(This ended up being wickedly long.)
- Pre-cruise in Copenhagen, Denmark
- Onboard Voyager of the Seas
- Aarhus, Denmark and Gdansk, Poland
- Klaipeda, Lithuania and Helsinki, Finland
- Tallinn, Estonia and Riga, Latvia
- Stockholm, Sweden and Visby, Sweden
If you happened to have read the trip report from our cruise over Christmas, you will have seen this backstory already. Back in January 2020, we started talking about that summer’s trip. As we had always talked about trying a cruise and there are ones that leave from Bayonne, NJ, about 30 minutes drive from our house, we started looking into it. We had figured we’d do a short trip to Bermuda but after more investigation, we wanted to do more. Working with our travel agent, Nish Verma at Let’s Globetrot/CruisePlanners.com, who is absolutely wonderful, we found a 10-day Royal Caribbean cruise hitting several spots in the Carribbean. We booked this mid-February 2020, the perfect time. Of course, COVID hit and the cruise was canceled. While we were going to take a refund, Nish convinced us to hold off and keep the 125% credit instead. In Sep 2020, we started exploring options again and didn’t see anything in the Caribbean that interested us. Instead, we booked a 10-day cruise of the Baltic Sea out of Copenhagen, Denmark for August 2021. We were even able to move up to a Junior Suite room for not much more than our credit. Talk about going all in on our first cruise. (Well … it didn’t end up being our first cruise in the end of course.)
Come April 2021, cruising was restarting but Royal Caribbean decided to move some ships around and ended up canceling our cruise once again. It worked out as things were still up in the air in terms of traveling to Europe. RC offered us the option to “lift and shift” our cruise to a similar sailing in August 2022. We took this option, which even included an extra day at no extra cost. There were also a couple of ship changes in there, eventually settling on The Voyager of the Seas.
The biggest highlight of any Baltic cruise is St. Petersburg, Russia. Our itinerary had us there for two days, overnighting in port. Of course, next comes the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. It was very much up in the air what would happen with Baltic cruises. Some lines canceled their cruises outright. Of course, St. Petersburg was out as a port. RC kept our cruise and rejiggered the itinerary to skip St. Petersburg, adding in Aarhus, Denmark, Gdansk, Poland, and Klaipeda, Lithuania. While it was a shame to lose St. Petersburg, it was great to get three new ports and actually have an extra port day. (Of all the rejiggered itineraries I saw, ours was the best.) While there was still uncertainly, things were looking good.
Unlike our Christmas cruise, this was a very port intensive trip so we actually did research beforehand. We made extensive use of Rick Steves Scandinavian & Northern European Cruise Ports (link is for 2018 edition). While a bit dated, this is a great guide for this type of trip. It covers most of the ports we were hitting and includes information about cruise port transport which was very helpful. We also supplemented it with Lonely Planet, Frommers and Rick Steves general Scandinavia books as a couple of ports were not included. (Aarhus and Klaipeda are not common cruise ports.) We also watched a lot of Youtube about the ship and ports. I didn’t do as much reading on history as I would have liked but I did read a few interesting books about or set in the area:
- Countrymen by Bo Lidegaard about how Danes saved the majority of the Danish Jewish population in WWII,
- The Keeper of Lost Causes (and subsequent books in the Department Q Series) by Jussi Adler-Olsen about a cold case detective in Copenhagen,
- When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen about two brothers in Estonia during WWII and 20 years later during the Communist occupation, and
- The Man who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk that is something like an Estonian folk tale.
- Day 1 – Fri 5-Aug – Fly from JFK to Copenhagen overnight
- Day 2 – Sat 6-Aug – Arrive in Copenhagen and explore
- Days 3-5 – Sun 7-Aug – Tue 9-Aug – Explore Copenhagen
- Day 6 – Wed 10-Aug – Embarkation Day
- Day 7 – Thu 11-Aug – Aarhus, Denmark
- Day 8 – Fri 12-Aug – Sea Day
- Day 9 – Sat 13-Aug – Gdansk, Poland
- Day 10 – Sun 14-Aug – Klaipeda, Lithuania
- Day 11 – Mon 15-Aug – Helsinki, Finland
- Day 12 – Tue 16-Aug – Tallinn, Estonia
- Day 13 – Wed 17-Aug – Riga, Latvia
- Day 14 – Thu 18-Aug – Stockholm, Sweden
- Day 15 – Fri 19-Aug – Visby, Sweden
- Day 16 – Sat 20-Aug – Sea Day
- Day 17 – Sun 21-Aug – Disembarkation day, fly home
Fri Aug-5 and Sat-Aug 6 – Flying to Copenhagen
As tickets were quite pricey and I had a good stock of Delta frequent flyer miles, we were able to book tickets on miles, paying only $50/ticket for fees. This also had the big plus that Delta was waiving any fees to redeposit miles, effectively making our tickets fully refundable. As we booked while things were still up in the air with COVID, this was a great piece of mind. The disadvantage was that we had to fly from JFK instead of Newark, meaning a 1-2 hour drive instead of 30 minutes. Our flight out was scheduled for 9:30pm but given the mess that was flying then, and still is as I write this, and the drive was at rush hour, we grabbed a Lyft leaving home around 4:30. The drive there was fine, lots of traffic, but the driver definitely pushed too hard to get us there quickly.
Once at the airport, we dropped our bags, though there was a lot of confusion as to where to do this. Normally we’d travel with carry-on only but given we had 12 days without a washer and that the weather could be quite variable, it wasn’t really possible. We did pack several days of clothes for each of us in a carry-on in case our luggage was delayed. (Luckily, that wasn’t an issue.) Security was reasonably quick. While we all have Precheck, the normal line didn’t look so long. We grabbed a snack in the terminal and waited for our flight. We ended up being delayed by a bit over an hour as they couldn’t get ground crew to be able to move the plane to the gate. This was very frustrating but as he had a direct flight, we didn’t have to stress about any connections.
The flight itself was fine. We ended arriving about an hour late, around 12:30. Immigration took some time and was not well organized, especially considering Scandinavia’s reputation for organization. After grabbing bags, I bought us Metro tickets on the app (downloaded beforehand) and we hopped the metro to get downtown. We weren’t sure about using the Metro given our luggage but it was wonderfully easy, especially given a taxi would have been over $50 compared to around $15 three tickets.
After a metro line change, we arrived at our AirBnB around 1:45. This was a great place, right off the main pedestrian shopping street (Strøget), a few minutes from the Rådhuspladsen metro stop, and 10-15 minutes from Nyhavn. The apartment itself was great with a bedroom for Suzanne and me and another for Kyle, lots of living space, and a washer. I’d highly recommend staying here.
After checkin, we wandered down Strøget, enjoying the great weather and seeing a new city. (I find the best way to deal with jet lag is to get outside and walk.) I also stopped for a famous Danish hot dog (pølsen), which is topped pickles, onions, mustard, and Remoulde, at Allan’s Pølser. I had to stop there. At the the end of Strøget, just past Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square), we reached the Nyhavn harbor which is the most famous area of Copenhagen and is the cover photo to nearly all Copenhagen guidebooks. We wandered around here for a bit, taking lots of photos, before stopping for a drink at the Tipsy Mermaid beer bar. This was a cool spot consisting of an old boat alongside the pier. We then headed back to the apartment with a stop at Netto for some groceries. At this point Kyle fell asleep while Suzanne and I did some unpacking and relaxed for a bit. Kyle was still asleep at dinner time so Suzanne and I headed for a wonderful dinner of fish soup (really good), mussels, and schnitzel at Restaurant Puk. It was kind of pricey but on par for Copenhagen which is quite expensive in general. We then took a walk around Christiansborg Palace, home to the Danish government and location for the Børgen TV show (kind of like a Danish West Wing) that I had watched before the trip. Jet lag was starting to catch up to us so we headed back to the apartment to call it a night. All in all, it was a smooth trip to Denmark and a good first day seeing something of the city.
Sun 7-Aug – Exploring Copenhagen
I got up early and took another trip down Strøget to Nyhavn for some photos. It was much cloudier today and looked like it was going to rain soon (which it didn’t until later), so I headed back to the apartment. I stopped at Lagkagehuset bakery just around the corner for some excellent Danishes (Weinerbrød) for breakfast. We then all headed out to visit the National Museum of Denmark, just around the corner from the apartment. This was a great visit, learning more about the history of Denmark from prehistoric times to near modern day. They had an especially good Vikings exhibition.
After a quick stop at the apartment to make sure we had rain gear, we headed to the Torvehallerne food market for some lunch. I was hoping to get Smørrebrød, basically a fancy open-faced sandwich on rye bread, but the line was super long. Instead I had an excellent fish cake while Suzanne and Kyle had some really good pizza. At this point it was pouring outside so we poked around the market, where I came across a beer named Crystallography that I just had to buy. (I had it later. It was okay but a pretty dank West Coast IPA.)
We then did a fair walk to the Kastellet (old fort) before swinging by the famous Little Mermaid statue and Amalienborg castle, which is a royal residence. We got lucky to see the changing of the guard while there. It did rain a bit during the walk but not for super long and it didn’t pour like it did during lunch. We took the Metro back to apartment and relaxed a bit. Dinner was at the Warpigs Brewpub. They had some great BBQ but I especially wanted to go here as it’s a collaboration between Mikkeller brewing (Sweden) and 3 Floyds brewing (Indiana). Their beer was all really good. After a stop at the supermarket on the way back to the apartment, Suzanne and Kyle stayed behind while I went for another couple of pints at the really cool Peders beer bar before calling it a night.
Mon 8-Aug – Exploring Copenhagen
I actually got up early once again and went for a (short – only 4.3 miles) run. It’s always cool to run in new places and running along the Nyhavn pier was especially nice. After more Danish for breakfast, we were supposed to head out for our COVID test appointment, required at the time for the cruise. Kyle wasn’t feeling well though so we rescheduled for later in the day. Suzanne and I headed out to do some touring, climbing the Round Tower and visiting Rosenborg Castle. We stopped at Domhusets Smørrebrød, just a couple of doors down from the apartment, to get our smørrebrød for lunch.
After finishing eating, we headed out to our rescheduled COVID test appointment. Getting the negative results for all of us 30 minutes or so later was a great stress relief. After dropping Kyle at the apartment, he still wasn’t feeling great, Suzanne and I headed back to Nyhavn to do a canal boat tour. This was a great trip, taking about an hour and costing only around $7. It start to rain a bit during the trip but that lasted only a few minutes (and we had rain coats with us).
After a quick stop at the apartment, we headed out to Tivoli Gardens. This is the third oldest amusement park in the world, opening in August 1843, and said to have been significant inspiration to Walt Disney for Disneyland. It’s old school where you pay an entrance fee and then pay for rides, though they do have passes. I really wanted to do the Rutschebanen roller coaster, supposedly also the third oldest in the world, dating from 1914. However, I could never figure out how to buy a single ticket and didn’t want to spend $40 for a ride pass for one ride. Instead, we had some decent German food and beer at the Biergarten restaurant before spending a couple of hours wandering. We specifically went in the evening so we could see the park light up for night which was very cool.
Tue 9-Aug – Paul working and seeing an old friend
One of the customers I work with regularly has a small site in Copenhagen. As I happened to be in town and would never travel just for them, I had offered to spend a couple of hours in the morning doing a workshop and meeting with them. A UK-based colleague joined me. This went really well and it was great to be able to connect with some new users. While I spent the morning working, Suzanne did some shopping.
In the early afternoon, we joined up with a friend of ours from my grad school days who now lives a couple of hours away in Sweden. We hadn’t seen Volker since we visited them in 2003 so it was absolutely wonderful to get together again. We spent the afternoon just hanging out at some cafes, having some drinks, and talking the day away. It doesn’t sound like much but, again, was it so nice to be able to connect again.
Suzanne and Kyle had a very late lunch while we were at Broens Gadekøkken, an open-air street food spot. (I only had beer as I had had lunch at my customer’s.) After saying goodbye to Volker, I grabbed a schwarma to go for dinner and we headed back to the apartment. As we were embarking the next morning, it was time to repack (we hadn’t completely unpacked but we also seem to end up with a lot of stuff out) and a organize for the morning.
Wed 10-Aug – Embarkation Day
It was finally here! Today was the day to board our much delayed cruise. Though it was no longer our first, we were still super excited. As our boarding time wasn’t until 11:00, I took some time to get more photos, including some great ones in Nyhavn, before breakfast and final cleaning and packing. I also got to see our ship docked in the distance, waiting for us to board which was cool. We left the apartment around 10:15. We had thought about taking a taxi but the Metro wasn’t very busy Tuesday morning when I took it so we headed that way again. Getting to the port was an easy direct trip to the end of the line at Orientkaj and then a shuttle to the actual pier. We had heard it was hard to find the shuttle but was pretty easy.
At the pier, they were not enforcing boarding times in the least. However, we had won a Royal Up upgrade bid to a Grand Suite. This gives priority boarding so we got to go to the front the security line and right to the check in agent. Everything was quick and easy and we boarded the ship right at 11:10.
We headed to the Windjammer buffet but it was a bit early for lunch, so we just grabbed some lemonades and a quick snack before heading down to our muster station to check in. We had to wait a bit but we were outside right at the shuffleboard court (do they call them courts?) so we played a bit while waiting. (To be fair, it wasn’t supposed to be open until noon.) After checking in, we headed back to the Windjammer for some lunch and then down to the room as it was ready.
As we did over Christmas, we spent time on the first day doing a top down tour of the ship. This was really nice to get our bearings and find any interesting spots. Despite it being the largest cruise ship in the world when it was launched in 1998, it is on the smaller side and significantly smaller than Anthem of Seas on which we sailed at Christmas. (Voyager holds a maximum of 4000 passengers while Anthem has a max capacity of 4900. For comparison, the largest ship in the world currently, Wonder of the Seas, also a Royal Caribbean ship, has a max capacity of 6988 passengers.) After our wander, Kyle headed to the teen club, I headed to the pub for a pint, and Suzanne headed back to the room. Our bags had arrived in the meantime so she unpacked as well. (Being a Grand Suite, we had an absolute ton of storage.) We watched sail away from the helipad right at the front of the ship, which included a bonus of watching the Disney Magic sail away a bit before us.
As we were in a full suite, we got access to the suite lounge where this a happy hour with free drinks 5-8 each night. As we didn’t have a drink package this time, it was more expensive per day for a longer cruise and we had many port days, I had figured the cost of a couple of drinks each most nights into the cost of the upgrade bid. This worked out great and we got to meet some really nice people. (But my god do some of these people cruise a lot.)
Dinner in the Main Dining Room was pretty good. I had the Caribbean pork chop while Suzanne had Guinness Pie. Kyle had pasta, of course. Afterward, we did take a spin through the Windjammer just to see what they had as we hadn’t seen it at dinner over Christmas. Kyle headed back to the teen club while Suzanne and I wandered the ship some more, including sunset from the helipad. We finished the evening hanging out doing some reading on the pool deck.
Thu 11-Aug – Aarhus, Denmark
Of course, I was up early to catch our arrival into Aarhus. After breakfast in the Windjammer buffet, we got off the ship around 8:30. We had to take a short, free shuttle, around 10 minutes, from the pier to the edge of the port. We started off following the walking tour in the Rick Steves Scandinavia book, breaking off after a bit to visit the Den Gamle By (“The Old Neighborhood”) open-air museum. This was a really cool place. They have three “neighborhoods”, one that ranges from the 1500s to the early 1800s, one from the 1920s and one from the 1970s. It was really interesting to see the different eras. They also had a great bakery. We spent a total of around three hours there.
After the museum, we continued the walking tour, stopping for a quick lunch at a bagel sandwich shop. We visited the cathedral which had some very old frescoes that had been preserved. As we headed back to the port, I stopped for a beer (for New Brew Thursday) while Suzanne and Kyle headed back to the ship. I followed 30 or so minutes later, getting back right around 3pm.
We grabbed a quick snack in the Windjammer before relaxing in the room. Once again, we headed to happy hour in the Suite Lounge before heading to the Main Dining Room. In the lounge, we ended up sharing a space with Mike and Melissa from Delaware who were really nice. We ended up spending most of our evenings in the lounge with them. Dinner tonight was perch for me and clam linguini for Suzanne. After dinner Kyle headed back to the teen club while Suzanne and I wandered the ship, eventually spending some time hanging out in the Solarium. I finished the evening working on photos while hanging out on our balcony enjoying the moon over the ocean.
Fri 12-Aug – Sea Day
This was our first of only two sea days this cruise. (Over Christmas, four out of six full days were sea days.) I got up early and did a run on the treadmill. As suite guests, we could go to Chops Grille for breakfast which was great and much more refined than the buffet. (We stopped by the buffet afterward to grab something for Kyle and it was very loud.) I had some eggs Benedict while Suzanne had an omelet. We also chatted some with our neighbors which was a nice.
After breakfast Kyle headed back to the teen club. I went to try out the rock climbing wall. I had wanted to do this over Christmas as Anthem has one as well but never quite made it. I had never done this before but it’s really hard. I didn’t make it very far on my two attempts but my arms were still sore for several hours. Suzanne and I then did a round of mini-golf. We were supposed to have a meetup with the cruise’s Facebook group but it didn’t happen. We ended up hanging out on the outside deck of the Suite Lounge before having lunch. While over Christmas we ate lunch in the buffet every day, I wanted to try the MDR which is generally open for lunch on sea days. It was okay but service was kind of slow. Both Suzanne and I had steak frites.
After lunch, we just hung out by the pool for a couple of hours. Suite guests have a special section of loungers which was cool but it wasn’t very busy despite the wonderful weather. (It almost felt like we were in the Caribbean and not the Baltic.) I also did the water slides a total of 8 times in two chunks. They were great fun. We then headed back to the room to change, hit the Suite Lounge, and headed to dinner. Tonight was beef tenderloin for Suzanne and duck a l’orange for me. After dinner, I spent some time taking some photos at sunset before heading back to the room and working on photos on the balcony.
Sat 13-Aug – Gdynia/Gdansk, Poland
Suzanne and I got up for a reasonably early breakfast in the Windjammer. Kyle wasn’t feeling well so decided to just hang on the ship for the day while we did our touring. While the port is officially Gdansk, the ship actually docks in Gydnia, about 45 minutes by car from the port. While there are tours and taxis you can take, we just grabbed and Uber for around $20 vs the $50 taxis were asking. The only issue is that it was hard to find the Uber as it’s just outside the port gate (only a five minute walk from the ship). We ended up arriving in Gdansk proper around 9:15.
For the morning, we followed the walking tour in the Rick Steves guidebook. It was very interesting to see another city in Poland. (We did a day trip to Poznan from Berlin in 2019.) Gdansk is quite a beautiful city. Eventually the walk led us to the Gdansk shipyard and European Solidarity Centre museum. (Solidarity was a labor movement started at the shipyard in the late 70s and led by Lech Welesa. Many credit the movement with playing a significant role in the downfall of Communism in the late-80s.) This was an excellent museum showing the history and influence of the movement/union. We’d highly recommend spending some time here. (It took us about 90 minutes to go through.)
After the museum, we headed back to the center of Gdansk. For lunch we hit up a traditional milk bar cafeteria, Bar Turystyczny. Despite its name, this is was a great (and cheap) lunch. It was a little confusing to order but we managed. Lunch was stuffed cabbage for me and meat pierogi for Suzanne. With two Cokes, it was only around $12. We got very lucky in that the St. Dominic’s Fair was going on. This is one of the largest street fairs in Europe and dates back 750 years. We wandered around many of the street stalls, enjoying a piping hot cinnamon and sugar Kürtoskalács (chimney cake). (We had one in Zagreb in 2019 but the one in Gdansk was much better.)
We grabbed an Uber back to the ship, arriving around 4:30. (Our morning driver let us know that there is a museum right at the port which provides a handy destination to provide.) After relaxing in the room and hanging in the Suite Lounge once again, dinner was at the MDR. We both had the short rib which was really good. Kyle headed back to the teen club while Suzanne and I hung out in the library for a bit before calling it a night after a long day.
Sun 14-Aug – Klaipeda, Lithuania
I was up very early in the morning, despite the time change an hour ahead, for yet another sunrise. We did book an excursion through the cruise line for today, the only time we did for the trip, as I had found a really interesting one that wasn’t possible to do independently. After breakfast in the Windjammer and meeting our group in the theater, we headed off the ship to our waiting bus just before 8:00. For the first part of our excursion, we toured a bit through Klaipeda and out into the countryside. Our guide was quite good. Our first stop was an overlook over Plateliai Lake. It was nice but quick. The main point of this excursion was to visit the old Plokstine Soviet ballistic missile base. This was really cool to see, including one of the keys that would have launched their missiles. (They came very close to launching missiles on Prague during the 1968 uprising, going so far as to have the keys inserted.) It was also interesting that the missiles sited in Cuba that kicked off the Cuban Missile Crisis were stored here prior to being sent to Cuba. This is now a Cold War museum. I would have loved to have some more time here and not be so crowded with the group, but it was worth the trip in any case. After the museum, we stopped for a traditional Lithuanian lunch on the way back to Klaipeda.
Back in the city, we wandered around a bit before stopping for a drink and walking back to the ship, arriving around 3pm. (Here, the ship was docked very close to town.) I did some photos before grabbing a quick slice of pizza at Cafe Promenade and watching sail away from the helipad. After our evening in the Suite Lounge and dinner in the MDR, beef Bourguigone for Suzanne and seafood linguini marinara for me, we ended up being to make the 8pm ice skating show. (Yes, there’s an ice rink onboard.) While I recognize the talent of the performers, the show didn’t seem to make any sense to me. After the show, we just hung out in the room for a bit before calling it a night.
Mon 15-Aug – Helsinki, Finland
I actually woke up late this morning, around 8am. As we weren’t arriving into Helsinki until noon, we had breakfast again in Chops Grille. I caught some of the arrival in Helsinki before we grabbed lunch at the Windjammer waiting for clearance to disembark. We ended up getting off the ship around 12:30.
While you can walk to the main part of town, it’s a bit far at a couple of miles. Instead, we grabbed an Uber to the famous Church in the Rock (Temppeliaukio Church). After spending 20-30 minutes visiting here, we followed the Rick Steves walking tour. (This was bit tricky as we were going in reverse but with some help from Google Maps, it all worked out.) We did actually make a quick stop at McDonald’s to grab some lunch for Kyle. I also grabbed a wonderfully tasty cardamom roll (like a cinnamon roll) at a nearby bakery. It was definitely different than anything I had had before. We visited the very peaceful Kamppi Chapel before continuing our walk, eventually ending up at the waterfront market. This was very nice to wander. I even got a moose leather belt as a souvenir. After a quick beer from a great shop inside the market, we put Kyle in an Uber to head back to the ship while we continued on the tour. We had missed the Lutheran Church, which is only a few minutes from the market, so we headed to visit that. It started to rain as we left so we grabbed a drink at the Helsinki Bryggeri Brewhouse. The rain did stop after a bit so we walked some more before grabbing an Uber to head back to the ship ourselves.
After drinks in the lounge again, we decided it had been a long day so we canceled our reservation for the MDR and headed to the buffet for dinner. We had wanted to try it in any case. It was okay but we do prefer the MDR. After catching yet another sunset, we hung out in the room for the rest of the evening.
Tue 16-Aug – Tallinn, Estonia
Yet another early morning, though post sunrise and post docking, we had breakfast in the Windjammer. Kyle decided to stay on the ship though we thought he’d enjoy Tallinn as it’s an old medieval town. (At least part of it is.) We headed off the ship around 8am and made the 20 minute walk to the start of the Rick Steves old town walking tour. It was nice to get to town early as it was much busier later in the day. During the tour we did hit the Orthodox Cathedral and the Lutheran Dome Church, where we used the first notes/coins of our trip, everything else being on credit card/Google pay. Next was a cool visit to Kiek in de Kök (which translates to “Peek in the Kitchen” in low German.) to visit the bastions within the old town walls and the walls themselves. (Kyle really would have liked this.)
Lunch was at Olde Hansa, which is a super touristy “medieval” restaurant. As the Rick Steves guide says, the food is much better than it has any right to be considering it’s a tourist hot spot. I had a sausage plate that include sausages made from wild boar, elk, and bear along with a wonderfully tasty spiced dark beer. Suzanne had mushroom soup and some yummy bread. After lunch and more walking, we stopped for a beer at the Beer House which was so-so. We then walked back to the ship, reboarding around 2:15. After hanging out in the room, watching sail away, and hitting the lounge, it was dinner in the MDR. I had pasta all’arrabbiate while Suzanne has steak au poivre. As it was French night in the Windjammer, we skipped dessert and headed up there to have a few “French-inspired” pastries. After a mediocre sunset, we ended the night on the early side as we had done a ton of walking.
Wed 17-Aug – Riga, Latvia
Once again, Kyle decided to stay on the ship. Suzanne and I had breakfast in the Windjammer and headed off the ship around 8:30. We hopped the free shuttle which took around 30 minutes to town. It was raining as we disembarked and while we got a bit in town in the morning, it cleared up around noon and was fine. We spent most of the morning walking around town, following the Rick Steves walk. Our first real stop was the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. This was an excellent museum covering the pre-WWII Soviet occupation, the Nazi occupation during WWII, post-WWII Soviet occupation, and independence in 1991. This was another excellent visit. Afterward, we hit the market which is huge, being housed in several old zeppelin hangers. It was a mix of stuff for locals and visitors and was quite busy for a Wednesday afternoon. After grabbing a beer, we made what turned out to be a long walk (I would grab a taxi if I did it again) to the phenomenal Valmiermuiža Beer Embassy. They had 18 taps and hundreds of bottles and cans, all Latvian beer. I had no idea the scene was that extensive. I had a few (got my Latvia Untappd badge) and had a great conversation with the owner/manager who was there on his day off. I would have loved to grab a few cans or bottles but, alas, you’re not allowed to bring alcohol back on the ship. For me, it was definitely worth the walk.
After finishing, we did the long walk back to town to catch the shuttle back to the ship. While the line was long, it moved pretty well. We eventually got back to the ship around 3:30. After some relaxing and time in the lounge, it was back to the MDR – pork shank (basically Schweinshaxe) for both of use. After dinner, we saw the Frankie and the Dreamers show. This was interesting as they were on Anthem for our Christmas cruise but we didn’t see them. They had just moved from Anthem to Voyager. It was okay. Not my kind of music, being a lot of Four Tops and other such things, but was still a nice time. I then spent some time grabbing more sunset photos before heading back to the room.
Thu 18-Aug – Stockholm, Sweden
I was up super early (my first photo was at 5am) though we did gain a hour, moving back from Eastern European Time to Central European Time overnight. This was great though as the sail into Stockholm takes place through roughly 60 miles of the incredibly scenic Stockholm Archipelago. (The whole trip takes about four hours.) I took a ton of photos both before and after breakfast at the Windjammer. Suzanne and I made it off the ship at 9:15 while Kyle stayed aboard for the day. We made our way to the bus (couldn’t get the app to work but tapping our credit card worked perfectly) and to Djurgården Island to start with the Vasa Museum. This houses the Vasa which was a royal Swedish warship launched in 1628 that sailed 1400 yards and proceeded to capsize and sink. It was buried in silt and preserved before being salvaged, largely intact, in 1961. It is a massive ship and amazing to see. After spending 90 or so minutes at the museum, we headed “next door” to visit the Skansen open-air museum, the world’s oldest open-air museum. It was interesting to see a lot of old Swedish buildings and characters. I grabbed a roast beef flatbread sandwich while Suzanne had waffles for lunch while there. I also grabbed a beer (again for New Brew Thursday) at their cafe before finishing our 90 minute visit. As we still had some time, we walked along the waterfront toward the city center before grabbing the bus back to the port and the ship, arriving back around 3:00.
After hanging in the room a bit, I spent some time on deck taking photos but it was actually on the cool side for the first time of the cruise. We had our nightly stint in the lounge, where we got to see more scenery on the way out through the archipelago. Dinner in the MDR was shrimp Jalfrezi for me and grilled lamp chops for Suzanne. Sunset tonight wasn’t good as it was overcast so I didn’t worry about photos.
Fri 19-Aug – Visby, Sweden
Following the pattern, I was up early for photos before breakfast in the Windjammer. Today, we all got off the ship around 9:30. Visby is on the island of Gotland which is off the coast of Sweden. It’s an old medieval town with lots of historical buildings. There aren’t a lot of key sights so we spent a lot of time wandering. There are however a bunch of church ruins which are cool to see. We did visit the Domuyruan cathedral. After a stop at the ice cream shop with 100s of flavors, Kyle walked back to the ship while Suzanne and I did some more wandering. We eventually made it back to the ship around 1:00. We hung out in the room and relaxed for a bit before heading to a late lunch at the Windjammer.
After hanging out a bit and our visit to the lounge, dinner at the MDR was beef tenderloin and lobster tail for me and lobster tail for Suzanne. After dinner, we didn’t really do much.
Sat 20-Aug – Sea Day
It was time for our second sea day of the trip. I got up at a reasonable time and did a run on the treadmill before Suzanne and I had breakfast at Chops again. After hanging out in the room a bit, it was time to attend the captain’s talk. This was very cool, especially as he talked about the trip into Stockholm and how it’s very tricky. (Our day there was on the short side but that is because a ship the size of Voyager can only navigate the archipelago in daylight.) He also answered a lot of questions from the audience. We had missed this on Anthem and I now realize that was a shame.
After the talk, we hung out in the Solarium before lunch at the Windjammer and more relaxing. Later in the afternoon we did start packing as it was our last day on the ship. As with most cruises, you put your bags out in the hall the night before and the porters transfer them to the terminal building early in the morning. Post-lounge time dinner in the MDR was strip loin for me and lamb shank for Suzanne. Tonight Kyle even ate something different, having cheese tortellini instead of pasta with butter and cheese. (Of course, this was really also pasta with butter and cheese.) After dinner, we were scheduled to pass under the Storebæltsbroen bridge which we thought would be cool to see. We ended up doing it just at sunset which was spectacular. Back in the room we did our final packing and put our large bags in the hall.
Sun 21-Aug – Disembarkation and return home
None of use slept very well Saturday night. I was up quite early. After an early breakfast in the Windjammer, we packed our final bags and made a last check of the room before heading out around 7:30. Instead of having to wait in one of the lounges, we ended up heading straight to the transfer bus. (We had pre-booked a transfer to the airport. It probably cost a bit more than a taxi but seemed simpler.) We arrived at the airport right around 8:30. As we had checked in, all we had to do was drop our bags. However, as we were flying Delta, they didn’t open their desk until three hours before our 1:30pm flight, so we waited around a couple of hours until they opened at 10:30. There was a long line at security though it moved reasonably well. There was another long line at Immigration for exit control which wasn’t great. Once again, given Scandinavia’s reputation for organization, it was all a bit chaotic. However, I was glad not be arriving as the line for entry control was very long when Kyle and I grabbed some drinks for the flight.
The flight itself was fine, leaving and arriving more or less on time. However, when we got back to JFK, Immigration was very confused. We have Global Entry but they were sending people to the main line as the fire alarm was going off. It was kind of crazy. While they were saying the passport control line was almost an hour, it took around 45 mins. In the end, it didn’t really matter as we had to wait for our bags in any case. (I would have been annoyed had we had carry-on only though.) We grabbed a Lyft from the airport (pretty simple though we had to wait a bit – possibly as we got an XL), getting back home around 6:30. We did a bit of unpacking before turning in around 8:30, having been up since midnight Eastern time.
It was incredible to finally get to go on this cruise after a two-and-a-half year saga of bookings and cancellations. This cruise was a vastly different cruise than the one over Christmas. In some ways, it was nice that it was not our first cruise as we knew more what to expect. It was a bit more complicated than our Christmas cruise given we had to fly to/from Copenhagen and had to figure a bunch of ports. (Our one real port at Christmas, Nassau, Bahamas, was a “walk off the ship and explore” port.) In the end, this all worked out. I was bit worried about Gdansk given its distance between the port and town (45 minute drive) and had considered booking the cruise transportation. In the end, it worked out better and cheaper to do it on our own.
Overall, I think the itinerary was pretty good. As I said way above, it was the best of the reconfigured ones. It was a disappointment to miss St. Petersburg but we got to visit eight cities we had never been before, in five new countries. (We had been to Sweden in 2003 and Poland for a day in 2019.) I also liked spending the few days in Copenhagen before the cruise. For me, I think this works better than arriving right before the cruise and spending time afterward, especially when having to deal with jet lag and the current airline difficulties.
We did find the ship much smaller than Anthem (which it is). It was okay but did feel dated here and there. (It was redone, “amped”, in 2019.) We thought it really lacked spaces to just kind of hang out which Anthem had in abundance. There were bars and lounges but we didn’t want to sit there unless we were drinking.
We are definitely going to be spoiled now. We liked the balcony cabin we had on Anthem but the Grand Suite was very, very nice. It was great to have it split so we each had our own space. The balcony was huge, being two rooms wide, as was the bathroom. There was so much storage space we didn’t even use a fair amount of it. In addition to the room itself, having access to the Suite Lounge, Chops Grille for breakfast, and reserved loungers by the pool was great. We didn’t even take advantage of the room service perk. We ended up upgrading the room for $490 for all of us, though there was an additional $100 as the gratuities for “real” suites are more than for Junior Suites. I had figured we would end up with at least three drinks per night for at least eight nights. (That’s probably a conservative estimate.) That right there would have been around $315 which we saved by utilizing the Suite Lounge. (In reality, if we had had all the drinks we ended up having, we came out significantly ahead.) We have the equivalent of a Junior Suite on next year’s Alaska cruise on Princess so we’ll see how that is.
Food and Drink
I don’t have too much to say about the food and drink. It was about the same as on Anthem. Some nights in the MDR were great, some were so-so. I definitely wanted to eat at least one lunch in the MDR. I wasn’t that impressed with the service though the food was fine. I also wanted to have one dinner in the Windjammer buffet. This was fine. Breakfast in Chops was excellent. I’d recommend this for anyone who can. I did have a morning pastry and a slice of pizza from Cafe Promenade which were both okay. In terms of drinks, we had many fewer this trip. The drink package was more expensive and given how many port days we had, it made absolutely no sense. We did end up paying for a few but saved a ton of money. (The Suite Lounge happy hour helped with this of course.)
I haven’t said anything about COVID aside from having to get a supervised test two days before embarkation. In Denmark, there are no restrictions. (Suzanne actually got kind of told off but the Danish immigration agent when wearing a mask.) On the ship, while the crew was all masked, there were only a handful of passengers using them. That all said, we all started feeling off on our way home and tested positive Monday morning. (We made sure to wear masks on the ride from the airport.) Kyle and I weren’t too bad. I was really stuffy and had a cough but still managed to run the next day. However, I’m still having a few lingering effects even a couple of weeks past, especially a scratchy throat and a bit of a cough. Kyle had the about same but recovered quickly. Suzanne got hit pretty hard, going so far as to get Paxlovid from her doctor and putting in no more than half workdays for a couple of weeks. She is well on the mend now (3 weeks after we returned). We actually find it kind of amazing we hadn’t had it until now. We are really just hoping we don’t have any serious long term effects.