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Old May 6th, 2008, 02:48 AM
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Default Live Reports: Norwegian Jewel 5/5/08 Baltic cruise

I have arrived on the Norwegian Jewel and we already through the first day. Time flies when you are having fun.

We flew out of Minneapolis at a reasonable time, for once. It usually seems that when my wife and I leave for a cruise we must awaken about the time we normally go to bed and then go to the airport in the dead of night. With this transatlantic we didn’t fly out of Minneapolis until 1:15 p.m. Our flights were uneventful other than my poor wife who suffered with an anti-biotic reaction she had just before the cruise. She was itching and miserable through the entire flight. I gave her moral support by sleeping the entire way to London.

Did I ever tell you I hate busses and cruise line transfers? Well, I do. Our flight arrived 20 minutes early and our transfer information specifically informed us to go to terminal 3. We arrived on terminal 4 so I made a direct route to terminal 3. I never saw an NCL rep at terminal 4 but I guess there was one around somewhere. Once we arrived at terminal 3 we spent a few minutes looking for a representative and finally my wife found them. Once we found them we sat down and waited for an hour. Then we were ushered outside to wait for the bus and waited another half hour. When the bus arrived the herding began. Be careful if you have the same reps as we did. They try to take EVERY piece of luggage, including carry ons and put it on a separate truck. Don’t give up your carry on. There is room in the coach’s storage area for them. We then proceeded on our two hour bus ride to Dover. It was a great bus. Each seat had eight inches of leg room (yes, I measured with my wallet ruler”, so I rode “side saddle” the entire way. I have rode in the beds of trucks in the dessert, pulled by ox cart and rode horseback for hours but nothing is more miserable than sitting like a folded pair of pants in a “luxury motorcoach” and not being able to get your legs between the seats. Now I know why I haven’t done a cruise line transfer in the last seventeen cruises.

We came onboard to the new Freestyle 2.0, champagne/mimosa, greeting. We boarded at 11:30 a.m. and the cabins were not yet ready to we wandered about the ship to get our bearings. We were quite impressed with the overall look and to get an idea of where we wanted to eat that night. We decided we would go social and opt for Teppanyaki. After that we went up to the buffet and had a light lunch. I do enjoy the layout of the NCL/Jade Garden Cafes. There are separate stations for different items such as: Hot entrees, salads, desserts, sandwiches, pizza, etc. This helps alleviate the “line” congestion that you find on other cruise lines. Lunch was good but the “hot entrees” weren’t too hot. I did notice a large numbers of Asian dishes, which I love, mixed in with the standards of steamship round at the carving station, chicken, pork and beef dishes. I was a bit disappointed in the dessert selection but we’ll see if there is a larger selection in the days to come.

The announcement that the cabins were now available was made promptly at 1:00 p.m. We went down to our cabin on Deck 10. We have a category BA balcony cabin. The décor is nice with light wood tones, a wonderfully comfortable bed and the standard sized balcony. The cabin will be more than adequate for our twelve day cruise. Initially I thought there was too little storage space but I was proven wrong. Once all of our stuff was put away we had plenty of extra room. We actually packed quite light for this cruise. We had one 26” suitcase and a folding suiter. I was extremely impressed with the bathroom. It is divided into three separate sections: The commode with a sliding partition, the sink area and the shower area. The commode area is a bit tight for me. My knees press up against the wall when I sit but it isn’t bad. I’m 6’2” and anyone shorter won’t have any problem. Someone taller might have a bit of a problem.

We dressed for dinner 6:00 and strolled down to Teppanyaki’s to have our dinner. Teppanyaki’s was a fun time. We were seated with three other couples around the teppanyaki grill. Our chef put on a great show and supplied us with humor and his food acrobats. The grill was by the windows and we had a number of onlookers watching the show. If you enjoy sitting with new people and being almost guaranteed a great time, I suggest eating here. There is a $20 surcharge but it’s worth it. One of our tablemates had an extra “first night” coupon that she received with her documents (we never received docs) and kindly gave it to my wife so dinner was half price. Can’t beat that.

After dinner we went to the casino to begin our gradual donation to NCL and I played blackjack and my wife played the “penny” slots. I played for about an hour before I grew tired of seeing my chip pile get smaller and smaller. When I still had a few left I cashed in and went back to the cabin. I found my wife pushing the button on the slot machine and wished her luck or not to get a strained finger, and went to bed. Two hours later she returned to the cabin happy as a lark. She won quite a bit hitting the dang button. Hey if it makes us money and she has fun I’m happy.

This morning we awoke at 6:00 a.m. and decided to try out our added perk and have breakfast at Cagney’s. I must have been nice to someone because I had nice letter from the Hotel Manager, a bottle of good wine with chocolate covered strawberries and a large fruit basket in the cabin. I also received a letter saying that because I had not been thrown off a ship in three years I could join the suite people and have breakfast and lunch at Cagney’s for the rest of the cruise.

The breakfast was very good with a nice, but not overwhelming, variety of choices. I opted for the Buttermilk pancakes with walnut butter and caramelized apples and two eggs over easy and bacon. My wife had an eggs benedict combination with seafood.
Today is a sea day so we have little planned. That is not for a lack of options. Kuki pointed out in his virtual cruise report that the options had increased and he wasn’t wrong. There is Yoga, Art History lectures, Basketball free throw competition, sushi making, orgami class, trivia and rumba dance class. Oh yeah, that just “some” of the stuff before 11:30 a.m.
Now I must figure out what activity I’m going to do and start the day.

Take care,
Mike
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Old May 6th, 2008, 09:12 AM
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Yeaaaaa, Mikey! I get to go along with you and Betty, too! I feel like I'm on 2 ships at once, on the NCL Jewel and Carnival Freedom with Kuki.

I really look forward to booking an NCL cruise, just from reading what you and Kuki have written about it. Enjoy!
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Old May 6th, 2008, 09:31 AM
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Hey Mike glad you are off to a great start! I don't know if this is your "thing" or not but tonight at dinner keep your eyes peeled for the flambe' cart and see what deserts they are cooking up. They often have wonderful crepes and deserts like bananas foster.
I love Teppanyaki, and Asian Fusion. If there is a young sushi chef there named Rambo, he is sooo nice and spoiled us rotten with his creations. They offer excellent sushi.
Enjoy! I hope Betty's run of luck continues in the casino!
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Old May 6th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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What do you plan to do on your day in Stockholm?
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Old May 6th, 2008, 08:02 PM
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It's my guess, Mike, that you'd choose Trivia - got to win NCL's prizes! Sounds like you 2 are having a ball ... congrats to Betty and her win at the slots. Jane
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Old May 7th, 2008, 12:01 AM
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It was a beautiful sea day on the Norwegian Jewel. For those who were looking for Caribbean heat it may have been a bit of a disappointment but for those who wanted a clear day and smooth seas it was a dream come true.

We have adopted a strange body clock. Between the time change and my poor wife’s continuing allergic reaction to antibiotics we are up at early hours. I feel for my wife and the terrible itching that she is enduring with nothing that can be done about it. Hopefully it will subside as the doctor said it would.

With it being a Sea Day we were “Free” to do what we want. We started the day with breakfast at Cagney’s and then spent some time by the pool. It seemed strange lying by the pool in long pants and t-shirt but it felt nice in the sun. There were more hardy souls doing the same thing than I would have thought. There are a large number of British passengers on board and, like us, the weather seems nice.

We had lunch in Cagney’s. I had a New York steak that was fairly good and my wife had gnocchi that was inedible. Whoever cooked it had over cooked it so it was nothing but a sticky paste. When gnocchi sticks to the roof of your mouth it isn’t a good thing. My wife forgot about the entrée and just had her dessert. Still not feeling well we went back to the cabin and she took a nap.

I decided to go to the casino and see if I could continue my contribution. There was no one at the tables and the dealer said the casino had been dead all day. So I decided to sit down and play some head to head blackjack with him. I played for about an hour and at the end I was just a little better than even. Some people don’t like playing head to head but I do. The continuous shuffling machines take any advantage away from the player but it also takes it away from the dealer. Also, by playing head to head I could control the speed of the game and converse with the dealer and the staff.

When I left the casino I saw my wife, who had given up on trying to nap, at the Origami class. With my complete lack of artistic and folding abilities (I can’t fold a letter) I went back to the cabin. A half hour later my wife presented me with a little origami box. She enjoyed the class.

We did have an interesting show this afternoon. It wasn't presented by the cruise line but by some military entitity. A large green helicopter gave the ship a LONG look. It hovered around the ship for about ten minutes. It was first on the port side and then on the starboard side. I have yet to find out why they were looking at us and where they were from. It was fun to watch it so close to the ship but I would like to have known who it belonged to.

We had made dinner reservations for, guess where? Cagney’s (don’t worry we will eat somewhere else) The reservations were and early 5:30 and when we arrived there were few people in the restaurant. I had a 14 oz. prime rib and my wife had the mate’s cut filet. My prime rib was ok but it was over cooked from the oven and medium was the least “done” I could get it. It was a little beyond medium for my taste but was still pretty good. My wife’s filet, that she ordered medium rare, was served “Kuki crisp”, referring to Kuki’s love of very well done meat. She had to send it back but within two minutes a perfect medium rare filet was placed in front of her. It was wonderful, tender and flavorful. For dessert we had a volcano cake and crème Brule. The ceme brule was very good but my “molten volcano cake” was cold in the middle. Oh well, it was chocolate and I ate it.

The night ended early for us as my wife had another attack of the reaction and couldn’t take all her clothes off in the showroom and scratch so we opted to return to the cabin and call it an early night. It was a good thing because it was the longest either of us has slept in four days. It was a full six hours.

I am now waiting for the buffet to open so I can go have my breakfast. Today is Copenhagen and we will be meeting a friend to have her show us the city. I am excited to see a new place that I have never been. I wonder what little, out of the way places we’ll end up?

Take care,
Mike
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Old May 7th, 2008, 10:04 AM
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i can not wait to start hitting europe and seeing the history culture. enjoy the trip and hope you win enough to pay for another cruise. By the way make sure you sign up for the casino at sea card, i just received a free cruise (inside cabin but free ) for being a player.
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:34 AM
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Sounds great look forward to hearing more, we are on this cruise june 12th and looking forward to getting away, enjoy the rest of your cruise
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Old May 7th, 2008, 01:29 PM
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We will cruise with the Jewel when the Baltic season is over (from Dover to New York) and we have talked about going to Stockholm when it´s there just to see the ship but we have decided that we wants to see it for the first time just a few minutes before we shall board it!

We really love to read about your cruise, especially about the ship, and hope that you have a great time even if the weather isn´t as in the caribbean!
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Old May 7th, 2008, 05:50 PM
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~~~~~~~ Waving ~~~~~ to Mike and Betty from the Med.

Mike.. as you know we loved the Jewel when we were on her last spring. That's one reason we chose her for the NY to Miami repositioning in the fall as a CruiseMates group cruise.

I only have 4 days left on my "adventure"... 2 on the ship, and 2 in Rome. Wish we could just zip up to the Baltic to join you two.

Enjoy an amazing itinerary!! And the ship. Delighted to hear you were greeted "properly" for a man of your "stature" (or is that statue )

ENJOY!!!
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Old May 7th, 2008, 07:22 PM
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Feel so sorry for Betty. By any chance has she tried Benadryl ointment? Maybe it would help.
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Old May 8th, 2008, 03:10 AM
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Good morning from Warnemunde, Germany.

It is another gorgeous day in the Baltics. Yesterday we had a great day in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is a walker’s paradise. We did not have a tour booked for Copenhagen. Instead we were to meet up with a friend and take a look at the city. Alas, our friend was unable to meet us due to work reasons. It sure didn’t ruin the day. If you want to walk or take a taxi you are just minutes away from the heart of Copenhagen.

We started the day with breakfast at Cagney’s. Yes, I said I was going to the Garden Café but my wife wanted to go to Cagney’s and if my wife wants it she gets it. It was a phenomenal breakfast. I had the perfect eggs benedict. I couldn’t have made it better myself. It was perfectly done poached eggs, over Canadian bacon and sitting atop a crispy English muffin. A touch of Hollandaise sauce was applied to each muffin to create a hot and tasty breakfast.

After breakfast we disembarked to see what Copenhagen had to offer. As I said in the opening, Copenhagen is a great place if you like to walk. We started with a five minute walk, north, to the Little Mermaid. It is a must see for those visiting Copenhagen. We then continued north through the park and then into the main part of town. We visited the Amalienborg palace, the home of the Royal Family, Tivoli Gardens, a few beautiful churches but we spent most of our time checking out little, out of the way boutiques and antique shops. We also stopped at a couple of sidewalk café’s for coffee or a beer. We did some shopping at the “Walking Street” area. One thing we noticed was that almost everyone we came across spoke English. It bridged the communication gap. In the afternoon we began walking back with a stop in the Koenig Park to see its beauty and watch all the young people from the local college lay out in the sunshine.

Once we returned to the ship we were a bit tired and my wife was still itching so we just rested until dinner. We ate in the Tsar’s Palace main dining room. It is a beautiful room decorated in a Royal, Russian, style. Dinner was fairly good with my wife ordering roasted pork loin and I ordering monk fish. No one would get trichinosis from the pork loin. It was VERY well done, to the point of being dry. The monk fish was good as well as my lamb sausage appetizer.

Due to some circumstances not under my control I did little else for the next five hours. I have a neurological problem that put me out of commission for awhile and required I take a nap. When I awoke there wasn’t much else to do except go to the casino to finish the night. It was a good choice. I finally made a few dollars playing blackjack. I returned to the room around 1:30 a.m. and my wife was so happy I won money we decided to celebrate with a late night snack at the Blue Lagoon restaurant.

The Blue Lagoon is the Pearl’s always open restaurant on deck eight. It is a smaller venue but three times the size as the one on the NCL Star. We finished the night with an order of fish and chips for me and a very good burger for my wife. Of course we had to have a piece of cheese cake and a chocolate brownie for dessert. A great end to the day.

In a little bit we’ll be heading into Warnemunde. We are not going to Berlin and have decided to just wing it. We’ll see what happens.

Take care,
Mike
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Old May 8th, 2008, 06:25 PM
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Mike

thanks for keeping us updated on your cruise. It makes me want to go back on the Jewel. She is such a great ship.

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Old May 8th, 2008, 11:47 PM
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Have you ever had a perfect cruise moment? I had one this morning. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. and saw that it was just breaking day. I went out on the balcony and sat down and stared out at the glass like Baltic. The only wave was the one made by the ship’s bow as it cut through the glass like water. The early morning sky blended perfectly into the reflecting water , leaving you wondering where water ended and the sky began. As I sat on my balcony in my quiet moment, I thought that this is what cruising is all about.
Yesterday was Warnemunde, Germany with another day of perfect Baltic weather. We left the ship a bit late, around 10:30 a.m. We had nothing major planned and had decided before the cruise not to go to Berlin. We just went around Warnemunde and Rostock. Warnemunde is the large seaport for Berlin but it is also a nice seaside city. We spent a couple of hours walking the port area and enjoying the sights and harbor. After a couple of hours we had wandered away from the port area and noticed a bus stop. We looked at the bus map and decided to go into the city of Rostock. We purchased two day passes for the bus and rail system and headed out. We thought that we should take the bus into Rostock but the first bus driver told us that he would stop at the Meglenberg Allee stop and there we should switch to the light rail train to go into Rostock. He told us to stay on the train until we reached the Alt Market. There we would find the main square, market, Ratskeller and the rest of the old town. Having a rudimentary ability to speak and understand German helped with our bus driver and when asking directions or finding a good restaurant or a type of store. There were far less people who spoke English in this area than in Copenhagen.
We took a half hour bus/train ride into Rostock and against the bus driver’s advice we got off at the Neu Market just to look around. We stuck our head into a local travel shop and asked where there was a good German restaurant. She directed us a couple of blocks away to a wonderful restaurant where we had a great German meal with veal, kraut salad, some wonderful head’s cheese dish and potatoes. It was a wonderful, but filling, lunch. After lunch we jumped back on the train and went about four stops more to the “Alt Market”. The bus driver was not wrong. This area was quite nice with shopping, old buildings, churches and little market and square to wander around. In the past couple of years I have taken up collecting national soccer jerseys. I buy one in each country that we visit. After asking a couple of people I was directed to a sport shop that would fulfill my jersey needs. We made a couple of wrong turns but in a few minutes my jersey fix was fulfilled. We walked around for another hour or so and had a beer before jumping on the train and returning to the ship.
I do want to emphasize that if you aren’t comfortable with, or have trouble, walking, don’t speak any of the foreign language, or don’t have too much time, then this mode of port visiting may not be right for you.
Once back to the ship we decided to relax in the pool and hot tub for an hour or so. The day was so perfect that we could lay in the sun or just relax in the pool. After that we just rested for a couple hours before our 8:00 p.m. reservation at Mama’s, the Italian restaurant.
Dinner at Mama’s ($10pp) was a good one, except the veal in my wife’s Veal Marsala was very overcooked. The pasta is cooked perfectly and the desserts are the best I have found on the ship. I do have to say that overall the desserts have been a disappointment. They do not have much of a choice and none of them have been too memorable, except our tira misu in Mama’s.
After dinner we planned on going to the casino but the day caught up with us and we decided to stay in. After the long day and all the walking we were asleep at 9:30 p.m. I guess we aren’t the party folks we once were.
Today is a sea day so we’ll have to see what’s in store for us.

Take care,
Mike
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Old May 9th, 2008, 02:55 AM
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Default Great Reading!

Hi Mike.....Bangkok here ! reading your missive with envy especially the weather as its boiling hot here this time of yesr so we can't wait for our July 16 cruise!

Your wife might have had some relief in a chemist shop in Copenhagen. Danish , in fact Scandinavian and most European pharmacies are almost like 'free' doctor's offices and are fabulous. When you are in Finland go into any pharmacy and they might be able to propose something. I feel for her and for you...I have peripheral neuropathy and am in pain 24 hours a day but over the years have gotten used to it... On this particular cruise would you suggest a port or starboard cabin? : we are booking the same category as you. Silly question i suppose but there usually is a better side.

Enjoy your cruise!
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Old May 10th, 2008, 09:57 AM
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Mike, thank you so much for posting! Your information will be invaluable to us. We will be on the Jewel June 10 - can't wait!! We also have a BA on deck 10, it is an aft cabin. Am I reading right that this now entitles you to lunch and breakfast in Cagneys - that is great news if that is correct!!
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Old May 10th, 2008, 10:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lhall85917
Mike, thank you so much for posting! Your information will be invaluable to us. We will be on the Jewel June 10 - can't wait!! We also have a BA on deck 10, it is an aft cabin. Am I reading right that this now entitles you to lunch and breakfast in Cagneys - that is great news if that is correct!!
Ihall:

Sorry, but the Cagney's breakfast and lunch was something special that was arranged for us by a friend. It is normally only available to full suite passengers. It will make me want to book a suite next time that I sail, if only for this little perk.

Take care,
Mike
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Old May 10th, 2008, 10:13 PM
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After successfully stealing the secrets of Moose and Squirrel Natasha and I are safely in St. Petersburg harbor. I know Fearless Leader will be very happy.

Now back to reality. We are sailing into the St. Petersburg harbor. Yesterday we were in the tiny country of Estonia and had the pleasure of experiencing it's city of Tallinn. Tallinn is really a jewel of the Baltic. It truly gives you that old world feeling with its architecture, winding cobblestone streets, squares and castels. All of which can be seen in the Old City that is a twenty minute walk from the harbor. If you truly want to feel like you have stepped back in time, or at least onto the set of an old James Bond movie than Taliin is for you. There are plenty of little shops and wonderful restaurants and coffee shops to occupy the short amount of time you have here. My wife and I found a literal hole in the wall restaurant. It is in the basement of another building and I had to crouch to go down the stairway and enter but it was well worth it. A lunch of roasted boar for my wife and lamb for me was a real treat.

One thing to be aware of is that the old city is built on a hill and the streets are cobblestone, so be careful walking. It may be a good idea to go to the cruise terminal and grab a taxi for the uphill trip to the Old City if you aren't comfortable with walking. The walk back is all downhill so it's a bit easier.

The seas are still as smooth as glass and if anyone says they have had problems with the motion of the ship then they may need to rethink their version of motion because there hasn't been any.

We did have our best meal on Friday night in Le Bistro. I really do stress that if you do try a Freestyle cruise to try and experience at least two of the alternative restaurants to really enhance your experience.

I have found one negative thing about the ship and it's the food in the Garden Cafe. On our first day we ate there for lunch, while waiting for the cabins to be made up, and while the layout is great the temperature of the food was not good. Unfortunately this has remained the same throughout the trip. Each time we've eaten there the hot items are luke warm at best and many dishes just cold. Last night we decided to try it for dinner. They set up the area with white table clothes and electric candles to give it a nice ambience. My wife and I filled our plates and sat down. After a few bites we had to leave. The beef and gravy was very cold and the fish was no different. We decided to go to Tangos, the Mexican restaurant, and were very satisfied that we did. If you enjoy Mexican food than this is a great choice. The only complaint was that the refried beans had a strange similiarity to Taco Bell's. The location for Tangos is one of the best on the ship. You can listen to the pianist or the string quartet playing in the atrium just below you.

We had a cocktail party with the senior officers and some staff on Friday and we enjoyed the time with them. I did mention the lack of warmth of the Garden Cafe food and the Hotel Manager said he would look into it. I guess he hadn't by Saturday. It was rather interesting that I had a chance to spend an hour with the senior staff and it turned out that I just spent a couple of minutes with the Hotel Manager and spent the rest of the time with the ship's computer services officer and Andre, the Internet Cafe manager. We talked technology and how it is used onboard the ship. This evening I will get to see the computer room on the ship. It isn't the engine room but I'm excited to see how they rack their systems.

Well it's time to get ready for our first of two days in St. Petersburg. We have a private guide lined up and hopefully she'll be waiting, with sign in hand, to show us what I have heard is a very beautiful city.

Where should I have breakfast today? Decisions decision.



Take care,
Mike
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Old May 11th, 2008, 04:35 PM
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Hi Mike and Betty,

I'm sitting in my hotel room in Rome, after a fabulous day exploring the city... but getting ready for bed, as we have an early flight home tomorrow.. and a 14 hr travel day, and two chances for the airlines to lose my luggage again.

All in all I'd much rather be heading to St. Petersburg with you two!! You are going to LOVE it! Have a great cruise. I'll get home and be cruising again with you via my eyes.
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Old May 11th, 2008, 06:09 PM
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Thanks, Mike, for great detail. We will be on the same cruise in the summer. Have you met any of the Cruise Critic group? There were quite a few who were going to do some local tours together.

Question - When are the restaurant discounts - early meals or late? A couple of years ago, meals were half price in specialty restaurants before 6 (5-6, I think). Someone else said they were discounted later. Info would be appreciated.

Have a great time!
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Old May 12th, 2008, 07:18 PM
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Hey Mike, I can't wait to hear about what you see in St Petersburg. Being the world traveler you are I am sure you have already been there, but that just gives you more opportunity to see something different. I have been there thre differeent times, for a total of eight days, and there are still things I haven't seen that i would like to see.

St Pete's has always been one of the most fascinating cruise ports ever...

I have also been on th Baltic Sea when the water was like glass. It is eerie almost.
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Old May 13th, 2008, 12:11 AM
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Well, it’s been a few days but with the last three days I haven’t had much time to do anything except sightsee, eat and sleep. I didn’t play trivia until yesterday.

We arrived in St. Petersburg to beautiful weather and temps in the 60’s. The port of St. Petersburg is not indicative of what you will find in this beautiful city. The port is basically a port, with cargo containers, cranes and trucks. Don’t worry you will soon find yourself immersed in a world of history, art and some very beautiful architecture.

Disembarking the ship was easy but you must be on a tour or have tour papers, from a private and licensed tour company, in order to get through immigration. DO NOT BELIEVE THE DOCUMENTATION THAT YOU RECEIVE IN YOUR CABIN THAT STATES YOU MUST HAVE A TOURIST VISA IN ORDER TO TAKE A PRIVATE TOUR. This is something a bit deceptive that NCL does. They justify it by stating this is for people who think they can just walk off the ship. Just remember to make sure that any guide service you arrange is licensed and will provide you with a detailed itinerary that you can show the immigration officers at the port.

We had arranged our own private guide, Julia Ivanushka of TJ Travel, and she showed us all of St. Petersburg. We saw the Hermitage, Church of Spilled Blood, Church of St. Peter and Paul and had lunch with a Russian couple, Alex and Lena, in their home. That was on the first day. On the second day we went to the beautiful summer palace of Catherine the Great at Peterhof. Peterhof is beautiful and rivals Versailles with its fountains and gardens. The main palace was closed on Monday (so is the Hermitage) so we did not go inside but there was plenty of beauty to see in the gardens, bathhouse and the beautiful fountains to occupy us for our time there. Peterhof is something of a miracle because most of it was destroyed and ransacked during WWII. The entire complex has been rebuilt since the war, restoring it to its bygone beauty. We returned to the ship via the hydrofoil and it was well worth the additional 300 rubels. ($7) I have MANY pictures to post but I haven’t had a chance to downsize and upload them yet. I hope I can on the next sea day.

When visiting St. Petersburg you will see beautiful architecture but there is still evidence of the communist days with many of the buildings being a bit drab and gray. Then suddenly you will see something that will jump out at you like a jewel on a plain silver band.

There are a couple of hints for those going to St. Petersburg: You should go with a guide or a ship’s tour. Very few people speak English and unless you speak and read Russian you will not be able to find your way around too easily. Many places do take U.S. dollars but you will get a better rate if you use Rubels.
ATM machines are plentiful and there is one at the entrance to the port. Just make sure you don’t end up with too many or you will have a hard time exchanging them. Another thing to note is that Russian businesses don’t like to make change. If your bill is 500 rubels and you give them a 1000 rubel note they will inevitably ask for smaller bills. This was a bit of a nuisance but each time I pressed them they were able to make change.

If you can visit the Metro subway I suggest you do. It is beautiful and very clean. You cannot take pictures there and in many other places but it is something to remember, especially if you’ve been on some subways in other parts of the world or in the U.S. If you have the chance though, take a look at the people’s faces as they come up the long escalator from the subway. It may give you an insight.

Yesterday, as we left Peterhoff it finally began to rain and we experienced our first cold temperatures. This morning we are just coming into Helsinki and while cooler (41F) we once again have clear skies. I may finally get to use my hooded sweat shirt.

I have one disturbing observation that I am wondering if it is coincidence or fact. It does seem the food in the pay restaurants is of significant better quality and better prepared than the food in the non-pay restaurants. We have experienced overcooked, to the point of crumbling, pork in the Tsar’s palace, cold meat in Tango’s and the Garden Restaurant is a place my wife will no longer visit because of the cold food. I have mentioned it to the Hotel Manager but it still doesn’t seem any different. Last night we were so tired that we went up to the buffet for dinner and, once again, left almost full plates because it was cold. We just went to the Blue Lagoon and had a hamburger (it was very good) and then went to bed. I awoke at 5:15 a.m. after my first eight hour sleep of the cruise.

Now it is time to shower and get ready to see what Helsinki has to offer. I’ll let you know.

Take care,
Mike
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Old May 13th, 2008, 01:25 AM
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Mike - did you go to the palace that has the Amber Room - as reconstructed after WW2 (the Nazis essentially stole it) - it isn't at Peterhof, it is near Pushkin, a small town inland.

I am guessing this was your first visit to St Petersburg. if you truly love it, I really recommend the "waterways of the Tsars" river tour from Moscow to St Pete's. That was something, and you get two or three days in each Moscow and St Pete's.
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Old May 13th, 2008, 02:08 AM
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Mike, your reports are wonderful; however, your description of the food is turning me off to ever trying NCL. This is unfortunate as I prefer open seating and less formal cruising with multiple dining options. However, if many of the options are poor, and more importantly, the onboard staff doesn't care, I don't want to waste my money.

We are hoping on sailing to the Baltic next year so I have enjoyed each of your port descriptions.
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Old May 16th, 2008, 05:46 PM
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Sorry for the lack of reports in the last three days but the Compaq laptop has died. It looks like the CPU. I'll be able to add once we are home on Sunday.

Thanks for reading,
Mike
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Old May 17th, 2008, 09:32 PM
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Mike, sailing along with you and Betty, has been so interesting. Seeing the sights through your eyes, and your wit, has been fun..Looking forward to hearing more, in chat..safe travels.
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Old May 20th, 2008, 09:27 PM
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Mike,
Thanks for bringing back great memories of our families Baltic cruise. I've enjoyed your travels,
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Old May 25th, 2008, 11:10 AM
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Where did you go, Mike? I've been waiting patiently to hear more about your trip!!
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