Sunday, May 23, 2010

From the Baltic

From the Baltic Sea

We have had the most amazing cruise in the Baltic Sea.

Looking back at our time in Greece there is no doubt that the Greek islands are beautiful. As mentioned before, we loved Paros and Mykonos, but Santorini was a disappointment. Although it is beautiful it is overrun with tourist, which included us. There are the white houses with blue roofs overlooking the ocean, but then that is Greece and you can see the same of other islands without the hordes of tourists. If you are visiting the islands, one day in Santorini is enough with more days on Mykonos and Paros would be ideal.

We celebrated Colleen’s 70th birthday on Santorini. It was a quiet affair in a wonderful setting with the sun setting on the Mediterranean. It was an honour to be there to celebrate it with her.

We survived the Greek ferries. Just!
As I may have mentioned they are really not designed for people with luggage. We had to struggle with our bags, lugging them up and down stairs, as well as just trying to get them on and off the boat. Thank goodness for Dennis and Ewan who helped everyone out. Thank you so very very much Dennis.


Yes, we did visit the Red Light district. I’m sure Angela won’t mind me telling you that she was so amazed by the girls in the windows, she had to get a better look and stared into one of the windows, only to have the girl tap on the window giving her a fright. We all laughed afterwards, including Angela, who then decided we should go into a sex shop. I won’t go into details but that was also very entertaining and educational.

The Costa Luminosa.

Boarding took a bit of time but when we finally got onboard we all went off to discover our new home for the next 12days. The Luminosa is a big ship with 2,826 passengers who all speak a different languages. We have calculated at least 7 main languages. Italian, French, Dutch and then English. So you have to listen to announcements in Italian, French and Dutch before hearing the message in English. It is part of the experience and makes us appreciate when we find someone who speaks English.

I think we all appreciated our 1st day at Sea, just to get familiar with the ship and relax. We discovered that poor Jenny has been walking on a fractured ankle all this time. The doctor on board who is apparently a lovely Italian lady who told Jenny to stay off her leg and has started her on a blood thinner to make sure she is not at risk for any DVT’s. The insurance company did not feel the needed for her come back home immediately. Jenny and Warren are making the most of the cruise and are plodding on. I know they are very happy they could stay on.

Our first day of rain. Can you believe it?
For those of us who have travelled from Perth it was our first day of rain in over 60 days. It was such a pity as it was our day in Copenhagen. Having been to Copenhagen before we were very disappointed for everyone as it is a fairy tale city, with enchanting canals and elegant buildings.

The hop on and hop off bus was a saviour. Although we could not wander about we were able to get a glimpse of the home of Hans Christian Anderson.

We had a day of fog the day after Copenhagen. It was kind of eerie to hear the fog horn and to not be able to see anything.


Stockholm did not let us down. The sail into Stockholm is breath-taking, there are no other words for it. The Luminosa sailed in so quietly we felt like we were gliding between granite islands covered with evergreens and birch trees When we eventually spotted Stockholm we were greeted by impressive spires and laced homes. The city stretches from Maleran Lake to the Baltic Sea, built on an archipelago of 14 islands connected by at least 40 bridges.

Stockholm is a walking city. The highlight being Gamla Stan, the old town. Many took the hop on hop off bus with the harbour cruise. It was maybe a bit on the expensive side but from all accounts well worth it. I think most of us got to see the changing of the guards. This happens every 2 hours with the main ceremony at midday. The guards are much more relaxed than their British counter parts. One of the guards was clearly enjoying the attention from some young tourists, lovely young girls of course. In saying that there is clearly a no go zone around them, so no cuddles.

The highlight, at least for Ann, Yvonne, Janice, Ewan and myself was the visit to the Vasa Museum, which houses the ship Vasa. The Vasa sank on its maiden voyage in the bay of Stockholm in 1628. It was discovered in the 1960’s and was refloated fully intact. It is a work of art. A definite most see if you are in Stockholm.

As Robin kept saying the sail out of Stckholm is something he will always remember.


In Helsinki Les, Cheryl, Robin, Lorna, Colleen and Elaine explored the countryside of Finland, visiting the picturesque village of Porvoo.
Helsinki however is a non-event really. The only attraction is the Rock Church. A church carved out of granite rock. It is an easy city to get around and is tourist friendly. The is an inexpensive Tram which does a wonderful circuit around the city, stopping at all the tourist sights.

St Petersburg.

The sail into St Petersburg is un-impressive. A reminder of the cold war era with military outposts and forts throughout the bay. It is a big industrial city with industry all along the bay as well. In saying all this, the wealth of Russia is showing itself with construction everywhere. There are 4 new passenger terminals in the port with plans for several more to accommodate 16 ships per day Imagine 16 ships with even just 1000 people, that’s 16 000 people in one day! They will have to so something about their roads ASAP if they want to accommodate that many people.

Traffic was an issue for every tour, but once at our destinations we were all in awe. I think the best tour all around was the tour of the city, the Neva River canals and the Hermitage. It was along day but amazing. Margie even had the chance to go to the ballet.

The famous Hermitage is one of the best art museums in the world, rivalling the Louvre.

The Peter the Great’s Summer Palace is an attempt to copy the Louvre. It does not quiet achieve it but the gardens and fountains certainly surpass the grandeur of Versailles’s and are really breathtaking.

Catherine’s Palace is also impressive, particularly the Amber Room. A room completely covered with Amber. The story goes that during WW2 the staff of the Palace hide the amber as the German’s were coming. Unfortunately some of the Amber was lost (stolen) before they were able to restore the room.

The one thing that is most evident is that St Petersburg’s is recovering from the Soviet era. With increased funding the wonderful palaces and buildings are slowing being restored.

Estonia- Tallinn

I think everyone loved Tallinn. Having gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Tallinn has embraced it’s medieval history, clearly understanding the value of it’s medieval ramparts and winding streets. Meander the old town you encountered people dressed in period customs selling their wares as you would imagine they did so in the 14th century. It was a magical day.

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