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Baltic Seas on Brilliance August 2019 Recap

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Baltic Seas on Brilliance August 2019 Recap


 

I’m writing this up after we’ve been back home for a week and a half as of today.

 

A few things I wish to cover before I start:  I would like to thank and give major props to all those who are able and take the time to make live reviews during their cruise in order to bring so many wonderful pictures and great info for us all to enjoy.  I had pondered the idea to try to make a daily report at the end of each day, but there was no way I was going to be able to keep that up so I did not even start it. I’m currently following A&L_Ont (Andrew) everlasting live from Harmony cruise.  There are many other great reviewers as well, not just to single out Andrew, but it just happens to be the current one I’m following. Thank you all.

 

Other issue, I am NOT A WRITER. I apologize in advance for my syntax, spelling, using caps where I should not, repeating myself, and ambiguity.  English is a second language for me, but no matter, I can’t write any better in French either.

 

I’ve decided to write this up because even if I did find some reviews and information specifically related to Baltic cruises, they were somewhat sparse, and were either not in the same seasonal time frame or were involved family cruising, so there are different activities and perspectives involved.  I’m a technician at heart and love details, I felt I would have like to get more details before this cruise.

 

I’ll do my best at keeping my info as objective as I can and keep my opinions to myself.  I’m sure a few will slip out anyway, but I‘ll be more than happy to give my personal thoughts if anyone cares to want/ask for them.

 

I will include pictures as best I can.  I’m a Medical Photographer as part of my day job, but I’m not artistically inclined, nor do I enjoy carrying a heavy and bulky DSLR camera & lenses when I’m on vacation so I have a huge amount of admiration for those that do.  My pics were all taken with a cell phone, and a cheap one at that.  

 

I’m going to write up a few details that I think are worthy to mention and a few other things I noticed, but I am more than happy to answer any questions I can, or elaborate on stuff that I most doubtedly will forget to mention.

 

Thanks in advance for reading.

 

My recap of our 12 day, August 11th Brilliance of the Seas Baltic Cruise.

 

General Overview

Itinerary

Day 1 - Departure Port Amsterdam, Netherlands

Day 2 - Cruising

Day 3 - Copenhagen, Denmark

Day 4 - Cruising

Day 5 - Tallinn, Estonia

Day 6 - St. Petersburg, Russia

Day 7 - St. Petersburg, Russia

Day 8 - Helsinki, Finland

Day 9 - Stockholm, Sweden

Day 10 - Cruising

Day 11 - Skagen, Denmark

Day 12 - Sea Day

Day 13 - Debarkation - Amsterdam, Netherlands


 

We booked this cruise the day the itinerary opened up 607 days out.  I booked a refundable deposit directly on RC North-Amercian website. I monitored pricing and got a $100 OBC deal a few weeks after initial booking, but after that, prices continually kept creeping up and up, until no more interior rooms were available.  We did manage to score a Royal up bid (more on this later) to a balcony room and received our successful bid email 8 days prior to sail date and about 30 minutes after I had printed and placed the luggage tags in our plastic sleeves as we were getting our stuff ready. 

 

We were cruising just myself and my wife for our 25th anniversary, so kids were staying home.

 

I tend to pre-pay and pre-book most  things we want through the cruise planner.

Prepaid Grats

Deluxe Bev Package for both of us. (Cancelled 3 times and repurchased to get better pricing)

3 night Dining package

Chef’s table

2 Device Voom Surf & Stream

Wine Around the World Wine Tasting Onboard activity

Stockholm on your own (RCI excursion)

2 day St-Petersburg Happy Tour (3rd party - Best Guides)

 

more to come...

 

dp

 

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More Specifics

 

Arrival in Amsterdam

Brilliance was departing on Sunday August 11th.  Thursday the 8th, we flew out of Moncton NB (CAN) to Toronto, then scheduled direct to Amsterdam, but delayed departure made us miss our connection to AMS so we were sent to Rome, and then AMS.  Even after having to run in Toronto to make out Rome connection, and having to rush in Rome for the next connection, my wife and I were amazed and gave High fives when we saw all 4 of our checked luggage come out on the conveyor in AMS.  We were originally scheduled to arrive in Amsterdam at 10am, but it was now 5:30pm when we got in a taxi (Tesla Model S) on our way to Eden Hotel. Taxi ride cost 65 euro. Eden Hotel is located in the center of Amsterdam, next to Rembrandt Square and across the Amstel Canal to the Opera House.  Temp was sunny and around 21°C (70°F)

 

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This gave us 2 days prior to departure and, being from across the pond if I were to re-do this, I’d do my best to get there 3 of 4 days ahead.  For some reason, we both found adjusting to time zone much more difficult this time around compared to our previous travels abroad. Perhaps it is us getting older, or the hotel room having practically no window, as it was facing another hotel window about 5 ft away so we kept the curtains closed.  But we spent so little time in the hotel room that I don’t think that was it, but we were probably day 3 or 4 onboard before I was completely adjusted. I don’t know how the folks from pacific coast or the land down under can adjust so quickly.

 

After unloading luggage in our room and catching our breath a bit, we headed out to Rembrandt square for a bite to eat and a few beers, then a stroll along the canals, walking towards the downtown core.  We were very tired at this point after more than 36 hours without sleep so we made it back to our room and crashed.

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We spent most of the morning and afternoon at the Rijksmuseum and Museum square, had dinner and then spent the evening strolling the streets and Red District. We felt very safe and no issues walking around weather daylight or dark. Getting service in English is also a non-issue in Amsterdam, or anywhere else during our cruise for that matter except perhaps in SPB but we had our guide in SPB that had very good English skills.


image.thumb.png.c7049e87cb0abbbac3f56a28334b103f.png

 

image.thumb.png.71b20a6cdab047771a0adf9447da9146.png

 

image.thumb.png.105f44fde07dadb3519b792b5b443482.png

 

 

 

European Data Plan Sim Card

I had purchased a European sim card (Orange) on Amazon with a 14 day activation and 8GB 4G data.  I had installed it in my phone the previous day and it started working immediately after turning my phone back on.  I received a text message from Orange welcoming me to Netherlands. I took the habit of placing my phone in airplane mode when onboard and removing airplane mode in every port.  Only in SPB did it not work, which knew in advance anyway. Every other port, I got a new text message from Orange welcoming me in that country. Even though my phone only gets 3G, there were still no issues with connectivity for getting google maps directions, purchasing museum tickets online or other online activity.

 

dp

Edited by dpostman

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8 minutes ago, dpostman said:

European Data Plan Sim Card

I had purchased a European sim card (Orange) on Amazon with a 14 day activation and 8GB 4G data.

How much was that?

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Departure day

We were outside the Hotel main doors by 10:10am. Temp was sunny and around 18°C (65°F) I ordered an Uber Black for a ride to cruise terminal, Uber arrived at 10:15 and dropped us off at terminal at 10:26, Cost : 15 euro

 

We walk in the terminal and had clear directions and signage to baggage drop off, also terminal staff were very helpful.  No tipping of luggage porters as we easily placed our luggage on conveyor belt ourselves that was nearby. Up the stairs and to the line that was what seemed to be a long for this early already, but the line was moving very swiftly and by 10:45, we had been checked in with sea pass cards and voom code card in hand.  Cookies and lemonade were being offered in several locations. Then off to security check and by 10:50, I was sitting in a chair in the waiting area. Kudos to the Amsterdam terminal staff for exemplary efficiency. We were in row 9, and boarding started being called row by row shortly after at around 11am. A kiosk with more cookies, juices and Coffee was setup in the waiting area.  Washrooms are also conveniently located. Cell coverage did not work in this part of the terminal for me and Wifi was not available or maybe overloaded as I recall. At 11:20, our row was called to board.

 

The gangway entered the ship on deck 4 and we arrive in the Centrum.  Right away the sales pitches began. This would be a recurring thing for the first 4 or 5 days of the cruise, but mellowed out afterwards.  We toured the upper pool deck (Deck 11) and did a few other stops, Colony club (Deck 6 Aft) has a great observation area with old but adequate sofas and some chairs facing the aft windows. We would end up spending a lot of our free time here.  Headed to windjammer and sat in the aft outside area. Windjammer was not too crazy yet. I think the rooms were available around 1:30, but I did not take note of the exact time.

 

We went to the room and started settling in and checking out the balcony. We were in room 7650. Starboard side, towards the aft area.  This is considered an Obstructed view balcony room***. The view in fact was fine except that you can’t see directly below but out the sides were completely clear.

 

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***Royal UP details sidebar

I mention this because when we received the Royal UP email, the 3 offerings that we could bid for , no mention of Obstructed view was made.  “Ocean View Balcony”, “Spacious Ocean View Balcony” and “Ocean View” were the only 3 options for me to bid for. That being said, we do not regret as out Interior room (8025) we had originally booked is 100% obstructed view 😉 Probably the fact that we bid just over the minimum, I assume might be a determining factor of what grade of balcony we got. We felt lucky to even get an upgrade, since this cruise had been sold out for some time, I was not hopeful.

 

More about the room

We heard luggage starting to be delivered at around 2pm, by 2:30 all 4 of our suitcases had made it to our door.  Our room had ample storage for all our clothes and stuff. We don’t cruise often so when we do, we go all out as far as clothing. My wife had a dress for every evening and I had one suit, 4 sport coats and 12 long sleeve shirts, for the evenings, plus each a rain jacket, and regular summer and cool weather clothing.  It all fit in the drawers and hang up closet. I had enough hangers for all my shirts if I doubled them up and hung my sport coats over them. Each side of the vanity mirror, there are angled mirrors that open up and small shelves are behind them. Regretfully, I do not have a picture to show them. Also, in the washroom, on of the angled mirrors also opened for storage.  The room fridge was empty and only slightly cool. OK for water and such but I would not keep perishables like yogurt or milk in there as it will go bad. There is no requirement to keep a card in a holder in order to power the room.

 

Only our carry-on suitcases fit under the bed.  Our med sized suitcase went inside the large one, and we stored that one inside the hanger clozet under where my sportcoats and shirts were hanging.  We kept using one of the carry ons under the bed to store dirty laundry.

 

The TV, had limited channels and no longer has any interactive options to check account statements and the like.  We had to go to guest services to get an update. However, a statement printout was in our room about halfway through the cruise.  The remote was difficult to operate but I we just put up with it since we hardly used it except for the view of the front of the ship and sailing details.

 

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Back of the TV for those interested

 

None of the announcements could be heard in the room.  We always had to open the door to hear anything. No TV channel, or fiddling with what seemed to be a speaker volume made any difference.

 

Raffy our wonderful room attendant came by to see us and inquired if we had any special requests.

 

Muster was around 4pm or so as I recall.  Same as usual. Our muster station (V17) was outside deck 4, Starboard.  Speakers were not too loud as I’ve seen sometimes.

 

Sailaway began at pretty much the planned 5pm.  The exit from the port takes 3 hours and makes it way westward through a long canal to the North Sea.  The view is great going through commercial, industrial, rural countryside areas of the Netherlands. We emerged from the locks and into the North Sea at around 8pm.

 

These are swings along the canal that are on the roof of a tall building.   I did not have a téléphoto lens so I took the pic with my phone through my binoculars.

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More pics from along the canal until we reach the North Sea

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dp

 

Edited by dpostman

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15 minutes ago, Biker19 said:

How much was that?

 

The Orange Sim card was $47.50 CAD. Today about $35 USD.  I had ordered on Amazon and received a few weeks before we left.

 

dp

Edited by dpostman

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Following as doing this cruise August 21, 2020 with DH, SIL and BIL.  We have already booked our SPB tour with Alla Tours but haven't decided on anything else yet.  Plan is to come in day before to Amsterdam on direct flight from Detroit and staying at DoubleTree hotel near Central Station.  Looking forward to reading more!

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MDR

We went for pre-dinner drinks and late seating dinner at 8:30.  The MDR is divided on 2 floors. Deck 4 - Traditional Dining Early Seating 6pm and Late Seating 8:30pm, and Deck 5 - My Time Dining. I can’t speak about MTD as we had traditional.

 

Entrance to MDR was on Port Side only.  Starboard side was not available to us on our sailing. The first night, there was a long line as is usual because staff have to show each group of guests where their table is located.  Lines were much shorter on the following nights and many nights, no lines at all. Also, no sense in arriving early as you’ll just have to wait outside the doors. There are washrooms just outside the deck 4 entrance to MDR.

 

I did not take pictures of menus or food as there are already may floating around, but I did take one of the wine list from day one.  I’m under the impression that the wine list changed somewhere around day 3. We ate at MDR on night one, but at Chops on Night 2. We were back at MDR on Night 3 and several of the wines I ordered by the glass during the cruise are not on the pictures I took on Day 1.  I only realize that now that I look at it again. Sorry about that. 

 

 

20190811_204109.jpg

20190811_204216.jpg

 

More to come later.

 

dp

Edited by dpostman

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12 minutes ago, jmh2006 said:

Following as doing this cruise August 21, 2020 with DH, SIL and BIL.  We have already booked our SPB tour with Alla Tours but haven't decided on anything else yet.  Plan is to come in day before to Amsterdam on direct flight from Detroit and staying at DoubleTree hotel near Central Station.  Looking forward to reading more!

 

Thanks for following, and if you have any questions let me know, I'll do my best.

 

dp

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The cruise director during our cruise was Andrea (Oliviri I think) and the activities director was TT… I failed to get his complete name.  I was impressed with the number of languages Andrea could speak. I got a chance to speak with him after a show and found him to be very approachable and friendly.  I also think he did a good job on the morning show with his side kick TT.

 

This was the view from above Centrum during the “Finish That Lyric” happening as we walked out from our diner.

 

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End of day 1

 

dp

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Day 2

 

Getting up was still difficult.  I usually get up for work at 5:45am and on weekends I’m usually up between 6 and 6:30.  But between the jet lag and the slight rocking of the ship, it was close to 8 before I was up.  No matter, just a sea day today anyway. Off to Café Latté-tudes for some Jet Fuel. Long lineup.

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By the third day, the 2 guys at the café knew my coffee preferences already.  1 Americano black +1 shot and 3 ice cubes for me, and 1 Americano with cream for the DW.  This coffee is really hot and took me several minutes to be able to start to drink it so on day 2, they suggested putting in a few ice cubes, we settled on 3 as being the perfect amount 😉 and they remembered from that day on. Illy was the brand of coffee used.

 

We strolled around the ship getting to know it better and took this picture of the Chef’s Table location when it was empty.

 

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We would be back in there on day 8.


 

We had the Meet & Mingle at 10am in the Colony Club.  I figure about half of the registered guests showed up.  They had a table set up with drinks and snacks for us as we entered.  TT was there and gave a little talk, drew prizes, (No wine), many stuck around after for a little chit chat.  It was nice to put a face to the folks we encounter around here. Also, made it easier to meet up again as we tended to bump into the same people again all along the cruise as this is such a small ship that we keep running into the same people… in nice way 🙂

 

More strolling around and then getting ready for our chops dinner.  Also formal night. 

 

This was our Ship photographer picture of the first formal night as we were heading for a drink before chops.

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We stopped by Vintages to pick up each a proper glass of wine, hung around a bit and headed to chops.

 

The view from our table at Chops

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Ok… one food porn pic

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Our meal at Chops was great and service was impressive.  I had mentioned to our server that the wine list had a very limited selection if you wished to order by the glass, so she immediately suggested that she would go to vintages to get whatever wine we wanted… so we did just that.

 

I recommend taking pictures of MDR and Vintages wine lists and then consult them if needed when in the specialty dining.

 

We found that the 3 specialty restaurants were never full when we were there.  This might be the reason for the heavy sales pitches we got at every turn and opportunity.  The Sommelier for chef’s table showed up at our table at MDR on Day one and tried to get the other couple seated with us to join in, and I got the impression from the Sommelier that we were the only couple that were booked for CT on day 8.

 

After dinner we grabbed a drink at the pub and headed to the theater for ABBAMAX.  Not my type of show but enjoyed it anyway. Particularly because of the amazing drummer.  The Brilliance house band drummer was filling in as apparently their usual drummer could not be there.  This guy is simply an amazing drummer. I think his name was “Slavic?” not sure.

 

We were pretty beat after this so we turned in for the night.  We did get to spend some time on the balcony as the temps were very comfortable even in just a T-Shirt. 

 

End of day 2

 

dp

Edited by dpostman

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Day 3 - Copenhagen

 

Getting up is a bit easier and was at the coffee shop by 6:30… waiting for them to open… but no lines 😉

Had my 2nd breakfast with DW at around 8, and we were off the ship by 9am.  We made our way on foot towards the city center planning to walk to Tivoli Gardens.

 

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But about 15 minutes into our walk, the rain began and getting heavier.  We had about another 5 minutes walk left to Tivoli when we passed in front of the National Museum of Denmark… This is an indoor activity… it was looking very interesting at this point so we made a change to our plans and did this instead.

 

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Shortly after Noon, we decided to make our way back towards the ship.

 

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Stopping for ice cream and sitting for people watching, made it back onboard at about 2:00

 

dp

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Thanks for posting all of this.  I am looking forward to your St. Petersburg post.  That is the trickiest port and I have researched it it to death. 

 

After Alaska, Baltic is on my to do list.  I am not worried about a language barrier with the crew, but kind of worried about the guests.  Do you find yourselves talking to other guests less because you may not know what languages they speak?   I found myself on a train in Belgium talking to a chatty man who only spoke French and Flemish.  I only speak English and a bit of Spanish.  We made do, but I can't imagine doing that at a big table in the MDR every night.  

 

I am also surprised that all of the Lattetudes prices are in $ rather than Euro.  

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Selfie from our balcony.

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We went to the show before dinner.  Now and Forever is a mish mash of older songs sort of cobbled together with “Interesting” arrangements with an Abba medley thrown in there. I have a lot of admiration for the artists who manage to perform this and do a good job with what they have.  Song selection seems to have been made to minimize the amount of royalties that they would have to pay out for every performance.

 

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We met the other couples at our MDR table for the first time since they were not there on night 1, and we were at chops on night 2.  They were all great people to chat with and had a great time with them every single night we ate at MDR. This is what makes cruising great.

 

After dinner we headed to the room as it was getting close to 10pm, and the captain had announced earlier that we would be passing under the Great Belt Bridge at around 10 and I was looking forward to being on the balcony when that happened.  It was still nice and warm to be out on the Balcony.

 

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End of day 3

 

dp

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25 minutes ago, zepp914 said:

Thanks for posting all of this.  I am looking forward to your St. Petersburg post.  That is the trickiest port and I have researched it it to death. 

 

After Alaska, Baltic is on my to do list.  I am not worried about a language barrier with the crew, but kind of worried about the guests.  Do you find yourselves talking to other guests less because you may not know what languages they speak?   I found myself on a train in Belgium talking to a chatty man who only spoke French and Flemish.  I only speak English and a bit of Spanish.  We made do, but I can't imagine doing that at a big table in the MDR every night.  

 

I am also surprised that all of the Lattetudes prices are in $ rather than Euro.  

 

I promise I will get to SPB.  Most importantly, the big fuss and red alerts that RCI scare tactics try to convince cruisers that the only way is to use ship sponsored excursions... turns out to be a big smoke screen.  We had a 3rd party tour, and we were off the ship at 7:45, got through passport control and in the terminal waiting and ready to go at 8:10.  But we had to wait until 8:30 as that is the time our tour company bus was allowed in the terminal area.

 

In MDR we were seated with 1 couple from Israel on the first night only, but they spoke english good enough to easily make conversation.  They were cruising with another groupe but could not be seated at MDR traditional all together but when we met them again later in the cruise, they told us they had the rest of their dinners together with My Time Dining.  The other nights, the other couples that joined us were from Michigan and Arizona.  On our cruise, there were many guests from Australia/New Zealand , South Africa, Most (60%) from USA, many from Canada.  We met several from the Netherlands (Almost all spoke very good English) There were also many from South American countries and we heard lots of Spanish on board.

 

As for pricing, all pricing I seen on board was set in USD.

 

dp

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Following along as this is a bucket list cruise for us. Also brought back a lot of memories of our TA on the Brilliance from Amsterdam last September. 

 

Don't know if it is the same person, but the drummer on Brilliance last year was amazing. Certainly the only time I remember a drummer, always smiling, shaking his head side-to-side during the songs—- he was great. The entire band was very good. 

 

Great job so far! Your English is a heck of a lot better than my French — 🙂

 

mac_tlc

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I am on a Baltic cruise next year.  Did you take small amounts of currency for the countries you visited or did you get money from an ATM?  I'm not sure what to do so I was wondering what others did.

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2 minutes ago, WELDON said:

I am on a Baltic cruise next year.  Did you take small amounts of currency for the countries you visited or did you get money from an ATM?  I'm not sure what to do so I was wondering what others did.

Here are my exact amounts I took with me.  I never needed to use an ATM on the ship or in ports.

 

$400 USD

265 Euros
4500 Rubles

 

I used up all the rubles tipping our tour bus drivers and Guide in SPB (gave a bit more in USD to Guide). Used CC in SPB souvenir shops.  All other stuff was covered by tour company (Best Guides).  USD were given out onboard tipping bartenders, servers in specialty restaurants and extra tip to Room attendant and MDR staff.  Euros were use for one taxi ride and a few more small items here and there.  Came back with 80 Euro.

 

I had ordered my foreign cash online through my bank website.  I used my back up CC that has no foreign currency transaction Fee everywhere on this cruise without issues,  except for the Uber drives, as my regular premium CC was already associated to my account.

 

Several locations, in particular in Sweden and Finland do not use cash at all.  Plastic Only.  Only in Amsterdam, the taxi from airport to hotel insisted on Cash only, No CC.

 

dp

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Great report!

 

we did the exact same cruise in early May this year. We were the first cruise of the season and the gal checking us in at the terminal was a bit slow but it all worked out.  Since it as so early in the season it was quite cool the whole cruise. In Windjammer it was always a hunt for a table as too chilly for anyone to sit outside.

 

felt sorry for the bundled up life guards as no one ever used the pool!

 

didnt get to use the balcony except to stand with blanket around us for sail ins.  The sail in to Stockholm is amazing.

 

we dined in Chops the first night and had a window seat for the interesting sail out to the North Sea.  Loved Chops. Dined there three times

 

we used ALLA Tours in SPB and they were awesome.

 

looking forward to the rest of this report, dp.  

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Really enjoying your review.  We did a very similar itinerary back in 2014 and this is bringing back some fond memories.  Looking forward for more.

 

 

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Day 4 - Sea Day

Time Zone change - we had to move our clocks ahead one hour this morning at 2 am.  I cheated and did not get up to do this, I did it before going to bed last night 😉 There were numerous announcements, also a card was left by room attendant in everyone's door key slot, and also mentioned on front page of Compass.

 

Another gorgeous day.  Beautiful enough to spend time on the balcony

Took this pic through my binoculars of what looks to be a Tall Ship sailing in the distance

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We had the Wines Around The World wine tasting today.  Great group, had lots of laughs. Sommelier was interesting but strong accent, a bit difficult to understand at times but we still made it through without too much difficulty.

 

This was the place mat with the names of the wines we tasted.

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After dinner there was the 70’s party going on in the centrum

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Day 5 - Tallinn

 

Before I start with Tallinn, here is a bit of info about St-Petersburg port details.  Yesterday we got a letter in our stateroom about disembarkation in SPB.

 

Here is a pic of the letter I got yesterday and the tickets I picked up this morning at Guest Services.

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There was no line at GS when I got there.  I showed her the letter, and she asked what time our meet up was scheduled with out Guide.  I told her 8:30 and the GS agent said sure, no problem and immediately gave me 2 tickets for 7:45am exit time. Voila, Easy Peasy.


 

Tallinn

Morning was probably around 14°C (57°F), in the afternoon closer to 19°C (66°F)

 

The walk from the port to the Old part of Tallinn is fairly easy.  If unsure where you are going, there are signs, and just follow the crowd.  Remember that uphill is away from the port, and Downhill is heading towards the port.  There were 5 cruise ships in port today so there were lots of people in Tallinn. 

 

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It was past noon somewhere… Right?

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At around noon, it was difficult to find a place to eat that was not already completely full.

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dp

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Day 6 - St-Petersburg Day 1

 

The exiting of the ship was much smoother and calmer than expected.  From reading some of the posts on CC I was almost expecting Black Friday rushing the doors kind of chaos, but no.  All was a simple quiet line in the centrum, groups with RCI excursions were brought to the centrum one group at a time, and those with exit tickets like we had were permitted to joint in the line at the appropriate time.

 

This pic was taken at 7:20am… See what I mean?  Not black friday.

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7:30, after a group had just been brought out from the theatre, then 5 minutes later, it would be looking like the picture above again.

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At 7:35 We were sitting in the chairs in the centrum and the line got longer when a new group was brought in from the theater, until there was practically no line left, then another group would be brought in.  At 7:45 we simply got up and joined the tail end of the line when it was very short and walked off the ship. 

 

We were directed to the 3rd section of the terminal and once inside it looked like this.

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This took about 15 minutes to get to the red line where you wait your turn.  You meet the border agent one person at a time only, no couples. They are serious and they don’t smile, but are not mean or intimidating.  They stamp your passport and place a piece of paper inside that you will have to give back when you return that day. By 8am we were through and met one of our MDR tablemates and chatted for 5 minutes or so.  Once through security the terminal shops section is crowded and locating your tour guide is the toughest part. If you make your way out the doors, you will not be permitted back in the same way, you’ll have to go around the side and come back in through a security checkpoint.  So make sure you read your tour company’s instructions carefully. Some tour companies meeting point is INSIDE and some are OUTSIDE.

 

As we came out a bit early, our guides were not there yet so we did go outside looking.  When I re-read our instruction and it clearly stated “inside”, we made our way back in and through security and by that time it was 8:20 and we seen our guides Logo sign and met then where we had just walked by 10 minutes earlier.  In this terminal is a good time to head to the washroom if you tend to “go” often. As soon as you walk out of the security section and walk into the souvenir shop section, they are located all the way to the right.

 

Our guide brought all of us (around 14) outside to wait for our van.  She explained that the tour van would only be allowed inside the terminal grounds at 8:30 as the big RCI 50 passenger motorcoach buses had earlier priority.  But not to worry, as the smaller local tour company vans are much smaller and pass along routes and places that are impassable by busses, thus get us to entrances to sites much closer and quicker.  Ou van showed up as planned right at 8:30. The van had onboard Wifi and they gave us the PW for it and each a bottle of water.

 

There are lots of pictures of SPB so I won't bore you with many of my crappy phone pics, but here a just a few from our first morning in SPB.

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the Lakhta Center is the tallest building in Russia and all of Europe

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We then boarded a hydrofoil for a 40 minute ride to Peterhof

Some of the pics above were taken during the hydrofoil ride. The van would drive around the 50 or 60 minute drive and be waiting for us when we exited the Peterhof grounds.

 

Our Hydrofoil docked at Peterhof. LOUuCcTINhadvDDpJp7XnDCXlYxR8EIuz2xXikPiGn1Fu8hTDDWQhSKQfkX16nw8gEn0SbFTWSl8trUox71IFfjqdAUihKvws82SKGNP5e4BiBNJLSSZv_MTtW1mTjWET56X9iLl



 

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Off to lunch and then Catherine Palace

 

dp

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Catherine Palace

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Anybody else watch Netflix’s The Last Czars, back then this palace was yellow-orange in colour

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One of many great rooms

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Flooring woodwork

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We had to wear these shoe covers

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That evening back on the ship, Russian performers came on board to put on a Russian Folk show in the Pacifica Theatre.

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At Giovanies I had the Octopus appetizer

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dp

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Day 7 - St-Petersburg day 2

 

The exiting of the ship was even quicker than yesterday.  No line whatsoever exiting the ship, walk to the passport control, not all passport control booths were open today as it was not that busy.  Out to the terminal and probably in less than 10 minutes from when we entered the centrum.


 

First stop

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If you happen to be here on a Wednesday, you might have a chance of seeing this historical mechanical clock do it’s thing.

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Nevsky Prospect



 

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We made it back to the ship at around 4:30 and ship left I think around 6:30 or 7.

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Day 8 - Helsinki

We only had one plan in mind, and that was to walk up toward the city core and make it to the Oodi Central Library.  Just opened last December and built at a cost of 98 million Euros.

 

Picture from Wiki

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3D Printers

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On board time was 2:30.  Today, windjammer was a complete chaos.  People running around aimlessly trying to find utensils and something to eat, tables were completely full, this is only my 4th cruise, but this was by far, the worst I've ever seen a Windjammer.  So, Park Café for me with a couple of Kummelweck roast beef sandwiches 🙂 We did not want to eat too much as we had Chef’s Table tonight.


 

Chef’s Table

 

Those thinking of doing Chef’s Table, Make sure to check that day what time it is going to be!  Those that know me, are fully aware that I’m a stickler for punctuality.  So when my wife and I casually strolled down to the schooner bar at 6:10pm since our Chef’s Table was scheduled for 6:30, we had time to grab a drink and chit chat with Patrick, the friendly bartender at schooner bar, and just a bit further, I checked and the doors to CT were still closed.  We roamed around a bit more until finally, at 6:25, we got closer to the CT room and encountered a server and we said we were just waiting for CT, he responded that they had already started. WHAT? He brought us in, and inside were the 4 other couples just waiting for us… They had all received a page in their rooms the night before indicating the time change to 6pm.  Remember we had a Royal UP room upgrade? Well, we did not get that note, so needless to say we were a little embarrassed at being so late, but the other couples were actually very understanding about the mix up. I think most of them cruised RCI many times before and were familiar with these types of screwups. Even the Royal APP was still indicating 6:30, so they did their best to make us feel better and somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd glass of wine, we forgot all about it.

 

Food was great, the wine was great, the company was great, and Location very nice except we could hear the entertainment in the next door Colony Club for the first 45 minutes or so.

 

Perhaps you can make out some of the items served in my CRAPPY picture 😞

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Scallop Carpaccio

Smoked Tomato Soup

Main Lobster Salad

Roasted Branzino

Grilled Filet Mignon

 

Desert: The world served with a Salted Caramel Espresso martini

 

Tonight before bed, Another Time zone change for tomorrow: Roll back one hour 

 

More to come later...

Edited by dpostman

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Thanks for the write up.  The one thing I didn't get is which ports and activities you liked and which you didn't.  Anything you wish you knew before that you know now?  

 

Also in St. Petersburg, did your guides let you wonder around or were you forced to stay with the group?

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