Scandinavia & Russia (w/Oslo)

Nov 3rd, 2006, 04:54 AM
  #1  
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Scandinavia & Russia (w/Oslo)

A group of 10 are planning to take the Star Princess cruise to Scandinavia & Russia. The itinerary features a 10 day cruise with 7 ports of call including two full days in St. Peterburg. The cruise starts on July 1, 2007. We plan to spend a day before and
a day after the cruise in Copenhagen, Denmark. I would appreciate any guidance you can provide on the cruise liner, visa requirements, excursions offered by the cruise vs. excursions offered locally, currency, weather, shopping, hotel accomocation in Copenhagen, etc.

Thanks.
Hakna
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Nov 3rd, 2006, 05:28 PM
  #2  
 
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I can provide information on some of your questions, as my wife and I cruised the Baltic last year. We were not on the Star Princess, so I can't help you with this ship, but I will say we are not fans of Princess in general. Be prepared for a lot of nickel and diming. We stayed at the Sheraton in Copenhagen, which was very nice and convenient. Copenhagen is a marvelous city. Don't miss Tivoli Gardents. You don't specify your other ports except St. Petersburg. There, you will not be able to take local excursions unless you have a Russian visa. Your best bet here is to stick with the cruise excursions. The one to Peterhof is especially good with a jet boat ride back to town. If you go to Helsinki and/or Talinn, you can see most of the sites just by walking around on your own. In Helsinki, there is a very interesting church built into a rock wall that you shouldn't miss. You will undoubtedly go to Stockholm, a gorgeous city, with much to see. You might get a local excursion here. Don't miss the City Hall. As far as currency is concerned, of the above places the only one that uses the euro is Finland. Be prepared to change money several times. Enjoy!
therenaissanceman is offline  
Nov 4th, 2006, 09:13 AM
  #3  
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Thank you for your response therenaissanceman.

The cruise starts from Copenhagen, and the ports we will be visiting are: stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk, Oslo and back to Copenhagen.

Thanks again,
Hakna
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Nov 6th, 2006, 05:01 PM
  #4  
 
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Hakna: You may find my trip report on Cruise Critic of interest. We were on the Celebrity Century, 12 days out of Amsterdam. You can find it at http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberre...?EntryID=20645
For St Petersburg, I would definately encourage you to use a private tour group such as Alla Tours
http://www.alla-tour.com/
or Red October
http://www.redoctober.us/
for your group of ten. You will see more and of what you want than the ship's tours.
The size of your group is perfect. Much time will be saved just by the size of your group. Our group was 11 with Alla Tours. All strangers before the cruise, fast friends after Russia.
Some of our fellow shipmates were quite happy with the ship's excursions at the various ports, but as I say in my report, we used only the one for the Russian Ballet.
If you do some homework, and can get consensus from your group, you should do better on your own in all ports mentioned, though we did not stop at Gdansk.
You will not need a visa in St Pete if you use above mentioned tour companies, even though the cruise companies try to intimidate you into using their own excursions. We had no problems. We heard nothing but good reports from others who used Alla and Red October. Ships eccursions into St Pete got mixed reviews.
I will be glad to answer any questions here, as I check in more often here than the CC site.
BillJ is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 05:12 PM
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Forgot to mention; You can see our pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbill...7594258507060/.
Our cruise time was June, July, so about the same time as yours is planned. We had fantastic weather, a bit unusual. You can usually expect some overcast and rain. But not cold. It stays light from about 4 am to 10-11 pm.
Did not worry about currency in Russia and Tallin. Our guide helped us out in St Pete. Tallin they take dollars, Euros, etc.
The other capitals, I got about $75 US of each currency from my bank before we went. Used my credit card (always the best exchange rate) for all major purchases and meals. Never needed more local currency. Some used the ATM's with no problems.
Again, any other questions, glad to answer if I can.
BillJ is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 07:38 AM
  #6  
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Dear Billj,

I appreciate all your advise. I will take a look at the pictures as well as the tour companies you have mentioned in your note.

Thanks again.
hakna
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Nov 11th, 2006, 08:17 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2003
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We did the Star Princess cruise last August. Since you have many answers, I will be as brief as possible. The ship is just fine. We did not have any nickle and diming on our cruise. As for the ports, the ship docks very near the main buildings in Oslo. You can easily walk to these places. However there is a special park with sculptures that will require you take a tour or a taxi. The town of Gdansk is pretty special. However the ship docks in Gdinya. One option is to sign up for the transportation only tour to the city. I think it costs around $20 r/t. The city is walkable and very interesting. They give around 4 hours for you to see it. As for the other cities, Tallinn, Estonia is about a 1/2 mile walk from the ship on flat ground. Just follow the crowd. Again a walkable city, but with some hills. The remaining ports are not accessible off the ship. Especially St. Petersburg in which the ship docks in an industrial complex. There is no way to walk to the heart of the city, plus you cannot do it by law. If you are doing the ships tours, you do not need a visa. However bring a photo copy (or 2) of the main page in your passport. The customs will collect it. As for the tours, be prepared for "sticker shock."
They are costly.
Siljac is offline  
Nov 17th, 2006, 09:22 AM
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Hakna: I go with the advice of BillJ and Siljac. Renman slams Princess every chance he gets unfortunately and IMHO it paints an unrealistic picture. I think you will be fine on the Star but bear in mind its a bigger boat. Such boats suit us so its a matter of personal choice.
jacketwatch is offline  
Nov 27th, 2006, 07:55 PM
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Hakna,

We did that exact cruise in June and loved the Star Princess. It had just been put back in service from the fire in the Caribbean. We loved the ship and the itinerary. We did not feel nickel & dimed at all on the ship. We stayed at the Marriott in Copenhagen pre-cruise and took a canal cruise which was very interesting & went to Tivoli Gardens (pricey, but a must see at night). We did most of the ports on our own.

In St. Petersburg we used a company called DenRus Tours for both days. We did a private tour with 2 other couples we had met on Cruise Critic Roll Calls, so the price was much better than the ship's tour. Plus there were only 7 of us instead of a bus load of 50.

In Gydnia, we were just going to take a cab to Sopot & walk around, but the taxi driver talked us into doing a 6 hour trip with him that included Gdansk & being our guide for $100 for he 3 of us. He was great! One of the best parts of the trip. He also exchanged money for us to shop in the local stores that didn't take credit cards (as did our guide in Russia). The only place we really needed local currency was Norway, to take the bus the Vigeland Park. The park is free & also a must see. We didn't need any visas - Denrus took care of that in Russia, as will the cruise ship if you use them.

In Sweden we took the train from Nynasham (sp) to Stockholm. All of the countries (except Poland & Estonia) are pricey, especially Sweden.

We stayed at the Copenhagen Airport Hilton for our post-cruise because we had an early flight out. Very convenient - you walk to the terminal in about 10 minutes. You can take the train (at the airport) back into town for the last night there.

As for the weather, we were there for the last 2 weeks of June. We never needed a jacket our light sweater until the last day (Oslo) which was a little rainy in the a.m. The rest of the time we had warm, sunny weather. Also, we had very calm seas except the last night at dinner time (crossing the small part of the North Sea out of Norway). It got a little rough, but after a few hours, everything was fine again.

Hope I answered most of your questions. If you have any more - let us know.

Sherryl
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Nov 27th, 2006, 10:22 PM
  #10  
 
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Visas: for a US citizen, I did not need a visa for any country we visited, except Russia, where I joined a cruise excursion (I sailed on Celebrity's Constellation, and have heard only great things about the Star Princess). If you are a citizen of an Asian country, you will have to get a Schengen visa at the Danish consulate. For citizens of other countries, I would recommend checking out the Danish consulate of the country you live in.

I was in the Baltics this past summer from June 17-July 1, and felt the weather was delightful. Not hot at all, just perfect, at least for me. I am a huge fan of endless daylight. In Russia, I was up all night soaking in the "white nights." Love it. Miss it.

I don't know what countries your itinerary includes, but found that if you just wanted pocket change, it was best to either get money out of an ATM or exchange money on board the ship (exchange rates were quite favorable from what I saw on board - things may be different on the Star Princess so caveat emptor!).

As for the ports, there are Hop On/Hop Off buses (aka: HoHos) at each port for a relatively reasonable price. I agree with Siljac. Be prepared for the sticker shock if you take the ship's shore excursions. Yikes!!! Although they do take you to more places, depending on how you like to travel, it can either be a nice overview, or a rushed bus ride.

I cannot speak for accomodations in Copenhagen as I was only there for a day. But since you'll be there for some time, definitely make it over to Tivoli Gardens at night, when they have the fireworks.
mcnyc is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 10:32 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
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I took the exact cruise in June of 2005. Loved the Star Princess!
It's a good idea to arrive in Copenhagen at least a day early (if not more). On my last cruise in the Mediterranean (October 2006), I met a couple that missed the boat because of airline delays and had to fly to the next port of call to get on board. Another couple barely made it to the ship but their luggage didn't. It was several days before their luggage caught up with them. Again because of airline delays. I stayed 3 nights in Copenhagen prior to the cruise and left the day I disembarked.
Since it was my first trip to these countries, I took the ship tours. I was impressed with how smoothly they were able to move out hundreds of people on time. It was expensive but worth it.
Allivian is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2006, 05:51 AM
  #12  
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Thank you all for your great advise and input. I will surely keep them in my mind.

Once again thank you and happy holidays to everyone.

Warmest regards,
Hakna
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Dec 30th, 2006, 01:12 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 167
Did any of you who have taken this cruise (or similar with different cruise line) have children/teens with you? We will have 10 and 14 year old and are wondering about the activities for them...anyone??
swissgirl is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2007, 05:51 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
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We did the 12 day Celebrity Century cruise in August 2006 out of Amsterdam and had a fabulous time with our 9 and 11 year olds. The only planned excursion we did was in St. Petersburg where we went with Alla Tours which I highly recommend -- our guide was Victoria. We had a group of 8 which was perfect.

In the other ports, we followed guidebooks. We tried to hit a couple of highlights in each city knowing that doing much more than that would be overkill for the kids. In Helsinki, we did a double decker bus tour around the city where you could get on and off at different ports. The kids and I just did the loop and then returned to the ship to "hang" knowing that we had two full days of St. Petersburg coming. My husband got off and did a few more sights and then returned to the ship.

Our kids really did not do the ship's kid activities. They enjoyed playing chess with each other or we would play scrabble in the activity room. We are typically so busy that this was nice for them (and us) to just relax and not feel scheduled.

We are doing the Mediterranean this summer so we are looking forward to that as well.

Enjoy!
nancybb is offline  

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