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Betty Gale

Planning my first North Europe cruise

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Hi all! I'm about to book my first North Europe cruise with NCL. Do you have any suggestions about itineraries. Which cities to choose? Thank you in advance for all the advices.

P.S. I'll travel with two daughters 13 y. o.

Liz

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We took NCL for our Baltic cruise a few years ago.  I would suggest you take a close look at where they dock regardless of the itinerary you choose.  For Stockholm we were docked an hour and half away, very inconvenient.  We were off in the boondocks in Copenhagen and Helsinki as well.  All this made for more difficult DYI choices.

 

There may have been a number of factors involved in these decisions but other passengers told us that NCL tends to go 'cheap' when it comes to landing locations.  

 

This was a few years ago, and maybe they've changed but I would look out for this sort of thing.

 

 

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A Baltic cruise is great - but as mentioned pay attention to the port locations - one of the highlights are the Stockholm archipelago - but it will require docking in Stockholm city and not in Nynäshamn.  

Another great itinerary is Norwegian Fjords. Impressive sceneries. Several options from Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Southampton and others. Also here pay attention to which fjords and ports. 

This forum can give you great advise on specific locations. Good alternatives to NCL are Royal Caribbean or Holland America Line 

Edited by hallasm
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I loved our Baltic cruise with my teens.  From what I understand, smaller ships are more able to dock close to the cities.  I'm no expert on all the lines, so can't direct you to which ships.

 

Lots of great DIY or self arranged excursions via TripAdvisor or advice given here.  Definitely look into a non-ship excursion in St Petersburg.  It will be a fraction of the cost or the same cost for much more excursion, than what you'd pay for a ship sponsored tour.

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24 minutes ago, ljandgb said:

what I understand, smaller ships are more able to dock close to the cities.

Size is not a major problem for Baltic ports - it’s rather a cost issue. Remote and less attractive ports might be less expensive. 

Edited by hallasm

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NCL and the Regal Princess usually dock in Nynashamn, not Stockholm.

Most larger cruise ships will not dock close to the city centers in Copenhagen or Helsinki. 

Copenhagen usually utilizes Oceankaj (most turnaround ships dock here).

Helsinki usually utilizes the West Harbor or Hernesaari. 

Smaller cruise ships can dock closer to the city centers but these are usually the more expensive cruise lines.

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8 hours ago, dogs4fun said:

NCL and the Regal Princess usually dock in Nynashamn, not Stockholm.

Most larger cruise ships will not dock close to the city centers in Copenhagen or Helsinki. 

Copenhagen usually utilizes Oceankaj (most turnaround ships dock here).

 

This summer, the Regal docked several times in Stockholm. The times were shortened so the ship could leave early.

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Rick Steves’ “Northern European Cruise Ports” is an invaluable resource.  I suggest you read it to help you decide on/plan your cruise.

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Azamara is a small ship company and their ships often dock right in town, rather than at remote docks. May be more expensive than other bigger lines, but a lot more is included  - Tips, drinks etc.

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On 11/16/2018 at 6:55 AM, hallasm said:

Size is not a major problem for Baltic ports - it’s rather a cost issue. Remote and less attractive ports might be less expensive. 

 

Ah, that would make sense.  We were on Disney, which is mind-bogglingly expensive.  I do think being close is an advantage that is worth it, if it doesn't break the bank.  After doing a Med cruise, where the ports are frequently pretty far from the main tourist sites, I can appreciate the short bus ride into town, etc.

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There have been many people who booked this season and sailed on the Breakaway who were not happy that they did not dock in Stockholm itself. Unless you are definitely loyal to NCL, for me, that would eliminate them from contention for a Baltic Cruise. Sailing into Stockholm and thru the Archipelago is one wonderful thing and not to be missed. I would try and compare with other cruise lines and see if any others compare.

 

Cheers

Len

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21 hours ago, Giantfan13 said:

There have been many people who booked this season and sailed on the Breakaway who were not happy that they did not dock in Stockholm itself. Unless you are definitely loyal to NCL, for me, that would eliminate them from contention for a Baltic Cruise. Sailing into Stockholm and thru the Archipelago is one wonderful thing and not to be missed. I would try and compare with other cruise lines and see if any others compare.

 

Cheers

Len

 

The same goes for the Regal Princess and even if they sometimes do berth in central Stockholm, your day
will be 2-3 hours shorter then most other ships.

If you really want to maximize your cruise you should try to find a cruise that starts in Copenhagen/Stockholm

and ends in the other one. This way you can add an extra day or two at the starting port and at the end port.
Another option is to find one that has an overnight in Stockholm.

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Thank you all for very useful info. I thought NCL docks in Stockholm itself. I start thinking NCL is not the best choice so I will check other cruise lines. Thanks!

I have another question - Internet onboard. Are there any ships where Internet is better? My daughters can't live without it. If you have teens you'll understand me. 🙂

Cheers,

Liz

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On 11/18/2018 at 11:41 AM, Betty Gale said:

Thank you all for very useful info. I thought NCL docks in Stockholm itself. I start thinking NCL is not the best choice so I will check other cruise lines. Thanks!

 

I have another question - Internet onboard. Are there any ships where Internet is better? My daughters can't live without it. If you have teens you'll understand me. 🙂

 

Cheers,

 

Liz

 

A few more things to consider: 1) Where do you want to fly into to start / end your cruise?  2) Are you taking the cruise line's air option or are you booking flights yourself?  3) What's the cost of pre-cruise stay - important to have at least one overnight stay if you are flying in yourself!!!  For NCL, it looks like most of their Baltic cruises starts and ends in Copenhagen: one of the more expensive cities to stay pre-cruise.  4) Is time in port St. Petersburg important to you?  How many days do you want to spend there. 5) For all the ports are you planning to take cruise excursions or DIY - costs and what's offered are different for different cruise lines.

 

Laurence

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On 11/18/2018 at 2:41 PM, Betty Gale said:

Thank you all for very useful info. I thought NCL docks in Stockholm itself. I start thinking NCL is not the best choice so I will check other cruise lines. Thanks!

 

I have another question - Internet onboard. Are there any ships where Internet is better? My daughters can't live without it. If you have teens you'll understand me. 🙂

 

Cheers,

 

Liz

 

 

Well this can be subjective to a degree as the type/location of a cruise can affect wifi.  We didn't use the wifi when we were on NCL so I can't comment on that.  The last few years we've mostly been on HAL and Cunard.  Cunard had better wifi, but as I said was it because we were in better satellite position on those cruises?  I don't know.  We have friends on a Crystal cruise right now, everyone gets unlimited wifi and she said  it's been great and their on the Amazon River.  I guess we can assume that the more expensive the cruise line the better the wifi.

 

We switched from Verizon to T-Mobile just because of the international data cost.  If they 'have' to be connected that's another thing you could look into.  Although I would caution you that the Verizon international plan -which we've used- turned out to be deceptively expensive, hence our switch.  I don't know about AT&T or other companies.

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While it is true that one cannot dock in Copenhagen city center, it's only 8k/5 mi from the dock to city center and many options to get there:  taxi, city bus, HOHO bus.  Some hearty folks walk from the pier to city center.  The taxi we took in Apr 2017 from pier to hotel near the RR station cost 290 DKK (about $50); the other modes are cheaper (a 3-day HOHO pass costs 175 DKK/$27 pp).

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One port of call that deserves some thought is what the cruise lines describe as Berlin. Berlin is inland in Germany and the cruise ships dock at Warnemünde or Rostock, which are adjacent to each other on the Baltic sea. From there the travel time to Berlin is considerable, so the time really available in Berlin is relatively short. While most passengers who go ashore do travel to Berlin, some stay near the port. Myself, I've booked an itinerary on RC that doesn't call in Germany at all. I speak German and would rather go to Berlin when I will have more time there.

 

The Stockholm docking issue is genuine. Very large ships will usually dock at Nynashamn. I'm embarking from Stockholm, but on RC's Serenade of the Seas, which isn't that large.

 

I've had different experiences with internet speed and quality even on ships of the same line: pretty good on NCL Epic, pretty bad on NCL Gem. Bad weather during the Gem cruise may have played a role. If it's essential to your daughters' survival, you may want to look for a line where unlimited internet service is available. On NCL, for example, it's possible to get 250 minutes as a Free at Sea offer, which can be upgraded to unlimited. On Royal Caribbean, internet packages appear to be unlimited minutes but there are many different prices, some allowing streaming and some not, and depending on the number of devices that will use it.

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we have done 2 NCL Baltics cruises-Sun a smaller ship and Breakaway a mega ship

Sun was billed from start as Nynashamn an hour from Stockholm

this years cruise on Breakaway was originally docking in Stockholm but a few months pre cruise was changed to Nynashamn

lots of confusion re promised transfers and angry people at guest services over it

 

St Peterburg did private tour both times and a must

 

first time round did private tour to Berlin from Wanemunde-long day but good overview

second time stayed a few days in Berlin pre cruise to explore fully and got train from Berlin to Warnemunde via Rostock to embark ship there

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NCL doesn't always do a great job docking. Part of your port time is lost just trying to get to the city you actually wanted to go to. If you aren't loyal to NCL, Holland America is another option to look at. Also, in this region, look at private tours. There is so much to see and do, so much history, and so little time. A tour guide can help you understand the region, and help you get into the places you want to go. We used Anastasia's Travel in St. Petersburg, and they were fantastic! Friendly and knowledgeable and willing to line things up so I could see and do everything on my list!

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WiFi on the ship isn't free. NCL Getaway offered us Internet access to social media sites for $35 per week, basic wifi for $189 a week and streaming wifi for $245 per week.

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1 hour ago, cansas.piligrim said:

WiFi on the ship isn't free. NCL Getaway offered us Internet access to social media sites for $35 per week, basic wifi for $189 a week and streaming wifi for $245 per week.

eek! Expensive!!

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We went on NCL breakaway last summer (and with a young teen, see my report below). Really a great cruise, SPB was truly amazing. We also really like Talin. My kids very much enjoyed visiting all the historical sites. Though we were not on the ship much, my teen really loved being at the teen club when he could

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We have been twice on a Baltic cruise. The first time on a small ship and this year on Cunard Queen Victoria.

 

we chose Cunard because the ports of call were slightly different.  The only place we didn’t stop in the city centre was in Helsinki, but there was a ship’s shuttle bus. If possible I would try to avoid July/August as places like SPB very crowded.

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I went on a Baltic cruise when I was 13 (in 2003) and loved it. Just this past August I went with my wife and her family and loved it again. Was on Royal on the Serenade. The docking locations were fantastic for each port. Stockholm, Talin, Saint Petersburg, Helsinki and Copenhagen. No long drives for any of them. In fact for Helsinki, Stockholm and Talin the cities were in view from the ship. 

 

Loved all the ports and I think the Nordic ports offers lot of interesting things for younger travelers to see. Talin's old town is like something from a fairytale book.  Stockholm has great things to see, Vassa is a must IMO, especially with kids. St. Pete is massive and there is too much to see. 

 

Helsinki could be replaced with something else, nice city, but not nearly as interesting as the rest. And Copenhagen is great. 

 

Agreed with checking with docking locations, as other than St. Petersburg a lot of these places can easily be seen on your own as almost everyone speaks English and they are very safe cities. 

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