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About lmg1230

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    Cool Cruiser

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    Oakville, Ontario
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  1. Hi, sorry for the delay in responding. We used Anastasia Travels for our two days in St. Petersburg and had a wonderful time. Our guide was great at keeping the girls engaged and adjusting our plans a bit depending on what they were enjoying. My younger daughter adored her - there were a few tears when we had to say goodbye at the end of our second day! This is a summary of all that we did while we were in St. Petersburg - they were happy to discuss what we wanted to see ahead of time and created the itinerary that we wanted. https://www.gonewiththefamily.com/gone-with-the-family-adv/st-petersburg-russia.html Lisa
  2. Hi there, I wrote the blog post that trosebery posted above so just wanted to chime in with my thoughts. It has been several years since our cruise in the Baltics but it was a great experience and definitely one of our favourite trips. Our older daughter was 12 at the time but our younger daughter had just turned 6 a couple of weeks before the cruise. It was our first trip to Europe with the girls and it was a great introduction. We went on a Mediterranean cruise two summers later and in terms of overall experiences, the Baltics was much easier with young kids. We started and finished our cruise in Copenhagen and loved the city! Copenhagen is a very walkable city, however, we took a hop-on hop-off bus on our first day to get around to some of the sights efficiently and get our bearings in the city (after that we walked everywhere). We saw the Little Mermaid statue, toured Amalienborg Slot (Palace), played in the garden at Rosenborg Slot (Palace), went on a canal cruise, walked around Nyhavn (my 6 year-old loved the colourful buildings), and went to Tivoli Gardens both pre and post cruise. The main shopping district, Stroget, is pedestrian only and there's a LEGO store there that was fun - also street entertainment. The ports of call on our cruise were: Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk, and Oslo. Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and Oslo we toured on our own. We hired a private tour guide for our two days in St. Petersburg and we booked a ship's tour for Gdansk. Gdansk was the only day on our cruise which did not go well. In the cities we toured on our own, we were docked right in the city and were able to walk off the ship and go about our day. We were docked a fair distance from Gdansk and I had read that traffic was often brutal so we booked a ship tour to avoid the worry of not making it back on time. It was raining that day and both kids hated being on a group tour which involved spending far too much time visiting amber stores so others could shop. For Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, and Oslo, I researched ahead of time to find activities that would satisfy everyone in the family. Due to time constraints we sometimes had to miss a must-see attraction but 6 year-olds can't generally be rushed from place to place! For example, in Stockholm we chose to visit Junibacken (the Astrid Lindgren/Pippi Longstocking museum) rather than the Vasa museum. Some day I'll get back to see Vasa but I thought it more important for my 6 year-old to have fun that day and leave with a positive impression of Stockholm. (I have articles on my website about all of the ports we visited if you're interested in the details of what we did in each city.) My overall advice would be to tour most ports on your own or book a private guide who will design a family-friendly tour for you. We have found that it is often the case that hiring a private guide is no more expensive than booking 4 or more people on one of the ship's tours. If you are more comfortable taking a ship's tour then try to find one that is described as family-friendly. Our Baltics cruise was on the Emerald Princess and we have sailed Princess two other times - the Diamond Princess in Alaska and the Crown Princess in the Caribbean. My younger daughter in particular loved visiting the kids club on our Princess cruises. There were lots of activities but there were not so many kids on the ships that the facilities were crowded. She enjoyed seeing the same kids every evening and on sea days and developing friendships. A bit long winded but all to say that I think your entire family will enjoy the cruise in Northern Europe. Just be sure to plan ahead so you know what you intend to do in each port. Don't try to see everything as that will just exhaust everyone - go at a slower pace to accommodate the little ones and focus on having fun. 🙂 Happy to answer any questions. Lisa
  3. We went on a Baltic cruise when our younger daughter had just turned 6 and had a great time. We booked a private tour in St. Petersburg and went on a ship's tour in Gdansk because it was a long distance from the port into the old city but other than that we did all of the ports on our own and had a great time. We started in Copenhagen and also stopped in Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and Oslo. Enjoyed all of the ports and they were easy to do with the kids. Lisa
  4. Hi Holly, We went on a Baltic cruise a few years ago with our two daughters who were 12 and 6 at the time. We booked a 2 day private tour for the four of us and they hung in for the duration although we planned shorter days for touring so as not to exhaust them. We didn't see a lot of "kid-friendly" sites per se but we did hit the highlights. The first day was devoted primarily to Peterhof and Catherine's Palace as they are a fair drive from the city and there was traffic. They enjoyed the gardens at Catherine's far more than the crowded atmosphere inside and loved the fountains at Peterhof. Day two we spent in the city and spent some time shopping first thing as my daughter's both wanted nesting dolls. After shopping we visited St. Nicholas' Cathedral and then the Hermitage. The Hermitage was crazy busy and we had to escape to a less crowded part of the museum - skipped some of the best-known pieces and browsed the impressionists which we enjoyed more anyway. We cut our visit short and opted to spend more time walking outside. We visited the Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood and St. Isaac's Cathedral and then our tour guide just took us for a walk and we were able to see the Bronze Horseman statue. St. Petersburg is beautiful and there's far too much to see in 2 days but if you're touring with kids then you will need to slow down the pace a bit so that you don't exhaust them. Lisa
  5. We have sailed Disney twice in the Caribbean and Princess three times (Alaska, Baltics and Caribbean) and my kids prefer the Princess kids club. The primary reason being that they were able to make good friends on Princess because of the smaller number of kids using the facility whereas Disney has so many kids aboard that it was rare to see the same kids again. Lisa
  6. My younger daughter was not quite 4 when we cruised in Alaska. The ports were Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway and we did a 5 day land tour to Denali and Fairbanks post-cruise. We took grandparents with us and it was a once-in-a-lifetime cruise for them so we were most concerned about picking excursions that they would love. My youngest was already well-traveled by that age and easygoing so we were fairly certain that she would be fine regardless of what we chose but might need some entertaining. In Ketchikan, we explored the town and attended the Lumberjack show which she loved - she insisted on having her photo taken with them after the show. In Juneau, we went on an excursion that included whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier. She lost interest in the whales after the first few sightings but was happy enough on the boat especially after they started serving smoked salmon. Back in town we took the Mt. Roberts tramway - she didn't care for the ride but was happy enough to explore at the top. We took the White Pass Yukon railway and she was fine. The excursion was bus in one direction with a couple of stops. On one of the stops we did a go-kart ride with sled dogs which was thrilling! She wasn't interested in the scenery on the train but we brought colouring and stickers and she was happy enough to play while the rest of us enjoyed the view. When we were in Denali we visited Jeff King's ranch to meet sled dog puppies and both of my girls loved it - anything that had to do with sled dogs was a huge hit when we were in Alaska! Lisa
  7. We have done both Alaska and the Mediterranean with our daughters and loved both! We cruised on the Diamond Princess out of Vancouver to Alaska followed by a 5 day cruise tour when the girls were 10 and almost 4. Our ports of call were: Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. We did Ketchikan on our own and went to the Lumberjack show. In Juneau we went on a whale watching cruise, visited Mendenhall Glacier and took the Mt. Roberts Tramway to the top. In Skagway we went on a White Pass & Yukon Route Railway excursion. Both girls loved anything to do with wildlife and sled dogs. Our cruise was the last week of June and there were about 120 kids on board if I remember correctly. Our Mediterranean cruise started in Rome and we spent a few days there first when the girls were 15 and 8. We cruised on Celebrity Equinox and the ports were Santorini, Athens, Istanbul (overnight), Kusadasi, Mykonos and Salerno (for Naples and Pompeii). This cruise was in August and I would say that the majority of people on board seemed to be extended family groups and there were many Europeans and Australians as well as North Americans. We went on a shore excursion for Santorini in order to get to Oia easily; booked a private guide in Athens; booked a private guide for the first day in Istanbul and then on the second day went on a Bosphorus cruise and then wandered on our own; booked a private guide for 4 hours to take us to Ephesus in Kusadasi; did Mykonos on our own; and booked a driver to take us to Pompeii where we had a private guide waiting and then drive us to Sorrento for a pizza making class and back to the ship via the Amalfi Coast. Alaska may be easier with younger kids but there's no reason that you can't do the Mediterranean with them - you just have to adjust your expectations of how much you can see accordingly. We have also cruised in the Baltics once (ages 12 and 6) and in the Caribbean three times. We have cruised on Princess, Holland America, Celebrity and Disney. My kids have had a great time on all the cruise lines and in all of the locations. Plan to spend a few days pre-cruise in the embarkation port so that your family can explore a bit and recover from the jet lag before boarding the ship. I'm sure that you will have a great time whatever vacation you choose! Lisa
  8. We also visited Coki Beach and Coral World when we were in St. Thomas with our kids. We booked our Coral World tickets directly and took one of the large open-air taxis there. My daughters were 12 and 5 at the time. My older daughter and my husband swam with sea lions which they loved and they also did a sea turtle encounter. My younger daughter and I just enjoyed the aquarium. We played at Coki Beach after finishing at Coral World - it was a great way to spend the day on St. Thomas. Lisa
  9. I'm sorry Ashland but I don't recall - it was 4 years ago. We googled and then called places until we found one that had seats available for that purpose. It was a passenger van which had plenty of room for 6 passengers and all of our luggage. Lisa
  10. We sailed on the Equinox in the Mediterranean summer 2011 with 14 year old and 8 year-old daughters. The teenager didn't care for the Celebrity teen program but my 8 year-old loved her program. She enjoyed the activities and made great friends (and has kept in touch). She spent most of the last evening in tears because she was so sad that the cruise was over and didn't want to say goodbye to her friends. We checked her in and out at the desk as well. We were able to tour the facilities during the open house on the first day and we were also allowed in on the last night to collect crafts and say goodbye. We have sailed on Princess (twice), Celebrity, Holland America, and Disney (twice) and my kids have loved the kids programs on Princess, Celebrity and Holland America. My younger daughter was only 2.5 on our first Disney cruise but 9 when we sailed with them during the holidays last year and the kids program was just too crowded for her. We have found that the lines that have fewer kids and smaller facilities work better for us. My daughter is all about making new friends and that is harder to do when the kids program is crowded. Lisa
  11. When we cruised out of Vancouver to Alaska, my younger daughter was still in a car seat and we weren't bringing one with us. We were also traveling with 6 people and luggage (my husband and me with our two kids and my husband's parents with mobility issues) so we called around until we were able to find an airport limo company that would supply a car seat when they picked us up at YVR. Lisa
  12. I don't think you can go wrong with either. We sailed on the Eurodam in the Caribbean and my daughters both loved it. We have sailed on the Diamond Princess (Alaska), Emerald Princess (Baltics) and are going on the Crown Princess in the Caribbean over the holidays this year. I haven't experienced the Royal Princess specifically but I find Princess to be very family-friendly as was the Eurodam. I would choose whichever had the itinerary that I preferred. Lisa
  13. Sparkygirl, We went through Passport Control in St. Petersburg but I don't recall having to do so in any of the other ports (and even there it only took a few minutes). It was just a matter of having passport checked and we were given a card that we had to turn in again when we were departing. We didn't fill in any customs cards until we returned home at the end of our trip. Lisa
  14. Our family has sailed on both HAL and Princess and the kids probably have a slight preference for Princess. We cruised in the Baltics on the Emerald Princess in 2009 and had an amazing time. At the time of the cruise, my older daughter was 12 and the younger had just turned 6. We spent a few days in Copenhagen prior to the cruise and our ports were Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk and Oslo. Both daughters loved the kids club and made great friends. The overall experience was great! We did most of the ports on our own with the exception of St. Petersburg (where we did a private tour) and Gdansk where we did a ship's tour. I'm happy to answer any specific questions that you have. I also write a family travel blog and have detailed posts about what we did in each port if you are interested in reading about our experience (there's a link to my website in my signature). You will love the Baltics - that cruise is one of my favourite trips ever! Lisa
  15. It's always a good idea to have a letter of consent when one parent is traveling out of the country with a child. The 'why' is that immigration officials are within their rights to demand that you show proof that you have the other parent's permission to take the child out of the country in order to satisfy themselves that it is not a case of parental abduction. I live in Canada and have visited the U.S. twice in the last few months (though not on a cruise) with one of my daughters and have taken a notarized consent letter from my husband both times. On the first occasion we were grilled by U.S. Immigration officials before we were allowed to board the flight. He asked my daughter who was 9 at the time a number of questions and even went so far as to question whether my letter was indeed notarized as it was stamped but didn't have a red seal on it. The second time the official just asked if I had a letter, looked at it and handed it back. Better to have a consent letter with you than have boarding refused, in my opinion. Lisa
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