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Old May 28th, 2015, 11:48 PM
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Smile Booked our 1st Baltic cruise, would love the benefit of your collective wisdom

We booked our first Baltic cruise and would love the benefit of your collective wisdom. So please do contribute to this string so we'll have a chance at the best vacation in Scandinavia and St. Petersburg.

We like good food, interesting historical sites and natural scenery, so this looks to be a trip that could "have it all..."

Ports we are visiting
Copenhagen (actually arriving 2 days prior to the ship sailing)
Aarhus
Tallin
St. Petersburg
Helsinki
Stockholm
Oslo
Berlin

Which ports are easily doable on our own? I hear a lot about Hop on Hop Off buses. Which ports would you recommend joining a non-ship excursion contemplating SPB tours. What are your must see, do and eats at each port. What would you differently after having been on the cruise? Did you exchange your money prior to the cruise, Euros, Danish Kronas and Sweedish Kronas . I hear the ship exchange service is a bit pricey How much did you actually use the local currency as apposed to using a credit card?. We arrive back in Copenhagen 5 am and our flight is at 10 am. Would you chance hailing a cab, call ahead reserve a cab or take the ship bus service to the airport or is there another option I have not mentioned?
Thank you all ahead of time for your expertise, sharing, time and assistance.

Thank you,
JHINSLC
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Old August 7th, 2015, 06:38 PM
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Hi Jhinslc,

I am from Copenhagen and can tell you that you're in for a treat. It is a beautiful city with a great history if you know what to look for ;-) That is also why I won't recommend you to take the occassional tours, but rather book a private tour with a local guide who are born and raised in the area. This guide can show you the sights that you want to see or show you the sights that they like to visit in the city. That would also take you away from the tourist traps and you would be able to enjoy a more authentic experience of Copenhagen, where you can get to have a sincere conversation with the guide that should be more than capable of answering all your questions.

In regard to your question about payment methods, I can inform you that Denmark is really advanced compared to some other countries when it comes to the financial sector. As a result, you should be able to pay with a credit card everywhere, where Mastercard or VISA is the cards that are most frequently used by Danes. Additionally, you won't have to bring cash for gratuity at the destination, as Danes are paid quite reasonably by the hour and do not expect this from travelers visiting the country.

Do not hesitate to contact me in a private message if you have any other questions. I can also put you in touch with a person that can help you with finding the perfect local guide, as well as make the necessary arrangements for you so you won't be bothered by having to arrange the necessary transportation yourself.

Yours sincerely,

Lars
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Old August 7th, 2015, 08:21 PM
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With the warning that the other times I've given an opinion, others here have jumped in to disagree with me ---
By all means, take a private tour on on of the days you'll be in Copenhagen. It's a great city. On the other, go to the Tivoli Gardens. Shouldn't be missed, and there's enough there to keep you interested for hours. Definitely plan on having either lunch or dinner there.

You list "Berlin" as one of your stops. Is it actually Warnemunde? Unless they've changed it in the few years since we made a Baltic tour, the train trip into Berlin is hot and uncomfortable, and you actually have little time there. We instead did a tour to the amber museum, where I wish I had bought more stuff, and a count's hunting lodge that was used as a hospital in WWII; a great trip, enhanced by an incredibly knowledgeable guide.

And here's where I part from many others: unless you've got multiple days in St. Petersburg, you'll have to pick which sites you want to see. Personally, I found the Hermitage to be a dissappointment. The building itself, particularly the grand staircase, is impressive. But there are SO MANY paintings, some of great quality and others merely mediocre, that it rapidly becomes just wallpaper. If I had to choose I would much rather go to Catherine's Palace and/or the Peterhof.

All of the Scandinavian ports are quite doable on your own or on the hop-on, hop-off buses if you have enough time.
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Old August 7th, 2015, 09:08 PM
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You don't actually go to Berlin, you arrive in Warnemunde, which is about a 3 hour bus ride each way from Berlin. So if you want to go to Berlin, it's a very long day and personally, I don't think it's worth it. You can take the train to Rostock and do some sightseeing and shopping, then spend some time walking around Warnemunde, which is a lovely little town.

As for St. Peterburg, I highly recommend doing a 2-day shore excursion through SPB Tours. We did one and had 10 people in a 12-passenger brand new Mercedes Benz van. Or we could have paid the same and done a 45-passenger bus with the cruise line with 45 old farts getting on and off the bus at each stop. Gee, guess which one of those is much more fun???

Tallin is a wonderful city and we just spent the time walking around the old town area.

The other places, we did the Hop Off Hop On buses and really enjoyed our visit.

We much prefer to do independent excursions to those offered by the cruise line. Sometimes it's less expensive, but it's always less regimented and always alot less crowded, so it's always alot more fun. We've done independent excursions all over the world and have had some wonderful experiences. But our one on SPB Tours in St. Petersburg was definitely one of the better ones. Just had a client of mine who lives in South Africa do a 2-day tour with them and sent me a review saying he was so glad I suggested them as he and his wife thoroughly loved it.

But no matter what you do, you'll have a wonderful time during your Baltic cruise. One of the best cruises we've ever done out of our 48 cruises.

Pete
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