Friday, May 29, 2009

Braving The Brackish Baltic

"The Baltic Sea is a brackish inland sea located in Northern Europe."

Gee, that doesn't sound too inviting, does it? Obviously not written by the Baltic Tourist Bureau.

Despite that brackishness, we're greatly looking forward to cruising on it for 14 days starting June 1 after snapping up a bargain rate on-board during the last day of our March Transatlantic Cruise on Oceania's Regatta .

This Sunday May 31 we fly out of Vancouver to Chicago, and then connect to London Heathrow, arriving the morning of June 1. From there we fly to Stockholm and will make our way to the ship, which will be docked in Stockholm for two nights. This allows us the full day June 2 to stroll around that lovely city, maybe again visiting Gamla Stan and the Wasa in its magnificent museum. We'll have to pick up a thin-crust Swedish pizza, which daughter Karen pronounced the world's best during her year in Strängnäs as a Rotary Exchange Student.

From there our itinerary includes Helsinki June 3, St Petersburg Russia June 4-6,Tallin Estonia June 7, a sea day June 8, Gdansk Poland June 9,Copenhagen June 10, Berlin (Warnemunde) June 11, Kiel Canal Transit June 12, Amsterdam June 13, Bruges (Zeebrugge) June 14, and disembarkation at Dover England June 15.

In many places we'll just wander, but we've planned a three-day bus tour in St. Petersburg,and we've added a night at the ballet. We're also taking a small-group van tour of Gdansk Poland arranged with some nice folks on Cruise Critic also cruising on Regatta.

Since Brian's stepmother Louise is coincidentally visiting her home country for the next several weeks, we're also looking forward to accepting her invitation to meet her and her relatives when we arrive in Amsterdam, and drive with them to her hometown of Leiden.

Our stops in Stockholm, Helsinki, and Copenhagen will bring back fond memories of our Rotary Exchange "kids" with whom we keep in contact even after - gasp! - nearly two decades: Hanna, whose wedding we attended in Sweden, Lene, whose wedding we attended in Denmark, and Perttu, our Finnish "son" whose country we'll be visiting for the first time. Along with Finland, our other "firsts" will be Russia, Estonia and Poland.

Now to try to catch up on sleep as our confused bodies continue to stagger through various time zones from New Zealand and Australia to the U.S.A. to Northern Europe.

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