Heading home!
Saturday, August 31, 2013  
We are now in Heathrow Airport waiting for the gate assignment for our plane ride home—we have about three hours to wait! It is amazing what shops are here at Heathrow—everything from the very, very upscale Harrods, Chanel, Gucci, Tiffany's, to just regular shops. You would think you were in a large department store as you walk to your gate. Very good marketing business! We are also very impressed with the security here.

We arrived in good time from the ship. We had some difficulty getting some of our luggage. However, all was taken care of and here we are. Most of us are checking our list of items we want to bring home. Just knowing we are on our way home is a good feeling.

The journey of the Baltic 11/Team USA is coming to a close and since Internet access is free, I pulled out my laptop (i.e. BIG RED) and recorded our last thoughts about our adventure.

  • Jan (Great Mother): What is said and done in the Baltic Sea...stays in the Baltic Sea. (She was held up for an hour as they went over her carryon luggage!)
  • Jan W: I cherish the new friends I’ve made; I have learned a lot of history about the countries we visited; I am at peace near the water; and I carry home the sunshine in my soul.
  • Lou : I made new friends; had a wonderful trip; and am looking forward to next adventure.
  • Mona: I had a wonderful trip!
  • W.R.: I was feeling good till my chewing tobacco ran out; I even offered a stranger $10.00 for some chewing tobacco.
  • Jack: I am happy that I was able to check visiting Russia off of my bucket list. Russia was about what I thought it would be. I am happy to be with friends that took care of the elderly!!
  • Shirley: I was honored to be able to plan this trip and be with good friends. Visiting countries I never thought I would ever see was a great experience. FYI...do not pack expensive Estonin jam in your carryon luggage. It was considered “liquid” and over 3 ounces. This also was a learning experience as a travel agent to pass on to my clients.
  • Nola: I am blessed to have completed my retirement Cruise of The Baltic Sea with old and new friends! We cared for each other and celebrated special occasions—birthdays, retirement, and wedding anniversary. God has blessed us all.

The Teague Family flew directly home. Jan and Jack will stay one night with me in Dallas and I will take them to the airport early Monday morning to fly home.

Special thanks to Ron, Erwin and Jered for taking care of things at my home. I am blessed to have each of you in my life!

My last thought as I complete this blog…Jan W said it best: We carry home the sunshine in our souls! Thank you God for your blessings and God Bless America!

P.S. The next adventure is in the works!!! hahaha


Gothenburg, Sweden
Thursday, August 29, 2013  
I am in the Volvo museum in Gothenburg, Sweden with free internet access! I did not go on tour with the others, but here is some history about Gotenburg.

The city was founded in 1621 by King Gustavus of Sweden. A fortress was needed to be built and the King hired the Dutch to design a defensive canal system. The influence was so great that there was even talk about making Dutch the official language. The Scottish hired folks that settled in Gothenburg who also left their mark and accent. In the 18th century, the city became a wealthy center for maritime trade, and later went from building ships to manufacturing cars. Volvo is still one of the largest employers in town. Lots of parks and gardens—10% of the city is green. Lisberg Amusement Park attracts visitors of all ages to one of the world’s biggest and most thrilling wooden roller coasters.

Jan W and Shirley and Lou and Mona went on the Gothenburg City Highlights Tour. Jan W said she could live here, except for the winters would be too cold. The people of Gothenburg are kind and very helpful to visitors. They love their coffee, chocolate and exercise. Biking is a major source of transportation. They visited the botanical gardens for a photo stop. Overall the highlights of the city were very interesting and beautiful. This was the last city to visit as our cruise came to an end.

At 6:00 PM, we all gathered in the formal dining area for our last group meal of the cruise. This was a special occasion as we honored our favorite group leader, Shirley Hudson. Shirley facilitated crossing all of the T's and dotting all of the I’s to ensure our group was taken care of.

Karen T presented Shirley with handwritten notes from all of us proclaiming our appreciation for what she had done. We toasted our appreciation to Shirley4Travel with red and white wine. After a wonderful dinner, we had our group picture made with our wonderful staff who made each dinner a dining delight—which made us all of feel like "Royal Kings and Queens".

Thank you Shirley for making our dreams of a life time come true with our cruise of The Baltic Sea on The Brilliance of The Seas!


Entering into the harbor of Gothenburg and city views

Entering into the harbor of Gothenburg and city views

One of the oldest churches in Gothenburg

Entering into the harbor of Gothenburg

Entering into the harbor of Gothenburg

Unique chairs and architecture inside old church in Gothenburg

Unique chairs and architecture inside old church in Gothenburg

Gothenburg Botanical Gardens

Gothenburg Botanical Gardens

Gothenburg Botanical Gardens

Shirley Hudson, Owner of Shirley4Travel Agency

Dessert fit for Kings and Queens!

Baltic 11/Team USA

Baltic 11/Team USA with our servers

 

Tallinn, Estonia
Tuesday, August 27, 2013  
Peter I, Czar of Russia, built his summer residence in Tallinn in 1818. Because of the Czar, Russians, poets, writers, artists and other cultures began to migrate here. You did not have to go through immigration!! Jan, Mona and I (as well as most of the group) did not sign up for a land tour. The city is very easy to enter and walk around. We caught the shuttle into Tallinn. Jan suggested we take the hop-on bus tour. We had experienced this in London, and found it to be very easy and educational. This is what we learned: 70% of the city is green, 58% is forest (pine, birch, spruce); international music festival each year (200,000 people usually attend); Olympics of 1980 (saw the stadium); religion: 50% are Lutheran, Orthodox, Methodist, Catholic, or Jewish. It was stated that, religion is not a big issue here. The area of Estonia is composed of 1,500 islands. On the coast line, there are several ports. We saw a large statue of an Angel overlooking the spot where a large ship had sunk. Motorcycle races are performed here. The course is made up of 27 curves. After we got off the hop-on bus we walked toward the old town of Tallinn. Shirley, Jan (Great Mother) and Lou ran into us. I told them what we had done and showed them on the map where we were headed. Since we were not going to use our bus tickets anymore for the day, we gave them our bus tickets. It was good for 24 hrs.

It is amazing how the medieval fortress wall in the old town of Tallinn is still intact. The shops and restaurants blend in with the old architecture. Jan W and I walked all the way to the top of the city. Many steps and the roads are narrow and made of cobble stone. Not easy even with the best of walking shoes. At the top, we could again view the fortress wall and we discovered the church of Alexander Nevsky. We also found a Greek Orthodox Church. The views are awesome. You just have to come to experience it. The weather was perfect--blue sky, contrasting green trees and sunshine! We were only in port for 8 hours. The time change has got us all confused, both body and mind!

It was a wonderful gathering in the formal dining room for all 11 of us this evening. Again, I was blessed with a retirement party at sea. We celebrated with red and white wine, cake, toasts to good health and wonderful fellowship. After dinner, there was a live aerial show of Jack and The Bean Stock. I did video it and also took still pictures. After the show, we went and played cards. This has been a wonderful social gathering to bring us closure each evening. Tonight, they had a special late production in the theater—a singer from the UK. He sang wonderfully including songs from the great old artists including Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Sammy Davis , Jr., Roy Orbison, and Tony Bennett...just to name a few. Because of the time change it was after midnight before we got to our room. Special thanks to Shirley for organizing this event and to all my friends who made it a special night in my life. I am very blessed!

Good night or good morning as we are sailing onto our next port of call. Wednesday, August 28, we will have a free day sailing on the sea and get some rest and caught up on our blogging!


Fortress Wall

Alexander Nevsky Church

Jan in front of art work on the Fortess Wall. Note the cobblestone road.

City of Tallinn

Nola retirement party on the ship
 

 

St. Petersburg, Russia (Day 2)
Monday, August 26, 2013  
Morning
Nola, Jan ,Jan (Great Mother), Lou, Shirley and Mona began the day early in the morning with a 1.5 mile walking tour. We visited The Church of the Spilled Blood and walked through field of Mars, which is a memorial with an eternal flame in memory of the first victims of the first Russian Revolution of 1905-07. Included in our walk were statues of military and royal persons. Gardens were well kept. Several large estates of former royalty are now used for education buildings and museums. Alexander II, who was the emperor of Russia, was assassinated March 1, 1881. Alexander III built a church at the spot where his father, Alexander II, was mortally wounded. It took 24 years to build (1883-1907). This is why its name is called The Church of the Spilled Blood. The facades are faced with glazed shaped brick and ceramic tiles and decorated with mosaic panels using Italian marble and Russian precious stones. Each individual panel took a year to complete. There are pictures of saints, Christ, and icons of the bible. When Communism took over, all of the churches were either destroyed or closed, and religion was banned. The church was used to store vegetables. This existed until the early 1990’s. The churches were also used for skating, hockey and sports. There were no pews in the church. All stood up during the worship.

Afternoon
Jack , Mona, and Teague did a tour of the Cathedrals of St. Petersburg, including:

  • St. Issac, one of Russia’s oldest churchs, was built between 1856-1859. At 43,000 square feet, it is now used as a museum which houses hundreds of works of art. It was founded by Peter the Great of Russia. When you walk in, the massive doors have carved history of biblical scenes on the door.
  • The Church of The Spilled Blood, built between 1883-1907
  • St. Nicholas, a Roman Catholic church built in 1770 that remained open and was not destroyed—even after arrival of Communism. They do not know why they did this.

Nola, Jan, Jan (Great Mother), Lou, Shirley and Mona toured the rivers and canals of St. Petersburg and Yussupov Palace. On the night of December 16, 1916, Grigori Rasputin was murdered prior to the revolutionary events of the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Yussupov family was very rich and close friends of the Romanovs—the Tsar of Russia. Felix Yussupov was believed to be actually richer than the Tsar. The palace décor was very rich and ostentatious using the best of everything at the time. To indicate the opulence, Felix had his own guilded theater built within the palace. In the music room, we were treated to singing by an a cappella men’s ensemble to show the sound acoustics. It was amazing. Several of us bought their CD, which was actually recorded in this room. It is amazing how this type of construction so many years ago could produce this type of sound.

We boarded an open deck boat and cruised the Moyka Canal. Moyka is translated from a Russian verb meaning "to wash" and in the early 19th century, women would come here to wash their clothes. From there we continued to cruise into the Neva River. The Neva River it is the longest river in St. Petersburg. The reason there are canals in St. Petersburg is because the the Tsar of Russia wanted St. Petersburg to resemble Venice, Italy. St. Petersburg is also known as the Venice of The North. The weather today was blue sky and lots of clouds and sun! The temperature today was 70. Just to make it very clear...we have been told by several tour guides that there are approximately 60 sunny days in a year in St. Petersburg. We have been blessed with two of the sunny days!!!!


Eternal Flame

School of Engineering—former private home of a royal

Peter the Great

Hotel Russia, one of the most expensive in Russia

Church of the Spilled Blood

Street view in Stockholm

Church of the Spilled Blood

Church of the Spilled Blood

Palace

Palace

Guilded theatre box in palace

Rasputin before being shot; set up in the Palace

 

St. Petersburg, Russia (Day 1)
Sunday, August 25, 2013  
First tour of the day started at 8:00 AM for 4.5 hour Panoramic tour of St. Petersburg with Peter and Paul Fortress Territory. Shirley, Nola and Jan W. did this tour. St. Petersburg, the former capital of the Russian Empire, was founded on May 27, 1703. St. Petersburg became the symbol of a new era of Russian history and grandiose.

This tour allowed us to see the city’s best landmarks. We stopped at St. Isaac’s Square, dominated by the majestic Saint Isaac Cathedral (1818-1858) which has the fourth largest dome in the world. We did not go in—just spent a few minutes taking pictures. We continued our bus tour to the St. Peters and Paul Fortress territory that included several interesting buildings and the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul’s. The location of the fortress was selected by Peter the Great who had the mindset to place an outpost on the island in the Neva River Delta. This in time became the nucleus of the future city of St. Petersburg. Military buildings inside housed the Supreme Criminal Court and held political prisoners. The fortress never served a direct military purpose, since no enemy ever made it as far as its walls. It was used a political prison and torture-chamber. The main building within the fortress is the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral. We did not go inside. I found out that when you do a panoramic tour, it does not include entering the buildings. The cathedral is the imperial burial vault. The tomb of Peter the Great and others are buried there. In 1998, the remains of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II, and the various members of his family who were shot to death in Ekaterinburg in 1918 , were buried in the cathedral.

Rostral Column: Light House built on the bridge of Neva River (1805-1810). There are four of them built around the fortress territory.

You can see the buildings of the Hermitage from the fortress river banks. The weather was wonderful. It was just awesome to see everything glistening in the sunshine and reflecting in the water. We were told that it had rained all week before we came. Also, there are only 60 sunny days in St. Petersburg, and so far we were experiencing one of them.

As the morning moved on, we were at The Church of The Spilled Blood. We did not go inside today; however, we do have a tour planned for tomorrow. This church was built by the son of Emperor Alexander II. Alexander II was murdered on the site where the church was built. I look forward to seeing the inside tomorrow as the outside is fantastic. It took 24 years to build the church (1883-1907). We were told the church was closed during the time religion was not allowed in Russia and this church was used to store vegetables.

The second tour of the day was a life experience: 3.5 hour metro ride and visit to the Kuznechny Market. Mona, Nola, Lou, Jan W. and Shirley did this tour. We were driven to the underground subway. It is considered one of the best in the world for its efficiency, cleanliness and its architecture. It is also built very deep underground. A very fast moving escalator just kept going deeper and deeper. It must have been at least a 3-5 min. ride. This is because of the marsh land that St. Petersburg is built on. New York needs to come and take a lesson of what has been done here. It is very clean. The interior design is different in each of the stations—simple and impressive. We all were glued to our guide as we did not want to get lost. She did a very good job taking care of us. The trains are fast! We were on the subway for about 15 minutes. Walking through the station was an experience. When we exited the station we walked for about five minutes and entered the Kuznechny Market. It was simple, and clean. We were told most of the produce comes from Southern Russia and local areas surrounding St. Petersburg. It is very expensive for the farmers to bring their produce to sell here. We are blessed to live in America. There were older ladies selling their flowers or produce outside to make extra money. When they retired, they only get around $300.00 a month to live on. It was good to see this side of the city—everyday people trying to make a life for themselves. After the market we walked along the streets and listened to our guide talk about daily life. We were ready to get on our bus. We had to get back to port to catch our 3rd tour.

Third tour of the day: 2.5 hour evening river cruise with folkloric show. Everyone did this one! St. Petersburg is often called the Venice of the North. The city is situated on 42 islands and more than 60 small rivers and canals crisscross the city in various directions. The main waterway of St. Petersburg is the Neva Riva. We boarded a large flat bottom boat with an upper (outside) deck and a lower (inside) deck. The first thing they told us—do not stand up when the boat is approaching the bridge, or you will have to have your head carried aboard on the ship!!! That is very true. When we went under the bridges, there was very little clearance. Shirley had an experience with this. She was taking pictures and did not realize the bridge was close and she hit the ground fast when she saw the bridge coming. She was just shocked that it happened so fast. Thankfully she did not get hurt, but she did almost experience incontinence!!!! On our cruise we saw the magnificent waterfront which included Vasilievsky Island, Winter Palace and Hermitage buildings and many more. It was a treat. Downstairs in the boat, a small professional company of folk singers and musicians performed Russian songs. They were in traditional costumes. We were served champagne and vodka. Shirley and I had a vodka shot (after the near encounter with the bridge). The main singer of the show got some of our friends engaged in the Russian songs. It was very relaxing and fun.


St. Issaac Cathedral

St. Peter and Paul Fortress

St. Peter and Paul Cathedral

Church of the Spilled Blood

Subway station in St. Petersburg

Light House on the Neva Delta

Kuznechny Market Center

Shirley and Nola doing vodka shots

Jan (Great Mother)

Jan and W.R.

Jack gets a KISS

Karen doing Russian dance

 

Helsinki, Finland
Saturday, August 31, 2013  
Helsinki is the capital of Finland with a population of 5.38 million people. Languages: 92% Finnish, 6% Swedish. Religion: 78% Lutheran, 1% Orthodox. Currency: Euro

The weather here is great! Everyone went their separate ways today.

Jan W took a bicycle tour of the city and the coastline. Her favorite thing is riding through the parks and watching people doing water sports. I took a walking tour of the city and special highlights. One of the highlights was seeing and going into the Uspenski Cathedral, also known as The Rock Church. It is carved out of solid rock. The dome spans 70 feet and is covered on the interior by 15 miles of Finnish copper wire. The church is located in a neighborhood and is a working church. It is very popular to get married in this church. As we were waiting to enter the church, we witnessed a wedding party coming out—the groom was in the military and they made an arch of swords as the bride and groom came out of the church. There are sculptures of art as you walk through the parks—it is mandatory by law that when developers build something, they must create a green space and art. Bikes rule in Finland. There are biking paths everywhere. We walked through the central rail station, art/performing arts building and ended up at the Lutheran Church Cathedral. This was supposed to be a 1.5 mile walk. I know it was at least 3 miles. This is what my feet told me!

Lou did a walking tour of the city, also. Mona did a day trip to Porvoo. This was a day of adventure and exploring Helsinki as far as our interests and feet could carry us.

Shirley took the Helsinki/Porvoo tour with lunch. Highlights were the shipyard, Embassy Park, Market Square, Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral and the Presidential Palace. There was a photo stop at the Lutheran Cathedral to take pictures. It is a beautiful white church with huge columns and hundreds of stairs leading to the entrance. After leaving the city the bus drove to the community of Sipoo to the site of an old church dating back to the 15th century. Lunch was served at Kiala Manor/Distillery in the portion of the building that was formerly used to store kegs of beer. It had beautiful red bricks with low arched ceilings and the ambiance was very old world. The city of Porvoo dates back to 1346 and is the second oldest city in Finland. The cobblestone streets are lined with colored wooden buildings and shops and Sophie J’s cousin was seen walking the streets! There is an old bridge where a couple were having their wedding photos taken. After leaving Porvoo, we drove to the Rock Church in Helsinki. It is carved from solid rock and is topped with a copper dome. The architect/builder wanted to build this church above ground but the surrounding neighbors protested. He decided to build it underground by blasting out the stone and creating a really unique church that has natural light from above. We saw another bride and groom leaving the church after their wedding. This is the time of year when the most weddings take place.


The Rock Church

The Rock Church

The Rock Church

The Rock Church

Lutheran Cathedral in the square of Helsinki. It is surrounded by Helsinki Parliament buildings, which are not shown.

Community of Sipoo: 15th Century church

Lunch at Kiala Manor Distillery

Sophie J's Helsinki/Porvoo cousin!

Jan taking a bike tour of Helsinki

Park in Helsinki

Girls practicing on surf board on the lake in the park

Hands of a former President of Helsinki, with reflection pool

Carp Sculpture: Green Space

Helsinki Flea Market near the train station

Green Space walk through the city in Helsinki

Green Space walk through the city in Helsinki

Blowing bubbles in the green space
 

 

Stockholm, Sweden
Friday, August 23, 2013  
Today we were in Stockholm, Sweden. I, along with Jan, Mona and Lou took a historic tour of Sweden and Sigtuna. Shirley and Jan (Great Mother) toured the Archipelago (islands) around Sweden.

Stockholm is a beautiful city and is the capital of Sweden. Sweden is made up of 14 islands and was founded by King Eric around 1397. Today there were seven cruise ships docked in the harbor, with about 15,000 tourists who were on tour buses. Tourism is big! It is a very clean city. It is also well noted for the Noble Prize nominations and awards.

Larson was our tour guide and Hakan was our driver. Both were wonderful. We started out taking photos of Stockholm from a view point above where we docked. Coming into the harbor, the captain did a U-turn in the harbor and backed in the ship. It looked so simple. Our tour consisted of driving to Sigtuna, the oldest medieval town/settlement in Sweden. At one time, it was also was the capital of Sweden. It is total Christian. The town is the same as it was laid out between 100-200 AD. There are several ruins of buildings and churches within the township. We walked up the narrow streets. Of course, now there are modern buildings with shops and small businesses. It is located on a beautiful lake. Larson was able to share much of Sigtuna’s history, which despite being such a little settlement has made a sufficient impact on the development of Sweden.

Near the shore of the lake is what they call a Rune Stone. These stones go back as far as 100-200 AD. They are believed to be grave marker or markers for boundary lines. These stones are found at several places within the town. We were there for about an hour. Then we drove toward Stockholm to view the city. We ate lunch on the front steps of the museum where the selection is made for the Nobel Prize of Literature. We got our lunch at a wonderful bakery across the courtyard. It was just like in the movies, everyone was out walking and sitting eating lunch. Stockholm is also the home of the Swedish writer, Stieg Larsson. He wrote a series of books including, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We drove by the flat where he used to live. Stockholm is home to many famous and wealthy people. Also, I want to add, bicycles rule the road!!! We also visited the museum which houses the Vasa war ship of 1628. It was a magnificent ship. However, at the time, the king kept changing the design of the ship, and it became overloaded with decorative emblems and 60 brass cannons. When it finally launched, it was only able to sail a short way into the harbor before and it sank—it was too heavy. It remained under the water for over 300 years before being discovered in the early 1960’s, when it was salvaged and brought up from the harbor.

Shirley and Jan (Great Mother) toured three islands. Vaxholm, Varmdo island reaches the most distance of the islands in the Baltic Sea. They visited a working farm where lunch was served at an old renovated barn, dating from the later part of the 19th century. They also visited Rindo, and Gustavsberg. Gustavsberg is known for its china factory. They visited the porcelain museum and some antique stores.


View of the canal in Stockholm

Street view in Stockholm

Jan in Sigtuna

Nola and Mona in Sigtuna

Lou and Mona in Sigtuna

Lake in Sigtuna

Boundary or grave marker in Sigtuna

Street in Stockholm

Lunch in square

City view

Vasa war ship of 1628

Vasa war ship of 1628

 

Jan and W.R.'s 60th Anniversay!
Thursday, August 22, 2013  
On this day, 60 years ago , Jan and W.R. were married. Our plan is to meet up with them at 6:00 PM in the formal dining room to celebrate. Shirley and I have arranged for a flower arrangement to be sent to the table in their honor. Today was another full day cruising—Friday morning we will be in historic Stockholm—but we still stayed busy. Jan and I went swimming and then I laid out and took a long nap. When I woke up , I had a scone and then went back into the pool before getting ready for tonight’s gala event with Jan and W.R. It was a wonderful celebration! We gave Jan a bridal bouquet of yellow, white and pink roses to bring back memories of 60 years ago. Jan W. gave us a gift of red and white wine for a toast with dinner. I do believe Jan and W.R. will remember their 60th with wonderful memories. Good night with the sun setting somewhere in the Baltic Sea.


Jan and W.R. celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary

Celebrating Jan and W.R.’s anniversary

Dessert: Jaffa Cake made with orange, amaretto, and dark chocolate

Sunset somewhere in the Baltic Sea on our way to Stockholm

 

Copenhagen
Wednesday, August 21, 2013  
Docked early in the morning in Copenhagen. Again, everyone is doing different on-shore trips. Shirley and I did the Copenhagen City Sights and Castel Tour of Northern Zealand. Jan opted for a guided walking tour with a boat cruise back to the ship. The things Jan liked best included the “Hans Christen Anderson statue of the Little Mermaid” and visiting the Royal Place with the guards dressed in their bearskins tall hats and uniform. FYI: Copenhagen is the capital city of Denmark, since 1417. Denmark is made up of several islands. Copenhagen is based between 2 island channels. The island sea fortress protects the city. The trip Shirley and I took consisted of a 7 hour tour; driving up the scenic coast line of the Danish Riviera, passing beautiful marinas, beaches, and exclusive residential areas. Photo stop on the marina for picture of the Little Mermaid too. Also stopped at Kronborg Castle: Hamlet’s Castle. We enjoyed a lunch buffet with different Danish dishes. Our next stop was was Fredensborg Castle, the Queens’s Summer residence. Driving back into the city, we passed the Nyhavn area and got a glimpse of the Royal Family’s winter residence, The Amalienborg Palace with several photo stops. We met several of the others and they seemed to be pleased with their tours. One thing we had all in common was the realization that walking on the cobble stones is hard on the feet! We were back on board the ship by 3:30 PM and sailing time away from the dock at 4:00 PM. Later in the evening, we played cards; Shirley and I learned to “shoot craps” in the casino; she played the slot machine; we went to see the Buenos Aries Tango show in the theater (dancers and singers were again great); and finally, enjoyed a midnight snack in the Park Café.


The Little Mermaid bronze statue in Copenhagen, Denmark, based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Danish Royal Palace

Royal Guards in front of the Danish Royal Palace

Canal in Copenhagen

Beer made in Copenhagen—good beer too!!!

Royal castle of Kronborg—world-renowned as Elsinore, the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet

Kronborg (Hamlet Castle)

Amalienborg Palace—the winter home of the Danish royal family, located in Copenhagen,

Fredensborg Palace—the Danish Royal Family’s summer residence.
Fredensborg Castle

Fredensborg Castle

Fredensborg Castle

Fredensborg Castle

Ceiling of Fredensborg Castle

Nola's new/old bed...being shipped from the castle!!!!

The formal gardens of Fredensborg Castle

 

Cruising at Sea
Tuesday, August 20, 2013  
Today was a full day cruising at sea. We slept in, but when we did get up, we spent our time unpacking and putting out fires. We found out several of our off shore trips had been canceled due to lack of people signing up. Also, the A/C in my garage apartment went out. I am very grateful to Ron and Jered who took care of it for me. The unit was only 3 years old—I did not have that on the agenda. I am blessed to have “guardian angles” surrounding me. Me, Jan, and Shirley are rooming together. It is tight, however it does works. We take shifts for showering. The room has ample built in storage space, but we still have room for more things. Hahaha!!!! The others are sharing rooms. We are not always doing things together. We have been running into each other usually at meal time. Our schedules are “what ever we want to do”!!! The ship capacity is 2,600 passengers and crew. Deck 11 and 12 are entertainment areas with the pool, bar, live band and large screen TV. Activities are ongoing. Tuesday evening we attended “Strings Violin Show” in the theater. The performances are at 7:00 and 9:00 PM. This was a group of four brothers who played violins. The music was from all periods and they were very lively and funny. They had been in the USA on a 26 city tour. The entertainment is top notch and includes anything you want to sign up for from line dancing to learning how to gamble in the casinos. Note: there is nothing free on this ship!!!!! Internet is $0.68 per minute. I have purchased a package for 1 hour. The internet is not very fast. So I will write first and then save as an attachment to send onto Ron, who will put it on the web site. Lou, Shirley, Jan, and I were on deck 12 on the West end of the ship taking several photos as the sun set on the sea. It was definitely a painting only God could have done in the sky. With this we all went in and went to bed.

 

Bon Voyage!
Monday, August 19, 2013  
We left London early this morning for the ride to Victoria Station. Shirley had arranged for two taxies to pick us up. One of them was a van and the other a black Mercedes limo. I rode in the Mercedes limo and thought I was almost Royal—just for a moment! Reality came into check very fast when we were let out at the curb with all of our luggage. The sidewalk very crowded. We moved forward following our leader, Shirley, inside Victoria Station to Gate 21. There we waited for the cruise line to come and pick us up in a very nice bus. The ride to Harwich, England is about 2.5 hours long. The country side was nice.

When we arrived at the port, Brilliance of The Seas was there with all of her majestic ambiance. W.R. made a statement that it was too big to sail or move! We had no problems checking in and boarding the ship. We had our mandatory emergency practice drill—six short whistles and one long whistle is the code to move to our assigned places on deck. I tried on the life vest inside of our cabin. It has a whistle on it and a light. We did not have to wear them to the drill. Finally around 7:00 PM the ship started moving from the dock. Our dinner time for our group of 11 is at 6:00 PM at table 408. The food is fantastic! Everyone seems to be in good spirits and satisfied with their rooms. Our room can sleep three and also has a balcony. We feel like Royal Princesses standing on our balcony looking out over the ocean! We are blessed.

Good night from somewhere in the Northern Sea!
Nola


Taxi

Cruise terminal

Room 906

Formal dining room

View from 9th floor towards bar and entertainment

Light House as leaving the dock

View from the coast line of Harwich

Pilot house where the captain drives the ship

 

Howdy from London!
Sunday, August 18, 2013  
May I say, the last 48 hours since we left Dallas have been wild and fast!!! Flying all night and coming in early in the morning London time will do a number on your biological time clock. By the time most of us got to bed on Saturday evening, we had been up 36 hours. Today, Sunday, everyone was refreshed and had a different agenda. Some went to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, some took a river trip down the Thames River, while others visited Harrods (a very expensive department store). We will all meet tonight for dinner to talk about leaving in the morning to board the Brilliance of The Seas.

London is very interesting and 48 hours is not enough time. However, we have done and seen lots and most of all have had fun. Our hotel, the Mercure Paddington, is in the Paddington district within the City of Westminster, in central London. We are close to both Hyde Park and Kensington Palace, and I did have fish and chips at St. Stevens Tavern and Pub not far from the Thames River.

We will leave the hotel early in the morning to go Victoria Station to catch the shuttle for a 3 hour drive to Harwich, where we will board the ship. Good night from London!


St. Margaret's Church across from Westminster Abbey

St. Margaret's Church across from Westminster Abbey

Entrance to Westminster Abbey

Mercure Paddington Hotel

Blue chicken

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Tower Bridge of London (in background)

London Bridge

Fish & Chips and beer at St. Steven's Tavern

Marble arch—the entrance to Hyde Park

Hotel staff at the Mercure Paddington Hotel

Group picture at Aberdeen’s Steak House
Mona and Lou sharing dessert

Malcolm and Karen

Jan and W.R.

 

Today is the Day!
Friday, August 16, 2013  
Finally got through security at DFW. The Texas team leaving from DFW are all in place @ Gate 23. We will board approximately @ 4:05 pm and begin the 9 hour and 5 minute flight to London. We will arrive 7:50 AM London time. This trip has been in the making for 10 months. We have decided to call our group "Baltic 11 / Team USA". Here is our group picture. Next time I will be blogging from London, England.


Baltic 11 / Team USA

The Adventure Begins: History of Putting Together Baltic Cruise

Brilliance Of The Seas (Royal Caribbean)  
12 Night Scandinavia And Russia Cruise

Ports of call
: Harwich, England; Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; St.Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; and Gothenburg, Sweden. 

Summer 2012
I began brainstorming a celebration as I planned my retirement from DISD at the end of the2012-13 school year. Shirley, my very dear friend and I have been blessed to experience local and international travel together for the past 10 years. After much talk and research, we decided a trip to Ireland and Scotland would make for a great celebration. In addition, I extended an invitation to several friends to join us on this celebration trip.

June 2012
We made an appointment to visit with a local travel agent. This step opened a plethora of opportunities not only in travel adventures but also for Shirley to do something that she has a strong passion and talent for: an offer of becoming an associate travel agent. At the end of the meeting, Shirley was asked to take control of my retirement trip arrangement. This is how Shirley4Travel began. Shirley researched several travel opportunities to explore Ireland and Scotland. One of the travel opportunities was to take a cruise around Ireland/Scotland. I began contemplating additional cruise adventures. I have always wanted to take a cruise to the Baltic States. I shared this with Shirley and my friends. Ireland and Scotland were put on the back burner for another time. Shirley's work began in a new direction.

August 2012
The Baltic Cruise is planned for August 2013. For the sake of autonomy, I will not list the names of my friends who are going on the trip. What started out as a group of 4 now is a group of 8. This trip has become a celebration of a 60-year wedding anniversary, my retirement from teaching 24 years , birthdays, first time cruise traveler, researching family history, and first time for anyone of us to travel to the Baltic States. Communication between all of us has been the key putting this travel adventure together. After working her full-time day job, Shirley has worked long hours completing the travel arrangements. She applied her professional and mature travel experience handling details of ground transportation, travel insurance, air fare, hotel, cruise lines communication, shore excursions, and payments for all of us. I am very grateful to Shirley for making this trip of a lifetime come true for us all. In addition, I am blessed to have a very good friend who will be posting my travel adventures on my web site. Thank you Ron.

Coming soon with God's Blessings I will continue to update as our departure time approaches.
End of Entry: May 28, 2013
Nola

 

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