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Day 8, Sunday 29 June, St Petersberg

Quarter to eight this morning, we are beginning to recover.   The weather is not so sunny today; we picked the right day for the canal trip.   We were last out at breakfast, again very attentive service.   Carol used the morning to catch up with her photographs.   Today is the St Petersburg marathon and to avoid problems they had re-arranged many of the excursions to happen on the first rather than the second day.   Because of that, and that many people would be getting back late, they had arranged anytime dining last night; so now we know.

Just before lunch the marathon runners started to come past, right opposite where we were docked, so no coaches could get in or out during that time.   While we were at lunch we saw the last runner come through, followed by the pick up coach, ready to pick up the drop outs.   We had a substantial lunch in the buffet today so that we can have a snack in our room and not miss the sail away.   Princess do not do the commentaries as they do on HAL, but otherwise we have found the experience better; better docking, more attentive service in the restaurants, better rewards (500 free Internet minutes each for platinum on a 28 day cruise), on board folkloric show and better mustard drill.   Now that HAL have introduced better excursion leaving organisation, they perhaps just have the edge there, if they decided the experiment was succesful and have kept it.

The sailaway should have been a big event for us this year.   We so enjoyed the sail past the flood defence and the fortress island last year, but we only caught the tail end of it after dinner, and Carol did not have her camera with her.   This year we were all prepared.   First we went up to the steak house at 5:00 for canapes (free) and cocktail of the day (not free).   Another perk of platinum.   That would keep us going until after Krondstadt.   We watched them pull up and stow the gangplank from deck 5.   Such a lot of effort seeing it is never used.   Then we twigged, it is part of the emergency equipment.   If there is a fire on board in port, and it is decided to evacuate then the gangplank will be opened and we would be evacuated via that from our muster stations.   Obviously the lifeboats are not launched when docked.

We settled down on our balcony and it started to spit with rain.   It was interesting passing through all the docks, dockyards and factories on the way out to the Gulf of Finland, (it reminded me very much of when I worked in Dagenham at the Ford plant),  but decent photography was out, though we did the best we could in the rain.   Just after we left our berth we passed the museum submarine S189.   We would have liked to visit this, but it would require a visa and we found the Pampanito in San Francisco hard enough, and we were fitter then.   Kronstadt was still interesting, despite the weather, it would be worth a visit to see the Cathedral up close and see around the naval shipyard and the old Napoleonic defenses.   You can see me looking out for the flood barrier, which is just coming up.   It is difficult to get a decent picture of the barrier itself as it is so close that it whizzes past before you have time to compose a shot.   Some serious planning with a detailed map would be needed.   My map only gives the sailaway as far as Krondstadt Island, the full track to Helsinki will appear at the start of day 9.

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