Trip Start Aug 26, 2010
6Trip End Jun 24, 2011
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Where I stayed
I researched the companies that provided this service and found that a 4-person room with no window was going to cost over 300 euros,so I got turned off from the idea. Ian managed to find a cruise for 250 euros. When would I ever get the chance to go to Finland again? So, I took him up on it and agreed to join him and two Norwegians, Hakon and Ane, on the voyage. I actually got my multi-entry visa the day before it expired, so I was ready to leave Russia anyway.
On the day of the cruise, we met up at around 5:00pm to make our way to the port
The entry onto the boat went seamlessly, that is, until I made it to passport control. I had left my migration card, something all foreigners get when they first enter the country, in my room. The controller did some typing and made some phone calls, then gave me a new card to fill out. I was the last person to go through the passport control. I made my way to where passengers board, and they were pulling the stairs away from the boat! I ran to it and went up the stairs, having to jump over a small gap to make it onto the ship. I was in.
The boat was like any other cruise ship in the U.S. It had over-priced restaurants, bars, a duty-free store with very cheap liquor you could drink on the boat, and of course the corny live music in the tail of the ship. The most interesting thing about the boat was the on board club night club called XXXX. It had a wine/cigar bar on one side, and a small dance room on the other.
The ship left at 7:00pm and arrived in Helsinki at 9:00am
Priority number one was to find coffee and food, so we went to a small cafe. I ordered a 3 euro coffee and a sandwich from the barista who spoke perfect English, even catching myself trying to speak Russian from habit. After warming up and finishing our lunch, we wandered into the city with no real plans. The city is actually very small, so as we walked along it, we saw virtually all of the major churches and buildings in the city. There was even one ancient church made of stone with an iron dome. After just simply walking and taking pictures, we made our way to an outdoor market with everything from furs to vegetables for sale. Everything was very high quality and I bought a pair of gloves with fur lining.
We ate at a Chinese restaurant and had the only good Chinese cuisine I've eaten since leaving home. Once we left, we made our way to a few more churches and headed back to the boat. I must have walked back and forth over the whole city at least twice in a few hours, so a day is actually plenty of time to see everything
The boat was very low key on the way back, and I actually did not stay up too late on the voyage back. We met some crazy Finnish guys who loved to talk and we watched some very bad musicians play cheesy music to cheesy background music. We made it back to St. Petersburg at around 9:00am on Sunday and it was snowing lightly. I managed to make it through passport control with no new migration card (that I should have gotten on the boat). This would later give me issues when I decided to leave Russia again. Overall, I liked the city, but it was small and could be pretty boring to a lot of people. Everything was clean and it was a much needed vacation from Russia. I was actually not excited to return to Russia, but here I am again.