Scandinavia and Russia Cruise

Nyhavn Canal, Copenhagenstory and photos by Denise Bridge

Here’s a long and detailed story from frequent-contributor to TTS, Denise Bridge, who gives many details about cruising on a large ship.  For many of you, this will be familiar territory, but for those of you who haven’t cruised on a large vessel, I think Denise paints a fascinating picture for us, so we are publishing the story in its entirety. Enjoy!  This certainly seems a good way to enjoy a glimpse of six European cities in one vacation. And if Russia without the cruise would be of interest to you … stay tuned, there will be such an article coming in our next edition.

The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, had long been on my ‘must see’ list, so when my uncle found this cruise with balcony staterooms in November 2009 we jumped at the chance and booked it.  So it was that last spring, I and three family members headed on a cruise to the Baltic.  It was the 12-night ‘Scandinavia and Russia’ cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas.  The cruise departed from Harwich, England, and ports of call included Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, and Gothenburg (Sweden) before returning to Harwich.  We had one day in each port except for St. Petersburg where we had two days.  These were new destinations for all of us.  We also had four sea days on board – days 2, 4, 10 and 12.  Given that we went at the end of May, we had very reasonable weather with just a few wet days and one choppy day at sea.

The Jewel of the Seas is the biggest ship I have been on, with 13 decks with glass elevators, some of which were suspended over the sea.  Even though there were over 2,000 passengers on board you would never have known it.  There are so many restaurants and lounges and so many activities happening it was always possible to find a quiet spot to read if you wished.  We also had the option of returning to our staterooms and reading or relaxing on our own balconies.

A view over Stockholm harbourMy companions on this trip were an aunt and uncle (Karen and Michael) who live in England and an aunt from Ontario.  I was already in England staying with Karen and Michael, so my other aunt (Shirley) flew in a couple of days prior to the cruise to make sure she arrived in plenty of time.  Given the volcano in Iceland that had been causing havoc around this time, it was a good plan.  Most flights the morning she arrived were diverted to Birmingham but luckily hers did arrive in Manchester just a few hours late.  The morning our cruise departed we drove to Harwich and arrived at the same time as everyone else did to check in. Our adventure was about to begin.

The first challenge on such a large ship is finding your stateroom.  When eventually we did, we found they were lovely and having the balcony was a nice perk.  One disadvantage is that you have less storage space as a result, but it is still manageable.  Shirley and I shared a stateroom and Karen and Michael were two doors down, on the same side of the ship, so we were able to communicate via the balconies (my uncle’s smoking room!).  As our luggage took a while to arrive,  we headed out to explore the ship.  We found a nice spot outside the Seaview Café and settled down in the sunshine with a pint of shandy each to watch our departure from the port and the send-off by a Scottish pipe band.

Choir practice in Uspenski Cathedral, HelsinkiAfter unpacking, we made it to our 8:30 p.m. dinner seating in the Tides Dining Room.  This is the largest dining room on board and covers two floors.  On all but one night our seating was at the same table.  I can’t say enough about the attentiveness and professionalism of the waiters.  Our table was a large one for 10, but most nights there were only six of us at dinner therefore there seemed to be extra food. Our waiter tried to feed all of it to us – extra starters to share, extra vegetables with the main course, extra desserts, cheese and crackers to follow.  The cheese and crackers were on the menu as a starter but very few ordered them thus as most of the passengers preferred to eat them later.  Having said that, there was a lot of choice for all three courses and all of the food was delicious.  For those wanting to watch their waist lines, there was always a lighter option with the calories outlined.