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Thread: Baltic Cruise

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Baltic Cruise

    My wife and I just purchased a Baltic cruise leaving from Southampton in early July. Although we've been to St. Petersburg before, this will hopefully give her a chance to see Peterhof (Peter the Great's palace), Catherine the Great's palace, and the Peter-Paul fortress. I've been to all of these before, but that was 43 years ago. The only other stop on the tour that we've never been to is Tallinn, Estonia, although we first met in a class on the Estonia language. We've forgotten almost all of our Estonian, but this has long been on our bucket list. Baltic cruises are usually more expensive than others in Europe, but we managed to find a reasonably good deal on Celebrity's Silhouette.

    The cruise lasts 2 weeks, but afterwards we may spend a week in the UK--possibly to visit Scotland or Wales. Plans still a little unfixed right now.

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    I was eyeing up a cruise in the Baltics too when we were looking for something in Europe earlier this year. Visiting Russia is appealing to me, especially since I dedicated a good chunk of time to studying it in the past few years.

    Seemed like a good way to get to Russia, given convincing my partner to fly right into Moscow for a vacation would be a hard sell. Alas, even the cruise didn't work out, so Greek Isles it is.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Visas for US tourists going to Russia are expensive and a bit of a hassle, but cruisers in St. Petersburg can get temporary visas that require one to be on an organized tour. You can't go off on your own, which is what we would have done otherwise. My Russian is fairly fluent, and we don't like having to rush around and not get a chance to linger over museum exhibits. But this is our best option on short notice. We'll be able to wander around Tallinn, however.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    Visas for US tourists going to Russia are expensive and a bit of a hassle, but cruisers in St. Petersburg can get temporary visas that require one to be on an organized tour. You can't go off on your own, which is what we would have done otherwise. My Russian is fairly fluent, and we don't like having to rush around and not get a chance to linger over museum exhibits. But this is our best option on short notice. We'll be able to wander around Tallinn, however.
    Sounds nice. These days I'm craving that type of travel, if any at all: out of the ordinary destinations. Convincing my fiancee to trek with me to less desirable parts of the world, though.. not sure how that'll go down. Realistically, a good next trip might be South Korea and Japan, that's one area I want to go that I could probably get her on board with.

    Anyway, hope you enjoy the cruise. Be sure to post some pics when you get back!

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    I went to Vietnam recently, and I would certainly recommend going there. We were on the Azamara Journey, which was able to travel all the way up the river and dock in Saigon. So we got a couple of days to wander the city. Also, Halong Bay (near Hanoi) is a must-see World Heritage site. Japan is a wonderful country to visit--very easy for Americans. Look into cruises out of Singapore, which is also a very nice place to spend some time in.

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    Member Tharmas's Avatar
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    One of the best trips my wife and I ever took was across Russia by rail, from Vladivostok on the Pacific all the way to Saint Petersburg. We were in a very small group, six total plus guide, and we stopped in various cities along the way for a day or two (or more) each. Vladivostok was itself fascinating, as was Irkutsk in Siberia, where we stayed in a Soviet era hotel and took a cruise on lake Baikal (this was November and it was really cold!), then on to Ekaterinburg, which was tremendous, and finally Moscow and St. Petersburg.

    Ekaterinburg was where the Bolshevists assassinated the Czar and family, and also where the U2 pilot Gary Powers was held after being shot down.

    The following picture, taken surreptitiously in the Ekaterinburg train station, is one of a series of murals showing the history of the city. It’s very dim because I didn’t dare use flash and this was in the days of 6 megapixel cameras, but in the center you can just see Powers falling from the sky amid pieces of his aircraft, showing the US insignia. On the right sits a group of officers planning the attack, and a missile being fired in the background.


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    The Baltics?

    The Baltics moved higher up my bucket list, now that I've got the Balkans out of the way.

    You are 'cruising'? Starting and ending in the UK? You obviously have St. Pete on the itinerary, but what other stops in the fortnight of coastal raids?

    St. Pete is a must. The Hermitage is a must. I also recommend St. Isaacs and a canal tour. (Keep your hands on your valuables.)

    I'd like to take a month to start and end at Copenhagen, doing the German, Polish, then the Baltic Republics, back to St. Pete (because I missed Peterhof when I was there), Finland, and looping back through Sweden.

    Norway will have to wait for my return to the North Sea.

    $$$ is what I keep running in to.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Besides Tallinn, we have Brugges, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Rostock on this cruise. Not sure that we'll leave the ship at those ports, since this particular itinerary docks further from the cities than we'd like to be. We've been to all of those cities before, but it's always fun to find new things to see in them. Unfortunately, we won't be stopping at Gdansk.

    We're on a huge ship (almost 3,000 passengers), although the Celebrity Silhouette is a nice ship. I prefer the small ones, especially the Azamara line. The last time one of their ships stopped at Gdansk, Lech Walesa came on board and passengers got to talk with him. The Azamara ships have just about 650 passengers and can dock at smaller ports. Unfortunately, they are more expensive cruises.

    My wife and I took a land trip to St. Petersburg in 1997, where we were met by over 40 Russians, who had come from all over Russia to meet us. I had been the "caretaker" of an online virtual world called Russkiy Mir ("Russian World"), and these were people I had interacted with frequently for a few years. They took us on a traditional picnic outside the city, after which we toured some of the sites in the city, including the ones you mentioned--St. Isaacs (where we went up around the roof of the dome) and the Hermitage. We didn't cruise the canals, but we were out late looking at the "white night" across the Neva River one time, and the metro closed down before we could get back to the hotel. So we walked about a mile along a canal to get back to the hotel. That was our "canal tour".

    Cruise passengers get a free temporary visa, but it requires us to be with an organized tour at all times. So we booked a tour with a private company that will take us out of town for the main sites. It will be cheaper than the ship tour and have only 16 people. The ship tour is a large busload that sees fewer sites. Unfortunately, chances to use my Russian will be limited. No wandering about, as we've done in the past.

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    Wow...3000 passengers is a shipload.

    We've been booking with Grand Circle Cruise Lines/Overseas Adventure Travel for river travel throughout Europe. Have done the Canal du Midi and Garonne, and the whole transit from Amsterdam to the Black Sea via the Rhine, Main, and Danube. Their voyages are usually in the realm of 120-150 passengers (the Canal du Midi was 22 couples), meaning that we had three herders (with a bus and driver each) to keep us together and in our bubble in the city tours. I still have the Rhone and the Elbe to do, but could easily get diverted to the Dalmatian coast, the Greek isles, the Turkish coast, or the Baltics. The Dalmatian coast is the least expensive at this point. Central and Eastern Europe are pretty good values, in my estimation.

    When I was in St. Petes, I was on a tourist visa. I spent about four days around the end of the first week in June. It was, for me, a spectacular end to more than a month of traveling the east end of the Silk Road. I, by the way, highly recommend Sogdia as a destination....Samarkand and Bukhara are pretty amazing. I didn't get to Merv and everything south and west was out of bounds at the time (and still is). I went with an Australian tour group, SunDowners, which I highly recommend. They do the cross-continental train tours, like from Vladivastok to St. Petes. Most of my trip across northern China was on sleeper rail, with a couple days each in Turpan and Kashgar. Going over the Tian Shan was even more remarkable; as it was in a former Soviet Army officers' all-track vehicle.

    (Do you have problems remembering to call it 'St. Petersburg'? I still tend to prefer 'Leningrad'.)
    Last edited by whollygoats; 06-15-2018 at 10:02 PM.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by whollygoats View Post
    ...(Do you have problems remembering to call it 'St. Petersburg'? I still tend to prefer 'Leningrad'.)
    Well, "Leningrad" was the name I knew it by when I first visited in 1965. However, I have read that the residents have always tended to refer to it as "Piter", even after the name was changed by the Soviets.

    When we were in Moscow in 1997, they had just erected a monstrous statue of Peter the Great on the Moscow River. (See https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11568878). Muscovites hated it, because they resented Peter for moving the capital from their city to his new capital in the north. Why put up a statue of him in Moscow?

    I would love to take the trans-siberian railroad trip, but it becomes less feasible as we get older. But we are still tossing the idea around. Cruises are much easier to handle, since you don't have to struggle with luggage. You take your hotel room, fancy meals, and entertainment with you.

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