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Posts Tagged ‘Carnival Legend’

Firth of Forth and the Forth Bridge

In Uncategorized on September 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm

First of all, yes, that’s quite the mouthful, it took me approximately 4 tries to say ‘Firth of Forth’ in a sentence without sounding completely foolish (I’m still not certain I’ve mastered it). We sailed into the Firth of Forth this morning and it was a very beautiful sight. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry, I didn’t either. The Firth of Forth is a fijord that was formed by the Forth Glacier in the last glacial period. Specifically, it is the estuary (‘firth’) of Scotland’s River Forth, where said river flows into the North Sea. It flows between Fife (north) and West Lothian, Edinburgh, and East Lothian (south). The firth is very important for the conservation of nature. The Isle of May hosts a bird observatory, and the Firth of Forth Islands SPA (Special Protection Area) is a home for over 90,000 breeding seabirds each year!! This is one of the reasons that in 2008, the Firth Ports refused a bid by SPT Marine Services to allow oil transfer between ships. It’s really beautiful here!! Houses and beaches line the shores and the Forth Bridge stands tall and majestic in front of you as you sail in. The bridge itself, of course, has a history all on its own. It is a cantilever railway bridge just to the east of the Forth Road Bridge, about 14 km west from the city of Edinburgh. It was opened in March of 1890 and is 2,528.7 metres long. It connects Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh with Fife, and took 7 years to complete. It used 10 times as much metal as the Eiffel Tower and 98 men lost their lives during its construction. The bridge was designed by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker. 4 years prior to the beginning of the bridge’s construction, (on Dec 28th 1879) in a violent storm, the first Tay Rail Bridge collapsed as a train passed over it, killing all passengers. It was an unmitigated disaster and because of it, the Forth Bridge was specifically designed to look strong. And strong it does look. What an amazing sight to sail into today, I will never forget it!
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Bergen and Bryggen, Norway

In adventure on September 21, 2013 at 7:28 am

Stop number 2 on the Norway cruise was Bergen. It’s another beautiful town with a lovely fish market and a cool tram-type thing called a Funicular that goes up Mt. Floyen (similar to the skyride in St. Thomas). I didn’t have much time outside so I wandered around taking pictures of the beautiful scenery and architecture. One thing that’s very interesting about Bergen is the Bryggen UNESCO World Heritage site. Feel free to check it out here at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/59
Bryggen is Bergen’s old wharf area and is a reminder of the town’s importance as part of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire from the 14th to the mid-16th century. There are currently 62 buildings left from that era, as it has had parts of it destroyed by multiple fires over the years. King Olav the Peaceful (Olav Kyrre) founded the port of Bergen somewhere around 1070 and it was initially a possession of the old Norwegian aristocracy that had acquired a monopoly on fish trading. Today much of it remains protected and a lovely well inside a courtyard advises that any Norwegian coins that are dropped into it will be used to continue to preserve the site.
The fish market itself is lovely and had so many different things to peruse and explore. I wandered up a small hill for a better view of the city. The buildings are beautiful and are built fitting inside the nooks and crannies of each other like so many puzzle pieces. Beautiful gardens abound and sharp turns lead to small alleys with steep stairs. I very much enjoyed Bergen and one day hope to come back again!
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Castles Of Old Zealand

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2013 at 8:52 am

When last I was in Denmark, I decided that I really needed to see some serious castles. What better place to do that than Denmark!! I was fortunate enough to be able to get on a guest tour called ‘Castles of Old Zealand’. This tour was SO much fun!!! It was also nice that our pro DJ from the ship (DJ Bad Beats, or Artie to us) was also on the tour so we went adventuring together!

Some summarizing bullet points for those of you who might not want to read all the way to the end (one of my shore excursion managers says my tour reviews are too long to read, so I always give him bullet points)
– Tour guide pretty much invented Denmark, she knew EVERYTHING about everyone that ever took a breath in or around or near to the country
– I love castles…
– We wandered away from the tour group and found the crazy dungeons under the Macbeth castle…very cool.
– Danish castles are better than Russian palaces because you get to touch things
– Lunch had lots of options!
Our tour guide (Pia) was an absolute gem, she told so many interesting stories that I stayed awake for most of them! Our first stop was at a lovely castle that was next to a darling marina. It was in fact the castle that Shakespeare set Macbeth in, which is super cool. We strayed from the group and went for a wander down in the dungeons and tunnels that used to house soldiers. Tip: If a sign tells you to grab a flashlight (aka a torch) before entering a dark tunnel, you might want to listen….we managed with our cell phones and camera flashes like a sketchy horror movie.
After that we stopped at the Danish Queen’s summer palace, not really very castle-y, but beautiful nonetheless. We didn’t get to go in or anything, but we could see the stables and the palace and we heard all about the Danish royal family. I like the Danish royals, they sound more down to earth than some of the other monarchs you hear about. Our tour guide was telling us that when they are in Denmark, they ride their horses through the fields and the towns and whatnot. Just as I imagine Kings and Queens doing. Just like a fairy tale.
Lunch was at an inn about 10 minutes away from the summer palace. They had a lovely buffet set out for us with a complementary beverage, as well as teas and coffees. The food was good, some of it was difficult to distinguish exactly what it was, but I was brave and tried everything (except the things covered in gluteny death). Next to the inn was a lovely cemetery that we took pictures in before returning to the bus.
After lunch we went to Fredrickbourg castle which was AMAZING!!!! So many rooms full of so many shiny things!! I loved that the castle wasn’t very crowded, unlike some of the Russian palaces, so it felt like we could really move at our own pace and explore the castle. Also unlike the Russian palaces, there weren’t big plexiglass coverings over all the walls. Russian palaces don’t let you touch ANYTHING…so paranoid. So I touched some artifacts, mostly just because I could. Our tour wasn’t scheduled to go out into the gardens, so Artie and I hustled out of the castle (got a little lost but made it in the end) and took ourselves out to the gardens before meeting the tour back at the bus. The gardens were brilliant, I’m so happy we checked them out.
On our way home we slowed down in front of a few other castles, I was kind of bus napping to be honest so I’m not sure which ones, but I know one has the crown jewels in it. What a wonderful day!!
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Catharine’s Palace and Neva River Cruise

In adventure, Uncategorized on September 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

I had such a fun tour in St. Petersburg lat cruise, I just have to share! I went to Catharine’s Palace and for a cruise down the Neva River!! So very lovely.
I had such a wonderful time!! This was the final place on my list of places to visit and it did not disappoint. The history of the Romanovs is so fascinating and our guide knew everything. We did have to stop and wait a few times for other tours to move about the palace but not once was I bored, as our guide kept us so very amused with stories, and juicy tidbits about the Romanovs and Catharine the Great. I liked that they made us wait though, they would let one group through then put a rope up and keep the next group waiting a bit which really alleviated how crowded it could have been (I was picturing it being like crowded like the Sistine chapel and was pleasantly surprised). Our tour guide kept careful count of all of us and after a tour of the palace rooms, it was out to the gardens..again, STUNNING. The amount of work that must go into maintenance there is unreal. It was really interesting on the way out to see the pictures from after the occupation and how much of the palace was destroyed. The restoration team are miracle workers! The gardens were beautiful and it began to rain just as we were walking to the bus, excellent timing for us. At our lunch restaurant, I caught some wifi, made friends with some guests and enjoyed the traditional Russian dancing and singing. The food was great, potato salad, soup (with gluteney dumplings that I avoided), more potatoes (mashed this time) with a chicken patty type thing that tasted far better than it looked. Desert was, of course, gluteney death that I did not eat, but my new guest friends around the table all enjoyed them. After lunch we hustled off to our river cruise. At this point, I was more than a little sleepy (I got some bus napping in, but not much) and the waves were putting me to sleep. As it was raining at this point, we all stayed inside and enjoyed the tour through the windows. Obviously a clearer day would have been ideal, but the river tour was still wonderful!
I very much enjoy Russia in general every time I’m there, and the lovely Catharine Palace most certainly did not disappoint!!

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The Butterfly Effect

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I had a really lovely interaction at the desk the other day. We have a massive French group on board right now, and as there are only two of us in the office who speak French, I’ve come back from night shift to find I’m speaking mostly French. One group of frenchies approached the desk last night to ask about something and one of the ladies looked at my name tag and said, “oh, Erica!! You helped us with our friends last time.” I was a little confused as I had been on nights up until that shift and said that it couldn’t possibly have been me. No, she was certain it was me, I had been very helpful. (Always good to hear, even if I can’t remember). I asked her when exactly when it was, being very disappointed that my short term memory appeared to be failing me…..turns out they cruised with me on the Liberty last year and were so happy with my assistance that they remembered me! In a job that can often be thankless, it’s so amazing to hear that something I considered to be a small thing was such a big thing to someone else. It’s these types of interactions that remind me to try and make every interaction a positive one, as you never know how large an effect you might be having on someone else.

Under the Bridge

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2013 at 5:53 pm

On this wonderful Baltic route, we have the pleasure of sailing under two really awesome bridges!!
The Great Belt Fixed Link (Danish: Storebæltsforbindelsen) runs between the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen. It consists of a road suspension bridge and railway tunnel between Zealand and the island Sprogø, and a box girder bridge between Sprogø and Funen. The suspension bridge, known as the East Bridge, has the world’s third longest main span (1.6 km), the longest outside of Asia. It was designed by the Danish architectural practice Dissing+Weitling.
The East Bridge was built between 1991 and 1998. The East Bridge (Østbroen) is a suspension bridge between Halsskov and Sprogø. It is 6,790 metres (22,277 ft) long with a free span of 1,624 metres (5,328 ft), making it the world’s third-longest suspension bridge span, surpassed only by the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge and Xihoumen Bridge. The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge was opened two months earlier. The East Bridge had been planned to be completed in time to be the longest bridge, but it was delayed. The vertical clearance for ships is 65 metres (213 ft), meaning the world’s largest cruise ship just fits under.
At 254 metres (833 ft) above sea level, the two pylons of the East Bridge are the highest points on solid structures in Denmark. The only things that are taller are some radio masts, such as Tommerup transmitter.
To keep the main cables tensioned, an anchorage structure on each side of the span is placed below the road deck. Nineteen concrete pillars (12 on the Zealand side, seven by Sprogø), 193 metres (633 ft) apart, carry the road deck outside the span. It’s such an amazing structure, and sailing under it is breathtaing every time. We usually stand on deck 4 forward (the crew only area) and watch. Every time, as we sail under the bridge, an audible gasp can be heard from the guests standing on decks 10 and 11, as the bottom of the bridge is so close to their heads!

The other really amazing bridge that we go under is the one that connects Sweden and Denmark, but more on that later!

So often there’s stories from the Guest Services desk that I want to share but I don’t know if I should put them out there, but this bridge prompted one of the best phone calls that I’ve ever had, so I just have to share it.

Me: Good Evening, Guest Services, Erica speaking, how may I assist you?
Gst: So we’re going under this bridge that connects two islands tonight, right?
Me: Yes sir
Gst: Ok so what side of the ship do I have to be on to see it?
Me: We’ll be sailing underneath it, so either side.
Gst: Are you sure?
Me: Um, yes.

And on that note, I will leave you with that story, and this photo!
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A Very Russian Tuesday

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2013 at 3:53 am

Russia is intense. We’ve been preparing ourselves for that fact since we got to the Baltic, however, I didn’t realize how intense they are. Every port has different documentation that they require for ships and their passengers to arrive and exit the vessel. As each day we are in a different country, the requirements can change drastically from day to day. The first Baltic cruise was pretty stressful in this regard, now that we have a few under our belt, we’re feeling more confident and we know what to expect. Some ports we don’t need anything other than our ID to get off. Some require passports. In Russia, if you aren’t one of a few excepted nationalities, you can’t get off the ship without a visa. Some people don’t consider these things before getting onboard. Fortunately for us, many companies are authorized to offer these visas. So if you’re on a shore excursion, or a private shuttle, as Alex and I took last time we were in Russia, you’re fine. But if you just try to wander off the ship, no sir, back you go. Another reason it’s better to just get your excursions through Carnival, then you’re guaranteed to have a visa, and you’re guaranteed not to miss the ship. Last Russia we had some guests on private tours who didn’t get visas, and we had to try to scramble last minute to get ahold of their excursion companies and try to get them visas and make sure they don’t miss their trips, and so on and so forth. But that’s not what this story is about. This story is about the excursion that Alex and I went on last Russian with the dancers and some of the production staff.
But first…let me tell you that I grew up attending musical theatre and acting in plays and have always been in love with the stage. Some of my most cherished memories are going on a girls trip with my mom, grandma and sister to Vancouver, getting dressed up going to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Phantom of the Opera (only time in the history of the world that I cried in a theatre), the Nutcracker, and more. We used to put on plays in our backyard. At the end of the day, I’m really just a show missing a stage. So of course, when I found out that I would be in Russia, my goal in life became to see a real live Russian ballet!!!!! Our first Baltic cruise, I waited eagerly for the first Shore Excursion booklet, and when they came to the desk, I leafed through it like a kid with a Sears catalogue at Christmas time. Low and behold, a Russian Ballet excursion!!!!!!!!!!!!! It would be mine!!! Last week, our production dancers and singers all went to the ballet and happened to have two spots available, of course Alex and I jumped at the chance to go. What show, you ask? Only one of the most pivotal ballets ever choreographed, with an accompanying score by a Russian composer (whose statue sat just outside the theatre) by the name of Tchaikovsky …SWAN LAKE!!

As there were 17 of us, we had a shuttle bus all to ourselves into the heart of St. Petersburg (about 20 minutes from the pier) where we found our seats and waited for the show to begin. The backdrops were stunning, the costumes ornate, and the dancers breathtaking. These dancers start training from the age of 4, and are accepted into the dance academy at 10. They eat, sleep, and breathe dance. The girl who danced the part of the swan queen was flawless. I was inspired and moved the entire way through. During the first intermission we sipped complementary glasses of champagne and felt very elegant indeed. Check that one off the bucket list, what an amazing evening!!!
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Of Canals and Spui Locks

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2013 at 3:42 am

One of the most amazing things about sailing from country to country in Europe is that we get to see some very unique perspectives. We’ve sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar, and been able to see Africa on one side and Spain on the other, We’ve sailed into Venice through mazes of canals. And now we’ve sailed through the North Sea Canal (Dutch: Noordzeekanaal)!!!!

The North Sea Canal is a man-made Dutch ship canal from Amsterdam to the North Sea at Ijmuiden, constructed between 1865 and 1876 to enable seafaring vessels to reach the port of Amsterdam. It ends in Amsterdam at the closed-off IJ Bay, which in turn connects to the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal.
It’s so cool!! It works like the Panama Canal, there are Spui Locks at Ijmuiden, which are operated by the largest pumping station in Europe!

We just sailed into Amsterdam this morning and I missed the first Spui Lock, but I was in the office for the second one and we have a forward camera linked to the televisions that enables us to see the front of the ship and where we are going. So that enabled me to watch the whole process!! Pretty much we sit in between locks while they fill up with water and then when there’s enough water, the lock releases and we can pass through. It’s such an amazing system, and one that I probably would never get to see from this vantage point if I just visited Amsterdam. One day I hope to sail through the Panama Canal the same way!!

The next time we sail through the canal, I’ll make sure to take some pictures to share!

Contract Tracker

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2013 at 3:39 am

I’ve reached the halfway point!! My dear friend Colin sent me this fabulous (and sometimes depressing, if you look at the seconds) contract tracker so the other day I plugged in my dates out of curiosity. Low and behold, I’m halfway done. See the below chart! It’s not something I like to look at all the time, but it’s interesting to see the breakdown of numbers, and the closer you get to the end, the more fun it is to see how many minutes you’ve been onboard! Getting to the halfway mark makes me feel pensive. I’ve seen so many things and been so many amazing places and learnt so many things! We realized the other day that we only have 5 more Baltic cruises and then a Norweigan Fijord cruise, and then we cross back over the Atlantic and end up in Tampa again! How crazy is that?! Back to Tampa again! What an unbelievable journey I’m on!
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When In Russia

In adventure, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise on June 29, 2013 at 6:13 am

Erica’s European Travel Tip of the Day

When in Russia, travel with a Russian!!

Seems simple, right? Now that we’re on the Baltic side of Europe, we’re in a different country every day with COMPLETELY different languages. When we were on the Med side, Alexey relied on my French when we were out in French ports, now that we’re on the other side, when we’re out in Russia, he translates everything for me! And let me tell you, it necessary, the Russian subway is confusing. Beautifully decorated, but confusing, and not everyone speaks English so had I been by myself I would doubtless have gotten lost. International friends are a wonderful thing! Today was our first St. Petersburg and it was amazing. We walked for hours and saw so many things. It was BLAZING hot which I quite enjoyed. We saw the Cathedral of Spilled Blood (which I accidentally called the Cathedral of Spilt Milk and caused Alex to laugh for the entire afternoon), St. Issac’s Square, the Neva River, the Peter & Paul Fortress and the Hermitage Museum. We really moved!! Obviously we didn’t really go inside every place, I’m hoping to go inside the Hermitage Museum when I can go into the gold room and everything. We did go into the Museum at the Peter and Paul Fortress as well as the prison and the medieval torture museum! We had such an amazing day. Peter and Paul Fortress was spectacular, the church room where all the tombs of the Emperors and Empresses are housed was amazing. It’s actually coated in a fine layer of gold! The history is fascinating. In the prison we saw the cells where people were imprisoned at one time. Having Alex with me made it even better because he knows so much Russian history and is always happy to share informative stories and tidbits. I have discovered that I love Russian folklore. Our Firebird lounge on board is based on a Russian fairytale and all over St. Petersburg they have amazing Firebird trinkets and souvenirs. I find Russian history so fascinating. Alex’s town was a secret city for a time!! They made AK-47s there during the cold war so it wasn’t even on any map!! Tomorrow we’re off to the Petergof Summer Palace to see the amazing fountains!! I can’t wait!
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