Assessing hotels on an OAT Baltics tour

By Florence Drake
This item appears on page 30 of the December 2018 issue.

My husband and I went on a trip called "The Baltic Capitals & St. Petersburg" with Overseas Adventure Travel, or OAT (Cambridge, MA; 800/955-1925,, Oct. 2-17, 2017.

Although the pace was rather hectic, with us sometimes not stopping for lunch until after 1 p.m., with touring until dinnertime (often at 8 p.m.), we loved the trip for its variety, its mix of city and country and its organization. I think a lot [of our enjoyment] had to do with the guide. Ours was Miina Puusepp, from Estonia, and she was excellent.

By the way, October is the rainy month in the Baltics, something Miina told us right after we landed in Vilnius, Lithuania, and rain was our nearly constant companion through the entire trip. This was probably shown in OAT's climate chart, but it should have been stressed in words as well. Unless you like rain and a chilly wind, do not go to the Baltics in October.

Following are some comments on places we stayed and/or ate at along the way and afterward. (Each room rate given was found on the hotel's website and is for one night in a double room.) All of the hotels we stayed in on this trip had good breakfast buffets.

Mabre Residence Hotel (Maironio Str. 13, Vilnius, Lithuania;, at 96 (near $118), was well located, big and pleasantly laid out, with clean, quiet rooms. The restaurant on site, Hazienda (, was very good.

• I would advise anyone staying at the National Hotel (Zveju St. 21/Teatro St. 1, Klaipeda, Lithuania; to NOT let the front desk put them anywhere on the second floor.

After a second day of touring Klaipeda, we returned to our room to find a note from the management saying, "We would like to inform you that there is a birthday party going on in our hotel tomorrow. Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience that may be caused. We wish you a pleasant and relaxing stay."

Our room was directly over the party room, and the emcee kept turning up the volume, so we definitely did not have a pleasant and relaxing stay. We complained multiple times and finally got them to turn it down a little, but if we had known Lithuanian, we could have understood every word from the party.

They promised to stop by midnight, but we needed more sleep than that, as we would be rising early the next morning, so my husband got us another room. It was right over the bar… where the partiers went after the party shut down. They celebrated in the bar and on the sidewalk outside until about 4 a.m.

Other than that, this was a nice, clean and good hotel. (I could not determine the nightly rate from the website.)

• In Latvia, we stayed at the PK Riga Hotel [now known as the Hestia Hotel Jugend, Pulkveza Brieza St. 11, Riga; — Editor], at 107, a nice, modern hotel with lots of big windows for light. We had a quiet sleep there.

• Our room at the Radisson Blu Sky Hotel Tallinn (Ravala Puiestee 3; was clean and quiet (79), and the breakfast buffet was big.

There was a laundry down one of the side streets that was vastly cheaper than having the hotel do it. We left our clothes in the morning and picked them up around 6 p.m. A very nice clerk at the front desk gave us directions. (Be sure to continue straight down the street; don't take the curve or you could be wandering around behind the hotel for days!)

• The Domina Hotel Saint Petersburg (99 Moika River Embankment, St. Petersburg, Russia; had seven floors that could be reached from two glass elevators. All guest rooms circled the glass-ceilinged atrium below, with the sky above.

Rooms were large and well equipped. Décor was quirky. All of the walls on our floor and in our room were done in red flocked wallpaper. The carpeting matched, too. It was a bit overwhelming in an otherwise restful room ($118).

• One evening in St. Petersburg, we declined to go to the touristy folk show for an additional $90. On one of our walks, our guide had mentioned a restaurant, pointing to an alley out the back door of our hotel, so we went in search of Teplo (B. Morskaya 45 Str.; phone +7 812 407 27 02,

Heading down the alley and into a cellar (do persevere in finding it, as it is worth the quest), we walked into a warm, homey restaurant with families enjoying time together. Couches in front of the fireplace were filled with diners of all ages. Moms helped serve the kids, who wandered between tables. The wait staff, who spoke English, helped out in the kitchen as needed.

I had sausages, mashed potatoes and a sauerkraut-tomato sauce mixture (that my Russian neighbors tell me is common home cooking there), and my husband had pasta with tomato sauce. We split a big bottle of dark beer. The bill came to $20.

As we were putting on our raincoats for the dash back across the street, our waitress presented us with two pastries in a bag "for later." The pastries (like pierogis) were filled with a mixture of sauerkraut and scrambled egg but with a bread covering instead of noodle dough. What a treat! (Our group didn't stop for lunch until nearly 3 p.m. the next day, so these gifts were doubly appreciated.)

We ended the tour and flew to Zürich, Switzerland, where we were on our own for the rest of the afternoon, night and part of the morning. The train from the airport to the city center was easy, clean and quick.

That evening, after we had bought pastries for breakfast at a bakery, we went in search of dinner and found a wonderful little Italian place, Wolfbach Restaurant (Wolfbachstraße 35; phone +41 43 433 00 88, [German only]).

The room was full of local Italians, and the smells coming from the kitchen put us in heaven. The prices, however, just about choked us. We split what was billed as squash tortellini with sage butter but looked more like big, free-form ravioli, adding a half carafe of Rioja, and the bill was $61.

We knew Zürich was expensive, so we shouldn't have been surprised, but we had an EXCELLENT meal, we didn't leave hungry, and the atmosphere and service were great!

Williamsburg, VA


ITN sent a copy of Ms. Drake's letter to Overseas Adventure Travel and received the following reply from a Vice President of Public Relations: "We regret the unfortunate night the Drakes had due to a party at the National Hotel and will advise the hotel accordingly. We greatly appreciate the Drakes for both their valuable feedback and for traveling with us."