Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Ship

Poo Truck & Buses
Day 22 (8/24/2010) The workings of the Ship

I wanted to take a little time to write about the general day to day operations of the ship which I found fascinating. It had not occurred to me the magnitude of the logistics to keep a ship like this maintained. The ship itself is capable of carrying 2600 passengers and 1200 crew. Considering the fact that there is always food to be had somewhere, this calls for mass quantities of raw materials to be received and processed at each port. It also means that there are mass quantities of waste to be removed. As soon as you pull into ports there is a bustle of activity. Before docking local authorities have to board ship and complete the needed paperwork for stopping in a foreign country. While this is going on dock workers are gathering to start tying up the ship. In some ports or inclement weather tug boats are needed to help the ship dock. After everything is secured the gangplanks are lowered and people start setting up for disembarking. This is usually within five ten minutes of docking. While all of this has been going on busses and trucks have been pulling in to take excursions away and deliver goods. Lines are hooked up to remove the waste of 4000 people on board. Garbage trucks start hauling away the solid waste. This happens every time the ship docks.
Apparently, you could take tours of the galley to see the onboard kitchens, bakery and laundry but we never had the chance. Again the sheer magnitude of feeding and caring for this number of people is astonishing. The fact that they do it without being noticed is miraculous. After almost two weeks onboard I still have no clue where all this work was taking place.
I was also surprised to see that the ship is undergoing constant maintenance. I assumed that once a year the ship docked and all of the repairs where done at one time. It turns out that the ship is constantly under repair. It was not uncommon for one of the pools or hot tubs to be drained, scraped, painted and reopened. Any spot of rust was instantly coated and painted. As Eileen found out, if you are not careful and miss a sign stating “wet varnish’ you may end up with a sticky arm.
Pilot Boat
Without a doubt our favorite ship operation to watch was the transfer of the pilot. It turns out that at every port a pilot who is familiar with the local waters has to board the ship and exit the ship after we are safely out of port. In order to do this, the pilot is brought out on a small boat and while they are both still moving jumps from one boat to another. Under the best of conditions this looks quite daring, but rarely are they the best of conditions. It turned out our balcony was right above the spot where they made the transfer so it became a favorite preoccupation to watch the pilot make the jump which he did as if he were stepping off a nonmoving bus.
It goes without saying that I have only scratched the surface of what it takes to operate a ship of this size and the countless people who work behind the scenes to keep everybody comfortable. I know of several that went out of their way to make it pleasant for Eileen and me.
Getting ready to make the jump!
Making the Jump!
The Little Tug That Could
Sax(our Steward) and Eileen

Edvard the Tasting Chef

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coming Home

Day 21 (8/21/2010) Day 14 Baltic Sea Adventure
It is the last day of our adventure. We slept in a little later because we have to fly home. Last night there must have been some serious partying going on out in the street. They were still going at 5:00 this morning. I should have gotten up and closed the windows but I kept thinking it wouldn’t go much longer. We did manage to sleep pretty well though. After breakfast we went out to do a little more exploring before heading to the airport. Once again we passed through the New Harbor area then followed the pier up along edge of the city. We didn’t want to get lost because we wanted to make sure we were ready to check out of the hotel by 11:00. We were amazed by how many new gems kept popping up. The hotel called us a taxi to the airport. We think maybe we got fleeced a little because the meter started at 44. The driver didn’t seem to speak much English though so we decided not to mention it. The way he was driving we were just glad to get to the airport. We think he may have trained at the Mario Andretti School for cab driving. Again we got to the airport very early but that seems to make things a lot less stressful.
We just passed over the southern tip of Norway and are currently flying towards Iceland. I think we are going to pass south of it though. Again we have the onboard mapping system which I find really fun. We seem to be going about 50 to 70 miles an hour slower than when we flew out. We did pass below Iceland but much to my amusement we passed over the southern tip of Greenland. We could see the glaciers calving icebergs below us. The trip back to Chicago seemed to go pretty fast.

"One of Many" Sculpture
Admiral Hotel
The spiral tower of Our Saviour Church
Dragon Spire on Old Stock Exchange
Five Glaciers in Greenland

Monday, August 23, 2010

Return to Copenhagen

Eileen with a Guard
Day 20 (8/20/2010) Day 13 Baltic Sea Adventure
We were up at 5:00 this morning. We wanted to catch some breakfast before we left the ship. As it turns out we probably wouldn’t have to have hurried quite as much. We were afraid everything was going to be busy. As it turned out we must have been ahead of the crowd because we had breakfast and were off the ship by 6:30. We had a great taxi ride with a driver who gave us all kinds of tourist suggestions. It turns out our hotel is in the perfect location right between the palace and the most scenic area in Copenhagen, New harbor. We were worried that it would be too early to check in but we thought we could store our luggage while we walked around town. When we got there, the guy at the desk said our room was ready and we could go right in and that if we wanted we could go through the breakfast buffet. We settled for a cup of coffee and were off to see the town. We decided to start with the Palace and then worked our way down the board walk to Kastellet, an old fort that was surrounded sculptures and a beautiful church. On the board walk we ran into a street person who gave us more info. The most important was that the changing of the guard at the palace was at noon. We went back to the palace and watched the changing of the guard and Eileen got her picture taken with one of the guards. They all seem so young. Then we walked the other direction to New Harbor. It is the area where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote about. We photographed one of the houses that he had lived in. After much walking we decided to try the hop-on hop-off buses. We rode them for a while and were surprised how between our walks the first day and our walk today we had covered many of the land marks but now we had the stories behind them. As it turns out, Tivoli, the amusement park we had seen during our first day was actually built to take the Danish peoples mind off from their poverty and war. It was later Walt Disney’s inspiration for Disneyland. After the ride we came back to the hotel to chill for awhile before going to supper. After supper we continued to walk around until it was time for bed.
Changing of the Guard
Gefion Fountain
Electric Car and Outlet
Equestian Statue of Frederic V
Dragon Light Pole
Copenhagen Opera House
Angel Sculpture by Kastellet
St. Alban's Church from Kastellet
Kastellet Windmill
Valkyrie in Churchill Park
Eileen looking out our Window
New Harbor District
More New Harbor
Hans Christian Andersen house in Copenhagen

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When Tenders get Rough

Tender Ticket
Day 19 (8/19/2010) Day 12 Baltic Sea Adventure
We actually slept in a little later today. We weren’t going to be arriving in Helsingborg, Sweden until 11:00. Today is our last day at sea. We will be taking off at 5:30 and traveling back to Copenhagen by 9:00. We are taking tenders to the port since it is too small to dock a ship the size of ours. I thought that the tenders would come out from Helsingborg but it turns out they use the lifeboats to ferry the people back and forth. Again our balcony was right above one of the spots where people disembark. It has been very interesting watching that whole process. I have to admit that the general operations of the ship are some of the most fun to watch. It turns out that tenders aren’t very tender at all in rough seas. In fact they can be downright harsh. I do have to say that it was definitely one of the highlights of the day. Even though Helsingborg was a charming city filled with beautiful buildings and Sculptures we couldn’t spend a great deal of time there. We are to the point where we are starting to repack and had to get most of that done before we go to bed. It is kind of bittersweet. On one hand we are ready to get home but on the other hand it means our adventure is coming to an end.
Lowering the Tenders
The Tenders

Loading the Tenders
Sculpture in Helsingborg
Yet another Sculpture
And yet Another
The Ship

Warnemunde, Germany

Inside the Light Tower

Day 18 (8/18/2010) Day 11 Baltic Sea Adventure

For the first time of our adventure, it is raining when we pulled into port at Warnemunde, Germany. Most of the people on the ship are boarding a train to go to Berlin. We just weren’t ready for a three hour train trip. Now with the rain it looks like maybe we made the right decision. Warnemunde is a charming little seaside port. I say little in comparison to most of the other ports that we have gone into. I think we made the right decision by not going to Berlin. Granted, Warnemunde may not have had the historic significance of Berlin but it was a fun town to explore. In spite of a persistent drizzle in the morning we set out to explore the town. On our journey we came across a light tower that you could climb for a nominal fee. From there we were able to kind of plan our morning. It turns out Warnemunde is a favored area for Europeans to take “Holiday” and has a substantial beach area. I am not any expert on beach life but they had something there I had never seen before, little shaded chair huts that fold up into themselves. The beach was covered with them. I couldn’t tell if they were private or public. Warnemunde also had a quaint little harbor area filled with interesting boats and shops. In the afternoon the rain stopped and the character of the town changed. What had been a quaint lazy little berg in the rain of the morning became a bustling tourist town when the sun came out in the afternoon. It was still fun, just different. We went out and did some more exploring then stopped by a local bier garden for the mandatory German Beer. While we were out walking we stopped at a tourist information center and the girl told us that the city was going to have fireworks for our sendoff that evening. So after supper we put on our swimming suits and went up to the hot tub on the top deck and waited for fireworks to start. Although the wait was a little longer than we thought, it was great when they started. We had the best seat in the house.

Light Tower with Sculpture

Ship from the Light Tower
The Warf


Beach Chairs
Manditory Beer
Hot Tubbing
Fireworks from the Hot Tub


Sunrise at Poland
Day 17 (8/17/2010) Day 10 Baltic Sea Adventure
Today we went to Gdynia, Sopot and Gdansk, Poland. We originally had decided that we weren’t going to take another tour today. To be honest, we are getting a little tired of tours. But we received a note on our bed, when we got back to our room from Tallinn, that they were going to pressure wash all the balconies on the ship today. We figured that it might be better if we were out of the room and off the ship so we booked yet another tour. It turned out that perhaps we should have taken our chances with staying on the ship. Although there were some high points, much of the tour was quite hectic. It was an hour ride through the three cities which, it turns out are all connected. Since there is no express way it was all stop and go traffic. Everywhere you went everything was covered by Graffiti. The guide assured us that it was not gang related but rather mischief. Apparently, some of the graffiti is promoted and certain areas are designated for graffiti art. Once we got to the old part of Gdansk it was very scenic and interesting but there was a festival going on and it was almost impossible to go anywhere much less try to keep track of our guide. Again I was amazed with the beauty of the architecture. If I understood correctly though, most of it had to be rebuilt after World War II because the city of Gdansk was leveled. In spite of the long ride and hassles associated with the tour Gdansk was beautiful and there were many interesting tidbits of history. For example I was not aware that at the time of World War II the city of Gdansk was known as Danzig and the site of the start of the war. The shipyards of Gdansk are also where Lech Walesa started the solidarity movement which many people feel led to the fall of the Soviet Union. We went past Lech Walesa's house but unfortunately it was somwhat obscured by trees. It is interesting how you can tell what the people in the country are proud of by what they show you on the tours. In Poland it is definitely their revolutions and struggles to stay free. Stay free Poland.

Port of Gdynia
Old town Hall
Old Town Gdansk
More Old Town
Astronomical Clock at St. Mary's
Solidarity Monument
Leaving Poland