I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Baltic Cruise - May 2017 - Memories of our cruise

The beautiful Celebrity Eclipse


The route we took


So where shall I start.  Let me go back a couple of years.  Lots of our friends have cruised and said that we should do it.  Neither Richard nor I like it when it is hot so that ruled out quite a few destinations so we decided that one day we would do a Baltic cruise.  Oh yes, and Richard was worried he would be bored!

Forward to 12 months ago when Penny and Jim said that they had booked a cruise to the Baltic.  Of course, I jumped in and said can we come!  We gave them thinking time and they came back that on the proviso that I didn't spend all my time blogging they would love us to join them.

We booked the cruise through The Cruise Specialists and even managed to get a cabin right next door to P & J - result!

Fast forward to May this year.  I started to panic that I wouldn't have the right clothes blah, blah, blah!!  This was our first cruise and even though we had gone through everything with a friend who had done the same cruise on the same ship last year, I was still anxious. However, all the tours were booked, the taxis were booked, all our paperwork was in order and I had got a long list of useful things to take which I had got from the Celebrity Cruise Addicts Facebook page.  It even had cable ties on it!  I had also joined Cruise Critics.

So the great day dawned and after a fiasco with the taxi company we arrived at Southampton.  My first view of Eclipse actually made me gasp!  We were going on that???  I had seen cruise ships from a distance but not that close.


The queue was very long for check-in but eventually we were at the desk and getting our sea passes.  Through security and then the long haul up to the ship.  Champagne on arrival and then to our cabins (or state rooms as Celebrity like to call them).  I had seen photos of the cabins and certainly wasn't disappointed at all but the bathroom was much better than I expected.  We did a half unpack and then went exploring.

I can't say enough how amazing Eclipse is.  The Atrium is magnificent and definitely a wow factor.  At each turn there seemed to be another bar - could we sample them all??


Our first dinner in the main dining room, the Moonlight Sonata Dining Room, was excellent.  We shared our table with four ladies - one of whom is a widow but the others had husbands which, for one reason or another, couldn't or wouldn’t travel.  This cruising is a regular occurrence.  Our waiter, Magzie, soon learnt our names and our fads!

We had planned to go to Brugges from Zeebrugge but I was having problems with my right knee and it had got worse over the weekend so I went to the ship's doctor who gave me some anti-inflammatories and told me to rest for a few days.  I was rather disappointed not to be getting off the ship but it was for the best.

We then had two days at sea to really get our bearings and wind down a bit.  One day would have been better as I wanted to get on with the sightseeing!

Stockholm It was the sail in to the city that was so amazing through the 30,000 islands and islets of the Stockholm Archipelago.  


Stockholm itself was lovely.  Our first port of call was the Vasa Museum where we saw the remarkable ship Vasa who had sunk on her maiden voyage in 1628.  To see this complete ship that had sunk almost 400 years ago in one piece was awe inspiring.


Stockholm city on the island of Gamla Stan was founded in 1252 so parts of it are very old.  Lovely cobbled narrow streets with lots of alleyways.  The main square was typically European if I dare say it!  However, each city that we visited has its own very unique square.

The guide we had in Stockholm wasn’t the best but we got to see everything that was on the list.  I would have liked to go into the Royal Palace but there just wasn’t time.

We watched the sail away from Stockholm in the Oceanview restaurant on the port side so that we could see the other side of the waterway.

Memories - The amazing sail in and sail out through the archipelago.  Vasa.  Big ice creams in the square!

Tallin.  Tallin had been on my bucket list for many years so I was really looking forward to seeing it and I wasn’t disappointed 😊  It is a city but very small.  1.3 million people compared with 2.2 million in Stockholm.  The residents of Tallin had it hard under the USSR and are now so happy to have their country back.  I felt that there was a certain bounce about the city!  Again, there wasn’t enough time as I would have liked to mooch a bit.  20 minutes free time wasn’t enough.

Memories - Seeing the roofs from the vantage point.  The old walls.  The Town Square. Catherine's Passage.  The fact that you can get so close to the President's Palace!


Our guide in Tallin was very good and obviously loved her home.

St. Petersburg!  I’m going to cover that in another blog.

We needed our sea day after five days of sightseeing and took the opportunity to stoke up our energy banks.

Warnemunde and Rostok.  We had decided not to go to Berlin from Warnemunde – 2 hours in a coach and then a whistle stop tour didn’t appeal to any of us.  However, I would like to visit Berlin one day.  The ferry ride up to Rostok was interesting and I’m glad we did it.  The town itself had been badly damaged in WWII but has been sympathetically restored.  The main square was much bigger than Stockholm and had a small market in it which we didn’t look at.  Our exploration of the tram and railway system back to Warnemunde worked well – we cheated a bit as the instructions on the ticket machines could be read in English! 

I loved Warnemunde, it is a real seaside town (not a fish and chips and kiss me quick hat kind of place though!)  My knee was hurting again so I didn’t want to walk too much but would have loved to explore further.

Copenhagen. Copenhagen – what does the song say?  Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen and it was.  Our tour really only scraped the tip of the iceberg – there looked to be so many places that we didn’t get to see.  I would have loved to have gone into the Tivoli Gardens and spend more time on the waterfront.  Also, there were alleyways which was screaming out to be explored.


Memories - Seeing the Little Mermaid though I did originally think she was further out from the shore.  The four palaces that you can get so close to.  The Christiansborg Palace - really nice after the opulence of St. Petersburg

Two days at sea.  Originally I thought that two days would be too much but in the end it worked out well.  The trip to the Bridge was a real surprise and fascinating.

Richard is not really a city sort of person and St. Petersburg was really too much for him!  He did like the other destinations though.  On the other hand, I love travelling and visiting places and to do it on a cruise is wonderful.  I know I have said that we didn’t have enough time in some places but at least I got to see them as I doubt if I would have got to some of them in my lifetime.  A good night’s sleep on a lovely, big, comfy bed and then to wake up in another city – what could be better? 

Where would I go back to?  Definitely Copenhagen - there is still so much more to explore. Tallin is small so I think we got to see most of it though one more day would be nice to wander around at our own pace.  Stockholm - maybe as I would have liked to see the Royal Palace.  I think we exhausted St. Petersburg

Eclipse – well what can I say about her.  She is a beautiful ship and her crew all seem proud to serve on her and to serve her passengers.  I spoke to quite a few people who have cruised with other cruise lines and 99% said that they thought Celebrity is the best and that Eclipse is the best ship.  Eclipse is one of four Solstice-class ships.  Solstice who entered service in 2008, Equinox in 2009, Eclipse in 2010 and Silhouette in 2011.

We covered a total of 3438 miles which equates to 3956 land miles - 4½ times the distance between Land’s End and John O Groats!

Cruising again – oh yes please!  In fact we have already booked our next one – Canada and North America in September 2018 on Celebrity Summit.  I can’t wait 😊

On our first chic night we had official photos taken - well you have to don't you?  Here they are.






Thursday, 22 June 2017

Baltic Cruise - May 2017 - Photos of Eclipse

Here are some photos I took on Eclipse.

The Atrium










Penny in the library


The Theatre



Outside














The Sky Lounge



And finally a stow-away!



Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Baltic Cruise - May 2017 - Reflections on St. Petersburg

I met this cheeky squirrel in the gardens at The Peterhof.  He obviously thought I had food!


Day 2.  I was truly amazed at The Peterhof and Catherine's Palace that they had both been almost destroyed during WWII.  

The Peterhof

The Peterhof

The Peterhof

Catherine's Palace
Catherine's Palace
The Peterhof was used as barracks and for target practice. Before retreating, the Germans set the palace ablaze. 
After the Soviets retook Pushkin "the Catherine Palace presented a terrible scene. The great hall, the picture gallery and the gala staircase had all collapsed... The Amber Room had been stripped and the gala rooms gutted by a fire... A most terrible sight was Rastrelli's vista of golden doorways, now reduced to raw bricks laden with snow. Cameron's classic suite of rooms was not destroyed but had been much vandalised"

I have put this day first as both Penny and I thought it was the best day - such a shame that Richard and Jim didn't see it.

Main memories of the day.  The early start!  The express breakfast.  The good and empty roads.  The inside of the Peterhof.  The gardens of the Peterhof - though our early start did mean that a lot of the fountains weren't switched on.  The fountains themselves.  The Dog and Duck fountain.  The cheeky squirrel.  Inside Catherine's Palace.  The story of the Amber Room.  The fact that after the devastation of both Palaces by the Germans they were painstakingly restored under Communist Russia. The almost fisticuffs between tour guides as Kate tried, and succeeded, to get her small group to the front of the queue!  The pick-pocketer!  Our dinner in Murano. This Russian Doll!!



Day 1  

Main memories of the day.  The great long queue to go through immigration. Suddenly realising I was in Russia!  The boat cruise where I couldn't really see a thing 😞  Seeing the Rostral Towers alight bearing in mind they only tight them twice a year.  The wonderful paintings in The Hermitage.  The gold - gold everywhere it seemed.  The outside of the Church on the Spilled Blood or the onion church as I called it.  St. Isaac's cathedral - it looked nothing from the outside but the inside was a real WOW.  The queues to get through immigration again.  

Day 3

Main memories of the day.  The Faberge Museum - I bet those eggs could tell a tale or two!  The SS Peter and Paul Cathedral with all the sarcophagi and the tale of the two missing children of Nicholas II.  I was disappointed that we didn't get to see more of the Peter and Paul Fort.  The gun that fires at noon which can be traced back to 1703.  The pie for lunch!  Our visit to the Metro and the very long, steep escalator then to find such ornate stations.  Our sad farewell to Kate and driver Daniel.  Our dinner in Tuscan - the view as we left St. Petersburg will stay with me forever.  Watching the pilot leaving Eclipse.

Overall

The Romanov history.  I bought a book which I am determined to read as I would like to know and understand more.  The difference between the old St. Petersburg and the new.  Our amazing guide Katarina who wanted to be called Kate!  The dour Russians though they didn't seem that bad to me! The fact that we were told that St. Petersburg only has 30 days of sunshine a year - we had three of them!  




Baltic Cruise - May 2017 Day 15 - Southampton and Home (784 nautical miles from Copenhagen)

We woke up to find that we were back in Southampton which meant that it was time to leave Eclipse and wend our way back to Hayling Island.

We said goodbye to our cabin steward, Leroy.  He had been amazing and had a wonderful sense of humour.  I will be doing a special blog soon which will include Leroy – watch this space!

We had breakfast and chatted to a nice American couple until are disembarking group (29) was called.


We said goodbye to the ship and went to collect our suitcases which were waiting under our group number – well ours were.  One of Penny’s cases had gone AWOL but was found lurking in group 30!

Outside we were early for our taxi and had to wait for half an hour.  When the appointed hour arrived and there was no taxi (AGAIN) I phoned the company.  The driver was at the wrong cruise terminal and had been told that the ship had been delayed and our time was now 10am.  I was so angry and have since submitted a formal complaint.  In fact I have just had the reply and been offered a 15% discount off my next fare – as if I would use them again!!


We eventually got home after a tour of east Southampton (I won’t go into why other than to say the driver didn’t have a satnav on) to be met by my son, Robert, grandson, Tobyn and daughter, Victoria.  What a lovely welcome to see my gorgeous grandson after such an amazing and wonderful holiday.

I am going to do three more blogs.  One of photos I took of the ship, one called Reflections on St. Petersburg and one Memories of our cruise.  Don’t miss them!!!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Baltic Cruise - May 2017 Day 14 - at sea

Our last day.


You may wonder why there is a photo of me with Captain Michael.  Well last night when we got back to our cabin we found this letter


This was the one place we had wanted to visit and had no idea why we had been invited.  But more to the point Penny and Jim hadn’t got an invitation and what were we going to say to them!!  As we left our cabin to go down to breakfast we saw that they had got an invitation – phew!!

Not only was our visit top secret but we also had security to go through. 
  






The champagne bottle that was used to launch Eclipse.


The view through the floor


Looking down the ship towards our cabin.
  


I’m not sure what Captain Michael had said to Richard!
  

It was a wonderful end to our cruise and to meet the main man and what a charming man he is 😊

Penny, Jim and I went to a talk on Get Going with Gmail.  I’m trying to encourage Penny to use Gmail but I seem to be banging my head against a brick wall!!  It was very interesting and I did learn a thing or two.  If they do the same type of talks on Summit next year I will be going.

After lunch it was packing and what a nightmare!  It all went in the suitcases when we came so why won’t it all go back in!  Richard was sent for sustenance to Café al Bacio to get ice-cream and that helped a bit!  Our suitcases had to be outside our cabin door by 10pm but I had heaps of time 😊

It was our last dinner and we were very sad indeed to have say goodbye to from the right – Rodrigo (2nd waiter), Tony (Maître D), the lovely Magzie (waiter) and Ievgenia (Sommelier).


They had all worked so hard to make our cruise fun and entertaining.

After dinner we went to the final show - Amade.  Our Today paper said “A visual concert celebrating the progression of musical genres inspired by one of the greatest musical minds in history: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Reversed.  Remixed.  Reimagined”.  I’m sorry to say that we walked out half way through.  The last three words from Today summed it up for me and I’m afraid that neither Richard nor I could make any sense of it or enjoy the music.  We weren’t the only people by a long chalk to walk out

Richard and I went up to the Sky Lounge where we were joined by Penny and Jim after the show had finished.  We enjoyed our final drinks and listened to the Karaoke Idol Finale.  There were only 5 singers and each of them should have won – they were excellent.

It was sad going back to our cabin for the last time especially as it was so bare.

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea”  Karen Blixen