Instead of a day by day review, which in the case of an 11 day cruise would be quite long with lots of repeated information I will use more of a summary review format for this review.
The ship itself hails from the Princess Grand Class of ships and can accommodate many passengers. In the case of this sailing the mix of passengers was quite international with only about half coming from the United States. I am sure this had a lot to do with the heavy advertising and significant discounts offered earlier this Summer, for this cruise.
The route, which varies a bit for those who boarded out of Berlin, stats in Copenhagen continues to Oslo, then Aarhus, off to Berlin, a day at sea, then Stockholm, Helsinki, 2 days in St. Petersburg (Russia, not Florida), with the final port call in Tallinn before returning to Copenhagen. Only 2 sea days on an 11 day cruise makes for a fairly aggressive itinerary.
My daughter and I flew from Houston, using flights arranged via Choice Air thru Princess, to Frankfurt and connected to Copenhagen arriving on the last flight that could make the ship. After a desperate 30 minute search for one missing family our bus finally headed off to the ship. Due to late afternoon traffic we arrived pretty late. In fact as we checked in we were informed that the” make-up” muster drill would be taking place five minutes after we boarded.
This is the latest I’ve ever boarded a cruise, as normally I am among the early boarding crowd who wants to check out all the ship has to offer right away. Instead we got aboard, went straight to muster, then headed to our cabin and unpacked. After we had that completed we were off to grab a bite for dinner up in the buffet. We were not alone up there as we saw many other folks looking a bit weary from lots of travel coming aboard the ship.
After sailing pretty much right to the minute as scheduled, we began a very port intensive cruise. The next morning we were enjoying Oslo, Norway which was quite exciting. We decided to try the Hop On Hop Off bus and enjoyed it quite a bit. Thru Scandinavia these buses offer discounts when presenting a ticket from a prior tour on one of the buses in a different Scandinavian city. There are a couple of operators depending on the city and we ultimately used both. (A note for those who want to use a bunch of wi-fi, do the bus and take your device with you as the wi-fi is turned on during the entire bus tour.)
Next we walked the main area of the city of Aarhus back in Denmark followed by the all day tour in Berlin. We used a private tour operator unaffiliated with the ship, due to both their great reputation and very nice pricing for packages of multiple Scandinavian city tours. We used them also in St. Petersburg and Tallinn, Estonia. The tour groups are smaller than the ones run by the ship which made it more interactive and honestly I believe we got to see more as well.
Our tour in Berlin was long because of the required transit time from the port to the city and back again. It is roughly 3 hours each way from the ship to town. Add in a fully packed six hour tour of the highlights of Berlin and it quickly turns into a long 12 hour day, adding in time to get off the ship and be at the meeting point on time and the time rises quickly. I think our total off ship time ended up 13 hours that day.
On our return to the ship, we slipped around quite as a mouse. We were making sure to evade detection by my mother who did not know we were aboard. It did not take long for the clock to strike “surprise time” and we snuck down the hall to knock on my parent’s cabin. (Dad knew about the surprise.) My mother was very surprised about our being aboard.
The highlights of the cruise for most are St. Petersburg followed by Berlin. Both have loads of history tied to them. For my daughter this trip will really bring some of the upcoming history classes in school to life as she will have been to these spots and experienced them in modern day.
The food served each day on our Russia tours was pretty good. In fact the food on day two is something my daughter would seriously consider making at home. We didn’t see any real special meals aboard with a specific Russian flavor though.
Tallinn was quite a nice quaint city to visit. We enjoyed our well-paced walking tour of the old town areas of the city. We even had time to do some shopping there and found my daughter a nice carry bag that is clearly from Estonia. For her this was her seventh new country to visit this Summer and she has one more on the way home.
We wrapped up the cruise with a sea day and a city tour in Copenhagen before we waited several hours for our flight to Amsterdam where we had a 14 hour layover before continuing on home non-stop to Houston.
Overall we were happy with the cruise, and the service was at least as good as we expect from Princess. A bit more training for some of the newer staff but all in all a great time was had by all we knew aboard the ship. I’d sail the Emerald Princess again, ideally next Summer to the North Cape in Norway and along the West Coast of Norway out of Southampton.