Google+ Badge

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Viking Sky, Day 6 (Helsinki, Finland)

Breakfast: Cold cuts, smoked fish, a roll, orange juice, coffee. 

Lunch: A beautiful steak tartar at the Mamsen's cafe on deck seven, which I had to mix with the egg yolk and four spices that came with it (plus salt), and enjoyed with a couple glasses glasses of red wine. 


Viking Sky, Day 5 (St. Petersburg, Russia)

Viking Sky, Day 4 (St. Petersburg, Russia)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Viking Sky, Day 3 (Tallinn, Estonia)

Arrived in port approximately 7 a.m.  and were pleased to see it was a bright, sunny, and cool day that would be good both for taking pictures and walking. Went to get breakfast in the main dining room about 8 a.m. and then worked in room a little before heading out. 

Took a shuttle from the port to the Old Town section of Tallinn (and glad we did, as it was further than it looked and would not have been a pleasant walk), and then spent a couple of hours exploring the walled medieval city. Were pleased to discover that it still has many well-maintained or restored walls, towers, gates, and buildings from the 13th century and beyond. Is also very touristy, with a high proportion of shops catering to visitors, along with numerous restaurants and a surprising number of small museums. To an observant visitor it is easy to identify hallmarks of the various eras in the history of Tallinn, to include its foundation as a city of the Teutonic State, its membership in the Hanseatic League, the German ethnic roots of many of its people, and its years as a state within the USSR. 

Had lunch in the World Cafe and then worked for awhile in the room. Went to the spa around 4:30 and had a sweat in the sauna, a cold dousing with the ice bucket, as much of the steamroom as I could handle, and then about five minutes in the snow room and finally a nice soak in the jacuzzi and then a shower before heading back to the room.

A little before 6:30 got a cup of coffee at the Viking Bar, which is located conveniently in the area right outside my room, and then headed off to see Commander Michael Cheshire's lively presentation on Imperial Russia. Chatted with him a little before and after, including a bit about his last command in the Royal Navy being HMS Victory

Breakfast: Was pleased to see that lamb chops are a default item on the dining room breakfast menu! In anticipation of lots of walking and not getting back in time for lunch, I had two medium-rare lamb chops, two over easy eggs, some hash browns, a very nice melange of sauteed mushrooms, a bunch of cherry tomatoes, a glass of V-8 juice, and a couple cups of coffee. 

Lunch: Piece of fried battered fish and some tempura vegetables, which paired together very nicely; small piece of grilled lamb with Bordelaise sauce; some fennel salad, two pieces of gruyere cheese, and one piece of another blue cheese; two glasses of red wine; one scoop of peanut butter gelato in a cone. 

Dinner: Ate at the specialty restaurant Manfredi's and confirmed that the good things we had heard about it were completely justified. For a starter I had the octopus carpaccio (which was OK, but not fantastic) and some of the mozarella from Diane's huge caprese salad (which was wonderful). For a main course I did justice to a huge, beautiful ribeye that had been marinated for 72 hours, along with a side of very nice creamed spinach. Enjoyed it all with a couple glasses of red wine and had a piece of pistachio torte for desert. (Diane had a very nice osso bucco for her main dish and nutella pannacotta for desert.)

A glimpse of the beautiful, and fragrant, flower market outside the medieval gates of Tallinn, Estonia. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Viking Sky, Day 2 (Stockholm and Baltic Sea)

Still on an odd schedule and woke up early and, after laying in bed for awake some time, got up about 5 a.m., took a shower, and then went back to bed for another hour or so. Got up for good around 7 a.m. and then went to breakfast and worked ahead of meeting in the theater for our tour at 10:15. 

Departed on a panoramic coach tour of Stockholm — capital of Sweden and the most populous city in Scandinavia — at 10:30 and spent two hours driving across several of its 14 islands, neighborhoods, and sections and saw numerous points of interest and got a good overview of the city from our guide Mia. 

At 2:25 p.m. we had the mandatory safety drill and subsequent briefing in the theater. After that I had to run back to the room to get my laptop and then return to the theater to meet the cruise director, Aaron, and the stage manager, to make sure I knew everything I needed to for my lectures and that my PowerPoint presentation would display properly. 

Took some time after all that to work for awhile, mainly on proofing the presentation I had to give today and doing some background reading tying in with it, while we sailed out through the Stockholm Archipelago, a sprawling collection of 30,000 to 40,000 islands, most of them rugged looking and forested and many inhabited (see a 14-minute video of this that I shot at the bottom of this page). 

About 4:30 p.m. went up to the spa and enjoyed, in succession, about 15 minutes in the dry sauna, a cold plunge, about 15 minutes in the steam room, five or so minutes in the snow room  yes, a room on the ship filled with actual snow!  and then soaked for awhile in the jacuzzi before shaving and heading back to the room to get cleaned up for the evening. 

Gave my first presentation of the cruise, "Land of the Teutonic Knights: Latvia, Lithuania, & Estonia," at 7 p.m. in the Star Theater and was very pleased with the nearly-full-house turnout (especially as it was right in the middle of dinnertime), how it went, and the response it received. Finished it up right at 45 minutes and then chatted with and took questions from four or five people as I packed up and headed out of the theater so it could get set up for its next activities. 

Had a fairly quick dinner in the World Cafe and were impressed with how much nicer and more elegant the offerings were than in the equivalent venues (i.e., "the trough") on other ships we have been on. 

Arrived early at the Captain's reception so as to get seats up front and then was brought up on stage with my fellow lecturers, Commander Michael Cheshire and Dr. Robyn Woodward, and introduced to the passengers. Stayed for the variety entertainment that followed and enjoyed a couple glasses of champagne. 

Went back to stateroom with the intention of reading and working for awhile but, after reading maybe a half page, passed out after a long, enjoyable, and productive day. 

Breakfast: Small portions of smoked and baked salmon, smoked haddock, prosciutto, crusty bread with butter, orange juice, and coffee. 

Lunch: Nice slice of juicy, medium-rare leg of lamb, with some white rice and a cold salad of Brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes, along with a glass of red wine. 

Dinner: Started with two small meza-style dishes, one of grilled asparagus and chorizo, and the other a tartar of Arctic char on cucumbers. Then moved on to a main course of seared duck, braised Belgian endive, and white rice. Enjoyed two glasses of red wine with my meal. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Viking Sky, Day 1 (Stockholm)

Took a cab from our hotel, the Best Western in City Center, to the inlet wharf next to the Fotografiska photography museum where Viking Sky was located and boarded about 12:30. There was no cruise terminal and ground crew took our luggage streetside and we then checked in at a pavilion next to the ship and boarded the ship directly; absolutely the quickest and easiest boarding procedure we have ever experienced. 

Explored ship and got a look at the dining room, World Cafe, pools, the extensive and beautiful spa facility, etc. Had a bite to eat at the Pool Bar. Was nice to not have to find an Internet cafe and set up an online package because Internet access is included on this cruise! 

Also have the nicest stateroom we have ever had on a cruise, with absolutely the largest bathroom and shower, and was impressed with how many easy-to-access outlets it has (a feature that might not seem important until you are unable to easily plug something in, which is often the case on cruise ships). 

Tracked down the assistant cruise director, Jenna, and confirmed speaker orientation meeting for following day. 

Spent a few hours continuing to develop my presentation on "Aesir & Vanir: Gods & Goddess of the Vikings," which I will be giving sometime after the midpoint of the cruise. 

Had first dinner of the cruise in the Restaurant and sat with two other couples, one from Buffalo, N.Y., and the other from Beaver Island Michigan and Phoenix, and had a very pleasant time with them, to include discussing what I will be lecturing on over the next couple of weeks. 

Went straight from dinner to the Star Theater to meet Dr. Robyn Woodward, one of the other two lecturers, and see her presentation on the Vasa

Took a cup of cappuccino back to the room and was going to read a bit but passed out pretty quickly, probably about 10:30. 

Lunch: Small dish of Thai seafood salad with squid and shrimp and a glass of iced tea. 

Dinner: Starter of beef tartar, which had an elegant little quail egg shell on it with one end removed so as to pour the yolk our and mix it with the seasoned meat; small main course of four diver scallops; side of delicious braised leeks. Skipped desert and just had a few sips of coffee so I could rush out for the 9 p.m. presentation. 

The view from our stateroom while in port in Stockholm of Kastellholmen, now part of the Royal National City Park.