Saturday, May 26, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA


Sunday, May 6th, 2018              SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA     cold and sunshine

I had a sleepless night and finally got up at 5 am.  By 6 am was up in the Lido for breakfast.  The ship was awake and humming early as a large group are headed on a long trip by train to Moscow over the two days that we here.   I had crept quietly out of the room this morning so that Jim could sleep in.  Shirley called the room shortly after I left to tell me the Lido was opening earlier and she was also up.  Oops…that was the end of Jim’s sleep in.  Shirley and I had originally planned to meet at the Lido by 7 am.  But it was good to be going early as the crowd to get off the ship was long and slow going through customs.  But, by 8 am we’d gone through the Immigration office and were settled in the very front seats up top on a double-decker bus.  By 9 am we were on the road to St. Petersburg and a tour of the city by an excellent tour guide.  Our Russian Visa is the ticket for the tour! 


The seat was unpadded but still comfortable.  We were the first on the bus and snagged the best seats upstairs in the very front of the bus.  There was a solid cover over our heads so we were not being roasted by the bright sunshine.  

They took us past all of the major sites in town.  It was difficult as they were having the “dress rehearsal” for the big celebration on May 9th which is the annual celebration of the end of WW II.   The town is full of military personal and equipment.  Special flags fly on every bridge and across every canal and street.  It’s all very crowded and festive and will be all week.   
 We stopped for rest rooms and shopping and then headed back into the center of the city where we were given very specific instructions and let out of the bus.   We had about two and a half hours to go where we wanted on our own!    Shirley and I walk about four blocks to the Church of the Spilled Blood, paid our entrance fee and went inside.  It is a truly spectacular building.  Hard to believe that during the communist years they used this magnificent building to store potatoes.  But, at least, it wasn’t destroyed.
We walked back along the canal to the main street, Nevskiy  Prospekt.    Walked into a bookstore and looked around, admired the buildings on the street.  Everything was very crowded.  As we walked, I told Shirley about the Catholic Church that is somewhere on this street and suddenly; I saw it!   We walked inside and they were celebrating Mass.  The church was full of people and it was consecration.    Wow, beautiful timing, especially since there was no morning mass on the ship this morning.  
Back on the street we continued to walk back to the area where we were due to meet our tour guide and bus.   We then walked into a restaurant recommended by the tour guide.  Beautiful and classic with white tablecloths.  We ordered coffee and Cream Brule.   Absolutely delicious and classic.  The waiter taught us how to say thank you in Russian.  “bol’ shoye spas ibo”   or “spas ibo”.   We spent nearly an hour there and then it was time to meet the rest of the group.  We had a delightful time and managed to purchase some wonderful miniature gifts for the girls to take home.  

We returned to the ship about 3:30 pm and everyone was glad to see us as we’d been a bit worried about walking the streets of St. Petersburg on our own.   Jim was eating his dinner early in the Lido in preparation for his adventure at seven this evening.    He was scheduled to go to the Hermitage Museum for a private tour arranged by the tour company after closing; no huge crowds of people to deal with.

Mary dressed and joined Shirley and me for dinner in the dining room.  She’s doing better but still moves slowly.  We had the whole table to ourselves as Jim, Steve, Myra, Shari and Bill were all gone on tours. It was great; I had a deviled egg with fish added and then baked salmon, delicious.   Dessert was a Blackberry Sundae.  Shirley purchased a new bottle of wine which she and I each enjoyed a glass of wine with our dinner.   We all went to the movie in the theater together and saw the last half of the movie “Russia House’.  All about spies!  

Jim arrived home at 10:15 pm.  He had a wonderful time and was able to use his three legged cane with a seat.   That really helped.   He said that the selection of viewings that were determined by the museum far surpassed his own selections five years ago during our private tour.  He was definitely in high spirits. 

The movie on TV today was “Molly’s Game”.   I had 6,388 steps for 2.84 miles.  


Monday, May 7th, 2018     St. Petersburg, Russia for 2nd day         cold and sunshine

Slept in this morning to 9 am.   Breakfast in the Lido with Jim.  We spotted Shirley just as we were leaving.  She’d arrived earlier.   Traded the Rubie’s back into dollars with same exchange rate.   Mary is better but had breakfast in her room.  But, Shirley said she woke up this morning and discovered Mary washing out her black clothes.  So, we assume that she is better.  She cut way back on the pain pills today and is moving about.  She walked up to the gym today and weighed herself.  So this is all good news that she is moving more and I think that is good for her.  

We all ate lunch together today and then played three games of Hand and Foot.    Mary and Jim won two of the three so took the game.   Mary asked us to wear orange shirts tonight; so we all four wore orange to dinner.  Shari and Bill were not there.
  .
Before dinner Jim invited me to the Ocean Bar and we enjoyed listening to Gabriel play the piano and even danced a few dances even though Jim was in tennis shoes and I was in flip-flops!   But we had the floor to ourselves and it was great.  Also enjoyed having Lemon Drops and small snacks.   Dancing has kept us together for years and we do enjoy it.  Have had several compliments in the hallways from people who have watched us having fun on the dance floor.   We do a lot of improvising when we dance.

After dinner we stayed in the dining room to watch the ship cruise out of the port.  It is a well-marked, narrow path which is regularly dug out to keep the channel deep enough for the large ships.  Just before we left the entry there was a large graveyard for ships and submarines surrounded by old embankments; probably from WW II.   Very interesting.   Roy, our wine steward, took us out the crew entrance to deck three because it was difficult to take photos through the windows of the dining room.

We watched the movie “Russia House” again.  Jim is talking about a throbbing in his neck this evening.  My steps today were short a few.  Only extra walking was up and down the dock as we didn’t have any tours scheduled.  Those tours are our “visa” to enter into the city; no tour no visa no entrance!  
 
Steps today 6,456 …  2.84 miles.  One note, we found that on the dock we could send and receive texts but nothing else.  But good to make some contacts.  Yesterday, the Wi-Fi was great on the bus but that was it.  But, I did managed to post on Facebook on the bus ride back to the ship yesterday.

Friday, May 25, 2018

TALLINN, ESTONIA


Friday, May 4th, 2018     AT SEA        SUNSHINE

DUTCH REMEMBRANCE DAY:  annual day that honors soldiers and civilians that have died in military conflicts since the outbreak of WW II.  At 8 pm we all observed two minutes of silence throughout the ship.   At 2 am we moved our clocks forward another hour.

Awake at 6 am, I walked deck three for over half an hour before mass at 8 am.  Father Steve asked me to read the readings and I agreed.    I did okay for my first experience and it was a great experience.   When they asked for special remembrances at the beginning of Mass; I mentioned that Mary had fallen and so we dedicated the mass to her.  

I picked Jim up after mass and we went to the Lido for breakfast.   We finally saw Shirley at lunch,  both girls had eaten their breakfast in the room.  Mary is very sore and Shirley said she’d be staying in her room all day. 

Jim read and I worked on my computer.  The computer classes are all repeats so haven’t been back to any of them.  We also attended the lecture on the last two cities of our cruise for information.
This afternoon I spent two hours with Shirley working on deleting extra photos on her cell phone so that she could take more photos in Saint Petersburg when we arrive.  The girl in the photo shop showed me how to transfer photos between IPhones without internet using Air Drop.
I exchanged dollars for Russian Rupees so that we’d have spending money during our tour in St. Petersburg.  Mary, Shirley and I are signed up for a six hour journey on a hop on hop off bus in the city.  The exchange rate was good and they will take back at the same rate any that we don’t use but no coins, after we return. 

Tonight Mary ate dinner in her room and Bill and Shari joined our table again.  They’d returned late from their tour to Berlin and Bill had eaten the German food on Lido deck…..suffered regrets later in the night from eating spicy food so late.    But it was nice to have them back at the table.  My main course tonight were frog legs...see above!  

My steps today were 6,352; a total of 2.75 miles.    Our new movie today was Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks.

Saturday, May 5th, 2018              Tallinn, Estonia            Beautiful sunshine but needed a jacket

Breakfast at 8 am and off the boat by 9 am.  Jim and I walked to the end of the pier and took a look in the souvenir shop and then as we started our walk towards town.  Jim stopped and talked to a taxi driver.  He struck a deal for fifteen euros for a ride to the top of the old town.   I already had great photos of the town from the ship so we knew about how far we would walk. The driver spoke good English and gave us a running narrative about the ancient town.    He’d have loved to have had us agree to a two hour guided tour for eighty euros but we stuck to the original agreement.  He gave us directions on how to get back to the ship along with the aid of our city map that we’d picked up in the souvenir shop.


We had an overview of the city walls and many churches before starting our slow descent into the   Walked down many steps, through gates and visited the inside of an old Lutheran Church and watched and listened to a benediction service in progress in a Russian Orthodox Church at the altar behind the screen that is normally not visual from the standing area for those attending services. 
town proper.

We really enjoyed the walk down the steep paths along the city walls into the newer part of the city.  Soon we could not see the ship any longer and had to make some decisions.  After several wrong moves we finally asked until we found someone who spoke English and he turned us around to go in the direct opposite direction we   But, he was correct and soon we started finding landmarks that we remembered on our drive away from the port.  We stopped at the pharmacy for some bandages for Shirley’s arm and then the souvenir shop for Mary’s keychain and post cards.  
were headed.

As we neared the ship we discovered Shirley who had just come off the ship and was headed out for a walk.  Jim continued to the ship and I turned around and walked with Shirley all the way back to the pharmacy where we also did some shopping.  Found some Russian nesting dolls. 

We arrived back at the ship in time for lunch with Jim.  I wrote all of the flight information for the girls and used WhatsApp to send it to our nephew Kevin who checked it all and verified that the flights were all still on schedule as planned.  Good to know that information.    Kevin also said that both he and his wife Melissa would be outside our ship at 9 am on May 9th when we arrive in Sweden.  The plan is to go to breakfast together.   We’re all excited about meeting with them during our last stop on the cruise.  Kevin is the grandson of our oldest sister, Betty.   His wife’s parents are both Swedish but had moved to the USA shortly before she was born.   The parents are still in the USA but Kevin and Melissa now live in Sweden, both are dual citizens and speak the local language.   We’d originally thought that the cruise visited the port of Stockholm and we’d visit with them.  But, after the cruise began we discovered that we are actually docking over an hour away and so they have agreed to meet us at Nynashamn where we dock.   

I made several different trips out to the end of the dock where the souvenir shops were located to send and receive emails, texts, and WhatsApp messages.and got Jim and we walked out again.     On the third trip out I discovered that there was actually ‘REAL” Internet access.  I went back in  When you purchase something they give you a password.  Jim bought a beer and we enjoyed actual downloading with real internet for almost the first time on the cruise. 


By 5:30 pm we were headed back out to sea and enjoying dinner.  Mary is still in a great deal of pain when she moves but did come up to have dinner with us in the dining room.  Everyone was glad to see her.  Mary has decided not to go on the Hop on Hop off bus tour in Saint Petersburg tomorrow.   Got to know Bill and Shari better tonight.  They live in Ohio but originally grew up in Alabama.  They have two children and nine grandchildren.  He is retired from the Air Force and they’ve lived all over the USA because of military life.  I had Quail tonight, delicious.  

The movie tonight was “Home Again: very good!   I did 8,462 steps today, over four miles and two of those trips for Wi-Fi were done with my phone off so it could charge faster!