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Cornishpastyman1

2010 EURODAM Baltic cruise review - with port videos

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On my Eurodam Baltic cruise in early June 2010 I made short videos at each port. Even though this review is 2 years old hopefully not much has changed and most of it will still be relevant today. The comments are purely my personal opinions and those concerning walking distances, times and costs are guesstimates from my recollection, so apologies if they are not spot-on.

 

St PETERSBURG

 

I'll start with this one because it's the superstar of the cruise and also the only one that (unless you apply for a personal visa) you can't do on your own, and the one you must get right. Ship excursions have their place, but NOT at St Petersburg. Use any of the excellent independent companies regularly mentioned in these boards (Alla, TJ, SPB etc) - you cannot go wrong with any of them and you will not miss the ship - it's never happened and would be commercial suicide to any company if it ever did. They have all done their programs a million times and know all about traffic etc. and have robust contingency plans just in case. The out-of-town visits (e.g. Catherine Palace/Peterhof) are almost always done in the morning or early afternoon of the first day, and you will always be near the dock towards the end of departure day.

 

As a general rule of thumb I'd say the ship's excursions here cost 40% more and you see 30-40% less, in the company of far greater group numbers. Also, ship's tours have absolutely no flexibility. On ours someone wanted to see the major university. It wasn't on the itinerary but our guide just went there. It was no big deal, just a 10 minute diversion but it was interesting for us all. Someone else really wanted a photo in front of Catherine the Great's statue, again easily done for us but impossible on a ship's tour, which could have 30 people, maybe more.

 

Setting up an account with any of these companies is easy (just an email and password). They all seem to reply within a day and the admin is easy. The kid in me hoped I'd have a Russian visa that I could keep as proof of my visit, but the reality is that you print out your own tour tickets via email and throw the dog-eared papers in the bin at the end of the second day !

 

If you want a few roubles for souvenirs there is an ATM at the dock as you pass through customs. And you get a bottle of chilled water at the start of each day so no need to buy one from the ship.

 

I used Alla Tours and had a wonderful time, I really could not fault them, but everyone on CC seems to have a similar experiences with whoever they go with. The intense competition seems to ensure they are all of a terrific standard. We visited these 6 'attractions' on their 'Moderate Comfort' tour :

 

The Fountains of Peterhof

 

The Catherine Palace at Pushkin

 

Peter and Paul Fortress/Cathedral

 

St Isaac's Cathedral

 

Church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood

 

The Winter Palace/Hermitage State Museum

 

In addition to visiting these you will do a ride on the underground, a bit of general sightseeing, a quick souvenir stop and a several photo opportunities. It was a marvellous two days but if I had my time again I would choose a slightly fuller tour to include a canal tour and a visit to the Yusupov Palace (where Rasputin met his grisly end). A friend of mine went there in June 2012 and I asked him to take some footage of it, from which I've made this

 

You can always ask for a private tour tailored to your specific requirements (at a cost) but otherwise I would pick a tour that included all the above where numbers are limited to a maximum of 16. This is small enough to move around quickly and in comfort, and as you will be in radio contact with your guide in the attractions you will not miss a thing. The radio has a range of at least 25 yards so you can wander around on your own if you want (stick close to him/her in the underground though !!) Expect to pay around $300 pp which includes everything (camera fees, museum entrances etc) except (unless lunches are included) refreshments and a tip (10%, which we were advised to pre-split 60:40 Guide/Driver)

 

If you want to do something in the evening (ballet ??) tell your tour company and they'll arrange the taxi, with its visa-waiver facility, or go with the ship if the costs and program are acceptable. That's enough about St P, you must be bored rigid of my droning on by now.

 

BERLIN

 

(My cruise did not go to to Warnemunde but I have included these from a 3 day 'land trip') The 3 hours journey each way is a pain but if you have any doubts - go, it is a truly fascinating city. And use the same company that is taking you round St Petersburg - you'll get a slight discount and will only need one point of contact.

 

General Sights

 

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (aka The Holocaust Memorial)

You won't have time to go into the underground information centre but will be able to to walk around the stelae.

 

The History of the Berlin Wall

There's hardly any left but you will see a few reminders of it.

 

On the Roof of The Reichstag http://youtu.be/o57Fb88tVTM

Again, you won't be able to go in, as I had to book a table in the restaurant to do so but you'll see plenty of it from the outside.

 

Tacheles Art House http://youtu.be/SRg0NkrpPKE

You probably won't go here but I thought I'd include it just in case - it may not be around for much longer if the property developers get their way.

 

COPENHAGEN http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xif4wAmV7HE

 

The cruise ships all dock in roughly the same area. I took a no. 26 bus to the centre and then walked around. I booked the canal tour at the Tourist Information Centre in the centre because I wanted the 1 pm tour. It cost (then) 60 DKK. Down at the Nyhavn canal there was a tour for 30 DKK which I now hear is very similar and satisfactory but you take your chance on availability. Even at 60 DKK it was still a cheap day out as other than the bus fare and a drink that was all I spent. I walked back to the ship along the bank past the Amalienborg, Little Mermaid, (or rather a non-functioning video feed from Shanghai where she had gone for 6 months) Gefion fountain and Royal Pavilions. It is about 1.5 - 2 miles if you do that, with the big cruise ships always in sight so you can't go wrong, although of course you can get the no. 26 bus again if you want or it's raining.

 

I loved Copenhagen although as with all the Scandanavian ports it is ruinously expensive (to a Brit) so give the breakfast a good hammering before you set off !

 

TALLINN http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAC8F_2qTTY

 

In many ways the perfect cruise-location stop, being a short walk from the docks - head for the spires and it's 10 minutes maximum to 'Fat Margaret', and is very easy to walk around, with plenty of stopping points for those who need it. Tallinn is a lovely capital city, with plenty to enjoy in a day. Easy to find free wi-fi here too.

 

HELSINKI

 

Beautiful city, very under-rated. I took the shuttle from the dock (or 25 minute walk - don't waste your precious time with this) to the city centre. The shuttle was not associated with HAL but cost (from memory) 8 Euros/ $10 return, last one at 4 pm. It drops you at the top of the Esplenade. Walk down to Market Square (600m) and get an all-day travel ticket for 7 Euros which is good for the trams, trains and the ferries. Ride the tram 3T to where you want to go, hopping on and off as you wish - Rock Church, Sibelius Monument, Olympic Stadium etc. If you are tight for time don't bother going inside the big white cathedral in Senate Square as the outside is by far the most impressive part of it.

 

General Sights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9hcJiVDK0E

 

I ran out of time to go to the stadium because I spent 2.5 hours here :

 

Suomenlinna (Fortress of Finland) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swIpEG7hR0g

 

The ferry ride takes 12 minutes and leaves every 15 minutes (from Market Square)

 

STOCKHOLM

 

General Sights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NweRnGqZ1k

 

I hope you sail into Stockholm 'proper' but we docked at Nynasham (sigh) which is an hour's coach to Stockholm and we missed passing through the Archipelago. There's nothing good to say about that :(. I'd take the cheapest ship's transport to Stockholm. You might be able to do it a bit cheaper by public transport but it's not worth the worry. It's a longish transfer and has potential for traffic disasters. Grit your teeth and go for the security of the ship's coach. You can do Stockholm on your own easily enough, including, of course........

 

Royal Warship Vasa at the Vasa Museum http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x45l1WMZOXA

 

Everyone goes to see Vasa, and rightly so. Our coach dropped us off at the Opera House and we walked along Strandvagen Boulevard (at 1.58 in the 'General Sights' video) to the Vasa Museum. To be time-efficient here head for the front desk to find out the time (in your language) of the terrific 25-minute film of the discovery and recovery of the great ship. Then head for the theatre 5 minutes before 'showtime'. The guided tour of the ship is well worth doing too.

 

Allow 75 minutes here if you get lucky with the show and tour, and 90 if you don't. Superb museum, with an excellent free wi-fi signal should you feel the need to check on how things are back home.

 

And finally (hooray I hear you cry) make sure you book a late dinner time (8 pm) as all these ports are very intensive and you'll need time to sort yourself out when you get back to the ship.

 

All the best, it's a superlative cruise - Tony

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Brought back so many good memories of our own Baltic cruise. I have to agree with the great suggestions for using local tour companies in St. Petersburg---we used Alla Tours and we could not say enough good things about them. Wonderful!! Like you, we had several "extra" stops, and they were quick to accommodate.

 

Thanks for the review, B.

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Thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to post nice comments about the 'review' (and to anyone who may in the future), they are much appreciated. If it's any help or interest I am building up a similar catalogue from HAL cruises in the Med here http://cruiseforums.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1633637 and will add a few more shortly. Aren't we lucky to be have the resources, time and good health to go to all these great places ?

 

All the best, and Merry Christmas and good cruising in 2013, Tony

Edited by Cornishpastyman1

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Great review and I like your tips as far as seeing the sights while in ports. We used SPB in St Petersburg and also for a walking tour of Tallin and a short tour of Helsinki but agree you really didn't need a tour for the latter two. I====

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Now you've all got me jonesing for another Baltic cruise -- and we've done two of them, in 2000 and in 2005. I want to give a plug for Copenhagen, expensive as the Salty Old Queen of the Sea is. If your cruise begins there, by all means spent one or two nights ahead of time. We liked the Admiralty Hotel because it's located right on the harbor, just a few blocks from Nyhavn. It's a modern hotel inside an old factory/warehouse with thick walls. They also do a fabulous breakfast buffet at extra cost, but worth it. You'll need some fuel to walk around this wonderful city!

 

Mrs M (currently not booked and getting restive)

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