My wife and I were on the June 4, 2005 Baltic cruise on the Star Princess. Ed Schlenk has done an excellent job in his review of the same cruise that he took on Mar 15, 2005. I will not attempt to match his 15 page review, but will just add a few bits of information that might be helpful to anyone taking this same cruise.
We spent three days in Copenhagen before the cruise. Because it took us about 30 hours to get there, we were exhausted. We used the three days to regain our strength before the cruise. Had we not done this, the first few days of the cruise may have been very tiring. As I walked down the hall from our cabin, I noticed several cabins had the "do not disturb" signs on the doors for the first two or three days. I believe some of those people never left their cabins during that time.
If you need help in Copenhagen, just approach someone on the street and ask your question in English. Don't bother to ask whether they speak English. We only met one person in that city that did not. The same is true in all the Scandinavian countries.
EMBARKATION: Embarkation was the best we have experienced. We left our hotel about 11 AM and took a taxi to the ship. We expected to be waiting until after noon, but were told to go directly into the processing room. We are Platinum members so we went to that line, but none of the booths were busy. We were done in less than 10 minutes and on board a few minutes later.
The ship was very nice, the food was very good, and the service in the dining room was always excellent. Our room steward did an excellent job. Our only food complaint was about a dinner we had at Sabatini's Trattoria. My wife ordered shrimp and they were burned on the bottom. It appeared they had been left in the pan too long. Up until then all the various courses were very good and well prepared.
The entertainment in the small show room was not up to par. We prefer the one man acts in the small theatre to the large production shows in the big theatre. The juggler was excellent, but the comedian and magician both looked like they should have retired a few years ago. I believe the comedian even cut his act short because he just was not getting any reaction from the audience.
PORTS: We often will do our own thing in the ports and usually walk into town if it is a reasonable distance. If the cruise line has arranged for shuttle buses, we will take advantage of this service. I called Princess before we left and asked whether they were going to have shuttles available in any of the ports. I was told that none of the ports would offer this service. In fact, Tallinn and Helsinki did offer the service and it was mentioned on the front page of the Princess Patter. Both locations charged $8.00 round trip. The buses ran back and forth all day.
Stockholm was nice, but it is a shame that the ship is unable to dock in the city. On a previous cruise, we had a captain that lived in Stockholm and he told us how beautiful the approach to the city was with several thousand islands along the way. We saw none of this, because the Star anchors offshore 25 miles south of Stockholm. We purchased the Stockholm on Your Own tour that dropped us off in the older part of the city. It was a very enjoyable day, but I am not sure the bus ride was worth $62.00 per person; especially since the bus had no air conditioning.
At Helsinki, we took the shuttle into town and followed one of Rick Steves' walking tours around the downtown area. We were able to see everything that the bus tours would have included. It is quite pretty and easy to get to everything on foot.
St. Petersburg was spectacular. The palaces of Catherine and Peterhof are beyond description. They should not be missed. Both are included on a full day tour. The lunch that day was also excellent. The first day we took a half-day tour of the Hermitage and a couple of small palaces in St. Petersburg. Both tours had EXCELLENT guides. They were probably the best guides we have had on any tour taken on our 20+ cruises. Most of them were school or university teachers. They all spoke fluent English with slight accents.
Tallinn was one of the best stops on the cruise. As you approach the city, you have a picture perfect view of the old section from the ship. We had a great guide who took us through this part of the city and did a wonderful job explaining everything. She was probably not over 23 years old and spoke four languages. He English was perfect and she went out of her way to make sure everyone enjoyed the tour. She was also very pleasing to look at.
Poland was disappointing. Our bus driver was from another city and did not know his way around Gdansk. The guide tried to describe the sights for us and tell him where to go at the same time. It did not work. The city was covered in graffiti, even the houses in the better neighborhoods. Once we got into the old section of the city, the tour became more enjoyable.
We planned to walk an area in Olso that we had not seen before, but the rain was very heavy when we left the ship. About 50 feet away, several men were selling bus tours and we decided to take one. They were $18.00 pp and we had an excellent guide. She pointed out the highlights of Olso as we drove through the downtown area. We then went to Frogner park where she gave us a very informative tour of the Vigeland sculptures. Next was the Bygdoy area where people were dropped off at various museums. From here you could either go back to the ship by bus or stay longer at the museums and take the ferry back to the center of town. We chose to see the Kon-Tiki Museum where they have both the Kon-Tiki and the Ra II. We then took the ferry back to town ($.4.00 American one way) and walked back to the ship. There are shops just a short stroll from the ship and we spent some time there before returning to the ship for lunch.
Before leaving home and while on the ship we kept checking the Internet to see what the weather was going to be like in the different ports. Many other passengers had done the same thing. Rain was predicted for every port, but on arrival we had warm and sunny days in every port except Oslo. I hope you are as fortunate as we were. Pleasant weather really adds to the enjoyment when on the land tours.
Notices were included in the Princess Patter saying that taxis would be "extremely limited" in Copenhagen and they suggested that people going to the airport should purchase bus transfers for $40.00 per person. We were staying one more day in Copenhagen, so we only needed to get to our hotel. We left the ship about 8 AM and walked directly to a waiting taxi. There were quite a few behind him. I don't know whether people leaving the ship at a later time would have any trouble finding a taxi or not. We were at our hotel about 15 minutes after leaving the ship.