Tuesday, June 4, 2019

HAL Zuiderdam –Jewels of the Baltics Part 1

We recently sailed on the HAL Zuiderdam for the third time in May 2019. Our captain is Wouter van Hoogdalem,  the hotel director is Ron Bontenbal, and  the cruise director is Andy Levitt. Our cabin is 4078 and our cabin stewards are Ketut and Eka. Our dinner table is #59 and our servers are Sarino and Catur.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - Embarkation (15166 steps/5.81 miles)

We went for breakfast, with our suitcases in tow and that is when my hubby agreed with me that maybe he overpacked. I used a much smaller suitcase and packed half the amount that I usually do for a cruise and it was so easy to manage. After breakfast, we took a bus to the cruise terminal and dropped off our bags. We still had a couple of hours, so we took the bus to The Citadel park and walked around before returning to the terminal. We were on the ship around noon and in time for lunch.  Our ship left Copenhagen around 5pm. We are seated at a table for 6 but only one other couple showed up, David and Emily from Virginia. She arranges for Au Pairs to work in our country and he works for the Treasury Dept. in DC. After dinner, which started at 8, we went back to our cabin and watched a little of Aquaman but by then I was so tired it was time for bed.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 – At Sea (12947 steps/5.02 miles)

After breakfast, we went to a couple of talks. One was about the shore excursions. The other given by Bonnie was about getting around and what to see in Estonia and St. Petersburg. She did an excellent job. After lunch, we did our exercise walk around Deck 3. Then it was time to go to another talk about Helsinki and Stockholm. Happy Hour was at 4 and the second drink was only $2 so we had Bloody Marys. Before dinner, we went to the show which featured the pianist, Martin Kaye from Manchester, who was excellent. It was Gala night at dinner. Before going to bed, we watched a little more of Aquaman.

Thursday, May 9, 2019 – Tallinn, Estonia (22331 steps/8.69 miles)

We had a wonderful day in Estonia. We got off the ship around 11am and it was a 15-20 minute walk into Old Town. We walked to St. Catherine’s Passage and found 2 yarn stores. Then we walked to the Town Square and found the Visitor’s Information place to get maps and information. Then we walked to Kiek in de Kok (which means Peek in the Kitchen) and to several cathedrals. Along our walk, we found some artists and Don bought some etchings of mermaids from one of the artists. Then we found an antique store where Don bought some Soviet and German-occupied money for 1 euro each. We got back to the ship around 4pm and saw the Captain so I took a picture with him. Then we had a late lunch. We went to the show to see the dancers before dinner. After dinner, we finished watching Aquaman and Don watched the movie about Ruth Ginsberg but I fell asleep.

Friday, May 10, 2019 – St. Petersburg (8324 steps/2.9 miles)

Since we didn’t have an excursion booked, we couldn’t get off the ship because we didn’t have a visa. After breakfast, we sat on the deck and used our binoculars to look around town. We relaxed and read until it was time for lunch. After lunch, we relaxed and watched movies on TV. We ate dinner in the Lido restaurant because we thought we would see The Mule in the main stage theater, but it was canceled. So, we went back to our room and watch movies until bedtime.

Saturday May 11, 2019 – St. Petersburg (15327 steps/5.85 miles)

We got up at 4:30am so we could eat breakfast before our shore excursion. We had to meet at 6:30 and at 6:45 they sent us to the bus. First, we had to go through Passport Control. When Don went through, the guard had to make a phone call. After many long minutes, his passport was stamped, and he was allowed to go through. I went through quickly.  We got on the Bus 22 and our guide Marina and our driver Maxim took us on an 11-hour tour of St. Petersburg ($229 pp).
First, we made an unscheduled stop to take photos of St. Isaacs Cathedral with huge columns. Then we drove about an hour to Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin. It was an amazing palace. I took tons of pictures, but we weren’t allowed to take photos in the Amber Room. After the palace, we had lunch at the Home Café. Lunch was some kind of salad, beef stroganoff, green beans, and mashed potatoes, and apple cake. We were also given a bottle of water, a glass of wine, and coffee or tea. Next, we went to Peterhof Gardens which was a huge place. We only saw the East part which our guide said was more luxurious. There were beautiful fountains and gardens.  At 2:15 we went to the Hydrofoil and at 2:30 it took us back to St. Petersburg. When we arrived, it was pouring down rain and we all got wet running to the bus. Then they took us to a souvenir shop where we got to taste vodka and cherry liqueur. We got back to the ship around 5:20 and the ship was leaving at 5:30. We had to go through Passport Control and once again, the person had to make a phone call when they were inspecting Don’s passport. After more long minutes, he was allowed to go through.

It was a wonderful day in St. Petersburg! The guide gave each of us a radio receiver and headset so she could talk into her small microphone and we could hear everything she said. She talked nonstop from the time we left until we returned.

Sunday, May 12, 2019 – Helsinki Finland (15622 steps/6.02 miles)

All night long the fog horn sounded! When we woke up, the fog was so thick! We didn’t know what to expect when we got off the ship even though we read about the area. When we got off the ship in (Hernesaari port), there was a cruise ship shuttle (10 euros or $12 USD each) and there were Hop On Hop Off buses for 30 euros each. We decided to give the HOHO bus a try and felt it was well worth the money. First, we did a full circuit of the route and then on the second circuit we stopped at a local flea market. After the flea market, we walked to Hard Rock Café. Then we walked to the Open-Air Market near the water which was nice. We walked back to the area where the flea market and got on the HOHO bus. We thought about getting off at another place but by then it was getting late and we had to get back to the ship by 3:30. We got back around 2:30 and had lunch. After lunch, we went to the Crows Nest to hear the commentary about the surrounding area. Then it was time for happy hour. After that, we went back to the room to watch The Mule with Clint Eastwood.

Monday, May 13, 2019 – Stockholm Sweden (18054 steps/7.16 miles)

Our pilot got on around 2:15 am and guided us into the port. At 8am. we got off the ship and got on another HOHO bus for 32 euros each. Hubby doesn’t think it was worth the money but I do. There were 22 stops and one of the stops took us pretty far away and only a mile from Hard Rock Café. Since Hard Rock didn’t open until 11:30 and we got on the bus at 8, we rode the bus the entire route which took two hours. Then we got off in the Old Town and walked around. Around 11:30 we got back on the bus and took it to the Concert Hall. From there we walked to Hard Rock. Somewhere around the Concert Hall, I lost a mitten. Then we went back to the bus and went back to Old Town. We got back to the bus stop around 2:30 and it was packed. People were cranky and pushy. Don and another man had nasty words because the man thought he would cut in front of us. We watched the ship pull out and would have the pilot until after 10pm as we went through the archipelagos.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 – Sea Day (9413 steps/ 3.41 miles)

We had a nice day at sea. After breakfast, we relaxed until it was time to go to our Mariner’s luncheon. We sat with 8 other people and enjoyed lunch. After lunch, we went to the showroom to listen to the Captain and ask him questions. After that, he opened up the bow on the 4th deck so we can experience the drill he was having. It was an Emergency Crash stop and he stopped the ship in 2 ship lengths, but the vibrations were strong. After that, we went to the lido deck for a snack and to get Don on the internet. In the afternoon we relaxed in our cabin and watched movies while I worked on some stuff for my summer class. Before dinner, we went to the show featuring The comedy and variety of Goronwy Thom, who did juggling and comedy. We had Gala night for dinner.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 – Rostock, Germany (17940 steps/7.08 miles)

We arrived around 6am but we didn’t go ashore until 8:00. There was a free cruise shuttle into town which was 20 - 30 minutes away. The bus let us out in front of the Radisson Blu Hotel and we walked around town. I found two yarn stores, so I was happy. We found the town square and tourist information where there was a free bathroom. We went to the park and had some bratwurst which was wonderful. Then we had a pretzel and a pastry later in town. On the way back to the bus, Don found a Philately shop where he bought some stuff. We were back on the ship around 2pm and had lunch. In the afternoon we watched movies in our cabin. At one point, they interrupted the movie to announce that first responders were needed on the Lido deck across from the Pasta station. We found out later that it was a woman who had a stroke and was unresponsive. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019 – Kiel Germany (20253 steps/8.06 miles()

We got off the ship around 8am and walked right into town. Since it was early we strolled through a non-touristy area and found a grocery store. We found a dollar store and bought some great souvenirs. We also found City Hall where there were free toilets. Then around 11am, we walked through the main tourist area with lots of shops. We even found tourist information. Around 1pm, we returned to the ship for lunch. The rest of the day we relaxed since we didn’t have to pack to leave the ship like other people had to. At dinner, we said goodbye to our dinner mates, Emily and David.

Things I Learned:

1.     Copenhagen, Denmark
a.     There are 6 dkk to 1 USD approximately.
b.     Thanks in Danish is Tak (Tock).
2.     Estonia:
a.     Thanks in Estonian is Tänan.
b.     Taxi - 20-30 euros 
c.     Tere hommikust - good morning 
d.     Please - palun 
e.     Goodbye - Head aega 
f.      $1.12 = 1 euro
g.     City train for 6 euros 
h.     Look up at architecture 
i.      Skype was invented here
j.      Free wifi in town square 
k.     Kohuke - cheese curds covered in chocolate 
l.      Sport - wife carrying; Finland - wins wife’s weight in beer
m.   Language- Russian, Ukranian 
n.     2.357 miles of coastline 
o.     Is about 50% forest 
p.     Occupied from the 13th century to the 20th century.
q.     Regained independence in 1991. 
r.      50 miles across from Finland 
s.     Look for Old Thomas at top of spire; Original in city hall 
t.      Town wall still standing about 1.2 miles; Wall from 14th century 
u.     Toompea Hill - highest point in Old town, seat of Estonia parliament 
v.     Alexander Nevski Cathedral built in 1900; Put in spot where there used to be a statue of Martin Luther
w.   St Mary’s Cathedral - built in 1233, can climb bell tower 
x.     Kiek in the Kok - “peek into the kitchen”
y.     Town Hall Square - souvenirs and restaurants, oldest running cafe, free walking tours on the hour at tourist information. Round stone, compass rose - see all 5 spires of the churches
z.     Worlds oldest pharmacy - check out restrooms 
aa.  Olde Hansa - house schnapps is called Monks Bride
bb.  St. Olaf’s Church - used to be tallest building in the world. Great view of city. 
cc.  St. Catherine’s passage - neat passageway, craft shops
dd.  Song festival grounds - revolution happened here
ee.  KGB museum at hotel 
ff.    Freedom Square - Europe Day 2019 is happening, free tours of embassy
3.     St. Petersburg, Russia:
a.     Thanks in Russian is Spasibo.
b.     Largest country in the world 
c.     St Petersburg - 5 million inhabitants 
d.     St. Petersburg is the 2nd largest city in Russia 
4.     Helsinki, Finland
a.     Thanks in Finnish is Kiitos.
b.     The HOHO bus in Helsinki was well worth the price.
c.     317 islands in Finland 
d.     5.2 million people 
e.     Summers - sun doesn’t set for 73 days 
f.      Language - Finnish, Swedish, Russian
g.     Gustav Eriksson of the Vasa - found Helsinki 1550
h.     “Daughter of the Baltics”
5.     Stockholm, Sweden:
a.     4 million people 
b.     4350 miles of coastline 
c.     Language - Swedish, Finnish, Sami dialects 
d.     Currency - Swedish krona  $1 = 9.58kr
e.     15% of Swedes are foreign born
f.      2000 lakes
g.     220,000 islands 
h.     57 bridges
i.      Old Town - Gamla Stan 30 minute walk 
j.      The iron boy - behind Swedish church (5.9 inches) 
k.     City Hall - spire has 3 golden crowns, 18 million gold tiles. - 45 minute walk from ship 
l.      Royal Palace - 600 rooms; one more room than Buckingham Palace, 5 museums
m.   Ice bar 23F inside 
n.     National museum - art and design ; free
o.     Skansen - oldest open air museum, zoo,
p.     Nobel museum 
q.     Nordic museum - largest cultural museum 
r.      The Vasa Museum - old ship 90% original 
s.     ABBA Museum $30 USD
t.      Coffee is around the idea of a break
u.     The only free bathroom we found in Stockholm was at Hard Rock Café.
v.     Tack is thank you in Swedish.
6.     Downloading Google Maps of the cities we were in was very helpful. I didn’t need internet connections to find locations on the maps.
7.     Germany
a.     uses euros for currency. Euros to USD was about 1:1 at this time.
b.     Danke is thank you in German.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

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