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Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

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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Snapshot from Russia

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm

On my way home from the airport the other day, I snapped this shot of one of Russia’s beautiful monuments.

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Erica Goes to Pulkovo

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm

More than two weeks ago, Alex asked me if I would accompany him to the airport when he signed off. Of course I said absolutely!! We didn’t really think it would be too difficult, the port agent was taking him so I could just hop in the van and hopefully the agent could just bring me back. This week we found out it was a little more complicated. The agent would not be able to bring me back to the ship. Not to worry, being a planner, I googled my way from the airport (Pulkovo) back to the ship. Remember how I told you that everything in Russia is in Russian? It’s still true and my Russian has not gotten any better. Our staff admin asked me on our way out today, if I was going to catch a cab back to the ship. My answer? Absolutely not. A taxi to the ship would be over 1000 rubles, I would take the bus and metro!! She looked at me like I suddenly grew a second head and wished me luck.

We had a lovely ride to the airport, chatting and sharing memories from our favorite days in port. The traffic was awful, making me a wee but concerned about getting back to work on time. After (finally) finding Alexey’s gate and checking his luggage, he walked me back out to the bus station. For the record, the St.Petersburg airport is confusing.

Our conversation on the way to the bus sounded something like this:
Alexey: ‘ok, tell me again exactly how you’re getting home’
Erica: ‘I’m taking bus #39 to Moskovskaya then taking the metro to Nevskiy Prospekt then changing trains and taking the new train to Primorskaya then the #158 bus to the ship’ (see, I know where I’m going!)
A: ‘ok but don’t change trains, just get off the metro at Nevsky, then go up to the street and from there you’ll see your favorite bookstore (that’s right, I have a favorite St.Petersburg bookstore, I’m a geek) then just walk to the crew shuttle, you’ve done that walk a million times, (I’ve done it 8 times) you’ll be fine.
E: ‘eeeeeekk ok, you think that’s better?’
A: ‘yes, don’t worry, you’ll be fine, you’ve taken the metro with me tons of times (twice), you know what you’re doing.’
E: ‘ok. Ya. You’re right, ill be fine’
A: ‘Just be careful you get on the train going the right direction or you’re screwed’.
E: ‘oh no’

I felt like a kid going to school for the first time, we got to the stop just as the bus arrived, said our goodbyes. Alex checked if I had enough rubles to get on the bus so I wouldn’t get left on the street somewhere. Armed with 85 rubles (which, for the record, is like 3 dollars), a metro token, a map (in Russian), my intrepid adventurer’s spirit, and having been taught how to say all the names of where I needed to go in Russian, I hopped on the bus and tried to look local.

You know how sometimes all the planning in the world can’t save you? This wasn’t one of those times. I caught my bus, and my train and walked to St.Issac’s square without an issue. The lady who takes your money on the bus clearly noticed I’m not Russian, and made sure I got off at my metro stop. Following the commuters from there got me right to my metro station. A big thank you to Russia for building a bookstore so amazing that I can never lose it. I was nervous for sure, as a traveller, not being able to speak the language is one of the most stressful things. But I was well prepared and I’ve been to the city enough times now that I know my way around once I get back downtown. In fact, I’m really happy I went, it’s a great feeling when you do something that makes you nervous and it goes well. Now if this crew shuttle bus will ever leave, I’ll even make it to work on time!!

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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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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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