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Royal Caribbean Cruise - Tallinn, Estonia
Myself, my sister and my parents went on another Royal Caribbean cruise in August (2013). It is our fifth cruise with royal caribbean, we love them! This cruise is the first one we have been on that goes to northern europe and russia - places none of use have ever been. One of the later stops was Tallinn, Estonia.
- Very brief history and facts
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and it was founded in the 13th century. Due to the very close proximity of the sea, Tallinn was a trading port particularly during the 14th-16th centuries. The medieval section of Tallinn (the old town) is still well preserved from this busy trading time. Before and after the founding of Tallinn Estonia was invaded and occupied by numerous countries such as Germany, Denmark and Russia among others. Estonia became independent from Russia thorough the war of independence during the early 20th century. But it was occupied again by Russia until the collapse of the CCCP (USSR) in 1991. Estonia joined the EU in 2004 and it is one of the least populated country within the EU. The estonian language is similar Suomi, the Finnish language. The majority ethnic group is Estonian followed by Russian. Estonia has the Euro and it has a estimated total population of about 1.2 million.
- Arrival, port terminal and weather
When we arrived in the morning, the weather was similar to the other northern european countries we had been to on the cruise (and england) - a bit grey and a bit chilly for the time of year, also because we were at the port the wind was really quite strong. We had to walk for a couple of minutes, then we reached a large bridge that we had to walk across, this made it even windier! At the end of the bridge is a fairly large shop (which we later found out was really large, the biggest port shops we had seen). We boarded our coach for the coach/walking tour. The tour we booked was called 'the city of contrasts', I think tickets were around $40 each which is one of the cheapest tours through out the cruise. We arrived in Tallinn on the 15th August which was my 21st birthday!
- The City of Contrasts Tour
We boarded our coach from the harbor, the tour was almost full and our guide was Tiina - all of our guides have been female on this cruise and they have all been able to speak very good english. Although this
guide was a bit of a dictator. We drove past houses, shops and churches on the way to the coach stop for the start of our walking tour. The start of our walking tour was just outside 'the old town' which is the medieval part of the city and the section I was most excited about. The old town was really nice, with old medieval style buildings with lots of restaurants and cafes and also some souvenir shops which were nice - but some of the souvenir shops had large rag dolls outside which were a bit creepy! We only had 10 minutes to shop which wasn't nearly enough and we met up again outside the town hall which looked gorgeous and we went inside where they were serving elk soup for one euro and cabbage pastries (which was really nice and only one euro). Inside the town hall was gorgeous, the decor was amazing - like a Viking hall! There were rustic wooden tables, fur on the seats and there were no lights, only candles which looked so cosy and lovely - the woman serving the food was dressed in traditional medieval clothing. We didn't know about the inside town hall and cafe until a nice american woman from our group told us, she was from new york. The old town square was quite empty at the start of the day - the shops were open and people were driving around but it wasn't busy at all! There were small souvenir shops and amber/jewelry shops but it was mainly just restaurants and cafes which is very disappointing for shopping purposes (and we only had 10 minutes to shop on this tour which is ridiculous!). Our group all met at the town hall after ten minutes and our guide was waiting, two people from our group didn't get to the town hall or they were in a shop but the guide just went without them - this is at the very start of the tour that they had paid for (and royal caribbean tours are not really cheap).
We then walked through the old town to the coach where we drove to the arena, open air museum and coffee stop. The drive took us through Kose which had gorgeous wooden colorful houses and green/woodland areas and then we arrived at the arena. The arena was just an outdoor arena (which was CLOSED) so it was a pointless stop but Robbie Williams was going to perform there in a few days times which must have been why it was closed. It is apparently a big, important venue in Tallinn and it is very popular. We then drove to the coffee stop - the cafe we stopped at looked like an upturned boat where we had tea and chocolate cake. The cake was really nice as were the staff. The cafe, well restaurant, was in a part of Tallinn called Viimsi - the cafe was called PAAT. I love the decor and design of the small building and the outside is right next to the sea and when I say right next to the sea, I mean within a 30 second walking distance.
After the coffee stop at PAAT, we walked about a minute along the coastal road to the open air museum. This stop would have been more pleasant if it wasn't so damn windy! Our guide walked the group down at the sea basically and tried to explain a bit but the sea and wind was really quite strong we could barely hear her. She gave us half an hour to walk around which was more than long enough as there wasn't really a museum it was just a collection of very small buildings to show how Estonians lived a few centuries ago - no dummies, no real tools etc, just a empty building with seating. The items were no even labelled and without a guide, we had no idea what the items were for or who would have lived there. It would have been so much better if our guide (or a guide from the 'museum') walked around with the group to explain. There were some nets to show how they fished but it just looked like a random kind of assault course which was a bit confusing and seemed out of place. The only real positive about this museum was the giant swing (and mini shop). My sister, my dad and a couple of people from our group all climbed on the giant swing - you could go on it - and you had to stand up and it looked quite fun. We then went to look in the mini and I do mean mini museum souvenir shop (it was about the size of our fairly small conservatory). I did buy a cute stripe top which is super thick and comfy for about Euro15 and my mum bought some nautical style decorations for a few euros each. The shop and items were really nice and very nautical themed but it was so tiny and cramped which doesn't make sense as the area around the shop was really large.
We then had a quick stop in Pirita where we looked at the Olympic regatta building (yachting centre) and the sea/lots of boats. Pirita is a really pretty area, again with houses and green space. It is only about 15 minutes drive from the city centre. The olympic building was built for the sailing events for the 1980 Moscow summer
Pictures of Tallinn (Estonia)
Olympic building area and Tallinn bay
olympics. We went from the Olympic regatta area back on the coach to go back to the ship - there was a stop near the shuttle buses for Royal Caribbean and we got off the coach along with a lot of other people to go back into Tallinn as we wanted to go back to the old town of Tallinn which was really nice and we only managed to have about 10 minutes looking around it earlier in the tour. The walk back into the old town was fairly short from the shuttle bus stop and the old town was a lot busier than before! The shops were really nice, especially the one which had all products made in Estonia - there was wild boar on sale as well as honey and bee pollen chocolate - I almost bought it just for the novelty element. I was surprised by the large number of vans/cars in the old town, especially later in the day. We went back to the shuttle bus stop and for four of us it cost Euro18 to get on the shuttle which wasn't worth it at all because it was such a short distance to the port. There is a large range of stalls and shops at the port with a cafe and bar and also a free wifi hot spot! The walk from the Port to the ship was very very windy, we had to cross a large bridge and it was incredibly windy, about 40-50 mph! It was horrible! The wind was made even worse while we walked back to the ship as we had to walk between the royal caribbean ship and a thompson ship (which looked like a nautical version of a prison, in my opinion), you could barely walk because of the wind!
Overall, it was a nice place to visit on my 21st birthday. Before visiting Estonia I had no idea what to expect and I loved the old town, so picturesque and easy to walk around - a good amount of shops too. I also like the PAAT restaurant but I wouldn't go to Tallinn again - in my opinion (and from my experience of the tour), there just isn't that much more to do.
Fairly cheap Royal Caribbean tour (not too much walking for the tour and the opportunity to go back into Tallinn on the shuttle bus)
Clean, easy to get around and the people were nice/friendly
Pretty views of the sea/boats from the olympic centre area and the open air 'museum'
The Paat restaurant
Old town - very pretty, shops, lots (too many in my opinion) of cafes/restaurants
Not that much to do in Tallinn, in my opinion
The open air museum wasn't really a museum at all, very disappointing