From Russia with Love

Woke up at 6.00am to go to the loo, and saw that we were already docked in Petropavlovsk.  I could see snow-capped peaks in the background, and some other vessels and cranes docked nearby.  As our excursion was not until 9.45am, I went back to bed for another couple of hours’ sleep, getting up at eight o’clock.

We went out on our balcony to see what the weather was going to be like, as I thought it would be cold and I was beginning to think I hadn’t brought enough warm clothing.  I therefore dressed in my sweatshirt and fleece-lined denim jacket, and packed a cagoule and woolly hat if needed, as well as wearing trainers instead of my usual holiday footwear of flip-flops.

Before disembarking the Quest we had to go to the Cabaret Lounge with our passports and excursion tickets to get a one-day visitor’s tour visa.  With a small ship like the Quest the queues were not a problem, and we wondered how it would be on these behemoths of 6000+ passengers; no doubt, by the time they’d have everyone processed, it would almost be time for the ship to leave again.  One of the many reasons we prefer smaller, ‘proper’ ships.  😊

Once we’d been ‘done’ we had to disembark the ship and make our way to our tour group.  As we reached the bottom of the gang-plank another couple of security guys in uniforms and peaked caps inspected our passports and scrutinised our faces to make sure they matched the photos.

We were allocated bus number 2 and had to go through immigration and passport control yet again.  They take it seriously, do these Russians.  They checked our passports and our shipboard passes, put an official stamp on our passports, and finally we were through, where we made our way to our bus.  Our driver was called Yuri and our guide Sergei, and our first stop was to the local museum, which gave a fascinating insight into the history and lore of the people of the Kamchatka peninsula, showing the original indigenous peoples and their hunting and fishing and how they lived, as well as the animals that are native to the peninsula.  The museum tour took rather longer than expected, because the museum staff, who were dressed in traditional costumes, spoke in Russian, and our guide Sergei had to translate everything.

After the museum we got back on the bus and had a scenic ride along the coastline, with its snow-capped rugged mountains in the background. The landscape was stark against a flawless blue sky; yes, I’m pleased to say the weather, why still being crisp was sunny and fresh and much warmer than we’d anticipated.

Presently the bus pulled up at a fantastic three-spired Russian Orthodox church which had a white façade decorated in blue and gold, and had a pair of towers and spires, one off to each side of the church.

Inside, the decoration was breath-taking.  The walls were adorned with paintings containing gold leaf and, above a tremendous chandelier, the ceiling was painted with scenes of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  It really was something to see.

Back on the bus, our next stop was to a market and shopping centre.  We walked through a vegetable and fruit market then into an amazing fish market; a lot of the fish was dried or smoked and the smell coming off them was really appetising (if you like kippers or smoked salmon or mackerel).  There were also jars of caviar and other delicacies, cheeses, meats and other foodstuffs.

There were also shops and stalls selling handbags and jewellery, shoes and scarves and accessories.  We also found a shop selling typical Russian souvenirs such as the matryoschka dolls, handcrafted leather and wooden goods, and the ubiquitous furry Cossack hats and mitts.  We bought one of the Russian dolls as a gift for the lady who is looking after our cat while we’re away.

After the visit to the market we all boarded the bus once more for the return journey to the Quest, arriving back about 1.00pm, just in nice time for lunch.  As the Russian security bloke at the bottom of the gang-plank scrutinised our passports once more, he called out “nice shoes!” to me, referring to my colourful Irregular Choice trainers.  In fact, several people in the queue to get back on board commented on my shoes; I’m used to it when wearing IC shoes as they are so very different.  😊

The sun was on our side of the ship by now, so after lunch we were finally able to sit out on our balcony, enjoying a drink with the sun warm on our faces.

We then enjoyed a power nap (once again, to make up for the lost hour) before going along to The Den to take part in the music trivia quiz, which was called ‘Decades’ and consisted of 20 questions, four each from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.  We scored 17/20 as my knowledge of the 1950s and 1990s music is nowhere near as good as the other decades.  We were the joint top score (one other team had 17) but the quiz host was feeling generous and said both teams could have two stamps on their prize passports.  😊

We partook of a couple more drinks and whiled away the time, talking and laughing with our fellow passengers, before returning to 6009 to get washed and changed for dinner.  We decided to go up to the Windows Café where they were holding a Russian buffet, so we enjoyed traditional borscht, which is beetroot soup, as well as other fish and meat dishes and vegetable dishes in which beetroot figured prominently.

After dinner we bagged our seats in the Cabaret Lounge for tonight’s show, which featured the Azamara Singers and Dancers doing an excellent show called “A Million Dreams”.  We certainly cannot fault the entertainment on this cruise at all.

Then we finished off the evening up in the Living Room.  Even though it was now after 9.00pm, it was still daylight outside, and we sat in seats right at the windows at the front, where we could see the bow of the Azamara Quest as, by now, she had put to see once more.  In fact, we weren’t due to reach land now until Tuesday, four days’ time (yes, four days’ time).  😊

At 10.00pm, the Riviera Sounds trio struck up with their Latin rhythm as their lead singer called us all onto the dance floor to learn the merengue.  This dance was quite easy, as you’re really just marching; one foot then the other, back and forth, side to side.  They put on the music and the dancing was fairly brisk; I was quite out of breath by the time we’d finished.

It was after midnight when we returned to stateroom 6009, and once again we had to put our clocks and watches one hour forward.  By now I’d lost count of how many hours we were ahead of British time, 11 or 12 – I don’t know.  All I do know is that we slept very well once again, and we had three days at sea, crossing the Pacific, to look forward to.

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