Our Scandinavian Adventure was two years in the making. Initially, we were discouraged to take a Cruise because of days wasted at sea and the inevitable 2D stop in St. Petersburg, which we’ve done back in May 2011 (https://whereintheworldispennyk.com/category/europe/russia/). Our travel days were limited so we decided to venture a DIY trip to maximise our itinerary. There were the transfers, accommodations, preferred tours, currencies, meals, Visas and schedules that required careful consideration. As I calculated everything though, I realised that a tailor fit package at a small premium would smooth out the foreseeable stress and hassle for our family of 15pax – 2 seniors and a toddler included.
A must on my list was to see Bergen, Norway. After some research, I came across this package by http://www.scandinavianpackages.com/classic.html . The price was good for 10days based on the following itinerary: 2D Copenhagen, 1D Oslo, 1D Flam, 2D Bergen, 2D Stockholm, 1D Helsinki, 1D Stockholm. We also had the option to add side trips eg. to visit Tallinn. The only issue I had with them though was credibility. Thus we explored the cattle route again – far from intimate, but reassuring with reputable travel companies. We narrowed down our choices to land tours by Globus or Cosmos. This one in particular caught our attention http://www.cosmos.com/tour/focus-on-scandinavia/6910/ But alas…. the idea of loading and unloading, transfers, not to mention rush from one place to another didn’t feel like the ideal vacation.
And so, 360 degrees after, even the youngsters agreed, that a Scandinavian Cruise would suit everyone. And Yes! It was the best choice we made to explore the Baltic Region.
A good deal, thanks to Dominican Tours and Travel Agency was booking with Princess Cruises. Fitting everyone’s summer dates, they suggested we board the Regal Princess – launched in March 2013, Maiden Voyage in May 2014. Our 11N Scandinavian Cruise in May was at a promotion, with 3rd and 4th person (in the same room) cruising for free (excluding service charges, taxes and port fees). Consequentially, our original group of 15pax, grew to 30pax.
Our Itinerary was as follows:
April 25 – 29 Oslo / Bergen Side Trip
April 29 Meet in Copenhagen, Denmark
April 30 Cruise Embarkation 5PM
May 1 Oslo, Norway
May 2 Day At Sea
May 3 Warnemunde, Germany – Drive to Berlin
May 4 Day At Sea
May 5 Tallinn, Estonia
May 6 – 7 St. Petersburg, Russia
May 8 Helsinki, Finland
May 9 Nynashamn, Sweden – Drive to Stockholm
May 10 Day At Sea
May 11 Disembarkation in Copenhagen, Denmark
Highlighting the Pros
Some opted for Balcony Staterooms while we decided to get a Mini Suite to ensure space for our family of 4. The upgrade was worth it as we comfortably snugged in after long days of activities. Waking up to views of Fjords and Towns were priceless while we had the leisure of enjoying them over breakfast, high tea or happy hour.
Mini-suite: The ship’s 306 mini-suites are located on decks 10 to 16. Square footage ranges from 299 to 329, including balconies that range from 36 to 105 square feet. (Tip: Look for angled balconies midship for larger outdoor space.) Mini-suites include a seating area with full-size sofa bed coffee table and chair, separated from the sleeping space by a curtain. Cabins at this level have two flat-screen TVs — one each in the living area and the sleeping area. Bathrooms have shower/tub combinations. Balconies are equipped with a pair of mesh, reclining chairs, an ottoman, and a dining-height table. Passengers in mini-suites get welcome glasses of Champagne and a starter mini-bar setup, including mini-bottles of alcohol, beer and sodas; after the initial supply is used, you must request refilling — and pay a fee — for all beverages. https://www.cruisecritic.com/reviews/review.cfm?ShipID=679&pgtype=cabins
Savoury views like these make cruising so much more… worth our while! Why were we even complaining about Days At Sea?
Its not often you get to cruise under bridges. After leaving Oslo, Regal Princess went under The “Great Belt Bridge” (Danish: Storebæltsbroen) with just 5 meters clearance. It is the world’s third longest main span (1.6 km), and the longest outside of Asia. This bridge connects two Danish islands. It was bitingly cold but we just had to see it for ourselves — frozen!
Two production shows debuted on Regal Princess: “Fiera” and “Bravo.” “Fiera” – an elaborate production with over-the-top costumes and performers who sing modern songs (Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars, for example) in a carnival setting. “Bravo” – best described as “popera.” With Performers singing to opera classics like “Time to Say Goodbye” and “Habanera” from “Carmen” infused with contemporary tunes like “Skyfall” from Adele. https://www.cruisecritic.com/reviews/review.cfm?ShipID=679&pgtype=Activities I also liked the “Spectacular!” a musical extravaganza featuring Broadway classics, popular hits and original numbers, and “Sweet Soul Music” an upbeat tribute to Rhythm and Blues. They also invited guest Russian Folk performers to sing and dance for us while we were in St. Petersburg.
I would consciously catch the shows as much as I could. Bringing the little one or enforcing my 14yo to join me – Semblance of culture apart from hanging out in the gym or in our room. I didn’t expect “Broadway Musical” Level but I was pleasantly surprised with their high – impact performances. We found ourselves standing, with our hands up in the air – together with the seniors. They also encouraged passenger participation through their very own repertoire of “The Voice of The Ocean”. One of our own actually made it to the top 5.
There was a myriad of activities and facilities to enjoy that we actually welcomed Days At Sea to be able to try something new each time. https://www.princess.com/ships-and-experience/ships/gp-regal-princess/ While the kids were in the gym or busy meeting new friends in their respective clubs, the adults had time to venture the Casino, enjoy Happy Hour by the Lounges, explore the good finds at the boutiques, or even join a mambo session (or what have you…) at the Atrium.
Resolving The Cons
I am not even going to attempt to describe the varieties and specials available because this review aptly describes what one should expect here. https://www.cruisecritic.com/reviews/review.cfm?ShipID=679&pgtype=dining You’ll never be hungry because the options are overflowing, but don’t expect the taste to be mind blowing. I do commend their attempts to serve traditional dishes consistent to our port stops though. At least, it filled in the need to experience each place at a palatable level as well. But if you do find the time to eat in a featured restaurant while docked, that would give the place more justice.
Tours & Transfers
Although Shore Excursions are the most convenient and safest way to move around at Ports, you will be herded like cattle – at the mercy of your guide or worse, difficult tour mates – there’s always a character. Since we were a group of 30pax, we decided to explore some stops on our own (HOHO or private vehicles). This gave each group the flexibility to focus on which attractions they wanted to see or which experience to enjoy. It was also more economical for us vs. prices pp per tour quoted by Princess and it was at our own time.
At Warnemunde, we contracted a private Bus with Guide to take us to Berlin. It pretty much amounted to the same price vs. taking a tour but we had the bus all to ourselves. Tip: Make sure the bus has a restroom because the ride is 2.5hours each way.
It was more convenient to join the boat’s shore excursions in St. Petersburg, Russia than venturing ourselves. Russia requires a separate Visa to enter but if you are part of a tour, then there is no need.
Early correspondences with our hotel – Scandic Copenhagen enabled us to arrange two tour buses for embarkation and disembarkation.
Sure, there are pros and cons to all types of travel, but cruising has become a popular option for a number of reasons:
With so much included in the price – like meals, onboard performances and more – cruising offers tons of bang for your buck.
A variety of onboard and onshore activities make cruising fun for everyone from spa-lovers to adventure-seekers to sun worshipers.
Traveling from port to port is a snap, no need to worry about directions or unpacking. You’ll wake up in an amazing new place, refreshed and ready to explore.