Final Cruise Day: Bye-bye Baltic

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Question “A Baltic Cruise, how cool is that?” can now be answered: Super cool! Though weather can be full of surprises, ranging from very hot to very cold, even in summer, and rainy, the sea, cities, sights and social events are not only cool, but also warm, hot and well worth experiencing; acting upon a Baltic Cruise bargain offer ‘paid off’ in full; a cheap cruise is also a cruise.

This cruise visited Kiel, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn and St. Petersburg and included tw days at sea. Many other Baltic Cruises includes Helsinki, too, so this could be a better option, if you have not been there before; interesting city.

Baltic Cruise Day 8: Disembarkation Day

10:00 Arrival Kiel
10:15- Disembarkation

Final day. Sun shining bright, a beautiful cruise through the Kieler Fjord and a safe return to Kiel according to the program with German Italian German-like precision.

At sea sol

Last seaborne sun-rays this time around. 

On a final note: A smart move from the Cruise Ship Company: You could choose ‘self assist’, meaning that if you carry your own luggage from the ship, with no assistance, you can leave the ship early as soon as clearance is given by the port authorities.

A huge number of people chose the ‘self assist’ option! So even if the set-up with several smaller color-coded groups were smart, there was some chaos and a rather long waiting time. But you did get ashore somewhat faster, than other guests … maybe …

At sea bathroom

Hard to say ‘goodbye’ to a pool restroom with a view like this.

At 11:30 the ‘White Group 2’ went ashore – and as Kiel is ‘been there, done that’ for now, it is time to head back home to home country.

Arrivederci ship. Auf wiedersehen Germany.

Cruise Holiday At Sea Day: Senses Go Overboard

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Baltic Cruise Day 7: At Sea (again)

At sea all day, all night, what a delight.
The calming view of the sea, the gentle rocking of the ship … and chefs catering to your dinner desires: Cruising is sense-sational: See, hear, touch, smell and taste it. 

The Baltic Sea (415,266 km²) is located between Central and Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 10°E to 30°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands.

Below: Morning and evening view at sea. Mmmmmmmmm.

Baltic sea during cruise ship holiday

At sea sunset bjerg

Daily program offers morning walk pilates, aerobics and more aerobics, yoga, stretching, salsa, zumba, merengue, bachata and oriental dance plus sports, games, demonstrations, quiz show, bingo, a show at the theatre (a new one every night) and Champagne Disco Night. Today was a fitness, dancing and relaxation (wellness) day.

Cruise ship song and dance show

And – the last chance for cruise ship overeating – a five-course Gala Night dinner at the restaurant. So dancing afterwards was ‘compulsory’.

Cruise ship dance lesson

Food art food photography

Cruise ship dinners are very nice, but with a few exceptions (e.g. above), not really unique photo opportunities. Other dinners can be, so food photography (foodstagram) has gone overboard (guilty as charged)! Result: In some restaurants food photography is prohibited. So if you want to do this on ships or elsewhere: 1) Do not use a flash (natural light makes the food look tastier), it destroys the restaurant mood, and 2) be very discrete in order not to disturb or aggravate fellow guests (no standing or standing on chairs etc.).

Bon appétit.

Baltic Cruise Highlight: Art and Architecture Mega Bling

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Baltic Cruise Day 6: Excursion Day Saint Petersburg

In the DAILY cruise ship program it says “St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ or ‘Paris of the East’, but its beauty is really a brand all on its own (…) with a vibrant cultural life that is second to none.
So: Gone in 60 seconds (to buy tour ticket)!

Faberge Egg St Petersburg Russia

07:00 Arrival St. Petersburg
18:30 All on board
19:00 Departure St. Petersburg.

Option 1: Buy cruise ship ½-1 day tour excursion: Price range EUR 39.90 – 155.90.
Option 2: Step off the ship (if you are very well prepared).

The cruise ship tour prices are quite hefty, however, they include a ‘landing card’ allowing you to enter Russia for the day and tickets to the museums (and lunch in some cases). So picking a tour could be a wise choice.

Important: In order to enter St. Petersburg on your own, you must have 1) a passport, valid for at least another 6 months, 2) a visa (apply for this well in advance), 3) a good sense of time and direction – and head back very early (many cruisers have had difficulties in regard to timely transport back to the ship), 4) a good guide-book and map or some knowledge of the russian language and 5) conservative clothing if you wish to visit sites of religious importance. 

Visiting Russia for the first time, I chose the excursion and got lucky: It truly was ‘the best of St. Petersburg’; an awesome day in the company of the guide Marina (my namesake), an extra-extra-knowledgeable and entertaining guide.

Mathryoshka Dolls Russian Dolls

Saint Petersburg (in russian Санкт-Петербу́рг or everyday name Питер, “Piter”), is a city and federal subject of Russia. It is situated by the Neva river in the north-west of Russia. Population is approx. 5 mio. inhabitants.

The city oozes of history, even if it is a young city compared to European standards; founded on 27th of May 1703 and named Saint Petersburg after its founder Peter the Great. It was renamed a couple of times, before going back to the original name; Petrograd (Петроград, 1914–1924) and Leningrad (Ленинград, 1924–1991). One famous inhabitant is the former Russian president and present prime minister Vladimir Putin.

Highlights of the day were the Summer Palace (in Pushkin), the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum and Saint Isaac’s Cathedral (Saint Petersburg). Snapshots below.
Even though I have visited many interesting sights, I do not think I have ever seen anything as colorful, gilded and otherwise lavishly decorated as these places …

Gate Catherine's Palace the Summer Palace Pushkin RussiaIMG_9753 IMG_9675

IMG_9671IMG_9694 Saint Isaac's Cathedral Saint Petersburg Russia IMG_9827 IMG_9803 Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum three million works of art St PetersburgIMG_9941

IMG_9977 edit

In summary, even if the tour missed one of the only 75 sunny days per year (44 days according to guide), the day was mind-boggling; history highs and lows, from architectural bling to bulletholes in churches … and no matter where you looked, up, down, right, left, everything that glittered was gold (almost).
Exception: The Amber Room, Summer Palace, a room made of amber in every colour. The room was looted during WW II and then restored at an estimated cost of approx. 140 million USD. The room may not be photographed, so you have to see it to believe it.

Daily program, if one chose not to accept the St. Petersburg mission, offered stretching, aerobics, yoga (sample classes are free, but regular yoga classes cost 10 EUR), Tiburon dance, country dance, lots of games and demonstrations. Those arriving back late could still make to participate in merengue and ‘spanish dance’ as well as bingo, karaoke and, of course, Russian Disco night.

‘Totally sightseeing’ day meant very little time for on board activities today, that’s okay.

A World of Wonders.

Cruise Through History: Ancient and Arty Tallinn

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Baltic Cruise Day 5: Excursion Day Tallinn

Stop today: Tallinn, Lyndanisse, the capital and largest city of Estonia. The city has appox. 420.050 inhabitants and is situated on the northern coast of Estonia (just 80 km south of Helsinki, Suomi-Finland on the other side of the Baltic Sea; estonians are a Finnic people speaking Estonian, a Finno-Ugric language).
The city was founded around 1100, and later conquered and occupied by Danes, Germans, Swedes and Russians before declaration of independance  in 1991.

Alexander-Newski-Kathedrale Tallinn Estonia

09:00 Arrival Tallinn
15:30 All on board
16:00 Departure Tallinn

Cruise ship moors close to the city centre, so it is easy to step onto the tourist information centre on the quay and get all the information you need, take a TallinnSightseeing tour (approx. 2½ hour) or simple walk around the city centre – or both.
Cruise ship also offers several tours (at a price).

Inevitable images: Some ancient, some arty architecture and mixed emotion moments:

Vanalinn Tallinn Estonia Rooftop view

Souvenir shop Tallinn Estonia Old town Vanalinn Tallinn EstoniaModern architecture Tallinn Estonia

Modern building architecture Tallinn Estonia

Modern fusion architecture Tallinn Estonia

Tram Tallinn Estonia War of Independence Victory Column in Freedom Square, Tallinn EstoniaMuseum Tallinn EstoniaModern architecture Tallinn Estonia Tallink building Modern hotel architecture Tallinn Estonia

Supercars on a race in Tallinn Estonia

MS Estonia ferry disaster memorial

Last photo: Estonia memorial: MS Estonia was the name of a cruise ferry built in 1979. The ship sank i 1994 in the Baltic Sea with 852 lives lost; primarily Scandinavians and some Estonians. One of the worst maritime disasters ever … and one that impacted international concepts of ferry safety onwards.
 

Summary:
A sight to see. An amazing city centre, the very well preserved Old City, Vanalinn, built between the 15th to 17th century, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Other interesting ‘sites’ were the modern parts of the city, avantgarde buildings and designs mixed with greyish Russian architecture. The quiet Kalamaja part of city with wooden houses, Tallinn-Houses from 1920-1930, was also unique.

In conclusion you could easily spend much more time there, more time for visiting the Tallinn tunnels, museums, beach, the Kadriorg Palace (baroque pearl of Estornia) and Garden and surroundings.

Daily program offers stretching and more stretching plus yoga, aerobics and more aerobics, medison dance and samba, cumbia, mix latino as well as lots of games, demonstrations, bingo and karaoke and today Nordic Disco with DJ Marco.

Early departure meant more time on board, so there was ample time to sample. Today was a dancing day. To even things out a fine four-course meal did its job.

In my dreams.

Baltic Cruise With Royal Treats: Stockholm, Sweden

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Baltic Cruise Day 4: Excursion Day Stockholm

Today a visit to an eminently elegant and entertaining Scandinavian city, Stockholm. Even though I have been there several times before on fitness business, I have still seen too little of it. This time I aim to see some sights. 

Stockholm buildings and briges

Stockholm is the Capital of Sweden and also the most populous city with a population of approx. 880,000. people. It was founded in 1200 on 14 islands, so it has an interesting layout and all of the old part of town, Gamla Stan, on an island in the middle of the city. 

Stockholm fjord in fog SkærgårdenThe city is not all that easy to reach by sea; you have sail slowly through a fjord, Skærgård, full of tiny islands (above’n’below on a foggy morning). A feat for a massive cruise ship.

Tip: Get up early (always). Luckily I was; watched the full foggy fantasy-like fjord cruise.

Sverige Stockholm Skærgården

Daily program says

08:30 Arrival Stockholm
16:00 All on board
16:30 Depart Stockholm

As always excursions are offered. However, since 1) ship is moored close to city centre, 2) I spot a red Stockholm HopOn HopOff bus on the quay and 3) “I speaka da lingo”, I decide to make my own way and have a cheap day out.

Baltic cruise stockholm bridge colorWith 14 islands, there’s gotta be bridges.

Elegant new and old buildings and bridges all around:

Stockholm Sweden modern architecture

Stockholm Sweden building and park Stockholm Opera House

Flower power here and there and everywhere.

Stockholm flowers

Stockholm flower power pub

Baltic cruise stockholm gs square

Gamla Stan (the old city) square (photo above).

Baltic cruise stockholm palace guard

Flowers and guard guarding Stockholm Castle. Residence of the Swedish king.

Baltic cruise stockholm MAA not so royal tourist. For once without a dorky frown, but a ‘reale’ royal crown.
I would not have thought of it myself, but every tourist before me lined up for this shot!

Baltic cruise stockholm r8

Shopping? No, window shopping it’s called (R8 is my dream car as it is).

Baltic cruise stockholm sad sculpturePark art (to they dismay of more than one child). What is going on in that artist’s mind?

Baltic cruise stockholm asics manneq

Dynamic mannequin duo display. Like! Goods were v e r y pricey, though.

Summary: A fantastic day with mixed late-summer weather (from rainy to sunny). Took 1½ h tour on Hop-On Hop-Off bus and then walked around central Stockholm.
A canal tour would have been nice, too, but I ran out of time.
Stockholm is even more exciting and with many more interesting sights and impressive buildings, than I remembered. Well worth a (re)visit.

Daily program offered: Pilates, Aerobics, Hully Gully dance, Zumba, Tacco e Punta dance, Tarantella and various games, events, karaoke (maybe for the benefit of the many Asian travellers as Karaoke is a rare activity in Scandinavia), demonstrations, e.g. ice cream demonstration and a seminar on gemstones. And this night: Disco Martini Royale Party.

No dancing for me today: Settled for Stockholm walk and then supper at ship.
Or rather, it should have been supper, a light meal, but as it was Italian night – suggested dress tonight “theme green, white and red”, with pasta and tiramisu – it ended up being not a supper but a super (size) five-course meal yet again.

The Long Eat Goodnight.

Cruise Ship Curious? Ahoy! Fitness Wellness At Sea Is A Joy

By Marina Aagaard

Baltic Cruise Day 3: At Sea

On this particular Baltic cruise there are two days at sea. One at the beginning of the cruise and one at the end. This cruise was chosen because of this: It is a nice break to ‘just’ be at sea for a full day – especially when the sea is at its very best behaviour (almost completely still) – and do nothing but relax or maybe participate in some more on board activities. Being, and seeing, at sea is a joy.

Baltic cruise daily program seng

Bed made up and The DAILY program ready the evening before: For the days at sea the program of the morning, afternoon and evening is extensive.

Menu of Today: Morning walk, yoga, aerobics, zumba, exercise for legs abdominals and glutes, stretching, dance lessons with salsa, sirtaki, bachata paso doble, cha cha cha as well as ping pong tournament, bingo, video quiz, arts and craft napkin folding, massage demonstration, oriental cooking demonstration and more. Take your pick!

Cruise ship early morning fog

Morning on deck with lots of stair walking. Early-bird sunrise watching is great!

At sea fitness centre

A rare moment: The well-equipped cruise ship fitnesscentre almost empty; it is almost fully occupied 24-7 6-22-7! Managed to ‘fit’ in though and get a good workout.
A facility for beginners and experienced exercisers side-by-side; machines, free weights and space for bodyweight exercises.
For cruise fitness, getting healthy on board: Legpress: http://youtu.be/H8YXCiVJbpc.

In the afternoon: Walked past the Zebra Bar and the pina coladas and into the Pigalle bar to do some dancing instead, one of several dance lessons that day.

Baltic cruise ship zebra bar

Baltic cruise danse uv 2

Suggested dress tonight is: GALA. This is an option only. You can always dine at the buffet or one of the other restaurants, but when going to the main restaurant why not play along:
Ladies: Dressy outfit, formal gown or cocktail dress (subdued or to the max).
Gentlemen: Tuxedo, dinner jacket or dark suit and tie.

Before dinner there are cocktails (and a photo shoot with the captain if so desired).
Dinner is galaish, delicious Italian cuisine (pasta, meat a.o.) topped off with merengue ice cream surprise ‘on fire’. Buon appetito (lousy photo, but may convey mood).

IMG_0539

At sea, at sea, all day at sea; what is there to see? The sea! Is it boring? No!
The sea and the sky; never the same, always overwhelming and dramatic, or sometimes almost overly beautiful, looking like scam art, forcing cruise guests to take toooooooooo many look-alike boring photos it is almost embarrassing. 

Cruise ship holiday at sea sunset

Poor hair day. Poor composition;
happens when handing camera
over to imposters ‘hi, let me’
(poor co-photographer day).

At sea wake sky

Wake viewed through the window of the bar. Mesmerizing.

At sea sun sets

Sunset: Signal for time to go to Ship bar or Sandman encounter.

Cruise Visit Home Country: Baltic Cruise Stop Copenhagen

By Marina Aagaard

Baltic Cruise Day 2: Excursion Day Copenhagen (København)

First cruise stop is Copenhagen, Denmark. I could choose to stay on board – as a Dane, though from another part of the country, I have visited the capital on numerous occasions for business and pleasure – or go to shore.
I chose the latter; to spend the day as a tourist in my own country.
Have you visited the capital of your country? It is highly recommended.

Baltic cruise kbhvn indsejling havn total plet

In the cruise ship DAILY program Copenhagen is presented as ‘the premier capital of Northern Europe and the centre of the most dynamic region in Europe, the Øresund Region [certainly a lot of novel and very interesting architecture there] and one of Europe’s oldest capitals with a royal touch with the Danish monarchy the oldest in the world’. (Below: Opera House donated to Denmark by Mærsk-McKinney Møller, container ship tycoon, price approx. 1 bio. DKK).

Baltic Cruise Kbh Operahus side

Copenhagen, dating back to the year 800, is the capital of Denmark with a population of approx. 1,200,000 (total population of Denmark is approx. 6 mio.).
Recently rated # 1 on Monocles list of ‘Most liveable cities in the world’ and a very interesting place to visit for everyone interested in art and architecture.

Baltic Cruise Kbh Havn hus med krone

Major Danish companies are A.P. Møller-Mærsk (container ships), Carlsberg (beer) and Novo Nordisk (insulin). Newcomer ‘company’ is Noma, voted Worlds Best Restaurant for three consecutive years 2010-2012 (this photo below shows their premises, brick building in centre, in Copenhagen). 

Baltic Cruise Kbh Havn Noma

Arrival: 8:00
All on board 17:30. Departure 18:00.

First things first:
A visit to the brand new Metro of Copenhagen, travelling to the end of one line: Kastrup, home of CPH, Copenhagen Airport.

Baltic Cruise Kbh Kastrup kunst Wormholes Jonas Pihl

Airport art: Wormholes by Jonas Pihl.

Secondly: Visit the brand new aquarium, also in Kastrup, the very exciting Den Blå Planet, The Blue Planet, to admire the building and the fish.

All while I am saving up for going to see the fish in their natural habitats, I love visiting aquariums and can’t help taking photos of the fish, lots of photos …

Baltic Cruise Kbh Blå planet total

Baltic cruise kbhvn b p indgang

Baltic cruise kbhvn b p dragefiskBaltic cruise kbhvn b p fisk farver 3xBaltic cruise kbhvn b p fisk farver

After this some sightseeing in central Copenhagen. A canal cruise is a great way to see many of the most interesting areas of historical Copenhagen (below Nyhavn, meaning new port, in the city centre, on bottom photo a couple of ‘lazy’ Danes).

Baltic Cruise Kbh Nyhavn

Baltic Cruise Kbh Nyhavn luftmadras

Summary: A nice surprise, after a slow start, the august weather was at its very best, bright sunshine, approximately 30 º F Celsius, 86 º F and not a cloud or rainstorm in sight. And a day full of wonderful views of Wonderful Copenhagen.
Then it is time to get back on board for dinner.

If one wishes to dine at the restaurant and follow the program today the Suggested dress tonight is: Informal, which is less formal than gala, but more formal than casual.

Program of the day apart from various sports, games and entertainment activities (including karaoke events): Stretching, Rock’n’roll, Rumba, Jive and Twist Dance Lessons and Flower Glory Disco Night at the Disco.

Dance on!