Sunday, July 22, 2018

July 22, 2018 - Another adventure comes to an end

Another trip has come to an end. After the last two cruise days at sea we disembarked Sapphire Princess yesterday and headed back to London. We went for a walk then enjoyed a movie, The Incredibles 2 at a movie theatre.
We then checked into our hotel the Sofitel St James.
We went our for a quick dinner and then had an early night in preparation for our journey home.
All in all a good holiday, very busy, very active and very cultural.
Now home for a rest 😀

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

July 18, 2018 - Berlin, Germany - Excursion to Berlin and Potsdam

Today we docked nice and early at the port of Warnemünde, Germany. This is our last port of call before heading back to Southampton.
A very early start for us, up at 5.15am, quick breakfast then to join our tour.
Big tour today, Warnemünde is at least 2.5 hours by train away from Berlin so we have 5 hours of train travel and sightseeing in between.

We had to meet for our tour at 6.50 am. We waited for over an hour to board our train which came right to the port. Over 1500 cruise passengers are going to Berlin! They’re gonna need a lot of trains!!
We finally got on the train and settled in for our journey to Berlin. We arrived at 11.30 am. 
Our tour guide met us at the train station and we made our way to our coach.
First stop, the Brandenburg Gate.

Next stop, Checkpoint Charlie.

Then we set off again for Potsdam, a town in East Germany. It’s really strange as you drive through the city, you cross various points that were East and others that were West Berlin. Must have been surreal in the day to have this wall all around West Berlin and soviets all around. 
I remember when the wall came down in 1990 but I didn’t really understand its significance as I do today. World history is so fascinating, to read about it is one thing, to see these places puts us in the path of history.
In Potsdam we had a three course German lunch and then went to see a palace.

Then we made our way back to Berlin to the train station.
On the way we got a glimpse of a section of the Berlin Wall 

So after 2 hours on a bus, what ended up being nearly 6 hours on a train and a few moments of sightseeing we make it back to the ship at 8.30pm. What a huge day!!!

Monday, July 16, 2018

July 16, 2018 - Helsinki, Finland - City Highlights Excursion

Today we are in Helsinki, Finland. Our visit coincides with a meeting being held today between Donald Trump, US President and Vladimir Putin, Russian President.
Many of the photos I have taken show a police presence for this reason. However their visit made traffic for our bus a lot easier so we didn’t mind!
We had breakfast and then joined our tour.
First we did a tour around the city and the meeting place for the Trump/Putin meeting was pointed out.

There are so many media representatives here today, estimated over 1000 to capture highlights of this meeting.
We stopped at a square to take photos of beautiful monuments.

Then we went on to visit the Rock Church. A church built into bedrock.

After this we went to see a unique stainless steel sculpture.

We have now rejoined our coach and are continuing our tour and then heading back to the ship.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

July 15, 2018 - St Petersburg, Russia - River and Canal Cruise

Our second day in Russia started with a late breakfast and a relaxing morning on the ship. We the had a quick light lunch before joining our group on a coach. We had a city tour before joining our River cruise boat.
This was a good opportunity to see the city from the river and many canals. Very much the ‘Venice of the North’, St Petersburg is amazing. 400 palaces, beautiful monuments and buildings to see. Interesting to learn about how Russian people live today compared to the Soviet Union times. St Petersburg is the cultural capital of Russia. Most people live in apartments, now families can own their own apartment but in the Soviet Union days they had ‘communal apartments’ Thad saw multiple families living together. Interesting......divorce is up now in Russia, now at 70%, previously very low during Soviet Union days, the reason being regardless of your divorce you had to keep living with your ex so not many took up divorce as an option, instead they learned patience and how to compromise.....  

All the buildings with the gold fines or gold on them are real gold . 

Above is the Winter Palace seen from the river, we visited this yesterday.

Here it s again above.

And can’t tell I’m obsessed with palaces.

A good outing.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

July 14. 2018 - St Petersburg, Russia - Excursion to Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum and City Centre

Today we arrived in St Petersburg and got up early for a full day of touring.
At least 4 cruise ships here today plus at least 100,000 world cup fans! There is a match tonight!
The palace and museum will be packed!
We had to go through passport control and then we boarded our bus heading to the city.

First impressions were of a concrete jungle like any other, on the way to the city, lots of concrete apartment buildings. As we got closer to town we got a glimpse of the older buildings.

We headed towards the Winter Palace. I love palaces! I really do want my own but somehow I think I will have to be happy seeing these ones!

Here are some of the photos of the beautiful palace rooms.

Above: Michael and I take our obligatory selfie in front of the Tzar’s throne. 

Then we moved into the Hermitage Museum set up by Catherine the Great as her own private collection.
You know these places are so luxurious and beautiful but I can imagine why the people revolted against the Tzars, they were building beautiful palaces while the people were starving. All very nice to admire now but these places must be bittersweet for the Russian people.
Back to Catherine the Great, she accumulated many works of art in her collection. We saw paintings by Da Vinci, Goya,  Rafaello and Rembrandt just to name a few.

We were in this place for 3 hours and I bet we didn’t see it all!!
Then we had 3 hours on our own in St. Petersburg, we had some lunch and shopped for souvenirs and then waited for our bus to go back to the ship.
We are staying in port overnight so tomorrow we have another tour of the canals in St Petersburg