My Baltic Sea cruise journal: Flying to Copenhagen

My husband and I returned from a 12-day cruise on the Baltic Sea last Wednesday, our first cruise ever!  Since the Internet on cruises is expensive and not very reliable, I kept a hand-written journal, and over the next few weeks will edit and transcribe here. Getting ready to leave was nerve-wracking, particularly because I was switching health insurance and had some problems getting my medications before we left.  Fortunately, the night before we left (Aug. 4), I got a good night’s sleep!

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August 6 (Thursday)       air travel and arrival in Copenhagen

People talk about how awful air travel is today. As far as the airport security & check-in is concerned, it wasn’t bad. In security, you have to remove your shoes (unless you are 12 or under – I guess they figure children aren’t likely to be potential shoe bombers), and walk through a chamber where you have to stand with your legs spread a little apart and your hands over your head – similar, I guess, to your stance if you are put under arrest on the street. A few people (not us, thank God) are picked at random to go through a more rigorous screening – the people right behind us had to go through that.

We boarded this KLM plane to fly from Chicago O'Hare airport to Schipol airport in Amsterdam.
We boarded this KLM plane to fly from Chicago O’Hare airport to Schipol airport in Amsterdam.

The worst part of the trip was being on the plane. The space we had at our seats was very confining, very cramped. Dale and I were in the very last row – 44 – which was against a back wall, so we couldn’t put our seats back. The people in front of us could, of course, which restricted our space even more.
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Dale and I actually weren’t seated next to each other. Dale was on the aisle of the middle section and I was in the middle seat between two (unrelated) young men. The guy next to me on the aisle patiently got up 2-3 times so I could go to the bathroom.
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We were traveling with my sister Mary and her husband, Elmer, but they weren’t sitting near us; they were in row 33 (also up against a wall, it turned out). I imagined Mary in one of these seats. It was barely large enough for me, I couldn’t imagine how such a seat would be adequate for her, because she is very heavy. I checked them out during one of my trips to the bathroom – Mary was lucky to be sitting next to the only empty seat on the plane! So, effectively, she had 2 seats. When I saw them, Mary was sleeping sprawled over the two seats with a blanket over her head.
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I hardly slept on the 7-hour flight. I tried the inflatable pillow I’d brought with me, but had a hard time blowing it up – I’d fill it with air, but then was unable to stop it up before much of the air leaked out. Finally I succeeded but when I put it around my neck, it left like it was about to choke me in the front. I got used to that but still found it uncomfortable.
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In the flight magazine, there was a list of entertainment options. One of the movies being offered was Far From the Madding Crowd, which I’d seen advertised on PBS and thought it looked interesting.
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When the headphones were passed out it took me some time to untangle the cord and figure out how to fit it over my ears. I had to look at the guy next to me to see how it worked. They weren’t very comfortable and the sound wasn’t great so I missed some of the dialogue but figured out what was going on for the most part.
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We passed through some heavy turbulence and I got scared. I exited from the movie to follow the flight path, and prayed. The captain made an announcement but it was too soft to hear what he said.
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I noticed that our altitude was remaining steady and gradually the turbulence ceased. I turned back to the movie, but it started over from the beginning so I had to search for where I’d stopped it. I watched the end, but had missed some important scenes so I had to back track again.
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Finally I was ready to sleep. I took off my glasses and put them in the inflatable pillow’s cover, and I put an eye mask over my eyes. I couldn’t get comfortable, though, and the straps pulled the mask unevenly. I twisted and turned and finally pulled the mask off. Then I couldn’t find the cover with my glasses and groped around on the floor trying to find them but I had no room to maneuver. I told myself not to worry, that I would find them in the morning but I became anxious, thinking what if there were an emergency and I couldn’t find my glasses? Or what if someone steps on them trying to get out?
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I groped around some more – still no luck. I forced myself to be still – I’d be fine and the glasses would be found, I told myself. I dozed off.
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Eventually I found myself awake and groping around for them again – and this time I found them! I managed to doze off again by making myself be still using meditation breathing techniques.
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In spite of the minimal sleep I’d gotten, I didn’t feel tired during our two-hour layover in Amsterdam. We tried to get international phone cards but found out something: the ones being sold in the airport were for Holland only. Later we’d find out this was true in every country we visited.  Warning to any Americans wanting to stay connected in Europe (especially if you’re going on a cruise): Don’t tamper with your phones! Just rely on WiFi and hot spots in Europe. Cruise lines will sometimes offer a WiFi station on the dock near the ship at ports of call. You probably will not be able to make phone calls, however.

The airport in Amsterdam has many of these little shops where you can buy tulip bulbs and flowers.
The airport in Amsterdam has many of these little shops where you can buy tulip bulbs and flowers.
At Copenhagen airport - a very welcoming sign!
At Copenhagen airport – a very welcoming sign!
There was a Lego store in the Copenhagen airport. Legos are originally from Denmark!
There was a Lego store in the Copenhagen airport. Legos are originally from Denmark!

I didn’t sleep on the flight to Copenhagen either, and I was excited looking out the window of the bus and snapping pictures on the way to our hotel.

Thorvaldsen art museum murals
Thorvaldsen art museum murals
Scandic Palace Hotel, Copenhagen
Scandic Palace Hotel, Copenhagen

By the time we got to Scandic Palace Hotel, I was finding it arduous to do simple things, like climbing a flight of stairs. Once we got to our room, I read a little and wrote in this journal, but soon got sleep. I lay down for a nap and fell asleep in no time!

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At 3:30, I woke up and we called my sister’s room. Elmer had just gotten up and he was going to wake Mary up. We said we’d meet up with them downstairs in a few minutes. Meanwhile, I took some pictures in our room.

I was delighted to find something like this in Copenhagen! In the hotel room, a recycling wastebasket!
I was delighted to find something like this in Copenhagen! In the hotel room, a recycling wastebasket!
View from our hotel window - there was a noisy bar below but we were too tired for it to disturb our sleep for long!
View from our hotel window – there was a noisy bar below but we were too tired for it to disturb our sleep for long!

When we met downstairs at 4 pm, we decided to go on a canal tour. One of the canal tour companies I’d heard of was about ½ the price for the same tour. It wouldn’t have been too far to walk, but it would be for Mary, so we took a taxi.
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The driver was a Lebanese Danish citizen, and although he charged a lot, he was entertaining – very talkative. He spoke several languages but was fully bilingual in Arabic and Danish. Although he didn’t know which company was the one we wanted, he happened to drop us at the right one, whose name I recognized as soon as I saw their sign.
The tour was relaxing and I took lots of pictures, although I didn’t get what the guide was saying half the time – by the time I’d begun processing his remarks, he’d switch to another language and seemed to be saying a lot more in Danish and German that he did in English!

Nyhavn from our boat cruise
Nyhavn from our boat cruise

NyhavnNyhavnAn interesting old buildingPeople all over the city were taking advantage of the warm and sunny weather, which Danes do not take for granted.

People all over the city were taking advantage of the warm and sunny weather, which Danes do not take for granted.

Domed greenhouse and Copenhagen residents on foot and bikes
Domed greenhouse and Copenhagen residents on foot and bikes

BoatsDanes enjoying a balmy evening along the canal.

Canalside bars
Canalside bars
A young man enjoying a sandwich on his boat
A young man enjoying a sandwich on his boat
The Little Mermaid statue is dwarfed by the swarm of tourists that come to see it.
The Little Mermaid statue is dwarfed by the swarm of tourists that come to see it.
Queen's yacht
Queen’s yacht

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Copenhagen Opera House
Copenhagen Opera House
I loved this building with all the windows. It is the Danish Architecture Center.
I loved this building with all the windows. It is the Danish Architecture Center.
Old Stock Exchange (Børsen)-until 1974; one of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen - situated on the island of Slotsholmen and built by King Christian IV (1577-1648) in 1619-1640. He wanted Copenhagen to be a financial & trade center.
Old Stock Exchange (Børsen)-until 1974; one of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen – situated on the island of Slotsholmen and built by King Christian IV (1577-1648) in 1619-1640. He wanted Copenhagen to be a financial & trade center.
Tower on the Old Stock Exchange
Tower on the Old Stock Exchange

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This bridge dates from Feb. 1459.
This bridge dates from Feb. 1459.
This is one of the oldest bridges.
This is one of the oldest bridges.
Elmer, Mary & Dale enjoying the canal tour.
Elmer, Mary & Dale enjoying the canal tour.
This tower has a spiral staircase going all the way to the top.
This tower has a spiral staircase going all the way to the top.
The smoke stacks visible in the background are no longer in use - it was a power plant but Denmark is converting to wind and solar energy.
The smoke stacks visible in the background are no longer in use – it was a power plant but Denmark is converting to wind and solar energy.

Hanging out on their boatsAfter the tour, we went to have dinner in Nyhavn. There were many restaurants lining the canal, but there were people everywhere, enjoying this beautiful afternoon! I decided to choose the first restaurant that a.) had an empty table outside and b.) had a bathroom. There was a public toilet but it was down a flight of stairs and Mary couldn’t manage it. So we ended up at Fyrtojet, where our server accompanied Mary and Elmer to the bathroom while Dale and I saved a table outside. What with wine and our selections from the dinner menu, the meal was very expensive (and we didn’t even have dessert) – over DKK 1,000! But we spent a couple of pleasant hours relaxing among the thousands of other diners. After all, we were at a sidewalk café in Europe on a perfect summer day!! Something I’d been dreaming of for years!
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On return, Mary and Elmer got a bicycle taxi for a bit less than the taxi we’d taken to get there – and it was more fun! Dale and I walked back, mostly through pedestrian streets lined with modern stores, restaurants and cafes. He stopped in one of the few still-open stores to find out about international phone cards. I waited outside and spotted a Lagkagehuset right next door! I knew we were very close to the hotel. The famous pastry café was closed but we could return in the morning.
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Back at the hotel, we just hung out in front, enjoying the last rays of sunshine and warmth of the day – it was 9 pm, and across the street a clock chimed the hour. Elmer had gone to get Mary ice cream, returning with an individual sized contained of Ben and Jerry’s brownie chocolate ice cream. Mary shared some with me.
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I slept pretty well, in spite of the noise at the bar below.

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