John, Jacquie, Roger & Margaret, Aug '16
This has taken some time to compose, but finally, while having lunch with Roger and Margaret yesterday, we came up with these comments.
**Moscow - **The Moscow hotel was excellent and well-situated. We could easily walk to see most of the city sights. Our guide was excellent also, and we learned lots of things about Russian life as well as the sights we were visiting. There were only 4 of us in the group, which made the experience very personal.
We can recommend a Georgian Restaurant called “Nani” and the Cafe Pushkin, both of which were within walking distance of the hotel.
**St Petersburg - **The hotel was well-located, had a great breakfast arrangement set up with the cafe next door and friendly, helpful staff. We were able to use a sitting room near reception to have a drink in the evenings and everyone spoke excellent English, which was a bonus. Our guide Lena was also excellent. The ballet in St Petes was great. That was a good recommendation to miss a performance at the Bolshoi, Asko, and see a ballet in St Petes instead.
We had a nice dinner at a restaurant called Park Guiseppe which is near the park adjacent to the Church on Spilled Blood.
We had thought that Moscow was full of tourists, but that had nothing on St Petersburg. There were busloads of tourists and all the museums had long queues (middle of peak season). Both guides did their best to negotiate many of the queues to show us around. The drivers who met us at the airport and drove us to and from the Stations were there to meet us and we were very happy with the service provided.
**Helsinki - **The Hotel Glo Kluuvi is excellently-situated. We really enjoyed our stay there. The room allocated was very small (could have dealt with that) but it did not have a safe. I was concerned about that and finally we paid to upgrade to a bigger room that did have a safe. Other than that small issue, it was an excellent experience. Our guide for the walking tour did a great job, also managing a crowded site as best she could (Church in the Rock). We obtained a good overview of the city from her and did quite a lot of exploring on our own, including a trip to Suomenlinna to see the fortifications. The day trip to Tallinn was really worthwhile, with some very interesting behaviour exhibited by many of our fellow passengers who make the trip on a regular basis to buy cheaper alcohol and a range of other goods. You could let future clients know that there are free walking tours of Tallinn which leave from the tourist information centre. We had a very nice lunch at Pegasus Restaurant, situated between the town and Freedom squares. The young waitress was a mine of information about Estonia.
We would all like to go back to Finland and see some of the countryside as well. Fazer chocolate is amazing and having the Fazer restaurant across the pedestrian thoroughfare from the hotel was very handy.
The overnight ferry to Stockholm was also excellent (I will run out of superlatives in this email!) There were 2,500 people on the ferry, and with the exception of when we sailed from Helsinki, they weren’t immediately apparently. We had dinner at a very good restaurant, the weather was amazing and the cabin was very comfortable. Great recommendation!
**Stockholm - **We needed to take a taxi from the port, the cost of which was very high. That was unfortunate and there weren’t any other alternatives really. I wonder how much it would cost to have a private transfer from the port to the hotel?
The Hotel Rival is very quirky. We like a lounge area they have with free coffee/tea/water and a computer and printer for guests to use. There was no air conditioning as the hotel is a heritage building, but fans were provided on request. Our walking tour was very good here. We were the only ones in the group so it was like a private tour. The Vasa museum was excellent. An extra day in Stockholm would have been great too.
Vasa Museum, Stockholm
**Oslo - **The hotel was excellent. It was recently refurbished and had a guest lounge on the top floor with coffee and some snacks etc. Also a complimentary ‘supper’ was provided each evening, which meant our tariff could provide dinner as well. We appreciate the help your office offered when our tour of Oslo ended up not happening and the refund we received. Between your office in Norway and the hotel, we found a Laundromat and had our washing done! The “Norway in a Nutshell” tour was really good and we appreciated a couple of days at Flam to chill out for a while.
**Bergen - **Our rooms had the most amazing view – across the water to the classic buildings of Byrggen. The Bergen card was a good recommendation, which was well-used, for the funicular, Hanseatic Museum and art galleries to name a few.
**Hurtigruten - **We all loved the whole cruise. The 4 tours that we organised pre-sailing we can recommend highly. We would like to return to Norway, especially to spend a few days in the Lofoten Islands and to see more of Norway. We had a reasonable amount of time in Trondheim, Tromso and Bodo and went off exploring on our own. It would have been nice to have more time in Alesund, which is a beautiful town. The crab safari in Kirkenes was enjoyable and the lady from the Snowhotel who looked after us after the safari was very kind and went out of her way to entertain us for a few hours showing us the husky-raising facilities at the hotel, driving us to the Russian border and finally taking us to the airport for our flight to Oslo.
**Oslo - **The ‘airport’ hotel was nowhere near the airport. A very expensive taxi fare, late at night, was very disappointing, when we had imagined a somewhat different situation. There is a Radisson Blu hotel at the airport. I am not sure of the tariff differences between that and the hotel in which we stayed, but with two taxi fares on top of our accommodation, it would definitely be preferable to stay at the Radisson.
**Iceland - **An amazing country. The self-drive holiday was a great way to see the country. The homestays differed in standards from place to place, but all were clean and the hosts and staff were welcoming. Each day the owner would ring ahead for us to confirm our stay for that night, and after we worked out that it was preferable to eat dinner at the homestay, we would also book for dinner. Most of the homestays were quite a distance from towns or restaurants, and sometimes it seemed that there weren’t too many towns anyway. We were lucky with the weather. On the East Coast – (Day 3, I think) it poured with rain and we didn’t see a great deal of anything, but that was the only time. It could have rained all week! The car – a Kia Sorrento – was a good size for 4 adults, 4 suitcases, 4 carry-on bags and groceries, water etc.
**Copenhagen - **The hotel was another great find. It was well-situated and we walked everywhere. It is close to the little Mermaid statue, and we found the way to see her without thousands of others, was to take a walk early in the morning when we were the only people there. She can also be seen from the canal tour, but only from the back. We enjoyed the canal tour so much, we did it twice! If you have any other crazy people wanting to see “The Bridge”, we think that it would be better to drive over the bridge than to catch a train to Malmo. We had to walk quite a long way from the station and it was made a bit tricky because none of the locals seemed to know where to go to see the bridge. It is just near the Turning Torso building. We should have taken a cab from the station to the viewing point. A big plus was that Malmo turned on the most amazingly beautiful day and we had only seen rain, fog and darkness in the TV series!
We had a very nice dinner in the Ofelia Restaurant in the Royal Danish Playhouse, which was a short walk from the hotel. The last evening we ate dinner in the hotel’s Salt Bar and Restaurant. This was excellent. We experienced an international triathlon that last day, with activity taking place on both sides of the hotel. This added to the festive nature of Copenhagen.
The itinerary was great. Thank you for putting it together for us.
We really enjoyed taking trains and ferries (as opposed to flying). It seems that airports are best avoided, unless absolutely necessary.
The fact that English was widely-spoken everywhere we went (except for Russia) made it a hassle-free holiday for us. In Russia, having a private tour with English-speaking guides and staying in hotels with English-speaking staff, meant that we had no problems in Russia either. We found that everyone seemed to be friendly and helpful.
We quickly learned the rules of the state-controlled liquor stores in Scandinavia and enjoyed buying wine and beer for pre-dinner drinks at the end of the day!! Typical Aussies!
When we return to Scandinavia we will be sure to contact you. We would definitely recommend your agency to any of our friends!
From Jacquie and John & Roger and Margaret "