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Baltic Cruise on Star Princess — May 9-22, 2010

Author: Carmen C.
Date of Trip: May 2010

Baltic Cruise on Star Princess — May 9-22, 2010

We arrived at BWI on Sunday, May 9th around 10:00am for our 1:23pm flight to Atlanta and then to Copenhagen. I tried to check in on line the day before, but received a red flashing notice across my computer screen saying that I needed a visa. WHAT???? I called Delta and the first person I spoke to said that I did not need a visa, but he would transfer me to the international desk to confirm, and after talking to the young lady there, she said that I needed a visa. I am leaving the next day, how on earth would I be able to get a visa. I am getting very worried at this time. I told her that was not so, only visits over 90 days required a visa, and after having me on hold for a long time, she finally said that it was not necessary and that Delta did not specify in their data base how many days required a visa. I needed a stiff drink after that, I can tell you. She said that she would make a note in my records, and she did because I was able to check in the next day with no problems. I was also charged $50.00 for excess baggage and not $55.00 since I was unable to check in on line.

Our plane in Atlanta was supposed to depart at 6:15pm, but did not leave until 7:45pm, and after a 10 hour flight, we arrived in Copenhagen around 9:25am on Monday.

Copenhagen, Denmark – We stayed at the Adina Apartment Hotel for 2 days before our cruise, which was about ten minutes from the cruise terminal and I can actually see the top of the ship from my balcony. It was a great room with a full kitchen and washer and dryer. The bathroom was fairly large with a tub and shower and was very clean. There were two large flat screen TVs, one in the living room and the other in the bedroom, and lots of closet space. I only wished that they had internet access in the rooms and not just in the lobby, where they had a computer for you to use. The desk and restaurant staffs were very friendly and helpful and whenever we needed a taxi, it was there within minutes. Great pool and exercise room. The only strange thing was that in order to turn the lights on you had to insert your key card into the slot by the door, take it out, no lights. There is a grocery store, Netto, and a bakery just around the corner and that was very convenient for snacks, water, etc. There is also a restaurant, Otto’s, in the hotel but it was very expensive, one sandwich, one hamburger and a salad was 450 Kroners about $75.00US. According to Forbes, this is the 7th most expensive city in the world.

The Little Mermaid, which is within walking distance of the hotel, one of the main attractions in Copenhagen, is in China at the World Expo and even though I read that visitors to Copenhagen will be able to experience a Chinese reinterpretation of her at Langelinie, there was nothing there.

The Gefion Fountain also within walking distance, is a large fountain on the harbor front in Copenhagen. It features a large-scale group of animal figures being driven by the legendary Norse goddess, Gefjun. It is located in Langelinie Park and is the largest monument in Copenhagen and used as a wishing well. It is very impressive.

We stopped by Tivoli Gardens, a famous amusement park, and currently the most visited theme park in Scandinavia and the 3rd most visited in Europe. The line was too long and we decided to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe which was next door.

The next day my husband’s wallet was stolen when we visited the City Square and that put a damper on things. Thank goodness for money belts; don’t leave home without them, and the only money that was stolen was Kroners, his driver’s license, and credit card which were in his wallet. We returned to the hotel to call the credit card company to cancel our credit card, and once again the hotel staff was very helpful. We didn’t feel like sight seeing after that, but like my husband said everything that was stolen could be replaced and has been. We had a lovely dinner at the restaurant across the street from the hotel and had an early night.

The weather was cold and cloudy and it rained the day we boarded the ship. We check out around 12:30pm, arrived at the Freeport terminal around 12:45pm and were in our cabin at 1pm. We had the mandatory fire drill at 5pm and it was a different experience from Carnival where you actually go on deck and see where your life boat will be. On Princess, we went to the Princess Theatre, sat in our seats and the Princess staff demonstrated how to put on the life jacket, similar to the airlines, and that was it. Some passengers attempted to put theirs on, but the staff told them not to.

Day at Sea — We walked around and got to know the layout of the ship.

Stockholm, Sweden — Due to the intense fog, we were unable to berth in Stockholm and the Captain had to dock several miles from the terminal and we had to be tendered to the docks where the busses were waiting. I stood on my balcony and could not see the ocean or sky, it was so thick. It was rather spooky. We visited the Vasa Museum where the center piece is the 17th century warship Vasa, the oldest fully preserved ship in the world. I did not understand why the lighting here was so poor and none of my pictures came out clearly. Postcards however, showed the ship in bright light. We also visited City Hall, a massive fortress-like brick structure and our tour included the Blue Hall, where the annual Nobel Peace Prize Award banquet is held and the Golden Hall with its immense mosaic illustrating Swedish history. Because we were tendered there was a very, very long line to get back to the ship.

Helsinki, Finland — We took the ship’s excursion in this port and visited the Market Square, the perfect place to shop for fruits, flowers, food and arts and crafts, where we were told to try the fish bread, but there was not time to do that. We then visited The Senate Square, home to the Lutheran Cathedral and the University of Helsinki, and my favorite, the Temppeliaukio Rock Church, an amazing church carved into the bedrock. The interior was excavated and built into the rock, and natural light enters through the glazed dome. The Sibelius Monument built to honor Finland’s national composer, Jean Sibelius, is a stainless steel sculpture which consists of more than 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern. Next to that is a huge sculpture of Sibelius’ face. It is a very interesting piece of work.

St. Petersburg, Russia — We were here for 2 days and I had envisioned seeing armed guards and very unfriendly and stiff people. Just the opposite, not an armed guard in sight and the people was very welcoming and friendly and spoke English very well. We visited St. Isaac’s Cathedral with its massive gold dome, one of the largest in the world, the Hermitage and Palace Square, The Cruiser Aurora, now a museum on the West bank of the Neva and the Church of the Spilled Blood which has a very ornate exterior. Our guide, Maria, was very knowledgeable and friendly. Euros and American dollars are accepted everywhere.

Tallinn, Estonia — We decided to do this on our own since we were only here for about 5 hours and walked into town instead of taking the shuttle. It took about 20 minutes of leisurely walking to get there. There is a market place down at the end of the pier and the prices for souvenirs were much better here than those in town. There is quite a mixture of modern office buildings and the historic buildings of the Old City. Wear comfortable shoes, cobblestones are hard on the feet. Sights along the way are the Palace Square, Alexander Cathedral and the Dome Church, the city’s oldest church.

Gdansk (Gdynia), Poland — The ship actually docks at Gdynia which is about 15 miles from Gdansk and took about an hour by bus to get to the main town, the heart of the old city with an array of buildings styles from Gothic to Baroque. Neptune’s Fountain in the center of the Long Market is the bronze statue of the Roman God of the Sea made into a fountain. St. Mary’s Church is the largest brick church in the world and can accommodate about 25,000 worshippers. The Monument to the Shipyard Workers near the entrance to what was the Lenin Shipyard commemorates the 42 people killed during the anti-Communist riots of 1970 and is depicted by three steel crosses which rises over Solidarity Square. We also passed by Lex Vacensa’s home, but the driver never slowed down so no one was able to take pictures.

Day at sea.

Oslo, Norway — We had an excursion planned with the ship but cancelled it, since we were only here for1/2 day and I wanted to spend some time at the Vigeland Sculpture Park and didn’t want to be rushed. We took the #12 tram costing 46 Krones each — round trip – to the park which depicted sculptures of stone, iron and bronze by Gustav Vigeland. We purchased our tickets from the 7-11, which was much cheaper than at the tram station. The tram stop is a short walk from the ship near City Hall and took about 15 minutes to get there. I have never seen so many naked statues in my life, and I can see why this park was once considered controversial, but there are amazing pieces of art. At the highest point in the park is The Monolith, a sight to behold. 46 feet high carved out of a single block of stone, it consists of 121 figures and it took three stone carvers from 1929 to 1943 to complete, just shortly before Vigeland died. Everything was very pricey here and according to Forbes, this is the 4th most expensive city in the world.

The Star Princess — The decor was very subdued, I guess I am used to Carnival’s bright color scheme and the crowd was definitely of an older generation. We saw a hand full of passengers my daughter’s age, but that was not a problem for us at all. We met some very nice people from the States and one couple from Guyana where my husband was born, who now live in Canada. We found Carnival’s food to be more flavorful and more of a variety. Princess cooked a lot of fish and chicken in different sauces and we found the meats to be tough and the white rice which was served several times was horrible every time. Not all of it was bad though and we did enjoy some tasty dishes. We did not go to the Dining Room so I can’t make any comparisons there. I love to eat a salad everyday and would like to have had the basics – lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, green peppers – to be available, but that was not so. Lots of different beans, mushrooms and other stuff and to my dismay, they did not have French dressing every day. They had a much better internet cafe than Carnival, lots of space and computers, but it was still overpriced and slow.

Entertainment was not too bad, and the Groove Babies, a female duet, were fantastic. My daughter and I went to their show every night.

Our captain, William Kent, with his wonderful British accent, kept us informed, especially in Stockholm, where it was extremely foggy, and where he said that the safety of his passengers was more important than anything else. I didn’t see or heard too much from our Cruise Director, Richard Joseph, with whom I had a wonderful conversation in the elevator without realizing who he was until I saw him on TV.

Some lucky person won the BMW or $25,000.00 in the casino. There was a presentation to her that night at 10:00pm.

We had an 11:15 am flight back to the states and got off the ship around 6:45 am and arrived in plenty of time for our flight. We planned to take a taxi to the airport, but Princess alarmed a lot of passengers with the dire warning that taxis were limited from 7am-9am and suggested that you take their Princess airport bus transfer to the airport. Not so. From my balcony I counted 30 taxis lined up waiting for passengers. Not sure why they would say that. We had to wait an hour at the airport before finally checking in and then 5, yes 5, security check points before getting to our boarding spot.

Anyhow, we had a wonderful cruise; I had always wanted to visit this part of the world and was happy to be able to do so. I did however wish that we had more time in the ports.

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