140625 Copenhagen

The Plan

Founded in the 10th century as a Viking fishing village, take the opportunity to explore this wonderful city at leisure.  Perhaps visit Rosenborg Castel and Park or Nyhavn, the colourful district dating back to the 17th century. FB,L,D

How the Day Turned Out

We’re back in Copenhagen.  There are lots of other cruise boats here too, and it’s time to realise how fortunate we have all been to see the beauty of Norway and to experience cruising. Our mileage in Norway was 1463km and on the cruise was 1952 nautical miles, or 3,615 km with a total of 5,078 km. It sure didn’t seem that far on the cruise.

We have a day in Copenhagen before being officially disembarked from our ship, the Eurodam. There are city excursions available but we take to the city in the shuttle bus to find a railway station.

While cruising out of Copenhagen 12 days ago, we noticed a freeway going under the ship, well, in a tunnel under the ship, and we want to check it out. Under the excellent directions of city guide, Alan, we find the Central Railway Station $28 is not a lot of money for a 35-minute journey in a modern, fast, smooth and quiet train under a harbour, across a bridge, and into the quiet town of Malmo in Sweden. Lorraine has a ‘nail’ fix-up appointment back on the ship at 3ish, so we split up with some staying to enjoy the great little town. There is hardly a tourist in sight.

After a great lunch in a little café, sitting in the city square, we wander around a little and then head back to the railway station and to the ship.

As it is the last night before disembarkation, we enjoy our final meal in the Rembrandt Restaurant – an Indian dish of curried tofu – it was nearly as good as Losena makes.

Packing is always a chore, but has to be done. Lyn finds out that if you leave home with a full suitcase, and visit clothes shops while on holiday, you are bound to have to sit on your suitcase to close it for the return home. Suitcases have to be outside the door by midnight for the great ‘exodus’ in the morning. The organisation to get 2,000 people off a ship, with their luggage, and on to transfers to the airport, hotels in the city, or train stations, is enormous. But with a little patience and perseverance, the job gets done and we are on our way through the city for a ‘drop-off’ and on to the airport. It is obvious that Copenhagen has a real need for freeways for ease of traffic flow. Perhaps that is what all the road works are about? Are they building underground freeways to ease the congestion? No, more railways.

After 5 hours, we are bound for Dubai and Melbourne for a well-earned rest. Well, for some of us work is rest after that fantastic tour through Norway and a calm cruise in the Baltics.

If you feel that you want to experience the same or a similar tour, give Lyn a call at the travel agency after her return from Switzerland on July 9.

Lyn and four others have flown to Munich and then train on to have 10 days in Switzerland. A daily brief will be posted here when they come through.

 

 

140624 Kiel

The Plan

A popular university town, naval base, and Germany’s largest passenger port, Kiel offers the perfect blend of urban charm. culture and history. FB,L,D

How the Day Turned Out

Kiel is another city on the northern coast of Germany. There are fare less large inter-city ferries here compared to Stockholm, Helsinki, and Warnemunde, but there is an abundance of ‘tall ships’ as an annual event of ships of years gone by is on and we have gate crashed their ‘show’. Their sails are not hoisted so they are under ‘motor power’ as they ply the harbour showing off their prowess of years long ago.

We take to the streets again and really, this is just another city with shops in it. Our first stop is to try getting on to the Internet to upload the daily post. Our efforts are without success at either portside or at the Starbucks café.

Cities become busy after 11:00am here, which means we are the early shoppers. But when the crowds turn up, I decide to return to the ship for lunch and some more rest.

Our departure from Kiel is very slow as there is much history and points of interest to be pointed out by our destination specialist on board. Various landmarks that record days of the past wars are highlighted as well as the factory where the engines for ‘our ship’ are manufactured. The many tall ships make the journey great sailing.

Outside the heads of the harbour, the accompanying pilot boat eventually collects the pilot who has been directing our captain through the channels of the harbour to open sea.

Tonight, we decide to turn up to the main restaurant without a booking and are directed to a table where none of the other 4 couples had met each other before. So the conversation is much about how many cruises we had all done and where each of us comes from. Being the only Australians, (did I call myself an Australian then? Tut tut.), amongst 8 North Americans meant we have a lot of educating to do. It would be nice if North Americans would learn beyond their own shoreline. The lady next to me had never heard of Penang, Malaysia. I wish I had asked her if she had heard of MH370. We had to leave just as the dessert was being ordered as ‘another’ dizzy attack has come on; not too dizzy that I cannot write this, thank goodness, but just need to keep still.

We are headed to our final destination for this cruise, Copenhagen, where we will have two nights on the ship before the long flight home to Melbourne, via Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. Lyn and 5 others travel to Switzerland to do a 10-day coach/train tour.

140623 Warnemunde

The Plan

In Warnemunde perhaps wander the Alte Strom (old Channel), with its various restaurants, pubs and traditional fishing boats. FB,L,D

How the Day Turned Out

We enter Germany and dock at Warnemunde, which is the port for Rostock. It is would have been part of East Germany before the re-unification of what is now the ‘backbone’ country of the European Economic Community. The port is quite busy and we are docked just at the mouth of the harbour. There is a train line passing close by where the Eurodam. Holland America Line has hired an eleven- carriage train, which takes those wanting to do the three-hour trip to Berlin for the day. We decide to stay put and see around the local area.

We take a suburban train into Rostock about 20 minutes away. The train is clean and new with no graffiti and no slashed upholstered seats, and it runs to time. We arrive at the station of Rostock and descend two levels to where we board a tram into a clean and neat, city centre. We head for the free Wi-Fi spot to update and be updated with what’s going on. One hour for the day is all we get before we are off line.

In a way, it is good to be delayed an hour as the town doesn’t get to be busy until around 11:00am. The shops are well presented and the paved streets are clean. After a few hours, it’s back on the tram to return to Warnemunde. Our tram gets held up as one of the passengers requires the attention of an ambulance. Fortunately, when we arrive at the Rostock station, there is an express train waiting to take us to Warnemunde and we experience the country train style that would be good to have in Australia – comfort, cleanness, silence and efficiency.

After lunch on the Eurodam, we take a walk along the canal of the beautiful seaside town of Warnemunde. It seems that this town is a busy seaside holiday centre for Germany. The main hotel we can see in the distance was the accommodation for the East German army for when the soldiers were sent to have a ‘holiday’ in the heavily phone-bugged building. Along the beach are many seaside beach houses. These are used by beachgoers for changing into swimwear and as a shelter while sunning the body.

As we are in Germany, the Eurodam puts on a special ‘German Bierfest’ complete with a traditional Oompah brass band for the ship’s guests to get into the swing of the local culture. There is lots of German cabbage, sausages and breads – all too salty for me, it appears.

We leave Warnemunde at 9:00pm bound for the port of Kiel.

 

140622 At Sea

The Plan

Today we take he time to relax on deck and make the most of your favourite pastimes on board the ship. FB,L,D

Some Information

Today, I am giving you a Ship Inspection Report of the Eurodam which we have called home for 12 nights.

The Eurodam is a member of the Holland America Line. There are 12 ships all ending in the three letters ‘dam’ and inevitably the main tee-shirt advertising slogan used is ‘dam good cruise’.

Eurodam weights in at 86,273 tonnes and is 936 feet long. Excuse the mix of measurement and metric, but that’s how they have been given to me. Around 2104 passengers can enjoy Eurodam and the services of the 929 crew. They all use 14 guest elevators, regularly.

Most of the balcony staterooms have an unhindered view. There are other ‘cheaper’ rooms with either no outside view or just a large window. (Why would anyone going on a cruise go for a no view room?) Each stateroom has king sized single beds joined together and a small couch. There is a TV, a fridge/mini bar, and an en-suite.

There are two Penthouse veranda suites on the ship. Each have a king sized bed, an oversized whirlpool bath and shower, an additional shower stall, a living room, dining room, dressing room, private veranda with a whirlpool, pantry, 1 sofa bed, microwave, refrigerator, guest toilet, private stereo system and floor-to-ceiling windows. Anyone for a ticket?

There are 5 restaurants on board. The lido is available almost 24 hours a day and is where most have their meals if they don’t want to ‘dress up’. It serves ‘fast food’ and lots of ice cream in a cone too. The Rembrandt is where many choose to have an a-la-carte meal in the evenings, although it also serves breakfast at a slower pace to the Lido, and some lunches. The Pinnacle Grill offers a level of elegant sophistication unmatched anywhere on the seven seas. The Tamarind offers a truly exceptional pan-Asian fare. We enjoyed the experience here whilst enjoying the departure from St Petersburg, and returned for a second meal as we departed Warnamunde. The mouth-watering dishes were worth returning for. It is at the Canaletto that the meals are designed around the authentic Italian experience and offers a variety of dishes to enjoy and share.

On board activities and entertainment include a casino, library, basketball and volleyball courts, 2 swimming pools, one with a sliding roof, duty free shops and two show lounges. Missing is a climbing wall, an ice skating rink, and a big screen TV on the outside deck.

The spa and fitness centre is a very busy location with lots of pampering packages being provided. There are also nail technicians, hairdressers, a Botox treatment doctor and an acupuncturist. The gym is very well equipped and you can view the port of entry as you do your exercises each morning.

At each port, the destinations’ crew organise excursions of varying length and interest. For example, ‘The Best of Tallin”, “Imperial St Petersburg”, “Countryside Cycling and A Stroll Through the Old Town”, “Ice Bar Winterland & Helsinki Highlights”, “Stockholm by Land and Water”, 91 separate excursions in all.

If you enjoy doing your own laundry, you can, but why be in your room crouched over a bath getting your hands tender from squeezing excess water? Or, you can purchase an unlimited laundry package to save you all that backbreaking evening toil.

To make the cruise all that much better, Holland America have employees from both Indonesian and the Philippines, to care for the kitchen, dinning room, and staterooms. They are all friendly and enjoy a happy conversation.

Internet connectivity, these days, is very important to most people from many nations. I would have to say that cruise companies have to deal with the monopoly that one company has on providing this service via satellite links. If 24 hour TV from BBS, NBA, and other international broadcasters can be provided, surely an efficient Wi-Fi could be provided free. Time Plans are provided but at USD.75 per minute for a short connection, which we would all agree, is extremely overpriced. You could take a Plan of 1000 minutes for USD250.00. So when the ship pulls into a port, the staff and passengers all pull out their phones and laptops to get on to free Wi-Fi.

In all, the Eurodam is the favourite of many die-hard cruisers. It is not a super-ship and so getting on and off in ports is not too much of a task. We have now enjoyed 2 cruises on a ‘dam’ ship and would recommend them, especially for your first cruise.

 Some photos around the Eurodam

140621 Stockholm

The Plan

Enjoy a second day in this magnificent city. FB,L,D

How the Day Turned Out

This trip has been one where sleep is done if short spurts of 3-4 hours maximum. We wake at 5:30am and there is a magnificent blue sky outside. These sorts of days are a special invitation to get out and enjoy the city that waits. We walk in warm jackets, as it is still very cold. The traffic hasn’t really started yet, but the sun brings brightness to the day and helps make our impression of Stockholm one to remember. It is a long way towards the city but the scene is enjoyable. We find the Royal Palace that has a great view across the busy harbour. A toilet is found in the poshest hotel we can find. (Why not walk in as if you own it, just to find a loo?)

We walk across a bridge to a neat little island in the middle of the harbour. The sun is warming but still not warm enough to get the snow jackets off. On the island, you can view the Tivoli (Luna Park style amusement park). There is one ride, or should I say ALL rides, would never get on my list of must doo’s. This particular ride keeps the riders upside down for quite sometime – scary indeed.

The harbour has to be one of the busiest around with the many large inter-country ferries to Estonia, Helsinki, and Copenhagen coming into and out of Stockholm as well as the many sightseeing hop-on hop-off boats dropping passengers at the various parts of this very picturesque city. We hop on one and get back to the Eurodam in time for a burger and chips lunch beside the pool, looking out over the harbour.

Our afternoon is spent in the spa and pool area enjoying the warmth of the sun shinning through the pool cover. Before dinner, we commence the departure from Stockholm back up the most picturesque harbour with many beautiful homes located in the vegetation of the islands along the way. There are a number of ferries leaving Stockholm at the same time and so we have 5 vessels in a row travelling in convoy. Dinner is again at the Tamarind Restaurant, with that special view. Tonight, we dine with Chris and Margaret (a new friend that Chris has befriended – we may have to ‘done the YTJ purple lanyard’ on her before we part.

 

140620 Stockholm

The Plan

Extending across 14 islands, Stockholm is considered one of the world’s most beautiful capitals. FB,L,D

Some Information

The Island City of Stockholm only became the capital of Sweden in 1634. It is now the country’s financial and business centre, with a population of around 1.4 million. Stockholm is well known for its many museums, including one of the latest, the ABBA Museum.

The entry harbour into Stockholm is extremely picturesque and the departure is just the same. There are many islands in an archipelago stretching to the ocean taking over 4 hours to pass through.

There is an old town, Gamla Stan, known as the “city between the bridges”. There are many cobblestoned lanes and winding alleys in so many places. Often, the houses seem to meet overhead. The narrowest of all, is less than 1 m wide.

How the Day Turned Out

We have two days in Stockholm arriving in the harbour around 3:30am but not venturing into Stockholm until around 8:00am. The ship makes a long winding trip very slowly manoeuvring between the islands along the way. Oh no! Another one of those days for me so I take up my spot leaning against the wall of the bed while Lyn ventures off into the city on another hop-on hop-off bus and boat.

Today is a public holiday from around 11:00am to welcome in summer, so many of the shops and activities we closed. I managed to get my balance around 2:00pm and ventured off to find a free Wi-Fi to publish the posts for the last few days. I walk around 3km returning to the ship around 5:30pm. I walk back with a guy from California who is on his 31st cruise in the last 3½ years. He is single, so if any ladies are out there that enjoy cruising ….

The show tonight is the HAL Singers and Dancers and they put on an excellent show – you would think you were at a stage theatre. At 11:30pm, I wake to a magnificent sunset. Then at 2:30am, I wake to the sunrise.

140619 Helsinki

The Plan

Shaped by its bays and offshore islands, Helsinki is one of Europe’s most scenic capitals.  You might wish to stroll among stylish shops and open-air restaurants on Esplanade Street and Senate Square, or explore the Rock Church, built entirely of stone. FB,L,D

Some Information

About 580,000 people live in Helsinki, and almost as many more in the little satellite towns that make up the Greater Helsinki area. However, there is the impression that Helsinki is a small seaport. The Scandinavian region has a history of mixed ‘ownership’, and Helsinki has had its far share of foreign occupancy. Helsinki was a Swedish outpost until the early 19th century, when it became the capital of the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland.

Finns love nature and treat their environment with a care verging on reverence. For a big city in an industrialised nation, Helsinki boasts a remarkable lot of greenery and space, with canoeing and sailing close at hand. Parklands abound in Helsinki giving city planners to develop a richness of space and a relaxed way of life. During winter, the waterways around Helsinki are frozen enabling skaters and rally drivers polish their skills on frozen lakes and cross-country skiers turn out en masse.

The weather is changeable and frequently alternates between sun and rain – similar to Melbourne. Spring and autumn are very short seasons, while winter is the longest. The average temperature is 22 degrees in June and -10 degrees in January. The currency is the Euro. Coffee is so popular that it could claim to be the national drink. I think it ranks number one or two in terms of litres per person per year in the world.

How the Day Turned Out

Our arrival into Helsinki is around 7:00am local time so we get to many low rocky outcrops that make up the many islands around the town. One has a ‘beach’ with beach huts along the shore, probably only used in the summer period. After breakfast, we join a hop-on hop-off bus tour around the city, which lasts for around 50 minutes. We get off the bus in the city centre and make a ‘split’; the ladies taking a canal cruise and I have some time to do some filming and also find a Wi-Fi to publish a few posts as we had no access in Russia.

The city is well organised and the traffic is kept to a 30kph in the centre. Lots of cafes line the streets, and there are many shopping malls. One main store, Stockmans, has a tagline, “if you can’t find it in Stockmans, you don’t need it.”

There is a flea market near the busy ferry region with lots of bargains in the artefact, touristy stuff and many fast food, outdoor, eating places within the market. Instead of making a church out of rock, there is a church carved out of a rock. A piano recital is happening there. Of course, Finlandia is one of the pieces being played.

Fortunately, the rain holds off until we are ready to board Eurodam for the next town we visit tomorrow, Stockholm in Sweden – home of ABBA.

140618 St Petersburg

The Plan

Your floating hotel sails at 6:00pm, giving you another full day to soak up the sights of St. Petersburg. FB,L,D

Some Information

The Peterhof Palace is 32 km west of St Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland and is the brainchild of Peter the Great.  Peterhof was severely damaged during World War II when it was occupied by the Germans, and was completely gutted in 1944 when they blew it up as they retreated.  The German invasion happened very quickly and so the sculptures were buried to protect them rather than store them in another location.  Pre-war photos and drawings were of invaluable help during restoration, which took several decades but has finally been completed.  The magnificent chandeliers and paintings are originals, which were carried away into safekeeping during the hostilities. The 150 fountains in the 1000-hectare park get drained for the winter, but today is sunshine and summer to enable us to enjoy their splendor.  Peterhof was just a summer palace and so there is no restored heating here. During the winter all the sculptors around the fountains are covered in timber devices to protect them during the severe weather that comes to Russia.

How the Day Turned Out

We arrive at St Petersburg to a very cold day; forecast is for rain, and strong cold winds. After breakfast, we go to the ‘marshalling yards’ to get sorted into our groups for the day’s excursion. While waiting, I feel this feeling that tells me that my day is about to be interrupted – again. We go through Russian Immigration and onto our bus. After 5 minutes or so, I know I have to get off the bus and return to the ship due to strong vertigo. I left Lyn to do the tour to Peterhof Palace where she has wanted to return to since we were here in October 2012.

As far as detail for today’s excursion, I cannot give you but will use some other information we have on the Palace. Enjoy the photos!

Our second day in St Petersburg, we spend on the ship. Lyn has a pamper package to ‘put up with’ and then a acupuncture treatment to hopefully ‘kill’ the tooth pain she has had for 2-3 months. It seems to work as the intensity has worn off somewhat.

It becomes apparent that we should book for the main restaurant earlier than we tried as the only times are 5:30pm (too early) and 9:00pm (too late). The Tamarind Restaurant has a Pan-Asian cuisine evoking the rich culinary traditions of Southeast Asia, China and Japan. It is mid-ship on deck 11 with a magnificent view as we leave St Petersburg. I have ordered ‘salt-free’ and I get the best meal I have had on this trip. I am not a ‘food writer’ – yet, but after that meal, I just may do a bit on the side, too.

On our return to our room, we stop off at the sports bar to watch the Australia Holland World Cup Soccer, which was attended by a number of Aussies. Great game and a good result considering. Then another dizzy hit me and we were back in the room fairly quickly instead of going to the show for the night – a Russian gymnast doing his thing.

 

140616 Tallinn

The Plan

Today you will have the opportunity to explore Tallinn and its historic Old Town. FB,L,D

Some Information

My thoughts on Tallinn in Estonia were not formed prior to our arrival this morning. I thought it was just going to be ‘another European city’ with churches and museums. And perhaps it is, but they were not prominent. Yes, visitors would use the spire of the Church of the Holy Spirit as a point of reference but it wasn’t ‘in your face’ dominant.

Tallinn has had a rather mixed history with the first traces of human settlement found in Tallinn’s city centre by archaeologists about 5000 years ago. In 1050 the first fortress was built on Tallinn Toompea.

Tallinn has always been an important port for trade between Russia and Scandinavia. It became a target for the expansion of the Teutonic Knights and the Kingdom of Denmark during the period of the Northern Crusades in the beginning of the 13th century when Christianity was forcibly imposed on the local population. The Danes ruled Tallinn and Northern Estonia beginning in 1219.

The city has had the name of Reval even way back in 1285. The Danes sold Reval along with their other land possessions in northern Estonia to the Teutonic Knights in 1346. This was when medieval Reval enjoyed a strategic position at the crossroads of trade between Western and Northern Europe and Russia. Then, the city with a population of 8,000 was very well fortified with city walls and 66 defence towers. After World War II started, Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, and later occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944. After the Nazi retreat in 1944, it was again annexed by the USSR. After annexation into the Soviet Union, Tallinn became the capital of the Estonian SSR.

During the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow, the sailing events were held at Pirita, just close to the centre of Tallinn. In August 1991, an independent democratic Estonian state was re-established and a period of quick development of a modern European capital ensured.

How the Day Turned Out

When we arrived in Tallinn this morning, the weather was fine but cold. The ship has many excursions available but we decide to take a hop-on hop-off 24-hour bus pass that enables to do 3 different tours with commentary in English. This a rather good way to see a city quickly and still get enough informative comments along the way. We pass many older buildings and many that have been done up since the Russian occupation and earlier.

The city contains 23% of parkland and we enjoy the lush green we had become accustomed to in Norway. Quite old trams are a means of transport in this city and so wide boulevards exist. The red double decker buses are very busy today as there are two largish cruise ships in port. The port is quite close to the old town centre. There are two distinct skylines here with a skyline of older buildings, and a more modern but not plentiful array of recently constructed buildings.

We take two hop-on hop-off bus routes. The first is around in the city centre which I cannot comment too much on as I dropped off to sleep. Not a good idea to pay money to go to sleep on a tour of a city. The second or ‘green’ route took us more out of the city to the suburbs and we pass the location where the mass choirs of Tallinn perform. These choirs often have 20,000 singers performing to audiences of well over 100,000. It was really the choirs that managed to get rid of the Russian occupation as the Estonians didn’t have an army but had had a history of large choirs creating havoc to the forces of Russian power. You see, armies don’t like killing large numbers of people singing songs together about unity for their own good.

It was good to see the suburban ‘backyards’ set in very green parklike areas. Lovely country-style roads in suburbia were experienced. The yachting competition of the 1980 Moscow Olympics was held just close to Tallinn old city. The competitors’ accommodation is now a Casino and accommodation building and is now a ‘talking’ point for the tour guides. After the tour, we walk through the old town browsing the gift and souvenir shops interspersed with many cafes and restaurants. I feel like a hot chocolate and some cake. We sit down in a sidewalk café and are dished a choc Latino with a large amount of coffee included. The cake turned out to be a small chocolate truffle. (I don’t know what a chocolate truffle is but now I know not to order one when I want a piece of chocolate cake).

We browsed a nice shop that was full of beautiful glass blobs with pictures of animals and face engraved on the back of them through which light is shone to enhance the drawing in the glass. There are many amber stone shops. I learn that a contained piece of amber is one which, when found, ‘contained’ an insect of some sort.

To return to the ship, we take a bicycle taxi. The guy doing all the work, recognized that we were ‘from a different country’ and gives us an extra tour of some of the parklands on the route to the ship. He speaks good English, but didn’t understand some of our Australian. (Our Estonian is extremely poor).

When back on the ship, we have some lunch and Lyn gets her nails repaired.