by Hallmark Travel customer Brenda Wilkinson

“Give me three good reasons for going on a cruise!” said my sceptical husband when it was suggested that we might accompany my parents on the MS Black Watch and cruise around the Baltic. Well, we had always hoped to visit Talinn in Estonia and St Petersburg in Russia, but as a very active couple in our early fifties, we had never contemplated going on a cruise. Charmaine at Hallmark Travel assured us the Fred Olsen Cruise Line was the best to travel with and details of the shore visits were very tempting, so we decided to go. Tuesday 12 June arrived and we set off for Dover. The boarding arrangements were superb, we arrived at the Western Docks and gradually made our way to the front of the queue where we were helped to unload our suitcases and directed to the spacious lounge. After just enough time to have a cup of coffee and return a last minute call from one of our sons, we were asked to embark and strolled onto the ship–that was it! A short while later, our cases arrived; we unpacked and settled into our home for the next 13 nights.

We soon came to appreciate the joy of getting changed for dinner in, for example, the medieval city of Helsingborg in Sweden, having dinner as we set sail and waking up the next morning as we cruised up the fjord to Oslo in Norway. Wonderful, no packing, no humping cases, just a quiet night’s sleep on a mill-pond of sea and off to sample the delights of yet another Baltic city.

While at sea, we learnt about the Hanseatic League which was established in the 13th century for “the protection and enhancement of mutual commercial interests” of communities of merchants in the Baltic area, Low Countries, northern Germany and England. We came to realise that most of our stops were in the ports that belonged to the League at the height of its power all those centuries ago. So what’s new about the EU?

The special focus of the cruise was photography, so we attended lectures given by the professional photographer Clive Minnitt, who made us aware of the subtle effects of lighting, the need for patience to achieve good composition…and the importance of “a little bit of interest in the foreground”.

We soon realised that there were three very good reasons for going on a cruise–the friendly and interesting company, the amazing sights that you can see in such a short space of time and the blissful ease of travel. You may, however, prefer the three reasons that Gordon suggested for joining me on the trip–to save me paying a single room supplement, to push my mother up steep slopes in her wheelchair…and to provide “a little bit of interest in the foreground”! We can thoroughly recommend the experience.

If you’d like to know more email me: charmaine@hallmarktravel.com

Meet me in the gallery!