On June 23rd we embarked on our 4th and final cruise of our Europe vacation. We checked out of our apartment in Stockholm and took the city bus to the ship. Evidently this cruise has multiple embarkment ports. Most people got on the ship in Kiel, Germany six or thirteen days ago and they will be getting off the ship in Kiel on the 25th. We just got on the ship in Stockholm and are just beginning, while they are ending their cruise. There were actually only a few us getting on in Stockholm so the embarkment process was different than we had ever experienced. In some ways simpler and others ways frustrating. During the wait times we had time to meet two nice couples. One couple was from New Jersey and the other couple from Virginia (Yorktown area). We actually met the New Jersey couple on the city bus on the way to the port. We recognized that we all had the same ship tags on our luggage.
When we got on the ship everything was quiet and peaceful because most of the people were on excursions in Stockholm. We were able to have a nice leisurely lunch in the buffet. Then it was time for unpacking. We have become experts by now!
At dinner we were surprised to find that our assigned table for the next fourteen days was a table for two by a window.
Saturday, the 24th, was a sea day. Time to pack for those people getting off tomorrow in Kiel. Breakfast had good and bad surprises. On the past two cruises, what they called bacon is really ham (the British idea of bacon). But today when we ordered crispy bacon, it was really bacon! They bake it so it is drier and a little hard to chew than bacon back home, but much better than English bacon. The bad news was they don’t make the sticky honey buns that I have loved on the last ships. I had looked forward to them every day at breakfast. In all honesty it is time I stopped eating them anyway. Strange how each ship can be different though part of the same cruise line.
This is an older ship and doesn’t have the newer elevators we loved on the last ship. We have already noticed this ship’s elevators are slow with longer wait times and they are more crowded. We have made a mental note to check the age of the ship before booking future cruises. This ship also doesn’t have the ship’s app where you can see menus, check your account or look at daily activities. But so far the food is good and everyone is friendly and helpful.
On the sea day we worked on this blog and did some reading. Later in the evening we attended an invitation only Captain’s Champagne Reception. We had already attended these on other MSC cruises. They are pretty much the same on every ship: with champagne, two of the ship dancers doing a tango and the introduction of the ship’s captain and officers.
The officers are given glasses of champagne and the captain makes a toast while we all raise our glasses. This time the captain went around to each of us and clinked our glasses. A very nice touch.
Next we attended our first evening performance by the ship’s singers and dancers. It was an outstanding show and the finale performance for those leaving the ship the next day. Impressive and well done. MSC certainly puts on nice shows. We have been impressed with them on every ship.
One act of performers spun tubs, eight at the same time!
During the night we sailed in the Baltic Sea. During the winter ice develops first along the shoreline making the ports unusable without the use of icebreakers. We sailed between the islands of Gotland and Oland, the two biggest Swedish islands. Late in the evening we approached the Danish island of Bornholm and its capital, Ronne, which was a famous commercial center during Medieval times.
Sunday, June 25th found us in Kiel, Germany. The day was sunny and very warm. We took our time going to breakfast, giving the people disembarking time to eat early.
Kiel is a large port city, being the starting and ending point for cruises to Northern Europe for more than 100 cruise liners Our waiter told us last night that 3,000 people would be getting off the ship and 3,400 more getting on in Kiel!! This ship has a capacity of 4,300 people. Amazing. The majority of the passengers on this ship are obviously German. Just imagine the luggage alone. Our room steward told us he would go to bed at 3:00 AM and get up at 6:00 AM. He would have to help take luggage left outside cabins down for the departing guests, get cabins ready for the arriving passengers and then help get the arriving luggage delivered to the cabins. Talk about a long, hard day!!
We waited until 10:00 A.M. to get off the ship to explore Kiel, waiting for those disembarking to clear out first.
Kiel, Germany, population 248,000, began around 1233 and received its town charter in 1242. The town exploded with growth in 1865 when it became the headquarters of the Prussian naval station and the realm’s naval port in 1871. Boat yards followed with workers and within a few decades Kiel had grown into a large city. Because of its naval location, it was one of the principal targets of the Allied Forces during World War 2. After more than 90 air raids, almost 80% of Kiel destroyed. The population, including a large number of refugees, rebuilt almost the entire city. It has one of the first pedestrian malls in Germany.
Our ship was parked at a port too far from the city to walk to, so we rode a shuttle for a small fee. It let us off at the train station a short walk from the center of town. Central Station was completed in 1899 when train travel symbolized a prospering German empire. The train station was considered a temple of progress and was dedicated to the emperor. Located near the water, from here the emperor had direct access to his yacht via a large flight of stairs. The renovation of the station combined historical and modern construction.
We had considered taking the Hop On Hop Off Bus in Kiel, but research showed there was not that much to see. Since it was a Sunday, many things, including stores, were closed.
We walked along the pedestrian mall where there were planters of pretty flowers. There seemed to be lots of live entertainment in the parks and surrounding areas. Perhaps a summer festival or it had something to do with the Summer Solstice like in Sweden.
A major disappointment was not being able to enter St Nikolai Church, a Protestant church built around 1242. It was completely destroyed during World War 2. The altar from 1460 was preserved and is Kiel’s oldest art treasure.
In front of the church is a large 1928 sculpture, Spiritual Warrior, symbolizing victory of good over evil. We were told the church is closed for renovation until October.
We walked over to Town Hall Square where the Town Hall is located. It was built between 1907 and 1911. The 348 foot tall tower has an elevator to the top which wasn’t accessible on Sunday.
The Kiel monastery, founded prior to 1227, was also destroyed in WW2 with only a part of a walkway, a medieval vault and the tower remaining.
Located near the Town Hall Square was Hiroshima Park. We never found a monument or plaque about Hiroshima, but we did find a statue of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck for whom the German battleship Bismarck was named. In 1867 Bismarck created the North German Confederation, a union of the northern German states under the hegemony of Prussia. Several other German states joined, and the North German Confederation served as a model for the future German Empire.
It was a hot day and we were very tired by the time we walked back to the port shuttle pick up point. We did manage to find a geocache on the walk to the shuttle.
By the end of the day we had logged almost eight miles on our watches! We are looking forward to the sea day tomorrow!!
In Kiel this weekend was many sailboats.
Next up:. More Norway