Baltic Sea Cruise
Forever Young Adventure
By Joy K. Young
Our Forever Young Adventure in 2019 was a Baltic Sea Cruise on the Sapphire Princess, extending all the way from London, England, to St. Petersburg, Russia. We had 18 members of our party–like-minded clients who enjoyed immensely being together while we experienced an amazing trip. There were ups and downs–rough seas–but we weathered it all and saw parts of the world we had never before seen.
Soon after checking in to our rooms at the Radisson Blu, Edwardian, Grafton, in London, we wandered over to the “Tube”—the subway that would take us throughout the city’s underground. We started at beautiful Hyde Park where many people were enjoying the sunshine and the shade. Children were on skates and skateboards, and older people were soaking up the sun on bikes or in wheelchairs in front of the Alfred Memorial in Hyde Park.
Jay and Willow Young saw Kensington Palace that day, as well as Buckingham Palace, with its stately Queens’ Guards. Willow told us, “Being on our own in London was a thrill!” Joanna Gomez and Vince Johnson had a tour of Buckingham Palace and enjoyed High Tea. Sylvia Dinges, Patti Frederick and Donna Myers ate delicious Fish and Chips at Gig’s Restaurant, just down the street from our hotel, and then they took a ride on the London E
ye, a huge Ferris wheel that overlooks the Thames River. Patti and Donna often look for the tallest place to see when we are traveling, and the Eye gave them a broad view of Westminster Bridge, Westminster Abbey and the Thames. The gelato sold near the Eye was delicious—Jeff and Joy Young thought fondly of Ras Rasmussen and how he would have loved being there and eating gelato! (Too bad he and Colleen were moving to Kansas instead of joining us for our trip.)
Sharon Trotter and her son, Kevin Strain, were in London for six days before our cruise. Sharon said, “While there I enjoyed seeing Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the changing of the Guards, Parliament Square and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Climbing over 500 steps up to the top of the dome was quite a feat for me!”
On Saturday morning we boarded a bus for our trip to Southampton where the Sapphire Princess, was waiting for us. It’s disconcerting to ride in a vehicle on the “wrong” side of the road, but the adventure was well worth it, as we drove by farms and villages towards our cruise ship.
When we disembarked at Zeebrugges, John and Susan Montgomery took a tour of Flanders’ Fields, stopping at Tyne Cot, the world’s largest British and Commonwealth war cemetery, which includes 11,953 headstones of those who died in World War I between 1914 and 1918. They saw the very spot where John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” was composed. Since John Montgomery is a poet, the cemetery was inspiring. John Montgomery’s grandfather was buried in a similar Flanders Field in France, so they pondered the sacrifices made by those who died defending freedom.
Some of the rest of us (Sylvia Dinges, Patti Frederick, Jeff Young, Joy Young, Whitne Strain, Kevin Strain and Sharon Trotter) enjoyed the chocolate-making demonstration in Brugges, where we watched chocolatiers make pralines from scratch. We tasted basic Ecuadorian chocolate and South Vietnamese chocolate while they poured the nut and sugar fondant centers in molds. Then we learned about the strict laws in Belgium that govern the amount of sugar-to-cocoa-butter content that guarantees delicious results.
We also enjoyed a guided city walk through cobble-stone streets where the ancient facades on the Old Guild Buildings were religious symbols for the Flemish people—each façade being a stairway up to heaven. Whitne and Sharon Trotter tried a Belgian Waffle on the street in Brugges and pronounced it delicious! The Brussels waffle is rectangular in shape and served with yummy toppings. We also found a fun Christmas store with intricate Belgian ornaments and nativities.
Donna Myers had a lovely day with her family—cousins who live in Brugges. They gave her a private tour of the town in a horse-drawn carriage, then enjoyed a delicious lunch of chicken pot pie, pork meatballs and salad. One of Donna’s cousins had recently died, and since he was a sculptor, they gave Donna a beautiful sculpture he had created. She will cherish it and the time she had with her family.
The warm catching up with cousins was a highlight of the trip for Donna, but imagine her surprise when she returned before the deadline of 6 PM to find that security on the ship had been searching for her high and low. “Paging Donna Meyers!” Patti fielded numerous calls about Donna’s whereabouts, and being unable to use her cell phone in Belgium, there was little Patti could do to help them. We all sighed with relief to see her at dinner that evening, and to hear about her day connecting with family.
Jay and Willow Young saw three magnificent castles on their tour of Copenhagen. They traveled the North Zeeland historic region where they saw Frederiksborg Castle, built by Christian IV, now home to Denmark’s National Portrait Gallery. The second castle was referred to as the Danish Versailles, and the third castle was the World Heritage site Kronborg Castle, which was immortalized by Shakespeare in his play, “Hamlet.” Willow said she was delighted to see all three castles. “We even saw thatched roofs in Copenhagen—not ancient ones, but new houses on the seashore built with thatched roofs.”
Montgomerys, Strains, Jeff and Joy Young, Parrys and Sharon Trotter chose to walk the ancient street of Copenhagen to find the Church of Our Lady where the original statues of Christ and His twelve apostles are housed. These magnificent, larger-than-life figures were sculpted by Bertel Thorvaldsen. We arrived during a lunch hour when reverent organ music was being played, and it was a spiritual moment for us. Thorvaldsen’s Christus has been placed outside many of the temples for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world, and most recently all of the statutes were reproduced life-size (via 3-D printing) at the Rome, Italy, temple. It was a thrill for us to see the originals.
“I loved seeing the Christus and Apostle Statues, “ said Whitne, “”It was a huge highlight for me! Thank you, Steve Parry for helping us get there!”
Kevin added “Seeing these original statues was very special, but it was especially great to see it with friends. As a pilot, so often Whitne and I travel on our own. It was very special to be there with those we love.”
On our way back to the ship, we walked through the rose gardens of Rosenborg Castle, the summer residence of King Christian IV. Built in 1606, this castle right out of a fairytale houses Denmark’s Crown Jewels. We passed the colorful townhouses at Nyhavn, once the home of Hans Christian Andersen. Its 17th and 18th century architecture delights with brightly colored facades, restaurants, cafes and a canal with old wooden ships.
Everyone who enters Copenhagen sees her most famous landmark, the four-foot-tall Little Mermaid statue in the bay. Completed in 1913, it was erected to express gratitude to Hans Christian Andersen for his fairytales. It was a magical city, filled with beautiful art, bright color and deep heritage.
Steve was especially looking forward to visiting Stockholm, since his extended family comes from Sweden. He remembers his grandfather, Ed Eckdahl, receiving a Vasa Award when Steve was ten years old. The award honored him for his work in promoting Swedish-American relations.
Steve and Sharon headed first for the Vasa Museum, which houses the ill-fated 226-foot-long warship that sank on its maiden voyage in Stockholm Harbor in 1628. After 333 years on the bottom of the harbor, it was salvaged in 1961. It is adorned with hundreds of wooden sculptures and is 98% original. The wooden long boat juts through the roof of the museum, and can be seen from the waterfront.
Jay and Willow saw the Swedish National Museum, and were impressed with the classic artwork that was on display, including Carl Bloch paintings, Rembrandts and a Thorvaldsen statue of an angel holding a baptismal bowl. They saw a large sculpture of Odin, the father of Thor, complete with his huge hammer, as created by Swedish sculptor Bengt Erland Fogelberg. Willow was an art major during her undergraduate days, so seeing classic artwork was wonderful for her. Some of her family also hails from Sweden, so she was happy to see the history of her people.
Whitne loved visiting the ABBA museum, dedicated to Sweden’s most successful band, with more than 380 million albums sold. She saw ABBA’s spectacular costumes, gold records, and guitars of the stars. She came back with a fun ABBA sweatshirt and grand memories of singing some of her favorite ABBA songs using the equipment that they used to record their hit records.
Add to this, the Nobel Prize Museum—this prize has been awarded for over 100 years and the ideas of those who received the award have changed the world. It was difficult choosing which museum to enjoy. Learning the history of the 20th century Nobel Laureates added to our respect for this Scandinavian city.
Sylvia, Patti and Donna found their way to the Stockholm Ice Bar, where they donned ponchos and mittens before they were given their drinks in an ice glass. Sylvia said, “The coats and mittens were fun, and we marveled at the ice everywhere in the bar, but there was no place to sit. Despite that, I thought it was ‘cool.’ I really enjoyed hearing the history of people immigrating to America, their challenges and concerns.”
A few of us took the waterways cruise around Stockholm, seeing the Royal Palace, the Grand Hotel and the Opera House. There were so many islands, of every possible size and shape, as well as views of Gamla Stan (the Old Town where Stockholm began eight centuries ago.) With fourteen islands, an archipelago that’s made up of roughly 30,000 islands, islets and peninsulas, it’s no wonder Stockholm is called “Venice of the North.”
Estonia was a jewel that everyone enjoyed. Jeff, Joy, Whitne, Kevin and Sharon Trotter went on the lighthouse tour, driving up the coastline to see this beautiful country. We explored a wooden lighthouse, the Suurupi Lighthouse, which was built in 1859, and then we climbed 240 steps to the top of the Pakri Lighthouse, which is the tallest Estonian lighthouse. As we stepped outside on the circular overlook at the top, the wind whipped through our hair. It was in every way a breath-taking view.
Sharon Trotter, who is a lover of lighthouses, thought this tour was the very best. She said, “I fell in love with Estonia, especially the market square and the lighthouses.”
Donna said she thought Tallinn was a clean and welcoming city. Steve and Sharon Parry loved Estonia because they have a son-in-law who is full-blooded Estonian. He escaped communism by leaving the country for Sweden, then immigrating to Canada and the United States.
Jeff and Joy were grateful that our tour guide told us how he learned Finnish by listening to Finnish television as a child. The Soviets tried to block their TV reception, but they could not block Finnish TV, (broadcast across the Baltic) and that was where they heard the truth of what was happening in the world. He said it took a full week for Soviet TV to announce the breakup of the Soviet Union—but they heard it on Finnish Television first.
Sharon Parry was quite impressed with their Estonian guide, and all the details they received on the lives of the people behind the Soviet bloc. “It was an eye-opening experience!” she added. “We had no idea what people lived like during Soviet rule.”
We saw Toompea Hill, the upper town in Tallinn, the Town Hall Square, and “Fat Margaret” an impressive defensive structure just outside of town. The origin of the name is a mystery: some say it was named for a large cannon, while others claim a cook called Margaret once worked here. This medieval walled Old Town is a maze of cobblestone streets. Joanna Gomez added that she loved the cobblestone streets everywhere. “There were patterns in the stones that made every place unique.” In the Palace Square we saw Toompea Castle, the 13th century stone fortress that now houses Estonia’s Parliament. But, best of all was the Estonian chocolate store where a local woman was painting marzipan candies. We had to try their dark chocolates, and they were especially flavorful.
Jay reminisced with his former missionary companion, Guido Eaulos, who met him in Tallinn at the former KGB Jail and gave him a personal tour of the city. It had been 22 years since Jay and Guido were together. He showed Jay the back side of the Soviet-occupied Fortress in Old Town Tallinn where he played with his friends as a child. Guido grew up under Soviet occupation and was 16 years old when Estonia was given its independence as the USSR crumbled. While Guido, Jay and Willow had an authentic traditional Estonian lunch of pig leg brisket, chicken, sausage and potatoes, a knight in chain mail came by their table, pulled his sword and pretended to threaten Guido. It was all in good fun, and gave a medieval flavor to their day. Jay told us, “Guido actually smiled in the photograph with the knight, and that’s something Estonians usually do not do when they have their pictures taken!”
Jay said, “It was so good to spend time with Guido in his home town, seeing where he came from. We spent hours reminiscing about our time together in Finland.”
St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg was a definite surprise for our group of travelers, due to the mystery and intrigue that has pervaded US-Russian relations all our lives. The city’s nickname is “Venice of the North” because of the many bridges and natural canals on the Neva River.
Vince Johnson remarked, “When we first arrived, we noticed a tall, bullet-shaped building right on the waterfront. It was a prominent structure, and I thought—this is just like Russia—with a bullet-type of building the first thing you see.”
Patti and Donna took the Neva River canal cruise through St. Petersburg. Patti thought it was quite a sight to see kids running along the canals and over the 50 bridges, following their cruise boat. “It was a thrill to see them keeping pace with us as we sailed along the river, “ Patti said. “We thought the Church of Christ of Spilled Blood was a marvel, with its colorful domes and tiles,” she added. The iconic church, which was built on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, was surrounded by numerous kiosks, with art, crafts and Russian nesting dolls for sale. We met people in period costumes and wigs, hoping to charge us for a photo.
Some of us took a subway tour of St. Petersburg, traveling down, down, down into the earth to the deepest subway. The escalators seemed to go on and on. Stations were decorated with intricate tiling and statues—especially of Alexander Pushkin. The Russians sure love their literary icons.
Saturday evening in Russia, we attended the Russian Folkloric Show. We saw a mixture of ceremonial music and dance, as performed in villages and cities all over the country. The costumes were colorful and the dancers were everything you would expect from Russia—including high kicks, twirling skirts and moving bodies with everyone in sync.
Sylvia said, “The folkdance show was moving because keeping their culture may have been the only way these oppressed people could retain their identities when Communism was in power. The people were unable to worship—the Soviets destroyed 500 churches in St. Petersburg alone. I could not understand what the dancers said or what they sang, but the dancing was incredible and the melody of one song moved me greatly.” We were pleased and surprised to find out that there had been a similar dance exhibition on the Sapphire Princess that evening, so most of us got to experience Russian folk dance at its best.
Dear Sylvia, on this fateful day, was given the news that her older sister, Flora, had passed away. This was a shock to her whole family and caused many tears to be shed by Sylvia during the rest of the trip
The Hermitage had a special draw for many of us who wanted to see the marvelous collection of art work collected there. This museum was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, where there are over three million works of artistic genius. The Hermitage houses works by Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Titian in an opulent building with parquet floors, ornate staircases and gilded ceilings. There wasn’t enough time on any tour to see everything in this museum.
Whitne, Kevin and Sharon Trotter felt they had the best tour guide in all of Russia. Kevin said, “Our tour guide, Julianna, took us on a 2-day tour. She has a Masters in Art History and grew up in St Petersburg. She shared some of her heart with us. For example, she told us how her grandmother took her to the theater in the basement of the Hermitage when she was a child, and they saw dances and plays. Julianna expressed great love for Russia and for her grandmother. She told us how her grandfather was coming home from a bar one night humming an old song that praised the Tsar. A neighbor heard him and passed along his assumed “treason.” He was sent to the Gulag and they never saw him again—they only received one post card from him before he died.”
Sharon Trotter said, “I was impressed with Julianna, our guide, and all she went through in her younger years. I loved going to the gardens and seeing the palace with all the fountains. It was mind-boggling!”
Sharon Parry enjoyed Catharine’s Palace, an opulent baroque building that features a gold dome crown and is set in 1400 acres of spectacular gardens and parklands. She noted that she felt the contrast between old Russia and the people of today. She thought the Peterhof Palace was stunning. It is known as the Russian Versailles, because it was patterned after that French chateau. The gardens were replete with statues, fountains and opulent trees and flowers. The Grand Cascade fountain features Samson prying open a lion’s jaws as water cascades down terraced steps. There were musicians playing the xylophone as we walked through the gorgeous gardens, and it was a wonderful setting.
Our trip to Helsinki was especially poignant for us, because 20 years earlier, Jeff and Joy visited that city together after Jay finished his two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ. We first took a taxi to see the stone-work Helsinki Temple, nestled in a beautiful forested area. This was Willow’s first opportunity to experience Finland, and she was grateful to see the country where her husband served. She added, “I loved seeing the temple in Finland. It was built on a very beautiful rock!”
Whitne said, “One of the highlights for me was the look on Jay’s face when he returned to his ‘homeland’ in Finland.” She bought a couple of photos for Jay and Willow from the ship’s photographer because it signified his joy in the return.
Jay told us, “Everything else paled in comparison to Finland. It has a simple beauty which is well-designed and clean. We discovered a new Finnish library, with very modern lines and wonderful use of the space inside. I was thrilled with what they did, as an educator who is looking at redesigning a library in Salt Lake. There was literally a place for everyone—students, gamers, musicians, parents, children–in the library! There were couches on wheels that could be easily moved, and stacks you could see over that opened everything up. It was distinctly Finnish, and I loved all the innovations there.”
It was especially wonderful to see Tapio, Jay’s dear friend, who came down on the train from Turku to spend the evening. Joy said, “I loved seeing Jay and Tapio hug each other when we found him at the train station. Jay’s emotions were high and the sweet male kinship and love that these two men showed each other was priceless.” Imagine our surprise to find out that Tapio knew one of Kevin Strain’s missionary companions, and that Kevin and Jay had mission companions from the same family! (Kevin served his mission in New Jersey!)
We went to dinner at Aino’s, a downtown restaurant where they had authentic Finnish food, including reindeer with lingonberries and salmon soup. The Market Square on the wharf was a fun place to get souvenirs from Finland, and though it rained pretty hard in the morning, soon the sun came out and dried up the puddles. Jeff, Joy and Whitne took their lives into their hands and rode electric scooters (without helmets) back to the ship—we probably won’t try that again any time soon—it was a white-knuckle journey–and Whitne likened our experience to Evel Knievel’s exploits. The path followed the shoreline, and there were lovely parks and sailboats all the way back.
Sylvia visited Temppeliaukio (The Rock Church), a one-of-a-kind Lutheran church built into solid rock. Natural light pours in from the church’s glazed dome, and the rock makes for great acoustics inside the building. The Sibelius Park and Monument reflects the rugged natural beauty of Finland, as inspired by his well-known work, “Finlandia.”
Gdansk, Sopot, and Gdynia, Poland
We visited a trio of cities in Poland. We started at the 1000-year-old city of Gdansk, where we walked an ancient street, Long Street, in the old city that ran between the Green Gate and the Golden Gate. This street was a meeting place, and once was the site for executions of witches, heretics and criminals. In the middle was Neptune’s fountain, a bronze trident-wielding behemoth which was erected in 1615.
We enjoyed hot chocolate and a berry pastry at the local bakery, and toured beautiful St. Mary’s Basilica, the world’s largest brick church. The church is said to seat thousands and had a commanding organ. We also shopped at an Amber Jewelry store, because Poland is famous for its delightful amber and Gdansk is called the amber capital of the world.
We visited Solidarity Square, where a monument to the fallen shipbuilders of the historic 1970 strike is erected. These workers opposed the Communist regime under the leadership of Lech Walesa. (Our tour guide pointed out the former president’s home as we drove into the city.)
City number two was Sopot, a resort town on white sand. We had lemon cake on the beach behind the Grand Hotel, and then walked along the water in the sunshine. This seaside town boasts the longest wooden pier in Poland.
City number three was Gdynia, where we saw famous Kosciuszko Square, commemorating one of Poland’s most revered heroes—Tadeusz Kosciuszko—who led Poland’s revolt against Prussia in 1793.
Sharon Trotter said, “In Gdynia on our walk to town, I didn’t think I was going to be impressed at all. To me it had a feel of great poverty. But, I was wrong. It had beautiful people who were lovely, kind, happy and helpful. Everything in town was very inexpensive. It also had a beautiful beach with the softest sand.”
Whitne added, “We were so blessed to find a $30 large suitcase! We loved the $3 souvenirs, the $5 hamburgers and the surprisingly beautiful beach in Gdynia!
Onboard the Sapphire Princess
The Sapphire Princess was a marvelous mix of fun, surprises and luxury during the five days as we traveled from port to port. Jeff and Joy enjoyed a massage at the spa, and Joanna had a haircut there. The pools were comfortable—especially the hot tubs, where you could often find Sylvia, Donna, Patti and Joanna relaxing. (There may have been another guest there, but he will remain anonymous.). We even enjoyed watching movies out on deck, from the Beatles to “The Greatest Showman.”
We thought our accommodations were just right—comfortable and cozy. We enjoyed many hours of relaxing in our room. Jeff and Joy even like the “Sleep” app on the TV which soothed us to sleep with quiet music and then played the sounds of waves on the shore all night long before waking us with quiet music in the morning. Not to be outdone, Jay and Willow even slept in until noon one day, a tribute to their youth. Our steward, Denis, was especially attentive, helpful and eager to please us. We were comfortable even when the seas were choppy.
Vince enjoyed the ambiance of making his own choices. “I was absent from group events a lot, “he said, “because I wanted to do what I wanted to do. That made it especially relaxing for me. I truly enjoyed the ship—it was so very relaxing.”
The dinners were truly a highlight for us—getting to know each other better and enjoying culinary best ideas from our chef while being pampered by our excellent servers, Arta and Pra-On. Everyone agreed that our wait staff was exceptional. Steve and Sharon celebrated their 51st anniversary onboard on the same evening that Joy celebrated her birthday. We received extra-special recognition and wonderful desserts to make the events shine.
Jeff said, “I liked our dinnertimes best—talking to everyone, and finding out about their experiences. I really love being with the people who join us on our trips. It’s fun to cross paths with them anywhere—onboard, in the city, on the bus. Sharing and laughing together is the highlight for me.”
Susan added, “ I really enjoyed the people in our group. It was so fun to talk to such interesting people!”
Willow added, “This was my first time overseas, so it was a rich experience for me. But, getting to know everyone at dinner was a highlight of the trip.”
Jerry said, “Pra-On was especially helpful to Ty. She was kind and loving as she went out of her way to make the experience a good one for us by going the extra mile every single evening.”
Whitne added, “ Pra-On was delightful, unique, and beautiful, all in a love-for-life package.”
Sharon Trotter agreed, “ I really enjoyed our group dinners and getting to know everyone. I fell in love with our servers. Plus, the desserts were incredible!”
Jay said, “Arta took care of everything we needed. He made us feel very much at home.”
Meeting strangers at other meals also gave us food for thought. Susan said that she and John met a couple from Ottowa, and their names were also John and Susan!” She also met some Canadians from Prince Edward Island, a place she has always wanted to visit, because she loved L.S. Montgomery’s children’s books about that special place—”Anne of Green Gables” and the “Emily” books. Whitne said she learned more insight into Brexit from travelers who were from England.
There were sports opportunities to participate in. John was diligent at walking the Promenade deck. Jerry said, “Playing basketball on deck was a highlight for me. I was rusty, but it didn’t take too long until I was making free throws again.” Jeff enjoyed putting golf balls in competition with other travelers.
We saw so many marvelous productions at the Princess Theater–a ventriloquist, the chef’s show, piano music, dancing, and singing galore. Whitne and Kevin met Dominic, one of the Piano Brothers on deck the day after he played. They complimented him on his playing and stayed up late talking—making a new friendship that will continue after the trip.
One of the surprises was the Art Gallery on Deck 5, where they changed a few pictures each day. “I enjoyed walking through the gallery each day to get to our room,” said Susan. Sylvia was soon given the nickname of “The Bingo Lady” for all the winning she was doing at bingo in the casino—she assured us that she made money playing!
Patti and Donna loved line dancing in Club Fusion. Whitne sang at Karaoke and even invited Joy to sing with her once. She said, “I loved singing with Joy!” Joy’s response, “Yes—it was wonderful to sing together, that’s a memory I will cherish.”
Joy added, “I loved that Whitne lead us in a couple of New Testament ‘Come Follow Me’ discussions in the Sanctuary. We felt a great deal of inspiration from the spiritual insights of each group, and it helped me appreciate anew the love of God for all of us.”
Sharon Parry told us a marvelous story during our discussion of the pure love of Christ as delineated in Corinthians: (*For another shared story, see below.)
It was September 11, 2001, and the horrific events of that day were playing out in New York City. Sharon was working for United as a customer service special representative, and she was home when she heard what happened. She realized that, with the halt of air travel that ensued, there would be United employees at the airport stranded. So, she jumped in her car and headed to the airport to be whatever kind of help she could be. She ended up encouraging, listening, and helping many people over two days’ time, and these were days when she was not scheduled to be there. She remembers it as a satisfying effort, one that she was grateful to give. Sometime later, United rearranged the customer service portion of their company. Everyone else was let go, except for Sharon. She realized that her selfless service was a blessing not only for those she served, but also for her own career.
As an overview of the trip, many of us experienced sobering and surprising thoughts regarding this region and those who lived through the tumults, wars and hardships.
Steve said, “This trip was eye-opening. It exceeded our expectations! We enjoyed pushing ourselves to have this adventure. In another ten years, we may not have been able to do it”
Susan added, “I loved the child noise in every city—it’s the same everywhere.”
Sylvia said, “It blew my mind to see so many different places, countries, languages and styles of living.”
Willow remarked, “Trying different foods in different countries was especially fun! Everything was surprisingly delicious.”
Ty said, “I learned more about history and the interconnected relationships of these countries on this trip.”
Jerry added, “ It took the whole two weeks to absorb the cruise, and to begin to appreciate the interconnected countries, architecture and history of the Baltic.”
Vince noticed, “I thought the Soviets were a very competitive people, with grey buildings made out of cheap materials. I saw none of them smile when I was there, and it affected the way I saw St. Petersburg.”
Joanna said, “So many wars impacted this area, especially World War II with all the bombings. So many countries had to fight for their independence.”
John also saw the historical impact. “I was amazed to find out how much devastation and depravation these people suffered during World War I, World War II and Soviet rule.”
Sharon Parry said she was impressed by “all the hardships these people had to undergo.”
Whitne said, “I LOVED that Christ was a part of EVERY country’s history and His life and Bible stories were etched into every cathedral and church that we saw.”
Sharon Trotter agreed, “In all the countries, while I was seeing different buildings and churches, I was surprised to see that they haven’t taken Christ out of their lives. Everywhere we went the people were friendly and helpful. That was an eye-opener for me because I thought the people would be depressed and unhappy, but they were humble, yet proud of their heritage.”
This trip was an adventure for everyone involved. We are grateful that you decided to join us on our Baltic Sea Cruise. Our lives are richer because we spent time cruising with you!
*We even had some strangers from New Zealand join us on the third day we met, and this is the story they told us:
Mr. MacPherson said that his family lived up on a hill, and their mailbox was down below on the road. They had it painted black inside with a glass door so that they could see from the house whether or not there was mail inside. His mother was a very thoughtful, kind woman, and every day she left a scone and a hot drink for the mailman inside the mailbox. This went on for many years, and one day the family was returning from an excursion on their boat and they had a trailer with the boat on it on the back of their truck. They were delayed by events, and ended up driving home in the dark with a trailer that had no lights on it—an unlawful act. Before they reached home, they were pulled over by a policeman. When he noticed the name on the license, he asked if the driver was related to Mrs. MacPherson who lived on that same road. He answered proudly, yes, she is my mother. This policeman let him know, that he had formerly been a mailman on their route, and because of his mother’s unfailing kindness to him, no ticket would be issued. He also told us that when his mother passed away, someone brought a plate of scones and placed it on top of her coffin.