Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Nine-day Baltic Sea cruise worth the challenge

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia, built where Alexander II was killed by terrorist. (Photo by Walter Skupien)

As with any vacation, if we could do away with the first day and the last day, the adventure would be more enjoyable.

In our trips going camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, getting packed up and making that 600-mile trip the first day out, and sometimes the same routine the last day back, can be challenging and tiring.

Such was the case on our recent trip that included a 9-day cruise of the Baltic Sea wherein we set foot in Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden. On the way over, we had a brief stop in Paris, and on the way back, a stop in Amsterdam.

Getting there was an adventure, with a circa 6 a.m. takeoff from Gulfport, followed by a six-hour layover in Atlanta and then an overnight flight into Paris, which arrived too late to allow us to take our scheduled flight into Copenhagen (the flight schedule was too tight even if we had made it on time). We were booked on the next plane out and got there in plenty of time to board the Norwegian Star.

Our first experience with Norwegian was earlier this century with a trip out of New Orleans to the Caribbean. I liked the idea of “free-style” dining where one could eat almost anytime and select a “table for two.” On such trips, I like to be with my wife as opposed to a lot of other people.

After all, its “our” vacation, and we want to do it our way.

Even after booking the Star, I checked out some reviews. Most were good, some, not so. I found the accommodations to be great and the dining options exceptional.

I just didn’t have enough time to spend at the Java Cafe where my drink of choice was a vanilla latte. The first day I asked for a vanilla latte, but they didn't have it. I settled for a hazelnut latte. But then a day later, some vanilla flavoring showed up, so we were good to go.
The drinks were great as was the entertainment at that spot.

I had always wanted to visit Russia, so I guess I would say that the stay in St. Petersburg with the two-day tour was the highlight of the trip.

Linda always likes the museums and cathedrals with their artwork and beauty. I do too, but for this trip, I was also interested in the somewhat morbid side of Russian life. 

Did somebody say — Emperor Nicholas II and his family (the last reigning monarch who, with his wife, children and staff,  were assassinated); Rasputin, the mystical “holy man” who was venerated by Nicholas II and his family. He was also murdered.

And then there was Alexander II who was killed by a terrorist. The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood now sits at that location.

To wrap up the so-called morbid aspect our trip we visited the Peter and Paul Cathedral where all the czars since Peter the Great are interred.

St. Petersburg is just too great a city to do it justice in two days, but Linda and I tried covering as many of the sites as we could on our tour.

This is just a tidbit of what we'll cover over the coming weeks.  

Other topics will include a bit about Warnemunde, Germany; Tallin, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden.

I’ll also hit on traveling with a challenged wife (and a husband who was challenged), the different dining experiences on the ship and other tidbits that may crop up.

Next post: June 2, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

And a nice day to ya'll

"God morgen"

"Guten Morgen"

"Tere hommikust"

"Доброе утро"

"Hyvää huomenta"

"God morgon"

The phrases all spell, according to an internet search, "good morning" in various languages of countries that we will be visiting soon.

They phrases are, from the top, 








Traveling to one country and learning a few phrases isn't that bad. But when one is going to hit six new countries, learning the language is really a challenge.

Maybe we will be up to it.

It is expedient that one learn at least a few phrases so as to not be totally out of the loop in conversing with local natives.

Our upcoming trip will preclude blog posts for the next couple of weeks due to being in a place that doesn't have internet or is at a price that I don't want to pay for the connection.

Next anticipated, scheduled post: May 26, 2015