Vacation Sagas

12 Nights Scandinavia & Russia Cruise
Roundtrip Harwich on Royal Caribbean's
Jewel of the Seas
June 11, 2011

Pre-Cruise Harwich, England At Sea Copenhagen, Denmark At Sea Stockholm, Sweden Helsinki, Finland
St. Petersburg, Russia Tallinn, Estonia At Sea Gothenburg, Sweden At Sea London, England Post-Cruise

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The Story

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to

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WARNING! Some of these photos may be considered x-rated!

Well, I say it doesn't hurt to be prepared, so that's my excuse for starting to pack my suitcase three months before it was time to leave.

Thursday, June 9, 2011 The Leaving Here and Getting There

In spite of tornadoes in Texas, volcanoes erupting in Iceland, and hurricane season just starting, we were able to get to the airport for a normal flight to London, England, my ride there thanks to my good friend Rudy of Linda and Rudy Escobar!

The "we" of this adventure was my long-time friend, former co-worker, past-traveling buddy, and previous Canadian, Lesley McGhee. While I've spent the past three to four years saving up for this cruise, she was busy worrying about her job with Nortel Networks (now belly-up), her group being auctioned off to Ericsson, and her election to apply for U.S. Citizenship—which is now complete. Flag

The cruisers: me, Bonney Bott, and my friend Lesley McGhee,

Bonney Lesley
Stateroom 7604

Let me preface this whole report with the knowledge that I have been having severe lower back pains for a while and walking to the mailbox and back has been a chore. It kind of feels like someone whacked me with a baseball bat. Since I was taking 'extra' medicine in order to get around, I carried a bottle of water in Rudy's truck to allay the dry mouth that it caused. I knew I couldn't take the water through security, so I left it in histruck.

Rudy helped me get my bags inside the terminal to the ticketing and baggage check line. This luggage had been pared down to one large checked bag and one large carry on, plus my stuffed purse and a small bag with my BBQ beef sandwich (you never can count on airline food), some sliced cheddar, a travel pillow, and a small blanket for Lesley. (More on this later.) So, I was huffing and puffing from the effort and my tongue was so dry it stuck to the roof of my mouth.

We waited in line about ten minutes before figuring out the London line was a few more agents down the hall. At the second line, Lesley was there waiting, having already checked her one bag, so Rudy asked if he could go. I was very grateful for his help and said okay. Less than five minutes later we had not moved in the line, but Rudy trotted back inside carrying my bottle of water. Thank goodness. He left again. I had consumed all the water by the time my bag was checked and Lesley and I ever got through the security line.

There was one minor incident with my carry on bag containing a 7.5-ounce can of good old Aqua Net Unscented Extra Super Hold hair spray that I had intended to put in the checked bag. The agent found it and commented that I was only allowed—I don't remember—two or three ounces. I mentioned that the can had only one-third of its contents left, but agreed to toss it rather than trying to check it as baggage for an outrageous fee. But, believe me, good old Aqua Net UNSCENTED isn't as easy to find as it used to be!

Lesley Bonney

This is the beginning of almost two weeks of really bad hair days. Lesley just laughed at me.

We boarded our American Airlines Boeing 777 flight right on time at 7:40 PM. This was our first time on a Boeing 777, a lovely aircraft with a first class we didn't get to see because we entered further down on the fuselage.

We passed through a section we named second class that had some kind of sleeper seats/modules. The rows were configured 2-3-2 across. We were envious. We continued past to a 2-5-2 configuration that could only be called third class. Although the section past the next bulkhead was also a 2-5-2 configuration, it was obviously fourth class, otherwise known as coach.

The seats seemed wider than previous aircraft, but definitely seemed closer together head to toe. When the person in front reclined it was like their head was in my lap. I didn't know if I should wash his hair or clean his teeth.

I never could figure out the song lyric, "Put me in coach," until I realized it wasn't about flying, rather it was sports.

First class is for sissies.

This evening flight took us nine-and-a-half hours to arrive in London, England and that was at 590 to 645 mph ground speed. I'm supposed to get 4751 Frequent Flyer miles added to my nearly depleted account that was used up for this trip.

The flight was what I call bouncy—they call it slightly turbulent—a good part of the way. It seemed to settle a little when we went from 33,000 feet up to 35,000 feet. The last thirty minutes of the flight became extremely uncomfortable, having been trapped in one position for so long.

Friday, June 10, 2011 Pre-Cruise Preparations - Harwich, England


 By the time we arrived it was 10:45 the next morning. You'd think after flying that long we'd get to rest up, but not yet. There was still a 70-mile drive from the west side of London to the port in Harwich (pronounced har-itch) on the eastern shore. I had made prior arrangements for transportation from the airport to our hotel in Harwich, having been told there would be someone there holding a placard with my name on it. Further instructions said we needed to pay the driver in cash. English pounds £ (GBP), not good old U.S. dollars. So we had made the exchange at the Dallas airport.

Money Money

From this point on, all financial transactions may as well have been in Monopoly money. Neither the currency colors, sizes, or shapes had any meaning even though I had looked up identifying photos and the exchange rates for every different currency we would use on this trip. How are we supposed to figure out what's what? On past trips, I put a bunch of coins or bills in my hand and thrust it toward the person who is supposed to receive it, and just let them pick out what they needed. One can only hope they weren't taking advantage.

Since Lesley and her family are Scottish and moved to Canada to become citizens there, I designated her to be my translator between Texan and the British English languages.

We found all our bags and a relieved driver, Kumar, holding a placard with my name on it. Lesley and I were dog-tired, but neither felt comfortable falling asleep on the long drive to Harwich. For all we knew, Kumar might take us out in the country somewhere, take all our money and passports, and leave us to fight off the sheep and whatever insect pests are native to the countryside.

When we arrived in Harwich we were dropped off at the Pier Hotel and Restaurant, where we had reservations for the night before boarding our ship the next day. Kumar received his fee and tip in Monopoly money and headed home.

For once, the advertised photo matched what we found upon our arrival.

The Pier The Pier

Their photo.                                                         My photo.

Okay, it's time to pause for another caveat to this story. In addition to taking photos for me and Lesley, we were tasked to take pictures of any European birds for Lesley's mom, Sheila, and to record intricate details and patterns from buildings and artwork for my high school classmate, Patsy, a needlework designer. So some of the photos might not make sense with this story, but I'll post them anyway. Some of those will be the pictures with no information under them. In addition, I'm including previous historical research on the places we visited.

An international port located on the estuary of the rivers Stour and Orwell in northeast Essex. Harwich is one of England's busiest coastal towns. Throughout history, the town has been a crucial port, providing a sheltered anchorage for many ships. The old town of Harwich is a conservation area, with many historic buildings.

The Pier Hotel is located in two historic buildings that stand proudly on the quay side of old Harwich. The hotel's main building, built in the 1850's, houses two celebrated seafood restaurants—The Ha' Penny on the ground floor and the Harbourside on the first floor—and seven second-floor bedrooms, most of which overlook the estuary. It is also situated about three miles (5 minutes) from the cruise terminal.

Here I am already in trouble with two seafood restaurants and me not liking water creatures (except my standbys, Long John Silvers batter fried white fish, Starkist tuna in the pouch, and Chicken of the Sea pink salmon in the pouch). I know that sounds odd, but that's just the way it is.

I don't know about Lesley, but I was ready to collapse on the bed. But first, a hot shower, and a meal breakfast/lunch/dinner…whatever it was, hoping I could find something I could eat that I recognized. You hear all those stories about English food. The thought of touring the town crossed my mind, but only briefly. Not having transportation made a good excuse.

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So here we were on the third floor with no elevator. Fortunately there were two healthy looking boys who toted our bags to our room. We pushed more Monopoly money into their hands as they left. We sat on the beds for a few minutes and decided we should eat while the dining room was still open.

Scandinavian Cruise Scandinavian Cruise

Bonney says, "Yes! Food I can eat on the menu."

Scandinavian Cruise Scandinavian Cruise

Lesley says, "Oh, boy. I get coffee."

Then it was off to bed, no strength left for exploring the town. The showers had to wait until morning.

Pre-Cruise Harwich, England At Sea Copenhagen, Denmark At Sea Stockholm, Sweden Helsinki, Finland
St. Petersburg, Russia Tallinn, Estonia At Sea Gothenburg, Sweden At Sea London, England Post-Cruise

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