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 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 1 orienteering !!

So finally the day had arrived, for what seemed like an eternity of waiting we were on our way, from getting up at 6, getting washed and ready by half 6 then waiting for he taxi to come get us at 9 everything had led up to this point. The taxi ride to east cowes was interesting as we were keeping an eye on the meter going up and up until it finally stopped at £25.50!!!! Thankfully the driver let us of 50p so we tipped him a fiver, ( generous ain’t I). We managed to catch the earlier ferry and got ourselves the holiday tradition of a large hot chocolate. Part of the reason I got the car ferry was so that I could get some photos of our ship as we docked and I wasn’t disappointed, I’d seen it go last before from cowes and east cowes but this time seeing it closer up you could appreciate just how huge It was. So eventually we exited the car ferry and we could see that the ship wasn’t far away so we decided to walk to the terminal.


One of the things that people have told me about cruising is the hospitality onboard, well as soon as we entered the terminal it began, one of the baggage handlers spotted us struggling with two huge suitcases and a holdall and came over straight away asked us If we were travelling on the adventure then took our bags from us and directed us where to go. Once inside the terminal the staff was exceptional, because I had pre checked in online we could go straight through where we had passport control, checked my debit card and x rayed us and within 30 minutes of getting off the car ferry we were onboard!!! No mucking about, no delays just checked in and go
Once we stepped aboard we were simply in awe of the ship, inside its amazing the decks all have something on them from ice skating rink to a cinema to a casino to the swimming pools etc. the thing that struck me first was the staircases and Debbie was loving the glass elevators. Deck five is the royal promenade and WOW that is outstanding. Shops and bars adorn either side and the is something for everybody, we found he English themed pub the duck and dog ordered a drink and just sat in admiration. After a short drink stop we went exploring the upper decks to get our bearings, the pools and jacuzzi’s area looks great and although it was quite windy that soon died down.
Eventually we decided to find the windjammer for lunch. The windjammer is a self service buffet style and naturally I helped myself and ate til I was full!! Plenty of food that caters for everybody ( obviously I had chips)!!! The food and drinks are good size portions, after lunch we headed back down to the royal promenade where I found the Ben and Jerry’s shop after Debbie twisted my arm I had a large waffle cone which I just about managed to eat. By two our room was ready so we headed off to find it cabin 7579, before we went I preordered the grand romance package which consisted of decorations for he room, bottle of champagne, bath robes, bouquet of flowers and cupcakes and all these were ready for us in the room. It was much better than I expected the bed was lovely and although I’m not a shower person that was nice too. We had a view over the royal promenade as well which was nice. Before we knew it it was time for the compulsory meeting where all guests had to go to the muster station for the showing of how to do you life jackets up and where to go and women and children first ( I don’ t think so). Then it was time for the ship to depart, I was hoping for the foghorn to blast as we left but no so with camera at the ready it was time to start snapping, it took us a good 45 minutes to pass cowes and I got the photos that I was looking for, it was however very blustery on deck and we lasted as long as passing ryde and Portsmouth and getting a quick snap of sandown pier before it got the better of us and we headed in to get ready for dinner. You may notice a lot of reference to food already !!!.
Dinner time arrived and we headed of to he Mozart dining room to get seated, thankfully we got a table for two and we were met by our waiter and his assistant. The menu is quite posh and I was worried that I would find anything but then right at the bottom the old reliable steak turned up so I had that. Very nice it was too. After dinner we set of to find the entertainment and found a lovely little bar called blue moon where a duo were performing an acoustic set and that was this time it was 11:00 and after a tiring day we headed to bed.

My first impressions so far are that this holiday is going to blow my mind. Everything so far has been perfect much better than I had imagined, the staff are friendly the people onboard all seem normal and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

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Holiday begins

So as you know I have been worrying pretty much for the past three months how my stammer is going to behave whilst we are on our cruise. I can’t get past the feeling that I’m going to show not only me but Debbie up as well. This has led to more anxiety and as a result my speech is not great. Some of the comments from my previous post were quite helpful and I feel I am trying more to relax a little and as I am no longer working I’m hoping I can turn my head off a little and let myself go. I really am excited about this cruise and I know it’s going to be everything I think it will. I just need to let myself go and just chill!! What will be will be (no I don’t believe it either!!!)
I’ve been quiet blog wise for the past few weeks as I seriously don’t want to get repetitive but I am honestly going to give things a go. I have been trying to breathe a bit more and slow my talking down which I know does help. Hopefully once I’m on board I’ll be able to relax more and just try to focus on breathing instead of just focusing on getting my words out as quickly as possible
So here goes 4 days til we go you probably won’t hear from me until after we get back on the 26th when I will no doubt be showing my thousands of holiday snaps. Oslo, Copenhagen, Tallinn, St Petersburg. Helsinki and Bruges are you ready for me!!!!!!!