Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
Redsky5292

NCL Getaway Baltic Cruise 7/13-7/22 Review

Recommended Posts

Hello!  I thought I posted this review over here as well, but apparently I did not.  Let me know if you have any questions and I'll try my best to answer them:

 

Background:  Husband and I are in our early 40’s, both teachers, we have six-year old twins (who stayed home with family).  We booked the trip to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  We’ve sailed NCL four times (including this cruise), RCI (twice for me, once for Ben) and have a RCI cruise booked in April with the kids.  We sailed July 13th through July 22nd.

 

Airfare/transport:  We booked the cruise and airfare through NCL due to a fantastic Black Friday sale that they were having.  We had direct flights from Boston to Copenhagen that left at great times: 5:00 in the evening on Friday the 12th and 12:50 in the afternoon for our return flight on Monday the 22nd.  We flew Scandinavian Air, our seats were great, the airline crew were polite and efficient.  We both had our own screens and were given headphones, blankets and pillows.  On the flight over we were served dinner and breakfast, on the flight back we were served lunch and a light snack.  The food was meh, but hey we were on vacation.  I would book the flights through the cruise line again.

            We didn’t spend any extra time in Copenhagen as family was watching the kids and we didn’t want to impose anymore.  We booked transfer to and from the ship through NCL.  Unbeknownst to use the transfer over to the boat included a 2.5-hour bus tour of Copenhagen.  I don’t know if this is what they normally do or just because our flight landed at 6:30 in the morning.  The tour was pretty comprehensive and the tour guide was great.  Word of advice, go to the bathroom before you get on the transport!! 

 

The Boat/Crew:  The Getaway has recently undergone a facelift.  The boat was clean and well-maintained.  I have to say this was the friendliest crew that I have encountered on NCL.  Crew members went out of their way to say hello as I was walking down the hallway or waiting for an elevator.  The boat was sold out so there were lines at times.  Just be patient and wait, you are on vacation after all. 

            We spent a lot of time at Syd Norman’s Pour House outside bar (even in the rain at the end of the second day in St. Petersburg).  Scherwein and El Marie, the bartenders, were fabulous, they quickly learned our names and our drinks.  They really helped to make our trip a fun one.

 

Muster Drill:  It is much longer than on the other cruises that we have been on.  Because there was such a large number of people from Europe and China on the boat they had to state the directions in English, Spanish, French and Chinese.  The muster drill took a little over an hour…

 

Room/Room Steward:  We had a balcony room on the 14th deck, right under the pool deck.  The room it’s self was clean and big enough for the two of us.  However, we heard them arranging the chairs on the pool deck at 6:30 in the morning.  Lesson learned, don’t book a room on the 14th floor under the pool deck. 

            Owen was our room steward and he was fantastic.  Whenever we asked for him for something we had it promptly.  He always gave us fresh towels when he made up the room and turned down the room at night, even though we had hung them up and were planning on using them again.  He was very friendly and always asked how we were doing and if we needed anything.

 

Dining:  We had the four night SDP and we ate at the Teppanyaki Restaurant, La Cucina, Ocean Blue and Moderno.  All of the meals, and service, were excellent.  There is no longer an upcharge for Ocean Blue, we had prepaid it and they refunded it to our account after we ate there.  I didn’t take any pictures of the food.

 

Entertainment:  We saw Howl at the Moon twice and that was about it.  It was great and really entertaining.

 

Spa:  We took advantage of the 30, 20, 10 offer that the spa was offering.  If you booked three appointments you got 30% off the most expensive, 20% off the middle priced treatment and 10% off of the least expensive treatment.  We both got massages, mani/pedi’s and seaweed wraps.  Our experience at the spa was amazing.  I had the same therapist for my massage and wrap, she was fantastic. 

 

Ports:  We only booked an excursion when we were in St. Petersburg because we had to.  I’ll get into more details about the excursion below.  Pretty much everyone we encountered spoke English, and if they didn’t they did their best to communicate with us.  Bring a few euros with you (both paper money and coins) as some small places do not take cards and you will need coins for many of the public toilets.

 

Germany:  We got off the boat and walked over the to train station.  For 6 Euro a person (12 Euro in total) we bought the unlimited transportation ticket.  We could get on, and off, the train, trams, and car ferry, as many times as we wanted.  We took the train to Rostock, got off at New Market Square and walked around.  As it was Sunday, pretty much all of the stores were closed.  We ate lunch at a Peter Pan themed burger place.  The food was good!  We then toured the Cultural History Museum which is housed in nunnery that was built in 1215.  No bags are allowed in the museum so you will need a euro coin in order to store your bag.  No admission is charged but they will charge you 2 Euro to take pictures.  We then walked around St. Mary church and caught the tram back to Warnemunde.  What a cute little seaside town.  We stuck our feet in the Baltic Sea (man was it cold) and walked around.  If you decided to get a drink at the bar on the beach, make sure you have Euro as they do not take cards.  Many of the shops right on the boardwalk do not take cards either so it is a good idea to have some euro (very important if you want to use the public toilets).  After walking around for a bit we headed back to the ship.

 

Estonia:  Bring sneakers or comfortable walking shoes (not flip flops) as you will need them in Estonia.  The streets are the most cobblestoned I have ever seen and I was really happy to have my hiking shoes.  We walked from the port in to the old town and walked around.  We went into the Tallinn City Museum and the KGB Prison cell museum.  If you plan on going to more than one museum you can buy a pass, which will save you a few Euro.  I would recommend going to both!  We had a really nice lunch on one of the squares, walked around a bit more and headed back to the ship.

 

St. Petersburg:  We booked a two-day tour through Alla Tours and would do it again in a heartbeat. On the first day we went to the Peterhof Gardens, had lunch at a really nice restaurant, went to the Faberge Museum, went shopping and then went back to the ship.  On the second day we took a subway ride, went on a boat tour of the rivers, went to the Church of Spilled Blood, had lunch at a really nice restaurant, went to the Hermitage and Catherine’s Palace.  Our tour guide Elana was fantastic as was our driver Vladimir.  There were fourteen people on the tour and we had a nice Mercedes mini bus that included free wifi. 

            Customs didn’t take too long to get through the first morning.  It is important to remember that only one person a time can go up to the window, unless you have minors traveling with you then a minor and a parent can go up to the window.  Make sure you have your passport, tour ticket and Freestyle card.  We got through immigration in about 20 minutes or so.  They do let NCL tours off first and then the independent tours.  The independent tours know this and wait for everyone.  Since we had a mini bus we left our backpack with our passports on the bus as the driver was always with it.  We heard from a fellow traveler that several people had their passports stolen and had to take the high speed train to Moscow to get new ones.

 

Helsinki: This was one of my favorite ports, the city really reminded me of Boston.  We got off the ship and walked into town, it was about a 20-minute walk.  We headed to the Esplanade and walked over to Market Square.  It’s a combo Farmer’s Market/Food Stalls/Arts and Crafts fair.  I would wait to buy any sweaters until you get to Helsinki, we found the prices cheaper and it was the same goods that they were selling in Tallin.  We shopped, walked around and then headed back to the boat. 

 

Nynashamn (Stockholm):  We didn’t go into Stockholm as we had seaweed wraps that morning and didn’t have enough time to make it worth it to ride the hour long train ride into Stockholm.  That being said the port of Nynashamn was also one of my favorites.  Very easy to walk into town, you literally follow the green line painted on the ground.  We went down to the marina and had a very nice lunch of a local lager, oysters, preserved salmon for me, and schnitzel for Ben.  We then walked around the little shops near the marina, explored the church at the top of the hill and then went to the ONLY chocolate shop that supplies the chocolates for the Nobel Prizes.  Man was it good, I wish I had bought more to bring home.  We then headed back to the ship and hung out at H2O.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

nice review

your experience of needing cash in Germany is common-credit cards not as widely accepted

however in Stockholm whose currency is Krone they are pretty much a cashless society and will accept credit cards for a bottle of water! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing! We just got off the NCL Spirit's Ultimate Baltic ourselves and also enjoyed it! I posted our review here:

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2693770-ncl-spirit-ultimate-baltic-17-aug-1-sep-cruise-report/

 

This was our first experience with NCL and we definitely enjoyed it. Of course, the Baltic is my favourite cruise destination (so far!).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for such a detailed review! This is very helpful to everyone doing the the Baltic Cruise 🙂

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can you tell me what you mean by a Freestyle card for customs in St. Petersburg? Can you tell me approx costs for public toilets in the various countries

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/4/2019 at 8:14 PM, Redsky5292 said:

Helsinki: This was one of my favorite ports, the city really reminded me of Boston.  We got off the ship and walked into town, it was about a 20-minute walk.  We headed to the Esplanade and walked over to Market Square.  It’s a combo Farmer’s Market/Food Stalls/Arts and Crafts fair.  I would wait to buy any sweaters until you get to Helsinki, we found the prices cheaper and it was the same goods that they were selling in Tallin.  We shopped, walked around and then headed back to the boat. 

Interesting note on the prices, traditionally Estonia has had lower prices than Finland, although the gap has been closing and I guess it is indeed possible that certain products might be cheaper in Finland.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, 12531 said:

Can you tell me what you mean by a Freestyle card for customs in St. Petersburg? Can you tell me approx costs for public toilets in the various countries

The Freestyle cards are your key cards for the ship. The toilets were all under 1 euro any where between 50 and 70. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Did you need a VISA in Russia since you were not on a ship excursion?? My paperwork from NCL says if you are not on a ship excursion you cannot get off without a Russian visa. Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, IDKaren said:

Did you need a VISA in Russia since you were not on a ship excursion?? My paperwork from NCL says if you are not on a ship excursion you cannot get off without a Russian visa. Thanks!

We did the two day tour with Alla Tours, they provided the visa for us. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Redsky5292 said:

We did the two day tour with Alla Tours, they provided the visa for us. 

They actually don't provide a visa. They do the paperwork for a visa waiver for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IDKaren.   This is a misleading marketing ploy used by some cruise lines.

ALL  of the reputable private tour cos. participate in the official Russian government visa waiver program.

 

This means when you purchase a private tour, the visa is waived provided you stay with your group.  This has been discussed many times on CC. The tour company will provide the necessary paperwork.

 

The cost of the visa waiver is included.  By and large, small private tours are vastly preferable 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, IDKaren said:

Did you need a VISA in Russia since you were not on a ship excursion?? My paperwork from NCL says if you are not on a ship excursion you cannot get off without a Russian visa. Thanks!

Our tour agency Anastasia Travel dealt with all the paperwork very efficient and fast.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, IDKaren said:

Did you need a VISA in Russia since you were not on a ship excursion?? My paperwork from NCL says if you are not on a ship excursion you cannot get off without a Russian visa. Thanks!

 

As previous posters have noted, if you tour with one of the independent companies, they give you a "tour ticket" that lets you in under their blanket visa. It's just a single sheet of paper with your name, the company's name, and tour times on it that you show to the immigration officials along with your passport. I've been twice with independent companies (once with SPB Tours and once with Red Sun Tours), and had no difficulties either time.

 

No one from NCL ever even asked to see our Russian paperwork. They just let us off the ship and let Russian immigration deal with us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, trosebery said:

 

As previous posters have noted, if you tour with one of the independent companies, they give you a "tour ticket" that lets you in under their blanket visa. It's just a single sheet of paper with your name, the company's name, and tour times on it that you show to the immigration officials along with your passport. 

 

No one from NCL ever even asked to see our Russian paperwork. They just let us off the ship and let Russian immigration deal with us.

Exactly! Your tour ticket and valid passport will get you through immigration. The cruise ship has nothing whatsoever to do with immigration - they will simply scan your cruise card as you disembark and will not ask to see any other documentation. You will enter the terminal and queue for the next available Russian immigration agent - you simply show him/her your tour ticket and passport. You will meet your tour guide after passing through immigration - they all hold signs showing the name of the company with whom you booked. Easy peasy! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For those who did the Baltic in July...I am wandering the board looking for info on clothing....were there any hot days and very cold days? Light jacket needed?Trying to think ahead to packing smartly....

 

Thanks!
Bernadette

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, BratDet said:

For those who did the Baltic in July...I am wandering the board looking for info on clothing....were there any hot days and very cold days? Light jacket needed?Trying to think ahead to packing smartly....

 

Thanks!
Bernadette

Dress in layers, it was cold and windy in Germany but hot and sunny in Helsinki. I primarily wore my hiking capris, a short sleeved shirt and I would have a long sleeve sweater/cardigan on. Also, pack your rain jacket, it absolutely poured in St. Petersburg. I only wore my jeans in St. Petersburg on the second day because of the rain forecasted. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel like this i like packing for Alaska...I went from a tank top and shorts, to all my layers in Glacier Bay. What I learned from that trip is try on all your planned layers for comfort together..rain jacket on the list- it was quite useful for my British Isles cruise as a rain layer and also a warm outer layer to block wind.

 

Thank you!
Bernadette

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/11/2019 at 12:06 AM, IDKaren said:

Did you need a VISA in Russia since you were not on a ship excursion?? My paperwork from NCL says if you are not on a ship excursion you cannot get off without a Russian visa. Thanks!

The cruise lines say that to intimidate their passengers into booking the more expensive very crowded bus tours instead of St Petersburg tour operators. A lot of first time cruisers fall for that and cancel their private or small group tours, and end up with  a less interesting more expensive bus tour.
The ironic fact is that the only visa free entry allowed are tours conducted by federally authorized tour operators, so the ship has no right to conduct tours. They contract with a local tour operator to organize and conduct the tours.   
There are 44 countries that have visa waiver agreements with Russia so citizens of those countries can just go into the city center by bus and Metro(subway) for the 4 miles. Bus 158 goes right to each of the 4 double passenger terminals at the new port, and the fare is 5 rubles which is about $0.60.  October 1st 2019 a new visa process is introduced for St Petersburg where you an apply on-line 3 days before arrival and need no visa for 8 days in-country during its 30 validity. 53 countries are included that includes EU citizens but not Americans or UK. It is free, and simple. They have been testing the system for a number of years at Vladvostock in the far east and Kaliningrad which is in northern Europe. Next year it might include visits to Crimea and Sochi.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Q&A: Cruise Insurance with Steve Dasseos of TripInsuranceStore.com
      • Holiday Exchange - Jingle and Mingle 2019
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...