Review of Baltic Cruise on RCI Explorer of the Seas Part 2

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Jan Rosser
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Review of Baltic Cruise on RCI Explorer of the Seas Part 2

Post by Jan Rosser » 01 Sep 2019, 19:36

Ports of Call were Oslo/Copenhagen/Tallinn/St. Petersburg/Helsinki/Stockholm/Skagen and Stavanger.

Oslo
We had been here before and did an excursion then covering all the main attractions so this time we just got off and walked into town - the weather was very pleasant and when we got back we sat on the deck after lunch.

Copenhagen
Another repeat port for us although on our last visit we spent almost the whole of the day in Tivoli Gardens. There were a few options - shuttle bus into the city or HoHo bus and this is where we think RCI is a bit of a rip off - the cost of a shuttle return ticket was $20 and the HoHo bus $40 per person. However on the dock side was the big red bus which is basically just another HoHo bus run by a different company and it only cost €25 per person - quite a difference when you are paying for a family of four. As with every port it was very busy.

Tallinn
Not been to this port before and what a delightful place it was - again not much option but to take the shuttle bus - only $10 and armed with a map we explored the old town. Lots of steep steps to climb but amazing views at the top and the cathedral was spectacular.

St Petersburg
Two days here and we had booked an excursion each day - not full days thank goodness as it was so busy everywhere. We did a panoramic tour of the city - lots of photo stops and we were taken to a souvenir shop - free tasters of vodka and nibbles and the opportunity to buy the usual knick knacks. One of the best shows of the cruise was given that night by a group of Russian singers and dancers dressed in traditional clothes - it was quite spectacular.

The second day we went to Peterhof Palace and again stunning - both the house and the gardens and fountains.

Helsinki
A new port for us - we went on the shuttle bus around the city ($20 return) - there were four stops at the principal attractions but again it was very busy and we actually stood on the return journey to the ship.

Stockholm
A repeat port for all of us so we took the shuttle ($18 return) and walked to the old part of the city - clocked up the steps on the Fitbit that day - the girls finished it off with freshly made churros with Nutella from a stall - delicious.

Skagen
New port and one we all enjoyed - we had booked a tour which took us around the town and then out to the coast where we were taken in a bus pulled by a tractor to a beach with the Baltic sea on one side of the spit and the North sea on the other - unbelievably windy. We visited the sand covered church or what was left of it - the guide was very good - lots of stories about the area. Disappointed to find out that the Skagen watch brand is not actually Danish - they are made in New York - they’ve just used the name.

Stavanger
We’ve been to Stavanger several times and as we were docked next to the old houses we just got off and walked around the lake and shops. The girls stayed on board with their grandfather - they were getting less and less keen to sightsee unless it was an organised trip - they are now 12 and 16 and preferred being with their new friends.

Entertainment

Bit hit and miss - only two shows by the dancers and singers - both spectacular - probably the best dancers we have ever seen but the singers were a bit screechy. The ice show was very good - there was a system giving you a date and time to see the show and the option if you wanted to wait in a standby queue to see it again. There was a Beatles celebration band - they were okay - saw them in the Windjammer a few days later without their wigs!!! Mick Miller is still on the cruise ship circuit - gave him a miss and the juggler. We went to see a male singer who had appeared in musicals etc. and on another night a female singer - both quite good. A magician who I’d seen on the One Show on the BBC performed illusions using an iPad - quite clever - he was selling Apps rather than CDs to learn some of his tricks. We gave the hypnotist a miss - doesn’t appeal to me and the mind reader too - bit sceptical about that sort of act. The Wild Boys performed 80s music and Josh Daniels a comedian did a show the following night. We went to a matinee performance by Perry Grant - he is a singer and pianist who performed every night in one of the bars. He dressed outrageously in glittery jackets and shirts - loads of bling but he was very entertaining - the theatre was full and he engaged with the audience. All these acts were supported by the orchestra - they were amazing and performed in the live lounge one night doing jazz classics. All the live bands on the ship were very talented and we spent more time in the Star Lounge than we ever have before. We even watched karaoke and unheard of really they could all sing. We went to a quiz most nights in the Star Lounge - thought there was a bit of cheating going on but it was a bit of fun and the hosts were funny.

I agree with John on a lot of the points he makes about RCI. Independence is a much bigger ship than Explorer and has more facilities although probably comparable as far as food and service are concerned and I don’t think in fairness you could criticise either. The entertainment was ok as I’ve said above - he may have had better - we certainly didn’t have shows lasting 90 minutes and I felt two shows by the production company on a 14 night cruise was very poor. John wasn’t keen on the way the Anytime dining was operated but we preferred the way we could book the same table at roughly the same time each night and in our area of the dining room we saw the same faces around us most nights. Drinks/excursions/shuttles/tips were far more expensive than with P&O.

One of the big disappointments for the girls was the kids clubs. They were in the same age category 12 - 17 year olds but had no permanent venue to gather in - a notice on the door of the room they should have used informed them that the room had been taken over for younger children and babies so they only had temporary sessions in a room down on deck 3 and the lack of supervisory staff for the kids was a big minus. A few days before the end of the cruise a disco was organised for the 12-17 age group starting at 11 pm and finishing at 1 am and they had one barbecue night. There was a curfew on under 18’s - back in the cabins by 1 am - neither of ours were allowed out until that time anyway so not a problem and security staff monitored the ship keeping an eye on the youngsters so bad behaviour not a problem but we felt they should have had somewhere to go and just be allowed to chill.

John spoke in his review of how expensive some items were on Independence and Explorer was exactly the same. The overall cost of the cruise was a little cheaper for the family but I found it on a par with P&O - same single supplements apply. However the gratuities for the family of 4 would have worked out at roughly $800 and ok they may have removed the tips from P&O now but working it out from previous cruises they would have paid half of the RCI tips. Drinks were expensive - we didn’t purchase any drink packages. We couldn’t believe how many children and adults had those refillable beakers - don’t know how they can drink all that fizz. My granddaughters have the occasional soft drink but have always drunk a lot of water and $7.50 for a fizzy drink with a sort of strawberry cordial in it is just unbelievable. Two soft drinks at dinner with a bottle of wine was just under $40 - we did buy it after all we were on holiday but whinged about it. Prosecco or a glass of wine was around $9 a glass. The price of excursions was horrendous as was the cost of shuttle buses. We normally book select price with P&O and have free shuttle buses so a bit of a shock to be paying up to $20 for a short return trip. Booking select fare also entitles you to free coach travel to Southampton and this is over £400 for the family - another extra cost for them.

There were three formal nights and we duly dressed up - it’s something we all enjoy doing especially the girls. It amused us the “effort” some people made - I honestly think they had just come straight off the deck - hoodies, t-shirts, shorts but no-one was refused entry to the dining room. I don’t think there were as many dinner suits - often jacket/trousers but no tie and the casual nights were very casual.

Overall we enjoyed the cruise - we may have had a different experience on a bigger RCI ship. Both girls said they preferred the clubs on P&O and Princess - more organised and a place for them to meet up rather than hanging around the ship - again they may have had better facilities on a bigger ship. We enjoyed all the ports - all interesting to visit - couldn’t fault the itinerary but as I said before the excursions were expensive.

Would we sail with RCI again - may be - it would have to be a particularly interesting itinerary on one of their newer ships - thanks for reading my ramblings.
Janis

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barney
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Re: Review of Baltic Cruise on RCI Explorer of the Seas Part 2

Post by barney » 01 Sep 2019, 20:34

That pretty much mirrors our experience completely Jan.
Thanks for the review

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towny44
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Re: Review of Baltic Cruise on RCI Explorer of the Seas Part 2

Post by towny44 » 01 Sep 2019, 22:48

Very good review Jan, I agree with lots of your comments especially the higher drink and extras prices;we also thought the cruise fare was comparable to P&O at the time we booked, but we booked 18 months early and prices have sky rocketed since then, next years prices are 20% higher than we paid. Independence is not that much bigger than Explorer, I know Wikipedia shows it to have a much bigger beam but this is due mainly to the cantilevered hot tubs sticking out, and the overhanging bit of the Windjammer cafe, which I assume is needed to accommodate the higher numbers on board, however Indie is about 100ft longer than Explorer which is where the extra cabins are, and also gives the extra space for the kids Splashaway Bay feature; all the other features will be added to Explorer during its upcoming refit, which is where RCI scores massively by regularly upgrading their ships, not just adding extra cabins and carpets like P&O. I guess we would have gone with booking a table and time if we had not received the priority treatment, but I still prefer the P&O version where you just turn up when you want and get seated.
John

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GillD46
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Re: Review of Baltic Cruise on RCI Explorer of the Seas Part 2

Post by GillD46 » 02 Sep 2019, 07:26

A very interesting read - thank you. I don’t think it’s made me want to try RCI - but never say never.
Gill


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Re: Review of Baltic Cruise on RCI Explorer of the Seas Part 2

Post by cruisin_duo » 02 Sep 2019, 08:41

Thank you for posting the review Jan.

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Re: Review of Baltic Cruise on RCI Explorer of the Seas Part 2

Post by Manoverboard » 02 Sep 2019, 08:43

Thanks for doing the report Jan, together with Towny's it provides an excellent insight into RCI.

I recall that Mobietta and I have walked from the ship to the sites / sights in Copenhagen, Tallinn, Stockholm and Helsinki so may I ask if using the shuttle buses was actually necessary in hindsight ?

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Re: Review of Baltic Cruise on RCI Explorer of the Seas Part 2

Post by towny44 » 02 Sep 2019, 09:37

Manoverboard wrote:
02 Sep 2019, 08:43
Thanks for doing the report Jan, together with Towny's it provides an excellent insight into RCI.

I recall that Mobietta and I have walked from the ship to the sites / sights in Copenhagen, Tallinn, Stockholm and Helsinki so may I ask if using the shuttle buses was actually necessary in hindsight ?
I think it depends where you dock Moby, the new cruise ship dock in Copenhagen is a very long walk into town, not near the little mermaid like Langelinie is, Stockholm's large ship dock is also way out of town, and Helsinki is quite a walk to the waterfront harbour, and Tallin is a bit of an uphill trek to the main tourist area where the Cathedral is located.
John

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Re: Review of Baltic Cruise on RCI Explorer of the Seas Part 2

Post by Manoverboard » 02 Sep 2019, 12:39

towny44 wrote:
02 Sep 2019, 09:37
Manoverboard wrote:
02 Sep 2019, 08:43
Thanks for doing the report Jan, together with Towny's it provides an excellent insight into RCI.

I recall that Mobietta and I have walked from the ship to the sites / sights in Copenhagen, Tallinn, Stockholm and Helsinki so may I ask if using the shuttle buses was actually necessary in hindsight ?
I think it depends where you dock Moby, the new cruise ship dock in Copenhagen is a very long walk into town, not near the little mermaid like Langelinie is, Stockholm's large ship dock is also way out of town, and Helsinki is quite a walk to the waterfront harbour, and Tallin is a bit of an uphill trek to the main tourist area where the Cathedral is located.
Didn't think of that :oops: …. our Baltic / Fjord / Hansiatic Ports various type cruises were all on smaller ships like Voyages of Discovery plus P&O's Artemis and Oriana, with the latter being the largest by far.

As for Tallinn we walked the short distance to the Fat Betty Tower( ? ) at the lowest level and gradually ascended to the very top, it was no big deal at the time but not too sure about doing it again any time soon ;)

.
Last edited by Manoverboard on 02 Sep 2019, 12:44, edited 1 time in total.

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