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You possibly can’t beat the Baltic


On this week’s journey characteristic Stuart Inexperienced travels the Baltic by sea ending with a go to to Amsterdam.

Most of the Chronicle’s readers have quite a lot of cruising expertise and they’ll have a number of their very own tales to inform. However, with solely a handful of sea-borne holidays behind us, my spouse Annie and I’ve simply returned from our first vacation with the Azamara cruise line – a 12 night time cruise of the Baltic Sea, ending with a transit of the Kiel Canal and a go to to Amsterdam.

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The Azamara Pursuit
On the earth of cruise ships, the Azamara Pursuit have to be one of many smallest. At 30,000 tons, she is completely dwarfed by vessels corresponding to Marvel of the Seas (230,000 tons) or MSC World Europa (205,000 tons), each of which carry over 6,000 passengers.

Being so small, the Azamara Pursuit has few facilities, only one theatre which is used for the daytime lectures given by specialist audio system and for the night’s leisure programme. On board the Pursuit, there’s a small pool, a gymnasium and a spa however no nightclubs, casinos, go-karts, zip-wires, and so forth.

And there may be completely nothing to entertain kids. Nevertheless, while there have been few locations to search out leisure, the identical couldn’t be stated for foods and drinks. From 7am until midnight, stunningly good meals is accessible someplace on board – maybe within the ship’s 4 eating places, the big cafe, the espresso store, and the six bars most of which served essentially the most luxurious meals. Fairly merely, the meals on board the ship was completely excellent.

We had been spoiled for alternative at each mealtime: The place ought to we eat? What ought to we select from the fabulous menus? All my good dietary intentions disappeared as quickly as we sat down at every meal as all of the menu choices appeared irresistible. Each time we paused for a cup of tea or espresso, we might at all times be supplied essentially the most fantastic tapas or truffles.

The Captain
Born on an island in southern Finland with an house in Stockholm, Captain Mikael Palmroos is the perfect man to take the ship across the Baltic.

The son of a businessman within the yachting trade, Mikael realized to sail when he was six years previous.

After Nationwide Service within the Finnish Navy, he labored within the resort trade earlier than taking his diploma as a Grasp Mariner. His first cruise ship was the massive Sovereign of the Seas earlier than transferring to the Azamara fleet.

In reply to my questions, Captain Palmroos stated:
“The perfect factor about being the Captain of an Azamara ship is the collaboration between the onboard and shoreside groups in an effort to ship essentially the most genuine expertise for our visitors.”

However wouldn’t he choose to be on one of many large cruise ships, like Sovereign of the Seas?
“I’ve sailed on totally different sizes of vessels, together with a few of the largest cruise ships on the earth.

My choice, nonetheless, is to be on one of many smaller ships in order that we will dock at prime areas and ship the most effective expertise for our visitors. As well as, the household ambiance and shut interplay between myself, the crew and our visitors is priceless.”

Is the Baltic his favorite a part of the world?
“The Scandinavian archipelago will at all times stay near my coronary heart and I really feel privileged to be crusing as Captain in these waters. That being stated, there are fairly a number of locations all over the world with their very own distinctive magnificence such because the beautiful clear waters round Fiji and the French Polynesian Islands and the pristine locations of Seychelles, the Maldives and Saint Barthélemy. However I’m completely happy to sail wherever.”

The celebs of the cruise – the workers
Through the cruise, I typically wished that we might have been joined by a few of Gibraltar’s restaurant homeowners and managers so they might watch the ship’s glorious workers at work – and be taught from it. There isn’t any doubt that the crew had been the celebs of the cruise.

Irrespective of how typically we had dealings with the bar workers, the cabin attendants or the waiters, they greeted us with an enormous smile, welcoming us again if we’d been off the ship, wishing us a superb day – typically remembering our names – and asking if they might help us in any method. They typically appeared to know what we needed earlier than we knew it ourselves. It doesn’t matter what they had been requested by their multinational, multicultural visitors, nothing was ever an excessive amount of hassle and each request was met with a smile. Fairly merely, the usual of service was at the least 5 Star however in all probability higher.

The Passengers
When absolutely booked the ship can carry round 700 passengers however on our journey there have been simply 407 of us and, to look after our each want, there have been 400 members of the crew – a ratio of virtually precisely 1:1.
About half of the passengers had been People with a lot of the the rest from international locations all through Europe. On totally different evenings we had dinner with Trump supporters from Nashville, Tennessee, with a Brazilian couple who now lived in Italy, a Scottish police officer and his very profitable spouse and with a Dutch couple who lived a 15 minute taxi trip from our ultimate port-of-call in Amsterdam.

At this stage, I have to level out that, while there have been a number of younger folks on board, their quantity was matched by some very aged folks. I might say that the common age of passengers was positively 60 plus.

The Itinerary
Annie and I had chosen to reach in Copenhagen a day earlier than the ship sailed and this proved to be a clever alternative as we had a stunning time strolling round this liveliest of cities – particularly within the space of Nyhaven.

Our first day onboard the Azamara Pursuit was spent at sea because the ship crossed the Baltic earlier than visiting three capital cities in three days – Tallinn (Estonia), Helsinki (Finland) and Stockholm (Sweden). All three had been fascinating in their very own method however our favorite was Stockholm the place the ship was moored for 48 hours in order that we might benefit from town’s historical past, its Royal Palaces and gardens – and its outlets.

After discovering our method around the Swedish capital, we then sailed to the small island of Gotland the place we had a stroll across the charming walled city of Visby, earlier than, on the next day, September 1, we discovered ourselves within the port of Gdańsk, our ship moored at precisely the spot the place the primary pictures of WW2 had been fired. It gave us an ideal view of a fly previous over the monument and of Polish naval vessels marking the 83rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World Battle.

After our day changing the price of all the things from Polish zlotis, we sailed to the smallest city on our itinerary, the city of Ronne on the Danish island of Bornholm the place once more we had been changing from Danish krone. It may need been the smallest port of name, however Ronne had the most effective Vacationer Info Workplace, the most effective maps, a small orchestra to welcome us ashore and free WiFi.

However, of the small ports, the most effective was a spot that, previous to the cruise, I’d by no means heard of – Warnemunde on the north coast of Germany. This enticing little city was filled with holiday-makers a lot of whom had been wandering across the out of doors pottery market and alongside one of many longest seashores I’ve ever seen.

After a morning in Warnemunde, we took the prepare to the close by college metropolis of Rostock which once more was stuffed with Saturday customers and vacationers. After an extended day ashore, we had been lastly welcomed again on board by a neighborhood Oompa Band with a number of German beer and sausages for us to pattern.

The cruise ended with an enchanting transit by way of the Kiel Canal and a go to to Amsterdam the place we took a stunning canal cruise by way of town.

The Shore Excursions
Each time we arrived in a brand new port, there could be a shuttle service of luxurious coaches to take us into town centre. The coaches ran each half hour and, in fact, they had been obtainable to carry us again to the ship after we’d had sufficient of the sightseeing or purchasing. However, as an alternative of wandering spherical town centre, many individuals would go for a guided tour, normally by coach, to someplace of curiosity. All through the cruise there have been 42 excursions obtainable. Clearly, in some locations there could be a number of choices obtainable – in Stockholm there have been eight excursions, while in Gdańsk, there have been simply three.

If I had a criticism of the cruise, it will be the extortionate costs of many of those excursions. The typical worth of the 8 different excursions in Stockholm was 117 Euros per particular person and in Amsterdam, 115 Euros per particular person. If Annie and I had taken a typical tour at each port, we might have spent round 2000 Euros on excursions. Maybe we’re barely cost-conscious however, in most locations, we did our personal analysis and, armed with a neighborhood map, we set off to see the sights on our personal, utilizing native transport when crucial.

If you would like a floating theme park or a kids’s marvel world, then Azamara Pursuit is certainly not for you. Should you want to gown in formal garments for each meal, then the Azamara’s extra relaxed fashion is just not for you. If, nonetheless, you want to eat fantastic meals, be served by essentially the most fantastic workers and go to some fascinating locations, then I counsel you contemplate a cruise on Azamara Pursuit. We loved each second of it.
By the way in which, there was completely no sponsorship from Azamara within the writing of this text.


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