24th June, 2019
Sunday was sunny day spent at sea proceeding east into the central Baltic Sea, upon a ship packed with daytime activities, including a lecture by Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent travelling with us on perhaps her favourite topic – the conservation of the Cheetah. That evening we held a special cocktail party for those who were sailing for the first time with Saga – a very content bunch, indeed! I was fairly convinced by everyone I spoke to that it wouldn’t be their last…
Monday morning is often the dread of many people, however we awoke to another sunny morning and the skyline of the historically important sea port of Gdansk ahead of us. Saga Sapphire is one of the larger ships permitted up the river Motlawa River, and due to her relatively large size in comparison to the width & depth of the river, the port offered 3 tugboats to our aid for berthing. Three was considered rather excessive, especially given the benign weather conditions, so we opted to utilise 1 tugboat and proceeded astern (reversed, in landlubber lingo) around 3 miles up the river to our berth.
Arriving alongside our berth at 08:00 almost precisely, we noted that the locals had erected what looked like a stretched telephone booth and written ‘cruise terminal’ on the top of it, to satisfy the needs of those who might anticipate such a structure to exist on every berth we dock next to. This was one of the many indicators that the port is not regularly visited by cruise ships – which is astonishing really – for Gdansk is a beautiful Baltic city steeped in history.
On first sighting from afar, the architectural impression of suburbs is a city with many reminders of the communist era, but once you reach the centre and the old town, a much more medieval feel is presented. Having changed hands several times between Poland & Prussia, as well as becoming a rather multicultural place with sizable German, Dutch and Polish populations, the city was finally restored to Poland under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement, post WW2.
Due to our proximity from the city centre further downstream the river, we provided the usual shuttle buses running every 20 minutes or so from ship to city centre and vice versa. Those wishing to explore themselves by foot were of course free to do so, at any time of the day. Alternatively of course, there were a number of tours on offer from our Explore Ashore team. One could opt to see the city by foot, coach or even by pirate galleon on the river…yaaaaaarrrgh…!
Those wishing to venture further afield would not be disappointed either, for we also ran tours to nearby Stuthof and its infamous concentration camp – opened only 2 days after the breakout of WW2. Alternatively, one could be whisked off to Kartuzy, the regional capital, and the Kashubian museum. This tour was perhaps up your street if you were a foody – for it included a 3 course lunch at a locally renowned restaurant accompanied by plenty of folklore, local beer and even a shot of vodka. Of course!
As the afternoon rolled on into the evening, everyone returned to our floating home and we made preparations to set sail out of the Motlawa River again. This time, our Safety Officer Andy (3rd in command) would manoeuvre the ship under my watchful eye. We were at least pointing the right way this time, having done the more difficult part this morning, however the manoeuvre still had its challenges given the narrowness of the channel and the turns. Still, everyone must keep practising as they rise up the ranks, so this was a good training opportunity for Andy.
We sailed off northward after leaving the river basin, at a very leisurely speed of 10 knots, into the central Baltic Sea and towards the beautiful Swedish Archipelago where we would make landfall the day after tomorrow. I shall speak to you then!
Captain Kim Tanner
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