Baltic Cruise on the Emerald Princess – 2012

Sun 7/29/12
Olso, Norway

As we rocked and rolled throughout the night as we crossed the edge of the North Sea on our way to Oslo, I was beginning to question my decision of choosing an aft cabin for this voyage, until I stood on our balcony sipping a cup of coffee and enjoying a 180 degree view of a beautiful and very scenic fjord out the stern of the ship.

From the port in Oslo we walked to the tourist information center behind the town hall building and bought an Oslo 24 hr transportation pass, then walked to the ferry terminal and took the ferry to Bygdoy and walked up the hill to the Viking Museum, which contained three oaken longships from the 9th century used by noblemen as burial tombs.

After touring the museum, we took local bus 30 toward Vigeland Park. A group of 14 Americans figured we knew where we were going, so they decided they would just follow us to the park. We told them it was a risky move, since we didn’t always get on the right bus/train, but they had confidence in Joe knowing where he was going, since we had a map of the bus routes. Bus 30 stopped at the end of the line and we transferred to bus 20, which took us the rest of the way to Vigeland Sculpture Park, a free public park containing around 200 nude statues in granite, wrought iron and bronze depicting the many stages of human life.From the park we took the local tram back to the port and walked back to the ship docked next to Akershus Castle.

Mon. 7/30/12
Aarhus, Denmark

It was cold and rainy, so we stayed on the ship and relaxed.

Tues 7/31/12
Warnemünde, Germany

One of the most popular tours from Warnemünde is the tour of Berlin, but it requires being on a train six hours to get to/from Berlin. We have plans at some later date of doing a Germany road trip, so I started researching what else could we do while in port. I found a few private tours which required considerable walking, which I didn’t think i would be up for, for a full day, so we arranged to rent a car for the day.

As we walked off the ship the car rental rep was waiting for us, since we were the only ones who had rented a car for the day. She also had upgraded the rental car to an automatic, since she wasn’t sure Joe could drive a standard. Waiting for us was a very nice, white BMW hatchback. 🙂

Our day consisted of driving on the German autobahn, which had no speed limit, except in designated areas, visiting the Palace Schwerin, a magnificent 19th century castle in Schwerin, 99 km from Warnemünde, seeing the UNESSO World Heritage site in the center of Wismar and traveling along the German countryside and along the coast. We returned to the port around 6pm.

Thur 8/2/12
Tallinn, Estonia

We walked from the port to Old Town and followed a walking tour map of Old Town.

Fri 8/3/12 and 8/4/12
St Petersburg, Russia

We booked a private two day tour of St Petersburg with Alla Tours, one of the many independent tour operators in St Petersburg, who has an outstanding reputation on Cruise Critic. We decided to book with an independent tour company instead of Princess so we would pay less, see more and and have a much smaller group. Joe and I joined a private tour group from the roll call board on Cruise Critic. On our private tour were two other couples and the six of us were very comfortable in the Mercedes Sprinter Van along with a driver and the tour guide, who spoke very good English and was on summer break from her teaching position at one of the universities in St Petersburg where she taught English.

The weather this whole trip has been sunny and it continued in St Petersburg. Our tour began at 7am the first day and continued to after 5pm. The 2nd morning we were off the ship before 8am and we got back to the ship around 4:30 with plenty of time to spare before the ship left, since it was Sat and traffic was much lighter.

Day 1 consisted of a city tour, a trip to a local market, then riding the metro for one stop and then back. The metro is very deep because it goes under the canals. The metro escalators were very steep and reminded me of the people walkers at the Paris airport. After the metro ride we had a canal cruise around the city center area. After the cruise we toured Yusopov’s Palace and then road the hydrofoil to Peterhof’s Palace where we viewed the gardens and had lunch. From Peterhof’s we traveled to Tsar’s Village to tour Catherine’s Palace.

On Day 2 we continued the city tour until the Hermitage Museum opened. The Hermitage had quite the collection of paintings. After touring 2.5 hours we still saw only a fraction of the Hermitage. We had lunch at a local Russian restaurant then toured Church of the Blood, St Isaac Cathedral and the St Peter and Paul Cathedral at the St Peter and Paul Fortress.

St Petersburg was absolutely spectacular and was definitely the highlight of our cruise.

About 7:15 PM as the ship was exiting St Petersburg, a sharp turn in the channel was necessary, which apparently didn’t go as planned and the ship suddenly rolled severely a few times. We were on the deck 5 eating dinner. A few dishes broke and we saw no major damage, but people were wondering what happened. The captain came on the air about an hour later and blamed the roll on the Russian pilot. We heard Horizon Court on deck 15 had some damage, but was open for breakfast the next morning.

Helsinki, Finland

We got off the ship and walked around long enough for us to say we stepped foot in Finland, but then got back on the ship to rest for the day. I think the Finnish countryside would be lovely to tour, but there wasn’t anything in Helsinki we wanted to see and we needed a day off our feet after two very walking intensive days in St Petersburg.

Stockholm, Sweden

We had printed a map and were planning on taking a ferry to Vasa Museum, but docked further away than we thought from the ferry dock, so we hopped on an hop on/off hop on sightseeing boat to reach the Vasa Museum. After seeing a very well preserved 17th century Viking warship, which had been under the sea for 333 years in Stockholm harbor,

we got back on the hop on/ hop/ off boat and headed to old town for only a short stroll to the Palace, because it was time for us to head back to the ship. We really liked Stockholm and hope to spend more time there at a later date.

After the ship left Stockholm, we traveled 5 hours up the scenic archipelago to the Baltic Sea and returning to Copenhagen.