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Baltic Cruise Great Success. Short time in ports of Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Oslo, Brussels, Amsterdam. Thank you Fodorites!

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Jul 28th, 2006, 06:32 AM
  #1
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Baltic Cruise Great Success. Short time in ports of Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Oslo, Brussels, Amsterdam. Thank you Fodorites!

I tried to make this short, but…I know this is not the cruise board, but I just wanted to thank you and perhaps leave some tips for others who may have only a short time in one of these ports of call. Would be glad to answer any specific questions.

For a lot of reasons I won’t go into, we decided early this year to cruise the Scandinavian capitals, plus St Petersburg and Tallinn, instead of going independent, as we would usually do. We were a little conflicted; having never been on a large ship cruise before. Trapped with all those people, not nearly enough time in each city, the madding crowd, no chance for major spontaneous changes in plans, etc. On the plus side, no pack and repack, new hotels, narrow stairs, no lift, etc. And for sure, didn’t have to worry about going hungry.
We booked the Celebrity Century, 12 days out of Amsterdam and return. Frequent flyer miles got us to Brussels from US west coast. Train to Amsterdam where we pre-extended for 3 great days. All in all, we are happy with the result of the trip. However, we are not converted cruisers. Back to the old way for our next trips.
In addition to Amsterdam (our second visit), on which I recently posted here some restaurant recommendations and other thoughts, we did the following.
We relied heavily on Michelin Green Guides and the DK Eyewitness Guide to St Petersburg, this board and others, and the local tourist information centers. Ship’s historical/cultural information was frustratingly limited, except for where to shop, which helped in that regard. Except for St Petersburg, we took no organized tour, instead relying on our own abilities learned over the years to see things on our own. We stayed away from the crowds as much as possible, never felt rushed or herded.

Copenhagen: 0700-1600. Ship shuttle to Kongens – Nytorv. HOHO bus not yet running (8am) Walked to Amalienborg, church, then to Rosenborg Slot. Took the self guided tour (65kr each). We really liked the Slot and the extensive gardens. Numerous nannies and parent out strolling and playing with small children. Enchanting. Walked Ostengade, big sweater purchase. Lunch was a dream, suggested here by a Fodorite, and am I glad. Open faced sandwich in Nyhavn. What a treat enjoyed by no one on the ship’s excursions. Shrimp, plaice, caviar, Tuborg, all accompanied by a street jazz band. (Thank you, “Grandma.”)

Stockholm: 0900-1700 Ships shuttle to Gustav Adolfs Torg. Walked to Nybroviken for ferry to Vasa. Ferry does not run til ten. No problem; Bus 47 from Nybroplan. Vasa was highlight of Stockholm. Hand out in English was our guide. Short movie. Highly recommended to all. Very good lunch in museum café. Not enough time for Skansen, regrettably. Ferry to Gamla Stan; walked and shopped. Bought Pipi Longstocking doll and book for granddaughter.

Helsinki: 0900-1800 Pleasantly surprised. More to enjoy than expected. Shuttle to town, got on red double deck bus 22Euro. Running commentary around town by spry 80 year old lady was a hoot. Senate Square to very active flea market. Amazing open faced sandwich on Pohjois Esplanadi at Hotel Kamp’s outdoor café. Beer was Lapin Kulta, or Lappland Gold. Waitress said is “only thing that’s gold in Lappland.” Loved walking the Esplanadi. Sun out, 78 degrees, everybody is happy, happy, happy. It’s Saturday. I liked my brief introduction to Finland. Must go back.

St Petersburg: Two days 0800-1700: Highlight of our vacation. Used the services of Alla Tours, arranged by internet prior to the cruise. I put together a group of 11 for a small van. Saw lots more than any of the ships excursions, at a fraction of the cost. Saw all the usual sites, too numerous to list here, including canal and river tour. Fantastic lunch at Podvorie Pavlovsk after Catherine’s Palace. Did use the ship’s excursion for the evening ballet, as Mariinsky was not showing ballet. Our day guide from Alla Tours, Elena, was outstanding, we all loved her. Hermitage impossibly crowded-was not enjoyable. July 4th in Russia!

Tallinn: 0700-1400 Definitely the surprise jewel. Shuttle to town; walked back. Love medieval towns like this and Bruges. Tourist info center gave us map and walking tour guide. We walked the whole place. Fantastic lunch on the main square, Raekoja Plats, at Troika Restoran. Waitresses were cute, friendly and fun.

Oslo: 1330-2100 Viking Museum via ferry from near where ship docked. Walked to Frammuseet. Bus 31 to town. Shopped at large kiosk adjacent to ship and walked medieval castle next to ship.

Brussels: Train from Amsterdam after 8am debarkation, arrived 1400. Stashed luggage at Gare Midi, 3,30 Euro/bag. Walked to nearby Gran Plac, enjoyed mussels in white wine sauce, and pancakes, of course. Bought the requisite chocolate. Train to Sheraton Airport Hotel for good night’s sleep before 10am flight home.
Total transit hours to west coast 25 hours, and we were beat

One may rightly conclude that we did not do each city/country justice. But I give us an A- or so. Thanks to a lot of homework, and frequent references to this board, we got to see a lot, and certainly more than those who took the ship’s land excursions. And we did it a lot cheaper, too.
BillJ is offline  
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Jul 28th, 2006, 06:40 AM
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Thanks very much for posting and glad you found the cruise to be somewhat advantageous.

Will be taking part of this same itinerary next year so appreciate your detailed comments.

I do wish you would be very brave and copy and past the entire report onto that absolutely sophomoric thread about people hating cruises...
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Jul 28th, 2006, 03:20 PM
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Thank you, Dukey. I just don't want to add to the rancor of that post. You can see that I'm almost apologetic for posting, as if I was ashamed to report on a cruise to all these heroic do-it-yourself'ers. But after reading that post and some of the responses, I am proud of how we got to see what we saw, because we couldn't have seen it any other way, given our circumstances, which are none of anyone else's business. Some of those posters seem to believe I am some kind of lesser person or something for going on a cruise. Like the lady that responded, it could happen that they too will find someday that it is the only way they can physically travel. And then I hope they remember how mean spirited they sounded. Geez - can't we just get along?
My point in posting is to thank Fodors for the host of information available here and answering my inquiries as I planned my trip. It allowed me to get the most of my trip. By doing so, I also hope that what we report will be of use to someone else visiting these beautiful cities.
So Dukey, I will be happy to provide you with any info, and hope you enjoy the trip as much as we did.
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Feb 25th, 2015, 05:46 AM
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Bill enjoyed your recap of assorted Baltic ports.very helpful. Husband and I and another couple will be flying into Stockholm from Berlin arriving around 10 :30. going to the Celebrity Baltic cruise ship for noon checkin. Get settled in and relax.

The next day want to tour Stockholm, in AM as ship leaves at 3PM. Would we have enough time to go on the ferry to both Vasa and Gamla Stan??? or at least one of them?

Maybe do one of the Ferry rides the afternoon of our arrival?
Thanks cjdonohue

PS any good restaurants in Berlin?? "like an Octoberfest restaurant - good food and not too expensive
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Feb 25th, 2015, 09:05 AM
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Glad you enjoyed your cruise. We did a Baltic cruise with a somewhat similar itinerary on the Celebrity Constellation about 5 years ago. Like you, all ports were on our own, with the exception of St. Petersburg. We also went with Alla with our group of 4 and had a great time.

I have been on several cruises and when I go on them, I enjoy them very much. I am also an independent traveler most of the time. Everyone has different tastes in where they go and how they do it - as long as it works for them, I'm not going to criticize anyone's choices.

I don't get the disdain that many seem to express for cruises, Las Vegas or Disney - on this board it's like that is the trifecta of bad travel choices (and yes, I have enjoyed all three of those at various times).
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Feb 25th, 2015, 10:23 AM
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Thanks for posting this, BillJ. You've provided a lot of interesting information. I'd love to go on a Baltic Cruise someday as well as one of those Viking river cruises... They are a change of pace and somehow seem more relaxed since one does not have to keep packing and unpacking while staying in one room. It's the people who have the snotty attitudes who should feel sheepish.
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Feb 25th, 2015, 10:36 AM
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In case others might not notice -- the thread is nine years old.

cjdonohue: While BillJ is still around and may post to your questions . . . you probably should start a new thread of your own.
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Feb 25th, 2015, 11:35 AM
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I was thinking the same thing yesterday janisj !
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Feb 26th, 2015, 09:01 AM
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Oh, missed that, LOL. I was wondering where that thread was about people hating cruises that Dukey mentioned.
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Mar 26th, 2015, 10:33 AM
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Yes, I'm still around, just not as active here as i used to be. Can't believe this report still has life. To cjdonohue: just get some books and read a lot and decide what you want to do/see. With limited time in port, you don't have time to stand on the dock wondering where to go next.
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