Finnish, Another Blog

April 7, 2008 -

News From Steph

Blue 1 flight 8450 left Copenhagen International Airport with me and about 30 other people on it at 8:05 am. For those of you not familiar with this airline it’s like Easy Jet except everything is …………. yep …………blue. The “1” refers to the number of cabin crew we had on board or it could have referred to the breakfast choices which was “yes, or no.” Anyway, we arrived in Finland at 9:30 am however Finland is another hour ahead from Denmark and after two days of extensive sight seeing and meetings that was the last thing I needed …………… well ………….. except hemorrhoids which after three days on a bus I am sure I am due a visit from.

Apart from our group the only people on the plane were a group of Turkish men……….having spent the last season in Istanbul Turkish men are now easy to spot and this group of 20 something were all wearing shirts with a Turkish company logo on it. They spent the entire flight talking louder than a Motorhead concert and finally the one stewardess finally came over and asked them to be quiet……………they completely ignored her so she gave up and went back to the front of the plane and completely ignored us and them the entire flight………….it was strange …….

We expected to pay for breakfast but 7 euros for a egg sandwich was outrageous…………..we all thought so anyway however my Turkish friends were obviously all millionaires as they snapped them up as if it was a Caviar and Diamond sandwich that Miss Blue 1 was offering.

We landed on time and as we disembarked we were welcomed by a grey unforgiving sky and lashings of rain. It was about 2 degrees colder than Denmark at about 6 degrees although it felt colder as airports always do.

We followed our new Turkish friends to Immigration where we all expected to be greeted by the usual non smiling un friendly officers waiting to stamp our passports………………but this was Finland…………..and they had employed the Sugababes …………………….. each booth contained a stunning, gorgeous Immigration Officer and such was their beauty I even considered pretending I had lost my passport so that I could spend more time in their company.

However, they were more interested in one of the Turkish chaps who for some reason couldn’t wait until we were out of the airport and had lit a cigarette which he was puffing away on. This angered Sugarbabe number one who came out of her booth and wiggled over to Hassan and let him know that he couldn’t smoke……………..he looked quite upset and being a man and being Turkish he obviously thought just for a second that he could ignore her ……….however she was as tough as she was pretty and her ice blue eyes met his and eventually Hassan took one last puff and stubbed Mr. Marlboro out on the bottom of his shoe and dropped it on the floor.

I will never know if the Sugababe Immigration Officer let him in her country after that as we were on our way to baggage claim to utter the travelers prayer …………”Please let my suitcase be here”………..it was.

We were met at the airport by Kai and Kim who are father and son and who own the tour company we will be using this season and we hopped onto the bus and the touring began.

I had been to Finland before of course. Their shipyards built our Fantasy and Spirit class ships and a wonderful job they did as well. Finnish people are very introverted, think before they speak and have a unique sense of humour. For some reason Finland has the highest rate of suicide in the whole of Europe……………I have no idea why this is except in the winter they have around 4 hours of daylight and it’s colder than Naomi Campbell’s personality.

However, it is a beautiful place and after just a few minutes after leaving the airport we were in the middle of pine forests and countryside that takes your breath away. We spent much of the day in people’s homes…………….I don’t mean we were on a robbing spree but visiting families country homes who will be opening their doors to our guests so they can see how Finnish people live.

These tours are fantastic and I have to say they have been the highlight so far of this trip. We visited two homes today that have been in the family for 4 and 5 generations. The food, the ambience and the countryside these homes are built around are incomparable and if you wanted to get away from the hustle of big city life then Finland has a whole selection of peaceful and tranquil places that our tours will visit.

The day also included a visit to a steam engine that will transport guests across the country, a manor house serving the best chicken I have ever had and a home by a lake that was frozen ………….. and………….. well …………I will let today’s photos tell the story.

John emailing PA 007 on his raspberry


More about Finland later, but first…………………………. the news.

Let’s start with big congratulations to our Italian sister Costa Cruise Lines who just won a very special award or two……..bravo Costa, we are very proud of you, www.costacruise.com.

Yesterday, I mentioned that one of the world’s most respected financial press groups Barons had interviewed Carnival’s Chairman Micky Arison and had henceforth projected a bright and shining future for Carnival Corporation.

I know many of you tried to read the interview which I now understand you have to be a subscriber to www.barons.com to read…………….so, let me paste on a few segments and you can read for yourself why Carnival shareholders are beaming from ear to ear.

“In general, the cruise industry is less cyclical than is commonly assumed. With customer satisfaction high, more and more cruise-goers are repeat customers, and they tend to be more profitable as they pay up for nicer cabins and other amenities. Carnival’s chief rival, Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL), recently reiterated its first-quarter and full-year guidance, citing industry resiliency despite pressures from the North American economy. While both stocks are attractive, Carnival is generally considered to have the better brands, a stronger international business, more-efficient operations and a stronger balance sheet. Carnival also has far greater market share — 50% to Royal Caribbean’s 25%.

Carnival has the most international exposure of any cruise company, and its brands are among the most recognizable in the world, ranging from those with mass-market appeal such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises and Costa to premium brands such as Holland America Line and luxury lines such as Cunard, which operates such storied ships as the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth 2, and the Yachts of Seabourn.

Demographics are in Carnival’s favor, too, as droves of baby boomers are reaching retirement age and increasingly choosing convenient, affordable cruises as a way to travel.”

There is still no news on the Godmother for the Carnival Splendor. I think back to the beginning of this thingies history and my desire to have Angelina Jolie…………then Catherine Zeta Jones……….and now I have no clue who is in the running…………….PA 007 has their super spy ear to the ground and we will let you all know as soon as we hear anything at all ……………..it is rather quiet though and therefore I have asked my Mum to get a speech ready.

I am very honoured to tell you that as of today we have zipped past the 1.8 million readers and should be at 1.9 by the end of next week. The blog is featured on Holland America’s Eurodam Blog, The Emerald Princess’s home page, Carnival Corporation’s web site and if I could just get it listed on www.studsoftheworld.co.uk……….then I would be a happy man.

Talking of happy men, let’s switch over to my mate Bubba on his Alaska adventure.

Alaska Fam 2008 – Skagway day 2

More adventure than you can shake a stick at….

I didn’t know when I got up this morning that today would be a big day of firsts for me. But by the end of the day I would have a feeling of accomplishment, and yet also glad that I live where there is no snow. I know some of you readers have commented about the snow and the cold in the pics that I have posted, but I must stress the weather is not like that during the summer months in southeast Alaska. Believe it or not it can actually get down right hot up here….but you could have fooled me with that today.

The majority of today we were exploring the tours that go up into the Yukon Territories of Canada. We offer several. Of course the Yukon is where they found the gold in 1898 which started the rush. To get from Skagway up into the Yukon back then, there were two trails…The Chilkoot Trail & the White Pass. Today we went through the White Pass. At the summit of the White Pass was over 3500 feet above Sea Level.

There are trains that take you up the White Pass, or busses, or jeeps, you can pick your poison. Some of the excursions actually offer a combination of some. But you will see that whether you drive or ride the rails you will see some amazing scenery.

Leaving Skagway this morning we boarded a bus that was going to take us up. In the initial drive out of town, it was damp, cloudy and very overcast, but as we headed up the pass the scenery turned from wet, to snow & overcast, and then after we got over the summit, the weather changed completely. The sun was out & a beautiful blue sky and snow as far as the eye could see.

The boarder between Canada & the US in this area is pretty uninhabitable, so they actually have the check points between the US & Canada about 27 miles apart from each other. On this part of the drive when the weather cleared, Ross our Sr. Shore Ex shouted this would be a good place for us to stop and take and picture and right he was. Our Driver Shandra who is one of the transportation managers for Discover Alaska Tours pulled us over to the side where there were many trailers and lots of people enjoying the snow with the snow machines.

I know that it’s hard to see, but those are mountains in the background and the sun was just beaming down. You had to have your sunglasses on in order to see with all that white and light. Being a Florida boy I got out and waddled around like a duck does when it’s out of water cause I didn’t really know how to walk in this. Within a few minutes we were all kids and throwing snowballs and having a good time. But this was to be a short stop so we headed back to the bus. This was my first, first of the day. But little did I know my second first was coming so quickly.

Once we were all back on board, we started to go, but we didn’t go. We had only been sitting there for about 10 minutes during the stop, but I guess that was enough to get us stuck in very little snow that was on the side of the road. So everyone’s putting in their two cents on how to get us unstuck, and I am like…”don’t look at me, if it was mud I could help you but I don’t know how to get out of this.” They tried some gravel & a block of wood. But they had to break out the big guns…

Yes, my first experience with tire chains…..and after a bit of work we finally got the bus free. We all agreed no more unscheduled photos stops for the rest of the day. We made it to the Canadian Customs House which is in a town called Fraser. It’s funny that it’s a town cause the only people who live there are the people who work at the Customs house. So there’s like 4 buildings. I think you probably pissed someone off if you got scheduled to work there.

So the Canadian Immigration comes on board the bus, ask us a few questions and then we continued on our way.

Now Fraser is actually in British Columbia. We had to continue further up the road and then we came into the Yukon. The scenery is breath taking.

The mascot of the bus posing with his prize catch.

James enjoying a little siesta on the side of the road with his teddy.

The trip up into the Yukon will also continue in my first as this is my first trip into the Yukon, prior to that I had only visited Vancouver, B.C. This drive was right up there in one of the most pretty streches of highway I have ever seen.

Right up there with the PCH or U.S. 1.

Well worth the trip.

So we headed back towards the U.S. boarder and in the area between the U.S. and Canadian checkpoints we met another one of our fantastic tour operators named “hightower” as you can guess he is one tall man.

He runs a lot of the hiking tours that we offer and skaaaaggggway as well as some of the kayaking tours. And today he thought it would be fun to take the gang Snow Shoeing.

So I get geared up…

Now I REAAALLY look like that duck out of the water.

And we begin the journey…

As you can see I quickly feel behind the pace. The sensation was much like being weighted down with extra gravity on my legs.

It sure did feel like I was on another planet. The other played around in the snow riding toboggans & kayaks while I tried to find the breath that I lost….must get to the gym when I get back on the ship..i kept thinking to myself. Fun was had by all and nobody hurt themselves much….

After heading back to town and quick shower we had a few more meeting for the day.

Next we headed down to the train depot by the pier to meet up with the folks who run the rail road operation for the White Pass & Yukon Route. This is probably one of our most popular tours as so many people want to ride a historic train across historic route…I mean, didn’t we all want to be hobo’s when we were kids?

I know loved trains when I was young. My family still house the Lionel set up in the attic. Well we went over all the many options of the trains with Vicki…

She showed us the map of the rail line and where all the different tour go. In fact the WP&YR is celebrating their 110th anniversary this year. So when you come to Skagway be sure to check out the train cause it’s like riding through history.

To wrap up the night we went to Skagway’s favorite watering hole…the very Historic Red Onion Saloon.

Here we were met with the properitors of the Saloon and Brothel. Yes this was an actual brothel during the days of the gold rush. Part of Skagway’s famous Red Light District. The Red Onion and Brothel are part of a few different excursions, but even if you are not on a tour, you can still pop in and feel like you are part of the old gold rush days.

Tomorrow we’ll be meeting with the Madame’s of the brother to go on the Ghosts and Goodtime Girls tour which is a great walking tour of Skagway’s Haunted history. We are all looking forward to that as I do love a good ghost story. We had a wonderful meal with our hosts and then the night turned to fun and games as we played Nintendo Wii in the evening. My final first of the day. I was much better at this then I was at the snow shoeing. But I did feel a bit or Wii-itis when I was finished.

We’ll be wrapping up here tomorrow as we’ll be taking the ferry back to Juneau. So I hope to see you back for more. If you do go to the brothel and Ivanna Mountie is your Madame, be sure to bring her some butter. She loves butter. I will bring her a whole stick when I get back to Skagway in a few weeks.

Wii out of here…Chris

Great stuff Bubba. I wonder if any other cruise line has such an informative way for would be cruisers to experience trips like Bubba and I are doing? I hope you are all enjoying them and hopefully it has and will persuade you to take an Alaskan or Baltic cruise …………………..anyway, thanks Bubba and I shall reward you with a trip to Denny’s for my favorite dish “Moons over My Hammy.”

It seems my sister has decided to become a regular on the blog and is developing a fan base of her own. Today, a colleague e-mailed me suggesting she should be a Cruise Director…………………….help.

Now, I should point out that my sister has some strange habits that have no place on a cruise ship. For instance, she is a boneibal………….this is someone who eats bones………..if she has spare ribs she sucks out the marrow like a deranged Cocker Spaniel. There are many more which I am holding back on should she decide to go into partnership with Big Ed.

So, my sister and her hairdresser/cable TV friend Debbie were invited to two gatherings…………..one was a wake for a family friend whose relative had passed away and the other costume party.

Unfortunately, my sister being of blonde hair got the dates mixed up and therefore she and Debbie went to a wake for Mr. Doug Hounsell dressed as Madonna (with the huge pointy bosoms) and a New York style………… Pimp. Sue Drip …………..I have an arsenal full of stories like that so think before you write!!!

I am very proud of my sister though as she has made two fantastic kids in Luke and Isabelle and was head hunted by one of the biggest banks in the world to do whatever she does in Honk Kong………well done sis.

Talking of food, today here in Finland I was presented at lunch with the local dish…………….Reindeer. Now, before I upset the animal lovers out there this is not Bambi this is Bambi’s uncle Bastard ………….he is huge…………runs around in gangs of 300 reindeer and deserves to be eaten because Bastard refused to help Santa who lives just north of Finland in Lapland.

So, how does Mr. Bastard taste ……………… well……………reindeer is a heavy rich meat………..think lamb (sorry lambknuckles) covered in chocolate and caramel and that’s basically reindeer……………….I had a few bites and about an hour ago my hotel toilet received a cluster bombing……………antlers included.

Nope, reindeer is not for me. I did though enjoy all the other dishes that were marched out in front of me ……….as for Mr.Bastard the Reindeer……………he died for bugger all.

So, the highlight of the day was the following tours.

FINNISH HOME VISIT AND HIGHLIGHTS

HELSINKI AND PORVOO HIGHLIGHTS

PORVOO, STEAM TRAIN AND HELSINKI

One last thing about Finnish culture that I do not understand……………….and that’s the Sauna ………… get this……..5.5 million people live in Finland and 3 million people have Saunas which they use each and every day and not just at home. Where you and I work companies provide a canteen, a coffee machine, maybe a gym……….in Finland most companies ignore these and instead make sure ever office has a sauna and instead of starting the day with a skinny cappuccino and a muffin, the average Finnish office worker starts the day naked, sitting in a sauna talking to Mr. Hurdygurdesen from accounting ………………….. and yes……………..they are naked………….I asked both our guides today and they both stated that the only way to sauna was to forget the towel thing as used on our ships etc…………………………some of you are going “uccchhh” and some of you are planning your immediate move to Finland.

So, I have to say that the countryside here in Finland has been more than impressive and tomorrow we concentrate on Helsinki itself. I will report back as always and in the spirit of Finnish living it should be noted that although I have no sauna here in the hotel…………………….I have turned the heating on full……………..and I am indeed………naked.

Finally, as promised, here is the embarrassing and quite frankly very rude photo of my attempts at glass blowing.

Further words are not necessary.

Good Night.

Your friends,

John & Heidi

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.