Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cruise Ship Attire

One of the things I forgot to mention about Oceania Cruise Lines is the country club casual attire. Neither Dianne nor I like to dress up. Sure, I’ll do that for weddings or a funeral, but I stopped the suit and tie gig after I sold my pension administration company in 1989.

Now it’s either jeans or shorts and Hawaiian shirts in the summer or jeans and long sleeve work shirts in the winter. And that’s fine for most dining on the ship that I want to attend. We also knew ahead of time that the weather would be rainy and chilly at 65 degrees most of the time.

So before we packed for the cruise Dianne asked if I was taking a pair of dress pants. I said, “No.” If she would have said, “You need a pair of dress pants for any of the specialty restaurants on the ship,” then I would have packed a pair.

We had a reservation for the Italian restaurant, Toscona, for the night of our 15th wedding anniversary. Guess what? I had no proper pants to wear. However, our cabin neighbor, Randy, loaned me a pair of his pants. I’m a 32 regular, and he’s a 40 tall. 

Bottom line: Think ahead and be sure to pack all the correct clothing needed for your cruise.

Here’s how I looked for our anniversary dinner:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sep 4, Travel Home

We left Stockholm on Thursday, September 4, and traveled 14 hours to get home. Our first leg was to London, and after a 2.5 hour layover, to Los Angeles on British Air. They are one of the airlines that still serves food even on a short 2-3 hour trip. Maybe it's just the U.S. airlines that serve no food, charge for bags, meals, pillows, and using the toilet.

In Stockholm the airport has a device that you place your shoes on to see if they will explode. You don't have to take off your shoes, but step on this device one foot at a time. One shoe was fine, but the other shoe had to go through the conveyor belt screening machine.

Dianne took a photo of me with my shoe horn that I carry for just such an occasion.

We arrive in L. A. at 7:30 PM, which for me is 4:30 AM Stockholm time. By the time I get to bed at 11 pm, it would be 8 am in Stockholm, so I've been up for 25 hours straight. Dianne was able to sleep on the plane, but I stayed up so I could sleep when I got home.

I'll need Friday and the weekend to decompress. The trip was a success in that I finished reading three books; two from John Grisham and one on persuasion techniques called Influence by Robert Cialdini.

All of our luggage arrived where it was supposed to when we got to Copenhagen and again when we got home. However, I was given a great tip by a friend of ours. Pack a carry on case with a change of clothes and toiletries. That way if your luggage is lost on the start of your trip you still have clean underclothes and so on. Although we didn't need that, I did meet some other people on the cruise and their luggage arrived days later. One of those people never saw her suitcase.

We set it up for our housekeeper to be here on Friday and do all our dirty laundry. That was a great idea of Dianne's. Now it's back to work.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September 1-3 Stockholm, Sweden

We arrived in Stockholm early Monday morning and it was terrific. We caught a cab right at the dock and it took us the Hotel Stureplan which is a great trendy area in the middle of the city. More importantly our hotel room was ready when we arrived at 10 am. It’s a great small hotel, with about 100 rooms and very friendly staff. Our room rate even includes breakfast. A friend stayed at another hotel, I think it was a Radisson, and the breakfast was $35 extra per person.

The first day we paid for a tour on the Hop-on, Hop-off red double-decker bus, and the ticket was good for 2 days. We plugged in the earphones, tuned to the English channel and heard about the information at each stop, and other places of interest that we passed by.

Our first time off the bus was at the Vasa Museum. If you ever get to Stockholm, and don’t have much time, this is the one and only thing that you must do. You’ll see a real five story original wooden warship from the 1600’s. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Here’s a link to the information on their website:
On day 2 we used the Hop-on bus again, got off in “old town” and also did a free 90 minute walking tour at 6 pm. We are far enough north that it doesn’t get dark until around 9 pm.

On our 3rd and last day here we took a 2 hour boat ride through the hundreds (maybe thousands) of islands that make up Sweden and got off at Sandhamn. It was a quaint town with some streets no wider than about 6’; that’s six feet. See the photos.

This last photo is a beach house on the island from about the 1600s

Tonight we pack and head back to Los Angeles.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Aug 31, Tallinn, Estonia

Never in my life would I have thought to visit Estonia, and I probably couldn’t find it on a map if my life depended upon it. The city of Tallinn is a lovely ancient walled city with the oldest Town Hall in northern Europe established in the 14th century.

Here are some photos to give you a feel of the city:

Aug 28-30 St. Petersburg, Russia

If you cared to know, St. Petersburg is supposed to be the northernmost major city of the world. It has about 5 million people. Peter the Great began building here about 300 years ago, and I have to admit the palaces are stunning. While he attempted to have more canals than Venice, the problem is they all freeze in winter. As a young city, by European standards, there are still many legends and stories since it's founding in 1703.

My first taste of Russian hospitality was at the passport/customs window. I forgot to bring my "tourist ticket" with my passport, and boy, was that a problem. I could have gone back on the ship to get them for me and Dianne, but the tour guide said they could just issue new ones. This did not make the customs officer happy. I think they would have rather not let us in the country. We spend 3 days touring Russia, and you'd think they would welcome tourist dollars. I'm not sure I want to enter Russia, but we do.

And I'm glad we did. The Winter Palace is now the Hermitage Museum and contained art from all over the world; Picasso, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Van Gogh,  Matisse, and more. It was amazing.

Dianne booked our tour through SPB Tours, and not through the Oceania cruise ship. This worked out really great. We had our own tour guide for 14 people total. During our three days we saw the Summer Palace, amazing churches and monuments.

Here is a condensed list of what we saw in St. Petersburg:
            Day 1
1.      Walked along the Nevsky prospect/shopping area
2.      A visit to Peter and Paul’s fortress and cathedral
3.      Lunch at a local restaurant
4.      An inside visit to the Church on the Blood on the spot where some royal was killed
5.      A visit to the Russian Museum
Day 2
1.      Drive to Peterhof and take a subway ride
2.      Special early entrance to the Peterhof Grand Palace and a walk in the Lower fountain
3.      Visit the park and the Upper gardens
4.      Lunch at a different local restaurant
5.      Drive to Pushkin (Tsars’ Village)
6.      Visit Tsars’ village park, the Catherine’s palace with the Amber room
Day 3
1.      City sight-seeing tour by canal boat ride
2.      Special early entrance to the Hermitage Museum
3.      Lunch at another different local restaurant
4.      Excursion in the Yusupov Palace
5.      Inside visit to St. Isaac’s Cathedral