Margaret A. Kupilik
Number of Cruises: 74
Cruise Line: Silversea
Ship: Silver Shadow
Sailing Date: n/a
Generally my focus in choosing a cruise is the ship itself and the number of sea days involved because that relaxing aspect of cruising is what appeals to me, but the prospect of being aboard a Silversea vessel once again with all the service that promises plus a list of ports I had never visited were just impossible to resist and am I ever glad I chose Silversea’s recent Scandinavia/Russia cruise! The entire ship and every accommodation I saw were just a dream; every amenity you could wish for is there and probably you will not find one item that isn’t in your suite or at least readily available. The food is excellent and presented beautifully; the staff are accommodating and more than willing to fill your every request. We wanted to have caviar at lunch and dinner and it was there practically as we sat down…..no matter where we sat in the dining room! The alternative dining room is available for 50 persons each evening by advance reservation and the food is presented with a flourish and with much imagination. The morning and luncheon buffets are attractive and plentiful with a large staff standing by to help you select your items or get a special order for you. We breakfasted and lunched each day in the dining room when aboard and this was each day a relaxing and pleasant experience. It is difficult to imagine anyone who would find fault with any aspect of a Silversea cruise if it is a small and luxurious ship you are seeking.
There were numerous land tour options at every port we reached for the inveterate sightseer, but I chose to do the overall city tours and then, where possible, spent the rest of the allowed time just wandering around drinking in the unbelievable scenery and ambience of each of these worthwhile ports of call. Come along with me as I touch on the magic of each:
Arrived in a timely manner from Newark via London to Stockholm where we spent two days prior to the cruise in this exceptionally beautiful city....very London-like with historical buildings, wonderful canals (dubbed The Venice of The North), bridges and waterways, and a climate which was been perfect at 70 degrees. It was a pleasure to wander around this city (until quite late in the evening because it never really got dark until around midnight) which looked as though it was washed and swept on the hour and I have never seen anything like the accommodation at The Sheraton which was centrally located and by far the cleanest hotel room I have ever stayed in anywhere.
The people are very attractive race, were all eager to help us along our way, and the language was never a problem because everyone spoke English.
We toured the palace, saw the changing of their Guard, and took the pleasant narrated boat trip, which took us through the charming, canals and provided a totally different view of the city of Stockholm.
When we boarded the beautiful the Silver Shadow which was waiting for us in the picturesque harbor I thought for sure the beauty of this city could not be topped….little did I know!
Left for Russia and after a very smooth sail arrived in St. Petersburg…we are well up the river Neva right in the heart of the city since this ship is rather small (350 passengers) so it is able to angle into some tremendous locations… I had never really heard anything one way or the other about this particular city (just that Russia generally was rather gray and drab)….nothing could be further from the truth at least in this spectacularly beautiful city! There are palaces and churches and impressive buildings everywhere you look and this again is another city, which is compared to Venice because of all the waterways and canals throughout.
Yesterday we visited Peter The Great’s summer palace and it was wonderful how everything has been restored and authenticated…..it is hard to guess what it must have cost to bring this city to its present state after the damage sustained in WWII and in the years prior to the 1990’s, but repair it they did and the result is breathtaking…..the city is preparing for its tercentennial next year and every building is undergoing some sort of face-lifting….this would be great to visit next year when the celebration takes place!
Today we went to The Hermitage (you made have seen this photographed during the Bushes’ recent visit here) and it is awesome…..it is 14 miles in circumference if you walked entirely around the perimeter and if you spent 1 minute in front of each item displayed, it would take you 11 years to see it all…it is endless! Silversea arranged for us to visit The Hermitage one hour before it was opened to the general public so we got to sail through quite a bit of this, hitting at least the highlights. But the grandeur of the rooms (300 of the 1000 are open for display) was awesome.
Tonight, many are going to the opera and some to the ballet but I am staying aboard to see a folkloric presentation….featuring the balalaika and the music and dance of this country.
One of the most amazing and amusing sights in the city of St. Petersburg was a big brown bear walking along the street on a leash…..afterwards, we saw the same bear stretched out on the ground with its paws out just like a dog…and everyone passing by was petting the bear! Quite unbelievable to see on a public street! Shortly thereafter, coming along on the sidewalk of one of the main streets were three teenage gals riding the smallest, cutest ponies….just trotting along among the pedestrians.
We arrived in Poland this morning after a very smooth sail from St. Petersburg. The ship docked in Gdansk (formerly known during World War II as Danzig) and it is another city, which is built on winding waterways, which lead into the sea. Evidently the entire city was practically leveled in WWII and you can still see some bombed out sites which have been left as monuments…..most of the city is new construction, although in many areas careful attempts have been made to duplicate the original buildings and churches. This city is not as advanced as St. Petersburg, but perhaps that is because it was a more rural area in Northern Poland. The funniest part of the whole tour this morning throughout the new and old parts of this city was the telling of “Polish” jokes by the tour guide….except when he told the Polish jokes the dumb one was always the Russians!! Every country must have their own versions…in Ireland, when the Irish cabdriver told much the same jokes, the British were always the dumb ones! Because of it is situated on quite lovely canals, Gdansk is quite picturesque, but there wasn’t much to see or do here except wander around, look at the shopping stalls and shops, and see some really fine examples of beautiful amber.
Rostock, Germany July 18, 2002
Yesterday we arrived in Rostock, Germany, and were greeted by a 30 piece military band……the docking area is in the very most northern part of the country. Rostock is the most major shipping port in the country and is also a beach resort….actually the ship pulled into Warnemünde which is on the outskirts of Rostock….we took the bus into town which was quite picturesque with many beautiful buildings. It is the home of the University of Rostock, which was established in the 1400’s.
This morning we headed by train for Berlin at 8 AM…..the train was exclusively for the Silver Shadow and about 160 of the 320 passengers took the trip. It was a two and a half hour, very comfortable train ride, and we were all provided with a box lunch plus bottled water for our trek around the city. The most amazing part of the train trip (to me) was the fact that when you flushed the toilet in the lavatory, the waste went directly out on the track which could be clearly seen as the train sped along when you pressed the waste button! Odd things amaze me!
Berlin is very impressive….almost the entire city has been rebuilt since WWII and many of the original buildings have been carefully replicated along with the addition of new structures. We drove along Unter Der Linden which is Berlin’s most famous boulevard leading to the magnificent Brandenburg Gate. Much of the city was under refurbishment and scaffolding was all over the Gate itself, but in Germany, as we saw in Russia, the builders produce a detailed curtained mural which covers and obscures in entirety the actual construction work and what you actually see is a picture of the Gate (or palace or museum); if you take a picture it will look as though you are in front of the actual site!
We visited the remains of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, which at one point was the only way you could enter from the American sector into East Berlin when the Wall was in existence.
We had lunch in a German Biergarten with an oompah band on hand and it was very lively. The afternoon was devoted to a tour of a huge museum in Berlin, filled with antiques from many, many countries……actually many of the rooms were actual replicas of streets in ancient Egypt which were brought back in the earliest times and totally reconstructed for the museum….the columns and statuary were awesome as was the thought of how these extremely weighty items were transported from where they were captured in early times and brought by what had to be sailboats over such a great distance.
We boarded the train back to the ship at 5:32 (the train left on the dot morning and evening), were again provided by Silversea with a boxed snack, and were back to the ship in time for dinner at 8. It was a great day and Berlin is a beautiful city in which you could spend at least a week.
The passage through the 67 miles of the Kiel Canal from Germany (connecting the North and Baltic Seas) through the Kiel Canal was a very pretty…..the Canal is lined with beautiful homes and rolling farmlands and livestock, a totally different feeling then you get as you progress through the steamy Panama Canal. Many people came out to wave our ship on and you are close enough to the sides of the Canal to see their faces.
Just when you think you have seen the most beautiful city on this particular cruise another one pops up to the top the last and this was certainly the case in Bruges, Belgium. The ship pulled into Zeebrugge and we were shuttled into Bruges while some folks did both Bruges and Ghent. We arrived in Bruges early on a Sunday morning, a day when the Belgians were celebrating national holiday, so we got to see this truly beautiful city before it began to fill up with celebrants. It is the most romantic and beautifully situated city, again totally sitting on winding canals. The buildings look as though they should be beneath a Christmas tree and each vista the small boat from which we viewed the city of particularly beautiful churches was more breathtaking than the last. The best months here are supposed to be April and May when the city is awash in daffodils, but it was a clear, cloudless day when we visited. Evidently they have about 250 days of rain a year so I suppose we were very lucky.
About noon into the town square (complete with a palace which looked as though it were lifted out of Cinderella) came marching bands leading Belgium veterans in full regalia replete with chests of medals…..it was quite an inspiring sight and added to the charm of this lovely city. This is another city in which you could easily linger longer.
This was the last port stop on this marvelous trip and it was quite a sight to sail in the early morning sun towards the fabled White Cliffs of Dover.....it was another particularly bright, sunny day and the sun just bounced off the Cliffs making them seem whiter than usual.
This was a lovely, visually exciting cruise on a truly wonderful 6 star ship....there was absolutely nothing one could put in the complaint column when we were asked to critique the ship and its attentive staff. And, as to the beauty and interesting aspects of all the ports, they are not to be missed and are all well worth a visit! What a parlay…..Silversea and the most beautiful of ports!