"The notion that cruise ships are intrinsically less harmful to the environment than aircraft is wrong: your holiday afloat comes with a hefty carbon footprint." True. And what is usually completely ignored are the effects of highly suphurous, but cheap (which is why it's used) bunker fuel: acid rain, which has been totally eclipsed by the carbon footprint concerns. We were taken aback to find that some ships are dual-fuel, with low-sulphur fuel being used where the local laws demand it, but not elsewhere. Another sad thing is that much of the food is not locally sourced, so no local delicacies on board ship, alas. You have to explore on-shore for those.
Travelling as a group has its downsides, but the 22 coachloads of us just disappeared in a city the size of Cairo, and we saw a tremendous amount of St Petersburg, with no queuing to get into the Hermitage, etc, and most importantly no visa hassles when travelling as part of a group.
On some cruises, you can stay overnight on-shore: we did in a fantastic hotel in Luxor (we'd love to go back). If you want to see the fjords, there's no better way (and it's also a cheap way of seeing Norway, which otherwise is distinctly expensive). And it's lovely to meet a whole range of nationalities on cruises from lines like MSC.
No-fly cruises from places like Dover are absolutely wonderful, with no airport hassles, luggage taken off you, and delivered to your cabin. It just surprises me that no cruise line has realised that there are high-speed trains down to the places like Nice, from where you can cruise the Mediterranean.
Whether you condone it or not, the attentive service stems from the fact that most of the cruise ship serving staff rely on tips. These staff get very worried when they have cabins or tables of Brits because many Brits do not understand this and believe they get a salary. The tips are essential for the staff, otherwise they are basically working for nothing.
Not tipping at least the recommended amounts at the end of the cruise is like walking out of a restaurant without paying.
Visiting the Baltic
The train service between St Petersburg and Tallinn was dropped a few years ago, although there is still a daily service between Tallinn and Moscow. There are now flights for those who put speed before cost, but I suggest the bus. Several direct services link Tallinn and St Petersburg every day, but more fun is to break the journey in Narva, either for a few hours or overnight, as hotel rates are much lower there than in St Petersburg. With the time change at the border, it is possible to have a full day in St Petersburg, take a bus to Narva and then continue to Tallinn the next day.
Narva is an odd place; everybody speaks Russian there, although signs are only in Estonian and in English. The river that divides it from Russia seems far too gentle, and too narrow, to be a serious EU/Nato frontier, but that is what it has become.
I haven't heard of plans to revive the train, despite the increasing number of Russians taking holidays in Estonia. Many come on coach packages, some on the regular bus and others by car so perhaps the train remains doomed.
The Burgess Hill Triangle
Your train that was running too late to have time to stop at Burgess Hill isn't much of a story – it's the sort of thing commuters put up with every day. If you had a bicycle, why didn't you use it to cycle the four miles? You'd have saved £15 and about 45 minutes.
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