Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cruisin' the Baltic Sea

(July 1, 2014)  Last year when we thought we were moving back home, Josh and I decided that our last trip in Europe would be a cruise in the Baltic Sea.  A few of our friends had done the cruise and raved about it and our thoughts were that we hadn't had much opportunity to explore Northern Europe and that we could at least touch upon some areas we hadn't seen and then decide if they were places we would want to make the journey back to Europe to see in more detail.  In the end, instead of a "goodbye Europe" trip, it ended up being, "Intro to Northern Europe" now that we are moving there.

We aren't cruisers by nature.  There is nothing wrong with it, it's just not usually our cup of tea.  Plus we often travel for just long weekends rather than for a week or more at a time so most cruises don't usually fit into our schedule.  The only other cruise that I had been on was the Disney one 6 years ago with Josh and Aidan (Liam was at home) and Josh had been on several in his earlier 20s but cruising in your 20s is very different than cruising with your family in your late 30s.

Regardless, we are very excited about the cruise and all the stops we will be making, especially St. Petersburg, Russia.  There aren't many opportunities one has to visit Russia in their lifetime and so we are especially looking forward to that port.

We had decided a while back that since the boat wasn't leaving the port til around 5PM that we could fly out the day of the cruise.  Since we were closing on our apartment the day before, it worked out well.  Ok, perhaps the 7:45AM flight wasn't the best idea as we had to be at the airport around 6AM. We fly EasyJet often but 95% of the time without luggage, only carry on.  Well, we made it by the skin of our teeth on to that plane because the line was so incredibly long.  We basically ran to the plane and then proceeded to wait in another line.  Ah well, we were on our way!!

The weather was surprisingly beautiful in England when we arrived which was a great start.  Though it was a long 2 hr drive to the ship dock.  Liam really had no idea what to expect - he seemed to think we were taking a normal sized passenger boat to all these places so when he saw the ship as we drove up, his jaw totally dropped.  To him, this ship was epic (his words)!!!

On the bus ready to get to the ship

Sooooo excited!

Not a great shot of the ship but this is when Liam realized just how big it was.

Day 1 was all about exploring the ship.  We found the rock wall, the pools (though it's way too cold here to use them), the mini golf, the basketball court, and of course, the dining area. The kids loved all the place space which was great!  Happy kids = happy parents.

Huge windows

The rock wall (which by the way, we never used)

Basketball court

The arcade

Racing against each other

Boys and their "toys"

Getting ready to set sail

Harwich, England as we set sail

Our dinner on set sail day was casual - we aren't planning to do any formal nights. It was too much stress on me to organize and buy what was needed when we have so much on our plates lately. And it would only cause a tantrum from Aidan as well since he has no interest in dressing up.  I know, I know - don't let him rule. But this is a family trip and everyone should be happy. Regardless the families we sat with were lovely, one of which was a military family living in Germany so some similar experiences to chat about. 

Day 2 was an at sea day and we slept in. Both kids ended up in our bed which made for a not so great night sleep. I think they were freaked out by the rocking of the boat. Liam got a little nauseous during dinner the first night. To be honest, well into day 2, I'm not loving the rocking. I'm not sick but I find the constant feeling of motion annoying. I hope it passes. 

The boys went to the adventure kids area for part of the morning. They pushed against us and didn't want to do it but in the end, the loved it. They are going back this afternoon.  During that hour and a half, Josh and I tried to get online. And like the Disney cruise 6 years ago, this ship has internet circa 1999. It sucks and it's expensive. Part of me loves being able to totally disconnect and if it were only a week, I would just suck it up. Alas we are gone for almost 2 weeks and I cannot neglect my business this long. So once a day I shall check my email and that's it. And so, I guess that's about as disconnected as I can get. It's also why these posts are so late to go up. 

The cruise has a pretty aggressive itinerary (and I will check my email my phone in the cities when I can!). Thankfully today, day 2 is going to be an at sea day. A chance for us to get our sea legs and have a day to chill before we hit the intense part of the trip.  Admittedly this trip has not been a huge priority for me with the move and all so we will need to wing quite a bit of stuff which we are perfectly fine doing.

Towel animals each night had the kids entertained

Watching the new Muppet movie on the big screen outside

Watching the movie - it was COLD out!  Ok, cold by Barcelona standards, but still cold (hence no one else is outside as you can see).

Love this little guy - too cute for words!

But tomorrow we hit Copenhagen. We've been there before but just for a day. So it will be fun to see what we missed the last time we were there including the Tivoli Park and the Little Mermaid statue. 

From there we continue to Tallinn, Estonia and then on to St. Petersburg for 2 days. We are incredibly excited for the Russia portion of this trip. After Russia, it's on to Helsinki, Finland and then Stockholm before our final stop in Visby, Sweden and then to Harwich, England to make the circle complete. As I said, it's an aggressive itinerary but we are super excited to see all these places. 

See you in Copenhagen tomorrow!!

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