Baltic Explorer - May 2012
After an uncomfortable 6 hour leger coach journey to Newcastle, and VERY long embarkation queues at the terminal, we were feeling a bit tired and tetchy by the time we got on board! This mood was very quickly dispelled by our favourable first impressions of the Spirit. We had an outside cabin on deck 7, much larger than we have experienced on Thomson's other ships, complete with bath and minibar. The whole ship was very nicely furnished and decorated, no feeling of "cheapness" about the decor. The buffet area is thickly carpeted with upholstered chairs (no vinyl here) and "proper" crockery.
We had breakfast and lunch here each day, and dinner on one occasion. The food in the evening was better in the main restaurant. The buffet food was ok, but very repetitive, and no nice starters or desserts.
We chose the cruise purely for the itinerary and the brand- as usual Thomson excursions were reasonably priced compared to other lines and we went on 3 in St Petersburg and a Copenhagen-on-your-own trip from Kalundburg. Quite satisfied with all 3, though the traffic in St P was really bad and played havoc with timings.
Although Thomson have never offered all-inclusive on ex- UK sailings, there was a letter in the cabin on arrival offering the AI for £375 pp for 12 days. Drinks prices were average pub prices, £3.50 a pint, £14.50 a bottle house wine. Compared to the prices we were charged ashore they actually seemed quite cheap!
Entertainment was fine- lots of daytime activities from zumba to lectures on Churchill, and enjoyed the daily quiz. Usual singing and dancing in the evening, game shows, trio upstairs in Horizons, pianist in Raffles bar. All a bit old hat, but always something to do. The two daytime plays they put on in the theatre were entertaining and very well attended.
Outside areas got a bit crowded on sea days (and there were 4 of them) but there was always somewhere to sit. It was a bit of a bonus to be sitting out sunbathing at that time of year, although the first few days were very cold.
Found all the ports really interesting, and was pleased to learn there were free shuttle buses in Helsinki and Stockholm, so all that research about bus routes wasn't needed after all! We took a small amount of Krona and Roubles with us, along with some euros. The exchange rates we noticed ashore were very poor to what you get at home- 86 cents for £1 seemed about average. This was in the kiosks, I don't know about the ATM rates.
A very good cruise with very little to complain about!