Posts filed under ‘Cruisin’’
We just got back from the trip of a lifetime Monday evening. Here’s my brief overview:
The preamble: None of our usual travel companions joined us (we almost always travel with friends). This trip ended up costing a lot more than we planned due to the volcano issue (new plane tickets booked last minute, hotel, cab, food). The Celebrity Xpedition desk people were really rude to us and misinformed. We missed the pre-cruise city tour in Quito. We got sick with colds. My husband got seasick. On the last excursion, I slid on loose gravel, scraping my leg and breaking my camera (Nikon D90; don’t worry – I have insurance for it). This was by far the worst luck we’ve ever had on a trip, including our trip to Mexico that got canceled last year due to swine flu.
The verdict : It was the most amazing thing we’ve ever done, and I have serious doubts that any other trip for the rest of our lives will come close to competing with it.
- I got stepped on by a baby sea lion when getting off the panga (small boat used to tender between the ship and shore) for the first excursion.
- A penguin bumped into my leg repeatedly.
- A snake curled around the edge of my husband”s shoe. (Thank goodness I missed this particular moment – I shrieked when I came upon the snake a couple minutes later.)
- We saw blue footed boobies dancing and nesting – they even showed us their eggs.
- We saw waved albatrosses flying (amazing – 7.5 foot wingspan), landing (hilarious), and nesting (saw eggs).
- We saw a giant dude tortoise humping a chick tortoise and groaning. haha
- We snorkeled with sea lions, sea turtles, penguins, sharks, rays, and loads of fish.
- We saw a huge number of swimming iguanas (these are the only marine iguanas in the world, and they only take to the water at certain times of day).
- We made new friends, who I miss already.
It was the trip of a lifetime, well worth every penny and bit of hassle. Sure, I wish it would’ve been cheaper and easier, but the point is that it was hugely expensive, we had a lot of problems, and it was STILL amazing. If you have ever considered visiting these islands but hesitated due to cost or whatever, quit hesitating – book now!
Pictures and more info to come.
You know what’s totally adorable and nearly unheard of in the area? Estonia. It has a population of just over 1.3 million, so that’s fewer people than in the Triangle. Since it’s in Europe and snuggled up to Russia, there’s no doubt that it’s adorable. Tallinn was a super cute, and seemingly pretty well off, walled town.
We hopped off the boat in Tallinn, and made our way through a little booths. We spotted a couple sheep in a pen there. At first we thought it was strange. Then we realized that not only were they cute, but they were also super friendly! The ram pawed at the fence, rubbed his horns on the fence, and batted his eyelashes at people trying to get everyone to pet and treat him.
We had Rick Steves’ Scandinavia, so we were prepared to hit the top spots. Um… If you’re also working from this book, you’ll want to pick up another tourist map. It was a little tough to follow. That said, it definitely gave us a good overview of what to see.
We started at Fat Margaret, one of the best known towers. We wound our way through the town and found our way to St. Olaf’s church. This church was first constructed in the 12th century as “the center for old Tallinn’s Scandinavian community prior to the conquest of Tallinn by Denmark in 1219.” Between 1549 and 1625, this was the tallest church in the world. It’s life continues today as a Baptist church.
Sorry it’s been a while. Our final deposit for the Galapagos cruise is coming up, and I’m afraid we’re going to have to cancel since I still don’t have a job. I’ve been really bummed about canceling a trip that I’ve been dreaming about for 10+ years and even more bummed with the thought that, once I cancel that, we’ll have no trips for me to plan and look forward to. Fortunately, my wonderful husband has agreed that a super cheap vacay might not cripple us after all, so we’re going to cross our fingers until the payment is due and then, if we have to cancel, we’ll figure out something else. Anyway, on to the point of the post. Back in December, I shared the details of the first three stops on our Baltic cruise in September – Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Helsinki. Since I’m going in order, I now have to address the crown jewel of the trip , St. Petersburg.
First of all, let me gush. St. Petersburg is now officially one of my fave cities I’ve ever been to. It has the beauty of Paris and Prague, palaces that kick Versailles’ butt, and a museum that makes the Louvre look like a snooze fest (okay, this is totally coming from an Impressionist lover, so keep in mind that my feelings on museums are *very* biased; also remember that the Hermitage has 3 mil+ works of art and the Louvre has less than 40k). Plus the food is better than Germany and the people are fascinating. Be warned though – this place is pricey to visit if you want to see a lot in a short amount of time and actually understand what you’re seeing. Translation: You’ll want a private guide.
We stopped in Helsinki on a Sunday. I wish we’d had a few more hours and/or visited on any day other than Saturday. We had time to hit the high points in town, but the shops were closed and I would’ve liked to have visited Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. That said, I think a stop on a cruise ship was a good way to visit Helsinki. The rest of Finland has a lot more to offer, but we got to see enough of Helsinki that I’m satisfied for now.
We all really enjoyed our time in Stockholm on our cruise – other than the transportation issues. I’ll tell you more about that under the “tips” section. Anyway, here’s how we spent our day as well as some other ideas about what you might see while you’re there.
I’ve just about finished my scrapbook from the Baltic cruise, so it’s on my mind and I’m ready to share. Here’s what I suggest seeing if you have just 2 days in Copenhagen.
What to Do/See in 2 Days
My husband and I arrived early Wednesday morning and caught up with our friends who’d arrived the night before at the hotel. We showered in their room (our room wasn’t ready yet) and set out on this plan. Unfortunately it started raining just before lunch on Thursday, so we gave up on the last few places. I’d definitely like to go back and check out Copenhagen further.
Frederiksborg Castle. “King Christian IV’s magnificent renaissance castle in Hillerød north of Copenhagen was built in the beginning of the 17th century. In the following centuries the castle provided the setting for important ceremonial events, first and foremost the anointing of absolute monarchs. Today the castle has been transformed into a national historical museum.” (VisitCopenhagen.com) It is a really gorgeous castle, so definitely go if you like castles and/or photography. We took the S-train, line E to Hillerod, from Copenhagen (~40 mins) and then a local bus (701, 702, 703, 325), which was included in the Copenhagen Card (~5 mins). It was super easy, especially since the bus driver spoke English and assured us we were on the right bus and told us when to get off.
Mosey on over to Elizabeth Anne Designs Living for a preview of our recent Baltic cruise. My friend “Elizabeth” posted a few pics from the trip, one of which is below. I hope to find some time to post some info for y’all soon. I learned soooo much in researching and planning this trip, and I’d love to share it so that the time I spent might benefit someone else.
If you’re going on a cruise and have some extra luggage space once you’ve packed all those clothes and shoes, here are some other items you might consider including:
-Clothespins – for drying laundry on the line in the shower or to weigh down that overly affectionate shower curtain
-Power strip – one outlet is not enough for me since I usually need to charge more than one thing as well as the…
-Alarm clock – the cabins just don’t have them, and I really like to know what time it is in the middle of the night without having to pick up my iPhone
-Itch cream – you never know when a pesky bug bite is going to drive you crazy
-Water bottle – it’s so much cheaper to carry a water bottle around full of ship water instead of buying water everywhere
-Seasickness meds – obviously this isn’t necessary on every cruise or even for every person, but some people REALLY need these
-A general mini first aid type kit – pain meds, stomach meds, bandages, Neosporin, aloe gel, sunscreen
-An extra, empty bag for souvenirs
-Wine carriers if you plan to buy wine
-Something to make carrying your ship card easier (lanyard, wrist coil, etc.)
-Ziploc baggies – these can come in handy for all sorts of stuff, including carrying a cookie into port in case you get desperate
-Mini sewing kit – it would be awful for an important button to fall off and for you to be unable to fix it.
-Highlighter for the daily newsletters
-Mini Woolite for handwashing swimsuits, underwear, etc.
-Small umbrella because you never know when it’s going to rain
-Flashlight because you never know if the power on the ship will go out for a bit and you won’t be able to find your way out of your cabin and in to a public area
- Over the door organizer for your toiletries – though I’d skip this unless there are more than 2 people in the cabin or the people have a huge amount of toiletries
Are there any extras you like to take? I know some people like duct tape.
TTT: Travel Tip Tuesday
Split was, like Corfu, a pleasant surprise. The beach wasn’t too nice, but the city was adorable and amazing. They even have a huge statue of Merlin!
I’ve been on three heavily-researched cruises, so, while not yet an expert, I do believe I have some good tips for avoiding weight gain on your next cruise:
- Lose a little weight before your cruise; ideally you’ll be a couple pounds under your ideal weight. It seems to me that this gets your metabolism going so it’ll better handle the extra calories you’ll inevitably consume. You’ll also likely get in better shape in order to do this, which is great cuz you’ll have more energy to enjoy the ports.
- Take the stairs! You don’t want to waste time waiting on elevators anyway. Speaking of stairs…
- Choose a cabin on a lower level. This will help you with climbing more stairs. And don’t feel to gipped because you’ll have fewer levels to go down to get off the ship.
- On every at sea day, and maybe some of the port days, make sure you exercise. Run/walk laps around the track, take a yoga class, use the elliptical in the fitness center - whatever.
- Try not to eat everything in sight. Yes, you can order multiple entrees and every single course, but… that doesn’t mean you have to eat every bite of everything you order. It also means you don’t have to eat more than a bite of anything you don’t love.
- Sign up for the second seating for dinner so that…
- When you go to one of those midnight buffets, you must look but don’t touch. It’s unlikely you’ll be hungry for more food at that point anyway.
- If you visit a buffet, start with a little and go back for more if and only if you are still hungry.
- Go easy on the drinks. They’re expensive and full of empty calories.
All of this said, try not to stress too much about it while you’re on your cruise. The point is to have a good time!
Image from the Muskopf website.
TTT: Travel Tip Tuesday