Written by Marshall Cossman.
From late August, for twelve days, my wife and I cruised the Baltic and North Seas and the Gulf of Finland on Oceania’s Nautica. It was our second Baltic cruise, but we went to some different ports. Even repeated ports were interesting as we took different excursions from before. Seeing cities a second or third time allows one to see new things, things not noticed before.
We departed Copenhagen for Helsinki. Here we took a bus to the small but interesting town of Porvoo, pronounced “poorvoh”. On to St. Petersburg, probably the prettiest of Russian cities. A fascinating culture. This city takes more than the two days we had, but we fitted in a tour of the Peter and Paul Fortress in the morning and the ballet, Swan Lake, in the evening. The following morning we went to the town of Pushkin to tour Catherine the Great’s Palace. This is a marvel to see, but how many rooms does a person need?
On to Estonia. The Old Town, medieval, is a picture book town. Next, Stockholm, Sweden, home of the Nobel Peace Prize.
From Stockholm we went to Visby, Sweden, a small 1,100-year-old town which had well over 100 churches at one time in the past. Most had either burned down or were destroyed. There are still about 90 standing in various conditions. Visby was a wonderful surprise to see.
Leaving Visby, we sailed to Warnemunde, the port city for Rostock, Germany. Several of the passengers took the trip to Berlin which began about 7 AM and ended about 8 PM. We chose a shorter trip to Schwerin to tour Schwerin Castle, a fairytale castle.
Our next port was Amsterdam, but it necessitated an eight-hour transit of the Kiel Canal. This canal is beautiful with footpaths on either side nearly the entire way. We saw multiple walkers, with and without dogs. The canal was widened before World War II to allow the German naval ships shorter passage from the North Sea into the Baltic Sea. There is a lock on either end. From there, onto the North Sea to Amsterdam.
A must stop for us was the Anne Frank house. Very touching, sad, and disheartening. The best way to see it is with a tour, otherwise you will be standing a line more than one to two blocks long; resembling entry into either the Vatican Museum or St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.
Brugge, Belgium… Janey’s most anticipated stop. Our tour was to a chocolate factory. The presenter made us aware of what good chocolate is and what is not. We tasted the good chocolate at the factory, but went into the wrong shop later on and bought the not as good chocolate. Good chocolate will not melt in your hand, unless it’s over 90 degrees! But, we had Belgian chocolate!
Our cruise ended the next day in Southampton, England. An hour and a half bus ride to Heathrow and we were on our way home after a wonderful cruise.