First Posted: 5/1/2012 10:04:08 AM | Last Updated: 5/1/2012 10:04:09 AM
The first official stop on our cruise was Warnemunde, Germany, a small coastal village with a few attractions within walking distance of the ship. There is also a nearby medieval town, Rostock, for passengers who don’t want to go too far for some shopping or sightseeing. However, the big attraction at this port is its proximity to Berlin, around a two and a half hour train ride from the port.
You can arrange numerous shore excursions from the ship, or from your home via the internet before you leave. If there is something you really want to see, check out the on-line brochure, and make your reservations before you leave home. Some of the more popular tours sell out quickly. If you are knowledgeable about the area, or have the time and inclination to do so, you can book tours with outside companies on your own; however, since this was our first time to visit any of the countries on our itinerary, we booked all of our tours through the ship. Just a warning, the tours do get expensive (sometimes several hundred dollars per tour), so be prepared. Within this itinerary, however, we found that the tour was the way to go, and every excursion that we took was well worth the money.
The tour we chose was a train ride to Berlin with a stop at Sachenhausen, a Nazi concentration camp during WW II. At 12-1/2 hours, it was quite a long tour, but we wanted to see as much as we could in the short time we had. The train was conveniently located in easy walking distance of the ship, and there were lots of ship’s personnel to assist you. Things do get a little confusing because there are lots of people and lots of different tours, but once we were on the train, things settled down quickly. There was also a local guide on the train to answer any questions.
The ride to the camp, our initial stop, took about 2 hours, and the guided tour of the camp about another 2 hours. We arrived on a dreary, gray day, which was the perfect setting for this part of our adventure. Sachenhausen, located in former East Germany, housed primarily political prisoners and dissidents, with many prisoners perishing, mostly of starvation. The tour included various buildings that housed prisoners, the execution chamber, the laundry and a museum. You could also roam the prison yard, surrounded by barbed wire fencing, see the guard towers, and visit the international memorial site. This is a very strenuous tour, with lots of walking. The minimum age is 12 years, for very good reason, as the history of the area and the site itself, while very interesting and informative, is quite somber and disturbing. It is, however, a valuable history lesson.
We then boarded a bus for our drive into Berlin and a typical German lunch (which was quite good) in the city. After lunch, we continued on a bus tour of the highlights of the city, including the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie. We also got to see remnants of the famous Berlin Wall, much of which has now been adorned with street art. There was also a stop at the Holocaust Memorial. The tour concluded with an approximately three hour train ride back to the ship, where there was a delicious buffet meal waiting for us.
This was a long day, but well worth it in terms of the wonderful historic sites we were able to see. Although our time was limited, we made the most of it, seeing the countryside during our train ride and the city attractions during our bus tour.
Berlin was a beautiful city, and I’d love to return for a longer stay. That’s one of the great advantages of doing a cruise such as the one we took. You get to sample several different countries and cultures, and if you like what you see, you can plan a future trip to your favorites.