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fabnfortysomething

Breaking Away to the Baltics with Wlking Difficulties

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Welcome to the latest adventures with 6

 

Quick recap on the name

Remember the 1970s TV programme the 6 million dollar man where astronaut Steve Austin was seriously injured and made Better Stronger Faster with the aid of $6 million worth of bionic limbs

Well as a result of an aggressive bout of inflammatory arthritis in his 40s my husband has damaged joints resulting in 3 hip replacements so far[he’s not Jake the Peg-one was redone last year]

Cost so far nearer to 6 thousand rather than million hence the name 6

 

I have taken to writing long day by day reviews in a tongue in cheek manner with particular emphasis on obstacles to be encountered when you have walking difficulties

I try to anonymise so no pictures and use initials for fellow cruisers[although some of you may recognise yourselves]

 

Exceptions are naming cruise staff ,tour guides and anyone who has a well known cruise critic name

For instance Doug who writes live reviews under name theDougout was on our cruise so have referred to him and Sue by their real names

 

Fortunately after his latest surgery 6 is pretty mobile so less reliance on wheelchair assistance etc

However his arthritic left ankle causes issues if does too much [and that is his excuse for staying on board at several ports and making full use of UBP]

 

We have done a previous Baltics cruise in 2010 with our then 18 year old daughter on NCL Sun

We met a lovely couple K and D from Indianopolis USA on that cruise who we have kept in touch with and managed to meet up with every 2 years either on cruises or visiting us in UK

We all booked this cruise together over a year ago-us in balcony they in inside

We carefully chose locations close to each other and avoiding possibly noisy areas above and below so we resisted the “opportunities”to bid for an upgrade prior to cruise.

This 9 day Baltics cruise had 2 embarkation ports

Over 4000 passengers on board the vast majority boarded In Copenhagen

We chose to embark the next day in Warnemunde -hundreds ofus boarded there as opposed to thousands in Copenhagen

The advantage was that we flew direct To Berlin and spent several days there before taking train to Warnemunde. Our previous cruise we had a long private tour to Berlin from the port when we saw the highlights

K and D chose to stay local that time so this option worked well for us with a few hiccups which will come to in due course.

 

So back to the beginning with details of journey relevant to the walking difficulties theme.

Thursday afternoon 19 July we travelled from home to our local airport and utilised meet and greet parking service as just outside terminal and minimises walking.

6 had his usual security pat down as his metal hips always set off the airport security scanners and again was disappointed that this was done by the big burly man rather than his attractive female colleague

He also had to go through the body scanner which requires arms up to shoulder level-bit of a challenge as arthritis in upper body means can only raise arms so far.

It’s a small airport so declined wheelchair assistance that end but as Berlin airport was an unknown quantity we requested it on arrival at Berlin Schonfeld. This is the airport slightly further out from the centre and mainly used by low cost European airlines.

On arrival in Berlin 2 men were on hand to assist 6 and an elderly lady down the airplane steps and into a waiting minivan .I tagged along just in case 6 had some idea of sneaking off on another plane to somewhere exotic without me.

The minivan took us short cut to arrivals hall and fast track through immigration so collected baggage and outside airport pretty quickly.

A 30 minute 47 euro taxi ride brought us to Hotel Adina Mitte our base for the next 3 nights

It is very well situated just a few minutes [even for 6 ]walk from the main railway station

It is an apartment hotel with full kitchens so very handy for extended stays

We had a 1 bedroom apartment which was huge and included washing machine and tumble drier

K and D had a studio apartment which also had full kitchen which was expected-however an added bonus to them was theirs also had washer/dryer-not all studios do,

These laundry facilities were very useful as they had been in Europe for the previous week having visited London and friends in Amsterdam/the Hague

With it being 2 years since last met lots to catch upon-emails not quite the same

We ordered in pizza for ease but then ran out of beer!

The closest supermarket Lidll closed 9pm so K and I headed out to the next closest-situated within the railway station 10 mins away

Berlin Haubtbahnhof which is the main railway station is huge and on several levels

On the 2nd level down are lots of shops restaurants and a supermarket where we restocked alcohol so as to continue toasting our renewed friendship before separating for a good nights sleep

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Friday 20 July Berlin

Plan for today buy 48 hour Hop On Hop Off bus tickets

As mentioned the main train station is a short walk and we found information place just inside entrance with a long line where we bought tickets for city sightseeing buses-K and D had receipts for the one in Amsterdam which should have given 10% discount but not accepted here.

We made the mistake of purchasing at third party site instead of directly on the bus

Also the front of station is where the regular public transportation buses leave-we wasted time searching until finding the HOHO buses are through the back entrance of the station

There are several HOHO companies in Berlin doing similar routes

We spotted distinctive coloured City bus as soon as exited back of station and exchanged purchased tickets for actual ones to use on bus .As mentioned would have been better buying directly here as would have honoured10% discount

There are 2 routes A is classic tour and B is Wall and lifestyle tour

The guide suggested we do route B today as likely to be quieter as it was approaching lunchtime and peak time.

We stayed on for full 2 hours but there were a couple of stops where stopped for 10 to 15 mins-not necessarily in areas of greatest interest so it felt longer. However a good overview of the sights.

We got off when returned to station stop and walked back to hotel via supermarket Lidl to get provisions for tea

6 decided to cook a version of spaghetti bolognaise improvising for actual ingredients available in German supermarkets.

6 decided to rest up at hotel as he had been walking a bit but was suffering more from sat stationary on the bus for 2 hours as that can be as bad for arthritis as overdoing it.

The 3 of us headed back out to the site of the Berlin wall passed on the HOHO-10-15 minutes walk from hotel.

Photos and information posts show extent of the wall and the“death strip” in between. The area is now set out park like It's well done and thought provoking

Difficult to imagine its history and existence during our lifetimes.6 was born in 1961 when the Berlin wall was erected and it came down in 1989.

Back to the hotel where 6 culinary concoction was well underway and we had a very social evening getting through a lot of wine and beer in practice for the upcoming cruise.

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Looking forward to reading more :-) I almost booked this exact cruise and week myself!

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Saturday 21 July Berlin

One thing I noticed about most of the cities in Baltic area is the amount of bikes around-both personal and for hire

The cycle routes were good and usually had separate lanes to traffic and pedestrians

However plan today was to do route A of the HOHO bus-the Classic route

This had some of the same stops as route B and full circuit took 2 hours.

Returning to hotel again via supermarket

6 again decided to rest up and do laundry

As day before the 3 of us headed back out on foot to explore some of stops in more detail

The memorial to murdered Jews is very thought provoking

The HOHO route was diverted because of a parade so missed the main street with museums etc starting at Brandenburg gate and ending Berliner cathedral so we walked that stretch

The soles of my feet were pulsating by time we got back to the hotel!

Time to freshen up before meeting up in our apartment for another meal created by 6 and washed down with plenty of wine and beer

I can recommend the Adina Apartment hotel Mitte

The self catering facilities are great if you want to do your own thing but there are plenty of restaurants nearby if you prefer and they can even deliver pizza etc to hotel.

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Sunday 22 July Berlin to Rostock

 

We had reservations on 10.42 train to Rostock where would spend night before heading to nearby Warnemunde next day to embark Breakaway.

We arranged to meet in lobby after checking out but failed tosee K and D behind these huge suitcases.

Ok am exaggerating but you guys from USA don’t need to worry about being identified as tourists by wearing white sneakers and shorts-it’s the size of your suitcases!

We have had 3 occasions where we have met USA friends at our local railway station and struggled to get their cases into our smaller UK sized car boot[that’s trunk to you]

Also trains luggage racks are not very large so why do you make life so difficult for yourselves-we do have laundry facilities this side of the pond and even shops to buy cheap clothes you can throw away when dirty.

6 and I walked the 10 minutes to the station with our 24inch cases whilst K and D struggled with their considerably larger ones

Or rather K insisted in being a gentleman and pulling both cases whilst D had hand luggage .I’m sure if he could have put my case on his back he would have insisted in taking mine too!

At the station we needed to descend 2 levels but there was a long line of people waiting for elevators/lifts with suitcases and yes bikes. We managed to negotiate the escalators with our cases and found the correct platform with 30 minutes to go

We had got a very cheap group rate with German rail 62 euros for all 4 of us and the 2 ¾ hour journey to Rostock.

We thought it would be a quiet journey being a Sunday but it seemed every one wanted to have a day out at the seaside as over the next half hour the platform filled up with people and suitcases and yes lots of bikes

The regional trains do not have seat reservations and when the train arrived it was a mad scrum to get on

The regional trains also have 3 levels

First one is for bikes and we were quickly made aware that not for luggage

The next 2 levels were seats but accessed by steps and they were already full

There was no way those 2 large cases would go up the steps especially with the number of people in there-some were even sat on the steps for most of the journey.

So K had to stand inthe bike compartment with the 2 large cases the whole journey trying to ignore the dirty looks directed his way.

We managed to get our smaller cases up to top level where there was a luggage rack but no seats

6 sat on his suitcase and D and I sat in the luggage rack-not the most comfortable with the metal bar under our thighs

Despite some seats being marked as for use by disabled or pregnant no one offered to give up seat for 6 despite obvious walking stick .With his beer belly and long hair he could also have been mistaken for pregnant if not for the beard and moustache.

The very long journey between Rostock and Berlin via regional trains is because of the many stops along the way and is why not feasible for cruise passengers to use for a day trip

The faster ICE trains do not correspond to cruise ships timetables hence why most people use ships charter train or bus transfer through companies such as SPB

About 30 minutes into the journey some people got off train and we managed to find some seats

I tried to locate K downstairs but was still jam packed with people on steps so unable to spot him.

Eventually we arrived at Rostock station to realise we needed to go under tracks to get to exit

Again very long line for elevators with people and their bikes so we managed to lug our cases down steps and up again the other side.

We had booked into Intercity hotel Rostock .This chain of hotels are adjacent to railway stations and include a 24 hour travel pass which we would use to get local train to Warnemunde the next day.

Checking into the hotel K and D room was ready-ours was not so we took our cases to their room and 6 produced 4 cans of beer from his rucksack left over from previous night-very welcome!

The rooms are very small compared to our previous hotel in Berlin and air conditioning consists of opening the window overlooking the weed encrusted rooftop patio area

Did I mention Northern Europe is in middle of a heatwave?

The bathroom is very red!!!!

However fine for one night

Our room was ready by 3pm so we dumped our cases and 6 decided to rest in room after exertions of day while the 3 of us set out to explore Rostock

Allowing for fact it’s Sunday and nothing open the expression “rolls up it’s sidewalks at night” springs to mind.

Our friend S from Germany we were meeting on the ship had insider knowledge and stayed at hotel Neptun in the pretty seaside town of Warnemunde .Although more expensive in hindsight we should have done the same

 

We decided to eat in the hotel restaurant which had [not surprisingly] a German slant to it

D veggieburger and 6 chicken burger were recognisable but K beef burger was made up of meat balls rather than mince-very strange.

I had Weiner schnitzel which was nice

Time to call it a night as cruise day tomorrow.

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Monday 23 July cruise day

 

We checked out and walked round the corner to Rostock railway station and found it to be much quieter than previous day and were able to easily access the elevator with all our luggage and found platform for train to Warnemunde which was end of line

20 minute journey and loads of room on train to keep our luggage close, we used free transport pass provided by hotel

No elevators so we had to lug suitcases down and up steps to get to cruise terminal

I heard later that there was a wheelchair accessible route but wasn’t obvious

Breakaway was docked behind an Aida ship so it seemed a long walk to get there with 6 feeling effects of last few days

The vast majority of passengers had embarked in Copenhagen the previous day and as we approached a marquee type terminal a few people were still making their way off the ship to explore local area

It was 10.50 and told check in not starting until 11am

We sat on benches outside for a few minutes until they let us in where we passed our cases off to staff and given usual health questionnaire to fill in and then approached line of about 8 check in desks

We were first customers for our guy as he had difficulty firing up his computer

Once that sorted a very quick check in and handed our shipcards

Then to security where of course 6 set off alarms and he walks towards security guy with arms already out for his frisk down

We walked onto a practically deserted ship as most passengers off ship to Berlin or sticking closer to ship in seaside areas

Headed to atrium bar to break in the UBP with our first rebellious fish

We had arranged to meet S at O Sheehans at 12 but we spotted him coming towards us in atrium. This is a German guy we met on the short inaugural voyage of Escape from Hamburg to Southampton and have kept in touch with

When we saw his name on roll call we were delighted and invited him to join the 4 of us for our private tour in St Petersburg

We had a quick lunch in O Sheehans-at least it was quick for us as our fish and chips came out quickly but S order of Caesar salmon salad took ages to come out-really ? that should be really easy!

Anyway we decided to go to guest services which was very quiet and enquire about getting disembarkation tickets for St Petersburg

Told to come back after 7pm so we arranged to meet back then

We got the message cabins were ready so headed there to find 18 1 litre bottles of water on desk as part of our UK all inclusive deal-how can we get through that amount!

We offered some to K and D but they said their inside cabin was very short on storage space and in fact had a pillar directly outside cabin door which made even more claustrophobic They said was smallest inside cabin they've been in and compared to our spacious balcony cabin think they regretted not upgrading

 

The prices NCL were charging for water packages we considered making a fortune on the black market by standing in atrium selling extra bottles but thought may get kicked off ship

Seriously if you are from USA and considering purchasing water package listen out for a European accent and make friends to get a few free bottles!

A few letters on bed and one to make my heart sink

I acted as co ordinator for meet and greet which had been agreed weeks earlier with ship. It was next day as sea day 11am at La Cucina and that was the info I had posted on the roll call

They had changed venue and time to Margaritaville 10,30amand as co Ordinator addressed only to me

This has happened to me before when they brought forward 24hours on a previous cruise!

Change of venue not so much a problem as can have sign outside but bringing forward an issue as people turn up at original time and officers already gone and meeting half over

Also clocks go forward an hour tonight so even more potential for disaster

I went down to guest services and explained problem and they paged Raoul who came out to meet me

I explained the issue that as cruisecritic is an anonymous forum I did not have personal details of the 50 guests expected and only 6 people had provided their cabin numbers to me prior cruise via email

Group event where you all know each other fair enough but please NCL recognise that cruise critic meet and greets are different

Raoul said he would be there the next day and took the cabin numbers I had and promised to leave voicemail messages about change of venue and to have signs out next day at original venue of la Cucina about change

 

We had a few wifi minutes as part of platinum perks so posted on roll call in case anyone still checking in and then thought of posting on the legendary the Dougouts live feed.He was on same cruise having embarked with his extended family day before and had lots of followers

So having done as much as could off to explore ship

Normally l purchase a thermal spa pass but as port intensive and friends on board no need

 

 

We found area at aft of garden café buffet with bar opposite for beer and wine only-suits us

Attentive waiter until time for muster drill 5.15 which for Warnemunde boarders was in theatre-only half full so shows relative proportions of popularity of embarkation port

Swipe card on admission nto theatre

Comedy act with ships security officer and guy translating in Spanish

Asked for anyone with difficulty with stairs to make self known-6 went down and they made note

Instruction- if emergency 7am till 11pm stand in front of cabin door

11pm till 7am someone will come to cabin[or I can carry him]

 

We spent rest of night at o Sheehans and then sailaway at Spice H2o 10pm

Back to room and found a stroppy letter informing us we missed muster drill and caused ship to break maritime law!

6 was very irritated particularly as the security officer had made a special note of his difficulty with stairs!

Off to guest services who admitted system error failed to recognise cards-so everyone embarking at Warnemunde got that?

Were not alarm bells triggered that an unusually high number of people failed to attend muster drill?

To be brought up at meet and greet tomorrow

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Tuesday 24 July Sea day

 

As mentioned the clocks had gone forward 1 hour and the meet and greet venue had been changed last minute and to an earlier time slot at 10.30 so was anticipating problems

 

10am D and I met Raoul at Margaritaville and set out lanyards for 48 people who had expressed interest in coming

Raoul said he had stationed someone at La Cucina to redirect people

There was an easel set up at entrance saying private party but nothing saying cruise critic so suggested an extra note would help as various people were wandering around and looking puzzled as to what was going on .I also expressed concern that guest services had no record of us being entitled to free transfers between Nynashamnand Stockholm as we had booked before itinerary change. He said leave it with him and he would sort it.

 

14 people who got message turned up and Vuk hotel director introduced his team of officers.

He said because of the good weather he had decided to change the venue from inside to here as was open air and to showcase the venue of Margaritaville. He then went on to comment that they don’t usually have the officers out number the guests!!!!

I had to collar him after that and explain the low turnout was a direct result of that last minute change!

I also showed him the missed muster drill letter and he said he would look into it

We socialised with those who had turned up and expected more about 11 after being redirected from La Cucina however it didn’t happen.

One couple did turn up about 11.10 who had done a bit o fdetective work

They said there was no one there to redirect people from la Cucina at11am-so much for Raoul promise

They were haven guests so asked their concierge who found out new venue.

All in all it was very disappointing but we did manage to put faces to some people we had been chatting to on roll call and kept bumping into them throughout the cruise.

 

The Q and A session with officers was 12 o clock in atrium so headed down there.

I heard my name called by Dia the Guest Services Manager who had been at meet and greet

Vuk had passed on our concerns re the muster drill mess up

She agreed the tone of the letter was bad and made to feel like naughty schoolchildren and should have been investigated first why so many people apparently failed to attend

 

She also said she had stationed someone at La Cucina at10.30 to redirect people but her face fell when I pointed out 11am was time needed to be there as that was original arranged and when people would be expected to turn up

Hopefully NCL have learned from this experience

Back in the cabin found an invite to captains VIP party that night in Haven 6.15 till 7

I’m not sure whether that was because I hosted the Meet and Greet or as an apology for the mess

up .

I’ve heard of power struggles on roll calls over who gets to organise the Meet and Greet in order to receive “perks”

 

Believe me I’ve hosted a few and more times than not there are no perks whatsoever.

Volunteer because you enjoy the organising otherwise you may be sorely disappointed

 

I left 6 to do his own thing and explored the ship a bit more

 

The box office was open so joined the line to check our StPetersburg disembarkation arrangements. We had requested group A which would be first off after ships tours.

She confirmed 4 of us were allocated to group A which would be about 8am but S had not been added to our group. She rectified that on screen and said we would not get physical letters but info would be linked to our keycard

Listening to other cruisers at the desk the girl was asking what time they were to meet their tour guide and allocating them a time 15 minutes before that to meet in theatre .We knew from previous experience it would take a lot longer than that to get through Russian Immigration and from the grumbles of people we knew this wasn’t going to go smoothly.

She did say however that after 9.30 it would be open walkoff and no need to go via theatre-keep that option in mind!!!

Ship docks 7am and we were due to meet tour guide 9am so was fine with 8am time

 

In previous years the ships of most companies have been guilty of misleading passengers about the requirement for visas and some companies outright lying that Russian Immigration will only allow ship passengers off first

Of course this is completely untrue and people have got wise to these tactics particularly if you are on cruisecritic.

However this year [probably a few greased palms] the port has come to an agreement that private tour companies would not be allowed in the gates until 60 minutes after the ships tour buses enter

This I had no objection to as 4000 passengers wanting to be first off is not going to work.

In fact with 2 days in port a later start just means later back to ship so day not shortened

Roberto cruise director did have a system in place to alleviate but as will be discussed later it all fell to pieces because of lack of enforcement.

 

Time to go to captains party in Haven

I was wearing a maxi dress and a lady in the elevator commented on how pretty it was .She and her husband were Haven guests and also heading to party so we started chatting. She was using a rollator so she and 6 got comparing notes .Her husband insisted on showing us the facilities in Haven which looked lovely but not sure could justify the extra costs in favour of more frequent cruises.

We explained how were we sailing with friends we had met ona previous cruise and they introduced us to 2 other ladies that they had also bumped into on a previous cruise. So a very nice sociable time.

The wife said she needed to go 6.55 in order to get to Burn the floor .Her husband was a bit reluctant to leave so she excused him and he breathed a sigh of relief and said would meet her at Tepanyaki at 8.

As he said the secret of a 40+ year marriage!

We agreed that I do Spa 6 does bar[as well as I go to theatre shows without him having been subjected to his bored face once too often.]

 

We met K and D 7.30 at La Cucina for one of our Platinum perk free meals

Service fairly slow but better than some

We wanted to check out the band playing at Syd Normans pourhouse 10 till 12 and went in early at 9.30 to get good seats

A lady came in and started chatting to us saying how good the band were-she introduced herself as Patty, one of the Howl at Moon pianists and we invited her to sit with us-by end of cruise we got to know each other pretty well

The house band are called Shanti Leone and the Guilty Pleasures and some nights 3 cast members of Rockof Ages sing along with them and mingle with audience-this was one of those nights and it was great fun

Because Patty knew the band very well lead singer Darren came over in the break and immediately nicknamed 6 Wild Bill Hickock because ofhis long hair and beard

The band occasionally single someone out for Ricks Roll-a short rendition of Rick Astleys “never gonna give you up” and 6 was first recipient

 

With such a great start we saw band to end of their set and then time for bed

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Wednesday 25 July Tallinn

A fairly short day arriving 9am and leaving 4.30

Our cabin was near aft so morning alarm call was vibration as docked-the whole shack shimmied as the songs goes

6 decided to stay on board as Tallinn is not disabled friendly!

I met K and D 10.15 and we walked off the ship and the 20minute flat walk to old city gates

Very pretty town but very crowded with 3 ships in dock

We spent our time trying to avoid the large groups of tourgroups and succeeded pretty well by heading in another direction!

We noticed a couple of wheelchairs and rollators on these tour groups-not comfortable with cobblestones and uneven paving

Tallinn known for singing so plenty of street artists

Some good and one guy in particular so bad it was laughable with him murdering Elvis “hound dog!”

We nipped into a church at top and looking round flags etc on walls

A guide asked us if we could keep moving as they were expecting over 2000 people passing through today

 

We know we said we’ve been trying to avoid them!

 

At this he unbent as we didn’t take offence and in fact gave us a short history lesson of the church!

 

Footsore we returned to ship 1.30 and I went to drop my bag off at room

Alain our cabin steward caught me in corridor as 6 had inadvertently left the do not disturb switch on

I confirmed it was fine to make up cabin and at that moment got text from 6 he was going to lunch in O Sheehans so joined him there

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the atrium editing photos ,makingcruise notes and drinking lots of beer and wine

I also followed up on message on cabin phone to contact guest services

They confirmed we were indeed eligible for free transfers to Stockholm-thanks Raoul

I knew from reviews of previous cruises in the season that this was a hit or miss process with some people receiving letters in cabin confirming free transfers and others having to argue their case

Basically when we and many others booked this cruise over a year ago it was billed as docking in Stockholm with scenic cruise through the archipelago

When itinerary change was announced that would be instead at Nynashamn an hour outside NCL promised people who had booked prior to this change that complimentary transfers would be offered

However guest services records were not accurate

We noticed $24 OBC to our accounts which we discovered after the cruise was a refund of port taxes between Stockholm and cheaper Nynashamn

Am I overthinking this but surely guest services should have been able to work out that if you were entitled to this refund it automatically meant you had booked prior to change and therefore eligible for free transfers

We spoke to several people who were made to feel as if they were lying at guest services about their entitlement-not good PR

Previous cruise reports seemed to vary between given open train tickets, refunds on booking ships bus transfer on own shore excursion or dedicated bus transfers

Possibly because it was a Sunday and reduced train timetable our option was a bus transfer

However fixed transfer times

7am return 1pm

7.30 return 1.30

9.45 retuen 4 .45

We chose 9.45 to have bit of lie in

 

The latitudes party that evening in Spiegel tent was pretty empty as not many eligible turned up -with UBP no free booze incentive needed!

However it’s an opportunity to promote Cruise Next certificates

They now have an alternative offer for those on European allinclusive not requiring OBC

Option A buy 2 cruise next certificates get $200 OBC

Option B buy one get one free

We went for option B having run out and certain to cruiseNCL again

We had a quick supper at Garden café and then headed to Howl at Moon to get front row seats to see Patty in action

Perhaps not the best option when D and I were dragged up to perform a high kicking[or not so much]]Rockette number to New York New York

6 sneakily videod this from back of room!

 

D likes to collect unusual beer bottles and the previous night in Syd Normans she noticed couple along side us had special edition worldcup football[soccer] Budweiser bottles

As they were in London at time of finals I asked on her behalf if could have empty bottle

The same couple were here and recognised her so went to bar and got 2 empty Heinekin plastic glasses that light up-good move!

A good ending to the night

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Thursday 26 July St Petersburg

And the fiasco of disembarkation.

We were due to meet our guide 9am and had boarding letter A which was first after ships excursions and due to be called 8am so should have had plenty of time

We had breakfast and headed down to theatre when called Letter A 7.50am

However the lines were from O Sheehans to get in there and no way to avoid going through theatre as roped off to prevent people bypassing

An Ncl employee was at end of line and calling that only people with letters A and B to come forward at this time.

However no attempt to check actual letters and no way all these people were allocated these first numbers.

Once we got into the theatre we were seated row by row and eventually led out same way

Roberto the cruise director was doing his best to give information and stressing that patience is required and not to worry about the times printed o ntour tickets as the guides will wait and will still get full day tour.

It took an hour to get through that process in the theatre

So who fault was it?

NCL policy of giving a ticket time based only 15 minutes before tour start time was ridiculous as made people anxious that were going to be late

Obviously 4000 people all trying to get off the ship first isn’t going to work and Roberto was trying to work a system but it failed because there was no enforcement of allocated letters.

However blame also to fellow passengers who were so determined to be off ASAP they pushed in line

Off the ship and heading to Russian immigration where the worst was yet to come

There were plenty of booths open and 15-20 people in each line so we went to end of one

However a large group of about 20 adults had spread across several lines and they kept line switching to what they thought was shortest until the whole group ended up in our line!!!!

30 minutes after joining we still had the same number of people in front of us!

Each processing at the booth was taking several minutes with some people taking longer than others for some reason

We were in that line another hour before we eventually got through

So whose fault was this?

Definitely selfish passengers skipping from one line to another and pushing those behind them even further back

However there were several Russian employees milling around and they should have prevented this line switching-pick a line and stick to it!

Advice?

Arrange with your private tour guide to start 10am and come back to ship later on day 1

It was to be open disembarkation after 9.30 with no need to go via theatre and by that time lines should have died down

Anyway 9.45 2 hours after we were through and faced with a sea of tour guides holding up name signs

I spotted one for TJ Tours and he instructed to go outside and look for TJ banner and lady with check list

 

TJ and SPB are obviously the big guys here now as they both had banners and ladies with check lists to direct to correct van

Ours was a private van for 5 of us and were led to a 7 seater Mercedes Benz and our guide Lisa and driver Roma

I noted lots of tour vans with many different company names.

We set off for Peterhof and tour of palace

I had requested wheelchair and K volunteered to push 6

Just as well we had this as crowds at entrance very dense and he would have been jostled badly if trying to keep on own feet.

Lisa was very good at getting our small group in and had to be very assertive about getting the crowd to part to let wheelchair through.

It was very crowded and claustrophobic and Lisa suggested that as there was no lift/elevator in the palace would 6 prefer to watch a film of the place whilst she escorted the rest around upstairs

YES and I volunteered to stay with him

A museum administrator appeared with a bunch of keys and led us to an anteroom with a huge 12 foot by 8 foot TV dominating the room

She had great difficulty getting the video working and started it 49 minutes in with English subtitles-omg how long is this film?

Eventually she got it to beginning and it was actually more entertaining because of the mis translations!

Most entertaining though was that we had to have a “minder”with us-a middle aged woman who sat on guard and looked thoroughly bored!

Fortunately Lisa returned before having to sit through whole of film and apologised for cutting short-NO PROBLEM!

We then had a walking tour of the gardens with K pushing 6

A test of friendship indeed especially when faced with a slope with adverse camber.

It was getting a bit hairy so 6 decided better off out of chair as they were in danger of being a runaway !

 

Back to the van and the 1 hour drive to Pushkin and Catherines palace

It started to rain on journey but fortunately cleared up by time we got there.

It was crowded but not as bad as Peterhof palace

We were led in the group entrance which was fairly quick especially with Lisa guiding our small group through larger ones

Looking out the windows we could see the huge line for general public entrance

Apparently the previous week there was a 7 hour wait to get in and 500 people were turned away when it closed

Riots resulted so there were police patrolling the lines!

Back to St Petersburg we had a guided tour of St Isaacs cathedral

Plan was to then visit Church of Spilt Blood but due to a military parade next day there were traffic jams.Change of plan to visit next day and instead go to souvenir shop/office to pay now instead of as usual on second day

Our first visit 8 years ago the tour guides quoted in US dollars and requested payment in crisp bank notes

Rules have now changed and can only take local currency ie roubles and can pay credit card with no extra charge

Early in negotiations they gave us a quote of $340 based on 5 people and that it would be converted on the day to roubles at exchange rate of the day.

I pointed out that as only 2 were USA the rest of us were from UK and Germany that would involve at least 2 foreign transaction conversions and so asked for fixed price in roubles now which was

20 500

 

That actually worked out in everyones favour as US dollar euro and pound sterling had all risen against the rouble in that time

 

Back to the ship but again pass back through passport control

This seemed to take a long time bearing in mind no one in front of us but the booth operator was on the phone the whole time and seemed to have difficulty multi tasking and taking out white piece of paper and stamping our passports at same time

 

To say 6 was fed up with this process was an understatement .In interests of international relations I agreed he could stay on ship next day as he had seen most things on agenda on first visit. We would be able to enjoy more walking without him.

A few tests of the UBP and he relaxed

We invited K and D along to our balcony to enjoy the warm evening but K was really freaked out at seeing 6 administer his weekly injection to keep his inflammatory arthritis at bay!

We finished off the evening at Syd Normans with a new band-Roxys Rock Revolution 1 girl and 2 male vocalists

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Friday 27th July St Petersburg

A quick breakfast and met K D and S in atrium 7.30 and explained 6 had decided to stay on board

It was a completely different experience going through immigration straight away and were waiting for guide 7.45 as were due to meet 8am

We explained there would just be the 4 of us today and by the end of the day my feet were killing me as Lisa took the opportunity to add in more as we were all fit.

First stop was a metro ride

I remember last time visiting one of the older ornate stations

This was a newer one but still decorated with mosaics but in a more modern style

We took one stop and even though presumably rush hour as 8.15 am it wasn’t too crowded

And a novelty for those used to the London tube people onthe platform actually allow people to get off the train before shoving their way on!

We met Roma at next station then a short drive and photo op in main square between Hermitage and Admiralty building

We then strolled down Nevsky Prospect the main shopping street

Again comparing to London and Oxford street that could have fitted in the width of the pavement/sidewalk! Very open and spacious so no crowds

We took a few side streets and came across small orthodox church and park areas.

We weren’t bothered about a lunch stop but wanted to checkout this pie shop Stolle that had heard about

You can eat in or take away and they serve pie by the slice

S paid for a chocolate bun and cherry pie for Lisa I tried a meat pie and one apple slice. Altogether came to 330 roubles-less than $5 or £5

Lisa suggested could eat as picnic in Summer gardens.

This was Peter the Greats first attempt at garden area within city before he developed Peterhof and its very pretty and peaceful with fountains and treelined walkways

A bride and groom were getting photos taken-this was a common theme in most of Baltic stops as well as the hoards of bicycles!

Back in the van and it was off to Church Our Saviour of the Spilled Blood which we missed yesterday because of preparations for Naval Parade-there were several war ships lined up on the River Neva

Lisa explained the history of the church

Alexander 3 had several unsuccessful attempts on his life but got a bit too convinced of his immortality as he insisted ongoing to talk to the woman who had tried to assassinate him .She signalled her colleague who threw another bomb at him and he died of his wounds 2 hours later

This church was built on site of this assassination and is the most visited church today with its distinctive Onion shaped domes and walls of mosaics inside.

I didn’t realise that it was very run down and threatened with demolition in the 20th century

A museum owner agreed to fund the restoration which didn’t finish until the 1980’s

Lisa says she can remember passing it as a child with all the scaffolding around it and got tickets to see it 2 years after it reopened. She can still recall her amazement at seeing the interior

 

Next stop was Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral-the site of the tombs of the Romanovs-the ruling family of Czars

Coming out under the arch heard a loud bang and nearly jumped out of my skin .First thought was terrorist attack but no one running

Looking at my watch it’s 12 o clock and the ceremonial cannon fire-wish Lisa had warned us!

 

St Nicolas is the Naval cathedral all blue and white and half of the church was roped off to tourists but a wedding party was just arriving so got to see bride and groom

We were offered lunch stop but declined so were told would make a stop at souvenir shop with washrooms as next stop Yusopov palace was closed for lunch

Lisa and Roma were greeted with cups of coffee as they walked in-obviously their rest break and where they hang out while their clients eat lunch-we obviously unusual as not requiring that-plenty to eat onboard and prefer to sightsee-anyway was still full from the pies at Stolle

We got to Yusopov palace around 2.20 and fairly quiet

This is where Rasputin was murdered and he had a pretty bad rap being a political assassination and his murderers never being punished.

The rest of the palace is huge and owned by a very rich family-they even had their own private theatre!

On exiting the whole road in front of palace was crammed full of tour buses and vans-obviously the last stop of the day for many-Lisa did well to keep us ahead of the crowds

 

A final photo stop by request was by the ice breaker ship as Lisa told us it was built in Newcastle upon Tyne 30 miles from our home in UK

 

Back to ship around 4.30 and a big hug for Lisa

It was really easy to get back through immigration today-the girl in the booth even smiled!

Found 6 resting up in room and headed to garden café to eat at our new favourite place there near the bar

We got good views of the new football stadium built for the recent World Cup and the new bridge roadway we rode on yesterday Nicknamed the ribs bridge because of the curved uprights

Also views of a public beach where locals enjoying the sunny weather despite it being a pretty industrial area.

I spent the afternoon making cruise notes whilst 6 was uploading a certain Rockettes type video!

 

Watched from this area for sailaway 7pm-we were slightly delayed till 7.20 with 2 guys in high vis jackets hanging around to release the last 2 ropes from dock-not sure what that was about.

We headed to Syd Normans and planned to head to Howl at Moon10.30

However 10.10 I couldn’t keep my eyes open and headed to bed leaving 6 to carry on without me and make apologies to our friends

I do believe he was suggesting I may have overindulged with the UBP!

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Thank you for this review, I am enjoying it very much.

 

We were first in St Pete's in 1984, when it was still Leningrad. The Church of the Spilled Blood was not open at that stage. In fact, there were many churches that were beautifully ornate on the outside but derelict inside as the Soviet regime was very anti religious worship.

 

We went back on a Baltic cruise in 2009 (25th anniversary) and found things very different. Much busier, more colour, neon street signs and adverts, road names written in Roman alphabet as well as Cyrillic. One thing we didn't enjoy was having to be marshaled in groups like sheep, rather than wandering freely as we had done previously.

 

If we go again (one day, who knows?) I would certainly look at private tours. The good thing about having been before is that we don't feel guilty for taking things gently, rather than trying to see absolutely everything in 2 days!

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Thank you for this review, I am enjoying it very much.

 

We were first in St Pete's in 1984, when it was still Leningrad. The Church of the Spilled Blood was not open at that stage. In fact, there were many churches that were beautifully ornate on the outside but derelict inside as the Soviet regime was very anti religious worship.

 

We went back on a Baltic cruise in 2009 (25th anniversary) and found things very different. Much busier, more colour, neon street signs and adverts, road names written in Roman alphabet as well as Cyrillic. One thing we didn't enjoy was having to be marshaled in groups like sheep, rather than wandering freely as we had done previously.

 

If we go again (one day, who knows?) I would certainly look at private tours. The good thing about having been before is that we don't feel guilty for taking things gently, rather than trying to see absolutely everything in 2 days!

 

thank you

interesting your confirmation on the state of Spilt blood in 1984 and your compare and contrast to 2009

 

we did a private tour with Anastasia for ourselves and daughter 8 years ago and with TJ for 5 of us this time

 

highly recommend private tours as the way to go and noted a lot more private vans this time as word has got out about them

 

would definitely recommend later start on day 1 to avoid the craziness of Russian immigration

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Saturday 28 July Helsinki

6 again decided to stay on board so met K and D in atrium10am and walked into old town

The cruise terminal is different from 8 years ago and further out in an industrial area

Absolutely nothing of interest around until you come across a very strange statue- stop number 2 on the HOHO route

It’s a weirdly shaped 20 foot tall pink statue of a man peeing into bushes[actually hosepipe coming out at strategic point and drains into ground]

We eventually found our way to the old town and wandered round

Finding our way back to ship was a bit trickier but we happened to see S ahead of us who had downloaded a route via google maps with points of interest so we latched on to him to get us back!

I found 6 in atrium bar about to do trivia quiz-the cruisedirector staff called over “ah the wife arrives”

Just what was he saying about me eh?

 

K D and I had reservations for 6.30 Rock of Ages show-left 6 to his own devices

We all enjoyed the show despite microphone difficulties-the guy playing Lonnie made a few ad lib jokes about it and Russian Immigration which got some laughs

We joined 6 in Syd Normans listening to the resident rockband Shanti Leone and the Guilty pleasures .We found he had made friends with bar waiters Edna and Michael who were keeping him well supplied

Patty the pianist joined us again and a good night was had by all

K and D headed to bed at end of show but Patty invited us to join her and guitarist Jiri from the band [commonly known as Mr Czech Rebublic as his name difficult to pronounce]for a late night snack in O Sheehans

Entertainment staff have different level of clearance as to which public areas of the ship they are allowed to frequent

Patty was on a short month contract with Howl at Moon and had more clearance than Jiri who had a longer term band contract

We had an interesting conversation about rock n roll lifestyle on cruise ships and linked facebook accounts to keep in touch.

6 was taking lots of band/Howl at Moon photos he is trying to find time to download and share.

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Sunday July 29 Nynashamn/Stockholm

Clocks went back an hour so bit of a lie in

Or so we thought

7.30am Captains address came over tannoy that due to technical difficulties the seawalk pier was unable to attach so one of the ships tender boats was released to help pull into place

This meant first walk off passengers were a bit delayed

8.30 it was announced the seawalk was operational

 

Our bus transfer time was 9.45 and meeting point Manhattan dining room where people were asked to sit inside until led off in groups

.6 had again decided to stay on board so K D and I met outside Manhattan 9.30 and were about to go in when the hostess suggested we join the end of the 9.30 departing crowd

We pointed out our tickets weren’t till 9.45 but she said if our group was complete its OK to go now

Of course her colleague at the bus end said we were too early but I explained what we had been told

He rolled his eyes and let us on the next bus

I can understand how mix ups happen when arrangements are not enforced consistently

It was just over 45 minutes drive to Stockholm where were dropped off at the Opera house which would be the pick up point for our return transfer 4.45

We walked around the old town of Gamla Stan in the opposite direction of crowds and found some quiet side streets

We passed a lady complaining to a police officer that most of the shops were shut-well it is Sunday and very common in Europe-however plenty of souvenir shops open ready to take your money-euros Dollars accepted as well as credit cards

There were plenty of HOHO buses and boats by harbour

Bus only 320DKK about 32 euros

Boat only 220 DKK

Combination 450 DKK

Boat would take directly over the to area of Vasa and Abba museum but we decided to walk

It was a pleasant 40 minute stroll along harbour front passing very expensive restaurants and bars

There are several museums and a theme park in this area and in pleasant park land

There was a long line to enter the Vasa museum so passed o nit

Similarly the ABBA museum but we did get our photos taken at the cheesy stick your head through the hole where looks like you dressed up in their stage costumes.

Attached hotel free and special access to museum for guests

Great fun if you an avid ABBA fan-

 

We found the Spiritmuseum -history of alcohol

We decided to go in as no lines and we had plenty of time to kill before our 4.45 transfer back to ship

It was interesting and quirky-would recommend it

Also chance to use their clean toilets!

We were about to exit when we noted a heavy shower outside and sounds of thunder so we waited inside till it passed-good timing that!

We walked back to Opera house area ,my feet were killing me and we’d seen pretty much all we wanted to[and threatening more showers]

We asked at line of buses if any chance of getting an earlier bus back-sure no problem was the reply-we are just going back to ship as each bus fills on a continuous loop

K decided to stay a bit longer but D and I got the 3.15 bus back instead of 4.45 and arrived back at ship 4.15

ABBA music blaring out of PR system set up alongside ship and crew members performing to Dancing Queen-impossible not to sing along!

Found 6 asleep on bed in our cabin so I sat out of balcony which was very peaceful as music couldn’t be heard from this side of ship Facing out to some islands-perhaps not as impressive as Stockholm archipelago but very nice

When 6 woke up we went for a buffet supper and then to SpiceH2O for 7pm sailaway

Atrium singers Arvin and Emily set up but due to problems with wind gave up after 15 minutes

The sailaway through the mini archipelago took 30minutes and very pretty

 

Plan was to see Roxys Rock revolution 10pm sandwiched in between Karaoke and then Howl at Moon

But guess what 10.15 again couldn’t keep eyes open so off to bed

Hey despite what 6 may say I had been getting a lot of fresh air and exercise the last few days!

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Monday 30 July seaday

 

At breakfast we bumped into Howl at Moon Patty and stopped to chat .She was heading back to States next day after a month gig on the ship and back to her regular duelling pianos job in California

We parted company to head for atrium where there was a long line at guest services as most people leaving ship tomorrow and settling anomalies on their account

I grabbed a few vacation hero cards and filled out for our cabin steward and favourite bar waiters.

12 o clock trivia started and I helped 6 but had to leave before answers cos I had a massage booked at the spa 12.30

I had tried to use my Platinum plus 25% discount for port day special but only port left was Copenhagen and was told that they close as it’s the major embarkation port.

Thats’s really the only downside I noted choosing Warnemunde as our embark/disembark port

I’d booked a 50 minute hot stone massage and the therapist offered me an upgrade to 75 mins for extra $20-a $30 saving so agreed to it

Believe me she needed those extra minutes to get the knots out of my shoulders!

Wandering around the ship afterwards the pool deck was crazy and loud with everyone fighting to get their last bit of sunbathing in

I actually retired to our balcony where it was warm and overcast with a slight breeze and read away the afternoon

We had reservations 7.30 with K and D for our second platinum dinner at Le Bistro

They were going to seat us in the “outside” seating which is actually open to the casino above

Ah no we’ll wait till table available inside

They asked if we had plans for evening ie how fast did we want serving

We wanted to be in a viewing position for Great Belt bridge due 8.30 so were fed and out in time for that

Passing under that especially from upper decks is a cool experience and many people were out with their cameras

Off to Syd Normans for Shanti Leone and joined by the 3 Rockof Ages cast for what for many would be their last night

 

10.30 we transferred to Howl at the Moon where guitarist Jiri joined them on stage

And yes I saw the night out till 12.30!

Edited by fabnfortysomething
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Great review, I have to ask why is he on his third? Break? Wear out? At 53 I got my first and told it should be fine for 25 years. At 55 I'm feeling great

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Great review, I have to ask why is he on his third? Break? Wear out? At 53 I got my first and told it should be fine for 25 years. At 55 I'm feeling great

 

he had hip resurfacing with metal to metal joint which are rarely done now because of complications with metal ions shearing off and unable to be expelled from his body

 

he developed a large pseudotumour on his left hip consisting of damaged muscle and metal which had to be cut away and replaced with a traditional total hip replacement

Hip revision surgery is much more complicated than a first time op but if you have been fitted with a traditional one yes you should be fine for 25 years

 

his hip joint is now fine but the problems are with his arthritic left ankle now!

 

his right hip is also metal to metal but touch wood not showing problems

his surgeon reckons the left hip developed problems because favouring his left ankle caused more of a limp and therefore more stress on the left hip joint

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he had hip resurfacing with metal to metal joint which are rarely done now because of complications with metal ions shearing off and unable to be expelled from his body

 

he developed a large pseudotumour on his left hip consisting of damaged muscle and metal which had to be cut away and replaced with a traditional total hip replacement

Hip revision surgery is much more complicated than a first time op but if you have been fitted with a traditional one yes you should be fine for 25 years

 

his hip joint is now fine but the problems are with his arthritic left ankle now!

 

his right hip is also metal to metal but touch wood not showing problems

his surgeon reckons the left hip developed problems because favouring his left ankle caused more of a limp and therefore more stress on the left hip joint

 

Thanks, that just sucks. My best to him!

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Monday 23 July cruise day

 

We got the message cabins were ready so headed there to find 18 1 litre bottles of water on desk as part of our UK all inclusive deal-how can we get through that amount!

 

---

 

I acted as co ordinator for meet and greet which had been agreed weeks earlier with ship. It was next day as sea day 11am at La Cucina and that was the info I had posted on the roll call. They had changed venue and time to Margaritaville 10,30amand as co Ordinator addressed only to me. This has happened to me before when they brought forward 24hours on a previous cruise! Raoul said he would be there the next day and took the cabin numbers I had and promised to leave voicemail messages about change of venue and to have signs out next day at original venue of la Cucina about change

 

---

 

Off to guest services who admitted system error failed to recognise cards-so everyone embarking at Warnemunde got that?

Were not alarm bells triggered that an unusually high number of people failed to attend muster drill?

 

We had 48 bottles of water. I guess I did not realize they were 1L each when buying them and suffering through the price extortion. Given the heat wave, they came in handy. At end of cruise, we only had about 12 left and they helped nicely for next few days in Berlin.

 

---

 

Raoul was not at La Cucina just before 11. If he had left a simple sign about the location change, it would have been beneficial, although we would still be 30+ minutes late.

 

---

 

We received notice about missing muster (we were there), and then we received another notice, and next day a third. Annoying, but I just threw in trash.

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Coming out under the arch heard a loud bang and nearly jumped out of my skin .First thought was terrorist attack but no one running

Looking at my watch it’s 12 o clock and the ceremonial cannon fire-wish Lisa had warned us!

 

 

Ha! We were just walking out of the Hermitage when that happened. Everyone looked at each other quickly. Our guide then warned us as the echoes were fading...

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We had 48 bottles of water. I guess I did not realize they were 1L each when buying them and suffering through the price extortion. Given the heat wave, they came in handy. At end of cruise, we only had about 12 left and they helped nicely for next few days in Berlin.

 

---

 

Raoul was not at La Cucina just before 11. If he had left a simple sign about the location change, it would have been beneficial, although we would still be 30+ minutes late.

 

---

 

We received notice about missing muster (we were there), and then we received another notice, and next day a third. Annoying, but I just threw in trash.

 

yes there were a few mis communications on this cruise!

 

apparently Raoul and his staff had someone posted at La Cucina 10,30 but left before 11am which was when people would be expected to turn up

I made my disappointment known about last minute change

they offered 2nd meet and greet but same problem-how would we let people know!

how did you fare with St Petersburg disembarkation fiasco?

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