To St. Petersburg round the Baltic Cruise - Ijmuiden & the Kiel Canal

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Ijmuiden (Amsterdam) & the Kiel Canal

I was awake before my call & had a shower. Up above (we are on deck 2 & the Main Deck with the promenade & all the lounges is on deck 5), I found that breakfast was not served until 7, so I went back to the cabin, gathered all the stuff I would need & walked round the deck a few times. There was a huge crowd for breakfast & I joined in, rather than wait as the rules suggested because I had to join my coach. Avis' tour was an hour later. I went out into the now, howling gale along the quay with Patrick, the Port Lecturer (who was on the board of Page & Moy until he retired, so is perfect for this job). Sandra, the boss of the Tours, gave us bats with our coach numbers & I had 28 guests for mine. My native guide was Danny, who talked about Amsterdam's history on the way in. We both read the Riot Act about getting back on time. He arranged that those of us who wanted to go on a boat trip would get group rates. 13 of us did, which lasted an hour for a very reasonable E8.

Boats start near the station in Amsterdam

Along the Herrengracht

A backwater

We went round several canals & when later we were back on the bus, I pointed out for the Van der Valk fans how close we had come to the Prinzengracht police offices & that they would have noticed what a bad career move a police chase through the streets of Amsterdam would be. I started walking with some of the others & soon realised what rotten free maps they had been given by Danny were. (They were advert maps by Bols & emphasised streets where their stores were, surprise, surprise). Fortunately, I had packed the Falk map & could advise the guests a bit but then walked with Richard & Angela to the Dam & had coffee with them. I had no change then but paid them the E2.50 later. I went round some back areas I had not been to before & then, down the Damrak & bought an ethnic doll for Bessie, our grand-daughter. When we loaded the coach, the driver took off like a Moon-shot but when Danny & counted, we had two guests too many. When they owned up, I got the driver to ring the other coach, so they would not hang about waiting for them. Danny gave some national history on the way back & I told them about Carausius (who was a Batavian) & the 1st Dutchman (Belgian, really) to rule Britain, back in 286AD. Also about Magnus Maximus & the 5 Tyrants. Back on the boat, I found Avis had bagged me a seat in the Palms Café. We retired to the Braemar Room after as quickly as possible, as a huge queue was building up. After we had completed our Tour Report forms, Sally asked us to lay down our criteria for doing escort duty. Then, Avis went to bed after her successful but exhausting tour on bus & boat, with some very infirm guests. I had a cup of tea just before we sailed at 1600, avoiding the cakes. Then, I processed photos, did my diary & this web site until near dinner, when I changed, as we are always to be semi-formal. I took a photo through the porthole, which, since we are in steerage, shows crashing waves. After, the funny man, Taffy Spencer, had us all in fits in the Neptune Lounge, although he broke the rules all over the place & it was not a good place to be a Jehovah's Witness. We went to the Coral Club, where 4th Dimension were playing. They are a good pop group & are not getting the audience they deserve. I made sure there was a lot of applause, which they noticed. In the cabin, we moved the bedside cabinets, push the beds together & actually made more space this way.

Through our porthole.
Neptune hates us but we don't care

The Friesland coastline.

Some clown rang us up at 0220 this morning, asking for Adèle. I said, somewhat acidly, you've got the wrong number & it took a while to stop my heart racing. On waking, it was calm outside & sunny, so I played Mendelssohn's Calm Sea & Prosperous Voyage from a computer. We actually got up at 8 & were only down in the Thistle Restaurant for breakfast at 0840 but we won't use the Thistle again, as seats are too closely packed together, which makes it hard for the waiters. Patrick did an excellent port talk for the Kiel Canal & Tallinn. Then, at various times, I tried to get some exercise but only managed about 3000 paces all morning, as I had picked up more of my leaflets from Glenda in the Entertainments Office & distributed them as I went along, selling my talks & handing them out. Instead of going into the Kiel Canal, we were hanging around with the anchor down for hours because one of the locks was under repair, so it was single lane traffic through them. I also had a chat to Mark the manager of the 93-strong tour group from Titan Travel (not Titanic). He was obviously relieved to be able to recount some of the horror stories you get in that job to a colleague (I worked on Blue Sky's computer system in 1971). As usual, the guests range from calling all the staff Love to those treating them as servants, including officers of the ship. I had a chat to Imelda, an Entertainments Officer or Imy as she prefers, who does deck gym etc & had no clients at first. She knows much about electrical engineering & takes jobs on cruise ships to see the World & get paid for it. Fair does. Avis & I met for lunch at 1305, me late as I had been talking to a couple on the top deck about family history & recounting, as I do, the fun bits of mine, Mohammed (well-known Prophet) & Elizabeth (prostitute). After, we just sat on the deck in the shade, having removed some chairs from the air-conditioning outlet (why put them there, in the noise?), variously computing & reading. At three, the anchor came up & moved, very slowly, forward. We seemed to go round in a circle but before we went into the lock, we went to Lydia Melleck's classical piano gig, partly to make up the numbers, as so many people were on deck, enjoying the sunshine & watching the procedure.

We had gone well past Brunsbuttel when we went onto the deck. The canal goes through quite a lot of flat land but later, after dinner, there were hills. We went to the 4th Dimension's gig, then up to the bow to look at countryside. Avis went in for a show but I stayed out a long time, waving to the Gerries on shore, who seemed keen to wave to us & taking these photos.

Kiel Canal

Ferries play chicken with cruise ships

Traditional houses


More modern houses

Time for bed

Next day, the ship was going a bit faster than usual to make up time but the sea was flat & there were no clouds about until I went out for a stroll after breakfast. I did not know about the howling wind. We went to Patrick's very good & quite long (80 Minutes) Petersburg gig. I ran through the Tchaik talk on Pip Computer & spotted a useful minor change I later made on Geof Computer (network names), which I used for the show. I went down to the Green Room while a talk about amber was going on, so I was up for a testing session with George, the Philippino audio/visuals man. We soon set it all working & I put up my Alpine General Slideshow as the guests poured in. I had asked Glenda to print off more leaflets (the Boss was there at the time), so Avis had about 80 to hand out, which she did & ran out. About 160 people attended to show at her estimate, easily the largest audience I have ever had. Things went wrong at the first musical example which turned out to be a bad connexion but I covered it by teasing George over the tannoy, threatening him in the end with having to swim back to the Philippines. But after a bit of trouble, we got it going in the "Storm Overture", at which point, I let George off the swim & the show went according to plan, becoming the 'usual triumph' with copious congrats after & a few questions round the ship but only one straight after from a Dutch psychiatrist. Then, we changed into our posh. Avis' had spectacular material but the cut did not work as well. We lined up for the Captain's reception & Anthony, my Boss, said my show had gone down well, thank goodness. The captain's introduction of the crew was amusing, calling his Bloke, his 'slave'. Dinner a bit earlier (1840). Patrick said what had impressed a lot of people was how I had coped with disaster, including a group we chatted with after dinner & before the evening show. This was based on musicals & very well done but Avis objected that the show girls should not have had to do such jobs. However, I shook Duncan's hand on the way out (we had had a chat this morning - he is the lead male singer) & pointed out to Avis that they are, after all, my colleagues.

Port 2 - Stockholm

Port 3 - Tallinn

Port 4 - St. Petersburg

Port 5 - Gdynia

Port 6 - Warnemunde

Port 7 - Copenhagen

Next page - Stockholm

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Contact: Ken Baldry at 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)20 7359 6294 or e-mail him
URL: Last revised 15/6/2011 ©2011 Ken Baldry. All rights reserved.