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Callummck

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  1. Day 9- Sea Day Today demonstrated that weather in the Baltic can be quite unpredictable. We started the day surrounded by thick fog- it was like we were sailing through a cloud (and meant the view from the outlaws balcony was as good as from our inside cabin!) Breakfast was in the main dining room. I had the French Toast with Bacon and it was really good- much thicker and fresher than from the WindJammer. Whilst we were eating breakfast the fog suddenly lifted, and glorious sunshine replaced the mist. We had booked Henry in for two hours at nursery. We decided to make the most of the sunshine and sat outside to play some Rummikub. It was quite crowded, so we went to the outside seating of the Wimdjammer, right at the aft of the boat (which may have accidentally lead to a second breakfast...just to make sure I was right about the French toast!). This seating is often quiet, but the view is spectacular and it’s really a good place to eat and relax. We found ourselves getting sunburned and the fog turned into a distant memory. Things turned a bit gloomy however when Captain Ante came over the PA system to say that we had slowed down and changed direction (we hadn’t even noticed!) due to a passenger becoming critically ill and needing to be taken to shore by the Swedish navy. The rescue boat pulled alongside the ship and the passenger was transferred that along with one of the doctors from the ship. This meant we had to wait for the doctor to get back, but Captain Ante said this wouldn’t effect the itinerary as we still had plenty of time to make it to Skagen at full speed. It was quite sad that someone was so Ill, but also reassuring to know how quickly and efficiently the crew manage these situations. For lunch, we went back to the MDR. I think lunch is the meal that the MDR does particularly well- there’s always been a wide variety on the menu which changes a lot as well as the legendary salad bar. Today, I had the seafood and tomato risotto which was fantastic, and for dessert we shared Cherry Custard Crepes and Caramelised Banana Mille Feulle - both of which are vying for the title of best desserts on board! With Henry enjoying a post-lunch nap we decided to try out the cinema for the first time as it was showing Aquaman. It’s tucked away between the Pub and the Theatre on deck 6 and it’s quite neat and quirky. We arrived as the film was starting and only just got a seat because it’s quite small but the same film seems to play back to back throughout the day. The projector is a bit dated but it’s a great way to spend some time. Whilst the film was on, Captain Ante came back over the address system to say that we’d been back on our way but, unfortunately, another guest had been taken critically ill and so we’d need to take them aboard also. I don’t think they were related or caused by the ship! This did turn out to be a delay that couldn’t be mitigated , and so the Captain said the best option available was to arrive in Skagen 3 hours later than planned tomorrow. I guess that’s a small inconvenience when health and life are at stake. By this point, the weather had literally become gloomy. Undeterred, we headed at Henry’s insistence, to the pool for our afternoon swim. I’ve never been able to figure out a pattern to the water temperature. In St. Petersburg, at 30 something degrees and pure sunshine, it felt freezing. Today, in grey and windy conditions it felt like a bath! We then headed back to get changed ready for the second formal night, which we’d eat in the dining room for. People seem pretty relaxed about the dress- I saw about five tuxedos (including one on Henry who became a hit with the ladies!), a few lounge suits, but most were just slacks, shirts and blazers. The food in the MDR was really good tonight- we had, between us, Asparagus Soup, Fried mushrooms, Hallibut, Beef Wellington, Chicken Schnitzel and Pecan Pie. It was rounded off with one of the celebration Birthday cakes which Henry refused to share! Entertainment this evening was “BowJangles”. I was on bedtime duty but Mrs. M went to see it and said it was very clever. It was a string quartet who did quite a bit of comedy. She said it was quite clever but that there were a lot of musical jokes “We’re out in the ocean...The High C” and that a few people walked out! She enjoyed it though.
  2. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of “Happy Helsinki!!!”
  3. Day 8- Helsinki The aches and pains of getting up this morning felt a bit like the day after running a marathon..not that I’ve ever ran one, but we had done over 40,000 steps the previous two days in 30 degree heat! Feeling a bit jaded we grabbed a quiet breakfast from the Park Cafe before setting out to enjoy beautiful Helsinki (I’d tried to go for an alliterative adjective but I couldn’t think of a positive word beginning with H...). It was another gloriously sunny day and we’d booked a ship’s excursion, another similar one to Stockholm- an unguided tour where the bus drops you off at three locations. Our main reasons for this were a) the price (£22 in a cruise planer sale, comparable with the shuttle bus!) b) the limited time in Helsinki (all aboard at 3pm) and c) The fact that the three things we wanted to see(main square, Sibelius monument and rock church) are so far apart that reaching them by foot or public transport would have been tricky. This tour was a bit smoother than the Stockholm one and we’re glad we took it. The only slight grumble is that here, as at Stockholm, we got significantly less time at the sites than advertised. I completely understand about traffic times and things, but the fact that it seems to be regular (and that the printed guide on the day was already displaying shorter times than the brochure) makes me think they’d be better advertising for a “typical case scenario” rather than “absolutely best case scenario”. Nonetheless, it was a good tour, of a beautiful city. We were back onboard by 1pm and enjoyed our first lunch in the Windjammer. This was followed by an afternoon in the glorious sun playing Shuffleboard (fast becoming a favourite) and swimming in the pool. For the evening, Mrs. M and I had a date night and used the third night of our 3 night dining package at Giovannis- her choice! I preferred Chops overall, but both were excellent and made a very nice change from the MDR and Windjammer. Theincluded food has been fine, but the Speciality restaurants are a bit like going to a nice restaurant on land. The beauty of being onboard is that you can order as much as you like, so for example we were able to sample octopus, which we probably wouldnt have wanted to risk paying out for! With Henry safely in the care of the outlaws (or rather, the outlaws safely in the care of Henry) we had some drinks, played some Shuffleboard and checked out the 9pm production showtime of Tango Buenos Airies. Dance shows aren’t really my thing, but one can’t help but be impressed by the quality of the music and dancers. Coming away from Helsinki today felt a little bit like we’re on the Home Stretch (probably because we literally are!) but we still have four more days to look forward to aboard the beautiful Brilliance of the Seas.
  4. Day Seven - St. Petersburg (2) We could have a slightly later start for our second day in St. Petersburg and so I ran up to the Park Cafe to bring back breakfast to the room. It’s quite an impressive selection and made a change from the windjammer and MDR. See pictures! Immigration was much swifter this morning and we were through in about 5 minutes, giving us chance to look at the souvenirs etc. at the port and for Henry to have a little longer to charm the socks off of the scary immigration officials. Julia and Alec arrived and informed us that, due to the World Economic Forum taking place our schedule had to change order slightly. This event made the traffic super crazy in SPB but they did their best to mitigate it and we still got to complete the whole itinerary. We started off with a 60min drive out to Peterhof, the Summer Palace with magnificent gardens and fountains. The fountains are an engineering marvel, and the main cascade comes on at 11am to the sounds of the Russian national anthem. The real highlight, however, was the series of “trick fountains”, controlled by an operator in a booth, that children can play in. Given that today made it up to 32 degrees these were an absolute hit with an overheated toddler! We then took a Hydrofoil ride (I’d never heard of them before, they look like a boat which is kind of out of the future or the USSR) back along the river into the city and disembarked right by the hermitage. After some Russian fast-food for lunch we had a guided boat trip around the canals and rivers. It was wonderful to see the city from this viewpoint - St. Petersburg is really charming. We then had a tour inside the iconic Church on the Spilled Blood before having a tour of the Metro. This sounds like a bizzare tour...but it was really interesting. Not only was it a glimpse into life for ordinary residents if he city, but St. Petersburg contains the deepest metro station in the world and some of the other stations are decorated with beautiful mosaics. I’d heartily recommend this kind of private or small group tour. If you can splurge and go private (which happened accidentally to us, thankfully without the splurge!) I’d go for it. Being able to go at our own pace, and see things that interested us was really quite super and this was especially good with a toddler- who wouldn’t have coped with the large ship’s group tours. That said, the outlaws took two ships excursions and, the disembarkation chaos on the first day aside, were very impressed with the quality of the tour. Their second tour was also nearly an hour late back to the ship and the ship waited without question because it was a ship’s excursion. To be fair, it didn’t leave until 1:45 in the afternoon, which was certainly cutting it fine. Back aboard, We cooled off in the pool. I’d heard that the ship is pretty much full but the pool area, even in today’s scorching weather, has never had more than a dozen people around it, and we’ve never shared the pool with more than a couple of people at a time. I’m so glad Henry is potty trained in time, else it would have been really hard for him not to be able to go in the pool. Dinner tonight was the MDR with the outlaws. We’ve had the same waiters all week and I think they are the biggest pro of the MDR. We went from start to finish in about an hour and 20 tonight. The food was “fine”. I think last night’s WindJammer was better on balance. I took a pepper soup and a crab cake for starters which were good, a lasagne for main which was pretty average at best and apple pie for dessert which was pretty good. The menu in the MDR is pretty big, but it doesn’t change so much each evening. I reckon there are usually about 4/5 starters that are different and 5/6 mains which is plenty of change I guess but dessert so far has been one hot dessert that changes and one sugar free dessert (and every time we’ve been the hot dessert has been chocolate brownie, cookie or cake...although that would be a hit for many!). Not so much a criticism, but an observation. In other stray news, today they brought out the 10 drinks for $75 cards. As we’ve a refreshment package it doesn’t effect us, but lots of people were getting excited about this and the pool bartenders were walking round trying to sell them. There was also a 10 Beers for I think $50ish package. A laundry offer of “stuff what you can except for trousers and shirts into this bag for $35” also appeared in the stateroom (I guess appeared makes it sound like magic... Franklin our stateroom attendant probably put it there in case you were worried the ship is haunted or something!). We keenly took up this offer because we’ve basically ran out of shorts and t-shirts...expecting the weather to be Baltic we only packed a couple of pairs and then mostly jumpers, trousers and arctic exploration gear! Most of the guests onboard seemed tired following two heavy days in St. Petersburg. I think this was reflected in the entertainment in the theatre tonight- movie night! We decided to skip it and go to bed early. I should also say that last night’s entertainment was a Russian Folkloric Show. We didn’t see it, as the only showing was 10pm but the outlaws did and said it was absolutely incredible- MiL said it was that good, that it was the highlight of the cruise thus far...and there was me thinking it would have been the dinner company and witty humour of her favourite (only) Son in Law. Tomorrow marks the fifth consecutive port day- Helsinki. I’m looking forward to Saturday’s Sea Day for a rest!
  5. Today was supposed to be a seaday but we’ve had to come close to land for an unfortunate medical emergency. Really well handled by Captain and Crew...
  6. Day Six - St. Petersburg (1) Today was really the main reason we came on the cruise- to visit St. Petersburg! The reason we chose a cruise to see St. Petersburg is that there is a kind of visa exemption scheme for cruise ship passengers. There’s a lot of myth out there (some of this has come from cruise lines!) surrounding this, but this is what we found to be true. Russian tourist visas are bureaucratic and expensive. To encourage tourism, guests booked on a tour package are eligible for a “blanket visa”, provided they return to their ship overnight and they use a registered tour guide who can issue them with this visa in advance. Ships seem to perpetuate a story that only their tours or a full on tourist visa are the only viable options- indeed, our ticket brochure from Royal Caribbean said as much. This just isn’t true. There are lots of reputable companies out there- Alla and TJ Travel are the two that seem to come up the most- who offer a huge range of tours, often cheaper than the ship. We made contact with Alla at the end of last year, they didn’t have any private tours left, and under 5s can’t go on regular tours with them, so they recommended TJ Travel. The communication in advance was super, and they offered a family friendly 2 day group tour at $199pp (Henry goes free) with a max group size of 12. We took it! It included all of the main sites, at a slower pace than a one day tour, with some child friendly stops included too. This far rivalled anything the ship was offering. One of the slight peculiarities of the visa waiver thingy is that you have to stay with your Guide. This also means that if they don’t get you back to the ship in time they are responsible, by Russian law, to get you to the next stop...so you’re gonna get back on time! It was an early start today. The ship was due to be cleared at 7am, ships tour excursions to leave at 7.30 and private guests from 8. This is simply to ease congestion at immigration, and this was confirmed to us by our guide. We ordered room service breakfast to save time, and everything ran like clockwork. It took us about 20 minutes to clear immigration and, ironically, we walked into the customs hall at exactly the same time as the Outlaws, who’d been in the theatre since 7am, scrambling over hundreds of others for the ship’s tours. The signs for TJ Travel were very prominent. Upon meeting our guide Julia and our driver Alec, we were delighted to learn that we were the only people booked onto our tour, which meant it was essentially a private tour! After a brief tour of the city with photo stops We headed to the Hermitage. It was packed with large groups, but we were so fortunate to have Julia and just us- it meant we could navigate around with ease. Having a guide made this so much more informative than it otherwise might have been. We then took a delicious lunch in a local restaurant, before making our way to two Family Friendly activities for the afternoon. The first was the “Shaddow Museum” which told the history of St. Petersburg using Shaddow art and was very interactive. After this we took a trip to the “Grand Maket”- an 800 square meter scaled down model of Russia! It was incredible... the detail was terrific. What was interesting is that I’d say 90% of the visitors here were Russian and it really felt like we were away from the usual tourist trail. Julia was also able to accommodate our request to visit the Russian classic, “Starbucksikov” to pick up a mug for our collection. We returned to the ship at around 5pm. The immigration at the Port can be quite intimidating and the officers at passport control are very deadpan. They were, of course, no match for little Henry who had them eating out of the palm of his hand in no time...that Kid. Clearly, they need to work on their scary ness training if a two year old can have them cooing! After a scorcher of a day (High 20s) we hit the pool for a cool off before grabbing a quick dinner from the WindJammer. I’m sorry that I didn’t get any food related photos today...it felt like we were hardly on the ship! It was French themed night and the food was excellent. Today was the closest day so far to losing out on the drinks package but with a bottle of water (2$) two sodas (7) a Mocktail (6) and a coffee before bed (4) we just made it!
  7. Day Five - Tallinn We thought that today was a leisurely start as the ship wasn’t due to dock until 11am, but as the clocks went forward overnight it was kind of really a 10am start for the body clock even though in reality the clock said 11am, but for Brits it was really 9am on the clock and for Americans like 4am even though ships clock said 11am. Confused? 😉 Thankfully, we had a note in the door and on the bed, and were reminded by our waiter, assistant waiter, dining room manager, stateroom attendant, And cruise director about the time change last night so we managed to cope with it! We hit windjammer for breakfast. It was particularly busy today (maybe people slept in late because of the time change...or got up early who knows?!) with queues for most of the stations. We did manage to get a table outside, which was fine as the weather was glorious. I’m not sure about the forecast in the daily cruise compass. It said a high of 14 today, but my watch recorded a scorching 28 at one point. Maybe the compass got confused by the time change too! Today was Terrific Tallinn, and terrific it was. A beautiful, cobbled, old town. We didn’t bother with an excursion today and I think it was a wise choice. The ship was cleared 25mins ahead of schedule. The start of the Old Town- which I think is the must see part of Tallinn- is a 15 minute, flat walk from the ship. That’s as far as coaches and the shuttle bus can go as the roads in the old town are cobbled, hilly and winding. They’re not designed for strollers, scooters or wheelchairs (I guess they didn’t have the foresight 500 years ago!) but they’re well worth trundling through. It’s beautiful and picturesque. We decided to head for the Museum of Occupation at the very top of the Old Town, and planned a route which took us past various sights along the way- the Town Hall and the Cathedral amongst others. The museum is a fascinating, interactive insight into life in Estonia during the two Soviet and the German occupations between 1940-1990 and there are brilliant family friendly exhibits and activities too (build your own communist flat with a VR headset and a shadow puppet theatre to name but two!) We then had a drink, did some souvenir shopping and took a slow stroll back to the ship for 3:30pm (ship time/Estonia time!) We grabbed snacks from Park Cafe (great selection ), had some Mocktails and had some fun time in the glorious sunshine in the arctic pool (the water was changed yesterday!) After some chill out time in the room, we’d booked Henry in to try an evening session in the nursery from 6pm-10pm. We dropped him off and they ordered Room Service for his evening meal. We then had some drinks and played our first game of shuffleboard. We were absolutely awful at it. Like diabolical. But still, good fun! We then went to Chops for our evening meal. The service was speedy, perhaps a tad too fast, but the food was fantastic- Between us we had the goats cheese salad, lobster bisque, crab cake, peppered bacon, filet, lamb and key lime pie...and it was all really tasty with zero complaints. The speedy service meant that we had time for a coffee, a game of Rummikub and still managed to pick up Henry at 9. They only charged us for 3 hours nursery, which I thought was more than fair since we’d booked in for four hours and they were open just for Henry! Alas, an early night. Tomorrow is, really for us, the main event and reason for taking the cruise... St. Petersburg!
  8. Sorry for the silence- No Mobile Data package in Russia! Here are the missing Stockholm Pictures
  9. Day Four - Stockholm Captain Ante recommended getting up at 5am for sunrise as the ship made its way through the Archipelagos... we didn’t make it up that early but once we did get up, around 7:30am, we could see just how spectacular the scenery was...nearly worth having a £1000 balcony for! With arrival in Stockholm not until 10am, we had time for a leisurely breakfast so checked out the MDR. For lunch and breakfast, the MDR is geared towards large sharing tables and so the hosts ask people if they’d mind sharing or not. We’d agreed in the queue that we had no objection to sharing, but when we arrived to the front of the queue the host simply “Good Morning...Table for three this way!” She’d obviously determined that others might object to sharing with an active toddler! The buffet in the MDR is considerably smaller than the Windjammer, but the service is sharp and the offerings on the menu are good and well presented. We had Eggs Benedict (I haven’t yet spotted any hollandaise sauce for this in the windjammer...but doesn’t mean it’s not there!) and pancakes which all felt quite fresh and well presented. Well worth a change. And now, our attention turns to excursions! Before having a child, our usual holiday strategy was to buy a Lonely Planet Guide, head off the beaten track and explore at our leisure. This isn’t as feasible with a curious 2 year old and so we’d given lots of attention to the various options for excursions and trips, trying to get a balance. I’ve popped a picture below of a letter detailing the walking and shuttle options at each port below. In Stockholm, however, we did decide to get a ship’s excursion called “Stockholm on your Own”. This is essentially billed as a bus only which drops you at three distinct parts of the city, City Hall, the Old Town and Djurgarden. We paid about £22 each (Henry free) in a cruise planner sale (onboard price was $49) so this was good as it worked out comparable with the cost of a shuttle bus, meant that we could explore on our own but get to see a broad overview of the city without public transport hassle, and we had the protection of a ship excursion. They were late in getting organised onboard in the theatre (it was semi chaotic...not like out and out carnage, think more sheep without a shepherd than a cat amongst 5e pigeons) which cut down the time at city hall, but we still had nearly 2 hours in the Old Town and 2 hours at Djurgarden. There were a few guests quite unhappy with the tour. The description said that it was three drop off points with no narration (and to be fair, the host did quite a bit of narration) but I’m not sure they’d read this as several guests expressed disappointment at the distances from the bus stops to some of the sights etc. I think that this tour isn’t really a tour in the traditional sense and (we’ve got the same thing booked later in the cruise too) to make it a success you need to have your own game plan already worked out for once you get there. Stockholm is beautiful. We enjoyed a quick run around the place. At Xxxx there’s loads of different museums that will appeal to all ages and tastes: ABBA museum, Skansen openair museum, VASA museum (about the ship that was a King’s vanity project and sank on the maiden voyage). We opted for “Grunaland”, a classic fairground/theme park. If you have kids then we’d highly recommend this, especially after a few hours of city sightseeing. You pay an entry free (Think it worked out about $10 per adult) and then you buy ride tickets inside (works out about $2.50 a ticket, discounts for books of 20) and then each ride takes between 1 and 3 tickets. Henry loved it, as did we. We were back aboard for 4:30 and then had time for a swim before dinner in the MDR with the outlaws. It was only our second visit (they’d been in between) but the staff remembered us and our drinks and really, the service is excellent! The food tonight was also the best quality from the MDR. I’ll put the menu and some pics below...but I had the bisque, the scallops (which were tiny!), the bass (which was excellent) and the Creme Brûlée. A really good meal, and about 1 hr 15 in total. The evening entertainment was something a bit different, and well worth a visit- Sean Alexander the “Confusionist” It was a bit Derren Brownesque, lots of illusions, tricks and audience participation. The variety of the entertainment is impressive really. For anyone who’s interested, the drinks package breaking even is definitely less likely on a port day. Today we had (each) 2 Coffees- $8 1 Mocktail- $6 2 Sodas- $7 2 Bottles of Water- $4 Which is $28 or around £20. We wouldn’t have broken even at full price, but still more than made it on the discounted price from the Black Friday sale. Things might go a bit quiet for the next 48 hours. The next port to report on is Tallinn but tomorrow we’re in Russia, and I don’t have data roaming! The data is quite slow here, so there mightn’t be a full picture upload.
  10. Day Four - Stockholm Captain Ante recommended getting up at 5am for sunrise as the ship made its way through the Archipelagos... we didn’t make it up that early but once we did get up, around 7:30am, we could see just how spectacular the scenery was...nearly worth having a £1000 balcony for! With arrival in Stockholm not until 10am, we had time for a leisurely breakfast so checked out the MDR. For lunch and breakfast, the MDR is geared towards large sharing tables and so the hosts ask people if they’d mind sharing or not. We’d agreed in the queue that we had no objection to sharing, but when we arrived to the front of the queue the host simply “Good Morning...Table for three this way!” She’d obviously determined that others might object to sharing with an active toddler! The buffet in the MDR is considerably smaller than the Windjammer, but the service is sharp and the offerings on the menu are good and well presented. We had Eggs Benedict (I haven’t yet spotted any hollandaise sauce for this in the windjammer...but doesn’t mean it’s not there!) and pancakes which all felt quite fresh and well presented. Well worth a change. And now, our attention turns to excursions! Before having a child, our usual holiday strategy was to buy a Lonely Planet Guide, head off the beaten track and explore at our leisure. This isn’t as feasible with a curious 2 year old and so we’d given lots of attention to the various options for excursions and trips, trying to get a balance. I’ve popped a picture below of a letter detailing the walking and shuttle options at each port below. In Stockholm, however, we did decide to get a ship’s excursion called “Stockholm on your Own”. This is essentially billed as a bus only which drops you at three distinct parts of the city, City Hall, the Old Town and Djurgarden. We paid about £22 each (Henry free) in a cruise planner sale (onboard price was $49) so this was good as it worked out comparable with the cost of a shuttle bus, meant that we could explore on our own but get to see a broad overview of the city without public transport hassle, and we had the protection of a ship excursion. They were late in getting organised onboard in the theatre (it was semi chaotic...not like out and out carnage, think more sheep without a shepherd than a cat amongst 5e pigeons) which cut down the time at city hall, but we still had nearly 2 hours in the Old Town and 2 hours at Djurgarden. There were a few guests quite unhappy with the tour. The description said that it was three drop off points with no narration (and to be fair, the host did quite a bit of narration) but I’m not sure they’d read this as several guests expressed disappointment at the distances from the bus stops to some of the sights etc. I think that this tour isn’t really a tour in the traditional sense and (we’ve got the same thing booked later in the cruise too) to make it a success you need to have your own game plan already worked out for once you get there. Stockholm is beautiful. We enjoyed a quick run around the place. At Xxxx there’s loads of different museums that will appeal to all ages and tastes: ABBA museum, Skansen openair museum, VASA museum (about the ship that was a King’s vanity project and sank on the maiden voyage). We opted for “Grunaland”, a classic fairground/theme park. If you have kids then we’d highly recommend this, especially after a few hours of city sightseeing. You pay an entry free (Think it worked out about $10 per adult) and then you buy ride tickets inside (works out about $2.50 a ticket, discounts for books of 20) and then each ride takes between 1 and 3 tickets. Henry loved it, as did we. We were back aboard for 4:30 and then had time for a swim before dinner in the MDR with the outlaws. It was only our second visit (they’d been in between) but the staff remembered us and our drinks and really, the service is excellent! The food tonight was also the best quality from the MDR. I’ll put the menu and some pics below...but I had the bisque, the scallops (which were tiny!), the bass (which was excellent) and the Creme Brûlée. A really good meal, and about 1 hr 15 in total. The evening entertainment was something a bit different, and well worth a visit- Sean Alexander the “Confusionist” It was a bit Derren Brownesque, lots of illusions, tricks and audience participation. The variety of the entertainment is impressive really. For anyone who’s interested, the drinks package breaking even is definitely less likely on a port day. Today we had (each) 2 Coffees- $8 1 Mocktail- $6 2 Sodas- $7 2 Bottles of Water- $4 Which is $28 or around £20. We wouldn’t have broken even at full price, but still more than made it on the discounted price from the Black Friday sale. Things might go a bit quiet for the next 48 hours. The next port to report on is Tallinn but tomorrow we’re in Russia, and I don’t have data roaming! The data is quite slow here, so there mightn’t be a full picture upload.
  11. Day Three- Sea Day Something we frequently see on these forums is questions about the economics of drinks packages. This was a key element of scousenomics in preparing to come away. We’re both tee total, so looking at the Refreshment package, I’d hunched that at the regular price of £19.50 pppd it wasn’t worth it, but at the Black Friday Price of £12 per day, it might be. Here’s a breakdown of yesterday’s offerings (for one of us) AM Coffee- $4 AM Mocktail- $6 Sodas with meals (x3) $10.50 Afternoon Milkshake with espresso shot $6 Bottles of water $6 Pre dinner mocktail $6 Evening coffee $4 That totals $42.50 which I guess is around £30 so we easily broke even yesterday. I don’t feel that we changed our habits particularly but yesterday was a sea day(if we were on an excursion, that could have been cut down by £10 I reckon). All of the Soda thus far has been out of cans or plastic bottles, they have postmix machines all over the place but never seen them used. Also, the free onboard drinks (tea, coffee, lemonade, iced tea, squash) are in plentiful supply and are actually quite good. Today was another sea day. We followed a similar routine to yesterday. WindJammer Breakfast followed by dropping Henry at nursery. My wife and her mum went to the Origami Class which they said was fun whilst I read. The weather was perfect and sunny today so there were some brilliant spots for chilling. We then played cards in the Colony Club. A great spot, it was often quiet and has chess tables and billiards with brilliant views. Lunch was the MDR. The portions are quite small here, but there’s also the buffet in addition to the menu. Yesterday’s live pasta station was replaced with an ice cream bar today. One of the things that we’d been slightly apprehensive of was a cruise that we knew would have an older, less child friendly demographic due to it being School term-time and this particular ship and itinerary. We needn’t have worried- People have been very kind...including, today, a scantly clad older German gentleman in a bathrobe, who offered Henry some of the chocolate dipped fruit from his suite in the elevator. I guess this isn’t a behaviour we’d encourage Henry to engage in on land but hey...it’s a cruise! This afternoon we made the most of the sunny weather and hit some of the outdoor activities. The pool was lovely. We stuck to the main pool...as I literally got stuck in the slide in the kiddies pool. I’m just waiting for a video to appear on YouTube! We then played minigolf and some of the fairly hidden and unadvertised deck games- tic tax toe, beanbag toss and shuffleboard. We rounded off the activities of the day with a visit to the family science experiment in Adventure Ocean. The evening programme started off with our first dinner in the WindJammer. It was incredible! The theme night was Mexican and there was every type of Mexican dish you could imagine. I’d easily say the food was on a par, in terms of quality, with the MDR. The live cooking station was crepes. We rounded the day off with the 7pm Production Showtime of “Now and Forever”. Henry managed to sit quite well through this and we didn’t feel it was intrusive or disruptive to take a toddler in, like you might at another theatre. The show was a run through of lots of music, I think mostly from musicals, but really from the 50s-80s, starting with excerpts from the Producers and finishing up with a ABBA medley. We’re both a bit geeky when it comes to music and production...and this didn’t disappoint. The orchestra were particularly fantastic, and the scenery/production/effects value was impressive. Well worth a visit. The showtime was about 45 mins. The ABBA finale was ironic...as tomorrow we’re in Sweden!
  12. Day Two Sea Day We presently live in Kent, but I hail from Merseyside/Liverpool. I say this, not to bore you with my life story but for two cultural reasons which will become apparent in this post! The first is that scousers are stereotypically savvy when it comes to money, deals and bargains (O.K... that’s an optimistic way of framing the stereotype, more pejoratively we’re labelled scammers and thieves!). I don’t mind spending money, but I’m keen to make sure it’s worth it. Again, this isn’t to give you an insight into my spending habits, but it becomes relevant on cabin choice! As I mentioned, we had an interior stateroom, and the outlaws had a balcony cabin directly opposite, for which they paid around £1000 more (We paid £2,700 for the three of us they paid £3,600 for the two of them). I’ll be honest- in this instance, I’m not sure the £1000 is worth it. The balcony view is great, but perhaps not worth the extra money for us, when the choice is between the room and other things that our budget wouldn’t otherwise stretch to. Our room is slightly bigger than there’s but the best thing about it? It’s PITCH BLACK. This, for parent of a toddler, is significant. For the past 4 months, as soon as it starts to get light (and on the Baltic cruise it can get light as early as 5am!) we’re awoken to delightful cries of “Mummy! Daddy! It’s morning, wake up!”. The inside cabin effect means that so far, We’ve been able to sleep in past 8am. Frankly, that would be worth paying £1000 for! Today was a sea day. We started off with our first substantive trip to the windjammer at around 9am which was busy but brilliant. The selection was vast. Often with Hotel breakfasts I find myself working through the same routine each day but I don’t think that’ll be possible here...there’s simply so much choice. After breakfast we dropped Henry off for his first nursery session. The opening hours are 9am-12noon and 5:30pm-midnight on sea days and just the evening session on port days, unless you’re on a RC excursion and book the nursery for that. I think these are reduced due to the 2 infants on board. We really debated putting him in but we’re really glad we did. We initially only booked these hours for the whole cruise but afterwards we booked more. He loved it...two staff to himself! The other reason that, retrospectively, it was a good idea to put him in was that today the weather wasn’t great. It was windy and a high of 15 degrees. This meant that Brilliance’s entertainment offers, which I’d often read are smaller than the big ships, were tested to their limits for a family and, in I think because Henry had a spell in nursery, they just about held up. Whilst he was having a blast we tried some activities he couldn’t participate in (Rock Climbing- Great fun) and visiting the Solarium (Lovely part of the ship, although busy today and lots of chair hogging which nearly saw a repeat of last nights seat-gate in the theatre. Unfortunately, no entertainment this time!). Lunch was a relaxed affair in the MDR. Impressive selection and, as we’ve always found, brilliant service. There was a live cooking pasta station and the Tutti Salad Bar is seriously impressive. After lunch, I went with one of the outlaws to listen to the enrichment lecture about the history of Stockholm. Then, on Henry’s insurance, we decided to go for a dip in the Baltic. Not literally, but it felt like it, as the pool was absolutely artic. I wonder if it’s a scouse thing (we’ve paid for the pool so we’ll jolly well use it!) but we were the only ones in it. It lasted about 3 minutes before we had to switch to the whirlpool. We got out and warm (the rest of our party were in blankets provided by the ship around the pool!) and warmed up with an ice cream (Henry’s choice). The inclement weather meant we couldn’t really spend any more time outside and, in any case, lots of the decks got closed so we couldn’t do the activities we’d planned, such as mini golf. We headed inside, spent some time in the free play session in the nursery and then sat in the colony club reading and drawing with some books we’d brought with us. This was fine and enjoyable, but the weather was somewhat restrictive with a little one. For dinner tonight we split up. The outlaws and Henry headed to the MDR where, again, I’m assured the staff were wonderful, particularly with Henry. We headed to Giovanni’s, as part of the 3 night dining package. (Incidentally, there hasn’t been a meal where we haven’t been approached by at least one member of staff trying to upsell speciality dining. It’s always been friendly, but a tad annoying). The food was super as was the service and the setting. It was very quiet, and a nice contrast to the hustle and excitement of the MDR and WindJammer. We had the sharing plank, pork belly and tomato and mozzarella salad, filet with risotto and carbonara and dessert. It was a really nice date night! The second ‘cultural scouseism’ is that we’re mostly interested in football (soccer). The spectrum ranges from fair-weather fans with a mild interest (me) to outright martyrs for Liverpool or Everton (my Dad and Mum respectively). Tonight was the final of the European Champion’s league with two British teams in it (Liverpool and Spurs- my father in laws team of choice). Despite a day of detective work, we couldn’t ascertain at all if they’d show the game anywhere on board. The best I got from a rather grumpy bar tender was a grunted “50:50 chance” with no eye contact. Alas, the game wasn’t shown, and this was quite disappointing for the many european soccer fans on board although it meant I didn’t run the risk of falling out withmyFather inLaw! Instead, we enjoyed watching a film the room whilst Henry slept and the outlaws caught “Tenors Unlimited “ in the Pacifica Theatre which they really enjoyed. We had our first towel animal this evening. Unfortunately I didn’t get chance to snap a picture of it- Henry ran to cuddle it and completely destroyed it. He shouted “Mummy! Fix it please!”. Thankfully...tomorrow’s compass says there’s a towel folding demonstration so here’s hoping!
  13. We’ve sat in several seats now...back row is good for a toddler!! But, it’s the kind of theatre where I think all of the seats are good. People tend to congregate near the doors but there have always been plenty of seats further in to the theatre
  14. Hi! It’s Amsterdam, 2 Sea Days, Stockholm, Talinn, St. Petersburg x2, Helsinki, Sea Day, Skagen, Copenhagen, Sea Day, Amsterdam
  15. Day One- Embarkation Today was the big day! We drove to the PTA, which was about 20 mins from our hotel. The journey was a dream. We used a valet parking service from Central Parking who I’d highly recommend. The driver was waiting for us as was a porter for our luggage. Smooth. We paid €180 for the 12 nights. It’ll be a bargain, especially if we get our car back at the end. Then came check in. It wasn’t as smooth, particularly with a toddler, as it could have been but it wasn’t awful either. It was well organised and took just over an hour from getting in the queue to getting to the desk. They had snacks and things in the line and, for the seasoned amongst you, there were lots of queues for various C&A members or the key holders. The outlaws flew in this morning they are Emerald members, it took them less then 10mins to sail past us in the queue...although I guess the cost for those perks are really an investment of £10,000’s... of our inheritance!!! 😉 The staff were friendly, although they’d said there were problems with their systems so it took about 10mins at the desk as all of the pre information had to be resubmitted. We also got our sea pass cards at checkin, but the system of runners to do this was quite slow so I guess this held things up a bit. We started the cruise with lunch at Chops, at about £17per head. My wife and I have the 3 night dining package so we weren’t that fussed on doing this but, st the outlaws suggestion, it proved a nice and relaxing start to the cruise. The menu was reduced but it was practically empty and meant we had somewhere stress free and relaxing to start the cruise properly. Staterooms were ready at 1, 30mins earlier than advertised. We’re on deck 8 in an interior cabin, and the outlaws are directly opposite us in a balcony cabin which is great for babysitting! Both are nice. Ours is bigger than I expected. After throwing our bags in the room we went for a swim on the deserted pool deck (observations of the pool= deep and salty, but Henry loved it!), start Ed trying to break even on the Refreshment Package (we paid £11pp pd on Black Friday last year) and registered for the Nursery, which is going to be interesting for Henry as there is only one other under 3 on board! At 3:30 we went back to the room and the luge had arrived. Franklin, our attendant, introduced himself and we had an interesting discussion about the crib. We’d pre ordered one with our TA but Franklin said it would take up most of the room and so not really be worth it. Henry is too young for the Pullman’s, but the solution we reached was having a mattress from the Pullman on the floor for Henry. It’s worked well. After Muster, we freshened up for Sail Away and more drinks package breaking even (quite an easy challenge really). Evening meal was in the MDR. We’ve got my time dining but made reservations. The outlaws thought this defeated the point of MTD but on reflection I’m glad we did. There was a large queue for those without reservations. The food in the MDR was fine. Our assistant waiter, Carolina, was brilliant with Henry. The service was a bit slow, I think, but I’ve nothing to compare it to. Our reservation was for 6pm, we ordered at 6:15, , starters arrived at 6;45 and mains at about 7;10. We skipped dessert to make the show at 7:45. Henry was well behaved but I’m not sure how much longer it would have been until we entered “Let’s see if I can pull the table cloths off the table” territory! The show was excellent. The pre-entertainment (which was also very entertaining) was a near punchup between some guests in the row ahead of us over seat-saving. After some singing and music from the onboard entertainers, there was a shadow puppet show from an Italian Couple which was actually highly entertaining and our 2 year old loved it. After the show we headed to the WindJammer for our skipped dessert. The selection was impressive, and all of the food looked excellent, looking forward to trying it out. All in all, a wonderful first day. Brilliance is a lovely ship with lots of views all around. The staff have been excellent so far and Henry is having a blast! When he saw the pool he jumped up and down and shouted “I’m so excited!” Let’s see how that works out... I’m not sure how to space the photographs out, so they’re all below! They include: Henrys innovative seat in the check-in queue, Our Stateroom Evening meal from the WindJammer (which ironically we didn’t eat but I forgot to take pics of the MDR!) Cafe Lattitudes Menu & Today’s compass!
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