In my last blog I said goodbye on Sunday morning, so let me pick up exactly from where I left off.
On Sunday afternoon we went on a galley tour and what a tour it was. Dinner prep was in full swing, the bread was being freshly baked and we even managed to have a look in several of the food store areas – this ship is quite literally full of food! I always love going to these areas onboard, you get to really appreciate how much care and attention goes into every single aspect.
We left the galley behind and had an hour to pass before dining in East to West, Saga Sapphire’s Asian fusion-style restaurant. I can’t say enough good things about the food there, it was absolutely superb, AND no additional charge! On other ships I have paid at least £15 to dine in such a restaurant but on here it is part of the overall cruise experience. To start I had Atlantic seared scallops with Thai basil, for main course I went with the sautéed tiger prawns infused with Galangal and coconut-curry milk, and to finish I had the crispy buttered brioche with saffron, cardamom sauce and nuts. In-between courses we enjoyed additional little treats, the best being the prawns in peanut sauce, oh my goodness, they were good! I am tempted to ask for the recipe, although I’d never be able to re-create it exactly as it was.
On Monday we found ourselves in Stockholm, Sweden under the glow of another beautiful day. We had a morning tour to Sigtuna, one of Sweden’s oldest towns, I believe. It was very pleasant, I enjoyed seeing the typical Swedish town and as predictable as it sounds I also enjoyed listening to ABBA’s greatest hits on the coach journey back to the ship. I wish we had also had time to go into Stockholm as the city is such a lovely place, but food was calling and we decided to spend the afternoon onboard in the sunshine. It was also nice to sail back through the archipelago. This is certainly one part of the world that I could never tire of!
Helsinki, Finland was next, another port I had never visited before. I really liked Helsinki, it rained on and off for most of the day, but it didn’t spoil our explorations. There was a market just a few steps away from where the shuttle bus dropped us and on offer were various local crafts and foods. The main city centre was bursting with designer names! I ventured in to one shop and found a beautiful pair of Chanel sandals, the price tag was around the £700 mark, so I swiftly stopped admiring them and put them back on the shelf! If shopping is your thing then Helsinki is perfect! We only had a 4 hour call there, so I would like to go back again another day and do a little more exploring.
Wednesday brought us to St Petersburg, Russia where we would spend two days – on day one I took a trip to Catherine Palace. During my last visit to St Petersburg I had taken in the beauty of Peterhof and I was excited to see another bold and beautiful palace. Catherine Palace did not disappoint – gold leaf was definitely the in thing back then! The gardens were beautiful too, not quite as elaborate as the ones at Peterhof, but certainly worth a look. I imagine during the summer they will be filled with tourists.
Day two in St Petersburg was a little different, I decided to go on the Oreshek Fortress tour – I wanted to do something different, something other than grand and imposing buildings – and I am so glad that I did! There were only 8 of us on the tour and the ship provided a packed lunch – bonus! Obviously now that we are all cruise ship institutionalised we can’t go for more than a few hours without eating. It took around one and a half hours to get there, but it was worth it. Part of the fun for me is the drive, I like to SEE the places I visit, rather than just stay on the usual tourist track. We arrived at the ferry station and boarded our boat across to the middle of the Neva River – where the fortress is located. It was very interesting and our local guide was a fountain of all knowledge. She explained that although the area had been surrounded by the Nazi’s during the Second World War, they never managed to reach the island on which the fortress is located. There is also a prison there, but it was mostly used for what we today call domestic terrorists.
On Friday we found ourselves in the beautiful port of Tallinn. I absolutely love Tallinn, such a gorgeous place and there is so much to see. I left the ship in the morning and made my way around the Old Town, I had an afternoon tour, so I only spent a few hours ashore before heading back to the ship for lunch and to get ready for the afternoon’s trip. The excursion was named ‘Legacies of Tallinn’ and included a visit to Patarei prison and the Lennusadam SeaHarbour Museum. I have to tell you that it was fantastic! By far the best excursion of the cruise for me so far. I was told that this is a new tour option and if you stop in Tallinn with Saga, I highly recommend that you try it. The prison was an eye-opener, very powerful indeed, but also a little odd. There was interesting artwork across many of the walls, some with rather tasteful language and depictions – certainly not for those who are easily offended. I am sure some people wouldn’t dream of visiting such a place, but I think that visiting places like Patarei is very important, we must all learn from the past in order to better the future.
Our next stop in Tallinn was the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour Museum, which was absolutely superb! There are many aspects of the museum, including interactive simulators and uniforms that you can try on, but one of the main attractions is the Lembit submarine – which was built in England – as you can go inside and explore this fully restored work of art. I highly recommend you stop by – it’s only a short distance away from the port if you don’t want to do it as part of a tour.
Today we are on the Estonian island of Saaremma and I have just returned from a morning island tour. It was good, but quite cold!! We stopped at the Angla Windmill Park and Heritage Centre which was like stepping back in time. From here we visited the meteor crater and then went on to the town centre. I did enjoy aspects of the trip, but felt quite rushed in some places.
So, that is a brief overview of my ports since my last cruise blog, I will of course go into more depth on some of them once I am back on terra firma, but I hope you are enjoying travelling with me! I will also go into Saga Sapphire a little more soon, but before I forget, I must tell you that there is a laundrette onboard! Several passengers have said that they didn’t know if there was one or not as apparently it is just a new addition, but yes there is. There are 5 washing machines and 5 tumble dryers, 2 ironing boards, and FREE soap powder!
Tonight we dine in East to West again – I feel a food coma coming on!!!!
I will check back in with you all again very soon 🙂