Day 4 - Helsinki, Finland

July 4th

Cruise Ship Log

July 4, 2007 - Helsinki: At 0828 with the local pilot on board, the Star Princess was ready to make her final approach to Helsinki. After the swinging the ship, we approached the berth and came alongside with the help of our thrusters. All lines were made fast at 0957 and the gangways were rigged and ready.

Noon Position:
Alongside in Helsinki

Pressure: 1009.4 kPa

Wind: E Force 6

Temperature: 21° C

Sky: Clear

After the poor quality coffee experience I had at the buffet, I thought ahead and ordered coffee from room service for delivery between 9:30 - 10 a.m. I set my alarm for 9:30 a.m. seeing as I am not coherent when I wake up. At 9:25 a.m. there was a knock at the door, I fumbled for clothes so I could answer the door and tried to find a light that would help the waiter, but not blind Chris who was still in bed half asleep. Unfortunately the layout of the room was such that the “living room,” the only room with the real table, was furthest from the door. This meant that the waiter had to walk past the bed to set down the tray and that any light that that could help with his maneuver through the room would light the entire room.

Chris got out of bed shortly after this and opened the blinds to see that we were still making our way to the port in Helsinki. The landscape out the window was similar to what we saw the day before. We discussed earlier getting off the ship when it docked, since our excursion did not start until 1 p.m. The information that Princess provided made it appear that we could easily access the downtown area from the dock. With only eight hours in port we wanted to see as much as we could. While I was getting dressed and ate my yogurt and coffee, Chris text messaged his Tina to see where they were. As I finished getting ready, Chris met up with them at Horizon Court for breakfast and asked if they wanted to go explore with us.

I joined Chris at the table with my bag ready to go however the rest of the group was not dressed for the day yet. So Chris and I disembarked, avoiding the photo crew this time and agreed to meet the rest of our group before our excursion on the pier. It was easy to find a line of passengers waiting for the Princess shuttle bus to the city and I was now armed with a map from someone at the pier. The night before I heard a group talking about how when they explored Stockholm alone, they did not knowing what pier to tell their cab driver to take them to when they were done. This in mind, I asked the local girl selling the bus passes to identify our pier on the map. It cost us 16 Euros round-trip for the 15 minutes or so ride into the city and the map showned several landmarks very close to where the bus dropped us off.

After getting off the bus in the center of the city, the real challenge was orientating ourselves. The dot on the map, which showed our bus stop, was at an intersection of several different streets. We walked up a street in one direction looking to associate some of the names on the map with the street names on the buildings when a group of college age looking girls stopped us. They were wearing vests that said “tourist information” on them. They asked where we were looking to go, steered us in the right direction and then walked away. I had seen these sorts of groups in Stockholm, but did not think much of it. It was a really great “service” to have; they did not charge us anything or even expect anything. I’m sure it would have taken Chris and I several more blocks to figure our way about if they hadn’t helped us.

We walked past several clothing stores, some cafes and restaurants before reaching our goal on the map, the Cathedral. The square in front was quite large and the steps leading up to the front were very steep, more so than those at the Philadelphia Art Museum. We were only there for about 10 minutes taking some photos -- climbing up to the top of the steps to get another view of the area. Chris took a photo of the two of us with the city beyond us and then we walked back down to the square and visited the tourist shop that was "conveniently" located across the street.

the helsinki cathedral

The shop itself was a little odd; it was actually two shops in one. If you entered one door you started in the Russian shop, with the nesting dolls, painted boxes and Soviet memorabilia. But if you entered through the other door you would be in the Finish shop, which had lots of woodcarvings and T-shirts. The shops were connected, but had different registers. I did not find anything I liked in either store, so we walked back to our bus stop area. The street we were on opened to another port, this one a lot smaller than where our ship was docked. It was filled with local fishing boats, ferries, tour boats and shuttles for passengers to go to Estonian, across the sea. Right at the water line was an open-air market packed with shoppers. It was mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. The fruit, especially the strawberries, looked incredible, but we only had dollars left on us, so we could not buy anything.

Chris needed to find a restroom and our first place to look was on the other side of the market, the old market hall. While he looked for the bathroom I wandered down the crowded rows; that were filled with great looking food. There was a little bit of everything from fresh fruit to reindeer meat. After a quick look around we really had to find our way back to the bus. The street we choose to walk back lead us through a park with a temporary art exhibit of life-size statues of the girls in Velazquez’s Las Meninas. The whole area was beautiful, I wish we could have just sat on the bench and observed the people.