Baltic Cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse

6/11/13 to 6/22/13

Due to the length of the review, it is in four parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of each page. 

Page 1  -  Ship, Dining, Entertainment and Activities

Page 2  -  Bruges, Belgium; Warnemunde, Germany; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki

Page 3  -  St. Petersburg, Russia (Part 1)

Page 4  -  St. Petersburg, Russia (Part 2); Tallinn, Estonia; Copenhagen, Denmark


Ports of Call

Bruges, Belgium

One of the main reasons we had booked this particular cruise was because it was stopping at Bruges.  We had heard glowing comments about Bruges from friends for years and how we had to visit the city. We were so excited that we would finally get to experience this 12th century medieval city. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Like some other cities, it is referred to as “the Venice of the North”.  We have been to a lot of cities that want to compare themselves to Venice; but none of them are Venice.  I don’t know why they try to make the comparison.  They each have their own personalities and are very special in their own way.  I was sure Bruges would be quite special.

I was disappointed as we came into port that it was very cloudy and rain was forecast for the day.  I was surprised to see windmills on the port break waters.

With the ship docking at Zeebrugge, we would need to find our own way into Bruges because we hadn’t booked a ship excursion. For people that wanted to do Bruges on their own, there was an $18 per person shuttle available at the ship to Kennedy Square in Blankenridge to catch the train to Bruges.

Since the four of us didn’t want to go through the hassle of a transfer and then waiting for a train, we decided to do it a different way.  One of the couples, Paul and Angela, on our Cruise Critic roll call, had arranged for a taxi to Bruges through a company called Taxi Snel,  She asked if anyone wanted to share the £100 cost for the round trip.  With four couples the cost would only be £12.5 per person or about $19 for the round trip with no hassling with a train.  We jumped at her offer.  Another couple from the roll call, Renda and Jennifer, joined us.
Private taxis were not allowed to go up to the ship, like the Celebrity excursions were able to do; but there was a free shuttle to the port gate.  With this being a short port stop, 7:00 AM till 3:00 PM, we wanted to get an early start; so we were meeting the taxi at 8:00 AM.  We took the shuttle to the gate and found our taxi driver carrying a sign with Angela’s name on it.  The ride took about 20 minutes and we were dropped off right in the center of town at Market Square. 

It was a rainy, cold, dreary day and we were the only tourists in site.  The smart people in the group walked over to a café for coffee; while Jim and I decided to go for a walk around Bruges before the crowds arrived. 

Bruges was a very charming city indeed.  So many beautiful buildings, statues and just gorgeous scenery.  It was a shame that a large temporary structure had been set up in the middle of the square for an event the previous day.  It really took away from the beauty.



After a 30 minute walk we returned to join the others at the café.  We wanted to take a quick restroom break before we continued touring the town.  I couldn’t believe how steep the staircase to the restrooms was in the café.  The reason I am putting the photo in the review is because I am so proud of my wife being able to climb to the top.

We were all doing or own thing, so the four of us started out across the square.  We saw a horse drawn carriage that would tour the city.  We got on to the carriage and the driver, Marie, told us to cover up with the provided blankets if we were cold.  Her horse was named Kadesh.  After being in so many motorized vehicles during the vacation, it was nice to hear the sound of hoof beats on the cobblestones.


Marie spoke very good English and was easy to understand.  She provided us with lots of info about Bruges and showed us the highlights.


We stopped for Kadesh to have a rest and have some breakfast.

While we were stopped, we took some photos of the area, and Carol pointed out an interesting decoration in a 2nd story window.

We continued on the ride seeing more interesting sites.  Just a beautiful city! 


By the time the 30 minute carriage ride was over, the tourists had started to arrive.  The city was coming to life.          

Two of the most popular items to purchase in Bruges are the chocolate and the beer. I got a kick out of the some of the things that had been made out of chocolate that were displayed in one of the shop windows.

While we were walking around Jim spotted the Basilica of the Holy Blood.  The building that was built in the 12th century didn’t look like much from the outside; and I hadn’t even noticed it was there. It is the buiding on the left edge of the below photo. 

But when we entered the church, we were in for a treat.  It was a lovely little church with unique decorations.


Its main claim to fame is a relic of the Holy Blood.  The relic is a vial containing a cloth that was used by Joseph of Arimathea to clean Christ’s body after he was taken off the cross.  The relic is in a small chapel off the main church area.  I was so glad that Jim had found the church.  I sure would have hated to miss the opportunity to see a relic of this significance.

A must thing to do in Bruges is to take a canal boat tour.  So we walked on down to one of the places where the tours start.  With so many people wanting to take the tours, they really pack in everyone they can in each boat.  It was very crowded with all seats taken.  Fortunately we were in the front of the boat where there was a bit more room; at least there was before the driver got on the boat. 

Below is a photo of another one of the full boats like ours.

The sights along the canal were so lovely.  There are 43 bridges in Bruges.  It was a great way to see the city from a different perspective. 



The canal boat ride lasted about 45 minutes.  We thoroughly enjoyed it, but were glad to be able to get out of the cramped quarters and stretch our legs.


It was time to do more sightseeing and shopping.  Bruges is a fun city to shop in, since it is so tourist oriented.  There are so many different types of really nice souvenirs to buy. 


Before the cruise Kathleen had asked her son-in-law about what beers to get while in Belgium.  Kathleen and I enjoy beer and her son-in-law knows all about what the best ones are.  He told her that one of the best beers in world is supposed to be Augustijn Blond Beer.  He said that it would be very difficult to find since it isn’t served at many places.  Jim found a restaurant online that had it, so that was where we were going for lunch.  Cambrinus,, was an old world style pub.  They had a list of so many different beers.  Most of them I had never heard of; but I am not one that normally seeks out specific international beers.


We placed our orders for our Augustijn Blond Beer and some lunch.  The beer came first and was quite good. 

For lunch Carol and I shared some asparagus soup and what was called a gratin of asparagus.  The soup was good; but the gratin of asparagus was out of this world good.  The cheeses and fresh asparagus just made a delicious meal.  Once again Jim had picked a great place to eat.  But he is very good at that.

By the time we finished eating, the sun was breaking out of the clouds.  It was turning out to be a nice day in Bruges.  I was thrilled that we could get some prettier shots of the beautiful Bruges architecture.



The Market Square is dominated by the 250 foot tall Belfry.  Lots of people were climbing to the top for a great view of the city; but I passed.

Unfortunately, now that the sun was out, it was almost time to leave.  We had to meet our taxi driver at 2:00 PM to return to the ship.  This was a town that we would have enjoyed spending a lot more time in.  We loved Bruges and hope to be able to return for a longer visit someday.


Warnemunde, Germany

Warnemunde was the other port on this cruise that we hadn’t visited on our first Baltic cruise.  Most people want to take a tour to Berlin from Warnemunde, even though it is a three hour bus ride to get there.  A friend of mine that had taken a Baltic cruise last year and had visited Berlin previously, raved about their day in and around Warnemunde.  They were very pleasantly surprised at what a lovely place it was and what a great time they had there.  We would find out later that others that stayed around Warnemunde had the same experience and were glad they didn’t go to Berlin.  We probably should have passed on Berlin too.

We much prefer to take private tours than ship excursions, since there are fewer people, we get to see more and it is normally cheaper if you can find other couples to share the tours with.  I normally search out tour guides in each port; but when booking private tours for St. Petersburg, Russia, I found that the companies will bundle other cities on the cruise with their St. Petersburg tours to get more business. 

Although there would be more people on the private tours than we normally like, we had decided to book a five city package tour including Berlin, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallinn.  I chose Alla Tours,, for our tours.  Her tour company had an excellent reputation with glowing reviews from other cruisers, and she was a true pleasure to deal with.  I felt very confident that she would do an outstanding job in St. Petersburg for us; but my expectations were not as high for the other cities.  I assumed she just sub-contracted out with other tour companies that she would not have total control over, so I suspected that it could be hit or miss. 

When we arrived in Warnemunde, it was overcast.  The forecast was a high of 61 degrees and 50% chance of rain.  I had hoped the forecast was better for Berlin; but I would be very disappointed. 

We disembarked the ship and located the bus that said Alla Tours on it.  There were several of them.  We would take a large bus to Berlin and then break up into groups that were no larger than 26 on a different bus.  We were running behind, since we left late due to people arriving late from the ship; as well as people taking too long at the rest stop along the way.  By the time we got to Berlin it was just pouring down rain.  Thank goodness we had umbrellas.  They would get a workout that day.  Our guide for the day would be Yves.  He was a very nice fellow and was easy to understand. 

There was an event going on in town and several streets were shut down, making it more difficult to get around.  For some reason, the first place he took us to was not one that was on our schedule, the Olympic Stadium built for the 1936 Olympics.  It is a famous place, but we felt we shouldn’t have stopped there since we were running quite late and it was already 1:45 PM and we hadn’t eaten anything.   It was pouring down rain and just a couple of us stepped out of the bust to take photos without wet windows in the way.  Thank goodness I brought an umbrella. 

We kept driving around town in the rain.  It was pretty much a waste of time trying to take photos out the windows, since they were covered with water.  Heck, it was hard enough to see out of them.  One thing he pointed out was to watch for the Berlin Buddy Bears.  They are fiberglass statues of brightly decorated bears.  They are supposed to be a message for international peace.  I was able to get a few photos of them during the day.


For some reason, rather than just going to lunch, Yves had the driver going to non-historic areas that most people had no interest in like stores and office buildings.  He did pass a few places that were listed to see; but with the rain it wasn’t that great.  Some people got very frustrated that we weren’t going to the sites that were on the tour itinerary.  He told everyone to calm down and that we would see them all, just not in the order listed.  He blamed the switch on having to replan the route due to the upcoming event and street construction.  That's understandable, however he didn't seem to have done any pre-planning on which routes to use.  He was constantly interrupting his commentary to consult with the driver on a different way to go.  We made several wrong turns and had to back up.  I really think that he was hoping that the rain would stop and we could go to the main sites later when it was drier.  Since the rain didn’t stop, we weren’t happy. 

When we finally stopped for lunch it was almost 3:00 PM.  He pointed out a few restaurants we might go to and told us to meet him back at the bus at 4:00 PM.  We had a forgettable lunch; but where the bus stopped was right across the street from the Holocaust Memorial.  The memorial was dedicated in 2005 and contains 2,711 concrete slabs of different sizes on a 4.7 acre site.  With the rain coming down it had an eerie feel to it.


Before we had to meet the bus, Yves took a few of us walking to see some pieces of the Berlin Wall that were close by. 

In the next block was a parking lot that is located above where Hitler’s bunker had been located.  This was from where he commanded his troops at the end of the war, married Eva Braun and where they both committed suicide.  The government did not want the area to have any significance, so today it is just a parking lot, to prevent Neo-Nazis from making it into a shrine.

After we got on the bus we went to the site of the last remaining section of the Berlin Wall and museum.  At last we were finally going to be able to see some of the main historic area that we came to Berlin to see.  The dreary day was appropriate for viewing something like the wall, considering its history.  It was really deteriorating too.


Below the wall historic photos were displayed.

We then drove past Checkpoint Charlie, the best known crossing point between East and West Berlin.  Yves asked if anyone wanted to get out to get a closer view of it.  Since we were running late and it was still raining, most people didn’t want to; but some were unhappy they couldn’t do it.  It was a good thing we didn’t since we barely had time to see the other sites.

We stopped at a square with the Concert House and German Cathedral.  Both were well worth stopping to look at.


We then stopped to get out to see the Berliner Dom or Cathedral.  A beautiful building.  Along the side we got a great view of the huge television tower; which is a tourist attraction also.              


Next to the Dom was the Altes Museum.  I was intrigued by the statue of an Amazon woman thwarting the attack of a panther.


We stopped at another square to get out and see some more sights.  The first building was the Neue Wachen, the New Guardhouse.  Inside is a memorial statue to the victims of war and tyranny called Mother and Her Dead Son.  There is an opening above the statue to let in the cold and rain that symbolizes the suffering of the civilians during World War II.


Across the street was Humboldt University. A gorgeous building for a university.  There were also some nice statues in the area.


We then walked to an area in the square where there was a piece of glass in the ground.  It was a memorial at the site of the Nazi book burning that took place in 1933.  When looking down into glass, you view empty book shelves.  It is difficult to photograph due to the rain and the reflection on the glass; but the photo is good enough to show this unique memorial to a terrible event.  Berlin was the site of many terrible and horrible things unfortunately.


We got back in the bus and headed to the Brandenburg Gate.  It was also the site for our next restroom stop.  So everyone got out and some took photos. 


Yves told us we could go to a couple places from there.  One of them was the Hotel Adlon.  It is well known for many reasons, but the one most people remember is that it was where Michael Jackson held his son off the balcony for the reporters to take photos of.  I wanted to see what the hotel looked like inside so I headed that way. 

It was a lovely hotel, but it was not easy to find the restrooms.  I finally did.  They were really nice.  No photos of it though.


When I went outside and walked toward the bus, everyone was waving at me to hurry up.  Apparently Yves took them to a faster restroom and they were all ready to go.  It was the first time girls ever beat me out of a restroom.

The next stop we were taken to was the Reichstag, which is used for the German Parliament.  It is a huge building and its massive glass dome is its most notable feature.  The dome was renovated in 1999 and fitted with a moving solar shield that blocks direct sunlight.  It would be interesting to go up into the dome for the view; but prior registration is required. 


On the way to our last stop, we pulled up in front of the Bellevue Railway Station.  There was a procession of soldiers in progress.  Yves told us that the President of Germany was there on the steps watching it.  That’s kind of special!

Our last stop was at the 200 foot tall Victory Column.  This was the site of President Obama’s 2008 speech.  The photos don’t show the size and beauty of this monument.



We then went back to the Charlottenburg Palace where we would meet the big bus back to the ship.  It is the largest palace in Berlin and the only surviving royal residence.  We had not gotten to look at it when we were dropped off there when we arrived because the rain was so heavy.  Like so many of the other places we had seen during our rushed visit, I am sure it would be a fascinating place to tour. 


We hadn’t expected an in depth tour of Berlin with the amount of time that was scheduled.  That is the problem with doing an excursion that requires a three hour bus ride each way.  Although we were frustrated at the beginning of the tour, since we didn’t get out to see anything, we did see a lot after lunch.  I think Yves did the best he could with the heavy rain we experienced.  We got back to the Eclipse around 10:00 PM.  It had been a very full, disappointing day.  In talking with those that stayed in the Warnemunde area, they had great weather.  They definitely made the right choice of excursions that day.


Stockholm, Sweden

When we last visited Stockholm, we docked at Nynäshamn; which is about an hour’s bus drive south of Stockholm.  This time we would take the cruise up the Swedish Archipelago.  It would take 2.5 hours to sail through all the islands; but it would be a beautiful trip.  Since we were to dock at 8:00 AM, we would be enter the archipelago around 5:30 AM.  I had set the alarm clock for 6:15 AM; but my internal clock went off around 5:35 AM.  I really wanted to sleep longer; but my excitement to view the archipelago was too great.  I took some photos from our balcony.  It was so quiet outside.  The Eclipse was just moving slowly through all the small islands and inlets.  It was very peaceful and beautiful; but it also wasn’t very good for photos, since it was cloudy and relatively dark outside. 


I went up to the buffet for breakfast, so I could watch the scenery go by while eating.  I then went to the spa veranda at the front of deck 12 to get a better view.  It was getting brighter outside and we were entering a more populated area.  I was intrigued with the how the sea gulls were floating in the air beside the Eclipse.  They stayed in one place and looked like they were just suspended in the air.


We were taking another tour with Alla,, in Stockholm.  A lot of people from our Cruise Critic roll call had booked most of the ports with Alla, so we would get to share the tours with people we knew.  It made it more enjoyable.  After disembarking the ship, we found our guide, Marianne, holding her Alla Tour sign.  While she was arranging things, Renda filled in with the sign holding duties.  She did it like a true professional tour guide.


When we got to the bus, we met our driver Henry.  Marianne introduced him as the tall Swede.  He had a great personality; but the big plus was that it was always easy to find our bus when we came back from touring because he really stood out in the crowd.

We got on the bus and headed to the Vasa Museum.  The Vasa was a Swedish war ship that was built in 1628.  It sank less than a mile into its maiden voyage.  She was too top heavy.  Incredibly, she was well preserved when she was rediscovered in the 1950’s and salvaged in 1961.  The Vasa is the only preserved 17th Century ship in the world.  More than 95% of the ship we would see was original material.  It is in considerably better shape than the skeleton of the 16th Century Mary Rose we had seen in Portsmouth.  The Vasa Museum is a modern building, which is just the opposite of the treasures it contains. 

As you walk into the museum, you can see the magnificent warship right in front of you.  The room is very dark to protect it; but the photos make it look brighter.


It is a magnificent ship with so many carvings on it.  Truly amazing that it all survived 333 years underwater. 

The aft of the ship is very ornate.


It must have been quite a sight when it was launched with all the various colors as shown on the model.  It was a very festive ship for the few minutes it sailed.

I went down to the lower level to get some different views of the Vasa.


At the front of the Vasa, the crow's nest stuck way out.  The masthead was that of a lion.


We had seen the Vasa in 2001; but I enjoyed it even more this time.  Perhaps because it wasn’t as crowded; or after seeing the Mary Rose, I really appreciated what great shape the Vasa was in.  I was also glad I had a camera that would function better in low light.

After we left the Vasa Museum building we still had some time available before meeting the bus, so Jim and I walked over to get photos of the Nordic Museum building right across the street.  Quite pretty and very large.   Tourists could spend a lot of time checking it out.

We then had a short city tour as we headed to our next major destination the Stockholm City Hall.  Stockholm is a gorgeous city with many beautiful buildings, statues and structures. We even passed by the Abba Museum. 


We took a quick photo stop at the Fjallgatan view point on a cliff overlooking old town and an amusement park.


We continued our drive through the city.  Our necks were getting good exercise as we gawked at all the beautiful sights along the way on both sides of the bus.

 I was particularly fascinated by the spire of the Riddarholmen Church.  It is the building where the Swedish monarchs are buried.


When we arrived at the ivy covered City Hall, we appreciated the view across the water.


We first went into the Blue Hall, where the Nobel Prizes are awarded.  It is a huge room and not blue.  It was originally intended to be painted blue; but when the architect saw the beautiful red brick walls, he couldn’t paint them. 


We moved on to other rooms including the Council Chamber.

The exposed wood beam ceiling is quite nice and unusual.

The hallways were decorated with paintings and carvings.  Everyone was taking photos.


We then entered the highlight of the visit, the Golden Hall.  Now that room is appropriately named.  It is where the banquet is held after the Nobel Prizes are presented.  Quite the dining room!


The room is covered with over 18 million mosaic tiles.  Truly overwhelming.


There were so many interesting mosaic pictures to look at. 


A main reason that we wanted to take another Baltic cruise was to do a review with a lot more photos.  Our first review had two photos from the Vasa Museum and just four photos from the Golden Hall.  They had been taken with my first digital camera, so they weren't that good either.  This trip gave me the opportunity to get more and better quality.

Upon leaving the Golden Hall, we passed along the upper hallway looking down at the Blue Hall. 

We descended the long stairs and moved out to the courtyard.  We passed by a display of a place setting that is used for the Nobel Prize banquet.

The courtyard didn’t seem that large when we entered; but coming into it from inside the building, it was pretty impressive.  We could look out to the water.  The walls were nicely decorated.


Carol and Kathleen had found a nice place to rest while Jim and I ran around snapping away.

On top of the tower was the national emblem of Sweden, the Three Crowns.

We got back on the bus and headed to our last destination of the tour, Old Town.  On our previous visit to Stockholm, we had a choice after our short ship tour to either go to the City Hall or Old Town.  We chose the City Hall then but now we were able to do both since we were on a private tour.  Once again there were lots of photo opps on the drive through the city.


We stopped in a square where lots of busses were dropping tourists off.  The busses weren’t allowed to stay there, so Henry drove away and promised to return in an hour to pick us up.

Marianne gave us the option of going out on our own or taking a tour with her.  We went with her for a while.  The first thing she showed us was Stockholm’s smallest statue.  It was kind of underwhelming.  I would think it would be a tourist hazard, since it could be tripped over.

There were some nice buildings and interesting statues around Old Town; but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. 


There were lots of narrow streets; but not that much to see on them. The main square was enjoyable though to walk around. 


Marianne pointed out a runestone along one of the streets.  Most runestones date back to the Viking Age, 800 AD – 1050 AD.  They are mostly memorials to men and have inscriptions on them.  It didn’t look like much.  Had she not pointed it out, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it.

The bronze statue of Saint George and the dragon that was placed away from the main square quickly drew my attention.  Quite different from the other statues around Stockholm.

While walking around on my own I came across the Royal Palace.  There was a soldier guarding the entrance.


With the cooler weather we had experienced, Carol had been looking for a scarf.  She found one in Old Town.  We both got a kick out of the label on it.  Very funny and honest!

After Old Town we returned to the ship.  After our terrible weather in Berlin, we were very pleased with the very mild weather we enjoyed most of the day.  With the tour only being five hours, we had about 2.5 hours to chill till sail away at 5:00 PM.  We were looking forward to the cruise back down the Archipelago in the sunshine.

As we left port, lots of people were on the upper decks to take photos.  They even opened the helipad for some guests.  I assumed it was for those in suites.

Since we had a 6:00 PM dinner seating, there wouldn’t be that much time to take photos before dinner.  I got to the table a little late that night.  As soon as we finished dinner, I headed back up top since we were still in the Archipelago.  This was so much better than having to take a bus to the port in Nynäshamn.





With us sailing so close to the Summer Solstice, the sun went down late and rose early.  The day we were in Stockholm sunrise was at 3:34 AM and sunset was at 10:06 PM.  So when I went out on deck after the show, I was able to get a photo of the pilot boat leaving the ship and the only sunset photo I got the entire trip. 



Helsinki, Finland

On our last Baltic cruise, Helsinki had been our least favorite port.  It was a newer city without much history that most people are familiar with.  As a result the tour guide didn’t have much to tell us; but she talked non-stop about the new high school, department stores or whatever we passed.  It was not enjoyable.  We hoped that this tour through Alla Tours would be better.

Once again we had turned our clock ahead an hour overnight, so we were glad we didn’t arrive in port until 10:00 AM.  We also had a very nice weather forecast of partly cloudy and a high of 72 degrees.  So things were looking up.  The Port of Helsinki isn’t much to look at; but there were a lot of ships there.  I always get a kick out of the Aida Line ships with their lips. 

There were lots of busses waiting to take people on ship tours.  There was also a long line of people waiting to get on the $12 round trip shuttle busses into town.  We were glad we were on a private tour and wouldn’t have to hassle with it. 

To get to the assigned meeting area, we had to walk past the Celebrity busses and through the gate.  As usual, we try to meet our tours early.  We were in good company; but there was no one walking around with an Alla Tour sign like we had previously had.  Finally, right at the assigned 10:30 AM time, someone from the tour company walked up without a sign and directed everyone to the busses.  Not the way to start a tour. 

Our tour guide was Katarina.  As we drove to our first destination, we passed by beaches and the marinas.  With it being such a nice day, everyone was out taking advantage of the sun.  They don’t get a lot of nice sunny days in Finland during a year.


We passed by the Tsarina’s Stone, which is a red granite obelisk topped by a globe and a double headed eagle.  The double headed eagle is also the emblem used by the Russian Tsars.  We would see more of them in St. Petersburg.


Our first stop was to Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral.  We were originally supposed to visit the Rock Church; but since there was a function going on there, the cathedral was substituted for it.  With it only being a short three hour tour, there wasn’t much flexibility in waiting for later to go.  Others that did Helsinki on their own were able to visit the Rock Church later in the afternoon.  Since we had previously visited it, we didn’t miss anything.  Plus the Uspenki Orthodox Cathedral was a much better place to visit, in my opinion, than the modern Rock Church.  Uspenski had a very nice exterior and gold ornaments were glittering in the sunshine.

The interior was just gorgeous, with decorations on every wall and ceiling. 




It was almost too much to take in.  This church was a much better stop than the Rock Church.  When we went outside, we had a preview of the Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square that we would be visiting.

We got back on the bus and headed to Senate Square.  The square is the tourist hub for Helsinki.  All the busses stop there and everyone gets out to look at the cathedral.  The exterior is quite pretty.


The statue of Alexander II was erected in 1894.  The flowers around the statue made for a great photo.


Katarina had told us we had 15 minutes to use the restrooms or we could visit the interior of the cathedral.  I joined the masses that were climbing up the steep steps.  There were a lot of them and I was hoping that the climb would be worth it.  Well, as luck would have it, there was something going on in the church and it wouldn’t be open for another 20 minutes.  At least I had my aerobic exercise for the day climbing all the steps.  There were a lot of disappointed people with me on the steps going down.  At least I got a photo of the square from above.  Not worth the climb though. 


We then returned to the bus on the way to our next stop.  We were able to get a lot of photos of the town through the windows.  Helsinki was much nicer than I remembered.




Since we had left a little late in the morning and were taking a lot of time at the stops, we were concerned that we might not have enough time for the 45 minute shopping stop at Market Square as was on the itinerary. 

Then for some reason Katarina, did the same thing that Yves had done in Berlin, she had us stop at the Olympic Stadium that was not on the itinerary.  I do appreciate that she was proud of the stadium; but it wasn’t that much to see and we didn’t have time for an unscheduled stop. 

She talked about Finland’s Olympic hero, Paavo Nurmi.   He won nine gold and three silver medals in the three Olympics during the 1920’s; as well as setting 22 world running records.  He must have been some athlete; but we really didn’t have extra  time to spend on him.

Our next stop was at the Sibelius Monument in honor of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.  It is a strange looking monument in two pieces.


For some reason, people liked to stick their heads in the monument tubes.

We then headed to our last destination Market Square for some shopping.  The tour had already run over 3 hours, but we were still going to spend a little time there.  Katarina gave us 15 minutes to shop.  The front part of the market area was mostly produce, so we had to go deeper into it to find souvenirs or other items.  We pretty much just had time for a fly by the stands. 


We got back in time, but had to wait about 10 minutes for stragglers.  We were not happy with Katarina to begin with, since she appeared to be an inexperienced tour guide.  She hadn’t been on time to pick us up in the morning, she didn’t have an Alla Tour sign, she wasn’t clear on where we were to meet to rejoin the busses, she never held up a sign or umbrella to keep the group together when leading us around and she didn’t keep the tour on schedule.  But, on the plus side, I must say that she was knowledgeable about what she was showing us and was easy to understand. 

When we got the group together to go back to the bus, which was on the other side of the market waiting for us, she moved very quickly through the crowd in the market.  Since she didn’t hold anything up or look behind her, she didn’t realize that we couldn’t see where she was and many people couldn’t keep up with her.  We had to run her down to tell her to wait for everyone to catch up. 

Even though we had issues with Katarina, we enjoyed the tour a lot more than our first visit twelve years earlier.  Helsinki was a much better port stop than I remembered, not great but better.                  

Click Button to Continue to Page 3 of the Review



© 2013 • All Rights Reserved