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dpostman

Baltic Seas on Brilliance August 2019 Recap

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7 minutes ago, zepp914 said:

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?

 

I'll start with your inquiry about SPB.  The provisional VISA that are granted to visitors through local tour companies are provisional that you are accompanied by a licensed guide at all times.  That being said, when at Peterhof, the group separated a bit as a few left to go find washrooms, and the rest continued on a bit to find a dry spot as we were being rained on.  It did not seem to be much of an issue.  SPB id definitely a highlight of places to visit, but I don't think I would chose to live there

 

On our first day, we were a group of 14 and we pretty much stayed together as a group. We all had little receivers and an earpiece so we could hear the guide.  On day 2, we were split up, and our group was now down to 3 and it was much easier to chat and get more info from the guide and the guide adapted our visits to reflect our preferences.

 

As for the port of calls, my wife and I are pretty independent and like to do stuff in a non-structured and more improvised way.  We walk a lot, and probably should have looked closer at the Hop-on hop-off buses that were available in several ports.  But we find we get to soak in much more of the local feel when on foot.

 

There is one place in Tallinn, that I wish I had made reservations beforehand.  When walking around we walked by this great smelling BBQ Smokehouse type restaurant that was really interesting.  But we continued on walking.  Later when we started getting hungry, I convinced my wife to go back to that restaurant and I let my nose guide me back there but by that time it was completely full and a long line to get in. I just tried to find it in google maps but was unable to.  I'll try later and post it if I do.  Then we started to look for another place and many were full.

 

We got rained on pretty good in Copenhagen so we changed our plans.  I did not mention very much of the National Museum of Denmark in my posting but this is actually a quite extensive museum with many sections that someone would need probably 2 days to cover all of it properly.  We chose to do the Viking section and part of the Ancient Egyptian.  That alone took long enough.

 

Both Helsinki and Stockholm for me were particularly attractive as in I would move to live there in a heartbeat if Mine or my DW's job required us to move there.  My answer would be an immediate YES.  The population just seems to be chill and so much of their resources are invested in literacy and education.  They also have so much more respect for the environment that what we are used to seeing in North-America that it is inspiring.

 

Hope this helps

Let me know if there are other details I can help with.

 

Other ports coming up soon

 

 

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Thanks!  I think you answered everything.

 

"Both Helsinki and Stockholm for me were particularly attractive as in I would move to live there in a heartbeat if Mine or my DW's job required us to move there.  My answer would be an immediate YES. "

 

My wife had similar things to say about Halifax during our Canadian cruise.  Like Helsinki and Stockholm, I would like the see what winter is like there before I would commit.  

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1 minute ago, zepp914 said:

Thanks!  I think you answered everything.

 

"Both Helsinki and Stockholm for me were particularly attractive as in I would move to live there in a heartbeat if Mine or my DW's job required us to move there.  My answer would be an immediate YES. "

 

My wife had similar things to say about Halifax during our Canadian cruise.  Like Helsinki and Stockholm, I would like the see what winter is like there before I would commit.  

 

I totally understand.  But I think I'm already used to it 😉

dp

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Day 9 - Stockholm

 

The views sailing into Stockholm are spectacular.  The weather this morning was again very pleasant.

 

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We got off the ship and boarded a bus for our only ship sponsored excursion of our whole 12 day cruise.  Stockholm on your Own. Price was decent and basically, drops us off at 3 different locations, and you have a set amount of time at each to do whatever you want.  CityHall, Old Town, and Djurgarden Island (Museum central).

 

One thing about the Swedes, They hold punctuality as an extremely high priority. We got on the bus at around 8:20.  Scheduled departure is 8:30. By 8:28 we could hear the driver talking slightly loudly with some terminal staff, but could not tell what about.  At 8:30 he came back in and shut the bus door. Every passenger was already onboard but the Tour Guide was apparently late. He simply took the mic and said:  “OK folks, my name is XXXXX, our tour guide has not arrived yet but it is very important that we depart on time, but do not worry, I’ve been doing this for 10 years, I’ll be able to tell you all the same things anyway”  and at 8:31, the bus pulled out and we were on our way without the tour guide.

 

It took about 25 - 30 minutes to get to City Hall, when we arrived, he told us we had 40 minutes and to be back on board the bus by 9:40.  I guarantee, there were no late guests and everyone was onboard by 9:40 and this would be the same at every other stop as well 😉

 

 I did get a chance to chat it up a bit with the driver and he was actually very nice and informative.

 

Very nice biking paths in Stockholm

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City Hall from the other side of the river through the bus window

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City Hall from inside the inner courtyard

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Views heading toward Old Town

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kungliga dramatiska theater

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dp

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2 minutes ago, zepp914 said:

 Like Helsinki and Stockholm, I would like the see what winter is like there before I would commit.  

It's probably one of the main reasons for fairly high suicide rates. It's real nice to visit as a tourist, not so sure about living there.

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Our last stop of the day was at the Djurgarden Island where there are many different museums to choose from including but not limited to:  ABBA Museum, Nordic Museum, Vasa Museum, Skansen Museum/Zoo.

 

We were already planning to go to the Vasa museum.  This is a really spectacular museum but the interior is very dark and my phone did a really poor job at taking pictures so please be forgiving.

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Here is one from Wiki that gives a much better idea

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Tours are given in multiple languages.  We were able to find a French guide that was starting a tour within the first 2 minutes of us arriving there.


 

Back on the ship and on our way out

 

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Looks like we’re not the only ones on our way out

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dp

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Day 10 - Sea Day

 

And Formal night number 2 of 2

 

Again, crappy pic from my phone.

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Our MDR table had been visited by the Merlot Fairy... Inside joke incase our tablemates who are also on CC happen to see this 😉

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Day 11 - Skagen

No matter how the Captain, or cruise director or anybody else says it… the locals pronounce it like: SKAYIN

 

Very charming stop.  A bit cooler today.

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We had met the sommelier from CT in one of the lounges and he had suggested that we should avoid the “Fancy” restaurants in Skagen and stick with the street food.  So we took his advice and had the best Fish & Chips we ever had in our lives, and we are from the Canadian East Coast… This collection of food shops are located just next to the marina.

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Went back to the ship

 

Had my drink of choice that evening

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Day 12 was an uneventful sea day, spent a part of it packing and doing the online check-in for our return flights.

 

We had luggage tags 25 and disembarked at around 8:35am. We were out the terminal and I waited for my DW as she went searching for washrooms.  At around 9, I ordered an UBER and there was one already there about 75ft away. We were at the airport Air Canada check-in counter by 9:30. Through security and even with some browsing in the airport shops, we were at our terminal departure gate at 10am for our 11:55 Flight home.  This flight left and arrived on time.

 

Of course, we later encountered flight delays and cancellations, we got bumped off of a flight in Montreal that we actually made it to the gate on time, but they had already re-assigned our seats.   They had re-booked out flights for the next day, but CS found same day flight that took off later and they gave us food vouchers to use during our wait time. Landed in Moncton at 1:30am.  

 

End of Recap

 

I’ll come back later and add details about ship specific stuff and answer any questions that I can.

 

dp

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13 minutes ago, Luckynana said:

Enjoying your review.  Pictures are beautiful!😊 

 

Thank you.

 

My DW happened to be out of town for a few days so it left me with some spare time in the evenings, and I went on way more than I thought I would when I started.

 

She is back now so I suspect my posts will be getting much shorter 😉

 

dp

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1 hour ago, Biker19 said:

 

It's probably one of the main reasons for fairly high suicide rates. It's real nice to visit as a tourist, not so sure about living there.

 

My Swedish friend says that it isn't the cold or the long nights, but the days when there is too much sunshine.  Apparently 18 plus hours of daylight is too much.  

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Thank you so much for the wonderful report and pictures. We are booked for the May 17, 2020 cruise, so I'm really starting to 

do some serious planning. We booked this in December of 2018.

We'll be flying from Atlanta, Georgia on a direct flight, and will spend 3 nights in Amsterdam along with 2 other couples.

So far, my main focus is to decide on a hotel in Amsterdam, so I'm making a list of the key places there that we want to see.

 

We plan to use one of the guides in St. Petersburg, and may see what it will cost for the six of us to have a private tour. DH sometimes has knee issues and can't always walk at a brisk pace.

 

Thanks again for the info; if you post again, let us know  more details.

 

Barb in GA

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Thanks so much for posting this!  I find your posts very informative and interesting.  We're going on this cruise next year--the one departing 7/28/20 (we just changed it--originally, we were on the 6/20 departure, but we had too many conflicts).  There will be 8 of us--DH and I, our 4 children (25, 23, 17, and 14 at time of sailing), and my sister and BIL.  Like you, I enjoy walking around, but BIL has mobility issues, and may not be able to be on the same tours.

 

Did you find the drink package to be worthwhile on this cruise?  We were thinking that we'd try adult beverages on shore, rather than get the drink package onboard.  Similarly, we're likely to skip the specialty restaurants, and enjoy local cuisine--glad to hear that the street food is delicious.  

 

It sounds like you two had an amazing experience.

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20 minutes ago, barb in ga said:

Thank you so much for the wonderful report and pictures. We are booked for the May 17, 2020 cruise, so I'm really starting to 

do some serious planning. We booked this in December of 2018.

We'll be flying from Atlanta, Georgia on a direct flight, and will spend 3 nights in Amsterdam along with 2 other couples.

So far, my main focus is to decide on a hotel in Amsterdam, so I'm making a list of the key places there that we want to see.

 

We plan to use one of the guides in St. Petersburg, and may see what it will cost for the six of us to have a private tour. DH sometimes has knee issues and can't always walk at a brisk pace.

 

Thanks again for the info; if you post again, let us know  more details.

 

Barb in GA

 

Just wanted to pop in here and recommend that you take a look at The Toren Hotel in Amsterdam  We stayed there this past spring and it was lovely - centrally located right near the Anne Frank house. 

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8 hours ago, FlotheFloof said:

Thanks so much for posting this!  I find your posts very informative and interesting.  We're going on this cruise next year--the one departing 7/28/20 (we just changed it--originally, we were on the 6/20 departure, but we had too many conflicts).  There will be 8 of us--DH and I, our 4 children (25, 23, 17, and 14 at time of sailing), and my sister and BIL.  Like you, I enjoy walking around, but BIL has mobility issues, and may not be able to be on the same tours.

 

Did you find the drink package to be worthwhile on this cruise?  We were thinking that we'd try adult beverages on shore, rather than get the drink package onboard.  Similarly, we're likely to skip the specialty restaurants, and enjoy local cuisine--glad to hear that the street food is delicious.  

 

It sounds like you two had an amazing experience.

 

8 hours ago, barb in ga said:

Thank you so much for the wonderful report and pictures. We are booked for the May 17, 2020 cruise, so I'm really starting to 

do some serious planning. We booked this in December of 2018.

We'll be flying from Atlanta, Georgia on a direct flight, and will spend 3 nights in Amsterdam along with 2 other couples.

So far, my main focus is to decide on a hotel in Amsterdam, so I'm making a list of the key places there that we want to see.

 

We plan to use one of the guides in St. Petersburg, and may see what it will cost for the six of us to have a private tour. DH sometimes has knee issues and can't always walk at a brisk pace.

 

Thanks again for the info; if you post again, let us know  more details.

 

Barb in GA

 

Thank you for your kind words.  I'm just heading oug for work but I will take the time to add more and answer questions.  With "Dorian"  headed to spend the wekend here, looks like I'll be spending most of it indoors.

 

dp

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7 hours ago, Travel Pat said:

Really enjoyed your review!  Thank you for posting - I'm looking at this trip for Spring 2020.

Thanks for following.   It is a great itinerary, I'm sure you already know this but, in the spring... bring warm clothes.

 

As Canadians,   my wife and I had fun trying to guess where people were from by the amount of clothes they were wearing on the outside decks.  As my DW and I felt we had great weather and enjoyed it, we met other couples complaining how chilly it was 😆

 

dp

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55 minutes ago, dpostman said:

Thanks for following.   It is a great itinerary, I'm sure you already know this but, in the spring... bring warm clothes.

 

As Canadians,   my wife and I had fun trying to guess where people were from by the amount of clothes they were wearing on the outside decks.  As my DW and I felt we had great weather and enjoyed it, we met other couples complaining how chilly it was 😆

 

dp

 

 

Too funny!  We currently live in North Carolina--bye-bye, Dorian!--but previously lived in upstate NY for 20 years (7 feet of snow annually), and after that, in New Hampshire.  So, my kids are skiers and one, in particular misses the cold weather--he wears shorts year-round, even though we do get frost and a little snow down here.  That's one of the reasons we chose this cruise--they miss the cooler temperatures.  So, we expect to be pleasantly comfortable, maybe need a jacket at night.  And my oldest lives in Boston--it'll be just a regular day for her!

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Barb in GA & FlotheFloof

I think it is good that you plan to spend 3 days before the cruise.  This will give you more time to adjust to the time change.

 

Our Hotel was the Eden Hotel on Amstel.  It is joined by the hip to the Rembrandt Square Hotel Amsterdam.  You can walk in the Eden from Amstel Street and through to the Amsterdam Hotel and come out the other side next to Rembrandt Square.  The Location of these is fantastic. The pricing is a bit high but we were able to walk to everything we wanted to see. Just a short Uber ride to Port.  The room we had at the Edden was very modern and quiet, but no view and dark. In the morning I could walk out from the Hotel Amsterdam doors and turn left to a small local coffee and pastry shop less than a minutes walk to Mama’s Bakery, or turn Right and walk for a minute to a very nice and huge Starbucks.  Lots of food/restaurant options right there in the Square to choose from.

 

St-Petersburg tour guides.  From all the reviews I read, I don't recall ever seeing a negative comment about any of the main local tour companies.  Alla, SPB, TJ Tours, and others all have an excellent reputation and offer different tour packages. We ended up going with one of the smaller ones called Best Guides. We chose the “Happy Tour” that was a compromise of many of the must do sites, plus lunches, and also some strolling on Nevsky Prospect that felt much more natural environment rather than touristy.  As I had mentioned, we were 14 on the first day. The first day was the same for all, but  

 but on day 2, they split the 2 groups, the others were doing the “Best of the Best” and 3 of us were doing the “Happy Tour” so we ended up staying with the same guide as day one and really enjoyed was now practically a private tour.

 

We had early access to the sites.  Like the Hermitage Chapel, our guide had us ready right in the vicinity as the doors opened at exactly 10:30am, we were the first ones in that very spectacular room, and we were the only 4 people in it for the first few minutes.

 

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The tours do involve lots of walking and some stairs, but the walks through museums are at a pretty slow pace.  The one that is a bit quicker is Peterhof and that is all outdoors. But I’m certain, had we asked our guide to take a slower pace, she would have been very accommodating

 

dp

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Ship activities

I think this is a nice cruise to be with a group.  We had cruised on Anthem for a 7 day with 8 families & kids 2 years ago and really like it.  Brilliance being smaller is a bit limited on some activities/venues that the bigger ships have.  We found ourselves often spending some free time in the back of the colony club, which we actually liked, but on one occasion, we were asked to leave as they were setting up the room for a Mystery Dinner group.  So we went up to the Viking Crown Lounge for the great view. We were not there 15 minutes and they came out with the signs that this area was being reserved for the Diamond lounge that was overflowing next door.  My wife was not comfortable staying there so we left and it felt a bit off putting.

 

There were several sessions of Trivia, Bingo and Karaoke, but none of those are our thing.  The evenings had music in several locations at the same time, so if you were not fond of Cheesy lounge music, there was probably a Jazz trio or Classical piano going on elsewhere.  Most nights had a Voice & Guitar entertainer in the Pub.


 

To be continued…

Edited by dpostman

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Love your photos of St. Petersburg!  I have only heard good things about the local tours and guides.  We're a ways away from picking excursions, but I'm gathering information.  I showed my kids your photos, they really loved them, and are so excited for this cruise!

 

Did you try the Mystery Dinner?  That's on our to-do list.  Beyond that, I have one super-adventurous kid (my oldest), one who follows her sister (DD17), and then the rest of us are more book nerds.  I expect to find my sister in the library on every sea day!  I can see my older son trying the English pub.  But, if I'm running the kids hard (ish) on the excursions, I don't mind them taking it easy on sea days.

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Since this ship does not have the big ticket items as the Oasis and Quantum class, It is nit as popular for family cruising, but it still does have A rock climbing wall, mini putt, ping pong, basketball, and the lines are much shorter.  There is a Cinema and also pool side movies.  Some of the listed activities were Family Disco, Giant Jenga, Ring toss competition... so there are stuff to keep kids busy if you look for them.

 

Sorry, we did not do the Mystery Dinner.

 

For the book nerds, that lounging area at the far back of the colony club with the great view of the wake is a great place to curl up with a book.  We spent much time there.

 

dp

Edited by dpostman

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THERE WERE NO PEPPER MILLS!

 

I had to beg and plead for one and after 3 nights of them hearing me ask for one, the head waiter finally found and old worn out one that basically just cracked each peppercorn in 3 or 4 very coarse chunks.

 

dp

Edited by dpostman

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...Continued

 

Drink Packages

 

OK… this I know is a big ??? for many people.  There are so many variables that may or may not make it worth it.

 

I’ll start with the price we paid:  The first time it was on “Special” I purchased at $61.57pppd + 18% ($46.75 usd).  I just counted the number of purchase confirmations and cancellations I have on file and turns out it was 5 times, that I cancelled and repurchased at the final price of $55.86pppd + 18% ($42.43 usd) for a grand total for the both of us including service charge: $1581.96 cad ($1200 usd)

 

I can only speak for us, but in our style of cruising, we always choose to get the Alcohol Beverage package.  Mind you, this was our first 12 day cruise and we did question ourselves if we could make it worth it for 12 days and just the 2 of us and not with a group. After much deliberation we decided to go ahead and buy the package.

 

Considering that there were several sea days, many of the port departures were early, and we had late seating for dinner, this gave us plenty of time to “Break Even”.  I did my best to mentally keep track on a day to day basis as I knew this would be something that would get asked about. Even if I don’t count the number of water bottles (1 per day) and specialty coffee (usually 2 per day), a few Fresh OJ, I usually broke even sometime between 3 and 4 pm on sea days and just before dinner on port days and then add a few glasses of wine at dinner on top of that.  Only one day I was one drink short of breaking even and that was the day we had Chef’s Table, because it was a port day, it starts early and it includes a wine pairing for each of the 5 courses + a desert martini, but I probably still broke even if I counted the coffees and other stuff I had that day.

 

For my wife, breaking even involved counting the Coffees, 2 or 3 per day + the 1 or 2 Pellegrino she had at the dinner table.

 

During the 12 days, we never received a slip to sign except for the few occasions that the wine we chose was over the 12$ per glass limit.

 

Latte-tudes coffee shop has a little terminal that after you order, you swipe your own card and have an option to add tip or none and have to sign the digital pad.  If I ordered 2 coffees I had to first swipe my card, then wait for them to punch in the second order, then I swiped my wife’s card and go through the same process again.  This got old very quickly. Luckily the guys were friendly.

 

Roaming servers

I’m not sure if this is a Brilliance thing or if it is across all ships, but there were plenty of roaming servers taking drink orders.


 

dp

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Voom Internet

When we arrived at the terminal check-in counter, they gave us our sea pass card, and our Voom Code card

 

dpV23VoKL-ISY6C5sAFeLFVKu40VQ1q3JGezEDR_-nvyK620M8Fuzbxy8yLYhRQdR5kwiG6sjvU0WMFaSKZU6Te8q9eaFbxVhe3Z3xysYHC3Elwtt0rNfX_ic078yIZBulALt7N7

j0H834DbtZ7XaB-y-fpM-TpCn4fmjUgH8yJZQvIA6WxvgkuCBWfKfPg1t6tPLAi_7Qqfnnh_4qmol4QdX3cnVmTgP3dq1VUWL1hdyqvmrpXvKe8wm_aM6r8q6dkv3QHTAYoxqIM-

 

Voom did not work in the terminal building waiting area.  I did put in the code once we were onboard and sitting with a drink.  The internet was so slow and intermittent at this point that we were considering going to GS and getting a refund if it did not get any better.  Luckily, as soon as we pulled out of port and headed out, it vastly improved. Now even if we had the Surf & Stream, trying to watch the CBC news cast in the evening was not very smooth with lots of hiccups and pauses.  Most other facebook functions and email was OK, but uploading pictures and videos to cloud service was, well, I may as well get a drink in the meantime…

 

But connection was pretty consistent everywhere we spent time.

 

To change device, we could not just log in with another device, it would give an error code stating max device limit already reached.  You have to log out. Disabling wifi of rebooting the liged in device did not work. 

 

To log out device you must type in the URL Address: Logout.com and that will enable you to log in with another device.  I just created an internet shortcut for the Login page and one for the logout page on the home screen of both my phone and my tablet and that worked fine.


Do not assume the royal app information is correct.  I found many discrepancies with activities and other stuff listed in the app that were wrong.  We used the app mostly, but would double check with the Compass to make sure.

 

dp

 

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Noise Incident

Our room was quiet for the most part.  Never hear anything from the corridor, but from the room directly above us… we heard some walking around and that would be pretty consistent during the 12 days, as if they were heavily walking on their heels, and that, we could live with.  But on night 2 we started hearing more rockus and drawers opening and closing. That lasted only a little bit, but on the 4th night, I swear, it sounded like they were playing Rugby. After an hour of that I ended up calling GS to let them know we could not sleep because of the noise.  She said she would send someone over and I would guess that in less than 2 minutes, it completely stopped. That was the end of the noise issue for the rest of the cruise except for some walking and a few drawers here and there. The next day, GS called to check to make sure we were ok and the noise had stopped, and we said yes and thank you.  The day after that, we had a bottle of wine that had been delivered to our room by GS as a gift for our troubles. Since we had the Bev Package, we brought it to our MDR table for our tablemates. No Corkage fee was charged.


 

There was some teen girls smoking on the balcony 4 rooms down from us a few times, but nothing bothersome enough to be worth calling it in.

 

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