Baltic Cruise
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Baltic Cruise Baltic Cruise Document Transcript

  • Diary of a Baltic Cruise. By Jayant Doshi Saturday 31st May : We reached Harrow Leisure Centre by ten in the morning to catch our coach to Harwich. What had started as a group of friends booking a Baltic cruise, ultimately had exploded into a large group of fifty five, and many others who wanted to join in were disappointed. Two participants, who were keenly waiting for the holiday, had to cancel the cruise at the last minute. A few meetings were held to sort out all the issues, and prepare for all the excursions to ensure that everyone enjoyed the holidays to the maximum. Some thought that the cost of the excursions, on top of the cruise cost, was going over the top, while others felt that when you are visiting a place, one must make the most of it and see itall. The fear that the coach may not take all the baggage, were unfounded, and soon we were all set to leave on our cruise.One participant, who had to cancel for personal reasons, came to wish us a happy holiday, and brought a packed lunch forus all. The coach trip was pleasant as usual – lot of singing and jokes. We reached the port, and embarkation was smoothand swift. Once on board, while waiting for our bags, some walked around to explore the cruise ship, while others went tosee what food was on offer. By the time bags arrived, and after unpacking them, it was almost time for dinner. Dinnerwas not as expected, lacking spicy Indian items, the chef was contacted and arrangements were made for the rest of thecruise. Everyone went to the show, and as it had been a long day, the gathering after the show did not take place andevery one had an early night.Sunday 1st June: The first day on the cruise ship was atsea. I woke up early, and with a few others, did somewalking on the deck, followed by a dip in the hot seawater indoor swimming pool, relaxation in Jacuzzi, saunaand a shower. I found the shower so refreshing andpowerful, that every day I would just come to the healthclub for my shower. This became my routine through outthe cruise. The day was relaxing with some games ofbridge, leisurely lunch, the dinner and then the show inthe theatre. Being a large group we were allocated a largeroom where we all gathered and had some group games.Monday 2nd June : Our first port of stop was Oslo, thecapital of Norway which is famous for its fjords and Oslois located on one of these fjords. Our tour of the cityincluded a visit to the ski museum, depicting the historyof winter sports, and the Olympic village where thewinter Olympics took place. Our next visit was to Vigeland Sculpture Park – an amazing 80 acre park containinghundreds of bronze and granite statutes of human beings depicting the whole cycle of human life from birth to death. Thesculptures were amazing and it would take more then a day to see each sculpture and understand the meaning behind eachone. That night some changes were made in dinner table seating. I was placed on a small six seat table with two seats empty. That night I sat in the cruise cinema and watched a movie. Tuesday 3rd June: After the usual walk, swim and sauna, we got ready to tour our second stop on this cruise. Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, had its own charm. We took a different type of tour that took us through the city, and through the country side to show us some famous castles and a royal palace. The tour included a drive along the coast with many impressive manor houses. The weather was just right and the tours gave us an insight of cities which we might never be visiting. The world famous statute of mermaid in the ocean was right near our ship and we took photos to our satisfaction. On return from the tour many took a chance to use the swimming pool and jacuzzi. At dinner time we suggested to others to swap places so
  • that we can mix and know each other better. Our proposal did not get a positive response, but one couple agreed to join us for dinner. We had a good laugh and that gave us an idea. If others are not willing to swap, we can invite others to come to our table. After the show, a gathering of all participants and entertainment was at times half hearted and at times the late hour deterred many from coming. Wednesday 4th June: Today was a long day for us. We woke up quite early and got ready for our train journey to Berlin. Three hour train journey either way became very enjoyable with lots of singing and card games. The historical city of Berlin, with its cold war dividing wall, and the modern buildings, that have arisen on the ashes of the bombardment of the last war, were impressive. We visited the Checkpoint Charlie where the Americans kept a check on theirside of the Berlin city. We saw the point (Brandenberg Gate) where the Berlin wall was knocked down which heraldedthe end of communism and division of Berlin. As we came late from our day trip, we had to do with dinner on the topdeck.Thursday 5th June: Today was the day of leisure as we were at sea. Walking, swimming, sauna, and relaxed activitieswere the order of the day. Some bridge was arrangedwhile others had a nap. At dinner time we had twoinvitees at our table, and our table was rocking withlaughter. Introductions were made, and the talk wasmixed with lots of jokes and laughter. Other participantson other tables were watching our table with keeninterest. We started getting requests for invitation. Wecould not satisfy everyone, but each day we kept invitingtwo members from other tables.Friday 6th June : Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, thesmallest of the Baltic states, and under Soviet rule forlong time, was our next port of call. Having done citytours often enough, we decided to go for a different sortof excursion. Estonia, though very small in size, hasplains, marshes and forests with as many as 1500 lakes.We opted for a bog walk in the marshes. Manyparticipants dropped out with the thought of over fivemiles of walk, but it turned out to be an interesting and different sort of excursion. Wooden planks had been set to make apath on the marshland which otherwise was soft like sponge. Everyone enjoyed the walk through the marsh land, wherewatch towers were built to give a view of the beauty of the surrounding areas. On our way back we all came off the coachto have a leisurely walk through the city. At dinner our dinner table became rowdy with lots of laughter and demand to beinvited overwhelmed us. We managed to invite only a few, but came to know them well through introductions and chatintermingled with lots of jokes and laughter.Saturday 7th June & Sunday 8th June: St Petersberg, the imperial city of Russia was our next stop where we weregoing to spend two days. We experienced life in Russia in that our guide was not very helpful or co-operative, and some of our scheduled visits to cathedrals were cancelled at short notice because they were suddenly closed. While driving around the city, we noticed lots of roads closed suddenly and traffic that seemed to be worse then can be expected in such a city. In two days it felt as if we were going round and round in circles on the same roads. We never got a feel of real Russia as such. St Petersberg is famous for its imperial palaces, museums and cathedrals of Tsar era. We visited a few palaces, one museum and one cathedral. The palaces and cathedrals were destroyed during the war by the Germans, and lot of the contents were removed before the Germans came. From the extensive records which were kept of the decor these palaces have been restored to their original glory, and the furniture has been put back in their places. The palaces, specially the Hermitage, were
  • impressive with lots of gold used in the décor. Hermitage is one of the biggest museums in the world with over three million exhibits. It is so large with so many exhibits that it would take years to give justice to all the exhibits. We had a boat cruise through the city. The highlight of the trip was the folklore show which was impressive and gave an in-depth insight of the Russian culture. Next day also we toured some other palaces. A cathedral on the itinerary could not be visited because it was closed for some reasons, and when an alternative was arranged, that also was closed at short notice. We sailed that evening. Monday 9th June: It was time to turn round to head for home. Our next stop was the capital of Finland, Helsinki. Originally almost every one had booked the excursion for this place, but an idea floated around that there was not much to see, and on the day only fifteen of us were left.But this proved out to be the best day of our cruise. During the city tour we visited a church carved out of solid rock. Thechurch was amazing and the way the church was carved out of a solid rock mountain made it unique place of worship.After a tour of the city, we were taken to a family run horse breeding farm. We were given a little talk on how the farmdeveloped, and how the horses are bred. After that we were taken for lunch. Lunch was served in a grand family house,with vegetarians in one room, and others in another room. That was the best meal we were served in the whole trip. Afterthe meal we sat in the verandah or walked round the garden while having our dessert and our beverage. After the farmvisit, we drove through the country side to the historic little town of Porvoo. We had an opportunity to walk through thenarrow alleyways of this historic small town. Those who came on this excursion had the satisfaction of a wonderful day,and were full of praise when they met others.Tuesday 10th June:: We come to Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden, formed on hundreds of islands. The highlight ofthe tour was a visit to a royal palace and the Vasa museum which was fascinating. Flagship Vasa sank on its maidenvoyage and has been recovered and restored to its original structure. The museum was interesting in the way the ship hasbeen preserved and the way its history has been presented. The city is well spread out with lot of greenery. Our excursionalso included a drive through the country side and visit to a small historical town where we visited a cathedral. In theevening, we had booked a cocktail cruise while others took a trip to the ice bar. Our cocktail cruise was a totaldisappointment. Seating was poor and we could hardly see outside the boat, and what we saw was exactly what had beenshown during the day trip. After the wonderful excursion in Helsinki, this was an anti-climax and a disappointing end toour cruise.We left Stockhom for Harwich next morning. That afternoon the highlight was passing under the longest bridge thatconnects Sweden to Denmark. The next three days were at sea and every one made their own way of enjoying therelaxing time. Some caught up with their sleep, while others had morning walks, swimming and health club use. Duringthe day, some played bridge, others walked around the shops and lazed around, while others just rested. With such a largegroup it was inevitable that it would split into small groups; but somehow it felt as if a desire to mix and know others waslacking. We had an evening when everyone dressed inIndian attire, and photos were taken in abundance. Wehad one evening of wonderful entertainment. And ashome approached, the time to say byes came near.Promises of another such holiday were made and thosewho had made new acquaintances exchanged theircontact details.Overall, it was a wonderful holiday – relaxing yetinformative. We visited so many cities which we wouldnever have done otherwise. Each city would need lotmore then a day to appreciate, but something was betterthen nothing. Just a cursory glance at those cities was allthe satisfaction we got, but otherwise we may neverhave even visited those places. The cruise ship waswonderful, but compared to other luxury cruise ships itlacked some of the amenities. The cabins were quiteluxurious and comfortable, though I hardly spent anytime in the cabin.(email : jubhai@aol.com – www.jayantdoshi.yolasite.com )