August 20 - September 2, 2006
(The pictures from this trip can be found at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/o364ta2192yzm14/GjZ_GnHhfz)
Sunday, August 20
We got up at 0-dark-hundred to catch the shuttle to San Francisco Airport at 4 AM for a 7 AM flight.(Since we live so close to the shuttle base, we are always the first to be picked up and the last to be dropped off.)One of the other passengers on the shuttle was also going to Copenhagen, but by way of London--more about London later. In any case we picked his brain about things to see and do in Copenhagen.
We arrived at SFO shortly after 5 AM and checked in at Continental Airlines, checking our baggage through to Copenhagen. Lines were short at that hour on a Sunday morning. We flew nonstop from San Francisco to Newark where we met my father who flew in from Boston. The three of us flew on to Copenhagen, also on Continental. The flight took off about half an hour late due to mechanical problems. The aircraft was a 757 (late model, with winglets--apparently retrofitted: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_757)--the first time I have flown across an ocean on a narrow-body aircraft (not counting a DC-8 to and from Hawaii many years ago). I got a couple of hours sleep on the plane.
Monday, August 21
We arrived at Copenhagen also about half an hour late. During the landing approach we could see the new bridge/tunnel to Sweden (http://osb.oeresundsbron.dk/frontpage/?lang=1, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oresund_Bridge). Our cruise line, Princess (http://www.princess.com), had people at the airport to escort us through Customs and to the bus that took us to the hotel, the Radisson-SAS Scandinavia (http://www.radisson.com/copenhagendk_scandinavia).Princess also had a table in the hotel lobby. Unlike in New Zealand (2004) and South Africa (2005), the hotel was not fully ready for early-morning arrivals. We took a smoking room in order not to have to wait several hours to get a room. Although the room was cramped, and the smoke residue bothered Sandy (!), we fell sound asleep and were wakened by a phone call from my father about 5 PM asking if we wanted to do any touring and/or have dinner.
The weather was cloudy with some drizzle.
Following the recommendation of our shuttle passenger, we caught a taxi at the hotel and asked to be taken to "the harbor." The driver spoke decent English but did not know what "the harbor" was. We got out of the taxi and asked the hotel concierge how to describe our destination. He said that any taxi driver who did not know where "the harbor" was should be fired, and gave us the name and address of a restaurant at Nyhavn (New Harbor).That address was fine for the next cab we caught and we went to the Havfruen (Mermaids?) restaurant (http://www.10best.com/Copenhagen/Restaurants/Seafood/index.html?businessID=21572).The food (seafood) was very good but Copenhagen, especially restaurants, is very expensive--almost $200 for three of us.
The hotel had internet-connected computers available for a reasonably outrageous price so I was able to catch up on e-mail.
Tuesday, August 22
The weather was cloudy, with occasional rain but comfortable temperatures.
We had arranged through Princess for a tour of Copenhagen. We drove through downtown Copenhagen to the Christiansborg Palace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christiansborg_Palace), which is the official residence of the Royal Family (though they actually live elsewhere), the location of state events, and the center of government. After that, we drove around the city, seeing a well-known church with a spiral steeple that we had seen on the way in from the airport (http://www.planetware.com/picture/copenhagen/christianshavn-church-of-our-savior-dk-dkkob33.htm; there is a story that the architect intended the spiral to go the other way, and when he saw that it had been built “wrong,” he climbed to the top and jumped off), the famous Mermaid in the harbor (http://sights.seindal.dk/img/orig/6542.jpg) (much smaller than I had thought, and very close to shore--I had thought it was out in the middle of the harbor), some of the many buildings and monuments built by King Christian IV, and the actual royal residence at Amalienborg Palace (http://kongehuset.dk/publish.php?dogtag=k_en_pal_ama, http://www.copenhagenpictures.dk/amalborg.html).We came back to the hotel for lunch, and in the afternoon went back to Nyhavn to go on a harbor cruise. We noticed a boat with a South African flag in the Nyhavn area. The cruise also went to the Mermaid statue, and we saw the royal yacht (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDMS_Dannebrog_%28A540%29, http://kongehuset.dk/publish.php?dogtag=k_en_pal_dan) and a frigate of the Danish navy.
Tuesday evening we took a taxi to the famous Tivoli Gardens (http://www.tivoli.dk/composite-3351.htm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tivoli_Gardens, Copenhagen).We wandered around for a while and then had dinner at a French restaurant in the Gardens--again outrageously expensive (http://www.tivoli.dk/composite-5030.htm).After dinner we visited the Aquarium in the Gardens and then took a taxi back to the hotel.
Wednesday, August 23
Princess schedules and plans in great detail. When we checked into the hotel on Monday we were given instructions to have our baggage in the corridor by 8 AM Wednesday (with tags we were given) and to be in the lobby by 12:30 for a bus to the ship.Rather than try to do any sightseeing, we had breakfast at the hotel and relaxed until checkout time, then sat in the lobby chatting with other tourists until time to get on the bus.
There were of course many buses, from our and at least one other hotel, and there were long lines to check into the ship, the Star Princess (http://www.princess.com/learn/ships/tp/).But it was well organized and we got through passport control, got our credit cards validated for expenses on the ship, and got our cruise cards, a credit-card-sized card that served as a room key and an on-board charge card. We went onto the ship and found our rooms, with the luggage placed outside. Our room was B430 on the Baja deck (http://www.princess.com/deckPlans.do?shipCode=TP; find B430): the picture is actually a mirror image of the way the room looks. The "virtual view" shows the correct orientation; the bathroom and closet area are to the right of the door.).My dad was a few rooms down the corridor from us at B506.The rooms were on the port side of the ship, with a nice balcony. Rooms on board are compact but efficient. The beds can be made up as small twins or queen size. There is a desk with drawers, two night tables, a larger table with a refrigerator in it and a TV (with satellite reception) on it, a small bathroom with a shower compartment, and a closet area with shelves (and a safe), including life vests on high shelves.
The balcony was comfortable with a table and chairs, and we would use it for sightseeing at sea and for a view of the port area when we were in port (I had brought binoculars), but we really didn't sit there for extensive periods as one might do on a more tropical cruise. With my GPS I was able to validate that the ship's position, as displayed on the Navigation channel on the television, was correct:-)The displayed speed was pretty close to correct too.
The buffet on the ship is open 24 hours so we had a late lunch there. Afterwards we unpacked and looked around the ship a bit.
A word about meal arrangements: traditionally each passenger has dinner at a designated time and place, and at the same table each evening. We selected "anytime dining," which means we go to one of the restaurants for dinner at a time of our choosing between 6 and 9 PM. We have our choice of a table to ourselves or sitting with others; we always chose the latter, which meant either that we joined a table of recent arrivals or we started a new table and others joined us. In this way we met some very interesting people. (You really get to see how the other half lives: there were people with two or three or five homes, people who were on their fifth or tenth or 80th cruise.)Breakfast and lunch are "anytime" for all; and any meal may be taken at the buffet instead of a restaurant. Additionally, there are "premium" restaurants on board, where there is a per-person charge; we went to the steak house one evening, of which more later. There is one dining room reserved for the "traditional" dinner plan.
Dinner is "smart casual" in the dining rooms, except for two evenings that are "formal." Tux is requested, but I only brought a dark suit, and there were no problems. In fact some people were hardly "smart casual" on the formal evenings. And the buffet is very casual (no bare feet or bathing suits, though).
Before dinner there was an "abandon ship drill" in one of the lounges. The entire complement of passengers had to report to their particular abandon-ship station with the life vests from the cabin, and listen to a lecture and try on their life vests.
Wednesday evening we had our "anytime dining" at the Portifino dining room, and shared a table with a couple who have lived all over the world, and now have homes in Alsace (France) and Florida. They are pretty much retired now, but have owned restaurants all over the world, including the San Francisco area.
Around 9 PM we left port. We sailed north from Copenhagen and went completely around the island on which Copenhagen is located…I assume the channel to the south is too shallow for ships as large as the Star Princess.(See http://www.visitdenmark.com/uk/en-gb/Menu/presse/generalrejseinfo/kort/foliakort.htm for a map of Denmark and http://www.uwgb.edu/walterl/denmark/Europe.htm for a map showing how far south we had to go, and how far out of our way, to get to Sweden. In fact that map will show the entire voyage.)
After dinner on Wednesday we went to an "open house" at the gym and spa on the Sun Deck (http://www.princess.com/ships/tp/deck/tp_sun_index.html).They had some prize drawings and I won a scalp and shoulder massage, which could only be used while the ship was in port (and the spa less busy), which was a problem since we were mostly on shore excursions while the ship was in port.I was eventually able to use it--see below. Sandy made arrangements for some spa treatments and to get an exercise program suitable for her.
The ship has a "computer room" where for the bargain rate of 35 cents a minute you can connect to a very slow satellite Internet link. The computers themselves also seem to be slow and "freeze" for seconds at a time. They seem to run on a special operating system that probably sits on top of MS Windows. I did check e-mail periodically but limited my answers given the speed and expense.
Thursday, August 24
Apparently we had a pilot on board for the voyage around the island (the Great Belt Route) and apparently there were some problems with the navigation system (software problems?) as we were told that the ship stopped a few times during the night, but we slept soundly through all this. Sandy felt a bit claustrophobic with the bed right in a corner of the small room, but she got used to it rather than try different locations.
The day was spent at sea between Denmark and Sweden. We slept late, past the time for a sit-down breakfast, so we went to the buffet. We also had lunch in the buffet. We had dinner in the Portofino dining room; we had intended to meet the same couple we had dinner with the previous night, but missed connections. I left a phone message for them to try to meet them again, but they did not return the call. After dinner we went to one of the variety shows on board, in the Explorers Lounge; we saw a singing group and participated in a "Jeopardy"-like game. Later that evening I went to the gym for the first and only time, and did a few minutes on an exercise bike. I also never got into any of the several swimming pools or spas on board. However I did walk several laps "around the ship" on the Promenade deck (http://www.princess.com/ships/tp/deck/tp_promenade_index.html) on a number of occasions; each time around is more than 1/4 mile.
Friday, August 25
Early in the morning we docked at Nynashamn (New Harbor), a port about 40 miles south of Stockholm. It is possible to dock at Stockholm itself, but the speed limit going into and out of Stockholm, through the archipelago, is about 10 mph so it saves time to dock at Nynashamn and take a bus into Stockholm. Actually we draw too much water to dock; we moor in the harbor and use the Star Princess's boats to be shuttled to and from the dock.
Thursday evening I had gone to the Princess Theater on the Promenade Deck for a presentation by the ship's Cruise Director, John Lawrence, about Stockholm and area (http://cruises.about.com/od/princesscruisereviews/a/cruisereview318.htm).The presentation was also broadcast on one of the TV channels for those who missed it "live." While mainly intended for those who were going to tour on their own, it was also useful for those on Princess tours.
After an early buffet breakfast, we gathered for our shore boat at 7:15 AM. The weather was gray and a bit drizzly. At the dock we got onto a tour bus for Stockholm. The guide was an ordained minister, who did not have a congregation but taught in a Divinity School in Stockholm. We stopped at an overlook of the harbor where we could see most of the central city. We drove around the city a bit and then went to the Wasa Museum, where we saw a warship that sank on its maiden voyage in Stockholm Harbor in 1628, and was salvaged and raised in 1961 years ago.(http://www.vasamuseet.se/, then click on English language.)While interesting, I had seen this ship before (1986), and we spent too much time there for the limited time we had in Stockholm. After the museum, we drove around the area and elsewhere in Stockholm, including the old town (Gamla Stan, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamla_Stan).We heard from the guide something of Sweden's history, economy, and politics--he correctly predicted that the conservative party would win the September election. Because we had the long bus ride back to Nynashamn, even on a nearly all-day tour such as this one, we had only half an hour for walking around the "Stortorget square" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stortorget_%28Stockholm%29), shopping, and lunch--clearly not sufficient. While the guide's discussion of current events and economics was interesting, I had really learned more about Stockholm and its history from John Lawrence's presentation.
We had a buffet dinner and at 6 PM the ship sailed across the Gulf of Bothnia for Finland.In the evening I attended John Lawrence's presentation on Helsinki.
Saturday, August 26
Helsinki is an hour "ahead" of Central European Time so we lost an hour overnight.
The ship docked southwest of Helsinki about 8 AM. The weather was partly cloudy and comfortably cool.We had a buffet breakfast, then left the ship and boarded a bus for the short ride to a boat dock where we started a harbor cruise. The guide was interesting and told us about the city, the country, the economy, and some history. Helsinki is built around its harbor and islands, including two islands with the fortress of Suomenlinna (http://www.suomenlinna.fi/index.php?lang=eng), built by the Swedes about 250 years ago. The cruise ended not at the starting point but at the Market Square downtown (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Suurkirkko_Helsinki_maaliskuu_2002_IMG_0629.JPG) where we had time to walk around and shop before being bussed back to the ship. They must have seen us coming because the square was filled with merchants selling everything from amber (the Baltic is the world center of amber) to food to clothing to souvenirs.
After a buffet lunch on the ship, we boarded another bus for a city tour. This guide was very dull and at the first stop (Senate Square and the Lutheran Cathedral), we left the tour and walked down the main street to Stockmann's, the biggest department store in Finland. Sandy bought a bathing suit for her shipboard spa appointments and we looked for more test strips for her Lifescan blood glucose meter but apparently that brand is not in common use in Finland. Across the street from Stockmann's was the bus stop for the reasonably-priced shuttle back to the ship. There is a shopping area on the pier and before reboarding the ship we picked up some souvenirs (T-shirts etc.).
We were too tired for the full dinner so we ate at the buffet. At about 6:30 the ship left for St. Petersburg. Later that evening I attended John Lawrence's first presentation on St. Petersburg.
Sunday, August 27
St. Petersburg is on Moscow time, an hour ahead of Helsinki, so we lost another hour before our very early tour. The narrow channel down the Gulf of Finland to St. Petersburg is so crowded that "flow control," not unlike airport traffic control, is used, so ships must apply for and get times to enter the channel.
Early in the morning, we docked at St. Petersburg. We were greeted by the St. Petersburg Port Brass Band, elderly men, probably retired, who depend on tourist tips for their living.
Russia requires all tourists to have visas, unless they are on tours run by the cruise line. Even in this case they require a copy of the photo page of the tourist's passport. There was of course a long line to exit the ship for passport inspection and the temporary "visa" provided by Russian border control. The brass band was a welcome diversion.
We boarded buses for our tour, St. Petersburg City and the Hermitage Museum. The weather was cloudy/foggy in the morning, clearing to partly cloudy by afternoon. (Our guide said that St. Petersburg residents describe its climate as “Nine months of anticipation followed by three months of bitter disappointment.”)It is at least a mile to the gate of the port area, which is off limits to Russian citizens without a special permit. From there it is about two miles to the city. After a drive that included some of the beautiful buildings and bridges (http://www.saint-petersburg.com/virtual-tour/bridges.asp), and the Yusupov Palace where Rasputin was killed (http://www.saint-petersburg.com/museums/yusupov-palace.asp), we stopped at the St. Isaac Cathedral (http://eng.cathedral.ru/isaac) and the square in front of it, with its statue of Nicholas I and the adjacent City Hall. Of course an area of the square was filled with market stalls.
We continued to drive around St. Petersburg, passing the Mariinsky Theater (formerly the Kirov, http://www.saint-petersburg.com/virtual-tour/mariinsky-theater.asp, http://www.mariinsky.ru/en, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariinsky_Theater), the Winter Palace, the Bourse (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Petersburg_Bourse), the Rostral Columns that used to be lighthouses and have simulated ships' prows embedded in them (http://www.lanternroom.com/lighthouses/russia/russ01.htm), and the riverfront.
We stopped at the St. Peter and St. Paul fortress (http://www.saint-petersburg.com/virtual-tour/peter-paul-fortress.asp; more pictures at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Saint_Peter_&_Paul_Cathedral) and went into the Peter and Paul Cathedral where the Czars are buried (http://www.saint-petersburg.com/cathedrals/Peter-Paul-Cathedral.asp).The family of Czar Nicholas II was reburied there in 1998 after the positive identification of their remains--they are in a separate room from the earlier burials. Nicholas's mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, is to be reburied in the cathedral in September. (This event is occurring as I am writing this.)
After touring the main area of the cathedral, we were serenaded by the cathedral choir (all male, a cappella) in a corridor lined with pictures of today's Romanov family, who attended the 1998 reburial. None, of course, are descendants of Nicholas II; they are all descendants of his brothers and sisters.
We drove past the cruiser Aurora (http://www.saint-petersburg.com/virtual-tour/cruiser-aurora.asp, http://www.saint-petersburg.com/museums/cruiser-aurora.asp) which fired the shots that started the Russian Revolution, and past St. Michael's Castle (Mikhailovsky Castle or "Engineer's Castle"), where Czar Paul I was assassinated (http://www.saint-petersburg.com/museums/mikhailovsky-castle.asp).
We drove to the Resurrection Church or Church of the Spilled Blood (http://www.saint-petersburg.com/virtual-tour/church-of-savior.asp), built on the site of the assassination of Czar Alexander II--a very beautiful structure and, across from it, another area of market stalls and another opportunity to shop.
Next we went to the Nevsky Prospekt (http://www.nevsky-prospekt.com/home.html), the main shopping street, and had lunch at the Corinthia Nevsky Palace hotel (http://www.corinthiahotels.com/hotel.asp?h=25&l=1)--perhaps the best meal of our trip.We were serenaded by an instrumental duet during lunch.
After lunch we went to the Hermitage Museum (http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/index.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermitage_Museum).This museum is part of the Winter Palace complex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_Palace).It contains one of the world's most outstanding art collections, built by the Czars, in buildings that are as outstanding as the contents.(Sandy said the art should be put in a warehouse somewhere so that the buildings can be appreciated.)Among the strong points of the art collection are Italian renaissance, Dutch/Flemish, and French Impressionists.
The museum is incredibly crowded. It was very difficult to keep up with the guide and still have the opportunity to see anything. We had wireless headsets to which the guide broadcast using a microphone, but its range was limited.
The Czars and nobles lived lives of incredible luxury at the same time the peasants were living in medieval, feudal squalor. Indeed the labor of the peasants was essential to the wealth of the nobility. The czar was the last absolute monarch in Europe.
After we emerged from the museum we gathered in the Palace Square (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_Square), between the museum and the General Staff building, with the Alexander Column (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Column), a memorial to Czar Alexander I, in the center. From here we were bussed back to the ship, to be serenaded again by the brass band as we waited for passport control and to go back on board. As we were tired and didn't have much time, we had a buffet dinner and got a little rest. In the evening we had tickets for a folkloric show, but my father was too tired to go. Sandy and I again left the ship through passport control, though it was not as crowded as in the morning, and we boarded buses for the ride to town. The Volga National Dance Company performed for us, quite a spectacular show. Then back to the ship late in the evening.
Monday, August 28
We were quite tired from the long day on Sunday and slept in. Perhaps we should have pushed ourselves--there is a lot we were not going to see, e.g., we saw nothing outside the city itself, such as the Summer Palace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_Palace%2C_St_Petersburg), the Catherine Palace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Palace) at Tsarskoye Selo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsarskoe_Selo), the Peterhof (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterhof), and the memorial to the 900-day siege of Leningrad during World War II, located at the limits of German advance (http://www.saint-petersburg.com/monuments/heroic-defenders.asp).
But we rested instead of taking a morning tour. (Sandy passed on the afternoon tour.) We had a late breakfast and an early lunch before being serenaded by the Brass Band as we passed through immigration control, got temporary visas again, and boarded buses for an afternoon tour. It was drizzling as we started; we had a short driving tour of St. Petersburg and then went to the Church of the Spilled Blood where we again had half an hour to shop at the stalls. We got a music box of the church (it plays "Padmoskovnye Vechera," better known in English as "Midnight in Moscow"), a 2007 calendar, and some other trinkets.
Then my father and I went on a boat tour of the river and canals. It was raining steadily by this time.(I was very proud of being able to say, "It's raining" in Russian.) We sat with a couple from St. George, Utah, whom we saw on several other occasions on the ship. We saw the cruiser Aurora and the Mikhailovsky Castle up close, as well as good views of the St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress and the Winter Palace from the river.
When it was time to dock, we were told to stay away .We were to dock alongside another boat and walk across the boat to shore, but apparently there was a party of big shots going aboard the other boat and they didn't want us around.(It was amusing to hear the guide's conversation about this on her cell phone. "Blah blah blah" seems to mean the same in Russian as in English.) We could see a number of prosperous-looking gentlemen boarding the boat, while four uniformed men with AK-47s stood guard on the shore. After about 15 minutes the other boat left with its guests aboard, and we were able to dock at the shore and disembark, and walk a couple of blocks in the rain to the buses. We returned to the ship without incident.
The ship left St. Petersburg at 6 PM. That evening we had dinner in the steak house, at $15 per person, and well worth it as we had truly excellent meals, top-notch service, and live entertainment (a duet).Later in the evening, but before dark (as we were so far west in the time zone) we passed the naval base of Kronstadt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kronstadt). The Naval Cathedral (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/Saint_Petersburg_Kronstadt.jpg) was easily seen, but few ships and those apparently not in good repair.
The Gulf of Finland is subject to occasional, disastrous floods, so a barrier has been built across the gulf that can be closed off when floods threaten (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Petersburg_Dam).The highway across the northern part of the dam was easily seen as we approached Kronstadt.
We set our clocks back an hour as we left Russia, as our next destination is an hour behind Russia and an hour ahead of Central European Time. St. Petersburg was definitely the highlight of the cruise, the main reason we selected this cruise. I would love to go back some day and spend more time there.
Tuesday, August 29
We arrived at Tallinn, Estonia, at about 7 AM. We had a quick breakfast and left the ship for a three-hour tour of the city (http://www.tallinn.ee/eng).We drove around the modern city and its outskirts, stopped at the "Song Grounds," an amphitheater and surrounding area (bottom of http://www.tourism.tallinn.ee/fpage/explore/attractions/soviet), and then went to the Old Town, a section on a hill with many centuries-old buildings (http://www.tourism.tallinn.ee/eng/fpage/explore/attractions/oldtown).We saw the Russian Orthodox cathedral (Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, http://www.tourism.tallinn.ee/fpage/explore/attractions/tsarist/article_id-573), the Lutheran church (http://www.tourism.tallinn.ee/fpage/explore/attractions/oldtown/article_id-432), and many shops specializing in amber and other merchandise. After Old Town we drove through the modern city, the business district and the port area, then back to the ship. We had a sit-down lunch as the ship left for Poland. We had a relaxed dinner and met Celine Ehrlich, a woman about 83 years of age, who had been in the Dutch resistance during World War II and was one of the first War Brides. She is now a widow living in Marin County, California. We spent quite a bit of time with her during the rest of the cruise.
This evening we went to a magic show in the Princess Theater, the large auditorium on board. The performers were Richard Griffin and Hayley Jane. This was the only time during the cruise that we had the time and the energy to see the "main show." As noted previously, we had been to one of the lounge shows early in the voyage.
We set our clocks back another hour that evening as Poland is on Central European Time.
Wednesday, August 30
We docked in Gdynia, Poland, at about 9 AM, passing what seemed to be the entire Polish Navy on our way in. We had omelets made to order for breakfast, and afterwards I went to the spa for the lovely scalp and shoulder massage I had won early in the voyage. We had hamburgers before leaving the ship at 11 AM for a tour of Gdynia, Gdansk, and the resort town of Sopot. It was raining steadily as we left the ship and the rain continued most of the afternoon.
It's about an hour drive to Gdansk, a city with a long history (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gdansk). In German the name is Danzig, and it was a Free City after World War I when Poland reappeared on the map. The Poles built a port at Gdynia, on the "Polish Corridor" (to the sea) so as not to be dependent on Danzig.
Two of the most important events of the 20th century occurred in Danzig/Gdansk. On September 1, 1939, a German battleship shelled the Westerplatte fortress, starting World War II in Europe. And, starting in 1981, the Solidarity labor movement at the Lenin Shipyard began the downfall of Communism in Europe.
Our first stop in Gdansk was the Old Town. It was leveled in World War II, and after the war was reconstructed as it had been hundreds of years before. Getting off the bus, I slipped on the wet steps and got scraped up a bit.
We walked through the Old Town, as best we could in the rain. There were several amber and jewelry shops, and we noticed that almost all seemed to be named Bernstein or Bursztyn (Anglicized to Burstyn).We stopped in the Bernstein-Ninard shop (http://www.bernstein-ninard.com/intro.htm) and chatted with the owner for a while. At the time we thought that all the stores were owned by people named Bernstein, but it turns out that bernstein (the stone that burns) is German for amber, and Bursztyn may be Polish for amber.
After reboarding the bus we drove through the modern part of the city, past the shipyard with the Solidarity monument (http://cruises.about.com/od/northerneuropeancruises/ig/Gdansk--Poland-Pictures/gdansk020.htm), past Lech Walesa's house, past the world's longest apartment building (at least 1000 feet; built during the Communist era to ease the housing shortage; all the apartments are very small).We had a late lunch at the Hotel Posejdon (http://www.orbis.pl/?s=140,0,1172&h=41&j=2) and went on to Sopot.
Sopot is a seaside resort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sopot, http://www.sopot.net/english.htm).The rain had eased by the time we arrived. The bus parked by the Grand Hotel (http://www.sopot.net/hotels.htm, http://www.polhotels.com/Gdansk/Grand/) and we walked across the beach to the pier (http://www.sopot.net/attractions/pier.htm).
Next we drove around Gdynia (http://www.gdynia.pl/?lang=en, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gdynia), stopping at its pier, whose attractions include an aquarium (http://www.aquarium.gdynia.pl/atrakcje.php), a sailing ship (the Dar Pomorza, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dar_Pomorza), and a World War II Free Polish Navy destroyer (the Blyskawica, http://www.navy.mw.mil.pl/index.php?akcja=dzialblyskawica).
We returned to the ship and it departed at 6 PM. We had a sit-down dinner, again with Celine, who had decided not to leave the ship at all while it was docked in Poland.
Thursday, August 31
This day was spent at sea between Gdansk and Oslo, and was comparatively relaxing. It rained most of the day, but some of the pools were enclosed or covered, so if we had wanted to swim we could have. Sandy had several spa appointments. In the morning I participated in the Jeopardy game, and (playing alone) finished third against eight or nine teams of several people. In the afternoon, Sandy and I played as a team against similar competition and won! Our prizes were travel bags--just what we needed.
We had a relaxed sit-down breakfast and lunch, and met Celine for dinner again and had another nice conversation. We had our picture taken with her as well.
Our course was again west of the island on which Copenhagen is located, retracing our course of the first night of the cruise. We threaded our way through the Danish islands and in mid-afternoon we went under a huge bridge (the Great Belt Bridge, http://www.copenhagenpictures.dk/grt_blt.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Belt_Bridge) that joins the island on which Copenhagen is located with another Danish island to the left.
Friday, September 1
We sailed north through Oslo fjord in the very early morning hours, docking at 7 AM very close to downtown, with a beautiful view of the Akershus Castle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akershus_Fortress, http://www.phileas-fogg.net/oslo/akershus.html) across the road. We had a quick buffet breakfast and started on our tour of the city. For the first time during the cruise, the weather was warm and sunny. After driving through downtown, looking at City Hall (where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded) and the royal palace, we stopped at an overlook with a view of the harbor--the view that Edvard Munch used as the background of his famous painting, "The Scream" (http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/munch/munch.scream.jpg).By coincidence, the painting itself, which had been stolen a couple of years earlier (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3588282.stm), had been found the previous evening (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14602196/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scream).
Our next stop was the Viking Ship Museum (http://www.khm.uio.no/english/visit-us/viking-ship-museum/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_Ship_Museum_%28Oslo%29), where several excavated Viking ships, in various states of preservation and restoration, are displayed. One of the major exhibits is the Gokstad Ship (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gokstad_ship). We learned that the Vikings (Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and perhaps Finns) had been raiding other European locations for about 300 years (800 - 1100) but with the coming of Christianity, they were taught that raiding is inconsistent with that religion, and ceased raiding.(Given that the missionaries were from elsewhere in Europe, one wonders how objective this advice was--especially since Christian Europeans "raided" many other continents. Perhaps the heart of the advice was not to raid Christians in Europe.)
PBS Site about the Vikings: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/vinland/vikings.html
Nearby are the Kon-Tiki Museum where Thor Heyerdahl's (http://www.kon-tiki.no/Ny/Dok_eng/E-Heyerdahl.html) boats are displayed (http://www.kon-tiki.no/Ny/Dok_eng/E-Museum.html), and the Norwegian Maritime Museum, which includes Roald Amundsen's ship Gjoa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gjoa), formerly displayed in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco (http://www.outsidelands.org/gjoa.php), but we did not visit either.
We made an unplanned stop at the Vigeland Sculpture Park (http://museumsnett.no/vigelandmuseet/2parken/2b_historikk/engelsk/2bframeset.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vigeland_Park, http://go.to/Vigeland/).This park contains literally hundreds of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, created between 1926 and 1942.Almost all are nudes, in various poses and configurations, intended to describe "the human condition."
Our final stop in Oslo was Holmenkollen, the world's first ski jump (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holmenkollen_ski_jump).At the shops in the area, we were able to confirm that Oslo has surpassed Tokyo as the world's most expensive city, especially where restaurants and eating out are concerned.
We returned to the ship and did some souvenir shopping on the dock. Just forward of our ship was the "Christian Radich," a Tall Ship once used by the Norwegian Navy for training and now apparently in private hands (http://www.radich.no/eng/pgs/hovedsiden.html, http://www.radich.no/eng/pgs/historikk.html).People my age may remember a wonderful movie, "Windjammer" (1958) which featured this ship (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052397/, http://www.wittkowsky.net/windjammer/index2.htm).
We boarded the ship and had lunch. The ship left Oslo at about 1 PM and sailed down Oslo Fjord. We passed Oscarsborg Fortress (http://www.nasjonalefestningsverk.no/oscarsborg: in Norwegian but nice pictures; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscarsborg_festning).On April 9, 1940, a squadron of the German navy, led by the heavy cruiser "Bluecher," sailed up Oslo Fjord with the intention of capturing Oslo.(German-built) guns and torpedoes from Oscarsborg sank the Bluecher and delayed the Nazi conquest of Norway (http://www.admiral-hipper-class.dk/bluecher/gallery/gallbluechersinking.html).
As we continued south, the wind rose and the sea became rough. By dinner time, ship's motion could be detected, for almost the first time during the cruise. Overnight as we transited the open water of the Skagerrak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skagerrak), the sea became rough enough that I believe the ship had to slow down; as a result we docked an hour late in Copenhagen the next morning (6 AM instead of 5 AM), leading to much confusion.
We packed most of our baggage and placed it outside the room by 10 PM, then went to sleep, as tomorrow would start early and be a very long day.
Saturday, September 2
The alarm went off at 4:30 AM so that we could be out of our cabin at 6:00 and ready to leave the ship at 6:15.We were a group scheduled to leave among the earliest because we had a comparatively early (10:50) flight from Copenhagen Airport.(The Continental flight to Newark leaves at 9:30, which was just too early for us to make, so we were booked on British Airways through London. We had a nonstop from London to San Francisco, while my dad had one to Boston.)
We were called to leave the ship about 6:30, with the baggage we had not left outside the cabin the night before. We passed quickly through Customs and boarded our bus. But we sat on the bus for quite a while so the few buses that were scheduled ahead of us could leave. The trip to the airport was quick, but the other baggage was not at the airport when we arrived--because of the delayed docking, other bags, belonging to people on later buses with later flights--had arrived first. So we waited outside the terminal until ours arrived. By that time we were far back in the check-in lines, behind people who were supposed to be behind us. The lines were long for most airlines, but especially for BA. It took almost two hours to check in (including some of what we had hand-carried from the ship, because of BA and the British Government's very limited carry-on allowance) and then get through security to the gate.
The weather was cloudy to drizzly in Copenhagen, and rainy in London. Because of congestion at Heathrow, we took off about 20 minutes late, and had to circle Heathrow for a while before landing. We landed at Terminal 4, and my dad's flight to Boston was from the same terminal, in mid-afternoon, so he had no problems--luckily, since we could not stay with him. We had asked for a wheel chair for Sandy, but it was not there, so we walked, following the directions for Terminal 1.There is a bus transfer, and we waited about 20 minutes for a bus, during which time maybe 75 or 80 people came into the line. We all crammed on the bus somehow, and made the five or ten minute ride to Terminals 1 and 2.Then we sat on the bus for a few minutes while the buses ahead of us, at intervals, discharged their passengers, until it was our turn.
It turned out that the reason we were waiting, and the reason the bus took so long to pick us up at Terminal 4, was that passengers were backed up from the security checkpoint on the second floor, through the rest of the second floor, down the down the escalator and into the lobby, and buses could not let passengers off until there was space for them in the lobby. This was just a few weeks after the liquid-explosive terrorism scare, and security was extra-tight. We slowly advanced through the line, being advised to discard all liquids and gels, and when we came into sight of the security checkpoint itself, we had only half an hour to flight time and it was pretty clear we were not going to make it. However, just then, we came to a point in the line when Terminal 1 (overseas destinations) was separated from Terminal 2 (probably UK destinations), and those few of us going to Terminal 1 went to a separate checkpoint that took us only 10 or 15 minutes to get through. By that time it was only 15 minutes before our scheduled departure. I looked up our gate and saw that the flight was boarding and was scheduled to leave on time. I moved as fast as I could toward the gate, with both our carry-ons, and Sandy came along as fast as she could--if she didn't get there by takeoff time I was going to try to delay the plane.
I got into the boarding line with less than 10 minutes before scheduled departure. There were many people still in line ahead of me, and Sandy caught up in short order. People continued to dribble into the line from the security checkpoint. It was just about scheduled departure time when we entered the jetway, and there were still a number of people behind us. There, the men went to one side and the women to another, and we were "patted down" and our carry-ons gone through item by item.
So we finally boarded the plane and took our seats, and we closed up half an hour late after the people behind us in line boarded. We taxied onto the runway while waiting US government approval of all passengers on board (the normal procedure is to get approval before leaving the gate) and took off about half an hour late. The flight was uneventful and we landed also half an hour late.
We retrieved our baggage fairly readily, got the shuttle without too much delay, and got home after dark after being the last ones dropped off from a full van.