Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Regal Princess
Sailing Date: July 9th, 2003
My wife and I sailed on the Regal
Princess for 10 days during July 9 -19, 2003. The destinations from Copenhagen
were Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk, and Oslo. The cruise
was booked through Cruise Value Center as an internet special. Other cruise
lines provided similar routes, but this ship included Oslo and also traveled to
Gdansk, Poland. Of the four ships that competed in this category, the price was
the lowest available.
The Regal Princess was built in 1991, but showed no visible evidence of wear. We had an outside cabin on the Emerald Deck, one level below the Promenade Deck which contained the main dining room, bars, and lower level of the showroom. The cabin had a 3’x3’ window, 190 sq. ft. of area with a dressing area/bath (large shower) separated from the bedroom which had a queen bed or two twins, a desk/chair and small sitting area with chair and table. For two people, the cabin was rather large in terms of living and storage space. The ship was full (1600) but didn’t seem crowded. The dining areas and showroom were smoke-free and the other public areas seem to have nonsmoking sections. Although announcements were made in English and Spanish, English was the primary language used by the ship and crew. Since the weather was clear during the trip (July), the ship was very stable. The crew members were friendly, helpful and service was excellent. Passengers included mostly couples and some family groups, but not many kids. I estimate that 75% of the passengers were American with the others being European and Canadian. The age range was mainly from 50 to 85 years.
Evening meals (early/late seatings) in the dining room were assigned, mainly in tables of six. The food choices, preparation and service were excellent with enough choices to satisfy a variety of tastes in a five-course format. Every meal could be taken in the main dining room or from the 24-hour buffet dining room (Cafe del Sol), up five decks on the pool level. Also, a pool-side barbecue, 24-hour room service and pizzeria were available. There are two formal nights for which a sport coat or dress would suffice but a tux/formal dress to a shirt and slacks were acceptable. Otherwise, casual wear (excluding shorts/t-shirts) were worn at dining room meals.
Entertainment was scheduled in the evening, after the meals. The four main shows were in a revue format and featured a 7-piece band, 7 dancers and 4 vocalists. In St. Petersburg, a local nightclub act with dancers and singers was featured. On other nights, a vocalist, illusionist, acrobats, etc. were the main entertainers. The performers were talented, well-trained and the material interesting. The musical selections were mostly American pop songs, show tunes or standards. A country-western quartet, pianist/singer and jazz trio provided entertainment in the three lounges. My wife attended lectures on destinations, food carving/preparation, kitchen tour, gambling and a backstage tour.
The main reason that we took this trip was to get an overview of the Scandinavian countries and visit Russia. The ship provided tours in each port ranging from $27-176 a person and the 18-hour tour to Moscow for $675 + visa. In Stockholm and Gdansk, the ship was an hour from the destination, so it was easier to just take a tour rather than deal with the local transportation. In St. Petersburg, passengers took the ship tours or secured a visa prior to sailing which allowed for freedom of travel, without restrictions. The ship provided $4-8 shuttles each way in Tallinn and Helsinki. We took five tours during the cruise: Stockholm on Your Own (bus ride to Old Town), Hermitage Museum (walking tour with guide, morning tour less crowded), St. Petersburg Highlights (six stops for photos with guide), Peterhof Palace (walking tour of palace and grounds with guide, highlight of trip), and Gdansk City Tour (bus to Old Town with guided walking tour). In Helsinki, Tallinn and Oslo, we walked, ferried or bused to the sights independently.
Some observations that I had were:
Plan to arrive in Copenhagen the day before cruise to avoid the many air delays
Pier is 10 minute taxi ride from central rail station; 45 minutes from airport ($55)
Train from airport to central rail station is $3 one-way, $5 roundtrip, 15 minutes Arrived at 11:30 a.m. for departure and were in cabin in 15 minutes
Dollars and Euros were accepted in all cities except Stockholm
Visa and Mastercard were universally accepted except street vendors
Television on ship had 12 English channels including CNN and BBC.
Both the ship’s newsletter and NY Times excepts delivered to cabin
Internet access was available by renting a laptop at purser’s desk
Two laundries of ten washers and dryers were available free (soap $1/load)
Specials occasionally on laundry ($15 bag), film developing ($7 double prints), etc English was spoken most everywhere you will be traveling
Weather was sunny and clear except for one overcast day; 70’s, summer clothing
If raining, would need light jacket and umbrella
With 18 hours of daylight, an outside view was appreciated
A lot of walking was required, sometimes on rough surfaces with steps, inclines
Ship provided a travel newsletter for each port with highlights and map
A travel lecture was presented on each port by the cruise director, live and on TV
Rick Steves’ Scandinavia travel book covered most of the destinations
Prices in the ports were high
$10 a day per person was automatically added to bill for tips
Unlimited soft drinks were available if a sticker was purchased for $25
Theater (160 seat) had recent rental-video level movies, also on TV
Disembarking times were pre-assigned based on travel needs; easy exit
By 9:30 a.m. ship was cleared of passengers
Taxi +train, taxi or Princess transfer available to airport from ship
At the end of the cruise, I asked passengers their opinions and their praise for the travel experience was uniformly positive. After reading reviews of this ship prior to sailing, I was confounded by some predictions of a worn-out ship with poor food and dreadful entertainment. Since my impressions were quite the opposite, I can only surmise that some of those who write reviews may have an axe to grind and or that nothing pleases them.
If one traveled to these destinations on an independent basis, the extra time, cost and aggravation would take a heavy toll. This cruise is an efficient way to see the northern area of Europe. The Regal Princess and her crew have their act together and provide a superior cruise experience at a very affordable price.