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Baltic Highlights - 2009
Health problems meant that the family holiday of a cruise to the Baltic Ports had to be cancelled so it was with great anticipation that, as most of the health problems improved in the family at the beginning of 2009, it was decided to book the same Cruise that had to been cancelled in 2008.  The Thomson Spirit, a sister ship to the Thomson Celebration which we had sailed with to the North Cape in 2005. was chosen for this further adventure. And a wonderful adventure it proved to be!
The Thomson Spirit
Our home is in the South of Scotland and it was therefore very easy to travel to Newcastle in the North East of England to join the Ship - a fairly quick two-hour journey.   Free parking was available at the Quay in Newcastle and our luggage was off-loaded from the boot of the car and transferred to our suite on the ship before we passed through customs and immigration!   So we were soon welcomed aboard the ‘Thomson Spirit’ for our two week sojourn.   The ship left at 6 pm and we were at sea that night, the whole of the next day and the next night before having crossed the North Sea in exceedingly calm conditions, we arrived on Oslo, the capital of Norway at 8 am on the morning of Monday 8 June 2009.
We were welcomed on board by our Ukrainian cabin staff of Mila and Olga (shown with me right) who were tickled to see me dressed in my National Dress of the Kilt for formal occasions.  They looked after us extremely well for the remainder of our 14 day trip.  The Suite contained a large bathroom with both a bath and shower, large sleeping area with a double king-size bed and separated lounge area with large double ‘outside ‘ windows.   Very comfortable indeed and with calm seas  (and wall to wall sunshine), it augured  well for a wonderful trip.  During the crossing of the North Sea, many activities took place  which included nightly theatre shows and the formal Captain’s Dinner Night.   The food, both for this special occasion Dinner Night and the remainder of the Cruise, was first class as was the entertainment and all other service at all levels.  We visited the following:-
The Town Hall and square (left) typifies the Norwegian Capital’s modern and sophisticated look.   It is a pure gem of a location being encased in Fjords, peaks and forests.  We enjoyed just wondering along Karl Johans Gate, which cuts through the heart of Oslo, with its many shops restaurants, not to mention the Royal Palace and the old university.  We had been to Oslo before, but the sunshine made this trip even more memorable.
Denmark and Sweden had a bit of a tug of war over this place.   It sits teasingly at the narrowest point of the Oresund Sound waterway, with Denmark’s only four kilometers away.   We headed on foot out from Stortoget, or main square to view the castle and park (right).  The famous Celtic and Manchester United football player Henrick Larson comes from Helsingborg and now plays for their local team as is evidenced  in a Celtic Bar and restaurant we discovered in the centre of the town.   A very laid-back town.
At Sea (Day 5)
As we sailed round the South end of Sweden heading for Stockholm the ship underwent a tense moment when a lady took ill on board and had to be evacuated whilst at sea to hospital.  It all started and finished within a half hour when the ship put out the request to the Danish Authorities for a helicopter to be sent.   The request was made at 1910 hours and the operation was complete at 1940 hours.   It was the first such operation which the Thomson Spirit had carried out and was done very successfully.  We later heard that the evacuee survived and was repatriated to England.
So congratulations to the Pilot and Crew of the Danish helicopter who carried out the operation of transferring the patient and also to Captain George De La Grammatikas and his crew of the Thomson Spirit for their similarly successful operation.
Stockholm, the Capital of Sweden was approached via the archipelago with thousands of islands protruding enticingly from the soft glassy waters and the ship slipping gently into one of the world’s most beautiful ports.  Stockholm is built on 14 islands and is connected by a web of bridges.   The city epitomises the fine traditions of this country and offers countless attraction.   We were impressed by the high standard of living.   The majority of people in the city appeared to live in palatial high rise dwellings
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