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  The Chatter Box : Travel
Baltic cruise. by Ken Dunn on 19 September 2018 3:45am
My wife and I recently got back from a cruise in the Baltic with P&O on the Aurora. I could go into lots of details but will give a shortened version of my travel diary.

We had good weather for most of the cruise with some light rain in Kiel (Germany) and an overnight storm after leaving Skagen (Denmark).

In order we visited: Copenhagen (Denmark), Helsinki (Finland), St. Petersburg (Russia), Tallinn (Estonia), Riga (Latvia), Kiel and Skagen. Every port had something different to offer and my personal favourites were Riga, where my wife and I had the loveliest latte coffees with a large shared chunk of strawberry cheesecake, and Skagen for its simplicity and lovely buildings.

We were away for 14 days and the on board entertainment was excellent with the Headliners being my favourite performances. They did at least 5 superb song and dance shows on various themes. Also of note were a trio of male singers called The Base Tones with the highlight of their performances, for me, being their rendition of Blue Moon. Other entertainment we saw on board was also very good.

Many daytime activities were also available on board but we were too busy/old to find time to participate in these although I considered the deck quoits a couple of times.

As with most cruises the food was excellent with dining options available in various parts of the ship. Later in the cruise we tended to use the more relaxed buffet option in the Horizon Restaurant on Deck 12 for all meals other than the evening one which we took in the Alexandria Restaurant with waiter service.

Our cabin was well kept and roomy with the Bridge and Excursions channels on TV very useful for information on the ship's location and places of interest in each of the ports.

Before the start of the cruise and at the end we drove to and from my sister's near Southampton where we experienced two other tourist attractions. The first was my brother in law's garden! Yes, the flowers, vegetables and fruit he had growing in a smallish plot were superb. The other attraction was a visit up the Spinnaker tower in Portsmouth with a superb view over the town, the dockyard, the port and the sea to the Isle of Wight. We even saw the Waverly paddle steamer come in to dock below the platform we were on.
I came back from the cruise with a tummy bug and found out today (26 Sept.) that it was E-Coli 157. Fortunately my and the ship's good hygene has prevented spread of the bug. My wife didn't have a similar problem and I didn't hear of anyone else on board with it (although when I had the problem on board I didn't tell anyone - that's not something you'd want to publicize). I've to go for a blood test tomorrow for some follow up checks.
Re: Baltic cruise. by Lounge Trekker on 26 September 2018 1:30am
Interesting account of your Baltic cruise, Ken, thanks for sharing it with us. I'm glad your bout with E-Coli didn't become a ship-wide epidemic and a world-wide news event!

I would be interested in hearing more, particularly your visits to some of the ports. They are all quite exotic from my perspective and the differences between the cities must be vast. Did you get much time on the ground?

I don't know what question to ask first. Please tell us more!
Re: Baltic cruise. by Ken Dunn on 26 September 2018 2:48am
Hi LT. It's nice to see someone reads the Travel section!

We visited Copenhagen, in Denmark, first and the Queen's residence was interesting as it was in an open octagonal square (if you get my meaning). The Danish guardsmen were in blue and black with white crossbands and unlike Buckingham Palace they were in the open and free to speak to people although, with their professionalism, they only spoke to keep order or to say that it was OK to take a photo. The centre of the city was a market stall area and it was at the end of a canal which ran alongside some beautifully coloured buildings. Each building was a different bright colour and along the whole road this was quite spectacular. Langeline (The Little Mermaid) was quite busy with tourists but I got a couple of good photos but personally I thought the large bronze? bear nearby was more spectacular. I tried to learn some Danish before going but the only words I could remember were 'mange-tak' which means thank you.

We went to Helsinki in Finland next. Our excursion here took us round coastal and island areas and to the Sibelius monument. The guide was very informative but I can't remember much of what was said except that we also passed a black super sauna building that overlooked the seaside. The city square was interesting because besides the usual statues and architecturally notable buildings there were lots of bicycles about, either parked in lines for public use or being used by groups; a large group of cyclists being in the square at the time.
In the afternoon I went into the city myself to do some shopping. I'm sure my wife was very disappointed not to be with me! Our daughter had wanted a Moomins mug and we'd heard that Finnish chocolate and coffee were of note. I used my navigational skills to find shops selling all of these items and perhaps something else I can't remember, and after less than 2 hours I was on the shuttle bus back to the ship from near the post office where it was parked. I had purchased some stamps for my collection at the post office.

Our next port of call was St. Petersburg in Russia. We had 2 days there and on the first day I did my own excursion called 'Emperors and Assassinations'. This turned out to be a walk round the interesting parts in the centre of the city and there were gardens with statues and fountains, canals and architecture to be seen. The most interesting building was the 'Church of the Spilled Blood' (I'd recommend Googling this and you'll see what I mean). Besides the the spectacular external facades, this church has 7,000, yes seven thousand, square meters of mosaics on the internal walls and ceilings. On the way back to the ship we passed some sights I thought would have been worth stopping at.
On the second day we saw those sights on an assisted excursion. The sights included, the Winter Palace, a submarine, miniature Sphinx, a river with a gold leaf? decorated bridge, a large square with an architectural feature that reminded me of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and two sailing ships, one of which had been converted to a restaurant.

There's more to St. Petersburg. It was a very warm day and there were 2 spaces free on the minibus so I left my jacket on one of the seats out of the way. We sailed from St. Petersburg with my jacket still on the seat! Fortunately, the only thing in the jacket was a Guernsey pen.

In Tallinn the excursion was based around the old town where the best part was the viewpoint over the red rooftops of the city with a few spires here and there to add to the scene. The reds of the roofs and the fine weather made a great view to admire for a while. A slight problem here was the cobbles, a difficult street surface to negotiate with a wheelchair, but in saying that it was easier for my wife than trying to use her three wheeled walker. Around this area was the post office which was shut so the souvenir shop had to be explored for my 'Baltic Cruise Project' (one card to myself from every port we visited). We eventually got postcards posted from the tourists market near to the ship at the dock.

Riga, in Latvia, was my favourite city of those we visited on the cruise. As a place it wasn't very different from the others but there was just something about it that appealed to me. The first souvenir shop that we came to had a postcard deal so we said we'd call in when returning to the boat. Besides seeing some of the city, a project was to get a replacement jacket for the one I left in St. Petersburg. Every street that we looked down, while trying to find the shops, seemed to have a restaurant or a pub or both or more than one! We eventually arrived at a square (this one wasn't square either!) and there was an accessible cafeteria with outdoor seating that we got ourselves into. We ordered what looked like a lovely piece of cheesecake and two latte coffees and enjoyed the rest for a while. In this square there were bronzes of an armadillo, a dragon, an owl and a unicorn and I took photographs of all four. On the way to this cafe we spotted the famous architectural cat on the roof of one the buildings and I stuck my head into a museum to check it out for a visit. When we had finished our coffee I asked the waiter the way to the nearest shops and he directed us down the only street we hadn't looked. At the shops, another different shaped square?! with a lovely flower bed, market stalls and main shops round about. We got our Riga souvenirs here and in the New Yorker I got my replacement jacket and a belt/strap to secure my wifes left foot on to the footrest of the wheelchair. More photographs ensued. On the way back to the ship we stopped at the first souvenir shop and sent our postcards via the assistant and the postcard, when it arrived home, had the loveliest set of 4 floral stamps very nicely postmarked.

In Kiel, it was a long walk to the start of the shopping area but fortunately there was a Tourist Information place near to a main post office so the postcard project was easily dealt with. Moving further into the high street we saw a cafe where we had delicious coffee and chips shared before the stroll on a souvenir hunt. I don't like shopping but made the most of it trying to find a Kiel t-shirt (none on this street) and souvenirs which we found in a 1 Euro shop (everything 1 Euro unless priced otherwise). The weather had turned damp and grey so after a quick look at a big church we headed back to the terminal building where I got their last XL t-shirt!

Our final port, except our home port, was Skagen in Denmark. I'll mention now that we passed under a famous bridge that I think links Denmark and Sweden when sailing down either the Skaggerak or Kattegat (two stretches of water between Denmark and Norway/Sweden), There are islands between Denmark and Sweden and the bridge uses these for 'hopping' between the two.
In Skagen (pronounced Skaan) it was a fine but windy day and we walked the length of the 'high street' but only small size t-shirts were available. A stop for two latte coffees cost us 78 Danish Krone - just under £10 sterling. We walked to the northern shore admiring the houses - yellow walls, white window frames and red roofs - , getting a bit of a surprise when we came to one that was mostly black. We also saw a famous landmark; a large crane type thing that may have been used for loading Ships many years ago. The sand here was extensive and are famous for moving significant distances in one year. The sands are at the northern end of Denmark and would be susceptible to being pulled by the sea as it ebbs and flows between the Baltic and the Atlantic or North Sea.
My postcard project was completed at the small terminal building where there were souvenirs and postcards on sale. At 27 Danish Krone for a postcard stamp to the UK I thought the equivalent of 3.50 Pounds Sterling a bit much, but then again I won't be sending myself a postcard from Denmark every day!

I stopped to watch Mr P on Channel 5 (9pm Thursday night - see the topic on this in Blathering On) but have now finished this recollection.

Sorry, not quite finished. On arriving back at Southampton my sister and her husband picked us up and the next day as a birthday treat for my wife they took us to the viewing platform up Spinnaker Tower, an enormous tourist attraction in Portsmouth. The weather was perfect for the view; out over the Solent to the Isle of Wight, over Portsmouth in the other direction to Portsdown Hill and down to the berth where the Isle of Wight ferries were berthing regularly. Near this berth we also had a bird's eye view of the Waverly paddle steamer come in to dock.

If you have any questions about the holiday please ask, but they may not be answered immediately.
Re: Baltic cruise. by Ken Dunn on 28 September 2018 7:25pm
That's the cruise report finished and proof read a few times. I hope you enjoy sharing in our experience.

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