Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cruising with the Queen

Two months ago, my hubby and I had this well-deserved opportunity to take a few days away from the humdrum of winter in our city. It was the early days of March, when spring was about to knock on the door. We had been working hard too, and we felt the need to go away and just relax a little. We found this not-so-expensive cruise vacation package to Tallin, Estonia in the internet, and booked for March 4-6 schedule.

The journey started in Umeå at 6 a.m. with a bus that would pick up passengers from the north of the country, then moved down south, stopping by some municipalities to pick up other passengers gathered in pre-arranged bus stops. Midway through the bus travel, we dropped by the "bridge" in Höga Kusten for a coffee break.

At a time when we had thought that spring was coming, the trees along the way were thickly coated with frosts. But are they not beautiful?

At lunch time, we dropped by a frequented  restaurant along the road in Tönnebro and ate our lunch.

We took a few more stops to pick up passengers until we finally arrived in one of Stockholm's seaports, where the "Queen" was waiting for us. The Baltic Queen ferry! She floated there in all her grandeur and majesty, welcoming the voyagers aboard. And I couldn't help gazing at her in awe for her imposing immensity. It was my first time to get this close to a ferry and to actually enter it.

The "Queen" left the shores of Stockholm at past seven.  She would sail across the Baltic Sea toward the western part of the Gulf of Finland, and would dock by a harbor in Tallin.

Once aboard the ferry, I was even more amazed as I looked around and realized that the entire vessel looked like a floating city, with hotels, restaurants, bars, groceries, gift shops, entertainment hall, etc. 

We spent the first night roaming around the "city", discovering all the corners, checking out the gift shops and groceries, having a short walk through the decks and finally watching the variety shows before retiring for the night.

corridor to the cabins, interior of the cabin, set of stairs, elevators, reception lobby, hallway through the restaurants

a cabin, cafes, bars with live music, restaurants

some of the variety shows

At past ten the following morning, we arrived in Tallin, the capital and largest city of Estonia. The city became the European Capital of Culture for 2011. For more information about this place, follow this link:

At the ferry terminal, we waited for our bus as it pulled out of the ferry, afterwards some of us passengers piled up into it for a a few hours' city tour. Only a few of us were interested to see the place and most were apparently interested only in the cruise activities and in purchasing boxes of liquors, which are very cheap.  I came to understand later that many come to this place for the purpose of buying boxes and boxes of tax-free liquors.

The city is historically interesting. It's a juxtaposition of two time periods, the ancient and the modern. That's why, like some other cities, Tallin has also a corner called the Old Town. Here are some of the city's significant and well-preserved old architectures.

Here is the "young" section of the city with its modern-day architectures.

The liquor shop, snack bars and restaurants in a mall.

The day wore on....

I had my fill of seeing and knowing about another city in another country. I don't have  to write everything here, as the link I inserted speaks enough about this place. All I can say is that wherever we go, we learn something  new, feel something different, experience a new adventure. They become a part of us and give us lessons which we can use sooner or later.

Time to go back to the ferry for another overnight voyage back to Stockholm. We left the port of Tallin at dusk.

As the sun sank deeper, the horizon blazed to deep red-orange, revealing only the silhouettes of the islands and the passing ships.

Meanwhile, like the night before,  we again walked around, had dinner in a Russian gourmet restaurant, watched the show. and slept soundly. 

When morning came, we found the ferry gliding through the waters of Stockholm, moving past the little islands that fringe the shorelines of the city. We packed our luggage, hauled it with us down to the Cafeteria where we ate our breakfast.

Thereafter I went to the deck, watched the islands that we passed by and took pictures of the houses built on the rocky shores.

Finally, the "Globe" in Stockholm loomed in view, welcoming us back.

Time for a bus ride again back to our city. As previously , we stopped by this highway restaurant for lunch.

We dropped by "the bridge" at sunset, just in time to capture this glory of the evening, before proceeding to the remaining two hours of our journey home.

We arrived late at night, but safe and sound.

Again, this cruise is one of my firsts. It's my first time to be aboard a gargantuan ferry that would cross a major European sea, first time to spend the night in the middle of the sea, first time to visit an eastern European country, first time to observe firsthand what people do on a cruise. And firsts are always memorable.

Certainly, it's been fascinating cruising with the Queen!

Have a wonderful weekend!