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Published: October 1st 2017
Geo: 43.757, 39.9078
Well, today was an interesting day. Some elements were good. Some elements were crap. On the whole, not a bad day. But not quite what was expected.
We had booked a shore excursion through the ship today, as, otherwise, we would have had to procure Russian visas before our departure (and pay the exorbitant fee). We had brekkies delivered to the room, then went down to the showroom at 8am to get our stickers for the tour. It was disorganized, but we got tickets for tour number four. Then we waited. Because of the high swell (and this not being usually a tender port), there were delays departing. It was nearly 10:30am before we reached shore and the bus. The ride in to the dock was not too bad, and we had no difficulty in immigration.
Most of the day was spent on the bus. We were given a brief tour of town (well, stuff was pointed out to us as we drove out of town). The tour guide was fine but a little bit the master of the obvious: "To the left is construction of new hotel. To the right is construction of new hotel. To the left is mountain with green and yellow trees. To the right is mountain with snow." We did see where Stalin's villa is hidden (though not Stalin's villa), which would not have otherwise been obvious. But that's about it.
The main feature was the Olympic Village, which I am glad we saw. In particular, it will be interesting to see if the construction of roads, trains, hotels, village, etc. finishes on time for the February games. It seems like there is a lot of work to do, but we were there on a Sunday, and the work sites were all in business (which probably indicates they are behind schedule). The valley in which the resort sits is very beautiful, with steep mountains on both sides. The weather was overcast, so we could not see the peaks, but we got a good sense of the topography.
We were taken to one of the modern hotels for tea (well, coffee and a croissant). Again, there was a lot of disorganization. First, we were told that we needed to be done and back in the lobby by 1pm. So, I went out with 15 minutes to walk around and hoofed it up and down the river. Returning to the hotel at 1pm, we encountered a couple of people from our tour who said they were told to be on the bus at 1pm. So we found the ship's guide (not the tour guide), and were told we needed to be back at the lobby at 1:15pm. So we went for another walk. At 1:15pm we returned to the hotel, and no one was there. Slowly, people started drifting in. The bus showed up 10 minutes later.
Our last stop was the ski resort, where there was a shop selling very overpriced Olympic goods, of the ugly variety. We passed and just walked around the hall. It was boring, but, fortunately, it lasted only 10 minutes or so.
Then back to the bus and the return drive to the port. The guide repeated all of his previous observations: “A mountain with snow. A new train station. Construction of new hotels.”
And then we waited for the tender. At first, no one told us what was happening, so we just stood in the cold wind and admired Abramavich's yacht (his small one) parked at the port. Then, after about 20 minutes, we were told that the tender driver was new, and that they were waiting for an experienced driver to drive the tender (given the high-swell conditions). In the interest of safety, we thought that was a fine idea. It was another 10 minutes or so of standing in the wind before we were allowed to board. The line behind us, in the meanwhile, had become very long. The tender ride out was bumpy but okay … however, once we reached the general area of the ship, the swells were too high and they could not off-load the passengers. So we bobbed up and down in the water for 30-45 minutes (I wasn't counting). Several people around us became quite seasick. I wasn't feeling ill, although the sound and smell of others retching was not going to keep my happy for long. The Prinsendam, meanwhile, pulled up its anchor and then positions itself with its engines to create a lee. After the previous tender unloaded, we were allowed off (at 5:25pm). Never have so many been so grateful to get back on board a ship. (Probably not true, but we'll pretend).
Having not eaten (except a small croissant) since 7:30am, we immediately went upstairs for a salad. Then we took cranberry juice back to our room for a cocktail. At 6:30pm, tenders were still arriving, with the last of the tour groups. Yikes – but they had a long wait before they were back on board. It was 7pm before we were steaming our way along the coast, north.
We had 7:45pm dinner reservations. Neither of us thought our food was particularly good tonight. We also were offered a series of bad tables … by the station, by the door, under a spotlight, before we found one that worked. Not the best dinner. After dinner, we went up to the Crow's Nest for a drink and to listen to the piano man play Rat Pack tunes. I realized how many of the Rat Pack tunes I find annoying, but it was still fine. The show started at 10pm, so we went down to the showroom. It was only one-third full. The performer played a variety of tunes (from the 1970s, a Welsh ballad from the 1880s, Duke Ellington) on saxophone. His opening and closing numbers each included very long sustained notes, and I kept wondering if he had introduced circular breathing a la didgeridoo into his playing. Maybe he's just a blow hard. He also played clarinet, flute, and something called the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument). The latter plays very high and very low notes, can make a wide variety of wind instruments sounds, is electronic, requires batteries, but still somehow appears to be wind-powered. Very odd. I'm not sure it was a great benefit, but it was different. Still, the performance was quite pleasant and a good way to spent 45 minutes before bedtime.
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