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Baltic Blog Part 2

Baltic Blog part 2

Gdynia, Poland

was our first day of the cruise without something organised so we took advantage of our new found freedom and didn’t leave the ship until almost 11am. All aboard was 2:30 so this was going to be a whirlwind stop. Have you ever been to Poland, someone may ask. Why yes, I’ve been there for three hours.

We parked up in Gdynia which is probably the only place name in the world which starts with four consonants. It was 20 odd miles from Gdansk but we decided that we would give Gdynia a chance to enchant us and it did.

After a twenty minute walk, we arrived in the town on a sunny Saturday lunchtime and there was a motorsport event taking place in the form of road racing. We didn’t really understand what was going on. One minute a Porsche was on the track racing on its own and them a car doing drifts came out making a whole lot of noise and burning rubber like you wouldn’t believe. This excited Dianna more than I can share. Apparently she can do this but not in her Honda Pilot.

We spent a few hours walking around looking at some classic cars and super cars and visiting every souvenir shop in search of the perfect magnet. This was way more than we expected of a place spelt like this, and we returned to the ship in a mild state of elation. The crowds were a little much at times but on the plus side, there were very few Chinese.

Back on board we laid out by the pool as it was baking hot. We met a couple called Frank and Ally from Boston who were on their honeymoon. 64 and 59, they’d been married for three weeks. They first met six years ago through an introduction service. Ally paid $5500 which gave her 7 introductions and Frank paid $7000 which gave him unlimited introductions. Over $12,000 between them. They both said it was worth it but then again they would wouldn’t they.

Rostock, Germany

Our German stop was in the port of Rostock with is just a little further down the channel from the main cruise ship parking area of Warnemunde. There were two other ships at that location so we were relegated. One of the ships was the Regal Princess which is where Dianna and I met.

It was going to be sunny and 82 degrees Fahrenheit and I was happy to stay on board the empty ship and relax after a hectic week (this cruising lark ain’t easy), but Dianna was keen to get off so we plumped for Warnemunde over Rostock as it was a Sunday and lots of things would be closed in Rostock.

We disembarked at 11:30 and jumped in a taxi heading for the beach. Germany isn’t known for its beaches as their only coastline is on the Baltic Sea. Well what a surprise it turned out to be. The beach was fabulous and the town had bars and restaurants and shops aplenty.

I was in a uncharacteristically grumpy mood for the first hour and although the beach was amazing, it was also crawling with people which is never appealing to me. We found a spot and laid out for a few hours and I also had a swim in the Baltic Sea and I can report it was rather chillsome in the Baltics. Dianna did not take the plunge.

We were all the way to the end of the beach where a seawall separated us from a channel where boats entered the marina as well as ferries. Whilst I was in the water a ferry came in and altered what had been very calm water into something similar to a wave machine.

After leaving the beach we walked through the pretty town looking for somewhere to have a sharpener. We settled on a little German pub in a backstreet after which Dianna decided she wanted some traditional German food. After walking what seemed like several miles, we dined at a restaurant called Fabelhaft meaning fabulous.

Copenhagen, Denmark

After docking in Copenhagen at 11, we jumped in a taxi and headed to the centre of the city. Our driver was from Pakistan and a very interesting chap indeed. He suggested we visit. Copenhagen has 2 million people and quickly became my favourite of all the Scandinavian capitals. First up was Tivoli Gardens slap bang in the middle of the city with its beautiful gardens and theme park rides. I was feeling a mixture of bravado and foolishness which meant that the gyroscope ride looked quite appealing. Luckily breakfast had been a few hours previously so we didn’t vomit but it wasn’t pleasant I can tell you. Dianna loved it and laughed all the way through.

Next up was a tame looking up and down train ride but they always look tame when you’re not on them. Then we tried a ride designed for six year olds which was far more gentle before heading to the roller coaster. I can’t remember the last time I rode a roller coaster but it was probably 20 years ago. Suffice to say that it may be another twenty years before I do it again. I felt rather nauseous afterwards so we ate chips.

There were no queues to get on the rides and Tivoli Gardens turned out to be a very nice place indeed. I’d recommend it highly.

After Tivoli we found a couple of Lime scooters and took on Copenhagen’s streets heading for Nyhavn to pick up a canal boat trip. It was a very pleasant hour pootling around the canals with the final stop at the world famous little mermaid statue. I’d always thought it was in the middle of the harbour but it was actually about five feet from the shoreline. It’s fame is beyond all comprehension if you ask me. I’d say the Danes had done a great marketing job on this rather unimpressive landmark. Apparently she’s been vandalised a number of times including having her head chopped off with a hacksaw in 1964 by a chap who had been jilted. They couldn’t find the head so they had to make a new one. She’s also lost her arm. Trigger’s broom springs to mind.

After Peter Schmeichel I suspect the most famous Dane is Hans Christian Andersen who actually wanted to be a ballet dancer but didn’t cut the mustard so turned his hand to writing instead.

Our last few hours were taken up visiting the Botanical Gardens and a castle on the scooters before Dianna suggested heading all the way back to the ship on the Limes. I felt certain this was a terrible plan and that we wouldn’t be able to find a suitable “abandoning spot” for them – you can’t just leave them anywhere you see, but Dianna proved correct and we made it all the way back to the boat.

Oslo, Norway

We didn’t arrive in Oslo until midday and had until midnight so rather different from a normal cruise call. We got off the ship at 3pm and despite being here in May didn’t recognise a thing at first. I was trying to get my bearings when I realised we’d stopped in a completely different part of the city.

Oslo was far less scooter friendly than Copenhagen so we abandoned them for walking and strolled around to various places including the unimpressive royal palace. Then we headed for the water and found the opera house which was quite something. A very funky design almost as different as Sydney Opera House so we climbed to the roof and hung around there for a while.

We then scooted in search of food but found wine instead in a very pleasant courtyard setting. The Lime scooters were turning out to be a marvellous way of getting around. We headed back to the marina for food and ran into our fellow quiz team pals Cynthia and Paula so we all had dinner together off the ship. A great day with Dianna.

Sea Day

This was the only sea of this port intensive 14 country cruise and everyone was looking forward to it. The weather was fabulous, as it has been for most of the trip and as always, it wasn’t difficult finding things to do.

We’ve met some interesting couples on the ship but perhaps none more so than Jon and Tracey from Titusville Florida. In their seventies, they’ve been together for 50+ years but are not married. Jon was a navy pilot for 20 years before getting involved with the space shuttle program and he ended up as pilot of the sixth Challenger mission. The tenth Challenger mission was the one that exploded shortly after taking off. That was January 1986 and he was already scheduled to fly as commander on the next mission in March, albeit on a different shuttle. Instead he got a call from Ronald Reagan and was posted to Washington DC for three years to lobby for the space shuttle program to be continued after the Challenger 10 disaster. I got all this from Tracey. Jon is the quiet unassuming type. As for Tracey, she looked and sounded like a man.

Amsterdam

I’d only ever passed through Amsterdam so I was semi-excited about spending a goodly few hours there. Top of my list was the Rijksmuseum which despite my general apathy towards such places was actually on the bucket list. Dianna had other ideas so we headed for The Bulldog which apparently had a reputation.

After spending an hour immersing ourselves in the Bulldog experience, we were about ready for a museum. I’d like to think the Rijksmuseum was confusing at the best of times but it really proved so after bulldogging. We must have gone round the ground floor three or four times. We’d walk into a room with a sneaky felling of deja vu. We eventually broke the cycle and moved through the other floors.

One of the things I find so annoying about museums is the number of directional options you have. You arrive in a room and there are two or sometimes three different ways to go out of the room. It’s as if they want you to get a little discombobulated to keep you there longer. I prefer the Ikea method of herding, especially the arrows on the floor.

After escaping the museum we headed for the Red Light District and walked about there for a while before having a libation in the hotel Victoria which Dianna had visited before.

Bruges, Belgium

Having been here in May with the chaps, I knew better than to book the Bruges on Your Own ship tour costing $80 with fixed timings, when there’s a shuttle at the port which will take you to and from Bruges (10 miles) away for the bargain price of €20 with a half hourly service.

We were in Bruges by 10am and first up was a canal boat trip for half an hour. Bruges is a place that looks wonderful from the water. Mind you, it doesn’t look bad from land either. After the boat trip we headed for the church where Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child are housed. This statue featured quite heavily in the movie The Monuments Men.

It was up to the fish market which is the smallest fish market you’ll ever see. Then on to the Belfort overlooking the main square which featured in the movie In Bruges. I wanted to climb it as I’d missed out when there with the boys in May.

The queue was short but slow moving which made me curious. Apparently they only let 50 people at the time inside the belfry so it’s one out, one in. The stairways are incredibly narrow and there are 342 steps to the top and people have to pass one another. A frotteurists dream.

I was hoping it was going to have great views of the square however the high concrete windowsills were so wide that you couldn’t really get a good view down below. Following lunch in the square we wended our way back to the coach for the return trip.

Le Havre, France

There was some wonderful excursions from this port including Paris, the D-Day beaches and Monet’s garden at Giverny, but they all entailed at least five hours in a coach and as a result were very expensive. I said to Dianna that we could do France in future years and she accepted my tantalising offer of a stroll around Le Havre.

We left the ship about 3 after an active morning and boarded the reasonably priced shuttle to the centre of town. Saturday afternoon in Le Havre is not as mind numbing as you might imagine. It’s not a particularly pretty place with way too many concrete buildings and little greenery however it was pleasant enough to walk around for an hour and purchase a magnet and a kebab.

This was our last evening which most people spend packing but Dianna and I decided to dress up so it was a long black dress and a tuxedo. We were the only ones in formal attire.

We didn’t win a single quiz in the two weeks but I finished $500 up in the casino. We had a gamble with our two friends later on in the evening. Went to bed we hadn’t packed anything.

This cruise has been probably the smoothest waters I’ve ever encountered. I can’t remember the waves being any higher than a foot or so and the weather was superb throughout. To think we both brought an umbrella. Even Le Havre turned out to be quite sunny. I think the highest temperature we had was about 87°. Marvellous cruise covering 14 countries.

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