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10th July, 2013


The overnight passage from Stockholm was uneventful with the only event of significance affecting our passengers being another hour advance on the clocks with Saga Sapphire entering another time zone as she passed into the brackish waters of the Gulf of Finland.


Despite the reputation of the Scandinavian countries for being clean and relatively free of pollution the Gulf of Finland at best would be described as ecologically unsatisfactory. At the eastern end of the Gulf, the River Neva ever spills into this - the shallowest gulf within the Baltic Sea, and with it the pollution of industry along its 74 mile length from Lake Ladoga to St Petersburg. The Russian’s have been trying to clean up their act however and pollution levels have greatly reduced. At the eastern end of the gulf where pollution is at its highest, St. Petersburg’s authorities still deem no beach in their jurisdiction fit for swimming. Eutrophication and the presence of heavy metals such as mercury and copper have depleted fish stocks and it is probably no surprise then that we do not replenish the sea water swimming pool on deck 11 once within the boundaries of the Gulf of Finland. We also stop producing our own fresh water long before getting this far into the Baltic as a matter of common sense (just in case you were wondering).

That being said the waters around Helsinki look clean and are ok for swimming in should anyone wish to cool off from the summer sun, although despite the origins of Helsinki as the site of a fishing village the absence of fishing boats within its harbours did not go unnoticed (at least I didn’t see any).


Helsinki is the second most northerly of the European Capitals and was founded by King Gustavus Vasa of Sweden, it was however made the capital of Finland by the Russian Tzar Alexander I (at the time a Russian Duchy), and the cities architecture reveals a mixture of Swedish, Russian as well as modern International influences. Often called the “white city of the north” due to many of its buildings being constructed from local light-coloured granite, this cosmopolitan Scandinavian capital has no high-rise buildings giving it an intimate town like feel.

As the previous paragraph implied, historically Finland has been fought over and occupied by both of its neighbours, Sweden and Russia. But the factor that sets the country apart in the region is the native language. Like the Finns themselves it is neither Slav nor Scandinavian, but came with their ancestors from central Asia long ago.

Saga Sapphire slipped her lines at around 6 pm and proceeded out to sea before turning east towards St Petersburg and the mouth of the river Neva.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.