I’ve been back from my holiday for a few days now. Back to work Monday gone, so I figure it is time to update you all on our adventures.
We went on a Baltic Cities cruise with Cruise & Maritime aboard their Marco Polo ship. You can see the tabs below for our ports of call.
If you are thinking of going on a cruise, the Marco Polo is not for you (unless you are a pensioner and don’t mind other pensioners and dressing up in fancy outfits)! The ship was awful. The staff were friendly. Our cabin steward was really friendly. She was really good at her job too.
The ship was marketed as a 16+ ship and this is what attracted us to it. The no children policy was what we thought we wanted – turns out we were very wrong! We would’ve taken screaming children over pensioners any day!
The entertainment, the food, everything – was geared towards the older generation. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the average age was about 65 – 70!
The meal times were set and were 2-2.5 hours long. You couldn’t get water outside of these times. We had to purchase water from the mini bar – £2.20 for 750 mls! As this was a British ship, tea and coffee was available all day long. Too bad if you didn’t like, or drink, tea and coffee!
The ports themselves were lovely – the excursions not so much. They ‘neglected’ to tell us that there were shuttle buses at some ports and at others there was ready access to sightseeing and local public transport buses. Had Jamie & I known this we could have saved ourselves £174 in excursion costs alone.
Be warned that the Marco Polo is all about profiteering!
Anyway, that’s the bad stuff over. We did enjoy the ports of call and we did enjoy getting to see the sights too. Each tab is a port of call and I will talk more about it there.
On a side note, when we got home I showed Jamie a news story from BBC about the ship that I was able to keep from her before we went on the trip.
I went to go out on deck, but there was a barrier at the stairs. I went the long way round to the bistro and heard an announcement from the captain that there would be an emergency helicopter rescue and that is why the deck was closed. I had my breakfast and went down to the lower deck (which we called the anti-social deck or ASD for short) in time to see the chopper come by and winch down a doctor and supplies!
We got off our ship and hopped on the excursion bus and it took us round the city. One of the places that we had free time was at Copenhagen Cathedral. We had our wonder round and decided to venture further afield since we had an hour here. We found ourselves in one of the squares in the city and it just happened to be Eurovision village. Jamie and I thought it was pretty cool that we were there. We were overwhelmed with how Eurovision it was. It would have been remiss of us not to get some pictures here and also our customary magnet. We did both!
The squares are called Gammeltorv and Nytorv.
We were let loose here for about an hour too. We decided to go explore. We crossed Højbro bridge and as we did we noticed a sign on the river wall warning boats of an underwater statue. The statue is The Merman with 7 sons. It is apparently taken from Danish folklore. Sadly, that is all I know of it.
The city itself seemed quite good. The tour guide seemed to know his stuff. He took us around the city to the main parts of the centre.
One of these was St Mary’s Church to see the Astronomical Clock. The clock runs for a number of years before it needs to be replaced. The clock itself can give you all sorts of information from what the weather is to solar and lunar positions to the day you were born. I checked this and it worked out. I double checked with Jamie’s date of birth and it worked out too. The clock chimes at noon and it brings out the 12 Apostles, but we didn’t have time to stand and wait for it to happen. We had a few other things to see.
This was a Stasi prison. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see what went on there. The tour guide talked us through what went on at the prison. Jamie and I were kind of fed up of the pensioners at this point so held back a bit and looked after everyone else had. This picture is of one of the prison cells left as it was when it was liberated.
It is hard for my mind to comprehend that this was not a prison of aeons ago but of a prison from the 1960’s.
The inmates had very little time and room to themselves. They took us out to a courtyard where they would get limited exercise time every week and it was about the size of the cell shown in the picture. The East Germans had made postmarks so that when the inmates sent postcards they could be marked so the families wouldn’t know where they really were. You can read more about the Stasi Prison here
We were quite hungry by the time we got there so we found somewhere that was selling Bratwurst and Currywurst. We had tried Bratwurst already and knew we didn’t like it so we opted for Currywurst. I’m not sure if we were just hungry or if it was really nice. We enjoyed it so much that we got another one on our way back to the ship.
The town was quite picturesque. Just over the river and behind the main street this is what we stumbled upon. There were quaint, cobbled streets after each other. The houses were like none we had seen before. These are the types of things Jamie and I like about our oversees travels.
By the time we were done it started to rain and we still had some Haribo to buy for a friend of ours. We were both irritable at this point as we were still hungry. We got to the ship just in time for the most horrendous rain, thunder and lightening storm. I filmed it and you can see the camera shake when the thunder claps. It was scary but also very awesome.
On a side note, the guide told us that eduction for national and international students in Germany is subsided by the state. He told us they pay about €250 per semester. This was both pleasing and tempting to us as we love Germany so much. The thought of getting a masters degree for so little is very tempting – to the point that I had a look when I got back home.
One of the schools I looked at was offering a 2 year masters degree. The price per semester was €0. Yup, that’s right: nothing, nada, zilch, zero, nil etc… The classes were in English too. Bonus. The only issues we could foresee were a visa for Jamie and our American plans having to be put on hold.
We did 2 stops with the ship tour and then decided to do a hop-on-hop-off (ugh, another awful one) tour instead.
Our first stop on the ship tour was the Upper Town. Don’t get me wrong, the city was beautiful. We stopped short of Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral. We headed up there and it was so ornate. It is hard to describe it and show it in pictures. We got there to here the bells go off. They are not like anything we had heard before.
We noticed there was a stage and children singing. We weren’t quite sure why and then we realised that it was Mother’s Day there too. It was bitter-sweet for us. Great that we were there, but sad that we were there on this weekend. The kids did an amazing job.
We decided to head back to the shuttle bus and into port. I just wanted to show a comparison of the ships. The one on the right was our ship. Look how tiny it is!
We were warned of long immigration queues on docking in St Petersburg. Thankfully we did an afternoon tour so never encountered the 30-45 minute queues they said. I think it took us about 15 minutes to get through immigration. Here is my landing card. It’s official – I was in Russia! Добро пожаловать в Россию!
This visit is going to be tough to condense into 2 more paragraphs and pictures, but I will try. Maybe I will write a separate post about it.
The weather turned on us and it started to rain. We didn’t get to do much sightseeing. We wandered around and found ourselves in front of The Church on the Spilt Blood. It is so impressive. Very ornate – as is the case for most churches and government buildings in Russia. I was in total awe at seeing it. I just couldn’t figure out where to focus my eyes. The rain started a bit more here and we had to head off on our way.
We headed towards the Prospect and crossed the road to the Kazan Cathedral. It was very dark and dim inside. You weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. We sat there for about 45 minutes and a cat found its way to Jamie – of course! While there, we saw a huge queue in front of a painting. We weren’t sure what it was, but came to find out later that it was a painting of Our Lady of Kazan. People kiss and pray to it for guidance.
We headed back to the bus and stopped and got our souvenirs. The amount of Matryoshka Dolls there was incredible. They have them in just about every shape, size and colour!
We got back to the ship and had to quickly change to get back out for the ballet. We saw Swan Lake. Where else to see the ballet but in Russia!
She gave us a really good insight into St Petersburg. She took us to the Neva river. We then headed to St Isaacs Cathedral. After that we went to The Church on the Spilt Blood. We then headed to Palace Square. Here is where the tour split. Some of the tour went to the Hermitage (Jamie went) and a couple of us went to the Field of Mars and back round to Palace Square to pick up the rest of the group.
There is so much more to say. I shall leave it here for now.
I love, love, love his piece Finlandia. It was surreal to be there in the country where it was written and the country it was written about. I’m glad Jamie agreed on the yours to explore tour with the ship.
After we had a look round, we decided to head to the market. We were again tired and hungry at this point. Jamie had some salmon soup and I had sausage and chips. I think they were enough to fill a gap, but not as nice as we both liked.
We would have loved more time here. There was just so much right in the market and senate square to see. We just didn’t have the time to see it all sadly.
Ever since I worked in London, I have wanted to come to Sweden. I had toyed about with the idea of maybe visiting Gothenburg. I decided instead I would go to America. I didn’t regret that decision, but I was always left wondering what Sweden would be like. This was excellent because it was going to fulfil that wonder. Let’s not forget that Sweden is home to Abba and I love Abba.
We decided at this port that we would do a hop-on-hop-off since there was a shuttle bus into the centre.
We got there and there was a lot of traffic and we put this down to it being rush hour. We all of a sudden saw a ton of police. We come to find out later that the head of the UN – Ban-Ki Moon – was in town and this was why there was traffic.
While we were waiting for the first hop-on-hop-off bus, we had a little wonder around where we were. The parliament building and the royal palace was right there. It is another place had to describe or show in just one photo.
It was fun to see inside a Swedish one. We saw some water that was labelled old school flavours. We got some ice cream flavour. I can tell you now, it was like drinking plain soda water. It was awful.
We came across these crackers. The look huge! Nothing more to be said about them.