Norwegian GETAWAY Baltic Cruise: Part V

Photo by Peter Rosenstein
Helsinki Sibelius Monument
Helsinki Sibelius Monument

My nine day Baltic cruise on the Norwegian GETAWAY was all my friends and I hoped it would be. Every stop was a place I hadn’t been before and the piece-de-resistance was the chance to spend two days in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Those two days didn’t disappoint.

The ship sailed from and returned to Copenhagen and we spent two wonderful days there before boarding. We took a canal cruise, walked for hour’s window shopping, people watching and eating some great Danish pastry. On the recommendation of a friend who works at the State Department I booked a dinner reservation at NIMB Brasserie overlooking Tivoli gardens for our last evening. We ordered the four course set menu that came with wine matched to each course and began with a champagne toast. Three hours later we all agreed it was one of the best meals we ever ate.

NCL GETAWAY (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) NCL GETAWAY

On boarding the GETAWAY we got a nice bonus. It had recently undergone a spectacular total refurbishment. Much of the carpeting, floor tile and marble reminded me of the beautiful NCL BLISS which I had been on during its inaugural Panama Canal cruise. The specialty restaurants all looked very upscale and the theater had new seats and lighting enhancing the experience when watching the shows. 

I arranged in advance to meet with General Manager Mario Markovic, until recently his title was Hotel Director, and got a rundown on what I could expect on the cruise. I had some added fun when I spent time with the Cruise Director, Vincent Teschel, who clearly loves his job and after listening to passengers talk it’s clear both are doing their jobs superbly. 

Our first stop was in Warnemunde, Germany and my travel companions spent the day in Berlin. Having been there before I spent a couple of hours wandering the port town which is really quite beautiful. Then headed back to the ship and went to the well-equipped gym which I had all to myself. We all met again for the LGBTQ+ happy hour scheduled each evening for the Sunset Bar. There weren’t many other gay people there the first night but as the cruise went on more and more showed up for the scheduled happy hour each evening. We were served by a bartender we knew from a previous cruise who took good care of us. We had dinner reservations at Cagney’s steakhouse, one of the specialty restaurants. Service was great and the filet mignon was excellent. One thing I have learned is dessert often looks better than it tastes.  

Day three was a pleasant surprise. We booked a three hour tour of Tallinn, Estonia but it was the two hours we walked around the old town which made us realize how beautiful Tallinn, a walled city with much of the wall still standing, is.

Nobel Prize Museum (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Nobel Prize Museum

Then on to Saint Petersburg, Russia for me the highlight of the cruise. We had arranged for a private driver and guide for four of us and they met us each day at 9:00am on the pier and returned us to the ship at 6:00pm. The Hermitage where we spent hours the first day is incredible. Catherine the Great put together an amazing art collection and today there are 3 million pieces in the Hermitage’s collection. From the grand staircase to so many of the rooms in the original palace there is gold guilt everywhere. The intricate inlaid wood floors throughout are quite amazing. We arranged to see the two separate treasuries, the diamond and the gold, and the treasures there were mind boggling. Diamond and precious stone encrusted sabers and watches and crowns of gold. Many gifts to the Czars some from archaeological digs over the years. For what remained of the day we toured a number of churches and parks and went on a driving tour of the city. Our guide was great and gave us a running history lesson.

Vasa Ship (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Vasa Ship

Day two began with a trip to the orthodox synagogue which we had asked to see. We arrived while services were going on. It is a very beautiful Moorish style building. The plan was to spend the afternoon at the Peterhof Palace but first we went on the Metro and took it two stops where our driver again met us. The Metro is unbelievable with sculptures and mosaics in each of the stations. Then it was off to Peterhof about a forty-five minute ride from the city. The Palace was built after Peter the Great saw Versailles and having been to Versailles I think he out-did even that. The fountains and gardens are incredible and the palace rooms are so opulent in some ways you understand why Russians overthrew the Czars who lived like that while the peasants were starving. But as a museum there is nothing like it. 

From Russia we sailed to Helsinki, a beautiful City and then to Stockholm where the Vasa Museum, the wooden ship reclaimed and rebuilt with original timber after it sank in 1628, is worth the trip alone. I hope to go back to both cities one day.  Then it was back to Copenhagen and my nine day Baltic cruise on the Norwegian GETAWAY was over. It was all I had hoped for and recommend it to everyone.

Helsinki Harbor (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Helsinki Harbor