A Baltic cruise on the Queen Victoria

We’ve recently returned from a wonderful Baltic cruise on the Queen Victoria, and what a marvellous trip it was. Dancing into the wee small hours with the sun still shining and sunset blending into dawn is a sight never to be forgotten. Beautiful! Her décor is appropriately Victorian, and the service second to none. Excellent entertainment every evening and plenty of delicious food. The diet starts now. And what a lovely ship she is.

The cruise began with a few days at sea before our first two stops at Stockholme in Sweden, and Helsinki in Finland. Later we visited Tallin in Estonia, Warnemunde in Germany, Copenhagen in Denmark, and Kristiansand in Norway. We enjoyed perfect sunny weather throughout, although not warm enough to persuade me into the pool. Admittedly this picture was taken on the first day so we were more interested in the free champagne.

The Grand Lobby

The highlight of the holiday was undoubtedly a two day stopover at St Petersburg. Once the capital of the Russian Empire, and formerly known as Petrograd, and Leningrad at different times in history, the city demonstrates a marked European influence with many opulent palaces. We viewed many of these from a boat on the River Neva, a splendid way to see any city. But one we actually visited was Catherine’s Palace, known as Tsarskoye Selo. Simply amazing!

Here is the ballroom where the aristocracy would be presented to their Imperial Highnesses before enjoying the ball.

Nearly every room, all magnificently decorated, boasted a delft-tiled stove. It seems the Romonovs liked to keep warm, and who can blame them in a Russian winter.This is the Picture Hall, also resplendent with its built-in stove.


We were even shown the Amber room. Breathtakingly beautiful, although we were not allowed to take photos. This was destroyed, broken up and stolen by the Nazi’s in the Second World War. Years of searching post-war failed to find a piece of it, so it has been painstakingly restored, the task taking 30 years to complete.

We also visited the amber workshop where the work of restoration goes on, and where small special panels are often made for visiting dignitaries. The amber has to be carefully cut and carved with tiny drills and saws, then rubbed and polished, an extraordinarily skilled task. We were all given a small nugget to take away with us. We were escorted by a Russian guide, Natasha, with excellent English, who made this visit a real joy.

Here is the wonderful facade of the Catherine Palace. Hard to imagine the palace itself was left as a burning wreck after the war, but that too has been restored in all its splendour.

On our second day we were shown the prison where the Bolsheviks kept their political prisoners, a stark reminder of what happened during the revolution.

Also the Peter and Paul Fortress, and the Romonov tombs in the Cathedral. Following DNA tests on Nicholas II and his tragic family, there are now wall plaques to honour them, even Anastasia who was found later.

I would love to visit St Petersburg again as there are so many others places we didn’t have time to see, not least the hermitage and the winter palace. Here is an exterior shot of them, taken from the boat, so a bit rocky.

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