Day 10 and 11 – at sea losing days

For the next two days we are at sea making our way back towards England and is it any coincidence that the weather has got really windy?, it is still quite warm and dry but my god the wind at sea takes your breath away. We had a relatively late start we woke up at 7!!, got washed dressed and headed down to breakfast. One of the things I had wanted to do on the ship was attempt the climbing wall and today was the day, strangely the most windy day but nevermind!!. After watching a woman in her fifties make her way half way to the first bell I thought I couldn’t chicken out of it now even though I had contemplated it!!, eventually I braved it and bit the bullet and got ready to sign up, sign the waiver (slightly worrying) and got my helmet and harness ready and after being shown wrist exercises and what path I was to be taken I started my ascent. I managed the first half quite well, got to the first bell ring it which I was chuffed about and started climbing again. By this point the hand and foot grab rocks were getting smaller and smaller and my arms were really aching and I was just a couple of levels below the final bell but I just couldn’t reach it and I gave up!! Got down to the bottom and realised just how close I was and after getting some encouragement from the guides and Debbie I decided to give it five minutes and go again,whilst I was resting my arms and other bloke in his fifties did it so I thought I couldn’t not. I started again didn’t ring the first bell just carried on and I was now at the same point as before, my arms were burning at this point and I just couldn’t reach, so I let go and was left dangling mid air as the blokes holding my harness said they weren’t letting me down until I did it!!, they encouraged me to let go off the rope and swing my arms and just try and relax !! I finally managed to let go, composed myself and set off again, right by the bell was the final grab rock and I had to somehow get both hands onto it then reach across and ring it, after two near misses I finally grabbed the bell and frantically rang the bell, I had done it, I could feel a smug grin spread across my face as I come down to the floor, it really was hard but I had conquered it. The two guides were so supportive which helped and Debbie was really proud, now for some vodka to steady me!!! I felt quite proud of myself actually as I could have easily given up but I managed it!!!! Unfortunately my arms ached for the rest of the day.
After this we headed around the ship had our usual nose at the shops and decided it was time for lunch, after lunch we headed to the pet at sea part where you make your own pet, it’s a skin of a cuddly toy that you fill with feathers yourself and dress as well and you make a wish on a yellow star and put it in the back of the toy with the stuffing, such a great idea, we choose a monkey who we named Norman the nautical monkey!!!!
Being at sea is very tiring which is strange must be the sea air but about 13:00 after lunch I was so tired that we had to have a nap!!! After waking at 3 we went back on deck after being blown around we headed immediately back Inside to the shops and cafe promenade for a warm drink. Tonight is the last formal night on board so we went back to get ready. I have to admit I have quite enjoyed getting dressed up much more than I thought I would. We sat down to eat, had our main and was tucking into our desserts when I noticed our head waiter Andy, our assistant Metho and the head of waiting staff heading our way with a cake and candle where the all proceeded to sing happy anniversary to us!!! It was really nice as all the tables around us joined in, including the couple next to us who think they are something special but when you hear them talk they ain’t!!! It was a really nice touch and the cake was delicious.
We headed to our cabin to get some bits for the evening show and we saw one of the animal towels greeting us in mid air, this time it was a monkey and it was really good.

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Day 9 – Helsinki

After the panic of the last 24 hours we had a more calming day planned in Helsinki. Absolutely nothing planned for here we were just going to catch the shuttle to town and simply mill about. When we arrived in the industrial port I wasn’t expecting much, when we looked around the ship we could see the aerodrome where the souvenirs were and all of a sudden out the corner of my eye I could see something waving at me, when we looked I was a Finnish woman dressed in native dress waving a flag and a husky dog soft toy at me, nice touch I thought. When we were allowed off the ship we got the shuttle and headed to town.
Once we got of the docks the first thing that struck me was the cobblestone roads which looked very nice. I only thought it was the little road we were on but it was most roads and it looked really nice. We got off and after spending ten minutes looking quizzically at the map we decided to head straight on. What we found was rows of shops either side of the road but directly down the middle running all the way along was this park which was really pretty and at the end of it was a fountain which lead to the harbours. Helsinki was what I expected Copenhagen to be like. I was very impressed by it all. At the harbour we found the local market which was really good and we picked up a few bargains, Debbie loves looking round local markets so she was in her element. We could see the Russian Orthodox Church in the distance so we took a wander round to find it, again it was very beautiful, we couldn’t go in as it was locked but the outside was stunning. I’ve noticed a lot of these churches are on the tops of hills and they certainly dominate the skyline, in the distance we could see another cathedral as well. We headed back towards market square and waited for the sea cruises to start running. These took you all around the islands surrounding Helsinki so we thought it would be a great way to see them, the weather was really hot so it seemed like a good idea. The cruise took an hour and a half and it really was enjoyable. The islands are very scenic and like little communities of there own, the postman must hate it unless on his round he has a speedboat!!!. The hour and half seem to go quite quickly as they took us past the island zoo, past the icebreaker ships that are docked for the summer. Helsinki truly is beautiful. When we got off we treated ourselves to a waffle and also tried some local biscuits.
Whilst walking through the market again we spotted a characture drawer and deb decided she wanted one of me done!! Turns out this bloke was Bulgarian and apparently best friends with dimitr berbatov and other famous Bulgarians,!! Bless him I didn’t buy it for a minute but the drawing was really good and something I had wanted to get for a while. We found the other cathedral which was at the top of about a thousand steps (50!!), Debbie looked at them and said she’d wait down here and quite frankly she was right, although it definitely was a rocky moment when you reached the top. What was quite amusing was trying to get money out of he ATM machine, it was inside the bank which was locked but outside by the door is a place where you put your card in and it reads it and let’s you in, however getting out seemed to be the trouble as we were faced by three American tourist frantically pushing and pulling every door trying to escape!!, Debbie had the bright idea of keeping the door open for me as I went inside.
Finally we headed back to the ship but we had had a wonderful day in Helsinki, the one port that I wasn’t expecting much from but got a great deal from. It really is an amazing place one I would highly recommend do all, like most places on the Baltic cruise.

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Day 6 amazing Tallinn

Today’ s destination was Tallinn we hadn’t planned anything we were jus gonna play things by ear and Debbie wanted to look at jewellery here as we were told it was quite cheap. When we looked at the cruise compass the forecast was cloudy and showers but when we headed down to breakfast the sun was shining and although it was quite windy we were hopeful. At breakfast we sat and chatted to a couple who we had sort of gotten friendly with over the last three or four days, and they said that there were taking the hop on hop off bus so we decided to do that when we got onshore. As you come closer to Tallinn, the scenery that great you is amazing, they have an old town as well as a new area and these are kept separate which is nice, when we got off the ship we were greater with a band and also a market win lots of homemade Estonian products. This was the first time we had experienced this at a port and it made a great Impression. In the shop the people were friendly and spoke good English.
We got our tickets for the bus and we were away, looking back I wish i had done the same in Oslo and Copenhagen as we saw so much but this cruise is about gaining experience and if we ever go back we know what to do next time. We spent about 15 minutes on the bus before getting of by the Russian Orthodox Church. We were treated by someone selling postcards and a set of ten in,y isn’t €3 so how could I resist, then a young lady selling drinks from a bike rode past so we got two drinks for €5 which I thought was cheap, I’m liking Tallinn already, from here we headed up to the Alexander Nevsky cathedral. I’m not religious in anyway but this place is breathtaking I took some great photos of the onion domes and surrounding spires before heading in, as this is still a working church we were unable to take photos inside which whilst I understand the reasoning it was a shame as the place is stunning, we saw the priest inside talking to one of his flock and there was many locals lighting candles and praying. From here we found a very nice gift shop where we got some great bargains and then headed on to go and see tall herman’s tower and toompea castle again both stunning. Before I left for the cruise someone said to me that Tallinn reminds them of chitty chitty bang bang and they were absolutely right, the old tower with all its glorious buildings is just like that. Outside of the buildings we met shrek and donkey so that was a photo opportunity I couldn’t miss especially when I showed him my tattoo of both !!!. Again he was very friendly. We jumped back on the bus and were taken all over Tallinn seeing all the sites, the thing that struck me was the buildings are so different, very beautiful old buildings as well as the new buildings. We were taken past an old soviet era prison which was very run down and still had tanks and army vehicles left in it so we got off and had a look around, unfortunately the museum was closed due to safer issues with the electrics but because there is a cafe at the back of it you are still able to look around the outside, it is very eerie, was something very strange about this place and I’m sure we kept hearing things and seeing things in the windows, eventually after 4 1/2 hours we headed back to the terminal to have a look around the market again, picking up a few more gifts and making use of the free wifi.
We really didn’t want to leave, Tallinn is such an amazing place, I would recommend it to everyone and I’ll definitely come back here, the people are friendly, so much to see and very cheap especially considering it uses the euro.

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Day 7 and 8 – the mystery of st Petersburg

After the beauty of Tallinn we headed off to st Petersburg, Russia. One of the main reasons that I booked this cruise was specificity st Petersburg and I was genuinely excited by seeing it. However I was really worried about going through passport control, Russians are notoriously strict about things and when we walked in and saw the miserable robot like faces we knew it was going to be tense. One couple got pulled out in front of us which only made things worse and eventually it was my turn, we walked up to the window handed our papers to her and nervously waited, she stamped me eventually and I was on Russian soil. The dock we were in is very industrial and lots of soviet era tower blocks greet you when you get off the ship and it is very imposing. I remember goldeneye was filmed in st Petersburg and it did remind me of this as we boarded our coach and headed of to Peterhof palace and gardens. Peterhof is the former home of Peter the great and his family and descendants. The coach trip took about an hour and it was nice driving through the streets seeing the different style of buildings, we managed to see some of the churches and cathedrals along the way and whilst it was hard to see from the coach you could still appreciate the beauty. As we made our way along the motorway the different sides of st Petersburg adorned the skyline. Finally we made it to Peterhof and we met by about 40 coaches, this was gonna be an experience.
We got into the entrance of the palace and queued for ages, what seemed like hundreds of groups in front of us. The organisation by the Russians was not what I had expected, it seemed like they just wanted as many people in as possible. The palace interior is magnificent we weren’t allowed to take photos but you can’t comprehend the amount of gold in every single room, one room is just all gold absolutely everywhere, it is just unreal, the rooms of the palace seemed to be a different theme and it was really nice to see, despite the hoards of Chinese tourists in the group before taking ages, thank god they weren’t taking photos as we would have been there forever. The assistants who worked there weren’t friendly, everything was in Russian so we couldn’t read what was what and they were more interested in moving us along like cattle than letting us appreciate the majesty of things. Eventually we got outside where we could see the gardens and fountains. Our group had one straggler who stayed behind so we stayed by the exit where one of the happy security attendants proceeded to blow his whistle loudly at us until we moved. He was just the typical Russian security, it was really amusing to see him proudly whistling in people’s ears !! The fountains really are stunning, loads of them dotted about everywhere, the actually grounds of Peterhof was something like 230 acres, the only downside to the park was the pickpockets which are always watching you, after walking around for about 4 hours it was time to head back to the ship and the joys of passport control.
By the time we were back onboard we were both hungry so headed to the windjammer for a light (honest) lunch it did seem strange eating and looking at land. Then it was nap time followed by a shower and dinner.
We wanted to stay up late tonight as it was white nights, and we wanted to see how it looked, try also had a band playing on the pool deck as well as a BBQ, so we got our seats early and waited, by this time it was 22:15 and the sun was still shining, after a few cocktails and a hot dog (more food) it was time to watch the sunset at 23:30, it was beautiful but once it had gone down it was still light, we couldn’t believe it, we stayed up until 2 in the morning and it was still daylight, very surreal but very beautiful.
Day 2 arrived and this was our ‘anniversary’ so we preordered breakfast in bed which duly arrived at 8, we had an excursion booked for 12:45 so we could sit and relax, the breakfast was lovely and after we had showered and dressed we made our way for our morning stroll along the decks. We were really looking forward to the excursions today which would take us to three cathedrals. St Isaac’s, st Nicholas and the church of the spilled blood which is situated on the spot where the tsar was assassinated. Passport control was much simpler today as we had shown our immigration passes yesterday we more or less went straight through and boarded the coach. Our guide andreiv only looked about 15 but he was extremely knowledgeable and was the first friendly Russian we had met, we later find our that he was an historian. We arrived at St Isaac’s cathedral along with hundreds of churches and feared the worst like we were going to be paraded through like cattle, however this was not the case. The outside of the church is very imposing but nothing would prepare for what was inside, it was truly amazing, every single piece of wall, ceiling, door you name it was covered in mosaics depicting the life if Christ and the saints, the ceilings were so high that it hurt your neck looking at them but you couldn’t help but,the church held upto 20,000 people in its hay day and we had lots of room to mill around, it’s no longer a working church it’s a museum but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of it, as other groups walked in you could audibly hear them all saying wow. I’m not as religious as Debbie but I can still appreciate the majesty of the church, we had about 30 minutes inside where we could take photos and then walked back to the coach where we were taken to a gift shop and a toilet. The traffic in st Petersburg was horrendous as hey was a economic meeting taking place and the police has closed off some streets, there was police on every street and every junction.
Finally we made our way to st Nicholas which is still a working church, the Russians may be miserable as a race but they do know how to build a church!!, again whilst not as spectacular as st Isaac’s it was still magnificent, it was bright blue in colour and really stood out. We were unable to take photos inside but it was really nice again, our guide bought us a candle for us to light and Debbie showed me what to do. The locals coming in and out all had their heads covered and Debbie did the same, some of our group didn’t bother and I felt that was a little disrespectful but our guide said that because there was no service on they wouldn’t mid, however seeing as we were advised that there was a dress code for the trip some should have shown more class.
From here we were making our way to my highlight the church of the spilled blood, I had seen photos online and it looked truly spectacular, it was 15:50 and the ship was due to leave at 17:30 so we thought we were ok, however a ten minute journey turned into an hour and twenty minutes and people were starting to panic. As this was a ship operated excursion the ship had to wait but some were still worrying we would be left stranded. We made it to the church and only one word can describe it WOW, it really has to be seen to be believed, photos online only give you half a taster of what you see. We only had a quick 10 minutes inside and again, every single piece of the church is covered in mosaics, how they upkeep these buildings is beyond me, some people on the coach stayed on it which was absurd, this church is absolutely outstanding, I can only recommend seeing it or yourself. Religious or not it will take your breath away.
Finally an hour past the time we should have sailed we made it safely to the ship where people were anxiously waiting for us, the Russians didn’t even check us they wanted us gone. Me and Debbie had a dinner reservation at portafino’s the Italian restaurant at half 7 so after a quick wash and change of outfits we made it. Whilst the steak was very nice I was expecting a little more, in all honesty it was no posher than our dining room, but it made a nice change, after a while we retired to the bedroom and after a long eventful excursion it was time for sleep.
My impressions of st Petersburg changed midway through the two days, the places are beautiful, the buildings truly astonishing, the people we met miserable as sin except for our guide who was wonderful. I would come back again though I think as there is so much to see and two days really isn’t long enough, however I would only come back on a cruise not on my own steam!!!

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Day 5 at sea rest an relaxation

Despite going to bed at 2 some fool (me) forgot to turn the alarm on my phone off so I woke up at 5 again, managed to get a sneaky 30 minutes more before deciding that I needed a cuppa, so without disturbing Debbie, I went down to the cafe promenade and got us a couple of drinks, tried waking Debbie up subtlety but switched the wrong lit switch and nearly blinded her oops, luckily after seeing the cup of tea I has got for her it was all ok, so we went down to breakfast where I had what is ow my traditional cooked breakfast and watched the world go past our window.
After my jacuzzi experience the other day I’ve been trying to talk Debbie into joining me in one and today was the day, slightly worrying that the first jacuzzi was green coloured we moved across the ship to the other side where Debbie got in, unfortunately the temperature was not as warm as the other day so it was a bit chilly in there and after about half hour we’d had enough and got out, I did get not the swimming pool after I’d dried off which was actually warmer than the jacuzzi and after doing my laps I got back into the jacuzzi and persuaded Debbie back in, apparently it was colder than before so she didn’t last long!! So we dried off again, got a cuppa and headed to our cabin to get ready for lunch, so far today has been lovely and chilled our, more of the same after lunch and a bit more sunshine would be lovely
Been a lovely lazy afternoon did a mile around the ship on the running track then hit st tropaz the sunbathing deck, three hours later we were still enjoying the beautiful sunshine, the weather was absolutely perfect, so we finished sunbathing then walked another mile on the track an headed down to the Ben and Jerry’s stand for a well deserved ice cream, got back into our cabin saw my reflection oh dear I am a lobster!!! Well my front is at least, I did put lots of suntan lotion on so am hopeful it’ll turn brown overnight (yeah right). Not the day I wanted a formal evening for could be fun, am quite enjoying dressing up, the snob in me is coming out.
Had a lovely meal again, the food and the service is outstanding, me and Debbie looked great dressed up and we got our photos taken in front of the really nice car in the royal promenade which I was hoping for earlier in the week, after dinner we saw he first viewing of the show the royal Caribbean singers and dancers show, which was very good, to be slightly picky if you call he show history of rock you certainly don’t include music by Whitney Houston or En Vogue but other than that it was really good and entertaining.
Aft the show we went out on deck to see the sunset before retiring to bed where Debbie rubbed some moisturiser into my new bright red front!! All in all another wonderful day next stop Tallinn

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Day 4 – Copenhagen fairy tale?

After an early night we slept the whole way through til the early woke us up at what we thought was 6, however it turned out that I had misread the guide and set the clock forward an hour a day early oops!, undeterred by this we got dressed and headed down to the cafe promenade for an early morning cuppa, today was definitely the worst day weather wise very windy on deck and showery, the forecast for Copenhagen was pretty much the same and as we sat on deck waiting to dock the weather changed every ten minutes. The ride through to Copenhagen wasn’t nearly half as pretty as passing through the fjord so we stayed out as long as we could then headed inside to be warm. Deck 14 gives you a wonderful view around both sides of he ship and it’s inside so we sat our bums there and watched.
The only downside to the cruise so far I have seen is the organisation when it comes to disembarking of the ship. Everyone congregates on the stairs and pushes their way through which is very irritating when you are precariously balanced on the stair, eventually though we made our way onto the streets of Copenhagen. We had to get the shuttle bus to be centre of town which cost us €15 (bit cheeky) but made it there and went off exploring. Because of the rain we decided to not to do tivoli gardens as it was our in he open so we pretty much had to go with be flow, I wanted to do nyhavn ( new harbour) as I had seen pictures and the buildings looked really scenic and eventually we found it and it was just as the pictures looked like, very colourful buildings. One of the shops was called Hans Christian Anderson show we had a mooch around there and even met the great man himself (miserable sod!!), we turned back on ourselves and headed to the souvenir shop suggested by Royal Caribbean, Copenhagen souvenirs where if we showed our compass map we would get a free gift, we were delighted to be given two fridge magnets!!!, but the shop sold some nice bits. Once out of here the heavens opened so we popped into the Guinness world records museum, which cost 229 DNK which worked out about £15, stepped inside and my first instinct was rubbish, but I hold my hands up and say I judged it to quick, it was actually really good, we saw the worlds biggest man, biggest baby, fattest man etc, some really good interactive bits and I actually really enjoyed it, after walking through this part we had a token to get us into the Mystic Explorations which again was really enjoyable, there’s was a disco where a skeleton mirror would follow your dance moves, an electric chair which you could test the volts and lots of silly little bits, took us a good hour to walk around both but it was really good and I would recommend a visit.
Then we found the Disney store!! You all know how much I love cartoon films and I do love the Disney stores, so very tempting luckily I managed to stop myself splashing out although the Mickey Mouse done up as a Viking was very tempting, Debbie treated me to a wicked Finding Nemo mug ( I’m so cool ), finally after eating a very disappointing crepe we headed back to the shuttle bus to the ship from where we could walk to the famous little mermaid statue, again something very beautiful, very scenic positioned just in from the sea, found a couple more statues then headed back aboard the ship leaving Copenhagen behind. Really enjoyed it here not as pretty as Oslo but I found the people friendlier. Would definitely come back here next time I’ll use the hop on hop off buses. Shame about the weather but as one of the Danish shop assistant told us its typical weather here.
After getting back to our cabin we were hungry couldn’t be bothered to walk to the windjammer so we thought we’d try room service!! ( my idea ). Wow you get loads, once you place the order through the interactive tele, the chef rings you up and double checks your order, takes about 30 minutes to get to your room but once it’s here you can’t help but pig out!!!! Very very nice.
Then onto evening entertainment, tonight’s showcase headline act was the world famous (???) Swarovski crystal electric violinist Craig Halliday (me neither) this was more for Debbie as she likes stuff that like and to be fair he was quite good and also it didn’t seem to drag too much so maybe I enjoyed it a bit too. Stayed up til gone midnight tonight so we could watch the ship pass under the bridge that links Sweden and Denmark, unfortunately it was too dark to get any decent photos and it was ever so windy but we stayed up to watch it pass through with what like millimetres to spare, hopefully on way home we will pass it in sunlight, then of to bed at 12:30 only to realise the clocks had to go forward a again so it was actually 2! Long day but very enjoyable maybe get a lay in tomorrow

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Day 2 all at sea

Day 2 begins with waking up at 5 then finding out it was 6 then hearing the loudest toilet flush in the world, slept very well had a cup of tea got showered headed to the windjammer for breakfast. Not one to turn down a cooked breakfast I had two instead but couldn’t eat all he second one so grabbed a couple of doughnuts and off we went. Found some lovely seats by the jacuzzi and swimming pool so went back to be cabin got changed and took the plunge, the jacuzzi was so relaxing intact I could quite easily spend all day in there, after twenty minutes headed to the swimming pool bloody freezing at first but after a few minutes fine, did a few laps got Debbie to take my photos (poser) then headed back to the jacuzzi. Ah this is the life for me.
Well lunch time arrived so we thought we would give Johnny Rockets the American diner a go. There is a surcharge of $4:95 to eat here and a charge for your drinks however its all you an eat and wow!!. From the service through to the food it’s very very good. The burgers are huge and the malted shakes are lovely. I thought I was finished and Ben she mentioned apple pie and ice cream thought it rude not to. My god that apple pie was delicious although I was really stuffed I couldn’t put it down, finally we finished our meal and waddled out. We walked a lap of the boat on he running track then found a seat on deck and basked in the beautiful sunshine. After an hour of this it was back to the cabin for a nap.
Tonight is the first formal night and this is something I have been dreading, for those who don’t know me I hate wearing suits intact probably the last time I wore one was our wedding ten years ago, however I think it would be nice for me and Debbie to dress up as she always looks amazing and I know she isn’t happy with our wedding photos, I’ve paid for us to have a professional photo done in our smart clothes, which should be interesting. One of the fears I had about cruising was standing out like a sore thumb but so far I haven’t felt this which is nice. Infact I’ve felt quite smart compared to a few people one of whom rocked up in a track suit .
So formal dress dinner came and whilst Debbie looked amazing I still resembled a fat penguin and the bow tie was tighter than I had remembered, however I don’t mind admitting I scrubbed up well, we had 4 photos taken and we get to pick one or free the others are $19.95 each which I think is a tad overpriced so unless we find one that we both really like we will only get the freebie, (well I say freebie but I prepaid it). Dinner again was lovely small portions but very filling an the soufflé dessert was a dream.
Tonight we managed to catch the theatre show which was a Beatles tribute act. There was dung, stag and a Volkswagen!! Only kidding obviously they were really good had the audience up and moving and after about an hour it was over which was a shame as we really getting into it, we decided to it the blue moon cocktail bar and watch melody duo ( they are better than the name suggests) and sing and dance the night away. It was 23:15 and the sun was still bright which was weird. So after a busy day it was time for bed.

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