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Eleven Day Baltic
Cruise, Round-Trip Copenhagen, Denmark
Susan L. Anderson
We began our latest adventure on August 28th by flying from Phoenix to Dulles Int’l Airport near Washington, D.C. and on to Copenhagen, Denmark, arriving 6:50 a.m. on the 29th. We zipped through customs/immigrations fastest and easiest of any country we have visited. Our car met us and took us to the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel. We rested, ate and napped.
Aug. 30th We took a canal boat tour, seeing old and new Copenhagen from the water including the famous Little Mermaid statue. We then walked along the canals with outdoor café’; next we went to Tivoli – a mix of 26 rides, exquisite gardens, open-air music venues and a multitude to restaurants. We spent time walking the area, enjoying the flowers and listening to the children and young people scream or laugh as they enjoyed the rides.
Aug. 31st We had a good four hour bus tour of old and new Copenhagen stopping to tour the Christiansborg Palace, the Amalienborg Palace and a stop at the Little Mermaid statue. In 1909 Carl Jacobsen, founder of the Carlsberg Breweries, attended the Royal Theater to see ‘The Little Mermaid’, a ballet based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. He then commissioned the sculptor Edvard Eriksen to create a statue of the mermaid and had his wife pose as a model. Carl Jacobsen gave the statue to the copy of Copenhagen in 1913.
We arrived at the dock about 12:15 p.m. Being “Elite” Princess clients we had “preferred boarding passes” so walked right through check-in (after Howard got all of his pens, money, computer and etc. back in the proper places). Emerald Princess with 3,100 passengers (largest cruise ship we have been on), our stateroom on Deck 14 – Riviera, R502, with balcony was ready for us. The ship got underway at 6 p.m. the same time as our early seating at table #114 in the Botticelli Dining Room.
Sept. 1st Was a relaxing day with the sea smooth as glass. I attended the first art auction and purchased “Vibrant Santorini” by Viktor Shvaiko, this is Giclee on canvas and is a numbered print. This was first of two formal night on this cruise; I rent formal wear for Howard so he doesn’t have to bring a suit. We had our photographs taken at several of the eight locations before dinner. After dinner we went to the Explorers Lounge for the Lenny Windsor show. He was a writer for the British TV comedy “The Benny Hill Show” and was really funny, a bit off color but had the packed lounge really laughing!
The Baltic Sea’s salinity is considerably lower than that of ocean water (which averages 35%), as a result of abundant freshwater runoff from the surrounding land. The open surface waters of the central basin have salinity of 6 to 10%, and this increases near the Danish Straits. There is virtually no rise and fall of tide in the Baltic and the currents are very weak. The sea levels do vary though, but only as a result of air pressure or wind stress.
Sept. 2nd After having crossed the Central Baltic Sea, Emerald Princess approached the archipelago of Stockholm during the morning. The water was a beautiful deep blue, and the islands with little villages and colorful homes were lovely. Broken clouds early with a high expected of 64 degrees, and low of 55 degrees. Clean, attractive, and orderly is Sweden in a nutshell. Early Viking graves, strongholds, and votive sites focus on the islands of Gotland and Oland, the valley of Lake Malaren, and the region of Uppland. The city of Uppsala became the home of Sweden’s first archbishop in 1164.
Stockholm is comprised of 14 islands connected by bridges and is often called the “Venice of the North”, is Sweden’s beautiful capital and the largest city in Scandinavia. Sweden is slightly larger than California with 174,000 square miles. The population is 9,031,099. Our first tour was the City Drive and Skyview – a narrated scenic drive covering the city highlights including the city’s historic old town, the Royal Palace, plus views of Stockholm’s green copper rooftops and waterways from one of the city’s highest points. We went to the Ericsson Globe Arena, resembling a giant golf-ball; it is the largest spherical building in the world. The two-minute ride took up to the top of the Globe, at 130 meters above sea level, the “bubble” stopped for time to view the city from on high. Interesting, great views, but I considered the SkyView a waste of time.
After our first tour we did the Waterways Cruise of Stockholm’s major landmarks including the Royal Palace, the Grand Hotel and Opera House. We cruised to Riddarholmen, “The Knights’ Islet” in central Stockholm for great view of Ridderfjardwhile Bay and Stadshuset, Stockholm’s City Hall, by the waterside of the city. We went through two locks on this interesting cruise.
Sept. 3rd – Leaving Stockholm we crossed the southern mouth of the Gulf of Bothnia. The Gulf divides the Swedish and Finnish coasts and is the northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea. Being nearly fresh water, the gulf is frozen over five months every year and that is where the icing of the Baltic Sea begins and ends. This morning we changed to north and entered the approach channel to Helsinki, Finland. The country is slightly smaller than Montana and has a population of 5,250,275 people. Both Finnish and Swedish are the official languages. The Capital is Helsinki with a population of 590,000 people; the currency is Euro. They joined the European Union in 1992. During the night (2 a.m.) we had to move the clocks forward one hour.
Helsinki, Finland has been chosen to be the World Design Capital for 2012. The Finns are one of the most distinctive peoples of Europe. Their ancestors migrated from Central Asia almost 2,000 years ago and settled around the beautiful shoes of the Baltic Sea, where they remain today. Their language belongs to the Finno-Ugrian group, which is similar to Estonia, and distantly related to Hungarian and Turkish. We did a tour that included the Temppeliaukio Church, Sibelius Park and a city drive. Helsinki is a beautiful city situation on the water and within their forest. Our first stop was at the Temppeliaukio church that was build within a massive block of natural granite. The large pipe organ was quite impressive. The next stop was at the Sibelius Monument dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. We saw the government buildings, the female president’s residence and much of the center of this lovely city. We stopped at Senate Square by a massive and beautiful Lutheran church. This was by the area called Market Square where people had set up stalls / tents to sell items.
I shopped the gift shop on the pier and found everything I wanted except book marks; they did have leather book marks but were $6.50 Euro each so I left then in Helsinki. Due to the popularity of e-books it appears that book marks are disappearing. At different places I have purchased picture/photo books of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki so far and plan to purchase more. I no longer collect plates, bells, spoons or postcards.
Copenhagen and Stockholm were very interesting cities and have pretty areas, but we both feel that Helsinki is a much more beautiful city.
Sept. 4th – After we departed from Helsinki, Finland we continued in an easterly direction through the Gulf of Finland towards the coast of Russia. We sailed the passage up the Kronshtadtskly Korabel Farvate. This fairway is 150 meters wide and swept to a depth of 14 meters leads about 10 miles southeast past the navel port of Kronshtadt, to Sankt Petersburgskiy Morskoy Kanacl which is the man channel of Sandkt Petersburg port. The high today was expected to be 61 degrees.
For Russia everyone getting off the ship had to carry their passport, Russian immigration cards, tour tickets and their cruise card – if not on a Princess tour they had to have money and credit cards. For visiting St. Petersburg, Russia, a visa is necessary unless on a cruise ship that will stay no longer than 72 hours. For Princess tours we needed our passports AND the Russian immigration forms – one for arrival and one for departure from Russia -- and our tour tickets. All of the “young” women at Russian immigration did not smile and were rather sour and gruff.
During the night we all had to move our clocks an additional hour forward. St. Petersburg was founded in 1704; it is in the Neva River delta, situated on 42 islands and has a multitude of bridges -- both for walking and for vehicles. There are approximately 5 million people in the city, and possibly another one million who have not registered with the city and are illegal but came to work. I obtained Russian rubles before we left home. Since the time of Peter the Great, art and handicrafts have been an important part of St. Petersburg’s economy. We found the nesting matroyshka dolls everywhere and also here on the ship and the lacquered boxes and of course amber.
Today was Sunday so the traffic was much less than on a week day. We took the 3 ½ hour City Drive in St. Petersburg, Russia. We drove to the Spit of Vasilievsky Island for the first photo stop at the Rostral Columns which are situated on the River Neva. Then we drove to St. Isaac’s Square to view the spectacular cathedral. Next we viewed the Admiralty Building at the Hermitage, and then stopped at the Palace Square, once the seat of Imperial power. We saw the Bronze Horseman statue in the Decembrists Square, the city’s University buildings, and the Peter and Paul Fortress. We stopped at the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood very impressive and quite lovely with the gold domes of the Russian Orthodox religion, and saw a market of stall for souvenirs. We drove across the Trinity Bridge and stopped to take photos of the Cruiser Aurora and then drove back to our ship along the Nevsky Prospect, one of Russia’s most famous streets. We made several additional photo stops. We had a bathroom (water closet) stop at a lovely store Art City: Fine Art Salon, Naberezhnaya Robespiera, 16, where I made several purchases and then a couple of small items at a photo stop with many stalls selling souvenirs.
The day was cloudy but some blue sky and sun was showing through by the time we returned to the ship; the afternoon was quite sunny, something they say is rare here. The architecture of the buildings was interesting as were the colors of paint and the stone work. Some major streets had trees and flowers planted along the sides. Our guide told a joke re: waiting for summer -- Saint Petersburg has nine months of anticipation and three months of disappointment.
Sept. 5th – Monday -- Labor Day in the USA. Our second day in St. Petersburg, Russia, we took a 3 ½ hour tour of the Hermitage Museum (yes, we could spend a week here and still not see it all). The Hermitage Museum, is the Russian State Museum, was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and is the jewel in the crown of this historic city. We walked through some of the thousand rooms. The museum showcases paintings by DaVinci, Rafael, Van Gogh, Degas, Picasso (why, oh why?), and Rembrandt plus Russian artists and other artists from around the world. Designed by Rastrelli, the baroque Winter Palace is beautiful (an understatement) thanks to the richly patterned parquet floors, ornate staircases and gilded ceilings. I probably took more pictures of ceilings than I did painting and am glad I purchased the book (on the Hermitage) yesterday. www.hermitagemuseum.org. The Hermitage is closed on Monday but was open, by appointment, for the tours from the Emerald Princess, but the gift shop was closed. We were each given very comfortable headphones and an electronic receiver (to put in a pocket or clip to a belt) in order to really hear the male Russian guide. These worked very well and we could adjust the volume. We did have a very good overview of some of the special original masterpieces. On the trip back to our ship we passed the historical Decembrists Square, Peter the Great’s famous bronze equestrian statue and the impressive Admiralty building again. A second day of bright sunshine which really makes the brightly painted buildings and gold shine. Back at immigration I purchased two more small inter stacking dolls and still have several hundred Rubles left. We then went through passport control/immigration and then the ship. Tonight we move the clocks back one hour.
Sept. 6th – Tuesday so this must be Tallinn, Estonia. After leaving Saint Petersburg yesterday we cruise along a westerly direction along the traffic lanes of the Gulf of Finland. Early this morning as we approached Tallinn TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) we passed to the west of Tallinnamadal Light, which stands on Tallina Madal, a rocky reef extending up to one mile from the lighthouse. We got our local pilot four nautical miles east of Naissar Island and continued to steam south towards our berth in the Old City Harbour. The Estonian capital is usually inaccessible without the aid of an icebreaker for about 2 ½ month from mid-January to the end of March. Large ferry boats sail the waters of the Baltic between the major cities. From Tallinn to Helsinki is only 50 miles across the tide-free Baltic.
Tallinn is situated on the Gulf of Finland and is the capital of Estonia, a centuries old city with a population of 400,000. The literacy rate is 99.99%. 300 cruise ships visit the port of Tallinn annually and they host approximately 400,000 tourist. Estonia has 17,548 square miles slightly larger than Switzerland or Denmark. There are approximately 1,315,912 people living in Estonia. They speak Russian and Estonian (the official language). They regained their freedom in 1991 and are members of the European Union. Tallinn claims to be one of the best preserved medieval towns of northern Europe. The locals say Tallinn is a most unusual city. The people are distant cousins of the Finns, but not related to any of their other neighbors. They migrated to the windy shores of the Baltic from Central Asia sometime in the 3rd millennium B.C.
Between the 8th and 12th centuries, they were pressed by Scandinavian people to the west and Slavic tribes to the east, but remained relatively untouched by those cultures. German merchants and missionaries began to edge along the Baltic coast, but posed no threat to the Estonians. All that changed in 1193 when Pope Celestine III called for a crusade against the northern heathens. The Archbishop of Riga sent German knights from several military orders, smashed their way to the Gulf of Finland. By 1346, the Teutonic Knights ruled the entire eastern shore of the Baltic. They set up a sort of feudal colony in which Estonians were a majority of the population, but German-speaking nobles controlled the military, religious and commercial power. Tallinn, which the Germans called “Reval,” and the other towns flourished as members of the Hanseatic League (a group of guilds). They were the easternmost outposts of the commercial federation, handling all sorts of western trade with Novgorod and the rest of Russia. This is why Tallinn’s medieval core looks like a town of German origin. The earliest mention of Tallinn is a Swedish record from about 800 A.D. Tallinn and Estonia have been conquered by the Danes, Swedes, Poles and the Russians.
We took a four hour tour in Tallinn the capital city of Estonia. Bright sunshine and remained so for our 1 ½ walking tour of Old Town Tallinn. We visited Toompea Hill, Alexander Nevsky & Kadriorg Palace. This was a narrated drive and mostly walking tour. In the Old City the street were square or oblong cobble stones or round cobble stones that came to Tallinn as ballast in ships. In Palace Square we saw Toompea Castle, the current home of Estonia’s Parliament. Next we visited a historical Russian Orthodox Cathedral that was very beautiful. Then we visited St. Mary’s Cathedral the oldest church here and called the “Dome Church” by the locals. Inside St. Mary’s we saw more than110 medieval coats of arms. Onward to Kadriorg (Catherine’s) Palace, they say the main hall is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in all of Northern Europe. Currently the Art Museum of Estonia is here. Beautiful gardens surround the Kadriorg Palace that was ordered built by Peter the Great who died before he could use the palace. We parked by a park with fountains and Swans swimming by the palace. Tallinn is an unusual and very interesting city with beautiful trees, parks and old buildings.
Leaving Kadriorg (Catherine’s) Palace Howard had a first time and nasty surprise; he missed a step (like going down into a sunken living room) and fell to the floor. He hit his knee and later we found a large bruise where his camera hit his arm pit area. He said people were very worried about him and helpful; and if I had been with him he would have had my hand or arm and would have been watching the floor for me. He now knows from experience when someone falls they should not be immediately yanked up but allowed a few seconds to apprise the situation before arising or being helped up.
Sept. 7th – A day at sea. After we left Tallinn, Estonia, yesterday our ship the Emerald Princess joined the traffic lanes which cross the Baltic Sea, to start the 537 nautical miles passage to Warnemunde in Germany. This route passed east of Gotland Island at a minimum distance of about 30 nautical miles or 35 land miles, and this was the closest land during this day at sea. During the night clouds moved in and the, sea which had been very smooth, got a little big choppy with very small white caps. This made for great sleeping as the ship rocked ever so slightly. During the day it remained totally overcast with light mist and the white caps remained. I love the gentle rocking as then it really feels like I am on a ship at sea. The weather forecast for today is cloudy skies with change of pain and a high of 61 degrees. CNN International last night and this a.m. showed that the British Isles and all of northern Europe will be very cloudy and rainy the next week days. This afternoon we did attend the port talk on Aarhus, Denmark and the Vikings given by John Lawrence, I have purchased his DVD on the Baltic Treasurers. Late this afternoon the heavy overcast cleared to just high clouds, but good white caps and wind.
Our second and last formal night on this cruise. So it was formal portrait time again and I had to remember to mention the glare in my glasses last formal night time. We had our portraits (together and separate) taken at six different location (skipped one that will get again on the second cruise) and hope a few are “good”. I thought I had again purchased the coating for these new glasses, but it appears I did not. I shall check our receipts when we return home as I have been getting the anti-glare coating for years.
We have many channels on the TV, but we like CNN International and the bridge cam to see what the Captain sees and some on Ch 30 of the port talks. Tonight we watched John Lawrence’s slide show and talk on Warnemunde, and mostly on Berlin. I have been to many of the places he talked about and other, but a very informative and interesting talk especially for those who have not been to Berlin, Germany, before. Before we went to bed we moved our clocks/watches back one hour.
Sept. 8th – The Captain came on the communication system that is played in every cabin (for emergency or urgent messages only) at 6:30 a.m. to say we had 30 and 40 Knot winds during the night and more are forecast. It has been decided that we shall not visit the port of Warnemunde, Germany, and passengers will not be able to visit Berlin. The weather can change plans and the Captain has to think of the safely of his ship, crew, and 3,100 passengers. Many people had planned for one of five tours to Berlin; a three hour train trip there and three hour train trip back, plus six hours in Berlin for a long 12 hour day. We did not plan to go to Berlin as I have been.
At 7:30 a.m. the weather was somewhat overcast with clouds and the sea had swells with whitecaps. We had already planned to have a relaxed day aboard ship with no plans to get off and visit the port and resort town of Warnemunde. The ship went much slower so we would still arrive about 8 a.m. the next day in Aarhus, Denmark. I did attend the 3rd and unscheduled art auction; saw nothing I liked that we can afford. In late afternoon we saw many large wind turbines (wind mills) set in the water not too far off the shores of Denmark.
Sept. 9th – Last night we entered the Belt Strait and cruised various northwesterly courses toward the approach to Aarhus harbor and through its narrow breakwaters. We arrived in Aarhus, Denmark, about 8 a.m. under a blue sky with bright sunshine and a few puffy white clouds.
Aarhus, Denmark is at the mid-point of the Jutland Peninsula at approximately the geographic center of Denmark. The population is 350,000 second only to Copenhagen. There was a bishop here in 951 and other people may have lived in by 800. There is evidence that the Vikings had settlements here from at least the 7th and 8th century. By the year 1000 the city was of some importance as six rune stones from this period were found and only wealthy and powerful nobles made use of runes.
Today we took a 4 ½ hour tour (9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.). Our motor coach drove to Bryrup in Central Jutland, home to the forests, streams and lakes of Denmark’s Lake Country. On this 30 minute drive on rural highways we saw thatched homes, other homes with roofs of red tile and a few with black tile; we went through several villages. Heather was blooming along the side of the highways. In Bryrup we boarded a restored steam train for a short (25 minute) trip along the line once described as the most beautiful railroad in Denmark. We traveled through a glacial valley filled with dense forest to Silkeborg. We toured the Silkeborg Museum; there we observed The Tollund Man found May 6, 1950 in a peat bog. The Tollund Man was/is preserved; he looks like he is just taking a nap and you can count the whiskers on his chin. He was hanged and at death approximately 30 to 40 years of age. He may have lived in 350 B.C. during the early Iron Age, the time period known as the Celtic Iron Age. There was a beautiful river in Silkeborg that was flowing over rocks and had rapids within it. We then drove to a stop at Himmelbjeret, one of the highest peaks in Denmark at 500 feet above sea level. There was free time at the historic hotel located near its summit and we were above to get views of the Lake County. After this stop we had the one hour drive back to the ship, arriving at the time we were to depart. There were a multitude of fir trees, the first native tree here, plus oak, beech and others. We also saw many Christmas tree farms. It was a pleasure to see rural and small villages among dense forest with lots of heather in bloom. We saw a few homes that are currently being lived in that have the old-fashioned thatched roofs. It was a beautiful day. We really enjoyed our statement with balcony.
Sept. 10th – From the Navigator. Throughout yesterday Emerald Princess continued to set various Northerly courses toward the Skagerrak sea area and the entrance to Oslofjorden. In the early hours of the morning, we embarked our fjord pilot at the Faerder Pilot Stations, 1.5 nautical miles to the east of Faerder Island, and about two hours after we were transiting the Drobak narrows. These narrows are characterized by the Oscarsborg Fort which sank the German heavy cruiser Blucher during the German invasion in 1940. Under pilotage we followed the 51 nautical miles passage through the picturesque fjords in a Northerly direction toward the Norwegian capital. After passing through the Slideberget passage we entered the Oslo Harbor and docked at our berth.
Oslo is capital of Norway. The country has approximately 5 million people and 540,000 of them live in Oslo. The country is slightly larger than New Mexico. The time zone is GMT + 1. Oslo wraps itself around part of a beautiful fjord – it’s as though the sea has been invited in for a visit. Seafarers have lived in Oslo Fjord since the 8th century, taking advantage of the beautiful harbor 60 miles from the sea. The city has many lovely trees, parks and statues, curvy & hilly streets. There are 343 lakes in Oslo and 40 islands in Oslo fjord.
The founder of Oslo was the half-brother of St. Olav, Harald Hardrade (whose nickname means “uncompromising commander”). The city probably dates from 1048 when Harald built a fort and a settlement on the left bank of the Aker River. As the oldest capital in Scandinavia Oslo has became wealthy by supplying provisions to ships and trading in timber. Much of the old city was destroyed by fire in 1624, reportedly set by three witches. The Akershus Castle to guard against the Swedes was the first of many military facilities and is just across the street from our ships berth; the cannons, and three levels of stone work are quite impressive.
We had a two hour comprehensive city tour of viewing Oslo’s highlight by motor coach. Some of the sights we saw were the 13th century Akershus Fortress and the City Hall, inaugurated in 1950 at Oslo’s 900-year jubilee. We saw the Parliament Building and the Royal Palace and viewed the gates of the Vigeland Sculpture Park. We drove up Holmenkollen Hill to the site of the 1952 Olympic ski-jumping competition and stopped for a photo op. Since it was Saturday and light traffic we also had a stop at the sites of (but closed) Maritime Museum and Kon-Tiki Museum. We returned to town via the Bygdoy Peninsula, well-known as the home of the seafaring museums (see above). When the tour was over we visited the Oslo Cruise Center which houses many separate shops; while I shopped Howard walked back to the downtown area, a short distance, to take additional photographs. This has been a beautiful day, blue sky with some high thin clouds and probably 65 degrees, feel quite comfortable. We watched our ship leave the harbor and enter the fjord from our balcony. This has been a wonderful, and very enjoyable, cruise; we are quite glad we are on the next cruise and shall end up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
While at dinner our new cruise cards were delivered, but we had to have our photographs taken the next morning for security. They make it very easy to do follow-on cruises, no need to get off the ship and we are keeping the same good stateroom, with balcony/veranda, on the 14th deck.
Sept. 11th – During the night our cruise statement was delivered for what we have purchased on board; the tours we took, photographs, and the few items we purchased in the gift ships. This was taken care of with our credit card that we gave for this purpose. We arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark and were along our berth about 5 a.m. There was a beautiful bright sunrise a bit after 6 a.m. I really prefer to see sunsets over sun rises. We watched the huge amount of luggage assembled for those disembarking the NCL, plus the buses and cabs lined up to pick up passengers from both ship. After a 7 a.m. breakfast we returned to our stateroom as the sprinkling of rain began. Later it was somewhat heavier and a grey day. We are glad we did our canal boat tour and the city tour of Copenhagen before we boarded this ship on August 31st.
About 9:40 a.m. we went to the 6th deck conference room to remove this cruise card from security and have our photos taken for the new cruise (for our second cruise). There was no wait and this, like everything else, went smoothly and very well organized.
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