Cruise P2116 "Summer in the Baltic" from Dover to St. Petersburg on the Saga Pearl II

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

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
12/09/2014 Dover, UK - Easy run down
13/09/2014 Kiel Canal, Germany - Evening transit
15/09/2014 Stockholm, Sweden Waterways of Stockhom Glorious day!
16/09/2014 Stockholm, Sweden Modern & Historic Stockholm Walking tour in sunshine!
17/09/2014 Helsinki, Finland Sibelius Experience Sunny!
18/09/2014 St. Petersburg, Russia Visions of St. Petersburg All day tour in the sun
19/09/2014 St. Petersburg, Russia Royal Palace & Park of Peterhof All day tour
20/09/2014 Tallinn, Estonia (Soviet Memories) Quarantined!
21/09/2014 Ventspils, Latvia Kuldiga & Ventspils Sunny wooden town
22/09/2014 Riga, Latvia Scenic Sigulda Two castles and a cave in the wet!
23/09/2014 Klaipeda, Lithuania The Best of Neringa Sunshine & showers on the sand dunes!
24/09/2014 Svaneke, Bornholm (Best of Bornholm) Too rough to tender in!
25/09/2014 Gothenburg, Sweden Gothenburg City & Haga Church, cultural centre & castle
27/09/2014 Dover, England - Off at 8:50 am home before noon!

Here's my report on the cruise:

I drove down to Dover via the Ashford Shopping Outlet getting there at 1:15 pm. In the old railway terminal I met up with my new colleague Douglas, together with Sue and her disabled mother Joyce. Boarding was slightly delayed and started at 2 pm. At the safety drill at 4:30 pm I said hello to Martin & Mary Sixsmith who I had sailed with on a previous Baltic cruise (Cruise QA027). This was followed by a sailaway where I had a couple of dances on the aft deck including those with Sue and Penny, who had given me my farewell photograph at the end of the Holy Land cruise on Saga Pearl II (Cruise P2104). I met up with dancing instructors Elaine & Ron Stillwell who I had first worked with on the Black Watch (Cruise W1405). I also chatted with Jan (but not Lorraine) who had given me my purple sequined Michael Jackson hat on my third to last Quest for a Denture cruise (Cruise QA034)! I met up again with Marion from South Lakeland but her bad knees precluded dancing. I chatted with Dr Brian Dunn (but not Joyce) who had had a challenging previous cruise! The sailaway culminated in a dramatic flying display by a single Spitfire.

Douglas & Martin

Douglas & Martin

At 6:30 pm we attended the cruise director's welcome cocktail party where I chatted with Dame Stella Rimington and her daughter Sophie who lives with her partner in Ghent. At 7 pm I went to see Kirsten the Maitre D'Hotel who placed me on a singles table with Ann from Chandlers Ford with her friend from Romsey, Sally from Fishguard, Joan from Nottingham and Peter. I dined on prime rib of beef. Utilising the free wi-fi after dinner in the library, I chatted with cocktail pianist Clive Carrington who said my new nickname on the ship was "Mr Perfect", but the dining room waiters were still calling me "Tiger"! At the start of showtime we had a brief walk-on introduced by Jo Boase the cruise director. After the excellent Swing show, we danced with a handful of passengers, including Joyce, June and Jean. The latter said that the last time she had danced had been with me in New Zealand at the end of my one and only cruise on the legendary Spirit of Adventure (Cruise U66EV) nearly three years ago!

On the first (North) sea day having lost an hour, I breakfasted on two Eggs Benedict with Sally who had been the front of house, meeter and greeter at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. At 9 am I led a dozen people in my first line dance class when I taught California Frieze, Texas Waltz & Electric Slide as usual, ably assisted by the lovely Elaine. My colleague wore his full western outfit complete with stetson, whereas I had forgotten to pack my Doc. Martin's polo shirt! At 10 am I listened to Jeff Roberts the destination speaker who spoke on both Stockholm and Helsinki. At 11 am I enjoyed Dame Stella's life story unillustrated lecture. At 12:15 pm we were on duty at the singles mingle.

Kiel Canal transit

Kiel Canal Transit

At 1 pm I lunched with a single lady and two couples in the Verandah resturant on cottage pie. At 1:30 pm I attended, but was not needed, at Elaine & Ron's social foxtrot class of ten couples. I then slept for an hour and a half before starting to write this blog. I spoke briefly to Tina the Captain's wife who I had last cruised with on the Holy Land cruise (Cruise P2104) on this the favourite ship of both of us! Douglas invited me to join him for a beer on the Sundowner's deck to watch the entry into the Kiel canal at the Brunsbuttel locks. I dined on Wiener schnitzel with Helen, Heather, Doris and two other ladies in one of my favourite corner tables with views of the close passing ships. With a classical concert on, we didn't get to dance until after the magician's show.

On the next (Baltic) sea day I breakfasted on a cheese omelette before leading my second line dance class. I was only able to teach Texas Waltz & Just Because to 14 people as we had to start at 8:45 am and finish at 9:15 ready for the Sunday service at 9:30. The Captain's 9 am announcements also interrupted the class! I fell asleep in the Enigma codebreaking lecture, but remained wide awake in Martin Sixsmith's interesting life story despite having heard it all last year. I dined on roast beef (it was Sunday after all) with Elaine & Ron, before attending their cha cha class where I danced with Marguerite the American lady. After an hour and a half's siesta, I returned to writing this blog. On duty at the Captain's welcome cocktail party, I chatted with Penny & Andrew amongst others and danced with Jean and others too. I dined on fillet steak with Helen, Mary, Pam, Elsie & Doris with whom I was able to share my complimentary bottle of Argentinian Malbec. At the first dance set I danced with a couple of the Scottish ladies who were out in force amongst others. We also danced after the Stars on Strings puppet show - not quite such fun on second viewing.

On the final Baltic Sea morning, I breakfasted with Pera on two Eggs Benedict. I taught Just Because, Slosh & Cowboy Charleston at my third line dance class. I listened to Jeff Roberts' St. Petersburg talk before going up on deck to watch the magnificent sail-in to Stockholm in glorious sun. This meant that I missed Dame Stella and Gill Bennett's joint presentation on the Expulsion of the KGB Officers from London in 1971. After lunch and a short lie down, I escorted my first choice "Waterways of Stockholm" harbour cruise. Unfortunately they took us via the boring southern suburbs route rather than the northern circuit past the Vasa Museum and the brand new ABBA Museum!

Me in my ruby red tour escort's uniform in Stockholm

Me in my ruby red tour escort's uniform in Stockholm

We danced before dinner for the first time this cruise, before I dined on rib-eye steak with Ann from Chandlers Ford with her friend from Romsey, Frances & her mother Diana and Helen. We danced again after dinner but when the classical concert started we adjourned to the deck party. I managed to bag a jive with the lovely Jo Boase the cruise director as well as the lovely Elaine. As usual, I led off both the Slosh & Electric Slide. I went to bed at 11:30 pm with my colleague Douglas holding the increasingly deserted fort until midnight.

After an overnight in Stockholm, I breakfasted with two Scottish ladies before escorting my first choice "Modern & Historic Stockholm" walking tour. I only brought half my passengers back to the ship, with the other half opting to watch the changing of the guard before catching the last shuttle bus back. I lunched on not-so minute steak with Joyce from Basingstoke. We danced at the sail-away before rushing to the waltz class. We then slept for an hour and a half missing the strawberry tea, before dressing for dinner. Since it was the Elvis show "Love me tender" we both wore red leather ties which drew some appreciative comments! We had a pre-dinner drink in Shackleton's bar with another couple. I dined on scampi with Helen, Peter, Ann and two other ladies. We danced with the usual suspects both before and after the show.

The protestant cathedral in Helsinki

The Protestant Cathedral in Helsinki

In Helsinki I breakfasted on two Eggs Benedict with Pera from Falmouth again. I escorted my first choice "Sibelius Experience" tour to the composer's house at Ainola. We then had a moving recital in the Theological College. It began with three short pieces for violin and piano culminating in the composer's own piano arrangement of "Finlandia" his famous symphonic poem. Back at the ship, I lunched on cheese and turkey pannini with dancing Jean & Joyce. I used the free launderette for the first time this cruise before sleeping for an hour and a half. I walked into the city, via the market, to do some more photography in the glorious sunshine. At the sailaway I danced with June, Jean, Joyce, Sue (twice at her insistence again!), Marguerite and another lady. I then listened to Jeff's talk on the four ports in the three Baltic states. With a technical glitch in the middle it lasted an hour. I dined on calf's shank with Ann from Ormskirk, Mary from Looe, Michael the metallurgist, Jenny from Colchester & dancing Jean from Leeds. With another classical concert on, I worked on this blog before watching the second puppet show. We had just one dance each with June and the lounge was empty!

St. Isaacs's cathedral in St. Petersburg

St. Isaacs's Cathedral in St. Petersburg

On the first day in Russia, I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with Helen. I then escorted my second choice "Visions of St. Petersburg" all day tour. We had various photo stops in the morning before going on the waterways cruise. After lunch of beef stroganoff, we visited the Spilled (Spilt?) Blood cathedral. We then visited the exterior of the Smolny convent/cathedral for my first time. With most of the ship at the ballet/concert/folklore shows ashore, Douglas and I dined in the Verandah restaurant for the first time for dinner. We sat with a couple from Newark and a couple from Nottingham and I had beautiful fillet steak. With no dancing programmed, I watched "Skyfall" the Bond movie in the Discovery lounge before going to bed at 11 pm.

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

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

On the second day in Russia, I breakfasted on one Egg Benedict. I then escorted my sixth choice "Royal Palaces & Parks of Peterhof" all day tour. We gained early access to an empty palace which was as magnificient as ever. We then toured the park which was the third time I had done so in less than a year! We lunched on chicken in a mansion within the grounds. We then caught our coach the couple of miles to the charming Cottage Palace in Alexandria Park. Back at the ship I danced at the sailaway with Sue (twice, again at her insistence), Penny, June, Jean and others. I dined in the main dining room on gammon with Joyce, Joy, Maurice and two other ladies. Towards the end of the meal I suffered from stomach cramps so I made my excuses and left the dining room. After consulting Dr Dunn, I went straight to bed and slept for eleven hours, two all day tours and two Russian lunches having caught up with me!

The orthodox cathedral in Tallinn

The Orthodox Cathedral in Tallinn

The next day in Tallinn I was confined to my cabin and my colleague was moved out. So I was unable to escort my first choice "Soviet Memories" tour, with Douglas stepping into the breach. I was fine all day and worked on my powerpoint presentations for Stockholm, Helsinki & St. Petersburg. After another consultation with Dr Dunn, I ordered fillet steak and chips from room service for my dinner.

Me in Ventspils, Latvia

Me in Ventspils, Latvia. Can you see the Saga Pearl II?

Released from confinement in the morning after 36 hours, I escorted my first choice tour to Kuldiga from the port of Ventspils on my very first visit to Latvia. We toured the pretty little town and then lunched in the central Metropole Hotel. I took it easy with a light salad and a half litre glass of beer. In the afternoon we stopped off back in Ventspils to see their ornamental cows and the Livonian Castle. After I had proposed a vote of thanks to the guide and driver, Michael proposed a vote of thanks to me! Back at the ship, after a short lie down, I attended the Britannia Club cocktail party. I dined on Veal Wellington for the first time with a couple from Mid-Wales and three other ladies. As usual on a formal night, I ordered a complimentary bottle of Argentinian Malbec but only one other lady joined me in a glass. We danced before the show with the usual suspects and I did the Sally Ann Cha Cha with the lovely Elaine. Dressed in black evening dress, Douglas and I took pictures of ourselves posed by the James Bond memorabilia on board!

In Riga, the capital of Latvia, I escorted my second choice tour "Scenic Sigulda" the Latvian Switzerland. We visited two impressive castles on either side of a wooded gorge. We saw one cave and toured an impressive outdoor museum, unfortunately it was wet all day. We lunched on salad, chicken and strawberry compote, but only got a quarter litre of beer each. In the afternoon we stopped off back in Riga. With only half an hour of free time, I rushed around the old city taking photographs of the cathedral and St. Peter's church amongst others. Back at the ship the sailaway was cancelled due to the rain, so I lay down for an hour before listening to Jeff's final talk on Bornholm and Gothenburg. I dined on spaghetti carbonara with Ruth the lecturer, Joyce the dancer, Maurice, Joy and another lady. I was able to share my bottle of Argentinian Malbec from the previous night with the ladies each tasting a sample. With another classical concert on, we didn't dance until after the "Jersey meets Mersey" show (should've been "New Jersey meets New Brighton")! We danced with the three J's: Jean, Joyce and June! We then adjourned to Shackleton's bar to hear Resty's cabaret, so we didn't get to bed until after midnight.

I slept for eight hours as we only had a 10 am arrival into Klaipeda. I breakfasted on scrambled eggs, streaky bacon and tomatoes for the first time this cruise sat at the large oval table in the Verandah restaurant. I escorted my second choice tour to Neringa on the long Curonian sand spit. Our coach caught the ferry across the lagoon before taking us to Juodkranté, where the Lutheran Pastor gave us a short but fluent presentation. Unfortunately the souvenir shop opposite proved too much of an attraction for some! We ate our ship's packed lunch as we traversed the spit's enormous pine forests until we reached Nida. At the top of the large sand dune we could see the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, formerly Konigsberg in East Prussia. The pretty, wooden houses certainly looked very German! After a brief photo stop in the centre of Klaipedia, formerly Memel in East Prussia, we returned to the ship. I watched the sailaway from above the navigational bridge before updating this blog. Back in the Baltic Sea that evening, it was rather rough and after a few abortive attempts we stopped dancing with the passengers and gave an impromptu line dance demonstration. Luckily I had already taught Douglas Texas Waltz, Electric Slide, Just Because & Cowboy Charleston so we had all the common rhythms (waltz, foxtrot, rumba & quickstep) covered! After Elaine Delmar's Gershwin & Porter show, Jo announced no more dancing, so with Katie's cabaret on in Shackleton's lounge, I had an earlyish night and slept for nine hours.

As I was about to have breakfast in the Verandah restaurant the next morning, the Captain announced he was abandoning our planned tender operation into the Danish island of Bornholm because of the high seas. I had been down to escort the Best of Bornholm tour, but having done it previously it was no great loss to me. I rushed down to the entertainments office to offer another line dance class and my lecture on "Hitler & Putin: a tale of four cities". Unfortunately there was no room in the revised programme for the latter. I taught Slosh, Ziggy & Lindi Shuffle to twenty two people. I then listened to Gill Bennett talking about Intelligence in Foreign Policy Making (including spies like Roger Casement) and Martin Sixsmith talking about Philomena. The latter was about his book which had been made into a feature film by director Stephen Frears starring Dame Judi Dench & Steve Coogan. He showed a short video about the making of the feature film which moved me to tears! I lunched on burger and chips with Joyce and two other couples. I then slept for two and a half hours, my first siesta in four days, but missed the showing of the Philomena feature film. I listened to Ruth Bourne's second Bletchley Park lecture before dining on Steak Diane with five single ladies. We danced both before and after Michael Bacala's second violin extravaganza.

In Gothenburg, Sweden's second city, I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with Joy and Sally on the large oval table in the Verandah Restaurant. I then escorted my first choice City & Haga tour. We visited the Klippans (Cliffs) quayside and the Masthugget church before hitting the city centre. I got to see the monumental cultural complex of concert hall, theatre, art gallery and library for the first time. Given free time in the Haga period suburb, I climbed the steep stairway to the Skansen Kronan (Crown Castle) for glorious views. Back at the ship I lunched on macaroni cheese with Marion & Helen. I then slept for an hour and half before we left Gothenburg's outer harbour as it clouded over. The Captain's farewwell cocktail party was an enormous James Bond themed affair with an Aston Martin parked on the dance floor and two casino tables and a vodka martini station installed in the Discovery Lounge! I dined on surf and turf (lobster and fillet steak) with Joan, non-dancing Jenny, Gerald from Wales, Jane from Wales and another lady from South Wales. The latter being the only one to join me in my complimentary bottle of Argentinian Malbec. We danced before Elaine Delmar's soulful singing show with the Aston Martin having being moved back to Shackleton's Lounge. At the end of show time the orchestra and the cocktail pianist Clive swapped venues ready for Andy Jones' cabaret, so there was no more dancing to be had.

Saga Pearl II

Saga Pearl II

On the final North Sea day, I breakfasted on another cheese omelette with Pera from Falmouth. I then led 16 brave souls who had survived the vodka martinis of the previous evening in my fifth and final line dance class. I taught Texas Waltz, Ziggy & Party Samba. I then listened to Gill Bennett's final lecture on Red & White Russians whilst updating this blog. I lunched on chilli con carne and chips with the lovely Elaine & Ron. At their subsequent rumba class, I danced with the petite Felicity Kendal lookalike as her husband didn't dance much. I then slept for two hours before packing. I dined on the mixed grill with Sarah from Essex, June from Gloucester, Mary, Barbara from Cheltenham and Jean from Nottingham. I was able to share two previously opened bottles of Argentinian Malbec with my table companions. We then danced both before and after the final production show of 60s music.

Back in Dover, I breakfasted for one last time on two Eggs Benedict for the first time this cruise in the main dining room, with two ladies from Peterboro', one from East Yorkshire and a couple from Aberdeenshire. With luggage tag 'A' I was off the ship at 8:50 am and home by noon! A lady later wrote: "It was a great pleasure to read your account of the trip and brought back all the memories. Thank you again." Another lady later wrote: "I did enjoy the line dancing and ballroom dancing on Pearl 2. Thank you for all the dancing."

Score card:

9 Line dances taught.
9 Tours escorted.
8 Ports visited.
7 First choice tours.
5 Line dance classes.
5 Passengers hosted at dinner every evening.
4 Old PowerPoint presentations updated (Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg & Gothenburg)
3 New ports (Ventspils, Riga & Klaipeda)
2 New countries (Latvia & Lithuania)
1 New PowerPoint presentation composed (Riga)
1 Singles event attended.

Good points were:

  1. Outside twin cabin all to myself for one week.
  2. Open seating dinner in the main dining room.
  3. Taking five line dance classes.
  4. Free shuttle buses.
  5. Free car parking.
  6. Free launderette.
  7. Free ice cream.
  8. Free internet.
  9. Free water.
  10. Free fruit.
  11. Free wi-fi.

For the record ...

Line Dances Taught:

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

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)
 86 Cruises enjoyed worldwide
316 Different Ports visited
444 Tours escorted
774 Port calls