After rather early start – the pilot was on board shortly before 4.00am – we sailed through the archipelago of tiny islands surrounding the Swedish capital. Stunning views, sadly too early for most of our guests, but fortunately they had another chance to see these on the way back this evening. We docked just before 8.00am and the sun was out to greet us; a nice change after a rather cloudy and windy Gdynia.
The first excursions set off at 8.30, one of which made for the Old Town, visiting the iconic red brick Town Hall, followed by the Vasa museum, with a restoration of the magnificent Vasa warship which sank in the harbour shortly after being launched in 1628. Several other tours focused on the city centre of Stockholm, with visits to the Coronation Church, where many of Sweden’s monarchs have married, the Riddarholmen church, where Sweden’s kings are buried, or Hallywylska Palace, built in the late 19th Century. Other excursions took guests a little further, one of which was around an hour’s drive to Sweden’s oldest town of Sigtuna which was founded in 980. Meanwhile others visited the enchanting royal residence of Drottningholm Palace, or embarked on a cruise along the ‘Waterways of Stockholm’.
Once everyone was back on board we prepared to set sail for Helsinki. Whilst we were able to appreciate the stunning views of the city and the surrounding islands, a Line Dancing Sailaway Party was held on the Veranda Deck. Our Explosive Productions Dancers led the dance, in anticipation of tonight’s Hoedown show. At 8.45pm in the Drawing Room we had a ‘Sherlock Holmes Music Murder Mystery Quiz’ hosted by our Cruise Director John Parton, who was accompanied by our cocktail pianist Martin Orbidans. Later, at 9.30pm in the Britannia Lounge, Explosive Productions took to the stage with their newest show, ‘Hoedown Showdown’: a high energy extravaganza featuring all the favourites from the Country and Western genre, with a line dance finale everyone was invited to join in with. The evening’s entertainment continued with either music for dancing from the Saga Orchestra in the Britannia Lounge or from The Two Hearts Duo in the Drawing Room.
Today, after a relaxing morning at sea, we arrived in Helsinki, capital city of Finland. Had we had not been in Gdynia a few days ago, this would be my favourite port of the cruise.
Guests mustered in the Britannia Lounge shortly after we berthed, set for more Shore Excursions. The first group departed for a 45 minute drive through the Finnish countryside to the second oldest city of Porvoo. Old Porvoo is renowned for its architecture, with the town plan the same as it was in the Middle Ages. Its red riverside storehouses in the old harbour are said to be the most photographed attraction in Finland. Meanwhile, other guests explored the city of Helsinki and its surroundings. Some set off on a ‘Sibelius Experience’, with a visit to the home of Jean Sibelius, Finland’s most famous composer, followed by a performance of some of his famous works and a visit to Helsinki’s Sibelius Monument. Others also visited the Sibelius monument as part of an extensive visit of the ‘White City of the North’, with its spectacular architecture, including the Market Place, Kaivopuisto, and Helsinki’s focal point the Senate Square, with the Cathedral of St Nicholas and the Sederholm Residence.
Once everyone was back on board we set off, bound for St. Petersburg, nearly 150 nautical miles away. This evening on board was a formal occasion, and my Officers and I hosted a Cocktail Party at 6.15pm for our Britannia Club members. After another sumptuous meal courtesy of Executive Chef George Streeter and his team, in the Britannia Lounge ‘The Sounds of Simon’ entertained, with a tribute to the wonderful music of Simon and Garfunkel. Later the Saga Orchestra played a dance set for our lovers of ballroom dancing, as Resident Piano Entertainer Martin Orbidans played in Cooper’s Bar and the Two Hearts Duo played music to dance the night away in the Drawing Room.
We picked our pilot up at 4 o’clock this morning – I would not normally be pleased about such an early start, but there is something special when you sail 25 miles into the harbour. Firstly you pass Kronstadt Island on the way in. I always have a peek into the navy base there to spot some of the navy ships. Most in rather a sorry state, but every now and then you find something interesting. This time it was the famous cruiser ‘Aurora’ – the key ship of the October Revolution. Normally stationed in the heart of the city, last year it was towed to Kronstadt and apparently there are some plans to recommission her and make her a flag ship of the Russian Navy, due to her historical and cultural importance. However the pilot on board did not share the enthusiasm and thought that this money could be spent elsewhere.
We docked just before 8.00am at the Marine Façade Terminal in St. Petersburg with lots of excursions in prospect throughout the day. The first group set off at 8.15 for Catherine’s Palace, originally commissioned by Peter the Great for his wife Catherine I and later embellished by Empress Elizabeth. The next excursion set off for a visit to the magnificent Peterhof Gardens, followed by a Road Train ride to the Park of Alexandria and the Cottage Palace. Other groups set off for trips around the city centre of St Petersburg, one on which went on a Panoramic Tour viewing all the main attractions of St Petersburg, as another group went on a trip entitled ‘Visions of St Petersburg’, viewing all the main sights, followed by a visit to the splendid Spilled Blood Cathedral followed by a cruise along the Moika and the Fontanka Rivers.
In the afternoon more passengers set off for more trips into town, with 2 Groups heading for the famous Fabergé Museum. Others went on a trip entitled ’St Petersburg Cathedrals’ with visits to St Isaac’s Cathedral, the Kazan Cathedral and to the Spilled Blood Cathedral. Meanwhile other groups discovered ‘Railway Engines and Machinery from the Soviet Era’, or visited the oldest structure in St Petersburg: the Peter and Paul Cathedral.
In the evening, after an early dinner, guests dressed up for their evening excursions. One group enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime exclusive tour of the Hermitage.
After an overnight in St Petersburg some of our passengers were up bright and early to embark on more adventures. The first groups left at 7.45am for a full day tour of St Petersburg and the Peterhof gardens. Other guests set off to see the sights that they were unable to see the day before, be it the Hermitage, the Peter and Paul Fortress, or the Cathedrals around the city. Meanwhile some guests visited the Palaces of Menshikov and Yusupov, two buildings with a rich history, the latter being the place of the murder of Rasputin. Other passengers travelled west of St Petersburg to the town of Schlisselburg where they took a boat, on a brand new tour, for a visit to Oreshek Fortress which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, often referred to as the “Russian Alcatraz”.
We slipped our lines just after 6pm and sailed back into the Gulf of Finland towards our next port - Tallinn.
We arrived this morning at 9.00am in the magical city of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, with its iconic medieval town centre.
Guests met Assistant Cruise Director Kayleigh Lucas in the Britannia lounge, ready to have their tickets stickered and embark upon more exciting excursions. The first group left just after arrival, first visiting the Old Town and then the modern city of Tallinn before heading to Saue Manor, a manor house dating back to the 18th century. Other groups focused mainly on the Old Town of Tallinn with its 13th century Gothic Domed Church, its Town Hall Square and its 15th century pharmacy.
Other excursions left in the early afternoon on museum-based excursions. The first going to the Patarei prison-museum, followed by the Seaplane Harbour, one of the most unique maritime museums in Europe. The second tour went on a ‘Soviet Memories’ tour, with visits to the KGB museum, and the Museum of Occupation.
All aboard time today was 6.00pm, as we set sail for Saaremaa, an approximate distance of 144 nautical miles away. At 6.15pm, just after departure, the Tiffany String Quartet took to the stage of the Britannia Lounge with ‘A Journey Through Europe’, featuring works by Grieg, Shostakovich & Ravel. At 8.45pm in the Drawing Room, Team Trivia was hosted this evening by Cruise Staff Host Jay, and at 9.30pm in the Britannia Lounge The Explosive Singers and Dancers took guests to L.A. with their show ‘Hollywood Nights’, a tribute to the golden age of Hollywood, featuring songs from ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, ‘Chicago’, ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, and ‘James Bond’.
This morning we arrived in the port of Saaremaa, on the largest of Estonia’s islands, at 8 o’clock, to be surrounded by luscious green forests. It was quite a contrast from the previous buzzing metropolitan ports. A very tranquil place – ideal for our guests after their quite intensive tour programme of the last few days.
Guests gathered in the Britannia Lounge just after our arrival ready to discover this beautiful island. With trips visiting Kuressaare, the capital of the island, as well as countryside farms, castles, parks and windmills, guests were able to explore the island in all its charm. Other passengers chose to go out independently for walks (or jogs) through the forests, passing quaint log cabins on the way.
A special Chocolate Afternoon Tea in the Britannia Lounge awaited guests upon their arrival back on board, with a selection of cakes, sandwiches and scones and an irresistible chocolate fountain, with musical accompaniment from Martin Orbidans.
This evening we set sail for Riga, nearly 170 nautical miles away and shortly afterwards Classical Pianist Alex Negriuc performed once again in the Britannia Lounge, this time with a recital entitled “F. Chopin & His Favourite Pupil”. After another Team Trivia session with Cruise Staff Host Andrew, in the Britannia Lounge, the lovely Robyn North performed her second show, with more sensational singing from this superb soprano. Later, in the Drawing Room, Explosive Vocalists Tom Melling and Jack Townsend sang “Something for Everyone”, featuring music from Big Band and Swing to Musical Theatre and dance floor fillers.
We arrived this morning around 8 o’clock in the pretty city of Riga, capital city of Latvia. The sun was out and remained for the rest of our stay. We docked as close to the city centre as we could. Any closer and we would have to negotiate our way with the road traffic on the bridge ahead!
Passengers set off this morning to discover this beautiful city with its modern New Town, its Medieval Old Town and its Art Nouveau architecture. The first group left for a ‘Highlights of Riga’ excursion, featuring the symbolic Freedom Monument, the Dome Cathedral and the 13th century churches of St Peter and St John. The second group visited Jurmala resort, a 20 mile stretch of sea shore and Baltic spa resort, with its wooden summer cottages, before visiting an Open Air museum. The next group set out to discover what is known as the ‘Latvian Switzerland’, the breath taking region of Sigulda, before visiting the Old Town of Riga. The last 2 groups focused on the city centre and its main highlights with a Panoramic tour and a relaxing Canal Boat ride.
All aboard time today was 7.30pm, with a sea day to look forward to before arriving in Warnemünde on Sunday. This evening, in the Britannia Lounge, there was a fun-filled “Call My Bluff”. This was hosted by our Security Officer Rob Payne and on the panel were Cruise Director John Parton, Social Hostess Carol Curling and Chief Engineer Steven Hare. To finish off a lovely day, in the Drawing Room Explosive Vocalists Beth Adams and Charlotte McGrory sang a selection of favourites from Motown to Musical Theatre to Disco.
After a lovely Saturday at sea, we arrived in Rostock bright and early this morning at 7.00am. On the way in we passed some tall ships remaining alongside after the big sail event in Warnemunde. It was truly magnificent sight and close to my heart as well as I spent part of my cadetship on one of those.
Guests set off straight away in order to make the most of a full day trip to Berlin. On this 12 hour excursion, passengers were able to enjoy all the main sights of Berlin, first by coach, and then going on a pleasure cruiser along the Spree, passing sights such as Bellevue Palace, Museum Island or the Reichstag, on top of which they would later enjoy a glass of champagne whilst admiring the stunning views of the city. The second group headed off to discover the city of Rostock, with its distinctive red-brick architecture, its beautiful City Hall, and a visit to the Stasi museum, the interrogation centre of East Germany’s KGB. In the afternoon another group set off on an excursion entitled ‘The Molli and the Minster’, on which guests embarked on an adventure to the town of Bad Doberan where they could admire the 700-year-old Minster, before leaving the town on the Molli narrow-gauge steam train, followed by coffee and cake on the beach promenade.
All aboard time today was 7.30pm, with a journey through the Kiel Canal in prospect tomorrow. In the evening our Cruise Director John Parton hosted a quiz in the Drawing Room, followed in the Britannia Lounge by the Explosive Singers and Dancers in ‘All You Need is Love’, a tribute to the Beatles with stunning costumes, vintage vocal harmonies and high energy dance routines. After 10.00pm the Two Hearts Duo invited guests to join them in the Drawing Room for a ‘60s & ‘70s Dance Party.
After a day-cruising the Kiel Canal, with a wonderful special lunchtime surprise German Beerfest courtesy of Food & Beverage Manager Julien Neagu and Executive Chef George Streeter, followed by a formal evening with our Farewell Cocktail Party, we were scheduled to arrive in Ijmuiden at 1.00pm this afternoon. However due to one lock operation on the Western end of the canal our transit was somewhat slower than usual and we arrived at around 3.00pm this afternoon.
Despite our delayed arrival three different excursions set off for Amsterdam, two of which featured the main sights of the Dutch capital, followed by a Canal Cruise, and the other a transfer to the city, where guests were able to do as they pleased for a few hours before getting a transfer back to the ship. One of the excursions, entitled ‘A Taste of Holland’, took passengers through the countryside to a quaint Dutch ‘windmill village’, where they were also able to witness the craft of clog making, later continuing to the Dutch village of Edam with the chance to discover this lovely town, followed by a visit to the local cheese factory, which our guests were invited to sample.
We departed this evening at just after 8.00pm bound for Dover, after another great day on which to end this cruise. This evening in the Drawing Room a final Team Trivia session was hosted by Cruise Staff Andrew. Before the show however, the winners of the Shore Excursions and Questionnaires draws were announced followed by the winners of the Cruise Staff Activity League. A presentation was also held for our cyclists who did a charity cycle of the Kiel Canal in aid of schools and infrastructure in Nepal. All in all with the sponsored cycle and a charity raffle we held, we were able to raise nearly £1900 for this great cause. Explosive Productions then took to the stage for their farewell show entitled ‘Come On Over To My Place’, a tribute to the music of the legendary Drifters.
I am pleased to announce that we may have broken the record while transiting the Kiel Canal. Sadly, it is not one to be really proud of as it was the slowest transit I have ever experienced. I guess the ‘German efficiency’ stereotype is not really applicable to the Kiel Canal. Nevertheless it did not stop us from arriving on time to our first port of call this cruise – Aalborg in Denmark – on time on Saturday morning and on the 70th Anniversary of V-J Day. A bright start to the day as the sun shone on this city dating back to around 700 AD. On the quayside, there was a hotdog-stand from which complimentary Danish-style hotdogs were available for guests all day long.
The first guests gathered in the Britannia Lounge ready to embark upon shore excursions at 8.30am. The first group set off on a journey to the most northerly town in Denmark, the town of Skagen, with its distinctive old yellow houses with red tiled roofs, and its lovely peaceful atmosphere, where they would have a spot of lunch, before heading to Grenen, at the very top of Denmark. The groups set off for tours entailing visits to Viking sites, including a burial site and a Fortress built in around 980 AD. Other guests went on walking tours around the city centre. The first group enjoyed views of all the main architectural gems of Aalborg with Jens Bang’s Stone House, the Budolfi Cathedral, the Monastery of the Holy Ghost and Aalborghaus Castle. The second group set off on a ‘Beer Walk’, going to 3 different pubs around the city, whilst visiting the city itself along the way: at the final stop, to soak up some of the beer, guests had a sumptuous salad with pickled herring, a local delicacy, and a shot of schnapps!
All aboard time today was 5.30pm as we set sail for Fredericia. At 6 o’clock in the Britannia Lounge, to commemorate V-J Day, we had a special Cocktail Party where passengers were invited to enjoy a glass of “Lest We Forget”, “Taste of Victory” or “Peacetime Punch”, whilst waving the Union Jack, and singing along to a selection of all-time favourites. Later, at 9.30pm, ‘Piano A Deux’, a husband and wife piano-duo took to the stage, with a show entitled “From Mistresses to Manhattan”. Later, the Saga Orchestra played music for dancing, while Martin Orbidans played in Cooper’s Bar, and the Two Hearts Duo played up in the Drawing Room till late.
The first excursion left the quayside at around 8.30am on a trip to discover Egeskov Castle, Europe’s best preserved Renaissance water castle, dating back to 1554. Apart from the castle itself, the grounds featured a vintage car and motorcycle museum, a museum of Danish Fire & Rescue services, an Agricultural Museum and more, not to mention the beautiful 49 acre old park surrounding the castle, with its charming gardens.
The next group set off on an excursion entitled ‘Hans Christian Anderson Origins’, in which they were taken to the island of Funen and the historic city of Odense, the birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson, to discover more about the life of this iconic writer, visiting the H.C. Anderson Museum, which opened in 1908. Other guests set off on a Walking Tour to discover this interesting town, with its ramparts, and its churches, and it is also the birthplace of famous author Henrik Pontoppidan, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1917.
After lunch, guests went out for a trip to the Royal Jelling UNESCO SITE, one of Denmark’s main historical tourist attractions. After a 40-minute drive, guests arrived at the Royal Jelling museum, featuring the famous Jelling Stones, and they very much enjoyed looking around Denmark’s largest Viking Complex, an area which has figured on UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 1994.
Once everyone was back on board we cast off, bound for Copenhagen approximately 129 nautical miles away. As we sailed away, the marching band was back on the quayside, and bid us farewell with a selection of their favourites. In the evening, Guest Speaker, Broadcaster and Journalist John Clithero proposed a pre-dinner presentation entitled “The name is Bond… James Bond”. After dinner the Rat Pack tribute group took to the stage for their second show, “When You’re Drinkin’”, with more from some of the greatest American swingers of all time.
After a quiet transit from Fredericia we arrived alongside at 8 o’clock this morning. With it only being a short distance to our next port I have decided to stay alongside for the night and to leave tomorrow morning, so our guests can also enjoy some of the night life of this vibrant city.
As we entered the harbour we were greeted by a familiar sight of the already docked M/V Berlin, which some of you should remember as the one and only Spirit of Adventure. It was a heart-warming feeling to me as well, as she was my first command and I have lots of fond memories of taking her into exotic places a few years ago. She looked much smaller that I remembered, though.
Our first guests gathered in the Britannia Lounge before setting off on their excursions. The first group left for a walking tour, ideal for this city as many of the sights of Copenhagen are located within a short distance of each other. On this tour guests were able to see the famous statue of the Little Mermaid, to take photos of the Gefion Fountain, or to visit the fairy tale castle of Rosenborg. The 2 other morning groups set out on a ‘City Tour’, on which both groups were able to discover the City centre of Copenhagen, and for the first group this tour entailed not only a tour of the city but also a canal boat cruise along the city’s waterways and through the harbour. The second group went on a city tour viewing the main sights of the city including the seat of the Government Christiansborg Palace and the Danish royal residence in Amalienborg Palace square, followed by a trip to Frederiksberg, and the Carlsberg Brewery, which dates back to 1847, with a tour of the production facilities and a chance to sample some of Carlsberg’s many different brands in the microbrewery & Bar Jacobsen.
This evening our Assistant Cruise Director Kayleigh Lucas hosted Team Trivia in the Drawing Room. Then, in the Britannia Lounge, our Explosive Singers and Dancers took to the stage with ‘Hollywood Nights, a show featuring songs from many of the all-time Hollywood favourites.
This morning we docked at 8.00am at in the Norwegian port of Sandefjord, on one of the hottest days of the summer yet in Norway. Guests going on excursions this morning were granted a lie-in, with the first excursion gathering at 9.15am in the Britannia Lounge.
The first group set off on an all-day excursion to Norway’s capital city of Oslo: on this tour passengers journeyed approximately an hour and a half to Oslo, where they started with a sightseeing tour, driving past the Akershus Fortress, Parliament Building, Royal Palace and Nobel Institute before arriving at the Vigeland Sculpture Park. After visiting the park, guests went for lunch at a local hotel in Oslo, followed by more sightseeing on the way to the Bygdøy Peninsula to visit the Viking Ship Museum. This museum houses three Viking longboats and two of the best preserved 9th-century ships as well as many other artefacts from the Viking Era. The second group this morning departed for a cruise on the historic Telemark Canal and after lunch in Lunde overlooking the locks, guests embarked MS Victoria for a 2 hour cruise along some of the nicest stretches of the canal passing through 10 of the 18 lock chambers, descending 144 feet whilst enjoying the magnificent view and a Norwegian waffle.
Other groups left after lunch, in the early afternoon. The first going on a ‘Sandefjord and Coastal Panoramic’ Excursion on which our guests first discovered the lovely town of Sandefjord with is Framnes Shipyard, its Whaling Monument and its charming wooden buildings, before heading off to Midtasen, former home of shipping magnate and philanthropist Anders Jahre with its interesting sculpture collection. It was then time to drive to the pretty little seaside town of Stavern where after tea or coffee and cake in a local hotel, guests had free time to explore the 17th Century Naval Fortress or stroll around the town. The other afternoon group set off on a ‘Viking History’ excursion, on which after viewing the Gokstad Viking burial mound passengers went to the oldest town in Norway, Tønsberg where, under the monastery ruins, could be found several Viking graves. This was followed by a visit to the Slottsfjell Museum which is home to Norway’s fourth Viking trading ship from Klåstad, the only one not located in Oslo.
All aboard time this evening was 8.30pm, as we prepared for a relaxing day at sea to come. At 9.30pm, in the Britannia Lounge, singing sensation Justine Balmer performed a selection of songs from Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Il Divo to name but a few. The Saga Orchestra then played music for dancing, as our Cocktail Pianist Martin Orbidans played in Cooper’s Bar, and the Two Hearts Duo played up in the Drawing Room.
You may have expected a different port title for this entry, but yes, today, we ended up quite unexpectedly in Newcastle.
Following our departure from Sandefjord two days ago I reviewed the forecasts for our next port - Lerwick, and then I checked those again using different sources. They were quite consistent – gale force winds and rough seas. Knowing that we were meant to tender in Lerwick I decided that this may not be the best option as we would struggle to get there, only to realise that we could not run a safe tender operation. So I asked my team to work on an alternative plan and they came up with Newcastle. This was not only a much safer option but would also allow us to stay longer and to dock alongside. A win-win situation welcomed by our passengers and the Newcastle residents.
So we arrived this morning at Northumbrian Quay rather early – at 6 o’clock. Only last night we received a call from the harbour master asking as to arrive at that time as all the local tugboats were engaged in a dry-docking operation. It is good to hear that British ship-building is still doing fine and keeping their hands full. Less good for me, as yours truly had to start his shift rather early, well before 4AM.
Despite the late change of itinerary our Shore Excursions Team Andy Barr and Grazia Giarrizzo worked hard to ensure that guests had excursions to go on should they wish to. We were able to offer 2 tours, going on a trip to visit Hadrian’s Wall, the second going on a tour entitled ‘Newcastle, City of Culture’. Both of these tours left at around 9.00am. On top of that the shuttle bus operated the whole day to take any independent guests in to the centre of Newcastle.
This evening was a formal occasion, as I hosted my Farewell Cocktail Party in the Britannia Lounge. After another sumptuous dinner, for Main Showtime this evening our Explosive Singers and Dancers performed ‘All You Need Is Love’, a tribute to the ‘Fab Four’, with elaborate costumes, vintage vocal harmonies and high energy dance routines. The evening continued with music from the Saga Orchestra in the Britannia Lounge, whilst Martin Orbidans played in Cooper’s Bar and the Two Hearts Duo playd Late Night Melodies in the Drawing Room.
After another delayed transit through the Kiel Canal – this seems to be rule rather than exception for the last few weeks - we arrived into Klaipeda harbour slightly later than scheduled. Our guests were actually pleased about that, as they could have a rather easy start to the day with all tours setting off after lunch. The weather looked promising, and it was indeed a lovely sunny day.
The first group left on a trip to the Curonian peninsula, also known as Neringa after a giantess who is said to have lived there according to legend: on this tour guests discovered the highest spot in Northern Europe, a strip of land which since 2000 has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a visit to an amber gallery and the town of Nida. The second group went on a tour to the site of the Soviet Nuclear Weapons Program that was developed during the Cold War, a fascinating and chilling site with relics from the Cold War and underground tunnels. Another group set out on an excursion entitled ‘Village Life in Lithuania’, in which, as the name indicates, passengers drove to the village of Gargzdai, where they met with residents of Lithuania, be it locals or ex-pats such as the former British Defence Attaché, and were able to learn about village life during Soviet control and how life has altered for Lithuania since gaining independence in 1990. The 2 final groups departed for City tours. The first went for a drive around the town, followed by a trip to Palanga, home to a Botanical park, in which stands a Neo Renaissance style mansion, which now houses the newly renovated Amber Museum. The second, after also discovering the city centre, went to Svturys brewery, the oldest operating brewery in Lithuania which was established in 1784. After following step by step the beer production of this award winning beer, guests were invited to find their favourite and enjoy tasting at a nearby restaurant.
All aboard time today was 7.30pm, with a day at sea to look forward to before our arrival in Stockholm tomorrow evening. For this evening’s main entertainment in the Britannia Lounge, Big Band and Swing Singer Jason Isaacs presented ‘The Ambassadors of Swing’ with a selection of swinging songs from Sinatra to Bobby Darin. Later, in Cooper’s Bar, Resident Piano Entertainer Perry Grant got everyone singing along, while the Two Hearts Duo played up in the Drawing Room.
It seems that having a sunny and hot weather for a prolonged time is not always welcome. We have just became victim of that, when on arrival to Stockholm we were told that we could not dock at our assigned berth. The reason given by the harbour master – not enough water alongside for our rather deep drafted vessel. So as we sailed among hundred islands of the Stockholm archipelago, together with Swedish pilot we were exploring different options. In the end we decided that we will berth alongside for the night and on the following day we will position Saga Sapphire in the heart of the harbour using ship’s anchors and the mooring buoy for our sternlines.
As we approached our berth, out on deck there was a “Saga First” – A Special Arrival with Big Band Music, courtesy of Kenny Martin and the Jazz Bandl; the atmosphere was positively tropical, with complimentary cocktails “Ella Fitzgerald” “Charlie Parker Punch” and “A very Dizzy Gillespie”! Some of our guests ventured ashore on the shuttle buses laid on to take them into the city, whilst on board after dinner, the Explosive Singers and Dancers performed their spectacular show “Hollywood Nights” – a tribute to the golden age of Tinseltown. In the Drawing Room our late show featured the fun, laughter and magical music of Perry Grant, whose jacket was as dazzling as ever!
After a restful night, we relocated Saga Sapphire in the harbour surrounded by the wonderful buildings of the old town. Rather a tricky manoeuvre I must say, utilizing both our anchors and then tying up to the buoy using four sternlines. My officers and crew, together with the Swedish pilot, did a sterling job and we were soon ready for both our morning shore excursion and for our independent travellers to take the short shuttle boat to the pier. I managed to secure a large tender boat from the port which, along with our own tender boats, made the transfer of guests speedy and efficient.
The excursions included the iconic red brick City Hall, followed by the Vasa museum, with a restoration of the magnificent Vasa warship which sank in the harbour shortly after being launched in 1628; the city centre of Stockholm, with visits to the Coronation Church, where many of Sweden’s monarchs have married, the Riddarholmen church, where Sweden’s kings are buried, or Hallywylska Palace, built in the late 19th Century. Other excursions took guests a little further, one of which took them around an hour’s drive away to Sweden’s oldest town of Sigtuna which was founded in 980. This old town featured the first street to be built in Sweden and was extremely picturesque. Meanwhile, others visited the enchanting royal residence of Drottningholm Palace, or embarked on a cruise along the ‘Waterways of Stockholm’. As we had a full day in Stockholm there was time for all guests to also enjoy the delights of the old town independently, including the Royal Palace, Parliament building, Opera House and many other sights, whilst some guests spent most of their time (and maybe their money!) in the longest shopping street in Sweden!
The last shuttle from the old town was at 4.30pm, and we prepared to sail for Turku, Finland. The weather which today had been so glorious continued with a wonderful sunset as we sailed out through the beautiful archipelago, and on Verandah Deck our Sailaway was accompanied by romantic classical music from the Pier Quartet as guests took in the spectacular views.
Kayleigh hosted tonight’s Team Trivia, and Showtime featured Colin Bryant’s Hot Rhythm Orchestra, followed by Swing and Jazz Club with The British Jazz Legends, featuring vocalist Jason Isaacs – continuing with excellent music on the Jazz Theme.
Following a nearly 5-hourly scenic sail through the Finnish Archipelago Sea, Saga Sapphire arrived for the first time at the Finnish port of Turku - the oldest city in Finland and its former capital city.
The first tour set out on an excursion entitled ‘Turku & Sheep Farm’. It started with a drive through Turku city and off to a small sheep farm in a little village by the sea called Stentorp, where guests could learn about wool production and sheep-keeping with a sheepdog performance and a handicraft exhibition followed by a cup of coffee and sweet pastry amidst this beautiful scenery, before returning to the city of Turku for a panoramic tour of all the main sights. The second group started with a short panoramic tour of Turku before continuing towards Naantali and the Gardens of Golden Beach (Kultaranta), Golden Beach being the summer residence of the President of Finland and the gardens are known as ‘mini-Versailles’. The third group went on a ‘Highlights of Turku’ excursion, viewing the city centre with its Orthodox Church, its Swedish Theatre and its Observatory before stopping to visit Turku Cathedral, followed by a visit to Turku castle, which dates back to the 13th century. Our guests enjoyed a guided tour during which they learned about the history of what is regarded as the most notable historic building in Finland, and they then travelled to the handicraft museum in Luostarinmäki comprising around 30 workshops in little wooden houses. Meanwhile, others set off on a panoramic tour of the city visiting the Castle, the Handicraft Museum, Turku Cathedral and also the town of Naantali, a popular family resort and spa town.
Once everyone was back on board we set sail towards the now Finnish capital of Helsinki. In the Britannia Lounge Destinations Speaker Keith Pritchard did a presentation on our future port of call of Tallinn. In the Drawing Room we had an early evening show, as Resident Piano Entertainer Perry Grant performed a selection of classic British sing-a-long favourites. After dinner in the Britannia Lounge, Master Marionette Artistes John Chrisholm and Josef Probst took to the stage with ‘Stars on Strings’. Later, in the Drawing Room, Explosive vocalists Beth Adams and Charlotte McGrory sang an eclectic selection of songs with ‘Something for Everyone’.
We tied up this morning at 8 o’clock in the Finnish capital of Helsinki with another beautiful sunny day in prospect. Guests met Assistant Cruise Director Kayleigh Lucas in the Britannia Lounge at 8.45am, ready for their shore excursions.
The first group set off on a ‘Sibelius Experience’, combining the highlights of Finland’s beautiful capital city with a visit to the home of the country’s most famous composer. They first visited the city itself, then left for Ainola, home of Jean Sibelius, where guests could enjoy a tour of the house with its original furnishings followed by a 30 minute performance of some of the composer’s greatest works, before returning back to Helsinki, passing the Sibelius Monument. The second group departed the ship bound for Finland’s second oldest city after Turku, the city of Porvoo a 45-minute drive from Helsinki where the town plan remains the same as it was back in the Middle Ages. On this excursion passengers had a walking tour of the Old Town followed by a cup of tea or coffee at a local café, and then free time to do some shopping. The next group left at 9.30am for a ‘Scenic Helsinki & Harbour Cruise’ on which guests started with a panoramic tour of the city centre viewing Senate Square with Helsinki Cathedral and the Government Palace, Mannerheim Street with the Theatre, the House of Parliament and the Opera House and the Olympic Stadium, before embarking on a private boat tour to discover some of the islands outside Helsinki which constitute one of the world’s largest archipelagos with approximately 330 islands. Other excursions were predominately to the delightful city centre and all its main highlights, be it the Market Place, the Sibelius Park with the famous Sibelius Monument, or the iconic Senate Square.
All aboard time today was 4.30pm, as we set sail for St Petersburg, approximately 150 nautical miles away. In the Britannia Lounge our Shore Excursions Manager Andy Barr gave a presentation covering important information about our forthcoming visit to St Petersburg. Later on I hosted a cocktail party for our Britannia Club members with my Officers, with musical accompaniment from the Saga Trio. After another sumptuous formal dinner, in the Britannia Lounge Perry Grant played music for dancing before Main Showtime. The highlight of this evening was the winner of the 10th series of The X Factor, Sam Bailey. She took to the stage with the Saga Sapphire Big Band, for an evening of spellbinding singing. Later on in the Drawing Room we had a Disco Night, with songs selected by Social Hostess Carol Curling, and performed by the Two Hearts Duo.