Flight Review – BA A-380 First Class LHR to YVR

After our round the world flights and Visa points, we had over 500,000 BA avios points, so we decided to splurge. As a once in a lifetime opportunity, we booked First Class tickets on the outbound flight back in April and our return in September.

The outbound flight was on an old B-747 and could best be described as disappointing. We were hoping for better on the new A-380, which operates on the Vancouver route during the summer months.

I’ll review both the flight and LHR T3 Galleries First Lounge.

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London – Our Final 2 Days

Shortly after docking at London Cruise Terminal, we disembarked MV Columbus, on completion of our 12-day Baltic Cruise. In-bound to the Thames, as soon as we got mobile (cell) service I called Addison Lee for a pick up. Yet again, they provided exceptional service.

Arriving Sept 25th, our flights to Vancouver were on Sept 27th, so we had 1 full day in London. We had already visited many of London’s attractions, but to date, we had never visited the Houses of Parliament, so we booked a guided tour, followed by afternoon tea.

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Stockholm City Drive & Vasa Museum

Stockholm is a long and complicated pilotage from the Baltic through the archipelago of islands, so many cruise ships opt for Nynashamn, located on the Baltic about 40 miles south of Stockholm. Unfortunately, our ship was one of the ones opting for Nynashamn, rather than the scenic cruising in/out of Stockholm. Normally the ship docks alongside, but due to weather issues, we had to anchor and tender ashore.

We signed up for another ship’s tour, which comprised a city drive and visit to the Vasa Museum.

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Porvoo – Finland’s 2nd Oldest Town

After two very busy days in St Petersburg, we had a quiet evening on board the ship, as we cruised at a sedate speed, the few miles from St Petersburg to Helsinki, Finland. Arriving early in the morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant before heading ashore for our tour. We signed up for a ship’s tour to Porvoo, one of Finland’s six medieval towns that dates from the 14th Century.

Located about 30 miles East of Helsinki, we spent about an hour on the bus before arriving in the old town.

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St Petersburg Day 2 – Catherine’s Palace, Peterhof Palace and Hydrofoil

Departing Peter and Paul Fortress, we settled into the bus for the almost 1 hour trip to Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, a St Petersburg suburb. It was only about 20 miles, but took almost an hour. Yes, St Petersburg traffic is similar to any major city.

For me, one of the Alla Tours selling points was rather than lunch in a fancy restaurant, they provided a quality boxed lunch to eat on the bus. We had limited time, so I was happy enjoying lunch on the bus, rather than losing an hour sight-seeing while sitting in a restaurant.

This is the 4th and final post covering our 2 days in St Petersburg. Some may say they kept the extreme opulence and more than a little gold, to the end of the tour.

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St Petersburg Day 2 – Canal Cruise, Palace Square and Peter and Paul Fortress

Our 2nd and final day in St Petersburg started with an early breakfast, then off ashore to join the 2nd installment of our Grand Tour with Alla Tours. Although we breezed through immigration yesterday, we still departed the ship about 15 minutes early. However, immigration was even faster. With no queues, we walked straight up to a booth handed over our passports, which were scanned and within a couple of minutes were in the terminal.

While yesterday was a very busy day, with minimal commuting between stops, today would be a slower day with a canal cruise, hydrofoil ride and a couple of 1 hour drives through the outlying areas.

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St Petersburg – Church of Spilled Blood, St Issac’s Cathedral & Yusupov Palace

After a delicious lunch in a 5-star restaurant, we re-boarded the mini-bus to visit more of downtown St Petersburg’s spectacular attractions. This afternoon’s schedule includes a couple of Russian Orthodox churches and another palace, which is still being restored. The tour included both the opulence of the formal rooms and the rather stark confines of the basement.

Departing the restaurant, it was a short drive to our first stop, which included passing the Faberge Museum, as we drove along the banks of the Fontanka River. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time in the schedule to visit this museum.

Enjoy the many photographs of the remainder of our first day in St. Petersburg.

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St Petersburg – Subway, Kazan Cathedral & Winter Palace

Departing the ship, you pass through immigration, before accessing the passenger terminal.  Having read and heard of potential delays, we departed the ship well before our Alla Tours meeting time. However, this was one of the shortest and smoothest transits through immigration we have ever experienced. The Russian officials had every booth open, resulting in very short queues. We had 1 couple ahead of us, so within 5 minutes of departing the ship, we were in the passenger terminal, where we met the Alla Tours representatives.

An excellent start to 2 very busy days in St Petersburg, which I will cover in 4 posts.

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St Petersburg – Introduction to a 2-Day Port Visit

In the 1600’s, the ruling Swedish colonists, constructed a fort at the mouth of the Neva River. During the Great Northern War, Tsar Peter I, also known as Peter the Great, won those coastal lands, providing Russia with his long sought Baltic coastline. On winning control, he inaugurated the city of St Petersburg in 1703, with construction of Peter and Paul Fortress.

A very new city by European standards, its magnificent architecture, river and canal network has the city frequently referred to as, “Venice of the North”. A very apt reference.

During WWI, St Petersburg was deemed to sound too German, so the Tsar changed the name to Petrograd, which was subsequently changed to Leningrad, by the communists, after the 1917 revolution. In 1991, the citizens voted on renaming the city, with the majority favouring a return to St Petersburg.

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Baltic Cruise – Tallinn Old Town Walking Tour

Next to St Petersburg, walking the walled “Old Town”, with its well preserved 13th Century narrow, winding cobbled streets and fascinating architecture, this was one of our pre-cruise highlights. Tallinn, one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities, was originally home to wealthy merchants, but now with a plethora of cafes, restaurants/bars, museums and churches, it is now a popular tourist destination.

Being mid-September, it was approaching the end of the season and we were the only cruise ship in town, so the crowds were reasonable. During mid-summer with up to 6 mega cruise ships, it can be extremely busy, as most tours follow a similar route.

In 1997, the well preserved “Old City” was incorporated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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