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Comments on a Disney cruise in the Baltic Sea

Posted by John T. Reed on

Lot of kids although it was not as bad as you might fear. The usual casino is replaced by day-care facilities. Things to do were very heavily watching current and past Disney films and cartoons. But there is a sort of hole in the Disney past on the cruise. In the 1950s and 1960s, they were big on Davy Crockett, nature specials, science like outer space and nuclear power. That was great stuff. Now they do Black Panther and super heroes, not to mention The View and liberal politics ESPN.
 
The food was okay to my taste. Three restaurants—Rapunzel and Animator’s Palate and Lumiere’s were way too noisy because of all the kids and lots of marble, and in the case of Rapunzel, a loud stage show in the middle of it. I prefer the food on the last Crystal cruise we went on. Palo’s on the Magic was quiet and good. The chicken nuggets on Magic were lousy. Virtually all pastries were fruit-filled which I generally do not care for.
 
I went to one stage show. It was great. No library. I had trouble getting Wifi to work. Ditto the Disney cruise app. We also had trouble communicating with our cell phones ashore which is not Disney’s fault but a continuing annoyance when traveling abroad. My wife and I took our granddaughter on one excursion. That required parental permission. We got it three times. The left hand of Disney did not tell the right hand and when we tried to get it cleared on minutes before the excursion, the Disney employee in the excursion room could not get the Disney employee where we were told to do the permission to answer the phone or radio.
 
On other cruises, there are a wider variety of things to do. In Disney, it seemed to be you could watch Disney stuff, play bingo, or do trivia. Crystal et al. also have speakers on major topics of the day.
My son and I did some laundry on the ship. It got stained brown. I would expect that of Ed’s Laundromat on the wrong side of the tracks, not Disney. They should be checking such things and fixing them daily. My impression was Disney was near perfect at such procedures. Not on the cruise.
 
The main impetus for our going on the cruise, which was planned for much more than a year, was a “princess ball” at Katherine’s Palace in St. Petersburg in which our 7-year-old granddaughter was to be one of the “princesses.” It was cancelled just months before the cruise. Disney blamed the local vendor. We were bitterly disappointed.
 
My son Dan may want to comment from a parent’s perspective. It was the first cruise ever for our three sons and grandkids. Our daughter-in-law had technically gone on a cruise as a child, but not since. So Disney is their only cruise experience..
I was generally disappointed in the Disney cruise. I had thought of Disney as a cut above other corporations with regard to the execution of what they claim to be. I thought Crystal did a better job of executing and keeping their promises.
 
The average age of the Disney cruise customers looked like about 30s or 40s. In our other recent cruises; more like 75. Many older cruise goers on those cruises literally looked like the cruise was a final splurge after receipt of a terminal diagnosis. I took a tour of the behind the scenes parts of the cruise we took to Hawaii. One of the places there we saw was a morgue.
 
I go very sick bronchial infection three and four cruises ago. My wife also seemed to have the same disease on one of those. It took weeks after the cruise the get rid of it. On the Disney cruise and the prior Panama Canal one, I did not get sick. I also took the stairs rather than the elevators the vast majority of the time. The Disney elevators were rather small, but the younger cruisers seemed less sick than the geriatric set. My theory is that the elevators are a main source of contagion. My lack of getting sick on the last two seems to support that, but maybe it was not the cause of my staying healthy.
 
Regarding the itinerary, we went to Tallinn Old Town in Estonia. My main interest in that nation was its embrace of free market capitalism after leaving the Soviet Union. Od Town was not the excursion to go on to see that. I do not know if the others were any better. My sons said Tallinn was like a theme park. Not one where Disney went to Europe and recreated an imitation of the Old Country, but rather a surprisingly well-preserved, actual medieval town. The Middle Ages were not an attractive period of history to me.
 
St. Petersburg was sort of slumming compared to the other cities on the cruise: Third-World, poor, left behind, grumpy officials. Interesting for all that but not much fun. Mainly excursions that take you to royal palaces that are now museums—celebrations of pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg.
 
There is a joke in Russia that a man was asked where he was born. St. Petersburg. Where did he grow up? Petrograd. Where did he live now (1980s)? Leningrad. Where did he want to live? St. Petersburg.
 
Petrograd and Leningrad are merely communist-era names for St. Petersburg. The preference for the pre-revolutionary era is clear in the offered excursions. Europeans celebrating the gilded royalty whom they deservedly overthrew has always turned me off. I go there to see current Europeans living in 2018. Most American tourists in Europe seem to be paying homage to Louis the XIV, et al.
 
Helsinki was my wife’s least favorite stop when she did almost the same itinerary in 2015. It was my favorite on this trip. Squared away. Efficient. Pleasant. Pretty.
 
She preferred Stockholm. I was impressed at the abstract attractiveness of that being a city composed of 14 islands. But it was an incompetent, Kafkaesque hell of snarled traffic. Being forced to go over bridges all the time will do that.
 
I also like Copenhagen which is where our cruise started and ended. I felt the same as in 2015 when I was there. Very fit population.
 
The Scandinavians all seemed businesslike and cordial to me, but not friendly like Americans. I sat next to a Danish mom for about fifteen minutes in Tivoli Gardens. My son and granddaughter were on an amusement ride. So were her husband and kids. In America, she and I would have struck up a conversation. She ignored me.
 
Not illegal or immoral or hostile, but a little off-putting for Americans. We saw some of that about many Europeans in general when we attended Harvard Business School. The foreign students were not easy mixer in many cases. They tended to hang with their countrymen at least initially.
 
I had trouble sleeping in our Copenhagen hotel and on the ship. I took my pillow from home, which was wise, but not enough. I think the beds are too hard compared to my home Sleep Number which I set at 25. My lower back gets stiffer by the day on hard beds.
 
My oldest son and I also had trouble sleeping on the 10 hour and 40 minute red eye SAS flight even though our spouses got us business class seats where you can lie flat to sleep. We left on 8/6 and returned on 8/16 and I am still not back to normal sleep because of jet lag and those hard mattresses or the airplane seat.
 
On the 11 hour and 40 minute return flight from Copenhagen to San Francisco we left at 12:30 pm and got in at 2:30 PM San Francisco time. Our body clocks were at 2:30 AM, but it never got dark on the flight because we were chasing and staying in the 1,000 mph sun at about 530 mph. I tentatively conclude the best way to avoid the sleep problems on flights is to avoid red eyes and rather leave early in the day and arrive late on the same day.
Getting our whole 8-person family on such a trip was a monumental project. On a number of occasions during the trip, we had great quiet family gatherings where we talked for hours. Much of it involved watching the 7- and 2-year olds reacting to fun stuff.  But much of it was dealing with travel like getting to and from airports, ordeal flights of double-digit duration, checking in and out of hotels and ship, standing in lines to to get on and off the boat at the beginning and end of the cruise and for port excursions. Also, our taste in port activities varied to the point where we traveled in ones or twos in many cases.
One virtue of all cruises is you visit multiple cities without having to pack and unpack multiple times. But I am not fond of the constant need to worry about not missing the boat leaving when ashore. In Stockholm, I had enough time to visit the Old Town and was going to, but first I needed to make sure I would be able to get on the bus back to the ship. When I tried to confirm that, all I saw was a tangle of long lines of people waiting for buses many of which were unmarked as to which cruise line they led to.
I could not find any Disney employees; just other cruise ship workers with signs about their ships. So when I finally found what seemed to be a Disney bus, I just got on two hours before the return deadline out of fear that I would miss the boat in the cluster of traffic jams, unmarked shuttle busses, snot enough room to park the busses downtown, and so on.
My youngest son says the bus I came back to the boat on was for a different cruise line. It parked next to the Disney cruise ship and no other ship was in sight at that location, but as I said, it did not have a Disney sign; just one that said “Shuttle Bus.”

I also do not like what cruise lines call “sea days,” no port. They have a lot of activities on those days, but basically you are stuck on a boat for 24 hours or day as in the 15-day cruise we took to Hawaii. Ten days of that were us surrounded by water and sky. No other ships, no planes, no birds, no fish, not even any trash except for a green ball that floated by one day. I love Waikiki, but we only got to be there for a few hours on that 15-day cruise. The other four days in HI were spent tagging base on four other islands so we could say we had been there.

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