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Baltic Cruise 2019: Germany

Sunday, September 15, 2019

When we woke up, we could tell that it was going to be a cold day.  This was the first day I wore flannel lined jeans. Little did I know that it would get even colder and I would wear them every port day afterward.

We went to breakfast.  When we got back, we found that our automatic door had locked us out of the cabin.  Somehow the “do not disturb” button had been pushed and the door meant it.  No disruptions, even by us!  Luckily, the room steward let us in.

I have in my notes that we skipped lunch but I’m not sure why.

We got off the ship about 2pm German time. Surprisingly they don’t have T-shirts in the terminal as we left.

While we waited for the tour, we ran into Terry who Tom had met last night.  She’s a veterinarian from Vancouver.

I had initially signed up for a tour of Berlin but the thought of 6 hours on a bus or train was too much so we signed up for…

Rostock by Tram & River Cruise (comes with a snack!)


What the description said:

Journey back in time and discover the highlights of the Hanseatic city of Rostock on a guided walk and take a relaxing cruise along the Warnow River. After a short transfer to the station, board an exclusive tram, which is still Rostock’s main transportation system and ride into the heart of the city. Your guided walk will take you to one of the oldest universities in Europe – the University of Rostock, founded in 1419 and built in Italian Renaissance style. Continue on a leisurely stroll through and explore the quaint shopping streets, which have flourished since the reunification Germany in 1990.You’ll see the 15th century Town Hall with its 18th century Baroque front structure, and St. Mary’s church built around 1398. Enjoy a guided tour of this church before spending some time at your leisure – time permitting. After reuniting with your guide, walk down to the jetty for a relaxing cruise along the Warnow River, transferring you back to Warnemunde. During your approximate 50 minute cruise, you’ll be served some typical snacks and refreshing German beer.

What really happened:

On the bus, we met our guide a young tour director, Johanna, a med student at the University of Rostock.

The tour was pretty much as advertised except we didn’t get to “enjoy a guided tour of this church”

We took a private tram ride through the city to New Market.

At City Hall, we saw a statue of a serpent.  Our guide said there used to be 4.

From https://www.rostock.de/en/sight.html?the-city-hall-serpent

Because of the serpent’s relation to wisdom, it is said that this was traditionally the favourite legend of the Mayor of Rostock.

The bronze serpent by the northernmost double entrance pillars of the city hall front building, in the Neuer Markt, still maintains the secret to its origin. Right at the heart of the city, however, it ‘lives’ an inconspicuous life.

The way serpents shed their skins all year round is a symbol of immortality. This animal in Rostock has already been through several ‘skinnings’ and rejuvenation treatments, The Baroque-style front building of the town hall was built in 1727/29. However, the first oral tales of the serpent only date back to the beginning of the 19th century. It is safe to say that the reptile is over 130 years old, as local historian and city archivist, Ludwig Krause (1863-1924) drew it in 1882. At the time, the limestone serpent was coiled completely around one pillar.

In 1927, the town hall facade was painted and the serpent, very poorly preserved at the time, was laid between the two pillars in a tubular shape made of cement. It has retained its original length of 1.3 metres. It lived through bomb attacks on Rostock, as the town hall was largely undisturbed (maybe because of the serpent), with the exception of the late Gothic council chamber, while most of the surrounding buildings were reduced to soot and ashes.

By 1989, the appearance of the concrete animal had changed for the worse. As the reptile had also been referred to as an eel, people did not attach much importance to advertising this type of fish, which was rare at the time. Since December 1993, it was determined that it was a snake (maybe a viper?) – made for the first time from weather-resistant bronze, but it soon lost its split tongue again. In 1997, the serpent was torn from its base and forgotten about (but found years later). The ‘Rostocker Volks­ und Raiffeisenbank’ bank paid for a new one in 1998. The person behind the idea and the project manager was Dr Hartmut Schmied. Sculptor Erhard John created a novelty mythical creature: a serpent with the tail of an eel, thereby uniting the two legends. The tongue of the bronze animal is also in the shape of a number 5, in Roman numerals –

it is already the fifth-generation serpent (at least) to grace the town hall. The new serpent was formally given the name Johannes in 1998 on the birthday of the city, the 24th June (the feast day of St John, ‘Johannes’ in German). Stroking its head is supposed to bring good luck.

Eel or serpent? This is the debate that has raged over and over again, in light of the most desolate conditions it has been kept in. Legend has it was used as an eel measure for smoked eel merchants who had stands near the pillars in the Neuer Markt. Another explanation links this eel with a supposed flood in 1841. An eel was left hanging between the pillars once the waters receded. However, the marketplace is 16 metres above the normal level of the Warnow River, so there would have been written sources mentioning such a flood.

The cobblestone with the year 1841 engraved on it (new paving of the market) originally lay between the two southernmost pillars of the town hall’s front building and was the reason for another pleasant yet unproven theory. In this year, the old fountain display on the Neuer Markt was demolished and the cast iron fountain was installed. During this process, there could well have been a flooding; the eel merchants and their ‘protégés’ would have been driven into a frenzy and the eels would have swum up to the town hall. The stone from 1841 now lies at ground level directly underneath the serpent.

Much more interesting is the possibility that the ‘eel serpent’ could have been a landmark for travelling craftsmen. Those who really had passed through Rostock on their travels would certainly have seen this serpent and would have been able to describe it. The idea of a household spirit in the form of a snake, as in Mecklenburg legends, cannot be excluded, as the serpent has been attributed in verse to a lot of good, and the city was always in need of good luck. As the council’s wine vault is behind the pillars, the idea exists of a ‘snake in brandy’ being used as a superstitious remedy for drunkenness, but this can be excluded; it would have been nothing more than self-mockery.

Dr J. Becker favours the idea of the serpent as a symbol of wisdom. It is possible that Zacharias Voigt, the architect responsible for the Baroque front building of the town hall, placed it there after its construction. With this new construction, the old ‘Jesus as the Judge of the earth’ painting (from around 1300) was concealed by the new ‘Justitia’ picture (oil, around 1750) next to the entrance to the council’s cellar. Therefore, the councilmen had to hold their meetings between the watchful and wise serpent and the admonishing Justitia.

However, most architects were also clever people and they knew how long building material would last and where symbols were best placed. It is highly likely that the ‘limestone mass’, described for the first time in the 19th century, was mounted quickly and simply. It is presumable that

the animal never was in a condition that could be well preserved. It is possible that folklorists, art historians and historians have been following the wrong paths for decades. However, the challenge has been set to find the ‘culprit’ before the city’s 800th birthday in 2018.

A good viewing spot would be Rostock Town Hall at the Neuer Markt, the front building of the town hall, the middle entrance between the pillars underneath the gryphon, to the left of the northern double pillars, at their base.


A man fell on cobblestones but said he was ok.

Despite the weather forecast being overcast, there was light rain.

St. Mary’s Church was Roman Catholic but is now Protestant, built in typical Notre dame style.

St. Mary’s Church, Rostock, in German Marienkirche, is the biggest of three town churches found in the Hanseatic city of Rostock, in northern Germany. The other two are St. Peter’s (Petrikirche) and St. Nicholas (Nikolaikirche). A fourth, St. James’ (Jakobikirche), was heavily damaged during the Second World War and subsequently demolished. St. Mary’s was designated in 1265 as the main parish church. Since the Protestant Reformation in 1531, it houses a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Mecklenburg.

During the heavy air raids by the Royal Air Force in 1942, which lasted three days, much of Rostock was destroyed. The sexton of St. Mary’s, Mr. Bombowski, saved the church by decisive action. Although three incendiary bombs smashed through the roof of the tower, he extinguished the fire with the help from his daughter and a German auxiliary airforce commando.  The daughter died soon after of smoke inhalation.

Then the rain got even heavier

The man in the video above at 1:22 was playing the hurdy-gurdy.  That’s a stringed instrument that produces sound by a hand crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings. The wheel functions much like a violin bow, and single notes played on the instrument sound similar to those of a violin.

We walked around University Square which is a no-traffic area.

At 1:33 in the slideshow is the Brunnen der Lebensfreude, known locally as the “Porn Fountain”.

A woman and her husband tried to get support for leaving this tour and getting a taxi back since the bus couldn’t come in here. Um, NO

We had some free time. No shopping in Germany on Sundays so went to McDonald’s. The image at the top of the page would have shown the McDonald’s in the strip of buildings if it were just a little longer to the left.

I tried to get the mango/banana shake that was featured on a flag outside. The trainee didn’t understand since he was speaking German and I was muddling by with English. I ended up with vanilla shake with green apple sundae sauce. Not too bad, all things considered.

Our group assembled back on the square (including the people who wanted to leave) and we walked further along to the wall portion/gate.

Riding on the next bus we saw that bounce house in the slideshow (above), then got to the river cruise boat. We took the PTAH (PIano Teachers After Hours on Facebook) photo.

We went to sit upstairs but it was very wet from the rain.

The next bus (number 34) people came on and Terry sat with us.

We somehow told her about my experience with Cushing’s. She, a vet, didn’t know people got that, just dogs.  She wished that they could do surgery on the dogs instead of medications.

There was going to be a festival that night with fireworks.

They dropped us off a bit away from the ship. We walked back past pier 7 and a group of people who looked like they might be something like a Jules Verne society.

Something about him on a sand sculpture.

The Viking Sky arrived. Seemed late to be arriving in port but not my problem!

Back on board, dinner was German night. I was a bit disappointed. No spaetzle, sauerkraut or bratwurst. They did have sauerbraten (not as tender as mine but I didn’t have to take a couple days to make it)

Tom went to a meeting, I organized today’s photos.

He brought “snacks” back. Cookies, cake, pizza, strudel…

We bid fond good-bye to Germany.  Tomorrow is a Sea Day.

My review from cruiseline.com:

Rostock: This was our first port and we did the NCL tour of Rostock by Tram & River Cruise.  The tour was ok but not great.  The Tram portion was good with lots to see.  Then, the walking part started.  Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of this area.  Unfortunately, being Sunday, all the stores were closed.  It rained and some people wanted to leave the tour by taxi. On the River Cruise portion, there was not much to see.  It was mostly to get us back near the ship.  I say near because we were left on our own to get a taxi or walk back – it wasn’t a long walk, but still…

Cruise Critic Review




This review is available now on Cruise Critic at http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=506152 and on Cruiseline.


Three of us travelled: my husband (Tom), our adult son (Michael) and myself. I’ve been on several cruises – NCL, RCI, Celebrity, and some Windjammers. My husband NCL, Celebrity, and some Windjammers; and our son one other NCL.

Our son lives and works in Manhattan and we had seen the Breakaway when we were visiting him in November. I chose this particular week because it included my husband’s birthday.

My husband and I took Amtrak from DC on Friday and stayed at a hotel in SoHo for 2 nights. We had used RCI points so there was no cost for the hotel.

On Sunday, our son and I were playing in a recital at the temporary Steinway Hall at 11:00 am and this worried me a lot, getting from 1155 Avenue of the Americas to the cruise terminal by 2:00 all aboard.

We left Steinway about 12:15 and took an Uber to the terminal. The driver left us the terminal by the Gem about 12:35 but it was an easy walk next door to the Breakaway terminal at Pier 88.

We left our checked baggage and went through the terminal process very quickly. We never even had a chance to sit down and we were on board by 1:00.

That was the fastest I have ever boarded any ship.

The Garden Cafe was crowded but we found a table without much effort. Before we finished eating, it was announced that the cabins were ready.

Our cabin – 9918 – was fantastic! It was a bit tight for the 3 of us but we made it work.

The balcony was the best part. I had chosen an aft balcony on 9, starboard. We had 2 loungers, 3 chairs and 2 tables and plenty of room to move them and ourselves around.

Looking up to the other decks, we could see from the angle that ours was larger than the others above us.

As it turned out, looking out over the balcony, we could see the fireworks just fine.

There was a lot of storage but some was tricky to find.

The bathroom was a good size, as was the shower. There were more shelves in the bathroom than usual and I liked being able to leave my cosmetics and stuff in there. I had read that there was no conditioner in the showers so I brought my own.

I also followed advice from Cruise Critic and brought magnet hooks for the walls and those were great for hanging hats, card lanyards and so on. Giant clips, meant for holding towels to chairs were repurposed for clipping our last day paperwork under the TV.

About the TV – we never watched it so we can’t really comment on the programming. We did watch the info from the deck once or twice to find out about the sea conditions.

Our bed was great, very comfortable king sized with 2 pillows each. The steward, Bradley, turned the couch into a nice bed for our son.

The end tables on each side of our bed were pretty narrow but we made that work. The lights beside the bed were a little high up, so I’d have to get up to turn mine off. Luckily, I read a Kindle before bed so I never really needed to use the bedside light.

Our luggage arrived before 4:00 pm which was really nice.

I had been concerned about going on a ship this size but there was really no problem. The elevators were crowded the first day but after that, no big deal. I would like to point out that we mostly always took the stairs going down and walked up if it was only 2-3 decks.

When we were in the elevators, they were clean. Both of the RCI cruises I took had sticky elevator buttons, presumably from children using them after eating ice cream or something. One thing that RCI has that I would like to see on other ships was the “day plate” on the floor. Often, I get involved in a cruise and have no idea what the day is, so that would be helpful on all ships.

We got the unlimited internet package and it was well worth it for us. On other cruises, I would get the max minutes and always be watching the time – and I would still often run out at the end. I am the web master for a couple companies so I need to spend some time online each day. This internet package was a life-saver for me and we were able to share it between the 3 of us.

We also made good use of the iPhone iConcierge app. We used it as a messenger to let others know where we were and we made reservations for 3 restaurants and 2 shore excursions with it. I also checked how our account was doing. That cost us $7.95 per phone and was well worth it.

Everywhere we went, crew was smiling and friendly – and everything was very clean. At the end of the cruise, we took the behind the scenes tour and everything was so well run. Amazing.

We mostly ate in the Garden Cafe. We also ate once each in Taste and Savor. Our specialty restaurants were Moderno Churrascaria, Teppanyaki and La Cucina.

We had been at the Churrascaria on another Norwegian cruise and loved it. This time, we knew not to eat too much earlier in the day! This time, I went lighter on the salad bar portion. The “gauchos” (aka waiters) brought sausages, lamb, both beef and pork ribs, chicken, filet mignon, and garlic beef, among others. Of those, I had the sausages, lamb, chicken and beef before I was too full. All excellent. Michael gave up even earlier than I did! For dessert, I had mango rice pudding – nearly as good as Thai sticky rice with mango.

Teppanyaki was a pretty standard Japanese food, on this ship cooked by a Philippines chef (he called himself fake-Japanese). Because it was on a ship, with no flames allowed, there was no onion volcano although another chef tried it with an onion and water for steam. Not as impressive as with oil and fire but clever nonetheless. There were combinations of chicken, beef and seafood (including lobster) served with miso soup, seaweed salad, vegetables and garlic fried rice. I had green tea cake/ice cream for dessert and the others had fruit sashimi.

La Cucina was good Italian food. The minestrone was unusual (for us, anyway). We got bowls with a little bit of pasta stuffed with vegetables and a piece of Italian bread on top. Then came the “surprise” when the waitress brought around the tureens of broth that was poured over all.

We also attended Cirque Jungle Dreams and Dinner.

I had read many complaints about the Cirque dinner so we ate in the Garden Cafe a bit before the show. The food (and show) were great. I told the waitress that I was allergic to shrimp so she offered double filet mignon but I declined. My portion was excellent.

The show itself was fantastic, especially for being at sea. The costumes were very clever.

Tom was using the Internet Cafe one morning so Michael and I played the 15 minute Sudoko challenge. One of the main challenges of that was they gave a blank form and we had to fill in the starting numbers. I messed up some in copying from the big screen and that made it harder to figure out the answers.

After that was Trivia and we did ok as a team.

The library was very small and open only certain hours. Tom went back later and checked out a book.

The library, game room and halls outside were decorated with photos/history of the Rockettes – the “godmothers” of this ship. 2 of them were on board, giving exercise classes, Q and A periods and photo ops.

We played Scrabble a few times in the games room and that was fun. Others played board games like Clue, chess, Yahtzee and card games.

Michael did the ropes course. I had planned to go, too, but I was wearing sandals and couldn’t go. Tom checked everything out and said he’d try it “later”. Unfortunately, neither of us ever got a chance to try that later.

On a different day, Michael also climbed the rock wall. Even if I’d been wearing closed-toed shoes, I wouldn’t have tried that!

Our star athlete, Michael, also used the gym all the sea days and reported that it was really good. The treadmills and ellipticals have sudoko and other games to while away the time.

We had no use for any of the Children’s Clubs.

Generally, we found the service to be excellent and friendly everywhere we went on board. We had occasion to visit Guest Services a few times – Tom cut his hand on something and they were fast with bandaids, antiseptic pads and so on. Michael lost his apartment keys the very last sea day – those never turned up 🙁

We didn’t do any entertainment other than the Cirque Jungle Dreams and Dinner which I mentioned above, under restaurants.

Tom and I had been to Bermuda on a land stay before but Michael had never been. The first day, we did a bus tour of the whole island. That was very interesting but we had some folks that had trouble getting back to the bus on time.

One person ended up being on a regular bus to Hamilton from St. George and we spent quite a bit of time locating her and getting her back with us. If I’d known that would be the, we would have just stayed in St. George and taken the ferry back. Instead, we rushed out lunch to get back on time.

The next day, Thursday, we took a bus to BAMZ and the Crystal Caves. When we were in Bermuda before, we’d tried to take the bus from Hamilton to the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo but somehow missed the stop.

BAMZ and Crystal Caves were well worth the trip. Someday, we will go back to BAMZ when we can spend more time.

Friday, I’d arranged for the Restless Native for snorkeling. I had arranged that not through the ship but through CheapCruises and saved $30 per person over others who booked through NCL. I had never done that before so this was a trial run and worked very well. We were back in plenty of time for 4:30 all aboard.

This was one of the best snorkel boats we had been on. Shallow enough that I didn’t have to worry about drowning getting back on the ship but lots of caves and coral to support fish swimming around. This sailboat also offered noodles for floating with, kayaking, banana boats and paddle boards. Lots of fun – and boat-made cookies.

We were in the “Orange” disembarkation group so we had a leisurely breakfast, went back to the cabin to pick up our carry-offs and down to the Atrium. WiFi still worked so I checked my email and we read.

The giant screen was showing the staff singing and waving goodbye to us.

There was some hold up at Customs on shore so they stopped offloading for a few minutes, then resumed.

Our color was supposed to be called about 10. It was called around 9:45. We were off the ship, got our luggage, through Customs and in an Uber by 10:30. Very fast and efficient.

We had a great time overall and wouldn’t hesitate to take this ship again. I loved our balcony! Having only one port was great so we could use the ship as a hotel was really nice.

The one “problem” was Saturday night coming back into New York. There was a lot of cabin shaking/noise (remember, we were on 9 aft). I had read about that in one of the reviews so I wasn’t too concerned. I had been expecting noise/vibrating when leaving Bermuda but that wasn’t so bad.

Coming back to NY was the loudest/shakiest.

I’m ready to go again, as soon as I can save up enough money 🙂


Beach Buddies


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