Cruise L1412
"Castles, Cathedrals & Capital Cities of the Baltic Sea"
on the Balmoral

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and read my report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
18/08/2014 Southampton - On board by 1:45 pm
20/08/2014 Kiel Canal - Scenic day time passage
22/08/2014 Tallinn Tallinn & Rocca al Mare Lovely lunch but wet afternoon
23/08/2014 St. Petersburg Peterhof Park Fountains & land train
24/08/2014 St. Petersburg Everyday St. Petersburg Sightseeing and lunch out
25/08/2014 Helsinki Helsinki by Boat Wet morning followed by dry afternoon
26/08/2014 Helsinki Porvoo & Helsinki Highlights Pretty wooden town with lunch out
28/08/2014 Copenhagen Royal Copenhagen Glorious day to visit three palaces!
29/08/2014 Copenhagen City & Harbour Tour Harbour cruise again!
01/09/2014 Southampton - Home by 10:15 am!

Here's my report on the cruise:

I left home at 11 am and got to SoTon by noon. I met up with dance host Danny Keenan from Ireland in the terminal and was on board the ship by 1:45 pm. I slept from 2:15 pm until the safety drill at 3:45 pm followed by Ashley the cruise director's meeting at 4:30 pm. The 5:00 pm sailaway was performed by the excellent Central Band of the Royal British Legion who were on board, en masse, as paying passengers! I dined with the four male dance hosts in the Palms Café before dancing at 7:45 pm with the lovely Diane the dance hostess. Ashley asked me to lead the walk-ons at both 8:40 and 10:20 pm with the excellent Dancing Queen production show in between. I was back to my cabin at 10:40 and asleep by 11 pm.

On the first (North) sea day, I awoke at 6 am and breakfasted at 7 am on the first of many freshly made cheese omelettes. I led my first line dance class of 22 people at 9 am in the Neptune Lounge. As usual I taught California Frieze, Texas Waltz & Electric Slide. I changed and got back to the lounge for the 10 o'clock lecture / sales pitch on Fabergé eggs. I gave my first lecture on "Tallinn: the Capital of Estonia" at 11 am to a full house. At the noon singles party I chatted with the lovely Christina from Poole & Sarah before lunching with Christina, Mary and Marlene. I slept until 2:45 pm before making myself an in-cabin coffee before my 3:15 pm lecture entitled "The Story of the Kiel Canal". This was followed by the afternoon concert of the Central Band of the Royal British Legion. I attended the first sitting's Captain's welcome cocktail party before dining in the Palms Café. I watched Katie Perry's solo cabaret show in the Lido lounge before watching Gerry Graham's comedy routine in the Neptune Lounge. I only danced one waltz to recorded music with Diane before bedtime.

Kiel Canal transit

Kiel Canal transit

On the second day we transited the Kiel Canal. I got up at 7 am to see the departure from the Brunsbuttel locks. At 9 am I led my second line dance class of 32 people where I taught Texas Waltz, Slosh & Just Because. At 10 am I attended Malcolm Culkin's interesting talk on Dutch (Old) Masters. At 11 am I gave my port talk entitled "St. Petersburg: Capital of the Tsars" which lasted exactly 45 minutes despite having to cover 18 tours! After lunch, with a couple from Buxton, and my siesta, I listened to the Central Band of the Royal British Legion playing as we transited the Holtenau locks into the Baltic Sea. At 4:30 pm I gave my port talk entitled "Helsinki: Capital of Finland".

I changed into my new rock 'n' roll outfit ready for dinner and the early evening "Join the Jive!" session with the Fourth Dimension pop band in the Neptune, not Lido, Lounge. Two of the oriental ladies came up to ask me to dance with them several times! I then watched the excellent "Sippin' Soda" rock 'n' roll production show. I don't understand why Fred. Olsen have ditched the rock 'n' roll theme night! My new Acer Liquid E3 smartphone 'roamed' onto a Danish mobile phone network as we passed south of the island of Zealand. Denmark is one of the Three mobile network's "Feel at Home" countries where calls cost only 3p a minute, texts cost 2p and data only 1p per megabyte! I picked up an email from Dance Afloat requesting bids for Saga Pearl II next spring and an invitation to dine out on my birthday in a fortnight's time. I danced with the usual suspects after the main show, before adjourning to the Lido Lounge for the Royal British Legion's excellent "Big Band" concert. I visited the late night buffet to sample the scampi and chicken goujons before retiring at midnight.

On the Baltic Sea day, my planned line dancing class was cancelled by the Cruise Director, without telling me, as I had to give my final port talk at 10 am. So I had to turn up at 9 am to turn away those ladies who hadn't read their "Daily Times"! When this back-to-back situation had occurred on my last Black Watch cruise, I had solved the problem by giving my lecture in my Doc. Martin outfit! My final port talk was entitled "Wonderful Copenhagen: Capital of Denmark" which lasted exactly 45 minutes. Later in the morning I swam and jacuzzied, for the first time this cruise, in the hot sunshine. My new Acer Liquid E3 smartphone 'roamed' onto a Swedish mobile phone network as we passed east of the island of Gotland. Sweden is also one of mobile network Three's "Feel at Home" countries. After lunch and my fitfull siesta, I attended Malcolm Culkin's interesting lecture entitled "Northern Lights - A Medley of Scandinvia Art". I then partnered Christina from Poole as Diane taught the Rumba One sequence dance. After 52 minutes we finally got to the music! Much better to have taught the basics of the social rumba I feel.

That evening the Palms Café put on a splendid Spanish Tapas banquet. I went round twice! With the Neptune Lounge dance floor full of music stands and seats, I went to Fourth Dimension's early evening set in the Lido Lounge. I danced with and sat with Christina, Sarah and Hazel, before we all listened to the Wonder of Elvis cabaret. I then adjourned back to the Neptune Lounge for the Central Band of the Royal British Legion's evening concert. The Lloyd-Webber medley was particularly good! I had an early night but unfortunately as a result woke up too early the next morning!

The orthodox cathedral in Tallinn

The orthodox cathedral in Tallinn

In Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, I escorted my first choice all-day tour to the Old Town and the Rocca al Mare outdoor museum. The morning was fine but we got very wet in the afternoon. We walked around the Upper and Lower Old Towns before attending a folk dance display with coffee and cakes. Diane and I both participated in the folk dancing! With the rain starting we adjourned to the famous Peppersack restaurant for an early lunch. We had a salad starter, beef in mushroom sauce with potatoes and vegetables followed by apple tart and coffee. I opted for the local draught lager rather than the wine included with the meal. After lunch we drove in pouring rain to the outdoor museum. We struggled to see various wooden barns, a windmill, a chapel and a period shop. It was interesting but would have been so much better in the sun! Back at the ship the sun came out, so I swam and jacuzzied before dining on lamb chops in the Palms Café. I watched the excellent early evening production show "Viva Las Vegas" and stayed on for the hosted dancing session. For the first time this cruise the floor was full and I danced most dances including three with Diane, a couple each with Christina & Penny, and once each with Sarah, one of the oriental ladies and some others. I then moved into the Lido Lounge to hear James Hadley's poorly attended cabaret. He sang a Michael Bublé song for me and we danced the Cowboy Charleston together!

Old Soviet submarine in St. Petersburg, photograph taken by Dr. Brian Dunn

Old Soviet submarine in St. Petersburg, photograph taken by Dr. Brian Dunn

For the first time this cruise I was awoken by the cruise director's clearance announcement, since I wasn't escorting until the afternoon. I walked around the quayside, but a guard made me delete a picture of the terminal buiding I had taken! There were four cruise ships in the new deep water Marine Facade harbour, but Balmoral had the prime central berth at terminal three. I lunched early in the Ballindalloch restaurant with Andreas the German baritone saxophonist and another couple. I then escorted the afternoon tour to Peterhof Park. On my previous visit there, last winter on the Black Watch, all the famous fountains were switched off, so it was good to see all the cascades cascading! Thankfully the free wi-fi was working again, despite the enormous Saturday afternoon crowds. We then caught a tight, little land train across Alexandria Park to the 'Cottage' Palace - shades of Marie Antoinette at the Russian Versailles! Back at the ship, I dined on shell-on shrimps, escalope of pork and coconut creme caramel. I sat with Christina & Helen in the Lido Lounge for Fourth Dimension's early evening set and danced with the former there. I moved into the Neptune Lounge for the Balmoral Orchestra's first set and again was invited to dance by one of the oriental ladies! I had trouble keeping awake and so went to bed at 9 pm and slept for eight and a half hours!

St. Isaac's cathedral in St. Petersburg

St. Isaac's cathedral in St. Petersburg

On the second day in St. Petersburg I escorted my first choice all-day Everyday tour. We had photo-stops at the riverside and at the Aurora battle ship which fired the first shot in the Bolshevik revolution. We had a comfort stop at the same souvenir shop we had used the previous afternoon, so I was glad that I had donated a one euro coin then. More photo-stops followed at St. Isaac's and the Spilled (Spilt?) Blood cathedrals and at the Field of Mars eternal flame. We had a nice lunch of vegetable salad with chicken, mushroom (not cabbage!) soup, beef stroganoff (of course!) and ice cream. One lady waited until the end of the lunch to then ask for a dairy-free meal, so she had to bolt down a plate of fresh fruit! We each were given a bottle of water and a shot of vodka ending with tea or coffee. Rather better than the cabbage soup and coleslaw salad I had eaten in St. Petersburg last winter!

In the afternoon we rode on the monumental metro, visited an orthodox church and a market (operating on a Sunday) before having an hour and a half's free time. I was thus able to photograph the outside of the Russian Museum and to visit the Kazan cathedral. One lady got separated from the rest of us in a metro station but was able to latch on to another group. Of course she was the same lady who had wandered off on someone else's tour in Tallinn! We rendezvous-ed back at another souvenir shop before returning to the ship. It was Indian night in the Palms Café and I dined with a cockney couple from South West London. I went to the early evening dance date hosted by Hubert Greaves for the first time this cruise. I then watched the excellent "Dance, Dance, Dance" production show. I danced again after the show, went to bed at 11 and the slept for 9 hours.

At 4 am my new Acer smartphone latched on to a Finnish mobile phone network which is included in Three's interntional Feel at Home scheme. After my usual breakfast of made-to-order cheese omelette, I caught the 3 euro tram through the city centre and out the other side. I walked around the two big lakes and photographed the row of civic buildings in the rain. I visited the free, bijou City museum, before walking back to the ship berthed two miles out of town. I lunched on a beefburger, veg and chips with Vanessa and Jackson, two of the ship's photographers. I then escorted my first choice Helsinki by Boat tour. We took a short coach ride to another quay to pick up our steamer. Despite passing some threatening black clouds, we remained rain free for the 2 hour harbour cruise, viewing the Sea Fortress and Zoo islands, but missing out the turnbridge. Back at the ship early, I had afternoon tea with Christina who I had sat with on the harbour cruise. In the evening I went to the early evening Simply Sequence dance date and then listened to the lovely voice of Clarolyn Maier. What a waste of talent with her having to be a cocktail pianist in the Observatory!

Protestant Cathedral in Helsinki

Protestant Cathedral in Helsinki

On the second day in Helsinki I escorted my first choice all-day tour to the pretty wooden town of Porvoo. We enjoyed walking around the cobbled streets up to the cathedral. We lunched in the cellar of the old distillery at Kiala Manor. We had salad, stuffed beef roll, fresh fruit tarts, beer or wine and coffee or tea. I made the mistake of having the strong coffee which affected my vision for a time later that afternoon and then gave me a severe withdrawal headache two days later! We came back via the Helsinki highlights including the famous rock church. After dinner I sat and danced with Christina in the Lido lounge listening to the 4th Dimension pop band and the lovely voice of Bethany Moorhouse. I then moved to the Neptune Lounge for another concert by the Central Band of the Royal British Legion.

On the Baltic Sea day I led my third line dance class but the technician was late arriving to set me up so I was panicing with 32 pax waiting. I taught Just Because, Ziggy & Cowboy Chrleston. At 11 am I gave my talk entitled "Hamlet: Prince of Denmark" ready for Copenhagen the next day and (H)elsinor(e) Castle in two days time. My new smartphone managed to pick up the internet from both Swedish islands - Gotland & Oland - as we cruised past. I lunched with Christina, Keith & Irishman Danny - the latter will be my colleague on the Gulf of Bothnia cruise next summer. I slept for a couple of hours before dancing at the packed tea dance. Ashley the cruise director served me with delicious marshmallows and strawberries dipped in liquid chocolate! I swam and jacuzzied with Sarah and a talkative chap from Manchester. I then partook of the Chinese buffet in the Palms Café. I went to the early evening dance date in the Neptune Lounge but gave the comedy magician a miss. I then went to the second house of the Central Band of the Royal British Legion in the Lido Lounge. After the late night buffet I didn't get to bed until midnight!

In Copenhagen I escorted the Royal Copenhagen tour. We started at the Christiansborg palace and saw the famous modern tapestries. When I blew my whistle in the enormous octagonal square between the Amalienborg palaces to warn our dispersed party that we were leaving, a passenger angrily said to me "I'm not a dog or a child"! At the Rosenborg palace we saw the Danish crown jewels and the famous silver lions. Back at the ship, I lunched on Mexican lentil soup, crab claws and lamb chops with Christina, Helen and another chap. After sleeping for an hour and a half, I walked along the prom to clear my headache. I continued along the main shopping street to City Hall Place where the gay pride festival was in full swing. I collected a pile of leaflets at the tourist information centre near the main railway station and then walked back to the ship in the glorious sunshine for 7 pm. I dined on chicken noodle soup and escalope of veal before dancing in the Neptune lounge both before and after the production company's excellent "Magic of the Musicals" show.

The little mermaid statue in Copenhagen photo taken by Jon Horrrocks

The little mermaid statue in Copenhagen photo taken by Jon Horrrocks

On the second day in Copenhagen, I breakfasted with Danny before escorting the harbour cruise and city tour. The former part was as interesting as previously, despite the overcast skies. It was the only tour of the entire cruise that I had already done - every other tour was new for me. Towards the end of the coach tour my caffeine withdrawal headache from the previous day got worse and I felt nauseous. So back at the ship I took some kaolin & morphine mixture and then went straight to bed rather than have lunch. After two hours of sleeping, I drank a couple of mugs of skimmed milk and walked back along the prom and around the castle to get some fresh air and clear my head. Back at the ship I polished off a mozzarella roll and a ham tortilla wrap at afternoon tea. The RBL band played as we sailed away from Copenhagen in the rain.

After dinner I danced with Christina in the Lido lounge before listening to Chris Britton's cabaret. Back in the Neptune lounge the Central Band of the Royal British Legion were magnificient, playing all the great pieces from the Last Night of the Proms. They began with the Dambusters' Theme, continued with the Bridge over the River Kwai and then we sang a World War One medley and an Oliver medley. They finished up with Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and Land of Hope & Glory. This was the best British night I have ever experienced after seven years sailing with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines!

On the next (North) sea day I made one last connection to the Three mobile network in Denmark to update my FaceBook status, before I led my fourth line dance class at 9 am. Again the technician was late arriving and I was panicing. I had 35 people of whom a third were Chinese ladies from Islington! I taught Ziggy, Texas Waltz & Lindi Shuffle. After a quick change I attended Malcom Culkin's interesting lecture on pop art. At 11:15 I gave my seventh lecture entitled "Hitler & Putin: A Tale of Four Cities" for the very first time to a full house (it was wet out)! After lunch of chicken & chips, I slept for an hour and a half before updating this blog. I listened to the excellent final concert of the Central Band of the Royal British Legion before dressing for the final formal night. I attended the first of the Captain's farewell cocktail parties in order to elicit feedback on my morning's controversial lecture. I dined on minute steak before dancing with Christina, Sarah and some other ladies in the Lido Lounge and listening to Megan Fitzgerald's cabaret. Back in the Neptune Lounge I watched the crew show but saw nothing new. With Glenda doing two dances and Din Din making the closing speech, it was just like the good old days on the Braemar! I danced with both Diane and Penny a couple of times after the show, but gave the gala buffet a miss.

On the final (North) sea day I ran my final line dance class teaching California Frieze, Party Samba & Lindi Shuffle. I changed and then attended Malcolm Culkin's interesting lecture on J M W Turner the painter. At 11 am I gave my eighth and final lecture entitled "The Story of the North Sea". I lunched with Christina & Sarah on minute steak before sleeping for two hours. In the afternoon I packed and finished this blog. Passing Dover I was able to reconnect with the Three mobile network and so post yet another selfie on FaceBook! I dined on gammon, egg and croquette potatoes (not chips!) with Vanessa the photographer. After dinner I danced in the Lido Lounge with the lady from Bordon who spends each winter in her holiday home on a island off Malayasia! I then moved to the Neptune Lounge for the performance by the Balmoral guest choir. At 9 pm we had a variety show with dancing afterwards. The whole cruise having passed without a single samba or ballroom tango, we got two of the former, which I danced with Diane, and one of the latter which I danced with the lady from Bordon. I made the mistake of going to the fish & chip supper club before retiring to finish my packing.



Back at SoTon, I was off the ship by 9 am. I bumped into Christina in the baggage hall and she kindly offered me a lift home in her taxi. We had to queue in the traffic until 9:30 but nevertheless I was home by 10:15 am after yet another super cruise!

One passenger later wrote: "I very much enjoyed your lecture on Hitler and Putin: A Tale of Four Cities. I have been inspired by you to do a presentation for my family in summary of my cruise!" The Cruise Director Ashley wrote: "Thank you for everything you did for the cruise and look forward to seeing you working with us again very soon!"

Questionnaire Results:

No.   %  Class
---  --- -----
 87  31% Excellent
106  38% Good
 52  19% Fair
 34  12% Poor
--- ---- -----
279 100% Total
--- ---- -----

Score card:

9 Line dances taught
8 Lectures given
7 Tours escorted
6 ?
5 Line dance classes led
4 Guest lectures delivered
4 Port talks given

Good points:

  1. Dance hostess for some of the fast dances (cha chas, jives etc.)
  2. The Central Band of the Royal British Legion
  3. In-cabin tea and coffee making facilities
  4. Tea-time ice cream on alternate days
  5. Leading five line dance classes
  6. Outside twin cabin all to myself
  7. Mostly first choice tours
  8. Giving eight lectures
  9. Cheap slopchest

Good, free wi-fi:

  1. Main Square, Tallinn
  2. Tourist Information Office, Tallinn
  3. St. Petersburg restaurant
  4. Peterhof Park

Use of Mobile Network Three's "Feel at Home" 3-2-1 tariff (3p a minute calls, 2p a text and 1p per megabyte of data!):

North of Danish Bornholm in the Baltic Sea
South of Danish Zealand in the Baltic Sea
East of Swedish Gotland in the Baltic Sea
South of Swedish Oland in the Baltic Sea
Wonderful Copenhagen, Denmark
Helsinki, Finland

Updated Powerpoint presentations:

  1. Tallinn

Line Dances Taught:

  1. Cowboy Charleston
  2. California Frieze
  3. Electric Slide
  4. Just Because
  5. Lindi Shuffle
  6. Party Samba
  7. Texas Waltz
  8. Ziggy
  9. Slosh

For the record ...

Current Statistics:

  5 Cruise Lines (Saga, Fred. Olsen, Cunard, Seabourn, Voyages of Discovery)
 18 Cruise Ships travelled on (6x Saga, 5x FOCL, 4x Cunard, 2x Seabourn, 1x VoD)
 85 Cruises enjoyed worldwide
312 Different Ports visited
435 Tours escorted
760 Port calls