Port and Shore Excursions
I was grateful for a sea day before the port of Warnemunde, Germany- (3 hour commute to Berlin). SPB hosted us for the "Berlin Jewish Heritage Tour". I am glad I went... I can cross it off my list now, but it was NOT my favorite city. They put up a fence around "the wall" to protect it. (a fence around a wall... seemed odd to me!). Check point Charlie has been reduced to a photo backdrop with props. For a few euros you could pose with soldiers and flags... or pose with superheros in halloween costumes of holidays past.
Sadly, I really thought Berlin missed the mark on their interpretations of a Jewish museum and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. (2,711 concrete slabs to represent millions murdered... it made no sense to me!
Here is how my 21 year old daughter summed it up:
We took the Jewish Heritage tour in Berlin, and the main thing about this tour is that you pay attention to what it is called: it's not a Holocaust tour, but a tour of historical Judaism in Berlin. Most of the things you see are general Berlin sites, like Checkpoint Charlie and a chunk of the Wall. The things specific to the Jewish tour were the Jewish Museum, the memorial for the murdered Jews, and a walk past the huge synagogue built around 1900 (?). The museum is interesting. There was an architectural effort to do thought-provoking things with space, and on that front there was some success. Most of the museum is a chronological walk through the Jewry of Berlin's past... beginning with the very origins of Judaism, I think. There are a lot of artifacts from old families, stories about Jewish people who lived in the Middle Ages, and a lot of interactive stuff. I liked the museum, but do understand that the Holocaust is more prominent in the building's design than in the proper exhibit. 1940 and onwards is located in the last part of the museum. The stress is definitely on the heritage. (NOT A BAD THING.) Um... our group's opinions on the Memorial ranged from "Oh-kay. I guess that made me think "
We stayed 2 nights at The Marriott.
Walking distance from Tivoli, we found it to be perfect. Tivoli was a delight... so much so, we went back the second night and were fortunate to be present for their
Midsummer's Eve celebration (Sankt Hans after) to hear them sing & burn straw witches on the water bonfires.
On day 2 in Copenhagen we enjoyed the Hamlet Castle tour. (Elsinore Castle)
For us, the Copenhagen card turned out not to be worth it. Exhausted from travel, we opted for a bus tour to take us to the 3 castles we wanted to see most (an hour away).
10 days later:
We disembarked reluctantly in Copenhagen and spent an extra day until our early morning flight next day. We stayed at the Hilton at CPH, a long walk, but you are right there attached to the terminal & we even had valets to help schlepp the luggage.
We finally visited Nyhavn and enjoyed the canal boat tour. We marched the shopping streets until I was truly marched out.
The only day I felt I truly let my OCD for planning get the best of me. To all of you who said, "no tour needed:" I wish I had listened. We had a 3 hour panoramic tour that would have been wonderful as 45 minutes touring and 2 hours at the outdoor market... but it was a straight 3 hour tour, and there simply is not enough to tour here to warrant that amount of time. Frustrated, we returned ASAP to ship after the tour, and missed out on, what I later learned of from all I chatted with, a lovely day wandering about freely at the open air market :(
nconsistant and irritable customs agents not withstanding, St. Petersburg was my favorite port!
Our SPb guide, Maria, shared with us 2 days of Russian treasures. We arranged a private 2-day deluxe tour. She brought us around the crowds, to the city's high points, avoided delays, and seemed to know just when and where to be for easiest access.
After an exciting, but utterly exhausting, day, she dropped us off at the Marinsky theatre. After helping us pick up our repurchased ballet tickets, she helped us get a table across the street for dinner and left us to dine on our own. SPb then picked us up after the ballet. It was magical, and worth the cost & exhaustion.
Next day we started with early entry to the Hermitage & were out the door before the worst of the crowding.
For all of you out there eagerly awaiting my review of the ABBA dancing-through-the-streets tour.... it appeared I alone wanted to be a dancing queen and it was cancelled for lack of interest.
My family walked on the rooftops and toured the city with HAL's Historic Rooftop Tour: review from my 21 year old daughter:
***ROOFTOP TOUR OF STOCKHOLM***. This tour was partly a tour by bus as you drive into town, partly a walking tour of the old center of the city, and partly traipsing about on a rooftop. It was an enjoyable tour, of course; that said, I will qualify my recommendation. Everyone seems to think that this is that really good tour for young people, and it is certainly true that people in their twenties generally derive a greater pleasure from imitating Santa Claus than people in their eighties do. But, however much a particular young person makes it their point to pull daredevilish stunts the rest of the time, they will probably just so much fail to derive great excitement from walking around while firmly harnessed to a roof. The other cruisers we spoke to before this tour all seemed under the impression that the tour involved daring leaps from ancient rooftop to ancient rooftop. In actuality, we remained on one building, and our path was in the shape of a square: on one side, there was street, and on the other was the building's courtyard. In terms of novelty or excitement, I actually think that middle-aged people enjoy this tour a lot more. I like to imagine that middle-aged people were all secretly outrageous in youth, and that being on a roof, period, brings back fantastic memories. Physically, you need to be able to climb a ladder/stairs-like thing to get from the attic to the roof, you need to be not afraid of heights overmuch, you need to be able to walk a fairly straight path, and to either balance on one foot at times or bend over, in order to pull your harness "dog" through check points. There was one older couple with us, and although they were the most skittish and the slowest, I think they also got the most out of this jaunt. So, that was just a criticism of the immediate linking of rooftops and youth in folk's minds.
The above having been noted, I did enjoy the tour. It was an interesting way to see the city, it was rather beautiful, and it was, admittedly, fairly novel. In some ways, I liked the walking-tour part best. Stockholm is really cool on foot. The buildings are nifty, the stories the guides told were interesting, and it was pretty down there. Truth be told, it is harder to imagine being an old-time townsperson from a building's roof-- and that's half the fun for me.
We booked the Walking tour "Tallinn Old Town". I knew from other cruisers no tour was needed; they were right. Still, I enjoyed hearing our guide's stories and seeing it through a local's eyes. It also provided one of the funnier moments of the week when the skies erupted, turning the charming cobblestone hills into waterfalls and rapids! Our tour guide was determined that we see it all, even if she had to build us a raft to do so! She continued to point things out, even though my glasses were too wet to see through! We laughed so hard as we puddle-splashed about, listening her chatter on... we were so wet... no need to shower that evening!