there at the back of the line. She was a great “problem solver”. And I know that we wouldn’t have been able to go to this little café and had lunch if we were on the big tour (although they DID provide lunch on those, so I suppose it would have been a moot point anyway).

Off we went to the boat ride in the canals. Then we were seriously running late and it was starting to rain…so Olga told us all about Peter and Paul’s Fortress on the way to the fortress. Told us what czars were buried there, told us about the Romanovs and when we got there only 6 of us on the tour got out to see it. It was almost amusing…we got in and Olga started pointing here and there…”here is Peter the Great, Here is Czarina Elizabeth, here are the Romanovs’…ok let’s go”. Dead czar, dead czar, dead czar, ok, let’s go. We were laughing. Of course it was pouring when we went back outside, but back to the van we went. If we weren’t so tired maybe it wouldn’t have been so amuzing. But we were just glad it wasn’t that crowded in there. Then we went back to the ship and all was well. We saw everything that was promised in the tour brochure that we had signed up for!

 

SP is a beautiful city. Still very corrupt I think. Olga talked constantly about how the policeman’s pockets were “very deep” and if you got stopped,it was cheaper to just pay the policeman, than to go to court. It was the only stop where our passports were checked and stamped. In and out, both days. There is no openness about going in or out of the country. There was no smiling and you had better be sure that your papers are in order or you won’t be able to go into the country. We didn’t have any issues with our paperwork. Our tour tickets for the tour company in Russia were sufficient and counted as our visa so we didn’t have to get one ahead of time. (Holland America does have an excursion where you have a tour then get about 3 hours "on your own" on the shopping street..so I guess it's a little lie that you have to stay with your tour the entire time if you don't get an individual visa).

We did hear that one woman had her purse stolen when she was at the Hermitage the first day, and they won’t let you back on the ship without your passport! I have no idea where she stayed that night. I am assuming the US Embassy or a nearby hotel. It’s scary to think about though. One of the other passengers told us that their guide told them that replacing a US passport is easier in SP than other nationalities. For instance a Canadian passport would have to be replaced in Moscow! So hopefully that woman had her passport replaced and got back on the ship on day 2. Olga told us constantly to watch for pick pockets...at EVERY touristy place..and her cell phone has been stolen 3 times out of her bag...so be very careful with your stuff when you are there. It probably wouldn't be a bad thing to buy one of those money holders that you put on your belt or around your chest just in case!You don't want to be left in Russia because your passport was stolen!

 

So as neat and interesting as it was to be in Russia, we were just as glad to hit the road and get back on the ship!

Our Tour Van

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"Trick" fountain at Peterhoff...one of the men behind the bench is running the fountain, when kids are there trying to find the "trick" rock he will randomly make the water shoot up!

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Crowds at the Hermitage...not TOO bad, but this was towards the end when it was getting more crowded. Holland America DOES have a night tour of the hermitage which I heard wasn't crowded at all. Might be worth it!

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Church of the Spilled Blood (the only Virtual geocache in the city)

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Rain storm the first night coming in...and this was about at 9pm! The white nights were in full effect! Sun set around 11pm and rose about 3am!

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The only building we saw that still had a Lenin statue in front!

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More pics from Russia

 

You do NOT want to have to use one of these! I'm sure you can figure out what this says! lol

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Shoe condoms at Catherines Palace

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We Shuffled through Catherine's Palace like this...from room to room wall to wall people.

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The "wild" tourists waiting to get into Catherine's Palace. These are tourists that aren't on an official tour

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9:30pm in Russia. The sun is still nice and high and bright!

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Relaxing on board in Russia

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Am enjoying your review very much thank you. We will be there in August, so am taking notes.

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As we plan our next cruise, your commentary and pix are a great help!!! Thank you for all of the time you put into it. And do know, that we also like the quiet, relaxing places we can find on HAL ships.

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The towel animal situation in our cabin was hysterical. I’m not sure if our cabin steward was a “free spirit” or new or just tired of making the same ol thing all the time, but we honestly had a hard time figuring out what the animals were each night! It was almost like he just twisted up some towels and threw some eyeballs on them and VIOLA! An animal! Lol. It was a running joke between DH and I to try to figure out what the animal was. We went into one of the couple’s that ate at our table on the last night and they had a very cool monkey hanging on a hanger….we didn’t get an animal that night at all! Lol. So here are some pics of some of animals so you can see what I’m talking about!

 

 

OK, this one is probably a squid...not too bad...

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This one we figured was a water animal...but what kind?

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elephant without big ears?

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Duck?

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What the HECK is THIS one?

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And this was the best yet....?? A rolled up towel with a balled up towel on top with eyes? lol Honestly it was funny, but we had NO idea what these were supposed to be!

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We signed up for the early seating. 5:30 was a BIT early I found on this cruise to eat. Most of the time we were leaving port around that time and we like to watch us push off and watch the sights as we leave a city, but we couldn’t do that with the 5:30 eating time. We just missed dinner in the dining room the first night in Russia because our tour didn’t get back to the ship in time. So it would have been nice if dinner was even a little bit later..I suppose we could have gotten the “as you wish” dining and it would have solved all these issues, but we really like eating at the same time each night and with the same people.

 

We signed up for a table for 6. That seems to be a good number for us. DH is a bit hard of hearing and too many more people would make him miserable because he would be too far away from them to hear what they were saying. I discovered another reason on this cruise why we like the tables for 6…their location!!! Almost EVERY cruise we’ve been on with HA we have had a table at the back of the room right by the windows…it’s because that is where the tables for 6 are located! Seriously! The tables for 8 and 4 and 2 and whatnot are scattered around the room, but most of the tables for 6 are in the back near the windows…so that’s a tip for you all!

 

 

I also tried to sign up for the ship tour that I learned about here on Cruise critic. The one that is $150. I thought that it was a bit steep, but was finally convinced. BUT because of the code red when we got on board, I was told it was canceled. :( I was sooo bummed. That was one thing that I really really really wanted to do. And I wanted to find out what the “gift” was at the end of the tour too!

About the code red. As I said in the beginning of my review, we were offered a full refund if we didn’t want to get on the ship. It must have been a big breakout of the virus in my eyes. Some of the people that took the combined cruise might have more to say on that though. We were under the code red for about 5 days I think. No salt shakers on the table, no serving yourself in the Lido, no table numbers on the dining room tables, no bread bowls, etc. It’s a lot of extra work for the crew I’m sure. We had no info about the sickness at all. We just went to dinner one night and POOF the saran wrap in the Lido was gone, and we had salt shakers back on the tables!

I was even MORE bummed about the ship tour being canceled as a result. If they canceled it because of the code red….why didn’t they have it back when the code red was removed? We had been on the ship for almost a WEEK after they removed it and had 2 sea days before we disembarked. Certainly they could have had the tour when it would have only been about 12 people going through the tour? Whatever the reason it was disappointing.

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Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki was another nice European city. There was a shuttle bus that takes you into town. It doesn’t seem like the city is far from the dock, but of course the dock is in an industrial part of the city and you have to weave in and out of buildings, so if you walk it would take about 45 minutes. So I paid the $10 and took the round trip shuttle. WELL worth it!

DH wasn't feeling well today (he had caught a cold in Russia and was sneezing and just generally feeling icky, so I was on my own in Finland today!

The shuttle dropped me off in the middle of the city. At first I was like "hummm, just a big city", so I walked around a bit more. Finally came into the "touristy" part of town. Saw the big cathedral, saw the open air market, walked around some more. I didn't get to the "rock church", but that looked really neat and I'm sure is worth the trip to it. I probably would have walked to it, but I wasn't sure where it was on the map. The shuttle arrived every 15 min or so so whenever you are ready to go back to the ship you can. There was a geocache about 200 feet from where our ship docked, so for anyone that wants only ONE geocache in the country, you can get one easily in this port!

As soon as I got back to the ship it started pouring! I had just missed the rain. And it rained harder than we had seen it rain the entire cruise so far. Sideways rain!

So, what do you do when you are tired from walking around and it's raining?…I took a nap! Lol. When I woke up the sun was shining. That is kinda how it was the entire cruise. It would rain a bit, then clear up, rain a bit, then clear up.

My husband used the workout facility several times and had no issues with it, although it was crowded on the last 2 sea days, and he said very hot. But I think that is to be expected. We didn’t participate in any of the spa treatments. We went to a few of the shows. We aren’t really “show” people. (refer back to the hermit comment above and our love of reading), but the ones that we did to go were very well done. I know that some have said that HA doesn’t have good entertainment, but we remember on one cruise that we were on we saw Jeff Dunham (the ventriloquist with dummies)…and now he’s FAMOUS!

 

 

The ship...and I didn't know it, but my husband was watching me from our balcony. Top floor, not the big wrap around aft deck, but the one right next to it...you can JUST see him in this pic.

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And here I am with the geocache...you can see how close it was to the ship!

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Big Church (which I'm sure has a name, but since I wasn't on a tour I couldn't tell ya what it was! lol...but I CAN tell you that there are 2 geocaches nearby it! )

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Open Air market

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A geocache under a pedestrian bridge near the open air market.

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Sweden

We went to Sweden on a holiday day (Friday). It was midsummer. That means that all the shops closed at 2. This was the only port where we had to tender in. We heard that the people that didn't have a tour had to wait a long time to get on the tenders (because all the shore excursion people got to get on first). We did the “ride into Stockholm” tour…a pretty expensive shuttle ride basically! We had about 5 hours on our own, which was a bit much. Looking back we probably should have done the Vasa Museum and then time on our own, which would have been about 3 hours.

But Stockholm is another beautiful European city. We spent some time in the old town, watched the changing of the guards at the palace. Then we walked around the main shopping district. Then when time was up we got back on the bus for the hour ride back to the ship.

 

We were surprised that we didn’t have to show our passports at any time except in Russia, and getting back ON the ship in Sweden. We were told that we had to have our passports in Germany, but no one looked at them. Essentially it’s because of an agreement that the European Union has about traveling in Europe, but it was a bit odd to us. So we have 2 stamps (in and out) from Russia, 2 stamps in England (since we flew in and out of London) and one stamp (out) in Sweden! Hopefully no one wants to know how we got INTO Sweden! Ha!

 

 

 

I had ordered chocolate covered strawberries before we came aboard. I wanted them delivered on each of the 4 sea days. I figured that it would be a nice treat. The first sea day came, and no strawberries. So I went to the front desk about 7pm, and they sent them right up. Super. They were delicious. The next sea day (2 days later I think), the strawberries showed up in the cabin. Awesome. Again, they tasted great.

Then we had the 5 days straight of being in port….the 3rd sea day came, and no strawberries. I had my husband go to the front desk and ask to be reimbursed. I figured, it was late, and I was just irritated. They apologized and reimbursed us on our ship board account. Then at 10:45pm there is a knock at the door. It’s a room service guy with the strawberries and a plate of chocolates…apologizing for them not being delivered. Ok, now it was great of Holland America to apologize for their mistake…but to send them up at almost 11pm?? Really? And of course they were delivered without any issues on the 4th sea day. I’m sure it’s difficult to keep track of the orders like that, but isn’t that what computers are for? So in the future, if I want chocolate covered strawberries, I will wait until I am on board and will just pick up the phone and order them that way.

 

 

 

 

Changing of the guard in Stockholm Old Town at the Royal Palace

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DH taking a break at the pedestrian walkway where the shops are...can you spot the geocache?

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The tender and the ship

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On the way back to the ship. This was the nicest day in port...sunny all day, high of around 70ish.

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Wrap Up:

Overall this was a great cruise. The seas were incredibly calm. No major issues there. We loved the food, but then again we aren’t “foodies”. We don’t scoff if we have a piece of meat that isn’t cooked exactly to our expectations. We eat it anyway. We don’t freak out if there is a ladybug crawling on the side of the salad plate as it’s put down in front of us (and yes, that happened to someone at our table, but our dining room steward was appalled and whisked the plate away. He said that he had to let the chef know immediately…and a new dish was immediately set in front of our dining partner.). We didn’t eat in the Pinnacle Grill…we figure, why pay for food on a cruise ship when the food in the “regular” dining room is always excellent. We didn’t eat at any of the other specialty restaurants (and one is just an “extension” of the Lido anyway…why would we eat there when it’s basically eating at the Lido??).

 

There are people on every cruise that we go on that we are just amazed they allow themselves to go on a vacation at all. They complain about everything. They complain about the food taking too long, they complain about the elevator taking too long to get there, they complain about anything and everything. We try to relax, not let the little things get to us, and just relax. I think I read about 25 books that I had been saving up on my Kindle for the trip (ok, not 500 page novels, just light formula fiction books). I know I’ll have a ton of work emails to catch up on when I get home, along with a ton of work to do, so we try to just ignore that and have a good time anyway.

 

We earned our 3 star mariner status on this cruise. We love Holland America because it’s relaxing. There aren’t a million kids running everywhere. It’s more low-key, and that’s what we like. We don’t do it to hobnob with the captain, we don’t go to the mariner brunch (which someone I talked to said wasn’t that impressive and there were a TON of people there). Do I think that I am special because I’ve cruised on HA more than 75 days? No. Do I think that HA really cares that I’ve been on their ships more than 75 days? Not really. Nothing against them, but honestly, they don’t know me. I’m just another paying customer. Again, not a complaint, but just my rambling thought. We really like Holland America and in fact I’m a “third generation” HA cruiser (My grandmother cruised HA all the time, and my mom does too (she just got off the World Cruise in April this year)).

 

Overall this was a great cruise. A great itinerary and a great way to see the Baltics and Northern Europe. There is nothing like being able to come back to the ship after a long say doing the “tourist thing” and not have to unpack or get on a plane or train to get to the next stop. Cruising is our favorite type of vacation…and we are sad that this one is now over. Until next time….

 

Let me know if you have any other questions for me about the trip. I know there were some other people that posted reviews of this same cruise, so I'm not sure how helpful my ramblings are, but they are what they are I suppose :)

 

 

Here are some random shots...

 

 

One of my favorite pieces of art..it was a bit abstract with the chef being the only one sitting in a big concert hall, but I liked it!

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Hanging out on the balcony during a sunny day at sea!

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Snoozing on the balcony

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Beautiful sunset...and this was late at night...like 9pm, and the sun still had a ways to go before it actually went under the horizon!

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Pulling back into a foggy Dover in the morning we were to leave. Check out the ferry in the background!

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We too were on the 12 night Baltic cruise and your review just brought back all of our memories. I have not had time yet to write a review. I truly would recommend this itinerary to anyone who asks. Love your photos. We took over 800 and are still sorting through them.

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Really loved your review, answered many questions that I had for when we go on 26th of August so found it helpful as well as fun!

Thanks for taking the time :)

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