Monday, 5 August 2013

I have been to … the Baltic

Now that we are both retired my wife and I can take advantage of some of the cheap cruises that become available at relatively short-notice. We had visited the Baltic twice before, but this cruise included destinations that we had not previously visited and excursions that had not been on offer on our earlier cruises … so when this cruise aboard MV Arcadia became available at what P&O describe as a ‘Getaway’ price, we booked it!

Sunday 21st July: Southampton
We got up early and by 8.55am the car was fully laden and we were on our way. The drive around the M25 and down the M3 to Southampton was uneventful, and we were able to take a break for breakfast at Winchester Services not long after 10.35am. After eating a toasted sandwich and drinking a coffee each (in my case a large coffee as I was feeling very tired), we resumed our journey to Southampton.

We had unloaded our car at the Ocean Cruise Terminal well before 11.45am, and after handing it over to the valet parking service, we made our way inside to book in. This only took a matter of minutes, and we had passed through the security checks and were sitting down in the Arcadia’s Crow’s Nest Bar before midday.

Southampton Docks were relatively empty, and there were only two other large ships visible. These were another cruise ship, which was moored alongside the Mayflower Cruise Terminal, …

… and Eddystone, one of the RO-RO ferries operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Just before 2.00pm we were informed that our cabin was ready for occupation, and when we got there our luggage had already delivered to the deck area nearby. This meant that we were able to unpack our bags and still have time for a short period of rest before we had to go to the compulsory Safety Briefing about what to do in event of an emergency.

Once the briefing was over and we had returned our lifejackets to our cabin, we went up to the Aquarius Bar – which was located on Deck 10 at the stern of the ship – to have a drink and to listen to the ship’s DJ play appropriate music whilst the Arcadia left port. The Entertainment Staff did their best to get everyone into a holiday mood by encouraging all those present to sing along with – or dance to – the music.

Once Arcadia was well on her way down the Solent we went back to our cabin to prepare for dinner. We had a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar before going to our table in the Meridian Restaurant. We had been allocated seats at a table for six, but only two other people joined us and we were not sure if the missing couple were unwell, too tired to come to dinner, or had decided that they preferred to eat in one of the alternative dining venues.

We finished our evening with a quick drink in the Crow’s Nest Bar, and then went to our cabin for a much needed sleep.

Monday 22nd July: At sea
After a very sound night’s sleep we awoke to find that Arcadia was well out into the North Sea, and that the weather was fine. The sea was very calm …

… and a cooling breeze took some of the edge from the sun’s heat.

After a leisurely breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went up to the open deck area neat the Aquarius Bar. It was so pleasant sitting there that we stayed in that area until well after 1.00pm, when we returned to our cabin to cool down. During our time on deck I managed to finish reading FAMOUS SEA FIGHTS FROM SALAMIS TO TSU-SHIMA by John Richard Hale on my Kindle, and began FLASH FOR FREEDOM by George MacDonald Fraser.

After a late snack lunch in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant we returned to our cabin to rest before preparing for the first formal dinner of the cruise. By this time the ship had begun sailing through patchy fog … and this persisted – on and off – until we went to bed. We had a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, and then joined our table companions in the Meridian Restaurant. After dinner we decided not to go to the show that was put on by the ship’s singers and dancers in Arcadia’s Palladium Theatre; instead we went to the Crow’s Nest Bar for a relaxing drink before retiring for the night.

Tuesday 23rd July: Kristiansand, Norway
By the time we woke up at 7.00am the previous day’s fog had gone, and as we approached the coast of Norway from the south, the sky was almost cloudless and the horizon was very distinct and clear.

As we had booked an excursion, we made our way down to breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant slightly earlier than normal, and by 9.25am we were in the assembly point in the Palladium Theatre. By just after 10.00am we had boarded our coach and were on our way to the first stop of our tour … the top of the cliffs at Odderøya overlooking Kristiansand.

This was the location of the first attempts by the Germans to land troops to capture Kristiansand in 1940, and the Norwegian soldiers who died defending the town were commemorated by a small memorial that had been erected in the centre of their defences.

The Germans extended the existing Norwegian defences, and besides building a substantial signal station …

… they installed a number of 21cm coastal defence guns. Little remains of the latter except the gun pits in which they were located and some of their attendant bunkers.

We then drove to Møvig on the other side of Kristiansand. This was the location of Kristiansand Cannon Museum/Batterie Vara. There was so much to see there that Kristiansand Cannon Museum/Batterie Vara will be covered by a separate and more detailed blog entry.

After spending just under 45 minutes at Kristiansand Cannon Museum/Batterie Vara we re-boarded our coach and drove to building that was used as the local Gestapo Headquarters during the German occupation of Norway. The building was built during the late 1930s to act as the local official archive (the Stiftelsen Arkivet), but after the invasion it was taken over by the Gestapo.

Outside the building was a monument to all of the people who were interrogate inside the building and who did not survive the Second World War.

The basement of the building was now used as a museum, and told the story of the Gestapo’s activities in the Kristiansand area.

The visit to the museum in the basement of the former Gestapo Headquarters took just over an hour, and on our way back to the Arcadia we asked if the coach could drop us in the centre of Kristiansand. This proved to be possible, and instead of returning directly to the ship we went for a walk through the centre of the town. We eventually made our way back to the Arcadia via the Fish Market (Fiskebrygga) area, which had been renovated and turned into a thriving bar and restaurant district.

Once we were back aboard Arcadia we had a short rest in our cabin before going up to the Belvedere Self Service restaurant for a snack. We followed this with a cooling drink in the Aquarius Bar, and then went back to our cabin prior to the Arcadia setting sail at just after 5.00pm. As Arcadia sailed out towards the Skagerrak, she passed a grey-painted ship that carried the identification number Y861. This was the German Schwedeneck-class multi-purpose trial ship, Kronsort.

We then got ready for the evening meal in the Meridian Restaurant, which we preceded with yet another drink in the Aquarius Bar. For the first time our existing table companions and we were joined by the couple who had missed dinner on the first two nights of the cruise.

After dinner the weather was warm enough for us to be able to return to the Aquarius Bar for an after dinner drink … and whilst we were there we saw a small submarine pass Arcadia on the surface on an opposing course. In the twilight the submarine was very difficult to see, but as she sailed westward away from our ship and towards the setting sun it proved possible to photograph her.

The evening’s ‘excitement’ having ended, we then returned to our cabin to prepare for a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday 24th July: At sea
We were awoken by an announcement by the Captain of Arcadia – Sarah Breton – that at approximately 9.00am the ship was going to pass under the bridge over the Storebælt. This bridge joined the Danish island on which Copenhagen was located (Sjælland) to the rest of Denmark, and was reputed to be the longest bridge in Europe.

This allowed us time to get dressed and onto our cabin balcony well before Arcadia reached the bridge, and we were able to photograph the ship’s approach to and passage under the bridge.

By 9.20am we were sitting in the Meridian Restaurant and being served breakfast, and afterwards we went up to the covered deck area near the Aquarius Bar. We had not been there very long when the ship was ‘buzzed’ by a military jet (it looked like a Tornado) flying low and fast towards the Skagerrak.

We remained there until after midday, by which time the temperature had dropped to a level that made it rather cool to sit in the shade in comfort. As it was approaching lunchtime – and the area where we were seated was going to get crowded by people looking for somewhere to sit and eat their lunch – we decided to return to our cabin so that we could sit on our balcony, which was warm because it only partially in the shade.

During the early afternoon we went to the Neptune Grill for lunch, where we met a bar steward who had served us on our previous voyage aboard Arcadia to the Caribbean. After lunch we returned to our cabin, where we rested and read. I finished reading George MacDonald Fraser’s FLASH FOR FREEDOM and began his FLASHMAN AND THE INDIANS.

Just after 6.00pm we began getting ready for the Captain’s Cocktail Reception which preceded the second formal dinner of the cruise. We had been to many similar receptions in the past, and this one was held in the area around the Neptune swimming pool. In the end we decided to give the reception a miss, and we went to the Aquarius Bar instead. We met two of our four table companions there, and all of us went down to the Meridian Restaurant together for dinner.

Our two other table companions were already seated when we arrived (they had been to the Captain’s Cocktail Reception) and we had a very enjoyable time exchanging stories about what we had done during the day … and experiences we had had on previous cruises. We returned to the Aquarius Bar after dinner, and sat there – having a post-dinner drink – until it was time to return to our cabin to sleep.

Thursday 25th July: Gdynia, Poland
After such a long spell of good weather it felt unusual to wake up to see grey and overcast skies … but that was what greeted us as Arcadia sailed into Gdynia.

On our passage into the port we passed the Polish Navy’s main naval base.

A wide variety of different types of ship were visible, including training ships, supply craft, tenders, patrol boats, tugs, and frigates.

Arcadia was followed into port by a French Navy diving support vessel, the Alizé (A645).

We decided to have breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant before going ashore, and we finally boarded the shuttle-bus into the centre of Gdynia just after 11.00am. Once there we went for a walk around the town centre and had a coffee in a local café. Near to the café was a small park, whose entrance was dominated by a war memorial to those local people who were killed during the Second World War.

After some retail therapy in a small shopping and cinema complex on the waterfront, we ended up near to two museum ships, the Dar Pomorza

… and the ORP Błyskawica.

The former was a sail training ship that used to be used by the Polish Navy and the latter was a pre-Second World War Polish destroyer that was built in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. ORP Błyskawica escaped to Britain at the beginning of the Second World War and served alongside ships of the Royal Navy until the end of the war. She then returned to Poland and became an important part of the post-war Polish Navy. After she was retired from active service she was restored to the way she looked at the end of the Second World War and became a museum ship.

The ORP Błyskawica will covered by a separate and more detailed blog entry.

After spending quite some time in and around the waterfront area of Gdynia we decided to have lunch before returning to Arcadia. We found a very nice restaurant/café nearby – the Coco – and we each ate a pizza and had a drink. The total cost was 57 zloty … which was about £11.00!

We returned to Arcadia in time to have a drink in the Aquarius Bar before she sailed out of Gdynia on her way to St Petersburg. We then returned to our cabin to rest and get ready for the evening meal in the Meridian Restaurant. We went back to the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink … and returned there after dinner as well. We remained there talking to people we had met on the cruise until after 2.00am, at which time we decided that it was time to go to bed.

Friday 26th July: At sea
We slept very well during the night and did not get up until later than normal. As a result we had to eat breakfast in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant … although the sitting area in the restaurant was so crowded that we actually ended up eating at a table in the adjoining open deck area, next to the Aquarius Bar.

We stayed there talking to various people until 11.30am, when the weather took a turn for the worse and the Arcadia entered a bank of thick fog. We decided to go back to our cabin to collect our Kindles and iPads before going up to the Crow’s Nest Bar where we knew that we could sit and read in comfort.

Just after 2.00pm we returned to our cabin to freshen up before going to lunch in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant. We had finished eating by 2.30pm, and then went out to the covered area near the Aquarius Bar for a drink. We had a number of chats with people we had met during the cruise, and returned to our cabin at just after 4.30pm. We then spent the next couple of hours reading and resting, after which we began getting ready for that evening’s dinner.

By 5.00pm the last vestiges of the fog had disappeared and it was warm enough to sit outside in the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink. We had an enjoyable chat with our table companions during dinner, and afterwards we went back to the Aquarius Bar before going to bed.

Saturday 27th July: St Petersburg, Russia
Arcadia tied up alongside the St Petersburg Cruise Terminal at approximately This was the first time that we had moored at the newly-built terminal and it looked as if it was a distinct improvement over the former one, which had been located in the middle of the commercial dock area, next to a scrapyard!

Arcadia was not the only cruise ship in port on that day. Celebrity Cruise’s Celebrity Eclipse was moored just ahead of Arcadia and Cunard’s Queen Victoria was alongside astern.

Because our excursion was not taking place until after midday we decided to have a lie-in and a late breakfast in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant. This was far emptier than normal, and we were able to take our time and had no need to hurry.

After breakfast we sat in the covered area near the Aquarius Bar until it was time to go to our cabin to get ready to go ashore. We had booked a special tour in a vintage Volga motorcar for our first day in St Petersburg. The car came with a driver and guide, and although a suggested itinerary had been given to us, we decided to ask if it was possible to make changes so that we could spend time at places that we had seen on our previous visits but had not had time to explore.

After passing through Russian Passport Control, we were collected from outside the Cruise Terminal by our guide – Elena – and driver – Alexei. The Volga turned out to be grey – rather than the normal black – and was built in 1964 … the same year that the driver was born!

The first part of our tour was extensive and took in St Nicholas and the Epiphany Church, …

… St Isaac’s Cathedral, …

… the Rostral Columns on the confluence of the Malaya Neva and Bolshaya Neva rivers, …

… the Peter and Paul Fortress (which was the oldest building in St Petersburg), …

… the Winter Palace and the Hermitage, …

… the former Stock Exchange (which was, until recently, the Naval Museum), …

… the cruiser Aurora (more of which will follow later), …

… Finland Station and Lenin’s Statue (which was sometimes known as ‘Lenin hailing a cab! I particularly wanted a photograph of this statue as my second cousin – the late Michael Bryant – portrayed Lenin in the film ‘Nicholas and Alexandra’), …

… the Smolnyy Cathedral …

…and its bell!

The main door into the Smolnyy Cathedral was surmounted by a magnificent icon.

We then stopped for afternoon tea in the Kempinski Hotel …

… after which we visited the spectacular Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood.

We arrived back at Arcadia just after 5.15pm, and after thanking our excellent guide and driver for everything that they had done, we went back aboard and had a long, cooling drink in the Aquarius Bar. We returned to our cabin just in time to see Queen Victoria depart from her berth in the Cruise Terminal.

Because the normal dining arrangements had been suspended during Arcadia’s visit to St Petersburg, we had booked dinner in the Ocean Grill. This was the alternative dining venues aboard Arcadia, and was run under the guidance and auspices of Marco Pierre White. We had eaten there on previous cruises, and as usual the meal lived up to our expectations.

After such a full and tiring day we went to bed reasonable early, even though the next day’s excursion was also not going to take place until late in the day.

Sunday 28th July: St Petersburg, Russia
For the second day running we had booked an afternoon excursion, and had hoped to have a lie-in and late breakfast … and for once we achieved what we had wanted to do! We did not wake up until 9.00am, and went to breakfast in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant just after 10.00am. Not long before we went to breakfast the cruise liner MV Nautica had moored further along the same quay as the Arcadia.

This particular day was the Russian Navy Day, and we expected to see examples of Russian warships moored along the River Neva when we went into the centre of St Petersburg later in the day. What we did not expect to see – at some distance from the Arcadia – was a surfaced submarine sailing towards the River Neva!

We took our time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and were able to spend some time relaxing in the open area near to the Aquarius Bar before having to go back to our cabin to prepare for our afternoon excursion.

Our tour had only two stops, the cruiser Aurora and the Artillery Museum … and both of these places will be the subject of separate, detailed blog entries.

The Aurora was moored on the Petrograd side of the River Neva with her bows pointing towards the Winter Palace on the opposite side of the river.

The Artillery Museum was located in the former arsenal and outer defensive works of the Peter and Paul Fortress.

On our return trip to the ship we passed close enough to the River Neva for use to see some of the Russian warships that were anchored there. They included a Russian experimental submarine (it was the one-off Project 677 Lada submarine named Saint Petersburg!) …

… and a Steregushchy-class corvette (Boikiy 532).

Our tour returned to Arcadia at 4.45pm, and on our way back we passed a pair of gun turrets – possibly from a Kirov-class light cruiser – mounted in a small park in the centre of a housing development.

The ship set sail for her next port-of-call at 6.30pm, which was slightly later than expected. On our way out into the Gulf of Finland Arcadia sailed past the Russian naval base at Kronstadt. This seemed to be almost devoid of ships except for those used for training, those being repaired, and those awaiting disposal.

As usual we had pre and post-dinner drinks in the Aquarius Bar and ate our dinner in the Meridian Restaurant. It was interesting to hear how our table companions had fared during the ship’s stay in St Petersburg, as we had not seen them since the evening before our arrival.

Monday 29th July: Tallinn, Estonia
Arcadia docked alongside in Tallinn exactly on schedule at 8.30am. Two other cruise ships were also in the Tallinn Cruise Terminal area. These were the Celebrity Eclipse and the AIDA Mar.

After eating breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went ashore and took the shuttle-bus into the centre of Tallinn. We then walked up to and through the ancient Viru Gates (Viru Värav) into the oldest part of Tallinn …

… and along the inside of a section of the original city walls.

During our walk we were able to enter the courtyard of the old former St Catherine’s Dominican monastery.

We then turned towards the centre of the oldest part of the city.

As we did we passed St Nicholas Orthodox Church …

… and the local Roman Catholic Cathedral.

This was a very simply decorated church …

… although it did contain a memorial plaque to a local Archbishop who was killed during the Second World War …

… and a beautiful black Madonna and Child icon.

By this time it was getting very hot and humid, so we stopped for a cooling drink in a bar called the Old Hansa.

We then walked up towards the Upper Town (which was located at the top of Toompea Hill) and then made our way back to the Town Hall or Market Square (Raekoja Plats). This square was dominated by the Gothic Town Hall.

By this time it was lunchtime, and having decided that the restaurants that lined the square were all too crowded, we set off in search of somewhere quieter. A short walk took us to a secluded side street where we discovered a very nice family-run restaurant, Restoran Ulvi Köök

After eating a light lunch we walked back through a number of narrow streets to the Viru Gates, and thence to the shuttle-bus stop. At the Cruise Terminal we had time to do a little retail therapy before going back aboard Arcadia at approximately 2.45pm.

After cooling down in our cabin for thirty minutes we went up to the Aquarius Bar for a drink, and stayed there until Arcadia had sail out of Tallinn at 4.30pm. We then returned to our cabin to get ready for the evening.

Because the weather had remained so good, we had our pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar before going to the Meridian Restaurant to eat our dinner. All those present exchanged stories of their experiences in Tallinn, and it was interesting to hear the very different views and opinions each person had of the place.

After dinner we returned to the Aquarius Bar, which was going to be the location of a 1960s and 1970s-themed deck party … only to find that it was raining very heavily and that the party had been relocated to another venue. We decided to stay where we were … and enjoyed a quiet drink under cover watching the rain!

Tuesday 30th July: Stockholm, Sweden
During the night Arcadia sailed across the Baltic Sea to Stockholm, and moored alongside the quay at 8.30am. We had awoken slightly earlier than normal and were able to watch the ship’s progress towards Stockholm from our cabin. The weather had improved slightly overnight … but it was still damp and overcast, with occasional patches of fog.

Soon after Arcadia had tied up another cruise liner – the Costa Fortuna – moored just behind her.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we had a brief spell sitting on the open deck area near the Aquarius Bar waiting for the weather to improve, and once it had we went ashore and caught the shuttle-bus to the centre of Stockholm. It dropped us off just outside the Opera House, and from there we walked across the bridge over the Norrström towards the Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet).

As we walked towards the Palace we passed the Parliament House (Riksdag) …

… before walking southwards down one of the main streets of the Old Town (Gamla Stan), Västerlanggatan. On the way we passed several interesting side streets.

We stopped for a drink in a small café near the bridge that connects the Old Town (Gamla Stan) to Södermalm before crossing the bridge and making our way to Hornsgatan. We spent some time there before re-crossing the bridge and walking back to the Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet), where we were just in time to see the end of the Guard Changing ceremony.

(After the ceremony the old guard paraded and checked that their weapons were safe before marching to the coach that took them back to their barracks.)

Once the ceremony was over we walked back to the shuttle-bus pick-up point, and managed to catch one just before it left. As a result we were back aboard Arcadia in plenty of time to eat a leisurely lunch. We then went out onto the open deck area near the Aquarius Bar, and remained there until it began to rain quite heavily. At that point we decided to return to our cabin to rest and read.

Arcadia’s departure from Stockholm was delayed by nearly an hour. The Costa Fortuna was scheduled to leave just ahead of Arcadia … but was unable to do so on time as several of its tours had not arrived back by the time they were supposed to. As a result the Costa Fortuna’s sailing was delayed … and as there was insufficient room in the dock area for Arcadia to manoeuvre around the Costa Fortuna, Arcadia had to wait until the Italian ship had left before she could. The situation was not helped by the torrential rain that was still falling, which considerable restricted visibility at times.

We returned to the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink, and despite the rain it was quite comfortable sitting in the covered area watching the scenery that the Arcadia was sailing past. When we went down to dinner in the Meridian Restaurant we discovered that one of our dinner companions had been taken ill that afternoon and was unable to join us. His wife ate with us, and we all expressed the hope that her husband would be feeling better by the next day.

After dinner we decided to see if the Aquarius Bar was still open (we had expected that the heavy rain might have caused it to close early) … and to our delight, it was. We therefore had a post-dinner drink in the covered area nearby before going to our cabin to sleep.

Wednesday 31st July: At sea
When we woke up the weather had improved somewhat, and although the sky was overcast, the rain had stopped and the air temperature was slightly warmer than it had been on the previous day. We ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, but before going up to the covered area near the Aquarius Bar as we usually did, we went to a special Russian Bazaar event that was organised by the ship’s retail staff.

Having bought a few small items, we then went up to the Aquarius Bar, but soon after we arrived the Arcadia passed through a very heavy rain squall and the air temperature dropped. We stuck it out for a while as we were chatting to people we had met during the cruise, but in the end we decided that it was getting too cold, and we returned to our cabin to read. As a result I managed to finish reading George MacDonald Fraser’s FLASHMAN AND THE INDIANS and began FLASHMAN AT THE CHARGE.

During the morning Arcadia passed a four-masted sailing ship.

It was impossible to make out the sailing ship’s name, but she looked very similar to one that had been moored on the River Neva during our visit to St Petersburg.

We had a late lunch in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant, followed by another short spell on deck … but after about thirty minutes we returned to our cabin to read and rest a bit more before we had to get ready for that night’s formal dinner.

Dinner was preceded by the Peninsular Club Reception, which was held in the Crow’s Nest Bar. Surprisingly there were far fewer people at the reception than we had expected, and it appeared that there were quite a few first-time cruisers aboard Arcadia.

Our ‘missing’ dinner companion was feeling better and joined us for the evening meal in the Meridian Restaurant. After dinner we went up to the Aquarius Bar for a drink and a chat … and to see Arcadia sail back under the bridge over the Storebælt. This was supposed to take place soon after midnight, but for some reason the ship was later getting to the bridge and went under at approximately 12.45am. By then we had returned to our cabin – which was much warmer! – and watched the spectacle from our balcony.

We then went to bed … feeling rather tired.

Thursday 1st August: Copenhagen, Denmark
Arcadia was manoeuvring in the entrance to Copenhagen when we awoke, and at 9.00am – just as we were starting to eat our breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant – the Captain announced that the ship was secured alongside and that passengers could go ashore.

After breakfast we waited until all the passengers who were going on organised tours had disembarked before beginning our walk into the centre of the city. As Arcadia was moored at Langelinie, it was only a short walk to the location of the famous Little Mermaid statue.

After a short break to take photographs, we then continued our walk and passed a victory monument …

… and a fountain.

Within less than thirty minutes we had reached the Amalienborg Palace, which was laid out around a central square, which was dominated by a statue of Frederik Vth on horseback.

The Palace was guarded by members of the Danish Royal Life Guards, who looked extremely smart in their nineteenth century uniforms …

… although their rifles were very modern!

We then walked from the Palace towards the Marmorkirken or Frederikskirken (the Marble or Frederik’s Church)…

… and then onwards to the Kongens Nytorv, which was in the centre of Copenhagen. We then made our way up the Strøget – which was reputed to be the longest pedestrian shopping area in the world – where we undertook some retail therapy before stopping in a local bar/café for a refreshing glass of local lager.

After this short break we went back towards the river via the part of the city known as Nyhavn, and thence back to Arcadia. As we walked alongside the river we could see the ships that formed part of the Royal Danish Navy’s museum, which was located on the far bank.

We ate lunch in the Arcadia’s Neptune Grill, and then went to the Aquarius Bar for a drink. We remained there until the ship sailed at 5.00pm, and took part in the ‘Great British Sail Away’ that the members of the Entertainment Staff had organised. Once this had finished, we went back to our cabin to get ready for dinner.

As usual we had a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, but we both felt so tired after our visit to Copenhagen that after we had eaten our meal in the Meridian Restaurant, we went back to our cabin for an early night.

Friday 2nd August: At sea
Arcadia had rounded the tip of Jutland and was sailing out into the North Sea by the time we woke up. The visibility was reasonable – as was the sea state – but the horizon was obscured by a thin fog at times.

We ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, and then ventured out on deck to see if it was warm enough to sit outside. It was … and we therefore remained in the covered area near the Aquarius Bar until it was time to go back to our cabin to get ready for the Peninsular Club Lunch.

The Peninsular Club Lunch was P&O’s way of thanking regular customers for their continued support and custom. As we were both members of the top level of the club – we were classed as being on the Ligurian tier – we were invited to a special lunch where each table was hosted by a senior officer. In our case this was the Ship’s Executive Purser, Alasdair Ross. The lunch – and the company – we excellent, and we had a very enjoyable time.

After the lunch we were both feeling rather full, but rather than go back to our cabin straight away, we went up to the Aquarius Bar. We sat there chatting to various people until it was mid-afternoon, at which point we did go back to our cabin to begin the process of sorting out what needed to be packed … and actually managing to pack three of our bags. That done we then had a rest before getting ready for the last formal dinner of the cruise. I even managed to finish reading George MacDonald Fraser’s FLASHMAN AT THE CHARGE and began FLASHMAN AND THE GREAT GAME.

As usual we had a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, and whilst we were Arcadia sailed into a tremendous rain storm, which was accompanied by some spectacular thunder and lightning.

At 8.30pm we went to the Meridian Restaurant to eat. The meal ended with a parade of the ship’s chefs and galley brigade through the restaurant to the sound of Tina Turner singing ‘Simply the best’. After dinner we returned to the Aquarius Bar for a drink and a chat before going to bed.

Saturday 3rd August: Zeebrugge, Belgium
Zeebrugge was Belgium’s major seaport, and besides having ferry and container facilities it was the location of the country’s main naval base.

There were a number of Belgian Navy warships in the naval base including the BNS Louise-Marie (F931), …

… the BNS Godetia (A960), …

… the BNS Bellis (M916), …

… and the BNS Primula (M924).

We had probably moored alongside in Zeebrugge more times than any other port, and after breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant – followed by a short spell in the covered area by the Aquarius Bar – we went ashore and caught the shuttle-bus to the nearest town, Blankenberge.

After walking up the main shopping street of Blankenberge – Kerkstraat – and doing some retail therapy, we stopped for a drink in a local bar that we had visited on previous occasions.

We then went back to Arcadia on the shuttle-bus, and after eating lunch – and having had a drink in the Aquarius Bar – we completed our packing and got ready for our last dinner of the cruise. As has been our custom on most evenings, we went to the Aquarius Bar for a drink before dinner, and then made our way to the Meridian Restaurant. After we had eaten we made our farewells to our table companions and the waiting staff who had served us during the cruise, and then had a final drink – and a chat with some of the other passengers that we had met aboard Arcadia – in the Aquarius Bar. We then returned to our cabin, packed the last of our luggage, and went to bed.

Sunday 4th August: Southampton
Arcadia was just mooring alongside the Mayflower Cruise Terminal when we woke up at 6.30am. On her way in she passed the RFA Lyme Bay (L3007), which was alongside one of the piers at the Marchwood Military Port on the opposite side of the river.

After eating breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we collected our hand luggage from our cabin, and by 8.30am we were walking ashore. Once we were in the luggage collection area we found our bags almost at once, and by 8.55am we had collected our car, loaded it, and were on our way towards the M3 and London. Our journey home was uneventful, and by 11.45am we were home and unloading the car.


  1. An excellent report and a super trip for you both!

  2. Great travelogue Bob.

    I found the Copenhagen entries very interesting as I have been there, alas when I was 12 years old. I pretty well recognised everything though!!


  3. Tradgardmastare,

    I am very pleased to hear that you enjoyed it. My wife and I have been to the Baltic twice before, but this was better than both our previous cruises.

    All the best,


  4. Jim Duncan,

    I am very pleased to hear that you enjoyed reading this particular blog entry ... and that it brought back some good memories.

    I like Copenhagen and prefer it to Stockholm, which I always find a bit overcrowded.

    All the best,


  5. My wife and I went to Russia a few years ago, and spent 3 days in St. Petersburg. It was the best part of the trip. We went to the Aurora, and also the Naval Museum. Did they move the Naval Museum somewhere else? I really enjoyed the ship models there.

  6. Bill,

    St Petersburg is a very interesting place to visit and I wish that we had been able to spend longer there.

    Our guide told us that the museum was in the process of moving to another location at Ploschad Truda.

    Al the best,


  7. Great account and wonderful photos. I was in our house in Cowes and saw you sail out! We have a great view of all the cruise ships from our balcony! I used to travel in the Baltic a lot for business and used to travel to Copenhagen and Tallinn quite often.

    Was all the military content planned or did it just happen?

  8. Legatus Hedlius,

    I wish that I had as wonderful view as you have (although our view is quite good as we overlook London from the top of one of the highest points around the city). Next time I will wave ... just in case you can see me!

    My wife Sue and I enjoy cruising and always look for something that will interest one or both of us ... and in this case the opportunity to see and visit lots of military-related places came up, so we did.

    All the best,


  9. Great pictures. It looked like a fabulous trip.

  10. Sean,

    It was a great trip (the excellent weather helped!) and there are more photographs to follow.

    All the best,


  11. I really enjoy reading these 'travelogue' style posts although I have to admit to being a little jealous of your globe-trotting adventures! Great photo's and no doubt some great memories.

  12. Lee Hadley,

    I am always pleased to hear that regular blog readers enjoy my 'travelogues'. They certainly help me to remember when and where I have been.

    My wife and I have enjoyed cruising for some years, and now that we are retired we have rather thrown ourselves into it. The fact that we can go out of school holidays and can go at relatively short-notice means that it costs us a lot less than it used to.

    All the best,


  13. Thanks for bringing us along on the cruise! (Even if we did have to provide our own food and drink).

    Those Danish & Swedish Guards would not look out of place on a FLW battlefield somewhere.

    I was only in Copenhagen once, 1974 I think, but mostly what i remmber is a co-ed youth hostel and these 2 blonde Norwegian girls but that's another story.

  14. Ross Mac,

    Glad to have you aboard ... even if you did have to pay for your own food and drink!

    The Swedish and Danish uniforms are very, very suitable for Funny Little Wars ... and now that I have the capability to 'cast my own' you never know what might happen!

    Given the choice between looking around the city of Copenhagen or two blonde Norwegian girls, I think I would have ignored the architecture as well!

    All the best,



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