So I've gotten a LOT of pressure questions (yes, you Shayna..haha) about giving a truthful report on the cruise once I got back. So, here goes! * DIsclaimer: Hertofore, We haven't considered ourselves "Cruise people". We'd only been on a cheapie out of New Orleans years ago on a whim and have since wondered if we just had a dud experience. I remember saying we'd love to have a more Gen X experience: maybe a Dave and Busters type gameroom, a rock climbing wall, movie theater, free wifi, etc.. Unless you just started reading this blog TODAY, you've probably realized that we're more on the adventurous side and being cooped up on a boat for a couple of days is just not our idea of fun. We'd rather fly there, spend the extra 2 days ON the island or in the city, soaking up the new place after the cruise masses leave. We don't enjoy gambling, thought the shows were a little hoaky, and the food was just so so.
** So why did we choose a cruise in the first place when we don't consider ourselves "cruise people"? ;)
1. We wanted to see St Petersburg. We'd heard it was complicated to get a visa (Which may or may not be true), and we knew a cruise was an easy way to guarentee entry.
2. Since we've visited a lot of Western Europe on previous trips, we were excited by the idea of seeing 6 new countries in a new region that we might not have time/money to visit on 6 separate trips.
3. We'd get major bonus points with the kids ;) Kids LOVE staying on boats, trains, planes, etc.. throw in unlimited smoothies and American chicken nuggets and bacon on the buffet, and we knew they'd be in heaven! haha
4. It seemed like hitting the easy button. After planning at least 2 dozen other trips/sightseeing adventures, etc.. since moving here 8 months ago, booking a cruise seemed like a relief to me! Not having to book hotels, mulitple flights, special dinners... seemed like a nice break from the full time travel agency I've become! (** remind me to tell you why this wasn't entirely true!).
5. We wanted to give cruising another chance. Maybe this one would be different? Surely at a certain price point (and I can assure you, it wasn't cheap!?) the food would be supurb, the entertainment top-notch, the experience taken to a new level. We're older now (and spouting plenty of grey hairs to prove it.. haha) and maybe we could enjoy relaxing a little more.
And here we go: my Baltic Cruise Report Card (for Shayna) as promised ;)
** The Good
1. The ports were fantastic and there were lots of them! (only 2 days at sea on a 12 day cruise!) Can't say enough good things about St Petersburg, Stockholm, Tallinn, Oslo and Copenhagen. Helsinki, Warnemunde, and Aarhus were interesting for sure, but not places I would have ever wished to go on my own.
2. Our kids LOVED the Kid's Club and mom and dad LOVED having more "free" date nights than we've had since we've moved to Europe!? We practically twisted their arm to get dressed up and have dinner with us a few nights, and it was fun when they were there.. but 8 date nights pretty much rocked.
3. The food was pretty good. Granted, 2 days before the cruise, we treated ourselves to our first 3 Michelin Star restaurant for our 18th wedding anniversary so it couldn't compare to that!? But we did have good choices every night at our "flexible" sit down dinners, and were generally pleased. We even did a "chef's table" one night with 5 other couples and that was a treat for sure.
4. It was super fun going with friends. If we ever did it again, we'd even try to enlist a larger group of families and add to our traveling fun.
1. So the average age on the typical Scandinavian cruise is about 70 I'm guessing. The advantages of that is certainly a more sophisticated atmosphere, never rowdy like I've heard can be on Mediterranean cruises (and surely on Carribean ones), and in general pretty peaceful. The downsides might be that the boat in general was geared more to that age group (but my kids have never been on a Disney cruise, so they didn't know that was an option! haha).. so no water slides, no "Dave and Busters", entertainment that includes Barry Manilow songs.. ;)
2. The Weather was AMAZING!!! We totally lucked out as the whole summer had been so cold and rainy. Even with our "luck", it was GREAT for walking and touring.. maybe NOT ideal for sunning on the deck like you expect on a cruise?? About 2/3 of the days at sea (or afternoons we were back on the boat early), we were able to lay out on the deck, but the first full day at sea was still pretty chilly and kind of a bummer to be sitting by the pool in a jacket covered from head to toe UNDER your beach towel!? haha.
** the Bad
1. We're really not into Barry Manilow. Or magicians that look like Liberace. Or ... you get the picture. Pretty much no entertainment options that we loved. or liked. or could stomach. Still not fans of gambling. And on-board art auctions.
2. We missed seeing every fabulous place we loved at night. No quaint dinners, no strolling along riverbanks and admiring the sites all lit up.. That's not really this particular cruise line's fault, just the fault of cruises in general.
3. The planning at each port was indeed a lot more work than I thought when I was hitting the "easy button". It suddenly became a good amount of pressure to see the absolute best and most you can when you're there for 8 hours!? It really is pretty ridiculous sometimes. I felt like I read and read and read and was overwhelmed at making the right decision. Adding a little more pressure, was that we'd been traveling so much all year that I didn't have the time to devote to the cruise like normally you would if it were your only vacation in a year (or in a summer, or in a month!?)..
So, I can't just give it an A+ or a C- as you can see.. like any good assessment, there's many levels of judging worth, so I'll let you read my synposis and make your own!
We did have a fantastic time as a family, made so many memories that we'll cherish for a lifetime, were able to share so much history and culture with our kids and expand their world view, and that was priceless!
Finally (!?) a few last phtoos of the ship to share with you and I'll put this adventure to bed!
By the way, I should mention the cruise line!? We took the Emerald Princess out of Copenhagen for 12 nights. We chose this one (as opposed to similiar ones that left out of Amsterdam, despite that being a much closer port to us), because we'd have less days at sea. It was HUGE and very well maintained and groomed.