Port and Shore Excursions
A day of sunshine & showers. Like most fellow-lemmings, we decided to go to Bruges.
Had to choose:
- taxi, â‚¬50 one-way - quite a rip-off for 10 miles, even though some were 6 -- 7 seaters, or
- free shuttle to Blankenburge & â‚¬6 return rail fare to Bruges.
Due to aforementioned aversion to rip-offs, we opted for the train even though we knew it was only an hourly service. Timing worked out badly, we had a 50-minute wait. But no worries, still had plenty of time to explore Bruges, take a canal boat ride, buy local goodies & still get back to Blankenburge with an hour to spare. We used most of that hour for a couple of rounds of Belgian beer in a bar opposite the rail station. Found one at 9deg proof!! Good job we'd not discovered it that morning, or we'd not have made it to Bruges. Another excellent port, despite the transfer complications.
We ported along Langelinie, near the little mermaid. Took the free shuttle to town, checked out Tivoli, a couple of palaces, impressive town hall & other sights. And people-watching from behind a pint of the local brew on Nyhavn. Forsook the shuttle & enjoyed the attractive walk back to Aurora. Super port.
The city doesn't have a lot to offer, not helped by the cold grey weather. Shuttlebus to town, wandering aimlessly on cold deserted streets before finding a warm & welcoming cafe. Abandoned plans for a boat trip, instead took a circular tram trip (route T3) for a tour of the city. The route went quite close to the Olympic complex, the art-deco rail station, the Rock cathedral & Sibelius memorial. If the weather had been kinder we'd have hopped off for one or two. As said, the city doesn't have a lot to offer - but would have been more worthwhile given the right mood & weather.
The high-spot of any Baltic cruise. Like other cruise lines, P&O's literature craftily gives the impression that an expensive personal visa is needed unless you take a ship's tour -- not so, pre-booked tours with local tour operators have that same visa-waiver status and a personal visa is only required by those leaving the ship totally independently. We'd booked a 2-day tour with Alla, a dozen of us (16-seater minibus) having gotten together with help from cruisedot & cruise critic's Roll Calls and from Alla. We had plenty of time at all the important sights and a number of minor ones - incl our namesake battle-cruiser Aurora, whose guns signalled the start of the 1917 revolution. A varied & interesting couple of days, with super guide Julia.
We also fitted in an evening folklore show. Hardly "culture", it's unashamedly for tourists, but the quality of song, dance & costume was excellent, plus plenty of subtle humour & audience participation.
A great port from start to finish, despite warm & sunny weather turning grey & wet during the second day
The sail-in through the archipelago was amazing, passing miles of waterfront forests & houses just yards from shore. Aurora felt huge in these surroundings. We ported along Stadsgardleden. Super hop-on ferry stop by our ship, but its direction of travel didn't suit our plans so we took the shuttle-bus to the Royal Palace. Then hop-on ferry to Vasa museum (puts the Mary Rose to shame), Skansen open-air museum (disappointing, not a patch its West Sussex counterpart, the Weald & Downland open-air museum), then hopped back on the ferry, past our ship to Slussen, where we hopped off to walk through the attractive & lively mazy streets of Gamla Stan. Spoilt for choice -- shuttlebus or hop-on ferry back to Aurora? We chose the ferry. Super port.
We took the shuttlebus, though it would have been no more than a 15 minute walk to the start of the town wall, a squat defensive tower with the unflattering name of Fat Margaret. A laid-back day, exploring the nooks & crannies, picking up bargains, people-watching. Oh -- and stocking-up on smokes at around Â£2 a pack, amongst the cheapest in the EU, but no UK brands. Another super port.