People on the GameFAQS boards constantly tell everyone else when they’ve completed the board’s game 100% with the maximum 1000 gamerpoints per game. I thought I’d start my own little section here for this since, well, this is my site and I can do whatever I want really. So here goes!
Call of Duty 4 – 1000/1000 on 1-21-2008
Fallout 3 – 1000/1000 on 12-15-2008
[UPDATE – 1-29-2009 – 1100/1100 now after Operation Anchorage DLC]
[UPDATE – 3-27-2009 – 1200/1200 now after The Pitt DLC]
[UPDATE – 5-20-2009 – 1350/1350 now after Broken Steel DLC]
[UPDATE – 7-6-2009 – 1450/1450 now after Point Lookout DLC]
[UPDATE – 8-11-2009 – 1550/1550 now after Mothership Zeta DLC]
Since Bethesda has not announced any further DLC for this masterpiece, I am taking this as the end for me. If they do decide to release more, I will pick it up, but if they don’t, then the ride was a great one and I will look forward to the next game in this series. Fallout 3 is easily one of the best experiences in gaming that I’ve ever had, took up 1497 save files, and lasted me well over 120 hours.
Tales of Vesperia – 1000/1000 on 12-28-2008
Fable II – 1100/1100 on 1-25-2009
[UPDATE – 6-4-2009 – 1350/1350 now after See the Future DLC]
Resident Evil 5 – 1000/1000 on 4-1-2009
Lost: Via Domus – 1000/1000 on 6-28-2009
I’ve been trying to think about how to put this back when I was still playing the game and knowing that I’d be writing a little blurb about it eventually for all of probably 3 people to see, but this is easily one of the worst games I’ve ever played. For anyone who knows me well enough, you know that I adore the show Lost. It’s my favorite television show that is on television now, and may be of all time. I’m thinking about The A-Team here, but I kind of put them in two totally different categories, so we’ll just ignore that. When Lost: Via Domus was announced and released, it got pretty bad reviews, and I passed over it thinking that it probably wasn’t worth $60….and it isn’t. I found this game a few months back for $10 at Best Buy and figured that I couldn’t really go wrong. I think I got a so-so deal on it. Anyways, when you boot up the game, you first see a Ubisoft logo. If I had read the box and saw that it was a Ubisoft game, I might have just left it be, as I am terribly upset with them and what they did to the Prince of Persia a few years back. But I didn’t see that logo and bought the game anyways. You play the game as a guy who was on Oceanic 815 and crashed with everyone else, but you don’t have any memory. You look almost exactly like Jacob’s nemesis from the Season 5 finale, which I find very strange, and I look forward to seeing if others feel the same way about this. It’s just uncanny how similar you look to him. As you “play” this game which consists of you walking around the beach talking to horribly created versions of the cast, being chased around the jungle by the smoke monster, doing stupid fuse puzzles that make no sense whatsoever, and recovering your memory via looping scenarios where you need to take pictures of things, I realized that I might have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t a Lost fan. I’m kind of on the fence about this one. If I wasn’t a Lost fan, I wouldn’t be so critical about the modeling or voice acting, though John Locke repeating “I’m over in the Banyan Trees” and “Hey, Look at me in the Banyan Trees” over and over again was actually funny, but the funny part was when he said “Banyan Trees”. I don’t know. I’m weird. Hurley, believe it or not, it even fatter in this game. The controls are very loose, and your actions seem to make you float around. You can trade fruit and stuff that you pick up for lanterns and guns, etc, but you only need to really shoot 1 or 2 people, so you never ever need a clip, though they seem to have lots to trade. What sucks even more is that in the end, all your stuff is taken from you, so it’s all pretty useless. They should have just given you what you need when you need it, but then this game would have been even shorter probably. It only took me about 2-4 hours to complete in its entirety, but it seemed like a chore. Would I rather deal with this mess or play CoD4? I had to force myself to finish this game so that I could delete it from my hard drive. One thing that I can say positively about this game is that I didn’t run into any game breaking bugs. That’s a nice thing, but there are some annoyances. One level starts out with you having to run away from the smoke monster, jumping over trees and running across wooden planks, but if you trip up then the smoke monster gets you. That’s not the bad part though. The bad part is that the game is set up episodically, so when you die, which you will a few times, you have to go through the whole 30 second long “Previously on Lost” crap. Argh! Anyways, Lost: Via Domus can’t be recommended by me. If you like Lost, and can get it for cheap (or borrow it from me), then check it out, but don’t expect much.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – 1000/1000 on 12-13-2009
Assassin’s Creed II – 1000/1000 on 1-18-2010
Bulletstorm – 1000/1000 on 3-6-2011
Portal 2 – 1000/1000 on 4-28-2011
Brink – 1000/1000 on 5-15-2011
L.A. Noire – 1000/1200 on 5-23-2011
Deus Ex – Human Revolution – 1000/1000 on 9-5-2011
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – 1000/1000 on 3-23-2012
SSX – 1000/1000 on 4-14-2012
Far Cry 3 – 1000/1000 on 1-2-2013
Borderlands 2 – 1125/1125 on 10-20-2012
I haven’t made many updates to my site in a while. The only game I’ve been playing is Borderlands 2, and though I’ve wanted to write up my impressions, I just haven’t had any time to do so. I guess I can use this space for a few of them. Borderlands 1 is one of my all-time favorite games, and I was really excited for its sequel. I’m glad that Gearbox took their time with this game, because they improved almost every aspect of it. They made an incredible game even better, which seems to be a difficult task now that publishers are trying to milk some franchises dry. Anyways, Borderlands 2 starts you off with no real good items for the first ~10 hours or so, and then starts dropping better ones in a seemingly exponential fashion. By the time you’re at max level, you’ve played through the game twice, and can then focus on farming bosses for better loot. I did this for a few days before starting up a different character. If Gearbox is going to raise the level cap like they did with Borderlands 1, then there isn’t much of a point to collect a lot of maxed out weapons now, or even use my maxxed out character. They’ve already released one DLC pack, which is why my score is 1125 instead of 1000. They’ve also released a DLC character, which I have at level 32 currently. As far as achievements go, the character-specific achievements aren’t as easy as they were in the first game. One character has to get to level 31 in order to earn his achievement, and another to level 25. In the first game, they could all be gotten in the first ~10 levels. Other than these, the rest kind of fell into place. Borderlands 2 is not a game that I play for the achievements. I play it for the amazing world that Gearbox has created, and I will play it until the next entry in the series releases.
1125/1125 on 10-20-2012- Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty – This was a surprise, releasing within 30 days of the actual game. It lasts about 5 hours, and is quite fun to play. I’ve gone through it with my level 50 Siren and level 32 Mechromancer. It adds a new type of crystal called Seraph, that only drops by the DLC’s two raid bosses. These bosses are not easy, and they only drop a few crystals each time. It appears as though the special items that you receive cost around 100 crystals, and they aren’t really that great, so I’m not putting a whole lot of time in here once finished. It is a really nice place for your character to level up, and it is quite comical and fun, so I recommend it for characters going through the story each time.
1250/1250 on 11-23-2012 – Mr. Torgue and his Campaign of Carnage – The humor in this piece of DLC is off the charts. I enjoyed this one as I did with the first, but still question why we haven’t been given a level cap increase to expand our characters some more. The achievements in this DLC were pretty straightforward, with one requiring a bit of luck. Every so often, an enemy will drop a photo of Moxxi, and you need to collect 10 of these. This was the last achievement acquired, and took a bit of farming.
1375/1375 on 5-1-2013 – Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt – So far, this is my least favorite piece of Borderlands 2 DLC. For one, if focused only on main story quests, this takes 2 hours maximum. I don’t usually play without doing the sidequests, but it isn’t as deep as the previous Torgue DLC, which is quite good. There is one treasure room that can be looted just once per playthrough. There are two raid bosses, one of which is insanely difficult (Voracidous), and another that requires you to travel around, lighting furnaces with Eridium in order to spawn (Dexiduous). This one has the chance to drop The Chopper, which is a throwback weapon to Borderlands 1. This isn’t a bad piece of DLC, but it isn’t as deep as the others. I think it would be better off if it had given a skill point upon completion, like the Mad Moxxi DLC did in the first game. By far, the hardest achievement was to complete all sidequests, but sidequest to defeat Voracidous took me a very long time.
Call of Duty: Ghosts (360) – 1000/1000 on 12-8-2013
Call of Duty: Ghosts (One) – 1000/1000 on 2-3-2014
South Park: The Stick of Truth – 1000/1000 on 3-16-2014
Titanfall (One) – 1000/1000 on 5-11-2014
Fallout 4 – 1000/1000 on 12-13-2015
Yesterday I attained 1000/1000 in Fallout 4. It’s been a very long time since I’ve updated this log with a gaming post. Earlier in this same post, I saw that Fallout 3 was completed on 12-15, and Fallout 4 on 12-13. Fallout 3 was released about two weeks earlier in the year however, so my 33 day completion is pretty good. I’m far from done with this one though. It’s really been seven years since Fallout 3, and since then, I had always hoped that they would bring the wasteland to
Well, today is the last day of the cruise. I was surprised that there was no breast cancer awareness walk today, and I planned to walk it anyways, but the weather did not cooperate. The weather has been near perfect for this entire voyage, with just a few drops in Klaipeda, and then some on the At Sea days. I’m hearing that it’ll be rainy in Dover tomorrow, but I could care less.
We woke up and went down to the dining room for our last breakfast. I noticed that the James Beard French Toast was yet again not on the menu. I specially requested it and they had no problem making it for me. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t try this out earlier in the cruise, as this dish is both tasty and fattening. At breakfast, a gentleman sitting next to me told us that he was about to go on an engine room tour. This is something that Dad has always wanted to do, but Princess stopped giving them out after 9-11. We’ve been able to request bridge tours, but nothing downstairs. On the larger ships, Princess likes to charge passengers for bridge tours, but that’s not the case on these. After finishing my great breakfast, I went down to the purser’s desk and asked if they were having any engine room tours today, that my father would really enjoy it. I was told to be back there at 10AM, which was just 45 minutes away. I called their room and told Mom to have Dad ready to go at 9:55, and didn’t give her any more information. When I picked him up, I made sure he had his camera and we walked over to the purser’s desk, where about eight other men were waiting. The tour wasn’t of the engine room, but the engine control room. In there, they had monitors of all the diesel generators, alternators, water treatment devices, and propeller shafts. It was very interesting, and we spent about an hour in there talking with the ship’s engineers. Dad loved it. They let us photograph and capture video, which was awesome. We also met the chief engineer while we were down there.
After this little diversion, I walked Dad back up to his room, and then bolted to the Cabaret Lounge where Heather and Mom were watching the culinary demonstration. They were sitting in the back as I had advised in order to get down to the galley before the mad rush. We then walked through the galley and saw where all the great food was made. I talked with the chef for a bit and gave him my youtube information for when I made up his montage. This is seriously by far the best food that we’ve ever had on any ship and the executive chef is only 34 years old.
We packed for a few hours and had our last cheeseburgers, and then went and lost the last Bingo game. There were only about 40 people in there, which is a far cry from the normal last Bingo games. Before it started, they auctioned off the navigational map; something that we’ve always wanted. I ended up winning the auction, so we’ll have it hanging up at home after getting it framed. It shows the entire cruise, and is signed by all the chief staff.
Before dinner, Heather and I weeded through a two-inch thick pile of photographs, and ended up buying a few of them. I had the Tom Turkey and NY Strip Steak for dinner. The turkey was fantastic. We then watched the parade of Baked Alaska before eating it, and finally weighed our luggage.
Heather was starting to get tired, but I dragged her to the last photo raffle. We ended up winning second prize, which is a CD with around 200 professional photos of locations we visited on the cruise. Heather then went back upstairs while I watched a few minutes of a comedian named David Copperfield. He was pretty funny, and definitely not the magician! Now I’m waiting for one photo to be reprinted as it was creased, while Heather sleeps. We have a 4:30AM wake-up call and should be arriving in Dover sometime in the night. Tomorrow will be a long day, but it’ll be worth it to get home after such a wonderful vacation.
The show last night was pretty great. A guitarist, bass player, and accordion player jammed for about 45 minutes, singing only in Danish. They explained the songs to us in English, which was nice. After the show, Heather and I went up to the buffet area to get some waters for the night and watch us leave Copenhagen. I wanted to film four large warships that I had seen earlier in the day as we were arriving, but were at lunch and missed out on the opportunity. We went to the walking track and I started to film. Off in the distance, at 10:45, fireworks starting going off, and I got some nice shots of them. It made us feel really good.
There was no James Beard French Toast on the breakfast menu this morning, so I had fruit and bacon in the buffet yet again. We rounded the northern part of Denmark and the sea became noticeably less calm, but still not very rough. We saw some white caps, but the ship stayed very steady. We really didn’t have much going on today as we’re done with ports and tomorrow will be spent getting packed and ready to fly home.
After lunch they were having a get together for pet lovers, but nobody showed, so we went to a talk about Larimar. Mom won the raffle today, but since they were out of Larimar, she won a Tanzanite pendant. Heather’s going to make a nice chain for it.
We took a nap until it was time to get ready for our last formal night. We had some photos taken and then for dinner, had specially-made French Onion Soup. Princess seems to have taken the best soup off their menu, but after a simple request to our Maître D’, we had four bowls of it. I also had pineapple, oxtail pasta, chicken, and a mini filet mignon.
We then made our way to the Cabaret Lounge where we are now for the Captain’s Circle party. He told us that there was a portable nuclear reactor in the Neva River when we were back in St. Petersburg. I’ll have to go back through my videos and pictures to see if I can see it. We’re now waiting for a show called the Magical Misstory Four. It’s four women who are going to sing us Beatles songs. It sounds like it will be great.
The scheduling today was similar to that of our last port day on Alaska 2010, meaning that we didn’t arrive until noon and we don’t depart until 11PM this evening. As I write this, I’m sitting in our stateroom, but am about to head to the Cabaret Lounge because they have more local singers here tonight.
Okay, Heather and I are now in the Cabaret Lounge with about ten others waiting for this show to start. We have about an hour until show time, so having a dozen people here is a bit strange. This morning, we slept in and had breakfast up in the buffet. I’ve been waiting for the breakfast menu to have the James Beard French Toast, but they seem to only have that on the lunch menu for “brunch”. Hopefully they’ll have it in the next few days, or I’ll have to go without. That’s okay though as it’s extremely high in calories!
Heather, Mom, and I went to a talk about Effy jewelry and lost the raffle. We had a good chance however as there were only about eight people there. The prize was a nice pair of earrings that would have looked great on Heather. We had lunch in the dining room. I had spaghetti, Swedish meatballs, and a roast beef sandwich with “waffle fries” which were just warm, homemade potato chips, and they were good.
Our tour began after lunch. We took a bus to the “Little Mermaid” which is famous here in Copenhagen. Some men were jumping onto a log over to the mermaid statue, and it looked like Heather was going to try it herself, but she decided not to at the last second. I think she would have fallen in, and even though it would have been hysterical, she was holding both her camera and her phone, so it wouldn’t have been a good idea.
We then took the bus over to the Royal Palace and walked around there for about half an hour. We took some photos with a guard before heading back towards the bus to buy a magnet. We always buy magnets in each port we go to, and always decide to pay more for locally made ones rather than ones made in China. This one cost $7, which is far from the most expensive one we’ve gotten (Monaco).
Our bus then took us around the city, passed the famous canal where Hans Christian Anderson lived, and to our final destination: Tivoli Gardens. This is an amusement park in the middle of the city that greatly influenced Walt Disney, and you could tell! To be honest, when I booked this tour, I thought this was another garden similar to The Enchanting Buchart Gardens in Victoria, BC. It isn’t. I was actually hoping for such a place, but they still had some nice gardens and flowers. Some of these rides were rather spectacular, but we didn’t go on any. They had a pond with both ducks and large koi in it, and Heather fed them all crackers simultaneously. We had about two hours there, but one thing we couldn’t find anywhere was a Danish pastry. We went into every little food shop and café, and nobody had a pastry named after this place, even though we were in Denmark.
Our tour ended at 5:45, 15 minutes after dinner started. When we got back to the room, Heather reminded me that we had to log onto the web and reserve our plane seats for the trip back home. I then realized that this great vacation is coming to an end. It was Italian night in the dining room tonight. I had cantaloupe & prosciutto, minestrone soup, more spaghetti but with meatballs this time, slow-roasted beef, and for dessert, two types of gelato and one scoop of lemon Italian ice. It was a nice meal.
During our tour today, we were told that a flag on a nearby fort is lowered at 8PM and a cannon is shot off. I went up on the top deck at 7:30 and saw that the flag was already down, so I started to head back downstairs when I heard a chopper. It was a very big one and it flew right passed the moon, which was pretty awesome. I watched as it landed on a nearby building before heading back to the room. I then started writing this up before Heather came back from shopping right outside the ship and we came down here. The local folkloric show is called the Halfdanskerne Trio and is described as popular Danish songs and folk ballads. I’m going to set up the video camera for it.
I realize now that this navigator loves the word “subsequently”… anyways, we awoke 30 minutes before our 7AM wakeup call this morning. Outside, we were still at sea, and the air had a strong smell of salt. This was the first time that it overpowered the air.
We had a quick breakfast and then met at 9AM for our tour. We hadn’t originally signed up for this one, but decided to just a few days ago. There were 42 people on this tour, so the bus was pretty tight.
We took the bus about 45 minutes to a national park, and were told that this was the nicest park in Lithuania. We walked to a lookout and saw two lakes and a lot of land. It was very nice. We also saw a cow. This was the first port day where we had rain, but it was only a little bit. I still covered the video camera with my jacket.
We then took our bus to the highlight of this tour: a Soviet nuclear missile complex. We started driving up a dirt road that switched to some very unique and strange concrete. Our tour guide Robertas told us that this road was not designed for buses, but instead for tanks. When we arrived at the complex, I bolted to the restroom and then filmed the four layers of different types of wire fences, including two types of barbed wire. While doing this, I walked right into a very thin but very strong wire fence that probably originally was electrified. I’m glad it wasn’t another barbed type!
We walked around the four silos on the outside, and then took some stairs down into the base. We went room to room, but it was difficult as the ceilings were very low, and you had to step over walls to get through it. Also, with 42 people, our guide, and the bus driver, it was difficult to fit into some of these rooms. It was very nice to see though. After viewing the base, we ended up inside one of the silos, where Heather and I took a few photos. We all then headed back to the bus. I helped a gentleman with a cane who was a bit slower than the rest of us.
We were running a bit late and still had a restaurant to go to. We arrived there and had lunch, but only had about 40 minutes to do so. This can be difficult with so many people! We had cold beet soup that I didn’t care for, bread that was incredible, potato pancakes, goat meat that was stuffed into potatoes kind of like twice-baked ones, and local beer. The lunch was fantastic, and I can definitely say that I prefer Lithuanian cuisine to Russian cuisine! The waitress kept coming back and filling our plates with food and putting beers down in front of us even though we were full. The building had a thatch roof, a small bridge over a pond, and a wooden basketball full court. They love basketball here as much as they do in Latvia.
Our bus arrived back at the ship with about 15 minutes to spare before we were scheduled to depart. We had a wonderful day, and I just came downstairs after filming our departure. The sea is the roughest it’s been, and might rival the Kodiak Sea for roughest I’ve ever been on. I hope not, as that was the only time I’ve gotten seasickness on a cruise!
Well, we’re now officially heading back west towards the US. I guess we were yesterday too, but I was so pooped from a few long days in St. Petersburg that yesterday just kind of faded away. Heather and I left the show early as she was feeling a bit queasy. We had an early tour this morning, so we woke up at 5AM and did the usual routine.
It was pitch black out all the way until about 6:30, and I even thought that we missed a clock change, but it was just cloudy. Heather saw some birds flying alongside the ship and had me record them, but all I could see was black.
To be honest, I never thought that Latvia would ever be somewhere I’d visit. I don’t know anything about the country, but when I opened the balcony door this morning, the smell of freshly cut trees filled the air. It was very pleasant, and surprisingly warm. The high temperature ended up hitting 75 degrees today, and became too hot at times.
Once we got close to the port, we saw some modern buildings and a very tall radio tower. We met in the Cabaret Lounge again and learned that there were five buses going on our tour. This has been the most in any port, but there were just three tours going out today, so it makes sense.
We boarded our bus and took a drive around the city. Twice we stopped to walk for about 45 minutes each time, learning about the architecture for the most part. There are many nice looking buildings here, and scattered between them are very plain looking ones that were built during the Soviet occupation. We also saw a group of cats walking around and hunting.
Riga is famous for one specific building with two black cats on the top of it. We stopped and took some photos of it before taking a break for tea and coffee. We also did a little shopping. It’s hard to describe, but they were selling large rock art pieces for 2000+ euros. I saw some that were 4000 euros too. They were nice, but we’d never get them home!! We ended up getting a magnet and a souvenir for Heather’s mom. We also learned that Latvians love Basketball. They had a countdown clock in a square that counted down until the next national game.
We were back onboard the ship before lunch, so we had cheeseburgers and pasta. The ship wasn’t scheduled to leave until 4PM, and while we were eating outside on the top deck, we saw a church not too far away and decided to try to walk there. We left the ship and started walking in its direction. We came across a gas station and saw a large group of ship staff sitting outside it. The gas station had free wifi! I tried to connect my phone to it to download the newly released iOS9, but it wouldn’t allow the download, so I’ll just wait a few more days. We kept walking and about 10 minutes later, we saw the church. It was in rough condition, and upon closer inspection, was condemned and locked up. It was still fun to walk over there on our own though. With all the global strife happening right now, I made a rule that we wouldn’t really divert away from Princess-sponsored tours, but this was a nice little adventure. The people in Riga were very kind to us, and we definitely stood out in the crowd!
We started heading back to the ship when we walked around a corner and saw a Lego sign. We love Legos. We went into this store, which was actually a pharmacy first, but the entire upstairs was dedicated to Legos, and they had a lot of them. We spoke with the sales people and asked if they had any Legos that we might not have back home, and were told that they were envious of our Lego selection in the U.S. We ended up buying a few Lego minifigs. The store also had a huge assortment of Playmobil sets, which I haven’t really seen since the 1980’s. Outside the store, they had a few 4-foot tall Playmobil people, and we took some pictures with them.
We walked back to the ship through a secure area that Heather was afraid to go in. The guard let us in though and I was able to get some nice footage of some seagulls and Ocean Princess, even though the sun was in a bad spot.
Heather and I went to the shops onboard and found a Matryoshka doll that we really liked, so we picked it up after dinner. I had lamb and barley soup as well as two orders of duck breast. We also caught a few minutes of Chilli Gold, an English vocalist who is on board for a few days.
Tomorrow, our tour doesn’t leave until 9AM, so we’re going to get a 7AM wake-up call and relax in our cabin.
It was great to sleep in all the way to 8AM. Today has been the first day that the weather hasn’t cooperated, but since we’ve got no plans to get off the ship, it hasn’t been a problem. We went to breakfast in the dining room, and then I fought the Internet while Heather went to the spa.
For lunch, I had some sweet chicken wings, pasta with meatballs, and a very good “Hot Pot Pie” which is a chicken pot pie but with beef stew in it. I’ve never had such a thing, and was very impressed with it.
After lunch, Heather took a nap while I finally won my fight with the Internet and was able to post a few days’ worth of write-ups. At 3PM, Hector the Magician was having an up-close performance in the Tahitian Lounge, and we all went and watched him again. Unfortunately, this is going to be his last performance, even though Heather wrote to the cruise director asking for another. Actually, Andrew the cruise director just called our room to tell us that Hector is getting off the ship and won’t be able to perform again unless a miracle happens.
Tonight is formal night, and we’re skipping it. I generally like formal nights, but having three on a 14 day cruise is a bit much. Instead, we’re going to have a pizza made and eat upstairs in the buffet area. After dinner, the ship is having the champagne waterfall before another production show called Cinematastic. Tomorrow starts another few days in a row of tours, so we’ll probably head to bed shortly after the show ends. As I write this, the sun has just come out for the first time today!
Our wakeup call came in at 5AM, but Heather was up long before that due to excitement. This was the day that she has been waiting for, and thusly the reason for this itinerary. When I saw the sun beginning to light up the sky, I set up the camera on the balcony and went upstairs to have some fruit and bacon. Our tour was meeting at 7:15 this morning, so we had to be ready. Thankfully, we went to bed promptly after the local folk show last night, so we were rested.
Immigration was much quicker than yesterday. We basically walked right through, bust still held off smiling at the officers. I nodded when asked a question. We boarded the bus and learned that we had two tour guides today, one being Marina, who we had yesterday. There was also a woman on our bus who really shouldn’t have been anywhere except her stateroom, as she had a horrible wet, phlegmy cough and was infecting the whole bus.
We drove for about 45 minutes along some very modern highways to our first stop, and the highlight for Heather: Catherine the Great’s Palace. It was a cold morning, and since I was so warm yesterday, I decided to leave my fleece on the bus. This was a bad idea. The palace wasn’t going to open for a good hour after we arrived, so we all walked around the beautiful gardens, me being the only one sans coat. Even when we got to the main gate at opening time, we were told that they were delaying it for another 15 minutes. Argh! Russia is cold. Our tour guides took us to a bathroom stop in another little gift shop. When I came out of the tiny little bathroom, I saw Heather looking at more Russian hats. She found two that she liked, and one of them looked very good on her. I ended up getting this one for her, and then took a few photos outside of Catherine’s Palace with her new hat. We entered the palace and walked around golden rooms that were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We were also taken through the Amber Room, which has been in the news lately, but is called the “Gold Room” there. It’s a room that’s completely made up of chunks of amber, all the way down to the picture frames. We weren’t allowed to photograph it, but it was the highlight of the palace. I may or may not have captured a small amount of video of it from the previous room…
We then boarded the bus and drove 45 minutes through some shady areas until we came to an ultra-modern shopping area. One building here was designed to look like a large shell, with a huge glass sphere depicting a pearl. We were heading a few blocks down from it to a “steakhouse” for lunch. We sat on couches and a similar band played for us, but this time, the male singer’s voice was so loud that it was like he was yelling at us in Russian. Today’s lunch consisted of mushroom soup, salad, and steak tips in a mushroom sauce and the same potatoes as yesterday. This restaurant seemed to replace dill with mushrooms. There were train trolleys running around this area, which were cool to watch.
We boarded our bus and headed towards Peterhof, which is another huge palace. It’s famous for being on the water and having many fountains. Elizabeth built Catherine’s Palace for Catherine, and Catherine built Peterhof for Peter. They wouldn’t let us photograph inside, but I was able to capture some nice video of the gardens. Inside was impressive, but I preferred Catherine’s Palace from earlier in the day. Both were spectacular though.
Back onboard, we skipped dinner for a Mexican buffet. This is because we were scheduled to leave St. Petersburg at 6PM, right in the middle of dinner, and I wanted to film us heading down the Neva River. I was able to capture over an hour, which will end up taking 30 seconds or so once I’m done with it. We’ve now exited the river and are heading back towards the Baltic Sea. The movie “Spy” is on the television, and we’re going to watch it because tomorrow is a sea day, hence no wake-up call!!
Last night we went to bed early, but not until after we saw a magician named Hector. He was really great. The Carbonara and Turkey Pot Pie were also excellent.
Heather woke up at 5:10 and I about 20 minutes later. I’ve been to many ports over the years, but I don’t think anywhere has been anything like entering St. Petersburg. We were navigating up the Neva River to our berth right in the middle of the city. This is yet another location that larger ships generally can’t get to, and they have to port some 15 miles away. Somebody told me that Royal Princess has been here before, so it may be possible. Turing that ship around in this river would be some feat! On one side, there were shipyards, and the other, a trash dump, with large apartment buildings in the background, some of which appeared to be smoking. Upon closer inspection, there were power plant towers amongst them, producing the smoke.
We had an early tour today, so we grabbed a quick bite and met Mom and Dad in the Cabaret Lounge. We noticed that the immigration barge was queuing quite a long line, so it took a while to get into Russia. We were told not to joke around or even smile at the officers, or they could arrest us. They really mean business here. Once on the other side, we boarded a bus and took a short drive over to the Winter Palace, otherwise known as the Hermitage.
I’ve been to many museums, and by far the most impressive has been the Vatican Museum in Italy. Without disrespecting the Vatican Museum, The Hermitage makes it look like a local art shop. This place is just amazing, and we saw works from Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and an entire room full of Rembrandts. There were many enormous vases made out of Blue Lapis and Malachite. A great part about this museum was that it was Monday, and thusly, it was closed to everyone except the ~50 or so passengers from our ship. I can’t speak highly enough about this fabulous museum.
We then drove back towards the ship and had lunch at a local restaurant, where I learned that Russian cuisine is not for me, but I’m somewhat picky. We arrived to plates of caviar, some sort of salad, a shot of vodka, a flute of champagne, and a bottle of water. I had some water and a piece of bread. We were then brought chicken dumpling soup with a huge amount of dill in it. I had a few dumplings. A small troupe serenaded us with local music, and we bought a CD from them. After that, we were given a plate with a sausage thing on it and some mashed potatoes (with a huge helping of dill in the middle). This was pretty good. Dessert was the best… baklava. It was delicious.
After lunch, we drove around the city for an hour or so until we stopped at a small shop to use bathrooms and look at Matryoshka dolls, etc. A little backstory here… Back in 2010 when we visited Alaska, we went into a small shop in Skagway and Heather saw some Russian fur hats that she liked. She looked really good in them, but they were upwards of $1000, and we ended up getting a nice totem pole instead. I remember telling her that if we ever travelled to Russia, I’d get her one… great thinking Jay.
After our little pit stop, we headed in the direction of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. This cathedral is known to have the largest golden dome in the world, and many beautiful mosaic pieces of art. It’s made out of marble throughout, and really is a nice-looking church. Before entering, Dad and I noticed that there were people walking around the dome way up high, but our tour guide Marina told us that this was not part of the tour. Bummer, as it would have been a great place to take photos.
We then took a very short ride back to the ship, and thankfully so, as we were exhausted, and have another very long tour tomorrow. Since we’re staying in St. Petersburg overnight, some local folk singers and dancers came on board and gave us a wonderful performance.
This morning was very cold. Neither of us went swimming, but when I say that, I guess I haven’t gone swimming yet this trip, so it doesn’t have the same effect as if I had. We had to change our clocks again last night. We’re now 7 hours ahead of Boston. I awoke to the wake-up call and we went upstairs for buffet breakfast. I had cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, and #bacon. We were still pulling into the port, so we were able to watch as it happened.
We had an early tour today, but not as early as the two 9 hour ones coming up in the next few days! Many people on the ship decided against going on tours, so the bus was pretty light. Our tour guide was no joke, and she made this place all the better. Estonia is independent now, but was part of the U.S.S.R. in the past, and you can tell by the people and the architecture. I mentioned to Heather that parts of this city would make a great backdrop for Call of Duty. Other parts are very beautiful. Our first stop was to the Upper Old City. We saw a Russian Orthodox Church, and were allowed to enter. They were in the middle of mass, and it was surreal. They had incense burning and were singing. We picked up a magnet in their gift store. On the way out, a few beggars were there. Heather gave one of them a few dollars.
We continued our walking tour and ended up at a lookout where we could see Ocean Princess. There were also some gift shops where we looked at some amber jewelry. A Christmas present was purchased, but that’s all I can say about it now. There was a man playing a guitar-like instrument and selling CDs. After considering them last trip in Taormina and not buying them, then wanting to use the music in the MTA 2013 movie, I told myself that I’d buy any CDs like this, so we bought two of them. I hope they work out.
We walked back to our bus and headed towards Kadriog Palace. Believe it or not, just like in Stockholm yesterday, there was a marathon taking place in Tallinn today. The organizers let our bus through the gates whenever we got close, and we weren’t really impacted at all. It actually made it a bit more interesting. We got off the bus and walked through a very fragrant park with flowers everywhere. The palace has been turned into an art museum. We walked around the museum in about an hour, and then visited the gardens in the back before returning to our bus. This was a nice, four-hour tour and we all enjoyed it.
We were back onboard by 1:15. Heather and I went up to get cheeseburgers, and the normal cheeseburger guy wasn’t there. Instead, the man taking his place was cooking burgers so quickly that they were all raw. We had taken our burgers down to the lounge before noticing this, so I returned to him to make us some new ones, only to notice that other people were there with the same problem. I headed back to Heather with cooked cheeseburgers, and we watched the movie Inside Out. It was pretty good, though Heather and Mom didn’t really care for it. They are all napping now while I write this up. We looked at the dinner menu and I saw both Carbonara and Turkey Pot Pie on the menu, so this is going to be a heavy one!!