** After exhaustive calculation, I conclude that Heidi's gains in the Casino are greater than my gains in the stock market.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 ... arrival|
For this cruise, we let NCL arrange the flights and shuttle service between airport and pier.
It was a long and tiring, 8 hour overnight flight, arriving in Copenhagen by 11 am.
Then a double-decker bus took a looong drive through town.
By 1 pm we were sipping Bahama Mamas by the pool.
By 2 pm we were sound asleep in our cabin. I was exhausted.
I remember little of the rest of the day.
We had a BBQ by the pool (I think),
Heidi played the slots (and turned $10 into $33, I think) **
... and I vaguely remember falling asleep in the Garden Cafe.
We collapsed into bed ... early.
Sleeping over dessert
Scenes from Warnemunde
Friday, June 24, 2011... at sea |
Today ... at sea, all day. Last night we had a nice dinner at the Four Seasons restaurant.
Grilled haddock for Heidi, beef stroganoff for me ... after appetizer, soup & salad.
Then, a group of German children came aboard to perform folk dances by the pool.
After that, sauerkraut, grilled wurst and strudel - again by the pool. Nice!
We must be in Deutschland, eh? It'll be the first time in ages that Heidi can speak Deutsch.
In fact, we hear more German than English on the ship.
Folk dance by the (cool) pool
We discover that, as NCL "silver" Latitude members, we get 10% off things we buy on board.
That translates to $24 for a carton of my
cancer sticks cigarettes.
Did I mention that our room steward, Angelito, left us a monkey?
In the morning I called to Angelito; "There's a problem in our room!"
He looked worried and came running down the hall: "Whatsa matter?"
"There's a monkey in our room," I said. "He's hanging on the wall!"
He laughed. "Maybe he found a banana," he said.
Monkey: TV but no banana
For breakfast we tried the Moderno. A great "breakfast pizza", with bacon and egg on a pizza crust.
(Heidi gobbled up all the smoked salmon.)
In the afternoon, a party for "latitude" members in the theatre, with wee things to eat and drinks.
Heidi? Beer. Me? Bahama mama!
The sun came out, it became quite warm and the pool actually had inhabitants.
After dinner ... the Casino (Heidi's $33 is now down to $20.)
P.S. In this part o' the world, the sun don't set till 11 pm and it gets up ag'in 'bout 4 am !!
Latitude member party
Saturday, June 25, 2011 ... Tallinn|
Once upon a time (many years ago), while travelling Italy, an Italian friend said:
"When in Verona, be sure to have a calzone, but don't order carzone. That's male genitalia!"
When we got to Verona, we forgot which is which ... and had a pizza, instead.
This morning, I had a "breakfast" calzone at the Maderno.
(Though the Garden Cafe is crawling with guests, the Moderno is practicaly deserted.)
It's a beautiful morning as we head off for an NCL tour of
Tallinn. Our tour guide is a proud Estonian, noting that, although
1.4 million people, less than 1 million are "Estonians". The rest are
mostly "Russian transplants".
She also notes that over 50% of Tallinn is "green" (parks and
forests) and she's sad when they cut down a tree to erect a building.
"See that ugly tooth?" she says, pointing out the bus window at a
rectangular, concrete box. "It hides a beautiful historic building
"Every four years," she says, "Estonians congregate in Tallinn to celebrate their heritage with singing and dancing..
Perhaps Tallinn isn't a popular tourist destination ... but it should be !
For dinner, we flip a coin to see where we'll go: Seven Seas
Heidi is SO happy; it turns out to be lobster night !
The menu says: Lobster and Red Snapper".
Heidi "pulls a Gerry" and says: "Can I skip the snapper and have two lobsters?"
"Yes ma'am," says the waiter, 'Two lobsters ... no fish." He doesn't bat an eye.
After the evening show (on our way to our cabin), Heidi accidently wanders into the Casino.
(Her $20 is now $28.28.)
Angelito leaves a
mouse in my coffee cup
Scenes from beautiful Tallinn
Sunday & Monday, June 26 / 27, 2011 ... St. Petersburg|
Here, in St. Petersburg, we got us "White Nights"; the sky is never dark ! You can get a tan at 10 pm.
Today we have the first of our excellent 2-day SPb tour.
Our tour guide was Elena Volkova: flawless English, extensive knowledge of St. Petersburg and a delightful personality.
Elena (who teaches Russian Literature when she's not acting as a guide) gives us a running commentary on the impressive
buildings we pass, tells us the history of the city and provides us with innumerable statistics. Elena, like other guides, is very proud of her beautiful city.
Our 12-passenger van takes us to Catherine's Palace. (She was the
wife of Peter the Great who designed the city.)
St. Petersburg, Elena says, was named after Saint Peter ... not Peter the Great.
When we were not on the van, Elena talked to us through audio gadgets that we stuck on our ear.
We stop for lunch at a quaint piroggi place where meats, vegetables, fruits ... everything is inside a pastry shell.
Elena recommends the cabbage and onion filling (which we have) and Heidi and I also share a cherry tarte.Delicious
The city is built on dozens of islands (46?) and is replete with bridges, canals and colourful buildings.
(Since St. Petersburg gets so few sunny days, Peter the Great insisted upon "sunny" colours.)
In addition to very wide boulevards, elaborate monuments, theatres and many parks, the city also has impressive traffic !!
In the afternoon, we visit the Hermitage museum (the world's
largest museum of art and artifacts) and the Church of the Spilled Blood.
Elena, our tour guide, said that Russians don't smile much.
"You may smile at them, but they don't smile back.
They're not unfriendly ... they just don't smile much."
She did mention that, after a few vodkas things may change ...
There were looong lines for the various places, but somehow (?), Elena managed to get us to the front of the line.
Also, Viktoria greeted us at the start and end of each tour.
I mentioned Viktor Pliss, a visiting Russian mathematician at U of Waterloo: he drank vodka 24/7.
Elena knew of Viktor, now at St. Petersburg University; they celebrated his 80th (?) birthday recently.
Viktor & I wrote a paper together in 1976: "Weakly Perturbed Autonomous Oscillations". Well ... Viktor wrote while I watched.
We had invited Viktor for a dinner one night; Heidi made trout. Viktor was appalled that Heidi threw away the fish heads.
So Heidi collected fish heads and we invited him again and he made fish soup with just fish heads !!
In the evening, while I mind the boat (and nurse a sore ankle), Heidi takes in a ballet: Swan Lake.
Heidi tries her luck (again) at the slots. (Her $28.18 is now $10.08.)
|It's Monday, the second half of the SPb Tour. (I stay home with that !#$@* swollen ankle.)
Heidi buys a hand-crafted fridge magnet and, while in her purse, it demagnetizes her NCL Key Card.
Scenes from St. Petersburg
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 ... Helsinki|
There was another "Latitudes Party" where we met some officers. I asked if they had been on the NCL EPIC. They said, "no".
Helsinki, like St. Petersburg, is a host of islands (315 of 'em) ... many very small.
Our tour guide, fluent in many languages, would inadvertently switch to non-English.
However, she did teach us some Finnish: "Ice cream" sounds like yahtalatootralah.
Well, that's if it were ice cream for a guy. For a girl, you'd ask for yahtalatootralahtootralah.
I suggested that a guy could order two and give one to his girlfriend. She agreed.
There are so many granite rocks throughout the city and many are admired by the residents.
There was a huge rock where they wanted to build a church.
The nearby citizens objected to removing the rock, so they built the church inside the rock!
I said I liked the NCL Sun much better. They all smiled and I could swear I saw their chests swell with pride.
Each night we flip a coin: Heads? We eat at the garden cafe. Tails? A restaurant (then we flip again to see which one).
After dinner an excellent illusionist at the Stardust Theatre then to the Casino. (Heidi is now at $0.00.)
Scenes from Helsinki
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 ... Stockholm|
The ship sets anchor, we take a tender ashore and a 45 minute bus ride to Stockholm.
The city, like others, is built on several islands (a dozen?), has many bridges (42?) and canals and churches and spires etc.
and (according to our tour guide) is the "Capital of the Baltic". (How proud, these guides!)
It's a lovely city with lots of parks and green places (1/3 of Stockholm) and lots of water (another 1/3).
The guide reminds us of Swedish fame: "You know Saab? Volvo? Ikea? Swedish meatballs ... and Abba?"
"We serve Swedish meatballs with Loganberry jam (!) and you can try the meatballs at any Ikea store."
Tomorrow, a relaxing day at sea ... to recoup.
Scenes from Stockholm
Observations, comments, odds 'n' ends
We like the NCL Sun: it's smaller (than the gargantuan EPIC),
it's very friendly (staff come to your table and chat), the decor is
understated (not gaudy), the layout is to our taste (easy to find our
... and the Captain lives in Saskatchewan !!
(He's from Norway, but married a Canadian gal and they live in a Province with no access to the sea ???)
|It was neat to have lunch (on the SPb tour) that was "typical Russian" (as oposed to McDonald's).
Angelito & Heidi
Passengers on this Baltic Cruise are quite reserved compared to Caribbean Cruises.
It's strange to find enough light to read on the balcony at 3 AM.
3 AM on the Baltic Sea
It's even stranger to find the subway terminals
decorated like a mini-palace ... with chandeliers !!
in the subway !!
At the start of the evening show, the host always says "Are you having a good time?"
There's polite, though muted applause.
(However, the illusionist insisted upon elaborate audience applause and (finally!) got whistles, shouts and lots of clapping.)
In the Caribbean, the audience erupts with whistles and shouts of glee at every opportunity.
It's interesting to hear our tour guides speak of historical conflict between Baltic states (tribes?).
In Estonia: "The Swedes came ... then the Russians. We were happy with Gorbachev, perestroika and glasnost."
In Russia: "The Swedes came, but Peter the Great eventually fought them off."
In Finland: "The Swedes built a fortress to guard against a Russian invasion"
(Swedish is one of the "official" languages of Finland.)
In Sweden: "The king of Norway came to Sweden, announced that he was now their king, invited all the Swedish nobles to a party ... and killed them all."
During the latitudes party, the Captain (from Norway) and the second-in-command (from Sweden)
joked about their national accomplishments:
"The Vikings took their boats to America," the Captain said. "The Swedes dragged theirs to Russia."
One officer said he thought the Baltic Cruise was the best NCL itinerary. (Other staff said the same thing.)
We agreed, but said we also enjoyed the Gem cruise from Venice to the Greek islands. He agreed (perhaps reluctantly.)
During WWII, the city was Leningrad. After the war there was a
vote and the citizens decided to change the name to St. Petersburg.
(Peter the Great was ... uh, great in stature as well as accomplishments. He stood over 6 1/2 feet tall.)
One Maitre D', Daniela, always recognized us. She'd say "I see you're having milk, again. Yesterday you only had half a glass."
It's hard to believe that we saw so much,
We switched from Garden Cafe to the Moderno and back, but she always remembered !
visited so many neat places with fascinating history
... in just nine days.
Okay, the final ending to our cruise goes like this:
The evening before we disembark in Copenhagen, we put our luggage in the hall, outside our cabin.
Since we have an NCL shuttle the next morning, the luggage will be taken directly to the airport.
While packing, Heidi discovers that ... uh ... we've lost our passports !!
We contact ship security, they send two people to search our room (and find nothing).
They tell us that we must go to the Canadian Embassy in Copenhagen
'cause we won't be able to fly home without a passport, so we try that but it's closed for the day and we discover that it's also closed for the next three days since it's the Canada Day weekend.
Are we looking forward to spending the next three days in Copenhagen?
Heidi rapidly becomes a basket case. I start reading my kindle.
Three more days in Copenhagen? Why not?
The next day we take the bus to the airport and start talking to airport information:
"You'll have to contact the Canadian Embassy," they says.
"It's closed until Monday ... it's a holiday weekend," Heidi says.
"You'll have to book a later flight and wait until Monday," they says.
Three more days in Copenhagen? Why not?
While at the airport, I whipped out my notebook PC, connected to the Internet and discovered (via the Canadian Government website) that
"You don't need a passport to reenter Canada ... you need lots of ID."
|Anyway, we wait until the Air Canada desk opens, explain that we lost our passports (probably in Stockholm while Heidi was buying ice cream).
The gal says it happens all the time. The gal make a phone call then makes out boarding passes while we litter her desk with Canadian ID.
"There's a place for you in Heaven," I says. She smiles, ear-to-ear: "Thank you."
We wait for a while then another Air Canada gal comes by**, all smiles, and leads us through passport control, X-ray security directly to the boarding gate.
"Do you often get headaches, like us?" I says to the gal.
"Headaches? No, it's great ... else my job would be boring!" she says.
Three more days in Copenhagen? I guess not.
** This gal says she recognized Heidi from the photo she saw when Air Canada contacted the Canadian Embassy in London.
(I reckon they stay open even during the holiday and, fortunately, had passport photos.)
Heidi relaxes and has a beer on the plane. When we (finally!) pick up our doggie and get home Friday afternoon, Heidi has another beer ... she's happy.
Getting a new passport
- We head off to the local Passport Office and pick up some forms.
- First, a Statutory Declaration explaining the loss ... notarized by a Commisioner of Oaths at City Hall.
- Then, the formal application for a new passport, requiring the signature of 2 references who've known us for 2 years.
- Then, 2 passport photos (which we got at Walmart) and a guarantor (who has a passport) to sign the back of one. (Herb, Heidi's brother, did the honours.)
- Back to the Passport Office with forms, photos, driver's licence, birth certificates, Old Age Security card and (for Heidi) a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship.
- Then, two weeks later, our passports would arrive in the mail.
|After that ritual, we return home and have a few beers.