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Published: June 12th 2017
Geo: 54.3227, 10.1359
Again our GPS was trustworthy and guided us directly downtown toward our ship. Despite all our time spent in Germany, neither of us had even been to Kiel before. We knew from reading that it was all but obliterated in WWII, so there was little to see in the way of historic sights. It is now a major shipping channel for Germany, with lots of cruise and ferry traffic. Our ship -- the MSC Orchestra -- was departing from the pier directly opposite the Old Town area, and in fact our pre-arranged parking was in the Altstadt garage. We were able to drive directly up to the terminal and ship, deposit our bags, and then drive the 500 meters or so to the garage. Free of our luggage and with plenty of time before our 5:00pm "all aboard time," we walked through the old city area (which really wasn't extensive at all) and grabbed a quick lunch from a bakery.
The sun was out and the temps, now in the low 60's, felt great as we walked back to the terminal, where check-in was painless and quick. What we already knew, however, regarding our fellow passengers, was proven from
the moment we reached the terminal. Namely, that we were likely to be the only Americans on board. The line was filled with Germans and Italians, who represented a clear majority of those on board. Other notable contingents were present from Russia, France, Spain, and Australia. There may have been some Canadians, but we never met any, and as it was, aside from one other family from New York -- first-generation Taiwanese-Americans -- we were the only U.S. citizens on board.
The ship was basically a smaller version of the new ship we'd sailed with MSC over Christmas 2013 -- the Divina. As such, the layout was familiar and it was fairly painless to find our way around onboard. It was as though we were on the Divina with one section cut out and removed. We estimate there were about 2,800 passengers.
Given how far out we'd booked this sailing, we pretty much had our choice of cabin and had selected a rear-facing cabin in the center of the aft section. This gave us a larger balcony, with 180-degree views out the back, allowing us to see pretty much everything from our cabin. We'd learned from our trip to Alaska that while
we had a great view of one side, if we were passing anything interesting on the other side of the ship, you'd have to race upstairs and cross the ship to get a look. In anticipation of passing through the fjords, we thought the aft cabin was going to maximize our viewing potential...which it did.
Our cabin was larger than expected, which was of course a pleasant surprise. Anna had a large trundle bed, right at the balcony, which gave her a great view from bed. Being so far north, it never got completely dark at night and, luckily, the black-out curtains kept the VERY EARLY morning sun from coming in every day.
We all managed to stay awake during the day, and even made it through our dinner, which was fixed each night at 6:00pm. We were assigned our own table for three, which was nice. Our waiter was from Romania and his assistant from Ukraine -- we never did ask him which part of Ukraine, but we often wondered what he thought of all the Russians on the ship. While Anna and I had grand visions of staying up and attending the 9:15pm show in the main theater, once we
got back from dinner we all collectively hit the wall and were in bed asleep before 9:00pm.
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