the St Petersburg perusal – Cruise # 5

Vision of the Seas Voyage # 784

Sweden – Russia 11 Night Cruise

We’ve been to St Petersburg twice already, but it was only this cruise that I had a chance to get off the ship, besides shooting gangway. Marli and I had the whole afternoon and evening off (an unusual treat) so we had ample time to explore!

Going out in Russia is a pain in the bum. Most guests (except Brazilians and guests from a few other Russia-friendly countries) need a visa if they want to visit. If they haven’t got a visa, the only way for them to see St Petersburg is to join a Royal Caribbean tour. We crew have it a bit easier. We don’t need a visa, but we have to take a Russian serviced shuttle bus from the port to town. This costs $15, which is pretty steep, especially since we can normally catch the port shuttles for free. Nevertheless, off we set.

I didn’t know what to expect and as all the guests have been warned against petty crime in the area, I was in South Africa Safety mode, keeping my bag close and my camera strap around my neck at all times! We didn’t have any security problems, but I was a bit nervous when walking alone down some of the more narrow streets. On the whole, I find St Petersburg a bit claustrophobic. The narrow streets are flanked with 5 story buildings; a disorderly array of cables criss-cross the sky and swarms of Russians and tourists fill the pavement. Many of the buildings are pretty and must have looked very glamorous back in the day, but just as many if not more could do with some loving, with faded, peeling paintwork and crumbling concrete. This doesn’t seem to bother the Russian woman, as I spotted many of them dressed up quite glamorously, wearing stilettos and cocktail dresses at midday.

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My main objective was to find the Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood. This Orthodox church is beautiful and is the main icon of St Petersburg. I was walking down Nevsky Prospect (the main street). I spent a long while walking about just marvelling at the building. There is a park next to the church and I wondered around, listening to 2 musicians playing classical guitar and violin and the music wove a magical haze over the experience. There is a park next to the church and I wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying some good quality “me” time. The strange thing about the park was that the grass areas were no-go areas so you could only walk on the pathways and look at it. Weird right? Also, it seems that the Russians are incredibly fond of pigeons, feeding them all over the park. One man even had them sitting on his arm and eating out of his hand – gross.

In the evening, Marli and I joined a Royal Caribbean tour as escorts to see a Russian Folkloric dance show. It was amazing! The whole first performance was in top gear, like it was a pre-recorded show and someone had pushed the fast forward button. I would describe the dance as a highly animated, running on the spot style that was both hilarious and brilliant! The next performance freaked us out big time. The tempo changed to really slow and the female dancers, wearing long elegant dresses floated onto and about the stage on their tip toes. They moved so smoothly that they looked like they were statues being wheeled about the stage.

I swear, ballet, line dancing, marching formations, jiving, breakdancing and even the chicken dance originated in Russia! I include the chicken dance because the dancers dressed up like cockerels, hens and chicks for one of the performances, bucking their heads and flapping their arms about the stage. Very entertaining!

Funny Guest Story: We had a lot of Spanish speaking guests on board this cruise and one of the Photogs took a liking to one young Columbian lady. It actually became quite a joke with her family and her dad ended up calling him “son in law”. On the last evening of the cruise, the young Columbian beauty spent quite a bit of time in and around the photo gallery. Since she spoke almost no English and he almost no Spanish, they resorted to using Google translate on her phone to get their flirting on. Using this method, she asked him to join her for a drink when he finished work. To his credit he did say no. However, I have a feeling this was because relations between crew and guests are forbidden and not because he wasn’t interested!

Highlight of the cruise: Crying with laughter and wonder at the Russian Folkloric show.

To end off, a picture of a beautiful reindeer towbar cover. Enjoy!

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reindeer towbar

The new “New Guy” – Cruise # 4

Vision of the Seas Voyage # 783

Sweden – Russia 11 Night Cruise

This cruise we said good-bye to the wonderful Aleks. It was a bit weird not having him around. I kept thinking we had left him behind! I’m learning that this is one of the drawbacks to the cruise ship life style. People are constantly leaving. This is often because their contracts have ended, but sometimes people are also fired – 3 people have already been fired that I know of! This means that there are always new faces, in the guest and crew areas! Luckily I arrived at the same time as some pretty cool people, so will be graced with their faces for a long while yet – touch wood!

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I have been the butt of a lot of good natured teasing this week. This is mainly Manny’s fault. He’s my AMP (Assistant Manager of Production) and during my first week he asked Nikola, “What’s the new GUY’S name? Taking this literally, Nikola replied: “She’s a girl, Manny.” And he replied: “Yes, New Guy!” What makes this worse is that Manny insists on calling me “Len”. I’m still not used to this and don’t always realize that he’s talking to me! So now that we have a male new hire, there have been loads of jokes about there being a real new GUY, the new “New Guy”! I must take this opportunity to thank my brother for all the teasing growing up, as I haven’t minded the jokes this week and have been laughing along! Haven’t I grown into a well rounded and good natured person?

So new “New Guy” and I had some time off in Tallin, Estonia and decided to go for a mini adventure. We walked around the old town, which consists mostly of cobbled streets, churches, towers and tourists! It’s really pretty and fairy-tale like, especially since there were a lot of people dressed up in medieval costumes walking around on stilts and giving archery lessons. During our sightseeing excursion we came across a tower with a sign inviting us to climb up the stairs. It was quite a climb and although we didn’t find the stars and unicorns that the sign promised, I did have the most amazing refreshment, a tall glass of cold, crisp, delicious Pear Cider – Yum! I had a bit of a giggle when I read my glass – A. Le Coq!

Of course, like all of these old European cities, there was a large town square with a flea market. I spotted some flower broaches that reminded me of similar ones that a friend of my Mum’s makes. Mum, maybe a new idea for Lin?

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Funny Guest Story: When we’re bored in the Photo Gallery, we walk around looking at all the photos and play a game where we try to guess the names of the guests. At times we find this hilarious, but I suspect that’s because we’re overtired and overworked! It was while doing this that Nikola discovered “Turtle”.

In high school I was known for associating people with different animals that I thought they looked like. One girl was a giraffe, another a zebra and another a wombat! My friends soon turned the tables on me and pronounced that I look like a penguin. The nickname has stuck. So if anyone was wondering why some people call me penguin, or buy me penguin bits and bobs – mystery solved!

But back to “Turtle”… Turtle is a teenage guest (not a ninja or a mutant) and Nikola decided that she looks like a turtle. I found this HELarious, because (A) it’s true and (B) that’s the type of thing that I would say. I took lots of photos of her during the cruise and always looked forward to showing them to Nikola for a bit of a giggle!

Highlight of the cruise: Suddenly I’ve been getting all sorts of good comments from management, my  Photog peeps and guests. I’m slightly frazzled and I Hope I can live up to these high expectations, but it was nice to get some praise.

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