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Russia

St Petersburg, Russia - Day 2

Saturday, 6 September 2014


View 2015-02 South America on greynomadm's travel map.

I was up in time to watch the Queen Victory slip into an adjacent berth while the sun rose despite having much less sleep than I'm used to. After breakfast we spent some time finishing off a number of chores we were too tired to complete last night.

We had nothing planned until our booked Shore Excursion at 13:50. This outing featured a cruise on a river boat on the river and canals of the city. As most of the significant buildings were designed to look out over water this cruise provided a unique perspective. The weather was still excellent but the sun was behind many of the buildings and prevented decent images.

We were back aboard about 15 minutes before the scheduled "All Aboard" time of 17:30. We freshened up a little and had dinner where we said farewell to our waiter of the past week. He's returning to his family after a solid nine months on the job.

After dinner we rugged up and went up to Deck 17 to watch the ship pass through the gap in the 'flood defence' structure which protects the city from high storm tides. Our ship was the largest to have passed through these gates.

Another adjustment to our clocks as we claw back some of the time lost since leaving Copenhagen. It gives us an extra hour of sleep.

We are due to arrive in Helsinki at 07:00 tomorrow.

There's an image of this morning's sunrise at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-06

Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 10:16 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

St Petersburg, Russia - Day 1

Friday, 5 September 2014


View 2015-02 South America & 2014-09 Royal Princess on greynomadm's travel map.

The ship arrived at her berth in St Petersburg right in schedule. We were the fifth ship to occupy a berth at the extensive passenger terminal facility. A great percentage of the ship's passengers were up and making an early breakfast.

We had a Ship's Shore Excursion booked and proceeded to the Theatre as directed. The process of linking passengers to the correct one of many tours departing at about the same time is a well practised routine. Each 'tour' has an assigned coloured sticker and within each colour there are stickers with a number that is a coach worth. This morning we were Pink 2. Regardless of when we arrive at the check-in we are then assigned a section of the Theatre where we wait until called forward. Our group was joined by Pink 3 and Pink 4 indicating that there were three coaches doing the same itinerary. We were kept informed of progress and advised of delays at the passport checking stations. Once clear, we were escorted in assigned groups down to Deck 4 and the gangway. Following others in the group we proceeded to the Russian Border Control desks where our passports were examined and stamped. We then proceeded to the long line of coaches where we found one that matched our colour and number, ie. Pink 2.

We toured through various neighbourhoods while our guide regaled us with details regarding the history and architectural style of the various buildings. Our driver negotiated some impressive twists and turns amidst the early morning commuter traffic. Unexpectedly most of the cars were well maintained and quite modern, not what I'd expected.

At various points along the route there were glimpses of the golden domes and ornate features that one associates with St Petersburg in particular and Russia in general. At various points our driver managed to find somewhere to park so that we could leave the coach to take photos. Not as easy as it may sound given that the other four ships in port had their tour buses doing the same thing. Add to that mix a number of smaller buses taking 'independent' travellers to the same places.

One of the most impressive stops was at the "Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood" (their spelling). Our stop was for only ten minutes so there was just enough time to try and capture the facade and domes, I can only speculate at what ornate treasures were inside. Back on the bus and off to another area of architectural or historical significance. At one stage traffic appeared to have come to a complete halt. Eventually we discovered why, there had been an altercation between a car and a tram. No great surprise given the chaotic state of traffic, I was much relieved at the skill of our driver.

One of the promised features of this tour was the opportunity to buy authentic Russian Souvenirs. The place we stopped at had the most amazing range of articles that could be imagined. Furs, amber jewelry, Fabergé eggs and Marmushca dolls. Back to the ship in time for lunch and a nap to make up for a short night.

Woke up in time to get dressed and grab a quick meal in the Horizon Court before meeting our Shore Excursion group ashore. We are attending a Folkloric Show. Along with three other bus-loads from our ship there were crowds of people from the other ships there as well. The show started at 20:30 and for the next two hours we were richly entertained by a troupe that comprised a Military orchestra, a male choir of 20 voices, numerous solo male tenors, a dozen male dancers (gymnasts, acrobats) and 12 gorgeous tall women who appeared to have been cast from the one mould.

Singing, dancing and performing acrobatic feats that defy description. We were universally mesmerised and the performances were received with thunderous applause.

We left the theatre and were shepherded back to our bus by our ever-watchful guide. Our drive back to the ship was accompanied by the many gorgeous vistas of the many beautiful buildings and lights reflected in the water of the river. Back at the pier we were again scrutinised by the Passport Control officers before making our way back aboard our floating hotel.

We've had a fantastic day and were lucky to enjoy one of only 30 sunny days experienced in St Petersburg. Our guide describes the climate as "Nine months of expectation and three months of disappointment".

It was too late to complete this blog last night so these final words were added on Saturday morning. Another day in St Petersburg before sailing to Helsinki.

There's an image of a portion of the "Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood" at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-05
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 21:55 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

Tallinn, Estonia

Thursday, 4 September 2014


View 2015-02 South America & 2014-09 Royal Princess on greynomadm's travel map.

The sky was totally overcast as I started my walk around the exercise track on deck 18. As we approached Tallinn we were enveloped in a thick fog, not an auspicious start to a port day. We assembled in the Theatre for the 09:15 start of our tour of the Upper Old Town. The young lady who was our guide provided a continuous narration as we drove to our drop-off location.

With multiple ship's tours, some local tour operators and tours from another ship in port the area was soon massively congested. Eventually our group was able to gain a small degree of separation. The guide was frequented confronted with the need to account for all her charges, some of whom were notoriously slow at arriving at the agreed meeting points.

There is a rich history of architecture, some very very old, some 19th century and also some built during the Soviet era. Our guide was most informative but I lack the ability to retain much of it. By about 10:30 the fog had burnt off and the sun was making a valiant effort to break through. Back on the coach and we were driven through a variety of neighbourhoods ranging from historic wooden buildings in parkland settings to the Soviet Era drab concrete tower blocks. These old towers present a growing problem for the City Administration, they were built with a designed life of only 25 years, they are well beyond that and require extensive renovation.

The population of Estonia is a mere 1.5 million and about 1/3 live in and around Tallinn. School attendance is compulsory from age 7 and from Grade 3 English is taught to all students. The 'first' three-year university degree is free. Study at university beyond that is paid for by the student. Along our way back to the Wharf we stopped at the site of the Sailing Regatta for the Russian Olympics this provided a distant panoramic view of the port in general and our ship in particular.

We were told that one measure of how far Estonia has progressed since independence from Russia is the number of ferries to Helsinki. Soviet Era -one per month "Why would you want to leave the Soviet Paradise ??" to currently one every hour !!

Back on board for a late lunch and a few more photos as the afternoon clouds increased. Back in the cabin to record the events of the day so far and review the 110 photos captured today.

Spent time reading and adjusting to the time change- ie. we both had a nap !! There was some delay in departure as the ship's administration tried to track down two individuals, eventually resolved and we sailed off at 17:15. Off to dinner and afterwards the show in the Theatre. Three young men singing mainly Spanish and Latin songs. The volume appeared a little too loud despite the size of the venue.

After the show we returned to the cabin spending some time planning tomorrow's visit to St Petersburg, Russia and finalising this brief report. Clocks go forward another hour tonight and we have an early start in the morning.

Today's photo is an image captured from the Royal Princess and attempts to provide a view of the Medieval Section of Tallinn., see http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-04.

Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 11:43 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

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