ABOARD THE VIKING STAR – After the end of our second day touring St. Petersburg, Russia – a full day tour from 9 to 5 – my Fitbit registered 13,236 steps. We certainly did stand and walk a lot exploring the palaces and gardens of the czars.
But, hey, St. Petersburg is a bucket list destination for almost everyone aboard the Viking Star and they wanted to make the most of it. So for the two days we were there, everyone was doing heavy touring.
Because Chet and I were here for two days way back in 1998, we took it a bit easier with a 1/2–day tour (included) the first day and a full day tour the second ($149), and we skipped the evening programs. We saw plenty of churches and palaces, the highlight of which were the gardens at the Peterhof Palace.
Yesterday was a bit easier day in Tallin, Estonia…I loved this small city back in 1998 and it is still charming. We took a walking tour of its medieval Old Town (included) and then opted to stay in the city for lunch and a bit of shopping, returning to the ship via the free shuttle bus. There are some excellent quality handcrafts to be found here…head to Katarina Way to find some of those shops. The beer is excellent, too!
Because so much of Estonia’s history is intertwined with that of Russia, it was interesting to hear our guide’s take on certain historic events. As he noted with wry humor, “The Russians call him Peter the Great but we just call him Peter the First…he was not so great to us.”
The last time we were here our small ship was able to dock at the base of the main street to the harbor. Now that area is all reclaimed land and many new buildings have been built as well as a pier for cruise ships. Nice to see Estonia is progressing so well.
Today is our first and only day at sea and everyone was certainly ready for the break. Although the ship has a wide range of lectures and a few other activities, most everyone I see is reading or napping. I am sure the spa is busy and an energetic few are walking laps around the promenade on Deck 2 – another nice feature of this ship, a real promenade!
And the ship had yet another surprise for me. I did not discover until today that there is an upper level to the Explorers’ Lounge in the bow of the ship. It is a quiet room lined with bookcases and really comfy seating…I will be spending more time here. That is something else unique to Viking…they have bookcases scattered all over the ship and you are free to take books and read them at will.
Tomorrow we resume visiting a port every day for the final eight days of the cruise.
The Baltic is a fascinating part of the world and well worth exploring.
For most people I have met on this cruise, this is their first visit to the Baltic region. The ship is full, with 920 passengers, and the general manager, Ignacio Garcia, reports that it has been full for the last four sailings here. This is their final cruise here this summer. After this, they will be repositioning to the Caribbean via the North Atlantic. That cruise is sold out as well.
Most passengers are also well-traveled. Many have done several river cruises with Viking in various parts of the world and have done ocean cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska or the Mediterranean with other cruise lines before coming here. They know the ropes so there are few hiccups along the way.
September 10, 2016
Photos by Cynthia Boal Janssens