St Petersburg and Baltic Explorer Cruise Update #2

Well here I am again, this time after 3 days of stops in 3 different countries Norway, Denmark and Germany. It is Monday, May 6th and the ship is cruising across the perfectly smooth and nearly completely wave less Baltic Sea on our way to Tallinn, Estonia. The temperature is in the mid 60’s F or high teens C and it is bright and sunny with just a few clouds here and there.  But as in the first update I am getting ahead of myself again so let us go back 3 days to Kristiansand, Norway.

Trip Day 3; Cruise Day 2; Friday, May 3rd; Kristiansand, Norway.

The ship arrived here at approximately 9:30 in the morning (the scheduled time). This town has 83,000 inhabitants and is the fifth largest city/town in Norway. It is located on the very southern tip of Norway and is a popular tourist destination for both Norwegians and foreigners alike. The city was founded in 1641 by then King Christian IV to fill in a gap in the local transportation system. It has a natural harbour so it was/is a perfect location for a city. The city was designed in the Renaissance style and has not changed much in the 372 years since then. Most of the city is contained in an area called the Quadrature in which all the streets are straight and all are one kilometre in length and always at right angles to each other.  It has expanded outside of this area over the years but the main business and commercial district are still within this area. One of the cities tourist mottos is “It is easy to get here, but hard to leave”. I could believe that!

Needless to say most of the history here has some connection to the sea. One of their biggest exports in the past was lumber from surrounding forests used in Northern Europe to build ships and other large buildings. Apparently there were large oak trees that were used to build the ships (especially the masts of the ships).

The shore excursion I was one was called “Tommersto and Lillesand” which consisted of a harbour cruise that left from where the Queen Elizabeth docked to Tommersto which is so small that I cannot find it on the tourist map we were given. A group did the excursion in the opposite direction and met us there on and took the boats back. We took buses they come on along a coastal road to see the scenery from there to Lillesand. There was a short stop there and then by bus and the main highway back to Kristiansand. This entire trip took just under four hours or around 2:30 in the afternoon.

Kristiansand on the left with the Queen Elizabeth taken from the small boat of the shore excursion.

A shoreline view of some condos and a ship used as a school for training up and coming sailors.

Tommersto from the water as we wait for the small boat on the left of the dock to leave se we can dock.

A view along the coast road to Lillesand from Tommersto.
The water leads out to the North Sea beyond the far island in the distance.

Lillesand’s Waterfront

Kristiansand taken from the highest forward looking point on the ship.

The ship departed just after 5:00 heading for Copenhagen tomorrow.

Trip Day 4; Cruise Day 3; Saturday, May 4th; Copenhagen, Denmark.

Ok, so if you’re a bit musical, think Hans Christen Anderson and the song associated with him for this next part.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen, dum da de dum, da de dum!

Ok, so I cannot remember all the appropriate words but hopefully you might get the point.

The ship arrived a bit late (about 30 minutes) due to vessel traffic in the amazing small Copenhagen harbour. (We stayed 30 minutes longer than planned to compensate.) The shore excursion scheduled for here was called “Complete Copenhagen” and was scheduled to take the entire day returning around 4:30 due to the delayed start.

This excursion started out with probably the best known attraction here, the Little Mermaid which is all of a couple of hundred yards from the where the ship docked.

This is not the best picture because the sun was behind her but I did the best I could.

The next stop, after passing by some other points of interest, was the royal palace which is actually a group of buildings. Probably residences would be more accurate. There are three large houses (likely best described as mansions) used by various Royal Family members. There is a fourth matching mansion that is a guest house for visiting heads of state. The guide mentioned that the President of Afghanistan either was there or had been there the day before. The Queen of Denmark was apparently home at the time but we did not see her. Apparently the royal family is very much respected here.

This is one of the four buildings, the one the queen herself lives in.
One of the other ones can be seen to the left. I think that one is her older son’s.

A pretty view of the main canal and people place of Copenhagen.

We continued by bus through various other parts of Copenhagen (it is not that big of a city really) finally arriving at was the original location of the first Carlsberg brewery. No beer is brewed there now, this was moved elsewhere a number of years ago and the whole area is going to be redeveloped into a new residential area for Copenhagen. We had lunch there before continuing on. The lunch to me and some others was underwhelming. It consisted of mainly local things that the guide did her best to explain but that did not seem to assist most people much.

There is a bear bottle exhibition here.
These are full bottles of the first production run of almost every version of bear Carlsburg has ever made all around the world with a few minor exceptions. There are 16,757 bottles here and the full collection contains 22,060 bottles.

The main stop in the afternoon was a small town named Dragør located on one of the other islands that make up the city of Copenhagen. Not too much was happening because we are here early in the tourist season but it was a quaint place with another very long history.

Some of the houses in Dragør.
Even the guide, who was very knowledgeable by the way, did not know why most of them are painted yellow.

The final stop was at a dock along the main canal for a cruise of some of the canals of Copenhagen. It is a bit reminiscent of Venice only these are fairly major islands and don’t have the problems that Venice does.

This is a really unique church steeple taken from the canal cruise boat.

The cruise took about 90 minutes and dropped us off at the dock just in front of the Queen Elizabeth with only a short walk to it. It was almost beside the Little Mermaid.

The route that had been planned from here to Warnemunde, Germany took the ship a long way around because the shortest way was normally too shallow for a ship this size. There have been some rumors floating around that the ship is running about 500 people under capacity which would make the ship somewhat (probably a lot) lighter. After much calculating and many consultation’s the decision was made that the ship could successfully take the shallower route saving much time and fuel. So instead of going the way they planned to, which was a left turn, they made a sharp right turn. This route took us over the recently completed tunnel/bridge/causeway link with Sweden some 18K across the strait. The tunnel portion that we went over is not that deep so the ship took it really, really slow crossing over it. With this change of route speed was no big deal with the fastest speed required to make our arrival in Warnemunde being only 10 knots.

This is the Copenhagen side where the vehicles (and trains) head into the tunnel. This picture was taken after the ship had passed the tunnel because the roadway could not be seen from the other side.

And here is where the vehicles and trains come out of the tunnel onto Pepper island and then on to the bridge and causeway ending up in Sweden on the other side. This picture was taken at the point where the ship was over the tunnels.

Thus we complete Day 4.

Trip Day 5; Cruise Day 4; Sunday, May 5th; Warnemunde (Rostock), Germany.

This stop was the first time the Queen Elizabeth had visited this port. In the nautical/sailing world this is a very big deal. As we sailed through the ports break water there were hundred’s (if not over a thousand) people standing on the break water waving. I could not see the other side from my stateroom but based on what happened later in the day there were likely just as many there. The Captain blew the ships horn/whistle several times (a deafening affair if you are anywhere near it which luckily I was not) and sailed into the harbour. In the harbour there was a fireboat saluting us with jets of water firing up into the air as well. The ship had to turn around (it pivots within its own length) and then sail back up the port’s entrance to our dock that was located on one side of that entrance. 

I probably should provide some useful information at this point. Warnemunde is pronounced Veen-eh-mund-a. It was part of the former East Germany and is in the Rostock administrative area or to us Rostock County. Natives of Warnemunde are none to happy about this arrangement as they do not think they get a fair deal from the administrators’ located Rostock which is only 10 or 15 kilometers away.  Warnemunde has about 8500 people in it and Rostock is bigger but I do not think it is by a huge amount. We were likely told the population of Rostock but I do not remember hearing what it was.

My shore excursion here was called “Rostock by Vintage Tram and Waterway”. There was also a bus involved there to get us to the tram. The excursion left by bus just after 9:00 for a 10 minute ride to the tram yard where this old 1963 era vintage tram awaited us. I thought “vintage” might have meant older than 1963 but that is what it was. As you will see in the picture it is in really good shape though.

The ride only lasted 10-15 minutes and we got off in the centre of town. Rostock really does not have much going for it except that it is a major tourist destination and it can be really difficult to move around it at that time. We had two things going for us; one, it is not yet peak tourist season, and the other (which those who like to shop would likely debate) is that it was Sunday and all the stores were closed. This means we pretty much had the place to ourselves with a few other tourists and locals around as well. 

So, there are several old city gates, a section of the old city wall, the reasonably well preserved downtown, and St. Mary’s church and that is about it. There is not too much that is very old in Rostock as it had one of the main German aircraft manufacturing plants during W.W.2, which made it a major target for Allied bombers. The city was pretty much flattened and most of what can be seen has been rebuilt. Some of it, like the church, did survive.

The only remaining wall of the aircraft factory that caused so much grief here during W.W. 2.

We had about an hour to look around as the church (being Sunday and all) did not open until 11:00.

The part of Rostock that everyone wants to see.

One of only a couple of the other things that people go to see in Rostock, one of the old city gates.

St Mary’s Church

The group assembled outside the church at that appointed hour and got the church tour.

Some of you may know that I have an interest in Pipe Organs.
This one is from the late 1400’s and has approximately 5750 pipes. My guess was 5500.
Many years ago the air used for the pipes this was pumped a number of men using bellows.
Apparently it got too much and the organ stopped being used for a long time.

The most famous thing in this church is this clock which was built 10 years before Columbus discovered America.
The top part tells time and the bottom part is a perpetual calendar.

We then walked from there a short distance through the city and then to a dock on the Warnow River to catch the boat part of the excursion back to Warnemunde.

We were shown the “filling station” form the late 1800’s.
Actually it is a water fountain that was used to water the animals.
Dogs used the bottom, horses used the middle, and birds used the top.
It still works but was not running when we were there.

The boat took about an hour to get back to Warnemunde and this time docked right in front of the Queen Elizabeth.

The boat I was on had to go between the ferry Skane on the right and the Queen Elizabeth on the left to get to its dock.

This port has what they call Port Parties once a month apparently scheduled around the arrival of various cruise ships. We got the biggie party because we were the first ship of the year and it was the first time the ship had been here. This is something not like anything I have witnessed before. The party was to start at 15:00 hours (3:00 P.M.) and continue on. The ship was scheduled to depart at 5:00. By the time we got there around 2:00 things were well underway. Probably the best way to show this is with some pictures. These small pictures my not show all the detail but you will get the idea.

There were people, several deep, all the way to the end plus a number on the breakwater in the distance.
That was the breakwater I saw all the people on when the ship arrived this morning.

The ship sailed just after 5:00 and as soon as we were away from the dock they let the crowd onto the dock to wave goodbye. As we sailed out the channel we were escorted by a number of the smaller river cruise ships (including the one I had been on) and a different fire boat spraying water all over the place out in the Baltic Sea. This was certainly something different to experience and I am glad I did.

Trip Day 6; Cruise Day 5; Monday, May 6th; At Sea En route to Tallinn, Estonia.

Today, as noted above, the ship is sailing in a north-easterly direction in the Baltic Sea heading for Estonia early tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.

Not to scare anyone but the Captain informed us around 6:00 this evening that there has been a rise in reported cases of Gastro Enteritis (sometimes known as the Norwalk virus) on the ship and extra precautions have been but in place to try to prevent it from getting any worse.  Nothing serious yet and they are watching it closely.

Well that is all for now. It will likely be early next week before I am able to create any more as the next five days are rather busy.

Originally sent as Update #2 by email from the ship : May 6th, 2013
Web Page Created: July 1st & 2nd, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 7:49 PM