Unfortunately due to slight mobility problems we had to be rather selective about the trips we chose to go on. At this port we elected to go on The Mollie and The Minster trip. We enjoyed the coach trip through a very flat landscape which stretched for miles and miles as far as the eye could see. I would have preferred a little more time at the 700 year old Minster and I felt that the guide rushed us through very quickly and the history of the building was very slight. The historic Molli narrow gauge steam train was a fun trip and we ended up at Kuhlungsborn where we had a refreshment break. The tour guide(s) made an awful lot of fuss and bother about a cup of coffee (from a flask) and a slice of typical German cake. Bit OTT I thought as I have had better at our local M & S. I was more interested in strolling along the promenade adjacent to the beach. Unfortunately, time didn't permit more than a 10/15 minute stroll. I do not regret taking a trip, but regret having chosen this one. The guide was obviously a 'time and motion' expert, and he kept referring to German time and how long we had available to us (very little). With hindsight I should have chosen perhaps 'Best of Berlin' or 'Flavours of Rostock'.
Big mistake. We should have a taken one of the advertised trips, as we would have seen far more of the area. However, we caught the 'shuttle bus' at Â£5.0 p/person. Valid for multiple journeys. Very good value if you just wanted to sit on the shuttle bus all afternoon. Tallinn is a beautiful and interesting city. The historic city centre (Old Tallin) well worth the time and energy to visit. We did it our way via the shuttle bus and walking, but would advise taking one of the trips and hopefully with a guide who is brilliant and makes the place come alive for you. Would have preferred a whole day there instead of just the afternoon.
The Building itself well worth the visit, if only we had been allowed more time to study. There was so much to see and admire. We were not impressed by the guide in this instance as we were literally whipped around the church itself and before we knew it, we were outside and making our way crocodile style to the souvenir shop, which was a very long interior with thousands of items for sale. We should have insisted on staying where we were and continue to enjoy the beauty and history of the building and marvel at the external facade instead of being bundled along for an unwanted shopping spree. The trip was advertised with shopping time, but I thought we would have more time allocated to the Cathedral and just 30 minutes to the shopping. I think the actual trip to the Cathedral could be incorporated easily within the Panoramic City Tour with extra time allowed. Do go and see the Cathedral it is well worth it.
City Tour Rating:
Good Value. Covered a lot of ground and the guide was interesting. We had to do the boring inevitable souvenir shop (unfortunately this was part of the actual tour, so I couldn't complain). However, the toilet was complimentary - a word used a lot whilst in St Petersburg especially in conjunction with souvenir shops and they did serve up good coffee and a shot of vodka (both free). The contents in the shop were cheap and a lot of persons stocked up. I do feel that on this particular trip the excursion to the Church of the Savior on Splilled Blood could be incorporated by adding on an extra 2 hours to the trip as the two excursions covered the same roads and saw the same points of interest. I would recommend this trip.
Hermitage Museum Rating:
A must. Fantastic. If only we had more time. The guide was very good and informative. The Hermitage was clean, warm but no where to sit. But of course this seems to be the norm every where. Beautiful building, tired in parts, but that goes with the territory. We were extremely fortunate in that we were the only ones within the Hermitage on the day we visited. Apparently they opened it up just for our cruise ship. Profuse thanks to the person who arranged it. If I am allowed to be negative, it was that on the way to the Hermitage Museum via the coach, we were requested to fill in a form confirming that we would pay Â£5.00 for being allowed to take photographs. We signed it and subsequently paid for it at the end of the cruise. A number of fellow passengers didn't fill in the form and still took the photographs. No signage was seen in the Hermitage advising that charges would be made for camera use and no identification marks on the person/camera were made to confirm that individual had the right to use the camera. It's a silly niggle I know, but it did annoy me. When selling the trip they should stipulate the extra over charge will be applicable.
Russian Ballet Show Rating:
It was the first time we had seen a ballet and it was an obvious choice of trip to make. First time in Russia, first time to the ballet. It was Swan Lake. I had nothing to compare it with so I am unable to be critical. There were times when I thought one or two of the dancers were out of sync and I do wish they smiled occasionally (perhaps it is not the done thing). The building was of course old, tired and in dire need of refurbishment with a trip hazzard of a red stair carpet. Perhaps this is something for the future. I was disappointed by the fact that only a handful of people dressed up for the evening performance and they all seemed to be off the cruise ship along with ourselves. I had been advised (in this instance totally incorrect) that the Russians dressed up for the Ballet and that if you were to go in wearing flip flops and shorts and/or jeans and jumper you would be totally under dressed. Well, we wore the dinner jacket and the pretty dress with heels. Should have gone in jeans and jumper. It seemed to be a sell out performance which is good for them and provides a good atmosphere for everybody attending. Incidentally, although the seating was tired looking, it was comfortable with plenty of leg room. Well worth the trip.
Helsinki from Land and Sea. Well worth the time and money. A must do. Very interesting and informative. We were lucky. We had a good guide. Just a little more time in the Market Square before boarding the coach would have been nice, but that was only so I could have a coffee and cake. Mmm.
We went on the 'City Tour' and found it very interesting. In fact, Copenhagen, Denmark is on our list of must do's next year. The only regret I have, is that we didn't book onto the Copenhagen and Carlsberg trip which I think covered the same trip as we did but incorporated the Carlsberg Brewery.