Some friends of ours are cruising aboard CENTURY, and asked us to let them know of our own cruise experiences on the ship. We booked ours not knowing that they were going
on the same ship a few weeks later.
This is an email I sent them upon our return.
And I'm printing it here, with my permision.
Hello, (name of our friends here);
My wife (name of my wife) and I just got back from our Baltic Cruise last week, but already thing are different from what you may find when your cruise comes up, judging by the current news.
We had no problems carrying forty or fifty small miniatures with us, most of them in the check-in luggage. Of course, you cannot carry-on any liquids now, but as far as I know, inside the check-in is all right. The cruise line doesn't care. Our friends had three or four full size bottles of Scotch and Vodka in their check-in!
Besides, I bought Vodka and wine in different cities and took them into the ship with no problems. As you do, we like to have a cocktail or two with a tray of sushi in the cabin while dressing for dinner. And judging by the bar bill, the cruise line had their profits anyway.
I packed the glass miniatures inside my shoes so they wouldn’t brake, with socks as stoppers. The plastic ones (preferred) I just stuffed inside the clothing. No problemo there either.
In our cabin, I just stored everything in a shelf. Not hiding anything from our stateroom attendant, whom apparently didn't care.
We spent two days pre-cruise in Amsterdam, our departure/arrival port.
We found that Copenhagen may be the most expensive city in the world!
The highlight of the cruise is without any doubt St. Petersburg. Spend all your tour dollars there, and don't bother with organized tours in the other cities.
In St. Petersburg we contracted Alla Tours, an excellent company.
We did this from home through emails. They provided visas, a Mercedes minivan, a driver, and an English speaking guide, for just four of us. Or they can pair you with another two or four people, and your cost goes down.
They customize the tour, two days, 18 hours, and you'll see everything. Well, not everything. The place is so big, there are so many fabulous Churches,
Palaces, and sights that it would take a year to do St. Pete justice.
And then there is the Hermitage. Incredible!
Since on a big bus you can only move as fast as the slowest passenger, this is one place to go with an small group.
They were very busy days! .
You can walk the other cities, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tillinn, Copenhagen. Only in Oslo we took a city tour bus, at the foot of the gang plank, for 20 dollars ea. A Great Deal!. In three and a half hours they take you around, and the highlight there is the Vigeland Park . Do not miss this! See if you can get in the white bus, there is a one armed guide there, a collage professor, very knowledgeable, with excellent english and a great sense of humor. In Stockholm and Helsinki take the Shuttle bus downtown and just walk. In Tillinn walk from the ship to the old city. We took lots of pictures there, its that kind of a place.
In Copenhagen we took a tour in one of the large boats in Nyhavn, $6, another good deal, goes around the canals with a guide that looks like Elke Sommer a few years ago and speaks some 47 languages. Yours may look like Marcello Mastroiani or Brigitte Bardott, though.
In Helsinki walk to the waterfront market from where the shuttle bus drops you. There we took a boat tour to an island/fortress. Very neat place. Great city, Helsinki. Very European.
The Euro is killing our purchasing power. In Copenhagen we each had a beer and a polish sausage, $18 US. each...
We did not buy too many souvenirs. And most of our purchases were done in the ship.
The weather was a little too warm for comfortable walking, around 80/85 F. But that was then, it could be different now.
The North Sea and the Baltic were smooth as ponds. Do not miss, if you can, the approaches and arrival to the ports, even if that means getting up very early. Some are just grand!
English is spoken everywhere, except in Russia. Do not wonder away from your guide there, unless you understand Cyrillic characters. And can pronounce them.
In the ship we had three formal nights, three informal, and the rest casual. (12 nights) Shorts and sneakers are OK in the cities, everybody wears them. Sandals, Capris, jeans,
Do not try to look like a local, it doesn't work. You have a camera hanging from your neck, carry a map in your hand, and you are following a
person that carries an open umbrella and screams thing in English. You look like a tourista, no hiding that, and just one of many.
In St. Pete we wore slacks though, because of the many churches we entered.
Visa, MC, American Express are good everywhere. Dollars are also OK. We did not use them, but others found ATM's all over the place, and used them with acceptable exchange rates and fees. You may want to exchange into some euros, for some convenience.
An small umbrella is good to carry in your back pocket, and a light waterproof jacket in St. Pete, just in case.
CENTURY was as expected, very clean, good service, OK food, lots of kids running around. There were many families from Spain and South American countries, more then
we have seen in other cruises. Their kids were very undisciplined. Was I like that as a kid? (I was born in Argentina, remember).
The love and warmth among them was very evident, though.
“Carlitos, my love, do not jump on the table, dear”
“Just one more time, mom, please. I love you”
“Amor, if you are going to run, do not trip over that gentleman with the tray in his hands”
But you'll like the ship and specially the service.
As we cruise more, we appreciate the destinations over the ship’s appearances, service,
entertainment and such. We know that you like to be pampered, and that’s fine. But we
have found little difference in the various cruise lines. We enjoyed our cruise aboard Carnival’s LIBERTY in the Med last year! (Blasfemy, I know!) The new ships are so big and glitzy, it takes five or six days just to learn how to get from the stern to the bow!
You’ll find that CENTURY is just… comfortable. Although dry cleaning was expensive, and not too good, but I'm nitpicking here.
Make color copies of the Passport and carry that with you.
Go to go now. Hope any of this helps.
Cheers, and we'll see you in Richmond. And maybe we'll take the next cruise or trip together.