|Daithi O Se and his bride Rita|
Old fellas where I come from used to say sleeping while at sea was like being in your mother womb, moving over and back. If this is the case it’s no wonder I was 2 weeks late coming out back in 1976, because I loved it. Herself must have been dropped at a doorstep by a stork!
This cruise we were on was a 12 days outing. First stop was Berlin (Warnemunde ). We are sold a few pups on this trip and this was one of them. Having a degree in history I was really excited about going to Berlin. The ship docked in Warnemunde which is 120 miles from Berlin! The shore excursion was $295 each for a 3 hour train journey there and 3 hours back, with lunch included (woohoo for the lunch).
We can fly from Dublin to Berlin on a weekend of our choice and stay for 3 nights for the same price, so we stayed in Warmundes for the day. A nice small German coastal town, the highlight of this part of the trip for us is we brought some shampoo here (this memory will stay with us forwever)!
Next stop was Stockholm, now this is a really nice place. The city is modern and its leaks a bit of soul, but still is beautiful. The people are very friendly and the city is one of the cleanest I’ve ever seen, even their river runs clean (quick, call the bards I feel a song coming on). Sweden by the way is not in the Eurozone, which I didn’t know.
Helsinki in FInland which came after it was similar; being under the control of Sweden for 600 years will do that. There seems to be no animosity towards the Swedish though, it’s a different story when it comes to the Russians who ruled there for 100 years. We decided to take the sightseeing tour busses as opposed to the shore excursions arranged by the cruise, how seem to cream from all these outings. Now if you’re the type of person who likes everything done for you at a price then go for these, but if you’re like me and like a bit of value have a look around.
I had never been to Russia; all I had known about her came from history books and movies. I had been to Belarus about ten years filming a TV show and was basing my expectations on that.
We were in St. Petersburg for two nights. There are two ways you can enter Russia while on a cruise. Get a visa from your Embassy (which could take a year and a day) or get on one of the shore excursions, yes, my old friend ‘the shore excursion’. So this is what we did. The first night we went to see Swan Lake by the Russian Ballet company. I had never been at a ballet before and didn’t really know what to expect.
The place was packed with people like myself waiting to see the brilliance of Tchaikovsky and what it was all about. This had to be the highlight of the trip. The live music of the night was played by the St. Petersburg symphony orchestra. One thing bugged me though; the lead male went off with the wrong swan! Even as an old married man that I now am, I could see at least 3 better looking swans than the one Siegfried picked.
The following days we went on a ‘walking tour’ of the city. I say ‘walking tour’ because we were in a bus most of the time and walked around ½ mile. It was supposed to be 3 ½ hours of walking and we spent 40 mins in a shop as part of it. The tour guide was funny though. We were given headsets so we could hear her as we passed different places. These headsets came in a clear plastic bag. She said that times are tough in Russia these days and we were to return the headsets in the same plastic bag. She said anyone who didn’t have the plastic bag at the end of the tour would be sent to Siberia for 6 months hard labour, she said she was joking and everybody laughed, but I had my doubts! She had a stare in her eye like a dead hare. She could have been serious.
The colours of the buildings really stand out here, there is a lot of gold to be seen. Whoever painted this city weren’t afraid to go through the Colour catalogues in Home Depot!
We left St. Petersburg in the evening sun and headed for Tallinn in Estonia. This small and wonderful city is like a movie set. We would really have to see it to believe it. It is like a scene out of Heidi, for those who remember her with her head of long blonde locks. I would love to see Tallinn at Christmas time.
We gave a few days at sea which I loved. There is something about standing on the high point of the ship and doing a 360 and seeing no land, the straight line of the horizon between sky blue and sea blue. I was doing a lot of walking around the ship, 30 times around was equal to 10km. I was really pushing myself trying to lose a few pound.
I’ve a tux fitting for the Rose of Tralee next week. I probably pushed myself too hard. I landed back to Amsterdam and I was stiff in all the wrong places!
One thing if you’re doing a cruise beware of the sharks them may not all be in the water though!