Baltic cruise a Solo Adventure 9thJuly 2013
9th July Home to Ship and first day
Woke up on time after very little sleep due the excitement and fear of over sleeping and made my way to London Heathrow for the flight to Copenhagen Denmark where I would be meeting the Norwegian Star and start the long awaited cruise.
Did not think much of the SAS Airplane, never mind I suppose it is only an air taxi and one and half hour flight. Getting through the formalities at Copenhagen was straight forward and only took about ten minutes or so before entering the main entrance, the airport seemed a little hectic with no obvious control but it must work. After searching for about seemed like ages I managed to locate the NCL guide who was very helpful and I was soon on my way to the coach and transfer to the ship. Started to talk to a very nice young lady also making her way to the coach suitcases and all, good friendly banter was exchanged at it was discovered that she was joining the Norwegian Star as part of the crew so it goes to prove the staff friendly behavior starts before you even arrive at the ship, well played NCL.
Arrived at the port and expecting at least an hours wait until check in and boarding the ship, wrong again on my part after a formalities like health questionnaires and checking in a was soon on my way to the ship. First task was trying to dodge the waiting photographers who were blocking the way to the ship and waiting to pounce on every passenger as they tried to get to the ship, task one completed managed to slip passed as they positioned a group of passengers in front the carefully placed green screen.
While waiting for my cabin to be free I decided to make the most of the Ultimate Beverage Package already purchased and headed for the Red Lion bar and a well-earned cool beer, after checking with the helpful Barman on what was included in the package sat down with the foresaid beer. Must say was a little confused every time they gave me a tab saying charge to room was the tax included in the Ultimate Beverage Package (UBP) and therefore any beer purchased from the drinks menu that’s stated $5.50 was OK as when tax was added it made the drinks $5.69 which was over the $5.50 limit, little confused I think, fingers crossed.
Refreshed it was time to grab a quick snack from the Market Kitchen, well that was the plan but when you’re confronted with so much chose and well prepared food the snack turned in to a three course meal. Well that should last me until Dinner! Yep wrong again but hey I’m on holiday the diet can wait.
Time to have a good look around this great ship and locate all the important places and no not just the bars but show places as well. Well ship seen and the obligatory photos taken of the ship it was off to find my stateroom and unpack.
Stateroom was easily found at was very impressed with the size and content and the housekeeper had even placed my bag in the room for me, NCL customer service strikes again. Bags unpacked quick shower and learnt the skill of doing a number one while holding up the toilet seat with left knee (it keeps falling down) and it was time to go and make a dent in my UBP and try a different bar and see what’s happening in the Sole travelers club. No one there so stayed for a beer and made my way to the theater to enjoy the show.
What a great show for the opening night, have been on a few cruises included so called five star cruises but the entertainment on the Norwegian Star beats them all hands down there was something for all from singers and dancers, Magicians and acrobats and of course the comedy supplied courtesy of the cruise director.
Well it was either the long day or the number of beers consumed it was time to return to the land of nod,
10th July Warnemunde Germany
Wanting to watch the ship arrive in the port of Warnemunde alarm was set for 05:00, quick shower and off to deck 13 to watch the ship pull in to port, well that was the plan all went well up to standing on deck 13 should of checked time table was about one hour to early. Never mind time to take some exercise before breakfast so off for couple of laps around the ship and off to breakfast. Well done ships chefs for keeping up the entertainment and laying on the quiz was it bacon or pork scratching’s? And which chef was correct when handling and arranging the food on the tray the one with the protective disposable gloves or the one without?
Time to watch the ship to pull into port, praise go to the Ship’s crew and Captain what a tight port to enter especially with Holland American ship so close in front, good photo opportunity for me, thanks.
Well time to go and see the port and city. Decided to wait for all the organized tours to get off the ship first as I was going shore side myself untethered and not making like a sheep. Stuff collected from cabin including jacket as it was blowing a hooligan outside should of called this the windy port of call but never mind at least the sun was out. Quick check out of the window towards the entry point into the terminal building for the pack hunters, great news no Photographers to be seen, my mistake they had disguised themselves as locals and before I knew what had hit me I was stood next to Herman and flash bang photo taken.
Entry in to Germany was very easy taken my passport with me but it was not checked as I entered in Warnemunde, a short walk took me along the quay side and photo opportunity of the rear of the ship, I praised the bridge crew earlier afraid will have to add some points to the drivers license as I noticed the fender bender on the rear right of the ship. Hope the local repair Centre had lots of filler and duct tape.
Very nice fishing port a very nice walk was had along the quay side which was lined with a local market and local fishermen selling freshly prepared fish and cooked may I add. I was not tempted by all the boats offering round trips of the harbor so decided to investigate more in to the local town. Weremunde has lots pretty streets and lots of shops all open to cater for the newly imported cargo (Cruise Passengers) for the day. Due to the location Weremunde has a coast line as well as the port and the promenade was lined with market stall and this being Germany several stalls selling the local beer, had to sample several well it would have been rude not to as they had specially erected the stalls for me or could it of been due this week was Weremunde week celebrations? Ok I give in it was the later as the local radio station NDR had erected a stage playing music and live bands, dam it will have to stay for a while and watch with another cool Rostocker Beer.
Decided to go back to the ship for lunch which I did not make as parked between two cruise ships was another small ferry type boat offering round trips to Rostock. Trip was offered for only 15 Euro with the chance to get on and off in Rostock, so with no due haste positioned myself at the front of the boat to get the best view for the obligatory photos, now if I had taken my brains with me this would not have been the best place to sit for an hour, with the wind factor I got off the boat walking like I had just come out of the fridge all stiff and aching, big tip to self if do this again sit behind the glass panel after all it is there for a reason. The Ship’s Captain gave a running commentary of the highlights of the route all in German, good job I speak German or would of sat there just looking in the direction that everyone else was looking.
The dock was only a five minute walk from center to town and was well worth the trip, more shops for the shopaholics and some interesting historic buildings for us shopping haters. Lots of bars too! Like most places signs outside bars, shops and café offering special deals, very handy here to speak a little German to make the most of the offers as not all are what they say on the tin for example ‘P’ Frei does not mean what it says as you have to pay to use the public toilets in Germany and you will be chased down the road if you do not pay trust me!!
Must of found my brains in Rostock, looked at the sailing times of the boat back to Weremunde and decided it would be a bad idea to get the last boat back for a number of reasons, mainly being that there was three cruise ships in port and some were using this service as excursions to Rostock and the last boat would probably be overcrowded and I may not get on and then I would be literally be up the creek without a paddle.
Arrived back at the ship around 15:00 and off to the poolside bar to do some swimming and exercise, not really I could off as the pool was open and it was a warm day out of the wind decided to go for burger and a beer instead much more fun. Only been sat down for a couple of minutes when NCL service excellence was kicked into gear with the crew asking about my day and if I had a good time and off course would I like a drink, silly question I’ll have two. Several beers later it was off to the cabin for shower and change of attire for the evenings activities.
Plans were made after looking at the ship daily news which consisted of beer, dinner and show but as we all know plans on holidays never go as they should, first part went without a hitch and dinner was obtained in the Kitchen garden restaurant more much more convenient than queuing up at the other restaurants and food just as good (will try the other restaurants). This is where the plans fell apart, sat in Gatsby’s bar with a nice cool beer or two waiting for the show to start but had no idea off the time due to lack of any clocks on board and the ones that were there had different times displayed at one point I left lift at the pointy end (Forward) and arrived at the blunt end (rear) of the ship before I left amazing Norwegian Star has time travel, but I digress back to Cagney’s and the friendly waiter was handing me another cool beer when I noticed a fellow passengers watch and dam it again I had missed the show, never mind off to the Red Lion and an evening of hunt the Star Bar mysterious location. Took several hours to locate the bar due to there being lots of drinking establishments on board which I had to have a drink in all as I was passing by them as the crew were all so welcoming.
A pleasant day and evening was had but now time for the land of Nod, wonder what delights tomorrow will bring.
11 July Day at Sea
Set the alarm clock for 05:00 to get up for daily exercise and walk around the ship, well by now we know what happens to plans, it was either the sea air or the gentle movement of the ship but alarm was turned off and back under the soft warm quilt for a couple of more hours.
Once up it was time for breakfast so on the way it was up to deck 13 to see what the days weather would bring, boo hoo it brought strong winds and cloudy skies so a walk along the deck was out of the question so after a while NCL putting the safety of passengers first closed the open decks, luckily the Norwegian Star is equipped with state of art stabilizers and even thou I can see large breaking waves out of the window only a gentle rocking is felt inside.
Looks like one of the quizzes from breakfast yesterday has been answered correctly as all Chefs were wearing protective gloves when handling food still leaves the question bacon or pork scratching? Due to the crispness and hardness I’m siding with the scratching’s.
As open decks closed it was a walk around the inside to work of the breakfast which yet again could not resist the ample choses, so ate too much.
Morning spent righting this and attending an interesting lecture on Acupuncture makes me want to run off to the local Chinese medical shop once I’m home. Time for a beer me thinks.
Attended two more lectures one on gem stones and one on art so after one day at sea I’m now an art critic with an interest in Gem stones never mind I can always fall back on the early lecture on acupuncture to recover from any stress if tempted to buy any of the Gems. Don’t tell anyone but even went to Bingo think it could have been the lure of $6000 prize, didn’t win. Rest of the day spent in my new local (for this week anyway) the Red Lion making a new dent in my UBP card and people watching, funny how with the aid of a few beers to can spot nationalities by what they say and do.
Managed to make a reservation for the Versailles restaurant for 17:30 arrived on time to discover lots of tables already occupied must be that time travelling elevator again. Was shown to my table by the window and handed the menu with several choses to choose from decisions, decisions well decided on the soup followed by Lamb and bread and butter pudding to finish, meal was all fine and very nice all finished by 18:00 would have been quicker if not stopped from eating every couple of minutes by someone asking me if everything was ok, need to make sign to place on table saying all is ok just let me eat. Now very feeling very bloated, forgot to mention could not rest a snack about 16:00 will end up paying latter. So off for several laps around the ship to work some off before going to the show in the theater. Very good show was put on again by the ship’s entertainment crew placed filled up fast especially the right side of the theater for some strange reason must make the ship lopsided good job I arrived 15 minutes early to get the best seat.
Time to finish of the evening with a few in one of the many bars etc. and talk to some of the fellow passengers. Met some nice Americans and German guests and had a pleasant evening even gave me a chance to practice more German.
12 July Tallinn Estonia
Must have lost my brains again as arrived in room last night and read today’s daily news and as it read put clocks forward one hour I did! Alarm went off at 06:00 so I thought, showered and off to breakfast all restaurants still not open which was strange, time for this idiot to check time and yep it was only 05:30 time to put back the clock. After the morning stroll around the empty decks, (good time to get the fresh air and take in the morning light) I decided to go posh for breakfast and went to the Blue Lagoon restaurant a more refined place than the Market Kitchen where you were shown to your table and given a menu by the helpful waiter who had me laughing early, a good start to the day, Chose the Full house breakfast then the twenty questions such as how do you want your eggs, do you want white, brown or many varieties of bread, would you like juice if so what type, all in aide of NCL ensuring that you have your breakfast your way. The food was very nice and good to see they have the same quiz as the Market Garden bacon or pork scratching’s.
Arrived at the pre-appointed meeting point for the excursion ‘The Best of Medieval Tallinn’ sat and waited for the tour to be called while being informed by one the crew on what is happening and how tours will be called very helpful. Tour was called and off I went to ticket checked and given a nice red number three to proudly ware on my top like being at school except with number instead of my name, as the saying goes from that famous film the prisoner you are a number or it could be so everyone who did not realize that everyone following a man walking holding a big stick with a number on was a tourist and a target to be bombarded with offers of buying guide books and drinks etc.
Sticker proudly displayed made my way off the ship via deck four, made my plans of how to get past the pack hounds (the dreaded photographer), the plan was simple hold back until they held some other poor passengers hostage, plan worked slipped past easily but it was a double whammy and pincher movement they has placed a hunter half way up the pier who grabbed the passengers who had escaped the first attack.
Still managed to get to the bus first and took up pole position on the bus right at the front this way I would not miss anything on the driving part of the walking tour! Obviously some people had not read the literature regarding the tour as a very large American but not so tall if you get my drift was out of breath walking from the ship to the bus, better have the oxygen on standby.
Everyone on board in short order and the guide of the day introduced himself as Teet which he quickly explained in case we were all wondering it does not have the same meaning as it does in English. He turned out to a very knowledgeable person on not only the town of Tallinn but of Estonia history and occupation as he put it not liberation by the Russians. All praise to him he kept the group entertained all day with facts and the occasional joke. After a quick drive around the town we made a stop at the first of the palaces / Government buildings that were scheduled for our visit, the palace looked very nice and pink or would have done if it was not covered in scaffolding and covering never mind on the positive side the gardens were very nice and well attended. Sprinklers had been turned on and guess who managed to stand it the wrong place and get wet, lesson was quickly learnt and stood behind the large American already mentioned, no way was I going to get wet again. Garden and scaffolding seen it was off into the town to see the next government building and you would not believe it, yep, another pink building covered in scaffolding and I was nearly run over by a Politician trying to get to work guess there the same all over the world then.
Teet guided us around the town and explained why the town was split in to upper and lower town, all the interesting buildings and churches were not only pointed out but a little history of each was given. After being taken to a local gift shop we were given 30 minutes to explore on our own, good idea but you could not go too far in case you could not find your way back in time, well never been there before. Once all back quick head count to ensure all back out glorious leader announced it was off to see another government building, stop jumping to conclusions this one did not have scaffolding around it but it was pink.
After traversing from the old town to the new town via a steep street we were taken to a church come music venue for a concert of medieval music from the 12th and 13th Century which must admit was very good even bought the CD, mainly to play in the car when I get home to annoy the kids when they say my music is old, well kids get a load of this.
Another hour or so of more site seeing and photo opportunities it was off for the planned lunch at a local establishment, but admit I was a little skeptical that lunch would consist of a cold drink, sandwich and if lucky cake, well I was completely wrong a very nice three course lunch was had and time to chat and get to know others on the tour.
After lunch more site seeing and taken down some medieval street which I would never have found on our own and then off back to the bus and onwards to the ship, not saying we walked a long way but we were only on the bus for about five minutes before arriving back at the ship.
Tallinn is a very nice town with a lot of history but if you expect to see lots of locals going about their normal lives you will be disappointed in the summer months the town is set up for the cruise trade and most of the town is taken up my lots of people all following a person holding up some type tour recognition sign such as a number. Some of the areas you would like to take photos off are not always possible as overcrowded and you are moved along with the crowd.
Decided after all that walking I deserved a beer so off to the Beer Garden on Deck 13 for several cool beers before dinner. NCL must teach all their staff memory skill as the barmen always greet me by my name and without asking they know what beer I want, this happens in all areas even the Cruise Director Archie takes time out to have a quick chat beyond the normal of what you would expect from the crew.
The weather was nice spent time talking to fellow passengers and the beer flowed very nicely so a little late for dinner so grabbed a quick snack from the grill near the pool before off to cabin to get ready for tonight’s show, must admit it was not my cup of tea tonight but you cannot please everyone all of the time so headed off back to Beer Garden to finish the night off.
13th July St Petersburg Russia
Got up at the right time this morning as my forever helpful Cabin Steward had left me a little note telling me the clocks need to go forward tonight, how did he know I messed up yesterday? As breakfast was so good yesterday in the Blue Lagoon the decision was made to go to the same place this morning. Looks like the question has been answered correctly but not by me I’m sticking with pork scratching’s, can’t wait for the new quiz tomorrow. Full House was ordered again which duly arrived along with toast, how the waiter knew I like toast burnt on the bottom side!
Checked my tour ticket to see where and what time the meeting place would be for the tour, little disappointed it just says 12:45 outside immigration, seems that if you leave in the afternoon the crew are not interested as immigration is a pain so you’re on your own. Would be nice to meet on the ship (like they do for the morning tours) so that someone could ensure that the landing cards are completed correctly and guided through the Russian Immigration process. Questions are where outside and how long do I need to clear immigration.
Sat on Deck relaxing the ever friendly Archie (Cruise Director) took time on his down time to sit down for a general chat and explain immigration.
Time had arrived to disembark and head for Russian immigration today I had set my plans on escape and evasion from the pack hounds, must have worked as this morning the Photographers had given up and were nowhere to be seen.
Immigration was not as bad as I thought even thou when arrived the line went around the room until they opened two more booths then it was feather dusters at dawn as everyone broke the line and headed towards the open booths.
Nice gifts shops outside immigration ready for the captive customers, still had an hour to wait as had given myself plenty of time to get through immigration so had a look around the gift shop to check on prices compared to the ones down town, they turned out to be the cheapest.
The ticket for the tour ‘Through the Russian Eyes’ stated outside immigration and as there was no person or signs to direct passengers to the location of the busses or the start of the tours except one local sign which turned out to the wrong way I stayed in the terminal. It got close to the time for departure and still had not located the bus so decided to look around the outside and hey presto found the buss just in time as it was about to leave.
Once on the tour it turned out to a great laugh NCL had laid on the true local experience starting with the old worn out bus that had seen better days and a little old Russian Lady who everyone had difficulty hearing. The tour started with a drive around the old parts of down where you can still see how run down most parts of St Petersburg still is. First stop the Metro station which is very impressive and as nobody could read any of the signs it brought the group close together in the fear of getting separated, all eyes fixed on the tour guide, she moved we all moved. Must have been one of the longest escalators I have been on going down to the platform just hope the one going up at the end of the train ride was working or that would have be the end of us all who have been overdoing it on the ship (luckily it was), great experience not to be missed even thou you have been on one tube train you have been on them all.
Next stop was to local market, silly me was expecting a market selling assortment of items you do not need like jackets, hats birthday cards and pots and pans etc. but no we had been taken to the local food market. Good news this is where we played the first game of hunt the tour guide as she had disappeared, once found we were off to the upmarket department store and given time on to ourselves and given time to be back everyone went off in different directions and all turned back at the appointed time except, yes you guested it time for another game of hunt the tour guide she must be getting better as it took us ten minutes to find her this time. Back on the bus and a tour of the back streets and monuments are tour guide was great she made sure that she pointed out and gave some details about interesting objects we had just passed, Even a local shop that sold shoes!
We all held our breath at one stage as the old bus cave a stutter as it was trying to get over the brow of a hill and the driver stalled it, threw nearly were walking back.
Great next stop a place to try some real Russian culture, lead off the bus and into a cellar of some local bar which was very nice in side and sat down to a small bowl of some local food everyone tucked in before the guide explained we were supposed to eat this after tasting the local Vodka, ooops to late. Given three types of Vodka to try, all tasted ok but one had a familiar smell to it which I could not but my finger on, well until I arrived back to the bus, now I recognize the smell it must be what the bus is running on or the driver.
Tour was nearly over so it was time for the obligator stop at the guide’s favorite gift shop before heading back to the ship. Not saying the gift shop was only for the tourist trade but all goods were in Euros and when the staff were asked how much in Russian Rubes they did not have a clue, strange. As explained early the duty free shop at the port was the cheapest so bought my son his Russian hat from there.
Gone past 18:00 after getting through Russian customs and boarding the ship so it was a quick change and off to the Grill to grab a burger and chips and a drink at the Beer Garden. Problem is the quick drink turned out to several drinks talking to new friends and generally having a good time. You may board the ship as a solo passenger but it does not stay that way for long.
14th July St Petersburg day two
Up early as decided I would sit on deck with coffee and relax in the quiet morning air, got that wrong as lots of other people had the same idea and lots of places soon become very busy and noise so gave up and went for breakfast at 06:00. As was running late had breakfast in the Market Garden and the bar grill, yes I know piggy. Had some time before having to be in the assembly point for the tour a much better affair than yesterday with the excursion staff on hand to tell people what was happening and was given my new sticker with 31 on to wear all day which was good as this matched the number the guide was walking around with all day. No delays in Customs today and no landing card needed to be completed today as when you came back in from the tours yesterday the Russian Customs Staff gave you another stamp in your passport to cover you for today, felt sorry for the person in front of me had the wrong excursion ticket and they made him go back to get the correct one before letting him pass through customs.
Just to prove that yesterday was as the Russia People would see things today’s bus was new and clean both inside and out and every one was given an ear piece with receiver to wear, this was connected to the microphone warn by the tour guides. The two female guides on todays were not only very knowledgeable about St Petersburg and Russian history but about all the stops on the way.
First point of call was a river cruise through the canals of St Petersburg, I did not realize that St Petersburg was made up of a number of islands, one of the interesting facts pointed out on the way strange point was the guide described some of the landmarks and they had changed in description and use from yesterday’s tour! I tend to believe what I was told today as she was backed up by the other guide for the day.
Once aboard the boat it was off to see lots of palaces built along the side of the river, if you had not been with a guide you would not have known that they were palaces as the just look big houses and fit in with other houses along the street. The river trip was a great way to see the city and seen a lot more than just driving around which included the island where political prisoners were taken and some never to return from there. Was surprised how low the bridges were and at one stage stood up to take a picture and nearly lost my head literally, must remember to stay sat down.
Once river trip over it was off to Rasputin, Romanovs Palace to see the palace and where Rasputin was lured and poisoned and the place he finally died due to poison and gunshots. Had to buy a sticker to allow me to take photos inside a money making scheme but only cost 200 Russian Rubles but worth it if you want to have a pictures and therefore memories of the place, must admit taken to many to get my money’s worth. The guide took to us through all the rooms and again showed off her knowledge on all things Russian. The Palace bouncers were on hand to hurry up the group if the group took too long in any area. Very interesting rooms especially the theater which was built inside think I may need one in my house. Shame that most of the furniture and other artifacts have been removed and taken to the Hermitage museum but still worth the visit.
Lunch was served in a very nice restaurant, NCL must of booked the whole place as all the tables had signs displayed with numbers luckily for me one had the same number as I had been proudly been wearing and blindly following all day so time for lunch. Again surprised by lunch a three course meal and free wine, that’s two tours in two days with free drinks, no complaints from me. Again lunch is a good time to make new friends with other people on the tour, meet a Very nice lady (as described by her two Granddaughter travelling with her) who happened to mention she was looking for a Book of Fairy Tales in Russian. Luckily for her the next stop after lunch was to a gift shop, this is the most I have been in gift shops for many a year. While browsing for gifts for my two beautiful grandkids I noticed the foresaid book and called the kids over. As normal in these places some people do not come back when asked to so left a little late for our next port of call the ‘Church of Spilled Blood’
This is a very popular place and there was a large queue at the ticket office, glad we did not have to queue up as the guide had it all in hand and were soon making our way through the turnstiles along with two extra people how tried sneaking through with us but were well and truly spotted and shown the back of the line. The church is the place on the spot of where the last Czar of Russia was murdered and the stones moved inside. Lots of the normal church stuff inside and very large mosaics of different religious figures. As we were running out of time it seemed that were rushed in and out as fast as possible to ensure we arrived back on the boat in time.
Back at the Norwegian Star and through Russian customers for the last time it was back to the cabin for a quick change and off to the Beer Garden and write up of the day’s activities before dinner. Dinner was had at the Blue Lagoon and had good old English fish and chips very nice I must say closely followed by cheese cake all washed down with a nice glass of iced water, giving up trying to ensure that I drink the $49 a day which the UBP costs turning in to an alcoholic, the UBP seemed a good idea at the time but it does work out cheaper to pay as you go. Was enjoying my dinner when a nice Lady an officer on the ship came over a chat and when she left she asked the waiter to give a drink on the house what a very nice lady must say thank you when I see her again.
Evening was spent going to all the different shows arranged around the ship that’s the beauty of cruising you can pick and choose which shows to go to or like me take a snippet of all and of course a visit to the red lion and a quick getaway as karaoke was on.
Night was finished with a small snack and walk around the deck watching the sun fade away, only problem her the sun does not go to bed to about 23:30
15th July Helsinki Finland
Morning started eventful up at 05:00 showered and off to get a hot cup of coffee been on the ship 7 days and just found another new place where I can get my early morning coffee and pastry, coffee finished and of for breakfast in what I would class as the hidden secret on board the Blue Lagoon, it’s one of the complimentary eating establishments where you can sit down and have breakfast served to you at your table by friendly waiters without the normal battle in the cattle market sorry meant Market Garden and the best bit it is normally very quiet, so please don’t tell anyone. Breakfast consumed it was off to walk it off around the deck and watch the ship arrive in to Helsinki this is where I found out what they really meant by washy washy as I walked around the corner of the ship and got washy washy by the crew man with the jet wash washing the deck, never mind back to the cabin to get some dry clothes and back to the deck to continue my walk. While walking around deck 7 my way was blocked by a young lady in a wheel chair looking puzzled at a sign that read ‘walking only please’! Lazy morning as my tour did not leave until 08:45 so helped myself to a small snack from the grill and another coffee while waiting for the tour meeting time. You can tell your back in Europe there was no immigration to deal with and the bus was parked on the quayside right next to the ship and past the pack hounds who had tried disguising them as locals again and were dressed as Vikings, well got my own back this morning at took a picture of them, trust me that throws them of there stride.
Met at the bus by our local guide and driver and where soon on our way to the port to catch the ferry to the Suomenlinna island fortress, as we were running a little early the guide suggested we took a trip around the sites of Helsinki. Once at the ferry the tickets were purchased by the guide and we stood around waiting for the guide who would be giving us the guide around the island (local expert) she could not be found at the ferry so suggested to the guide we get on the ferry as it was leaving and wait for the other guide on the island, all aboard for the short twenty minute crossing.
When we arrived on the island funny enough there was the guide, good job we got on the ferry. She was very knowledgeable about the island and its history and explained the Suomenlinna fortress was in fact 6 island but only five of them could be accessed by bridges, the tour consisted of walking to different locations and points of interest where the young lady (guide) explained what they were and there part in the history of the island. The tour was very enjoyable and the sunny weather made it even more so. The only bad point was while the guide was explaining interesting facts she was drowned out by the guide that had taken us to the ferry who had taken up with two ladies on the tour and talking over her, several people had to move as they could not her what the guide was trying to explain. Once the tour was over free time was given to explore the island and many of the interesting places the tour did not have time to include. I took myself of to look at a small submarine which had been turned in to a museum, it cost 5 euro to get in but is worth giving a miss as it took all of 30 seconds to walk from one end to the other and very little to see. What was interesting was going inside the walls of the fort.
The prearranged time for getting the ferry back to the main land came and everyone was stood in a group wondering if we should just get on the ferry or wait for the guide, as she was not around we boarded. Arrived back at the mainland and it was time to sample the local Finland Market quickly as the bus left in 30 minutes (a little more time would have been nice) you had the choose to make you own way back but told by the guide this would cost 20 euro’s by taxi.
Quick look around the stalls and decided to have some of the local food, well when in Rome (yes I know this is Helsinki and not Rome) and a plate of reindeer meatballs was purchased from the local vender, sorry Bambi but you should not taste so good.
Back on the bus and back to the ship for an afternoon on board my even do some sun bathing. Back on the ship and the wind has picked up so no sunbathing for me, which should please all the other people on the ship and stand down Green peace no whale need saving here. Major crises occurred on the ship and need to send urgent message to Captain to act on ASAP the Beer Garden was closed!
A very cultural evening with me going to my very first ever auction never mind an art auction was tempted to buy one of the masters collection but checked my pockets but did not have $33,000 in change, what have they got in the $10 dollar range? Culture continued later with the evenings prime time show, tonight’s entertainment was advertised as ‘Due Acrobatique’ was sat comfortably at the rear when the show started, the act started with ballet dancing which soon had me looking for the nearest escape route but all ways blocked, will have to stay to the end. Glad I did the acrobatic part of the show was amazing and very graceful and visually stunning, will say the part of the middle of the act where the man spent what seemed like a life time whistling to the audience was a fall asleep moment must the rest of the show was worth not escaping.
Do not know why kept going back to the art gallery to look at some pictures the culture side of me must me coming out, had to put the balance back so off to the Red Lion for some uncultured beer. Feeling more balanced went to the Spinnaker lounge for some adult type entertainment and fun.
16th July Stockholm Sweden
Woke up as normal at 05:00 showered and off for my morning coffee and check on the weather situation from deck 13, what they had forgotten for some reason in the daily news was please get up early and watch the ship making its way past hundreds of beautiful island most of which had houses either on the coastline or set back in the trees, the journey past the islands took about three hours, and all I can say what a beautiful entry into the port of Stockholm. After about an hours of watching the world go by and at least 50 pictures it was time for breakfast followed by the daily exercise (still working off dinner from last night).
Today’s tour was Vasa, Old Town & Ice Bar and did not start until 09:15 so plenty of time to explore more of the ship. As this tour was one of the most popular tours, it must be the Vasa museum part and have nothing to do with the visit to the Ice Bar and the offer of free Vodka which makes it so popular! (Yeah right).
The appointed time for meeting arrived so off to the Stardust Theater to wait to tour to be called, tour was soon called and asked to leave by deck 6 and collect that all important sticky number, todays luck number was 14, as mentioned earlier a very popular tour did not realize how popular until I saw people literally running out of the theater and off the ship and to the bus, so funny to watch had me laughing for ages.
Met at the bus by our tour guide and driver for the day and yet again a very knowledgeable guide, the first port of call was the Vasa Museum so on the way we were driven around the town and description given of places of interest until we arrived at the museum. The museum is a very interesting place in which a medieval ship is displayed 98% restored to its original condition and lots of very interesting displays to keep you there for hours if you had the time, but this place is a perfect example of over crowed cruise routes. I counted six different cruise ships from the tour guide banners not including NCL and more than one tour per ship, this made the place over crowded and did not include the poor people who had used the Hop on Hop off type of tour as the queue for them to get in was very long in deed. It was no better inside as very difficult to see anything except for the ship due to it took up most of the museum due to the overcrowding, taking a picture was also difficult again due to the number of people inside.
Next stop the all anticipated trip to the Ice Bar and the lure of the free Vodka, the bus pulled up outside the hotel in which the Ice Bar was housed and a stampede followed to get off the bus and into the Ice Bar. Again felt sorry for the people on the Hop on Hop off tours as overheard the receptionist saying to one of them they could not go in as the cruise ships had booked up the Bar all day. Soon our turn to go in and were issued a poncho type garment with gloves attached, just like the ones your mum use to make you wear as a kid (if of course you came from a cold climate), while waiting for the door to open you could hear all the excitement building up and lots of people taking photos of themselves dressed in what to some appear to be strange attire. The room was kept at -5 but I was sweating under the poncho as -5 is a normal winter’s day in England so it was funny listening to some people saying how cold it was. As the place was a permanent fixture you could tell the walls were in fact made of plastic and has water frozen on them same as some of the statues inside. The glass of Vodka was made of ice and was melting due to the warmth of your hands and contents very nice, The Ice Bar is a great novelty and not to be missed if you have never experienced anything thing like this before.
Next port of call was a visit to the Old town, again a very interesting trip with lots of information from the guide. The driver stopped at the lights as the Troops from the Swedish army where marching down the road led by a military band, quickly informed by the guide they were in fact the palace guard and were now carrying out the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace which was to the right of the bus. Once the bus had stopped our guide took the group on a walking tour of the old town with lots of stops and points of interest before being let of on our own for an hour’s free time before meeting back at the bus.
As still had gifts to buy for the kids it was off to the souvenir part of the town, first item on the agenda was to remove the number which once again I had been proudly been wearing all day so that hopefully I was not identified as a tourist from the cruise ship but a normal tourist and not ripped off to much (did not work), found a Viking hat for my son and a few other small rubbish souvenirs it’s what expected from a trip. The hour went pass very quickly and was soon time to make way back to the pickup point and board the bus. As the bus was running early we had unplanned stop at another local attraction, well played the guide bless her.
Ship was leaving early today so all back on board by 15:30, would like to be like the group who had missed the departure yesterday and had to make their own way from Finland to Sweden at their own cost, passengers are warned to be on board in time.
First port of call was a quick shower then off to get something to eat in the Market Garden, well on a cruise ship and have not eaten for about five hours I will waste away if I leave it any longer. Food consumed now for some liquid nourishment in the form of a nice cold beer in the Beer Garden, funny they call it that as not a garden to be seen.
The Norwegian Star was holdings it ‘White Hot Party’ so off to my cabin the get my white jumper to wear to party, made a mistake of stopping for a coffee on the way from my cabin to the part and managed to spill coffee down my front of my jumper so off back to get changed again. And then to the party in the auditorium to meet new friends made on the cruise and a generally have a good time. Night was finished off in the Red Lion where I decided too much alcohol had been consumed and it was time to say hello to my bed and off into the land of nod.
17th July Day at Sea
Last day at sea which normally consists of eating, drinking, eating, drinking, show then bed, well you get the idea. But no today was nothing like that like as normal and off for morning coffee and walk around the ship to try and make myself feel better after all the excess the night before. Last day and I found two new places to get my morning coffee, this ship keeps throwing up surprises on a daily basis. Coffee consumed it was off to the normal breakfast hangout of the Blue Lagoon for my Full English or as the Americans call it Full House. Rest of the morning spent in Gatsby’s reviewing yesterday’s events and yet again finding myself attending a lecture on Emeralds and gems, starting to worry myself here but at least I got a small example piece of emerald you never know in 50 years it may be worth at least $2. I am defiantly be culturefied as I found myself talking to the art auction team from Park West and inquiring the whereabouts of three pictures I had seen the other day at the art action I had attended. As the auction was about to start and yes I was off to my second ever auction in all in the space of one week, a nice young lady by the name of Lauren said she will find my Lady’s as I had named them (set off three), Once in the Auction room Lauren called me over and there pride of place was my three lady’s, quick explanation of how an auction worked and before I knew it or even understood I had placed a pre-bid claim to the pictures, now it was fingers crossed and hope nobody even dared to outbid me as the Ladies were watching me, nothing to worry the nice Lauren was there to ensure that I got the ladies. Only small panic when the Auctioneer put the pictures up and said the starting price was $1200 but luckily he then changed the price to the right price for me anyway. Once the price I liked was said, like a pro (well have now been to two auctions) my card was in the air and shouting yep, at the speed of a racing snail the hammer came down and the ladies were coming home with me.
For any other Auction virgins the process is not as scary as it may seem at first as the friendly staff are always on hand to help and guide you, and at the end of the day it is fun and you can home with a great investment.
After all that excitement I need a beer or several so off to the watering hole on deck 13 communally call the Beer Garden. The several time turned out to be at least six so time for lunch which as it was the last night I had booked myself in the same restaurant as the other night but the experience was not as pleasant as the previous visit. The waitress (Small Croatian) who was assigned to look after me had the manners of a dead pig and in fact was rude, even thou I was first to be seated she insisted in taking the order from several table who had entered after me, this included would they like any items from the bar and other niceties, I was offered not offered a chose and had to call another waiter over to order my drink and ask for water. Food was severed only after everyone else around had been given their food and drinks. After an hour I had to find the waiter as ask for my card back, not impressed with the service tonight, from now all food taken in Blue Lagoon where staff are far more professional.
Managed to collect two raffle tickets for the main raffle, some people had rolls of them so if you attend all the lectures all week you can get lots of tickets and have a greater chance of winning, I won nothing did come close as I had correctly quested the Karat weight of the Emerald at 101 but even after them calling ten tickets out and the people not being there (Be there to win policy) I still did not win, ho never mind.
Still need to pack so back to the cabin stuff all the clothes and the dirty smell ones in the same suitcase, customs will have a surprise if they open this case. Due to NCL luggage system suite case was packed and placed outside the cabin and then it was bye bye to it until I reached the airport tomorrow, packing done it was off on a round of the bars to say goodbye to the helpful staff who had been so helpful all week and of course make the final dent in the good old UBP card,
Final show time tonight so of to the Stardust Theater for the Elements show and what a show it was to use the word the crew have been teaching us to say all week it was excellent And amazing, all the performers from the whole week were involved in the show. There was dance, acrobatics and even magic which all flowed seamlessly together to create one continues show. At the end the whole of the audience where on their feet giving the performance a well-deserved standing ovation.
At the end it was time for all the staff introduced by Archie to be recognized for all their hard work during the 9 days, as they were being introduced by Archie (Cruise Director) they also received a well-deserved standing ovation.
During the show lots of artificial snow was sprayed all over the stage, would not like to be the poor people who had to the stage ready for the next group of passengers, or in fact anywhere near them as they would be armed with deadly weapons mainly long handled brooms.
Well back of to the cabin and the land of nod.
18th July Disembarkation day in Copenhagen
Nothing to worry about this morning as the suitcase had already left except getting up and having breakfast and waiting to be called to disembark. NCL have a colour coded system attached to your bags this reduces them stampede to get off the ship and makes disembarkation a breeze. Time was spend walking around the ship until my colour was called then it was off the ship and on to the waiting bus to take us to the airport. Even arrival at the airport was made simple as there was NCL dressed staff waiting to meet the bus and guide us to our waiting bags, Key card came in handy here as it was security to allow you to the area where the bags were being stored and then of the check in and get rid of the bags. Now just five hour to wait until the plane leaves.
The Blue Lagoon Restaurant is advertised as always open, so why does it have an open and closing time!
Disembarkation day Screens displaying notice, ‘Calling easy walk off passengers’, do I still qualify if I find walking difficult!
Deck 7 has a sign saying walking only please, does that mean if I have a wheelchair I am not allowed to use deck 7!
The walking track on deck 7 is longer than the running track on deck 13!
Excellent emergency drill undertaken for emergencies at sea, what action should I take if the ship is tied up at the dock!
Why am I advised to open toilet door with paper towel but not any other door!
If glass and plastic is not allowed on the pool deck why do you get severed bottles of beer at the pool side bar!
Have you noticed the required protective screens over the food is longer than the normal persons arms!
If this is advertised as an Environmental friendly ship, why is some much paper used and wasted via receipts for every drink purchased and on Photos that most people do not want!
Why if the tables are empty in any area when do people always chose or placed at the table or seat next to you!