We were lucky enough to cruise on the Jewel of the Seas out of Harwich, England in August. Our goal on this cruise was Russia. All the other stops were just gravy on a long anticipated cruise.
We flew on Air Canada, which for a change wasn’t too bad. I had used air miles for the flights but I did have to pay taxes. Taxes from Toronto are ridiculously high. Sometime as much as the flight itself and sometimes even more. That’s why I generally prefer to fly from Buffalo.
I had booked a private transfer to drive us to Harwich. I had met another couple from California online who were flying in within an hour of our flight so we hooked up for the transfer. It made the cost much more reasonable. There is a train from Liverpool Street that will take you directly to Harwich and right along side the ship. However, since this was the middle of the Olympics and I have a bad wrist, we decided not to try the train. Any other time we are in England we always use the train for transport.
We arrived a day early as we always do, so I had booked us into a very nice bed and breakfast. There were no hotel rooms available in Harwich so we stayed in a little town by the name of Clacton-on-Sea. Since our room was on the second floor, we were able to leave our big suitcases on the main floor in the front room. They were completely safe. The room was small but very comfortable.
We were just a half block from the seashore so we took a walk. The gardens along there are lovely. You can see the town has been hit by the poor economy as there were a lot of places (hotels, stores etc.) closed and this was in the middle of summer. It’s a very pretty and quaint place so I hope it gets back on its feet once the economy over there picks up.
When our friends arrived, we walked around the corner to get some dinner even though it was raining. What’s a little rain when you’re on vacation. We had fish and chips but it left something to be desired. Breakfast at the B&B the next morning was fabulous!!!
We had ordered a cab to pick all four of us up in the morning. While the mileage as the crow flies, isn’t far, it’s a roundabout way for a cab. It took about 45 minutes. Cost of the cab was pre-set at 35 pounds. I’m afraid our driver got a little confused once we reached Harwich and had to ask for direction. Not a problem though. We got to drive through Harwich, which is a pretty little town. We saw the hotel our transfer companions had stayed. They told us later there was really no place to eat around there. I think we go the better end of that deal.
Our arrival was well-timed, Our luggage was taken directly from the cab so we only had our hand luggage. We walked in, lined up, and within 5 minutes were heading into check-in. This had to be the easiest check in we’ve ever had. We are Diamond plus therefore there was a separate check in behind a small wall. It was done very quickly and we were told to head right on the ship. We had been given a red card to show on the ramp up and that was our ticket to boarding immediately. I noticed the enforced that rule as well. Those that tried to board without the red card were turned back. (And some were not particularly happy about that.)
Radiance class is probably my favourite class of ship. There is a lot of glass which give a lot of light and space. My favourite two spots – the Concierge Lounge and the Solarium area. I’m not big on the pool but I do enjoy the hot tub.
The Jewel has yet to receive its revitalization but it certainly didn’t show. I felt the ship was in excellent condition. The service and staff were excellent although the food in the dining room certainly left something to be desired. We didn’t eat there too often choosing to either go to the Windjammer or Chops. We also used room service on many mornings. The weather was excellent almost the whole journey so we were able to have breakfast on our balcony.
The staterooms have ample space. We had more closet and cupboard space than needed. Our cases fitted nicely under the bed.
We visited the concierge lounge each evening for our pre-dinner drinks. It was never too crowded, however it is a bit disappointing to see they now allow children during the cocktail hour. Complaints from suite guests caused these changes. C’est la vie. At least there were very few children on this particular cruise that had access to the lounge.
Our main purpose of this cruise, besides enjoying the ship, was the two days in St. Petersburg. However, we did enjoy all the countries we visited. We visited, Sweden, Estonia, Denmark and Finland. We didn’t do much by way of tours as we were saving our energy for Russia. We did use either a hop on hop off bus or walked wherever we could. If we were able to go again, we would spend more time at the various ports.
Our piece de resistance – St. Petersburg – prior to leaving I had booked us a semi-private two day tour with TJ Tours. There were twelve people on the tour. So glad we didn’t take a ships tour. We saw so much more than they did.
Prior to leaving, TJ’s had sent us instructions on disembarking along with our tickets. You cannot just get off a ship in Russia and wander around. You must have a visa. We were lucky in that TJ’s had a blanket visa that covered all of us. To disembark we required our ticket, passport and a form we had to complete for the Russian authorities. We were instructed not to talk to the immigration people, not even to smile at them. They didn’t crack a smile – nothing – just banged the counter if you were fast enough (and I wasn’t because I accidentally dropped my passport.)
Our guide and driver were waiting on the other side. We were taken to a 16 passenger very clean mini van. From there we headed out for a long day of sight-seeing. We had a guide and a driver. The guide spoke excellent English. The driver not so much but that was OK as the guide was the only one who had to speak.
This is the itinerary I received: Other than some things were not necessarily in the order given, everything on this list was supplied as well as a stop at the Synagogue which I had requested.
The lunches supplied on each day were delicious and the little restaurants well worth visiting.
Two day “All St Petersburg Highlights” 2012.
You will have a great opportunity to visit all famous highlights of St Petersburg:
• An early entrance to the Hermitage
• A guided tour of Catherine palace with the Amber room
• A walk along Fountain Park in Petergof
• A guided tour of St Isaac’s cathedral
• A guided tour of Spilt Blood church
• A guided tour of Peter and Paul fortress
• A guided tour of Yusupov palace
• A boat trip along the rivers and canals,
• A hydrofoil back to the city from Petergof.
During this two day program you will get to know:
• The history of St Petersburg and its founder Peter the Great
• The Romanovs dynasty (facts and anecdotes)
• St Petersburg as the cultural capital of Russia and Soviet Union
• St Petersburg – city of 3 revolutions
• Soviet Regime: Lenin and Stalin
• Gorbachev: “the father” of the Perestroika
• Modern life in Russia and St Petersburg: housing, educational system, health care system, family life – don’t hesitate to ask any questions
During exciting touring days you will be offered two traditional Russian lunches in the local restaurants/cafes.
The tour covers the most of St Petersburg for a very reasonable price and it is limited to 16 people.
We organize this tour from most of the ships arriving at our city
(please contact us for more details)
The price of the tour is 300 US dollars per person
Note please, this tour is not suitable for any mobility restricted traveler.
All St.Petersburg Highlights tour
7.30-8am Meeting by the ship. City tour in St Petersburg
10:00-10.30am Travel to Petergof by hydrofoil
10.30-12.00pm guided tour of the Fountain Park and Upper gardens
12.00-1.00pm Traditional Russian lunch
1.00-2.00 pm Travel to Tsars’ Village
2.00-3:30pm Inside guided tour of Catherine Palace with the Amber Room
3.30-4.30pm-Driving back to the city. Visit to the subway station
4.30-5:00pm Inside guided tour of St Isaac cathedral
5.30-6.00 Inside guided tour of the Church on Spilt Blood
6.30pm Return to the ship or evening optional program
8am Meeting by the ship
8:30-9:30am Boat Ride along the rivers and canals with a glass of Champaign
9:45-12:00am Inside guided tour of the Hermitage Museum (Early entrance, before official opening hours)
12:30-1:15pm Traditional Russian lunch
1.30-2.30 pm Inside guided tour of St Peter and Paul fortress/Cathedral. Payment for the tour. Shopping
3.00-4.30pm Inside guided tour of Yusupov palace
5 pm Return to the ship
• Admission fees to all museums in the program as well as the cost of hydrofoil ride and a boat trip along rivers and canals
• services of a friendly, and a highly professional guide for 2 days
• Driver’s services for 2 days (Comfortable (Mercedes) mini van with A/C)
• Photo and video permissions at the museums (except Yusupov Palace, camera pass is 5$ p.p, video pass is 12$ per person)
• All port fees
• the cost of blanket visa,
• all local taxes
• Cost of traditional Russian lunches
• Bottled water for each day
• Ear phones sets for the group from 10 people
If you would like to have a private All Highlights tour, the cost of the tour is below:
Number of people in the group 2 4 6 8 10 12 – 16
Price per person in USD
( with included lunches) 650 450 370 345 310 300
Price per person in USD (without lunches included) 610 410 330 305 270 260
• The tour includes two lunches that will be in a local cafes or restaurants. You will be served 3 course typical Russian menu.
Please let us know if you have any food restrictions
• If hydrofoil ride cancelled due to the unfavorable weather conditions it is not refunded: we use our van instead to get to/from Petergof
If anyone wants a contact email for TJ’s just let me know, I can’t emphasize enough how well our tour went and how much we enjoyed it.
*******Much more to come***********