Saturday 20th July 2013
Sunday 21st July
Met up in the terminal with Lise and Ian. They are in cabin G25 - ours is C55. Once you set sail, mobile phoning is horribly expensive, but we were able to contact each other's cabins through the ship's telephones for free. Once through immigration, we registered our credit card and were issued with boarding passes which also double up as door keys and on-board credit card. That way you don't need cash and everything purchased is booked to your account. The first thing we did was go through a safety drill. These were held at various points on the ship. Ours was Muster station A in the Palladium. We were given a pep talk which, shame on me, I've totally forgotten. Also shown how to put on our life jackets should the need occur. Our cabin was lovely, complete with balcony, TV, tea and coffee, bath and shower. And the beds were so comfortable. We spent the rest of the day finding our way round the ship, going up and down in the lifts (I counted 10 decks) Had a buffet meal at 5.30 pm. Too tired to eat again later so an early night. Hot and sunny all day.
Monday 22nd July
Another fantastic day. We both had a good night's sleep and went for early breakfast in the Belvedere Restaurant on Lido Deck (Deck 9). The variety and quality of food on offer is out of this world. I think we'd need an overdraft if we had to pay there and then for all we ashamedly consumed and were weighed at the end of our holiday. We didn't see Lise and Ian until 11 am, but in all fairness, they had been to 'Shore Excursions Desk' down on Deck One to book up on trips. Ian's parents had offered to pay for their trips ashore which was very kind of them (or a bit rash - which ever way you look at it) so excursions were booked in abundance. We changed our evening meal to second sitting so that we could all sit together. It was black tie night tonight. I wore my long deep red velvet dress - fun dressing up and a change from my usual faded T shirt, black elasticated trousers and the green wellies I wear most of the time at home. We found the Meridian Restaurant a little too busy and noisy, although I have to say that both staff and food were excellent. We ate for the rest of the cruise in the Belvedere Buffet Restaurant.
Tuesday 23rd July
Our first port of call was Kristiansand in Norway. We were easily able to walk from the harbour, through the gardens and into the town itself. A little gem of a place. Being a bit of a plant-a-holic, I found the wild flowers growing along the harbour so beautiful. My camera hasn't done them justice, but if you click on the picture, you may be able to see what I mean. We took our time into town, sat down and had a coffee, before making our way back to ship. The weather was glorious. Set sail at just before 5 pm.
Wednesday 24th July
Great Belts Bridge
This for me was one of the highlights of our trip. Whilst we were eating breakfast, the Captain announced that we would shortly be passing under The Great Belts Bridge which is the boundary line between Denmark and Sweden. We hurried up and joined a swathe of other passengers up on the Neptune Deck
Here we are just approaching the Bridge
Nearer (I zoomed my camera lens on this one)
and nearer. You could see traffic travelling over the top.
Right up to it now.
The little white bit on the left hand side of the picture is part of the mast just passing under the bridge.
This is the moment when Arcadia skimmed right underneath as we passed safely through.
I am so in awe of the skill of the navigators. This was such an amazing experience.
Safely through the other side and we're on our way.
Thursday 25th July
We docked up safely and were able to disembark soon after 9.30 am.
We took the P&O shuttle bus into Gydinia. My first impressions were of a town gaunt and strained. The feeling of it was almost as though we were caught in a time warp of a past era.
As we walked along the pavement we came to a little Roman Catholic Church. There was a statue of Pope John Paul II and also a picture of him on a large billboard. We paused to look through the door. The interior
was breathtakingly beautiful. There were three pictures at the front, one of the Virgin Mary, one of Pope John Paul II and one of Mother Teresa. People were sitting quietly in the pews. I would so loved to have taken a picture, but it didn't feel the right thing to do so this is just in my memory alone.
We walked on a little further and then sat down in a concrete park. Flurries of pigeons hovered around us, hoping for any titbit that might come their way.
And we watched a small group of 'Green Peace' supporters playing a ball game on a minute grassed area.
We arrived back on board to the TV (Skye) news to hear that there had been a horrific train crash in Spain.
Friday 26th July
On track for St Petersburg, Russia. We've booked an all day tour for tomorrow and our Visas arrived with the ship's post. The form looked quite SCARY with dire warnings that it would not be accepted if there were any crossings out or blots on it.
Anybody who knows me will know that making mistakes is my middle name and to be quite honest it was getting to be almost too much for me. At one point, I actually went down to the Shore Excursions Desk and said that I didn't think I could go on this trip after all. After reassurance and help from the lovely people on Reception, I changed my mind and we spent part of the day gearing up for the big adventure. I ordered breakfast in our cabin for the morning of the trip, so that we could get away early. During the afternoon I went for a little wander around the ship. I had a look around the library and the photo gallery, hoping that I might have some professional photos of the moments when we passed under 'The Bridge'. I was unlucky on that score so my own attempts will have to suffice. There was a 50% sale off certain goods in the Shopping Emporium. I was so thrilled to discover that one of the sales assistants lived hardly more than a stone's throw from our home address, she was a friend of my daughter and had worked for the same company before joining Arcadia.
The world gets smaller.
Saturday 27th July
St Petersburg, Russia
The butterflies in my stomach are still fluttering, but it's now or never. Visas sorted, passports ready and coach tickets in place, we made our way through immigration. Two reps holding cards with the name of our bus were waiting for us. When it arrived, we were given small short wave radios with ear pieces which were excellent to hear what our guide was telling us. She was a lovely Russian lady. Her English was perfect and she looked after us so well.
We visited the Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya Krepost)
After crossing the cobbled courtyard we passed through another archway known as the 'Archway of Death' Our guide told us that this was where prisoners were forced to await their execution and very often torture as well.
It was at this place that Tsar Nicholas II and his family were brutally murdered. Their dismembered body parts were strewn beneath the cobbled stones. It was only in the 1990's when their DNA was painstakingly matched and built back up into each person's body that they were buried again with dignity.
In the middle of the grounds was a church with a golden spire - the tallest spire in St Petersburg, built by Peter the Great. The labourers beneath his command endured great hardships and it was said to have been built on the bones of its people. To one side is the statue of an angel with outstretched wings. 'During one violent winter storm,' our guide told us, 'the top of the spire bent sideways and the angel's wing buckled and drooped.' So great was the cost of the scaffolding needed, there seemed no way for it to be repaired. That was until a man, an ordinary labourer came forward and offered to go to the top with just his tools for the job and a rope. The task was successfully completed and the labourer deemed a national hero. The Dignitaries were so delighted that they offered him free alcohol of the city for life. In order for the publicans to recognise him, he had a star tattooed on his neck. Since then, it's a common custom for people of St Petersburg to point to their necks when inviting someone out for a pint.
The architecture was truly amazing.
So much to see and far more than one day could hold. A beautiful place to visit and I'm so glad that we did.
Sunday 28th July
We were a little bit exhausted after yesterday, (old age doesn't come on its own but we wouldn't have missed it for the world). Spending today just chilling out. Arcadia is docked in St Petersburg for one more day and lots of the passengers disembarked to take it all in, (at least as much as is possible). Us? we just did a lazy tour of the ship The weather and everything is just so amazing.
Spent a happy hour soaking up the sun on the Neptune Deck.
In the Belvedere Restaurant we met a lady we'd shared a lift with in the hotel in Southampton. She'd come on holiday with her cousin. We discovered that she had travelled from New Zealand and lived in the same home town as my cousin. Honestly, the world just gets smaller. I think one of the things I've really liked about this cruise is the friendliness and politeness of the passengers on board. And the staff are all fantastic too. It really has felt like we're part of one big family, people have been so nice. During the early evening we visited the Piano Bar. We enjoyed the music. After our evening meal we went to a show at the Palladium. It featured a wonderful flautist - Claire Langorn. She was fantastic, also the talented trumpet player who played 'You Raise Me Up'. So good.
Monday 29th JulyTallin, Estonia
Today we're heading towards Tallin in Estonia. I woke at 6 am to the most fabulous sun rise.
We enjoyed another early breakfast. Never quite sure which is 'Port' and which is 'Starboard'? A good tip from a fellow passenger -'A drop of Port left in your hand'. Easy peazy from now on - Port on the left, Starboard on the right.
We docked around 8.30 am and were ready to disembark before 9. A shuttle bus took us right into Tallin. this is a beautiful little town, interlaced with cobbled streets and alleyways. This one was the favourite of my whole trip and one in which I would have loved to have spent more time exploring.
There are lots of craft stalls and little shops in the alley ways. The picture above shows one of them. Brim to the top with exquisite coloured glass vases. bowls and ornaments. The proprietor was blowing glass as we looked on.
In another little street there were rows of market stalls. This serene, gentle lady was selling hand knitted goods. I asked her permission to take her photograph, pointing at my camera. A nod and a sweet smile and here she is.
I bought these slippers from her and I love them. They are so comfortable.
'Libertus Magnus 1255' engraved on cast iron on the side of glassware shop.
These two beautiful young women, dressed in national costume, were selling confectionery and little bottles of what looked like home made wines and brews. I asked their permission to take their pictures. They nodded and smiled too.
I love Tallin. Everything about it is enchanting.
Tuesday 30th July
We arrived in Stockholm around 8.30 am. It was very foggy during the night and early morning. Captain Breton told us that visibility was down to two hundred metres and 'touch and go' whether we would be able to dock. Under the expert guidance of the two pilots, mission was accomplished safely and we disembarked soon after 10 am. We caught the P&O shuttle bus into Stockholm. It was horrendously busy when we got off the bus and stood on the bridge. Droves of people everywhere. We just stood there like two rabbits caught in the headlights.
This picture was taken from the inside window, when we were safely on the next shuttle bus back to the ship. It was a kind of 'Murphy's Law' day - if it can go wrong - it will go wrong. And if it can't possibly go wrong - it will still go wrong.' If you know what I mean.
When we got off the bus, several reps from various different companies tried to tempt us with trips on the red double decker open topped sight seeing buses. A small wait and then three were chasing each other down the street and at regular intervals thereafter. These were 'Hop on, Hop off' buses which, after you paid your dues, took you to various destinations around the city . You could 'Hop off' one bus and then catch another later one back to the pick up point. All the buses we saw were heaving with passengers. Some were standing in the aisle on the top open air deck as they travelled along. What had apparently happened that day was that five cruise ships had docked simultaneously. Given that each ship has in the region of two thousand passengers, you can imagine what it must have been like having some ten thousand people landing in one go. True the reps were doing a wonderful job selling tickets, bless 'em, but the bus drivers were having nervous breakdowns trying to fit them all in, with nowhere to put them. We declined and boarded the only bus we wanted to and that was the shuttle bus back to Arcadia. Shame really because Stockholm is a beautiful city with lots to experience. Lise and Ian booked one of the organised trips from the Shore Excursion Desk and had a wonderful day. With hindsight that would have been our best option too. We will- some other time maybe.
Wednesday 31st July
The sea was quite choppy during the night and we had a day on board today. I watched 'Les Miserables' in the Palladium. I've always wanted to see this film (or the show) and was so moved by it - a fantastic film - I loved every minute. I'm reliving the moment, playing a clip off You Tube.
Later on in the evening we went to 'The Black and White' ball in the Globe. I wore my black cocktail dress with sparkly bits on the front and my white high sandals. It was fun. The dancing exhibition by Jo and Leighton was spectacular. We loved the singing group 'Inspiration' too.
To finish this lovely day I want to add this beautiful sunset.
Thursday 1st August
8.15 am and we're just coming into Copenhagen. We've booked a city tour and a boat trip for this morning. After a gallop through the city and a bit of nifty traffic dodging by some of our fellow travellers, we boarded the boat to take us back to the ship. I have to say, the boat trip was a delight.
A sand sculpture exhibition was being held along the embankment.
The guide told us the Hans Christian Anderson story of ' The little Mermaid'. We were in a 'glass roofed barge.' I would have loved to have been able to take a picture but unfortunately missed it on this one.
The waterways are very clear and unpolluted. Manoeuvring under the narrow bridges is a skill in itself with barely inches to spare as we glide through.
Back on Arcadia, we rounded the evening off with a night of dancing in the Globe Ballroom - our favourite entertainment.
Friday 2nd August
Another morning of gorgeous weather and a tinge of sadness that this lovely holiday is coming to a close. We're heading for our last port of call, Zeebrugge. Made a start on packing our suitcases. There was a water leak on board this morning - no water in the taps or toilets, but luckily the problem was resolved and back to normal by twelve noon. Lise and Ian called round and we all went to see 'Marigold Hotel' in Screen Play on Deck 3. A deliciously funny comedy - I loved it. The punch line summed it all up with - 'It will all work out in the end - if it doesn't, it's not the end.' (one to be added to my favourite quotes). Later on I finished most of the packing.
Off to the Farewell Ball in the Globe. Last chance to wear my red velvet dress. It was wonderful. Rounded the night with a coffee and foody in the Belvedere.
Saturday 3rd August
Glorious again this morning. We've had fourteen days of wall to wall sunshine. Docked in Zeebrugge in early morning. I was fascinated to see the Pilot Ship come along side. One of those moments when I forgot to bring my camera and desperately wishing that I'd remembered. Zeebrugge is famed for its chocolate and its beer. Lise and Ian couldn't decide whether to go on the chocolate tasting excursion or the beer sampling one. In the end they decided on the beer taster owing to the number of calories already consumed during the previous couple of weeks. They enjoyed it immensely and sampled nine different types of beer. We stayed on Arcadia for this one and watched 'The Queen' starring Helen Mirren in Screenplay. Early evening we put our cases outside the cabin door and they were taken to be screened through immigration.
We watched 'Elite' a fabulous girl group in the Palladium and then rounded the night off with the last dance in the Globe.
Sunday 4th August
We had a 6.30 am breakfast and vacated our cabin. Said 'Goodbye' to our brilliant cabin steward, Naz and made our way to The Palladium to wait for our disembarkation call.
'Bye Big Ships. Safe Journey till the next time.