|-||On board before noon!|
|City Sights &
|One and a half hours
|City Sights &
N. Zealand Castles
Rakvere & Tallinn
|Folkloric Show of
Song & Dance
|Lovely costumes &
|Catherine's Palace||Amber room!|
|Walking tour||Coffee & pastries!|
|Vasa Ship, Old Town
& Ice Bar!
|Cheers & Beers!||Stralsund Brewery, City
& Harbour Cruise!
|-||Home at 9:30!|
I left home at 10:30 and managed to catch the 10:45 train to SoToN. I was on the ship before noon, but my suitcase didn't arrive until after dinner, so I was unable to take an afternoon dip in any of the lovely pools. I ate my packed lunch in my stateroom on deck 3, which had one round porthole, a double bed and a complimentary bottle of champagne! I then slept for an hour and a half, before attending the safety drill in the main theatre. I watched the sailaway from the top deck in the hot sunshine, before having a pistaccio cornet.
At 5:45 I dined on the prime rib of beef with couples from Devon, Lancashire and Ulster at a large, window-side table in the main dining room. I then touched base with Ivan the Shore Excursions manager. At 8:15 I recorded a short TV interview with Activity Manager Steven Ratuyada and gave him my updated talk titles and blurbs. At 9 o'clock I went to the first production show entitled "Amade", based on the life and work of Amadeus Mozart. Unfortunately it consisted of far too many funky pop songs like Uptown Funk and precious little Mozartian music. It was mainly avant garde dancing, interspersed with impressive acrobatic gymnastics. At 10:00 I had some pizza and fruit juice in the buffet, before updating this blog and going to bed at 11.
I awoke at 5:30, but it was now 6:30 Danish time. At 7 o'clock I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with crispy bacon. At 10:15 I went to Ivan's destination highlights talk. I had to slip out at 10:55 for the salsa class, where I danced with Margaret. The couple from the production company taught the salsa basics, cucarachas and New Yorks (which they called 'pull outs'). At 11:45 I slipped back into the theatre where the Fabergé egg talk was proceeding. At 12:30 I gave my first port talk on Copenhagen, which lasted 45 minutes. I then had lunch of minute steak and chips in the buffet, with a couple from Tallahassee in the Florida panhandle, before sleeping for an hour and a half. I then had my first swim and jacuzzi in the sunshine.
At 4:30 I went to Michelle Monro's interesting talk on her famour singing father, Matt. She made good use of zooming, but read from her script. At 5:45 I went to dinner with the couples from Ulster and Lancashire, but not the couple from Devon. We were then joined by two Australian couples. I had the sweet corn soup, beef tournedos and chocolate ice cream. At 7:45 I went to see the arrival of the Captain in the grand foyer. At 8:30 I went to see the Uke Box showtime consisting of five young men playing various types of ukeleles. At 10 o'clock I went to the Sky observatory, where I bagged a jive with one of the cruise staff. After a couple of slices of pizza in the buffet, I watched the excellent show for a second time! I didn't get to bed until 11:45.
I awoke at 7 o'clock and breakfasted on the full English. Back in my stateroom, I watched my Copehagen talk on the TV and updated this blog. At 10 am I gave my 45 minute talk on Hamlet: Prince of Denmark in the cinema. At 11:15 I wallowed in one of the jacuzzis as we sailed past Hamlet's castle. I lunched at noon on the roast beef, before sleeping for an hour and a half.
At 2:30 I went down to the theatre to escort my first choice tour to the Ice Bar! After giving out promotional wrist bands to various tours, I followed my group, the last to leave the theatre, down to the gangway. However, when we got to the quayside, our coach had allegedly been held up at the (non-existent) port gates by security, so we were half an hour late departing. We had photostops at the Little Mermaid and the Amalienborg Palace, before a panoramic tour of the city centre in the early evening rush hour. Neither the driver nor the guide knew where the Ice Bar was located, so when the coach got trapped in a narrow street, the guide led us off on a wild goose chase to try and find it. When we eventually got there, we donned insulated capes to enter the minus five degree Ice Bar. We each had a spirit shot and a punch drink, which I combined. After ten minutes I was getting cold and so I left. We then stood outside for half an hour awaiting the coach. Unfortunately the guide's mobile phone ran out of juice, so he had to borrow mine to try and phone the coach driver. So off we went on another wild goose chase, until we stumbled on the coach near where we had left it.
We eventually got back to the ship an hour and half late, as the three hour tour had taken four hours! I raced to the Shore Excursions desk to warn them that an angry possé was on its way! This was possibly my worst ever tour, perhaps second only to my tour to Canterbury last year on Crystal. However the next day some pax told me that they had been given a full refund!
Having missed first sitting dinner, I had the roast lamb in the buffet. I then walked back along the quayside to see the classic vintage cars at the Toldboden quay, where I had been ten days earlier on the good ship Braemar. I doubled back through the castle grounds to the ship. I then watched from the top deck as the Viking Sea cruise ship departed, before having two pizza slices in the late buffet. I went back to my stateroom to watch my Copenhagen port talk again, before retiring at 11 o'clock, having given the comedian's showtime a miss.
I awoke at 6:30 and breakfasted on a cold Scottish egg Benedict. At 8:30 I escorted my second choice City Sights & North Zealand Castle tour. We had a short photo stop at the Little Mermaid and then an abortive stop at the public loos. We eventually found open toilets at the new city beach, north of the new Ocean Quay cruise terminals. The journey north along Zealand's eastern shore had pretty thatched fishermen's houses together with luxury villas. We had half an hour to explore the ramparts, but not the interior, of Hamlet's impressive castle at Kronborg, Helsingor. An early lunch was served in the restaurant there, consisting of pickled herring, meat balls, potato salad and various breads. I enjoyed a bottle and a half of the local Tuborg lager, but forewent the coffee.
The next stop was a short photo opportunity at Queen Margrethe's summer residence at Fredensborg palace. Our longest visit was to the very impressive renaissance castle of Fredericksborg. We spent time in the elaborate chapel, the audience salon and the great hall, but whizzed through the many smaller rooms. Back at the city, we had another stop at the four Amalienborg palaces, where we glimpsed the Queen's sister departing by limousine.
Back at the ship I enjoyed the pool and the jacuzzis, whilst the sailaway took place. This was a damp squib, as the black DJ played many reggae tracks and no one danced on the deck! I dined on the sirloin steak with the couples from Ulster and Lancashire, later joined by the two Aussie couples too. At 8:30 I went to the ballroom session in the Sky observation lounge, but there were no single ladies and only the odd couple dancing, having given the magician's showtime a miss. I had a couple of pizza slices, before retiring to watch my talk on Hamlet on the in-cabin TV. I then went to bed at 10:15, after a long day without a siesta!
I awoke at 6:50, but it was now 7:50 Estonian time. I then had the full English breakfast in the top deck buffet. At 10 o'clock the usual dance couple taught the ballroom tango in the middle of the Grand Foyer! They wisely began by having us walk around the hallway in time to the music, slow-slow-quick-quick-slow, (T-A-NGO) with the last beat being a tap not a step. They covered the tango basic, the promenade and a half turn spin into a 'pull out' or New York. I danced with Ria a young enthusiastic lady! I then had a meeting with Veronica behind the Shorex desk ready for my next port talk.
At noon I gave my second destination lecture on Tallinn, which lasted 40 minutes when I decided not to show my video. At 1 o'clock I lunched on grilled salmon and chips in the buffet, before sleeping for two and a quarter hours. I was listening to my Tallinn talk on the in-cabin TV, when Steven the activity manager phoned. He said that a passenger had complained about the fuzzy projector and the full-on lights during the lecture, which he promised to fix. He also apologised that there had been no-one to introduce me at the start. I then had a session in the outdoor pool and jacuzzi, when the sun came out again. At 6 pm I dined on french onion soup with a thick topping of melted Gruyere cheese, chicken stuffed with ham & cheese, followed by cherries with ice cream! As usual I sat with the two Australian couples and the couple from Ulster. At 7:45 I went to the Big Band concert in the Grand Foyer, but hardly anyone danced in such an exposed position. At 8:30 I went to the Topper production show, this being a curious fantasy story about a giant top hat. The acrobatics performers were again very good, but I didn't understand the rest of the show. Uptown Funk was sung for a second time! I popped into the Sky observation lounge and bumped into Ria, but no-one was dancing. At 10:00 I avoided the pizzas in the buffet as I had overdone the cheese at dinner time! I then went back to my cabin to watch my Tallinn talk again, before going to bed at 11:00.
I awoke at 5:30, got up at 6:00 and went to the early risers breakfast, where I had a croissant stuffed with smoked salmon and cottage cheese. I then watched the sail-in to Tallinn from the Sky observation lounge. At 10 o'clock I escorted my first choice Medieval Rakvere & Tallinn tour. We began in the old upper city, visiting both the Orthodox and Lutheran cathedrals. We then had some free time at the viewpoint overlooking the old lower city.
At noon we drove 100 kilometres along the motorway to Rakvere. Here we had a comprehensive tour of the impressive castle (Linnus), complete with a vodka tasting accompanied by gherkins. There was a wedding reception going on and the groom had to load an ancient cannon with gunpowder and wadding. Then one of the soldiers lit the fuse and we heard an almighty bang! We then had some free time to explore on our own. At 3 o'clock we lunched on lovely fish pie, meat stew, pearl barley and green salad. The dessert was apple cake and the drinks were cranberry juice and coffee. Unfortunately the only free seat for me was on a table of Spaniards! After some more free time, we departed at 4 pm and just got back the ship for the 5:30 curfew.
I whizzed up to the top deck to photograph the sailaway in the bright sunshine, where I met a pair of Keith & Duncan's friends from West Parley, who were on their first ever cruise. I then whizzed back down for dinner. I couldn't resist the lamb shank, even though we had only had a large lunch three hours earlier! At 8:30 I went to Phillipa's lovely show of mainly musical theatre numbers. I then had an early night at 10:30.
My alarms woke me at 5:30 ready for an early breakfast of a croissant with hot roast ham and cheese at 6 o'clock. At 6:30 I was on duty in the theatre marshalling the 1200 people on tour that morning. At 8:30 I escorted my first choice tour to Catherine's palace in Pushkin. Passage through immigration was relatively quick going out, but surprisingly slower coming back! We had to pass through some depressing Soviet high-rise suburbs to get to the brand new north-south toll motorway, in spite of it passing close to the cruise terminals at Marine Facade. On the motorway the driver reversed three times, once when he had turned off by mistake and twice at the toll booths, having entered the wrong lane. Thank goodness the toll motorway was nearly empty when he was reversing! At the Catherine palace, we followed the route through the first floor state apartments including the famous amber room. The Nazis stole the original amber panelling which may still be stored in a salt mine in Austria they say! We then traversed the gardens to the Hermitage dining pavilion.
Back at the ship, I lunched on roast beef, before sleeping for two and three quarter hours, making up for my early start. I then swam and wallowed in the jacuzzis, with views of both new cable-stayed bridges over the distributaries of the Neva river. I was unimpressed with the afternoon tea sandwiches, so at 5:30 I had kebabs and chips in the buffet ready to escort my third choice tour to a song and dance folkloric show. We had a short drive through the lovely city to the impressive theatre which was only a tenth full, so I was able to sit in the front row. The show consisted of two 40 minute sessions of Cossack dancing and Russian singing accompanied by two accordions and two balalikas. During the interval, I had two glasses of complimentary bubbly, whilst a party of Japanese tourists had a bun-fight buffet! The costumes were lovely and the dancers were great. Sat behind me was Richard Wynne who used to do the discos at the Yellow Stage Coach line dance socials in Bournemouth!
Back at the ship at 10:45, I caught the second half of another folklore show in the Eclipse theatre. This had a slightly larger cast, but no changes of costume and less enthusiastic dancers. At 11:30 I went to the rock 'n' roll session in the Sky observatory lounge, where I jived with two young and one older lady. Both duty cruise staff declined to join me, and I was unable to ask Sue the cruise director for a dance either. I went to bed just after midnight.
I awoke at 8 o'clock, ready for a cheese omelette with bacon and sausages. I then spent the morning watching Sky News and working on this blog. I also updated the first three port's PowerPoint presentations. At noon I lunched on a minute steak and chips, before sleeping for two and a half hours, still catching up on the early start the day before. I then spent an hour and a half swimming and jacuzzi-ing in the sunshine of the open deck. In one of the jacuzzis I chatted with Robbie a well-spoken ex-submariner from Liphook in Hampshire. He was praising Voyages to Antiquities Aegean Odyssey's lecture programme, having complained to our Captain about the lack of intellectual lectures. Of course, he hadn't been to any of my lectures! I told him to look out for my Hitler & Putin lecture. I then had two lovely open smoked salmon sandwiches in the buffet's afternoon tea session.
At 6 o'clock I dined on Burgundy Beef with the usual pax. The four Aussies revealed that they were all Majors in the Salvation Army! At 7:30 I rushed up to the Sky observaion lounge to watch the passage through the Kronstadt flood gates. When I got back to my cabin to read tomorrow's Today programme, I found that they had got the description of my Stockholm lecture wrong, so I had to spend an hour altering my PowerPoint presentation accordingly. At 8:30 I listened to the excellent singing duo Raegar. They covered both classic country and classic rock songs. Afterwards, I continued to update my Stockholm talk. Luckily I had my guide book, maps and other presentations to hand! At 10:30 I spoke to Steven the activity manager and gave him my updated talk titles and blurbs again. I went to bed at 11 o'clock.
I awoke at 7 o'clock to find that we had already arrived in Helsinki. I had a cheese omelette with crispy bacon for breakfast, before escorting my first choice walking tour. We took a coach to the central Senate Square and then walked through the central shopping district to the railway station. We then went along the main road lined with monumental buildings, including the Music Centre, the Parliament, the National Museum and the Opera House. Alongside the large lake, we had our elevenses of tea or coffee and an apple pastry at the Ravintola Töölönranta café. We then continued through a residential district to the famous Rock Church. We got there just before noon, when the Lutheran minister held a five minute service which cleared the place of the hordes of Japanese tourists, so that we had the place almost to ourselves. When we came out there was an enormous queue to get in! We then took the coach back to the ship.
Here I lunched al fresco on the roast beef, before updating my Stockholm talk and my blog. I then dozed for an hour and a quarter, before delivering my 40 minute Stockholm lecture at 4 pm. Finally Robbie the ex-submariner made one of my talks, which he congratulated me on at the end! I then swam and jacuzzied for three quarters of an hour including meeting a couple from Chichester. At 6 o'clock I dined on the Chateaubriand beef, where I got our table to sign a card ready for Pam's official 70th birthday on the next sea day. Debbie revealed that she had been a missionary, whilst Pam had progressed from Methodism to Anglicanism, since her husband Frank was a churchwarden! So I was on a really religious table, with only Pam & Frank partaking of alcohol! At 8:30 I went to Claire's show, of which the first half was good, but the second half was less good. I then watched my Stockholm talk on the TV, before going to bed at 11 o'clock.
I awoke at 6 am, but it was now only 5 o'clock Swedish time. I immediately got up, showered and dressed in order to watch the magnificent sail-in to Stockholm in the bright sunshine. I was in the Sky observation lounge in time ready to pass the famous forts guarding the narrow passage between two islands. At 7 o'clock I breakfasted on a cheese omelette and crispy bacon, before going out on to the top deck for the final approach. Once berthed, I retreated to my stateroom to watch my Stockholm talk on the TV again.
At 9 o'clock I escorted my second choice Vasa Ship Museum, Old Town and Ice Bar tour. Despite having previously visited the Vasa Ship Museum, I was bowled over by this superb vessel. I watched the new, impressive movie, even though it was in Swedish, just with English subtitles. The Ice Bar was better than the one in Copenhagen earlier on in the cruise. I got some better photographs and the hotel in which it was situated had free wi-fi. During our free time, I visited the tourist information kiosk in the central railway station. After our walking tour of the Old Town (Gamla Stan), we had 50 minutes more of free time, so I headed along the pedestrianised shopping street (Drottningsgatan) to the Culture House. I went in the main Tourist Information here to use their free wi-fi.
Back at the ship, I had a late lunch of roast beef, before having a deep sleep for an hour and a quarter. I then swam and jacuzzied for three quarters of an hour in the sunshine, whilst the house band played during the sail-away. Few people turned up and no-one danced! At 6 o'clock I dined on the sirloin steak with the usual crowd. At 8:30 I went to the production company's Rock City show. I knew few of the songs, except for the Queen medley. After the show, I indulged in two slices of pizza, before updating this blog and working on my Warnemünde port talk. I then went to bed at 11:15.
I awoke at 8:40 and breakfasted on a cheese omelette with crispy bacon. At 10:30 I went to the Merengue class in the Grand Foyer. I started dancing with instructress Lucy, before Ria arrived. We did the Merengue basic, side steps, separation, shoulder to shoulder, wrap and unwrap! At 11:15 I touched base with Veronica at the tours desk. At noon I gave my 40 minute talk on Warnemünde & Rostock. A German man came up to me at the end to congratulate me on my talk! He told me that the red brick churches of North Germany were built in the Backstein gothic revival style.
I lunched on the roast beef, in preference to the other joints and the fish & chips special. I then slept for only three quarters of an hour, as I had had a lie-in that morning. At 2:15 I arrived halfway through the rumba class. Lucy taught it correctly throughout as 2341, but was still starting on beat one, which defeated the purpose of the counts! Although she was English, she taught the American rumba basic of a box (side, close, step, touch), followed by the slow chassé (side, close, side, touch) in both directions. She followed this with New Yorks, which she again called 'pull outs'.
At 3 o'clock I swam and jacuzzied for an hour and a quarter. Half way through, the house band started playing, but few were listening and no-one was dancing. I left the bubbles off and enjoyed their Beatles songs. Back in the stateroom, I updated this blog and watched my Warnemünde & Rostock talk on the TV.
At 6 o'clock I dined on tomato soup, beef Wellington and baked Alaska. It was the day before Pam's 70th birthday, so we had an early party as the Aussies were going on the long day trip to Berlin on her actual birthday. I provided the birthday card signed by all and my bottle of champagne from my state room. Only Pam, Frank and myself partook, as all the others were teetotal! Unfortunately we also got the second complimentary cocktail of the cruise, so we were well away! Beth provided a pass the parcel game and candies. Debbie came with a bracelet gift and Michelle brought some Turkish soft nougart. I gave the keynote address wearing my formal outfit. We sang Happy Birthday and a small cake from the ship appeared. Pam said a few words of thanks and Frank said it was Pam's best every birthday party!
At 8:30 I went to Nick Page's showtime where I enjoyed most of his songs, but not the Les Misérables ones, nor the extended drumming session! I had a couple of pizzas slices in the buffet, before going to bed at 10:30.
I awoke at 5:50 and had an early breakfast of cheese omelette and crispy bacon. I was ashore just after 7, collecting leaflets and taking some photographs. Back at the ship, my on-your-own tour to Rostock had been cancelled, so I went on the Cheers & Beers all day tour to Stralsund instead. We had a 90 minute drive across West Pomerania, before visiting a brewery (Störtebeker Braumanufaktur), where we had a small beer and large pretzels. We than had a walking tour of the old Hanseatic city (Altstadt), before travelling across the new cable-stayed bridge to Rügen, Germany's largest island. After a half an hour break in Altefähr, we caught the ferry across the harbour, back to the mainland. We then walked back into the city centre and had an hour of free time. I whizzed around photographing most of the main sights, but missed the Holy Ghost hospital and the Swedish fort. We then had the 90 minute drive back to the ship.
At 4:45 I had another half an hour in the indoor pool and both indoor jacuzzis. At 6 o'clock I dined on the chicken Kiev with just Pam & Frank. At 8:30 I went to the professional singers cabaret in the theatre. I went to bed at 10:30.
I awoke at 6:30 and had the cheese omelette with crispy bacon for breakfast. At 9:30 Richard Wynne the former DJ rang me up to check that I was indeed the same Doc. Martin! At 11:15 I gave my 40 minute talk on the Story of the North Sea. At noon, knowing that we were to have steak Diane for dinner, I had the ham stew with a jacket potato for lunch. I then slept for an hour and a half, before catching the end of Lucy's waltz class. She had taught the box, side hesitations and the ladies underarm turn. I then worked on this blog and watched my North Sea lecture on the TV. At 4:30 I had an hour in the jacuzzis, before going to the dining room at 5:45 ready for the 6 o'clock first sitting. I dined on the steak Diane with a glass of red wine kindly provided by Frank, who also bought six soft drinks for the table's teetotallers! At 8:30 I went to the excellent "Just John & Paul" Beatles tribute act. John's humour was spot on, but they only played their early songs from 1963-1965. After a couple of pizza slices in the late buffet, I went to bed at 10:30.
I awoke at 7 o'clock and had a cheese omelette with crispy bacon for breakfast. I then watched my Story of the North Sea lecture on the TV again as I prepared my next lecture. At 10 a.m. I gave my 40 minute talk on the Story of Western Architecture. I then did eight circuits (one mile) of the top deck jogging track. At 11:15 I went to Captain Leo's 57 minute talk on the ship. He had created one animation showing the operation of the azimuthal propulsion units (Azipods).
At 12:15 I lunched on salmon and anchovy salad with chips, followed by a fruit and marshmallow kebab dipped in the chocolate fountain. I then slept for an hour and a half, before watching my North Sea talk yet again, whilst updating my blog. At 3:45 I went swimming and enjoyed three quarters of an hour in the jacuzzis in the hot sunshine, whilst the band played. Ria beckoned me out of the jacuzzi for a dance on the side, but no-one else was dancing! I then started packing. At 6 o'clock I dined on the rib of beef with the usual crowd, the meal ending with our goodbyes. At 9 o'clock I went to the final production show - Euphoria. The show began with a video of the highlights of the cruise. When I appeared on screen a cheer went up from the audience! I also had a fleeting appearance in one of the dance classes, dancing with Ria. I didn't understand the plot of the show, if there was one, but the acrobats and inflatable dragons were incredible! At the end Sue told an amusing joke about good and bad things, culminating in heaven and hell, whereupon she descended into the stage! I had my final two pizza slices before retiring to bed at 11:00.
I awoke at 7:30, but it was now 6:30 BST. I enjoyed my final cheese omelette and crispy bacon al fresco overlooking Southampton. Back in the stateroom, I finished packing my hand luggage and updated this blog. I was off the ship at 8 o'clock and home by 9:30 after another super cruise!
Frank later wrote: "Thanks for your company, the excellent lectures and of course Pam's 70th do"
12 Dining tables hosted 9 PowerPoint presentations updated 8 Tours escorted 7 Lectures given 6 Ports visited 4 Port talks (Copenhagen, Tallinn, Stockholm & Warnemünde) 4 New castles (Kronborg, Fredensborg, Fredericksborg & Rakvere) 3 Enrichment lectures (Hamlet, North Sea & Architecture) 3 New towns (Helsingor, Rakvere & Stralsund) 2 Ice bars (Copenhagen & Stockholm) 1 New island (Rügen)