Baltic in the Sunshine!
Catherine Canning | December 7, 2017 | P&O Cruises | Arcadia
We booked this, our third cruise, back in February as we wanted to visit the Baltic on a smaller sized ship, and this particular cruise ticked all the boxes. This was our first P&O cruise, and booked on recommendation from friends who had cruised with P&O.
Originally booked an outside cabin, but decided to upgrade to a balcony. However, a few weeks before we cruised we received another upgrade and ended up in Cabin D89 which we felt was in an excellent position. The middle deck of the ship and only four cabins down from the midship lifts. Cabin was plenty big enough for two of us, having a queen sized bed, settee, dressing table (which could have been a little bigger!), coffee table and chair. Wardrobe space was adequate, although felt there could have been more full-length hanging space. Never could work out how the safe worked, despite us both following the instructions time after time. Bathroom was fine as well, shower over the bath, but the shower curtain was not the best, and water inevitably leaked onto the bathroom floor. Also feel that more storage space is needed in the bathroom. Balcony was not huge but nice to have, with two chairs, a footstool and a small table.
Embarked at Southampton in sunshine, and as the title states, it was pretty much sunshine all the way! Embarkation was very smooth and organised and after arriving at the terminal at 11.30 am, we were on board by 12.15 pm having a good look round the ship, and then having some lunch. Cabin was ready by 2.00 pm, and cases arrived really soon after so was able to unpack and settle into the cabin. All the empty cases were stored under the bed.
The itinerary for this cruise was Zebrugge, Gdansk, Klaipeda, St Petersburg (overnight), Tallinn and Copenhagen, and included 6 sea days. All the ports of call were beautiful and well worth a visit. We had booked two shore excursions (both with P&O), one in Gdansk and the other one was St Petersburg. The Gdansk excursion was good, although we would have liked more “free time” to wander around ourselves. But it covered all the main sights of Gdansk, and the guide was excellent and really knew her stuff. For St Petersburg we decided to pay nearly ?200 each for the 2 day Simply St Petersburg tour, which stated you were in small groups of no more than 16, and this is what “swung” it for us. We were in small mini-buses and there were actually 14 in our group, but there were about 12 mini-buses all doing the same tour, all in the same order! Which meant we all ended up in the same places at the same time. I do feel they could have had so many of the mini-buses going to the Hermitage, while another few buses went to Church of the Spilled Blood, while a few more went on the river boat – if you see what I mean? The guide on this particular tour was not brilliant. She was a nice enough lady, but didn’t like using the microphone, and when she did have it in her hand, kept turning her head away, so you kept losing her commentary,. After a while you tuned out to what she was saying as you couldn’t hear properly, despite the fact we kept mentioning this. At the rest of the ports we did our own thing, either using the shuttle or local transport to get into town, or we simply walked.
Entertainment on the ship was good. We went to three Headliner shows, and enjoyed them, but one criticism I have (which is a personal thing), why can’t they do tap dancing in proper tap shoes? They were all doing the steps (I actually tap myself so recognised them), but had normal shoes on. This was particularly noticeable in the finale of their Destination Dance production, where the effects and energy were amazing, but just spoilt by no real tap/Irish dancing, with tap sound effects on the backing track. I joined the choir, ably led by Assistant Cruise Director Emma, and really enjoyed this, even the final performance actually in the theatre, where our hard work was well received (I think?) by an appreciative audience. We did attend one of the port talks, and then found we didn’t have to as they were all repeated on the TV in the cabin, but they were all well researched and contained a lot of useful information. We enjoyed the “Meet the Headliners” talk/interview in the theatre, as we have an interest in theatre and dancing, and it was nice to find out that one of the dancers was from Leicester – we gave her a cheer when she was introduced.
We paid the ?75 each to do the “Behind the Scenes” Tour. This was very enjoyable and interesting, and it was really nice to see the Bridge and meet the Captain. We received a “complimentary” photo of the tour, but although the Ship Photographer followed us and took loads of photos, we weren’t allowed to choose the one we wanted, which was a shame. The complimentary photo was a group photo taken on the stage of the theatre, but no offence to anyone, who wants a photo of a group of people you are probably never going to see again? It would have been nice if we could have chosen the photo with the Captain, but if we wanted that one we had to pay for it!! And at ?11 to ?15 a time – no thanks. We also received a “Behind the Scenes” badge, and an apron each, and at the end of the tour we had canap??s and champagne with the Captain, where we were able to ask questions. Although we enjoyed the tour, I do feel it is over-priced, but that is just our opinion.
The weather throughout the whole two weeks was absolutely lovely. Went prepared for all weathers, and only needed summer clothes. The jeans & jumpers stayed in the wardrobe and came back home unworn. The sea was beautifully calm throughout and some days was so smooth it was as if we weren’t even moving. Spectacular sunsets and took some lovely photos of the sunset in St Petersburg from our balcony at 11.30 pm, sitting there still not quite believing where we were.
We used the MDR for dinner and had second sitting. Had a table for six, but at the first formal night one couple didn’t turn up and we never saw them at dinner again after that. But we got on really well with the other couple on our table who were a similar age to us, and we found we had similar interests. The food was good, but not excellent and the service from our waiters was good. There was a really good choice in the buffet restaurant, which we used for breakfast, and late lunch or afternoon tea, depending on what time we got back on board.
Our cabin stewardess was excellent, and to be honest we hardly saw her – which I suppose is a good thing as it meant there were no problems!!
The only thing that spoilt the trip was that my husband came down with the dreaded norovirus on the way home, and ended up being confined to the cabin for the last day and half. Luckily these were sea days anyway so didn’t spoil any of the port visits. But I would comment that we didn’t feel there were enough hand sanitizer stations positioned around the ship, compared to what we have seen on our other cruises (with Thomson & Fred Olsen). On both of our previous cruises there were hand sanitizers outside all the public toilets, public areas, entrance to the theatres and show lounges, and you were not allowed back on board without a “squirt” and they had staff to make sure this happened. We didn’t feel that this was the case on the Arcadia, and although there were hand sanitizers at the bottom of the gang plank, there was no one insisting you use them, and we did see people constantly ignoring them, or pretending they had used them. Having said that the care and assistance received from the medical staff was adequate and they rang four times to see how my husband was, and made sure we had help getting off the ship as we weren’t allowed to join everyone else in the pub/casino which was our disembarkation gathering point.
Would we sail on the Aracadia again? Yes we would depending on the itinerary and dates fitting in with work holidays etc, but we would like to try other ships and companies. Would we recommend the Baltic? Most definitely yes we would. Beautiful weather, beautiful scenery and beautiful cities.
It was brilliant to be at sea and sunshine once again, despite all the horrendous form filling, PCR tests, etc.… Read more
Just returned from a fantastic cruise onboard the Amazing Azamara Journey, it was small but perfectly formed! The staff onboard… Read more
Xmas & New Year Cruise – 2021 – Iona
Disappointing overall - ship very clean/bar & restaurant staff good / housekeeping fine (but restricted service). Very poor communication throughout… Read more
A little disappointing
Our New Year cruise was a little disappointing. The entertainment was not up to much, no Headliners (with no reference… Read more
Could have been wonderful
Negative test before leaving for the USA. Negative test prior to boarding. Down with Covid on Boxing Day - following… Read more