John & Val’s cruise to the Baltic’s
We had often discussed visiting Russia
and decided one of the best options for us would be to cruise there and visit the other Baltic countries on route.
Our ship, Celebration, was due to depart from Harwich on a Bank Holiday Monday. At that time we owned a small motor home and we decided to use this and stop overnight on route to Harwich to break up the journey. We stopped at Colchester
where there is a major army garrison. John wanted to look at the barracks at which he was stationed in 1954. It brought back many potent memories of his time there.
We arrived in Harwich about 11.00am which gave us plenty of time for sightseeing in the town as the ship was not due to depart until about 5.00pm. Around mid afternoon we made our way to the harbour only to find there was no sign of our ship but just a long queue of would be passengers waiting by their cars.
We were told that the ship had engine problems and was still in Zeebrugge
so could we return at 7.00pm. So off we went for a sandwich and cup of tea and duly returned at 7.00pm but still no sign of the ship. We were then told the ship was not expected to arrive until the early hours of Tuesday morning and passengers were being taken to hotels for the night. Unfortunately because it was a Bank Holiday the only hotels which had vacancies were about 60 miles away. Oh how glad we were that we had brought our motor home! We spent the night quite snugly in the port car park. Passengers who had been ferried to hotels were woken up at a very early hour to start the trek back to the port.
Thankfully when we awoke Tuesday morning the ship had docked and boarding had begun.
So the cruise began. The ship was good. We chose buffet style food and we could always find something we liked. The evening entertainment was brilliant – varied shows each evening. We had a good amount of time to explore the ports of Gothenburg, Stockholm
, Helsinki, Warnemunde and Copenhagen
. The highlights of the cruise naturally were the two days spent in St Petersburg. As we travelled into the city as a group with the ship’s couriers we did not have to obtain individual visas. We fully explored the city and visited the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum and strolled around the Palace Square. We boarded a small boat and travelled the scenic waterways. Another highlight of the cruise was travelling through the spectacular Stockholm Archipelago islands. They stretch such a distance that the pilot had to stay aboard the ship for 4 hours which was the time it took the ship to reach the open sea.
The most disappointing aspect of the cruise was that we should have visited Tallin which Val really wanted to visit but because of the ship’s engine problems and the late departure the captain decided we would not have enough time to visit that city. In fairness to Thomson, we did receive a reimbursement for the late departure and omission of Tallin from the itinerary. But all in all a good cruise and we enjoyed all the ports of call.