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June 1st Dover to Stockholm Diary Part II


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Cool and hardly a drizzle. Off the ship at 9 am. Walk directly into the tourist information satellite office on the pier and purchased one pass for the on/off double-decker buses. Great decision, buses hit all major sites throughout the day. First stop the little mermaid statue. Than back on the bus through town to the Rosenburg Castle. Toured the castle and viewed the royal jewels (its good to be King). One hour later, back on the bus through the circuit (hey there is the little mermaid again) to Amailiaburg Square and Palace, the current home of the monarch and seat of the government. Watched the changing of the guards (the shorten version since the royals were out of town recuperating from the wedding). Walked over to Nyhaven to see the wooden ships and find an outside café for a lunch of herring, shrimp, salads and some light Danish beer (I am noticing a pattern here). After lunch we walked to the other side of Nyhaven and boarded a large open air canal boat for a one hour tour of the harbor and canals. English speaking guide. Great tour…outstanding view of the city and its homes, (oh, and there’s the little mermaid statue). Hopped off the boat and walked up Spoget shopping area, just looking. Back on to the bus to Tivoli Garden. Walk around the remarkable park enjoying the families enjoying themselves. Watched the pantomime theater and generally took in the sites. No time for any rides the last bus of the day beckons. Back to the ship with minutes to spare, exhausted and happy. Had a whirlpool, nap and late dinner in the Grand Dining Room. At little casino time with winnings all around. Bedtime for Bonzo.




Nice day some sun. Slept in, ship docked at 12 noon. Lunch at Waves on the pool deck. Took Oceania Tour to Gdansk. Drove past the Owija Church but never heard the famous organ. Drove past Lech Wahlesa home and headed into old town section of Gdansk. Nice walk through one old town gate up the main cobblestone street through the other gate and down a second street with major church and small shopping boutiques. Tour guide had lots of information and old town had many interesting buildings and architectural details. Enjoyed a demonstration on Amber and then walked around on our own. Saw Europe’s oldest remaining wood crane, shopped for painted silk and enjoyed meeting the artist and owners. Sat at a small café on the river watched the world go by and had an ice cream. Back on the bus for a drive past the famous Gdansk ship yards and back to the ship. Nap time for me, spa stuff for Elizabeth. Dinner at Toscana excellent again. Some Casino time good for Elizabeth, big mistake for me. And off to bed.


Day at Sea


Work out, spa stuff, poolside sunning, naps. Very nice message board cocktail party (thanks for hosting Peggyann). More resting on veranda, reading, checking emails and ate an excellent dinner at Polo Grill with new shipboard friends. You know the drill. Casino made up for last night went to bed happy.




Sunny and a touch cool. Docked at 8 am. Walked directly into town in 5 minutes and headed straight for Tourist Information Center. Purchase the city sightseeing tour and a one day transportation pass. Walk back to the dock and took the ferry to Summulene Fortress. Took a walking tour to see the old dry dock, the old barracks and armory; walked along the embankment and fort defenses and back through the Kings Drawbridge. Lovely views, interesting buildings and lilacs everywhere. Ended tour with perfect timing at the other end of the island as another ferry pulled up and return us to the city dock. Walked around town to the City Square and the famous central rail station and back to the tour bus for our hour sightseeing. Highlights included the rock church, Sibelius monument, Government center, flea market, embassy area, Museums, university and the Olympic Stadium area. After the tour we boarded a tram to the antiques/flea market for a look at all things Finnish. Back on the tram to small bakery/café the Edberg Café. It was like stepping back in time with art nouveau décor and little paper napkins. Salads, open face sandwiches, Finnish beer and we walked up to the counter to pick out our favorite pastries. Took a tram back toward the dock area and toured the indoor food market. Great stalls lots of interesting foods and treats. Walked back through the shopping stalls filled with handicrafts, secured a few things and headed back to the ship. Great fun. Dinner in the Grand dining and break even at casino. To sleep early with St Petersburg on the horizon.


St. Petersburg – Day One:


Sunny Sunny Sunny all three days. Ship docked at perfect location Lieutenant Schmidt Dock on the Neva across from The Hermitage with great views of the bridges and spires. Off the ship at 8:30 am met at customs by DenRus Tours http://www.denrus.ru Car, Driver and wonderful English speaking guide ready and waiting for our three day adventure. When it was over I was not sure who was more tired. Off we went for a quick overview tour of the city with a short stop at the maritime pillars across from the winter palace, St Isaac’s square and the Peter and Paul Fortress. On to the Bronze Horseman statue of Peter the Great and Catherine’s column on the square. Back through town to the suburban palaces of Pushkin (Tsars village) and Catherine’s Palace. Tour of the palace was remarkable for its many rooms, gilded walls, sculptures, paintings furniture and inlaid wooden floors. Grand staircases in Rococo plasters, and floor to ceiling ceramic warming stoves in every room. Quite overwhelming. Exterior gardens to match. Walked through the gardens and statuary and headed back to the car. Lunch at a restaurant designed like a wooden log hunting dacha. Russian faire with borscht, stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes and a local none alcoholic drink made of rye (tasted like a sour ginger beer). Back into town for a visit to St Isaac’s church and square. Hugh granite columns, mosaic icons and immense central dome. Very impressive Russian orthodox main church in St Petersburg. Short walk around the square to a small shop serving chilled vodka and selling souvenirs both simple and extravagant. Some remarkable handicrafts and the ubiquitous nesting dolls, amber jewelry and painted boxes. Now it’s on to the Peter and Paul Fortress with its chapel housing the sycaphogi of the various Tsars, the famous prison and defense embankment and the steps leading to the Neva River. Toured for about an hour, including statuary and cobblestone streets and a large armory displaying tanks, cannons and other war memorabilia. Back to the ship, diner in the Grand dining room but still full from lunch. Casino closed.


St. Petersburg – Day Two:


Up early, car, driver and guide waiting and ready. First stop a trip on the metro to see the ornate stations and travel among the St Petersburgians on their way to work. Off at the third stop and out on the street to an indoor food market. Huge building selling, butchering and baking all before your very eyes. Every stall is offering samples and trying to get you to buy. Lots of fun, purchased some goods for the rest of the trip and marveled at the diversity of foods. Then on to the Church of the Spilled Blood. The single most striking church structure on the trip. Colorful domes and spires, set on a canal on one side and the summer gardens on the other. Inside the entire building is done in mosaic tiles. Remarkable walls and domes, impossible to describe with any accuracy. Simply awesome. Left the church for a family meal with a wonderful Russian women who pridefully showed us her apartment, prepared a lovely meal of cabbage soup, crab salad, chicken and mashed potatoes, tea and sweets. She asks questions of us and we ask questions of her. The guide hardly had time to eat. Very interest experience. The apartment was a four story walk up. Shewas the fifth generation living in the unit and had grown up with her five siblings in the two room flat with a bath and kitchen. She couldn’t have been more charming; smiles and hugs when we said goodbye. Off to the Hermitage for the afternoon. It has been estimated that it would take five years to view every piece on display at the Hermitage. So three hours cannot do it justice. However from the Gold Room artifacts, to the roman sculptures, to Flemish masters, to the impressionist each with two or three of there own rooms; from Picassos and Van Goghs to Tintinello and Canneletto, the Tsars had amassed a remarkable collection of stuff. Almost as impressive as the art and artifacts is the winter palace itself. Here is a museum whose remarkable restoration competes successfully with some of the world’s great artistic masterpieces. It would be a fun five years if you had the time. But alas we do not. It’s now 4:30 pm and our day isn’t half over. Across from the Hermitage we get into a small canal boat for a trip along the Neva and through the canals of St Petersburg. Wonderful trip past many of the sights we have already visited and a number of places we have yet to see. Canals run through the heart of town and intersect with drawbridges and beautiful palaces, large parks and bronze statuaries. One hour later and we are back where we started. A quick walk at the Champ de Mars with its eternal flame and vistas of the summer gardens. It’s now 6:30 pm and we are off to Military Institute Theatre for a folkloric presentation. Colorful costumes with great voices and wonderful dancers. It include a very interesting band playing unique instruments from all over Russia. It was a surprisingly enjoyable evening which included a fouchette at intermission with champaign, juices, caviar, petit fours and fruit. Then back for the second act and a rousing ovation for the performances. Must have been twenty costume changes and music evocative of the steppes and mother Russia. It’s now 8:30 pm and we are not done yet. We have agreed to meet some associates of a friend from the states. These young kids have taken an overnight train from Moscow to be with us for just a few hours. Very sweet and we could not say no. So we met at a Restaurant Disco for drinks food and conversation as best that we could. The place was called Russian Kitsch and it was. Door men with pill hats, ceilings with fake leopard skin, waiters in tails and a Harley Davidson in the entrance. We sat on satin pillows and antique couches while in the next room was a full blown disco with laser lights, plasma screen and dance floor. The music ranged from 1940s swing to Russia’s version of the Bee Gees and the 1970s. Unique and funky. Chilled vodka by the gram and cold Russian beer combined with jellied meats, sweet fruited blintzes and carpaccio (not sure where that came from). Good food, lovely new friends and a guide who was a great sport and had a wonderful time. It’s now 11 pm and it’s still light out since we are here during St Petersburg’s famous white nights. Our three new friends, Elizabeth and I plus Elena our guide walked along the Neva River back to the ship. It does not get any better than this. And we still have one more day to go. I think Elena will need three days rest after we leave. Back on board as if to cap a perfect day, there is a fireworks display off the bow somewhere near the Peter and Paul fortress.

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Thank you for such a detailed and informative write-up. It reminded us of our land tour (by air) through the four Scandinavian capitals in 1999. We took the overnight ferry, the Silja Serenade from Stockholm to Helsinki. Unfortunately, we did not go on to St. Petersburg, which we dearly regret, after having gotten so close. You must have had a wonderful voyage, and I look forward to reading the rest.

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