Our Scandinavian-Baltic cruise to Russia was truly the quintessential destination. Rupert and I can now put a check mark in our “bucket list of places to visit” – particularly the Hermitage and its environs. Dazzling sights to behold too were St. Isaac Cathedral’s massive dome which is covered with 220 pounds of gold, the Grand Cascade fountains and more. Travel savant Bessie Escalona of Voyager Travel and Tours had organized the Filipino group of 43, comprised mostly of Theresians – class of Rupert’s sister Nora, with a few coming from the U.S. and Australia. They were with their much-loved former teacher, Mrs. Lucila Dypiangco. or popularly known as Mrs. D. With the exacting eye of our best friend, photographer extraordinaire and businessman David Lim and funky florist, Boots Araneta, we were like a large family. Nora Jacinto was one of the finalists in the Miss Princess Pop Star competition.
Fine dining aboard the Emerald Princess was at its best at Sabatini’s and Crown Grill, with its stellar Sea Bass, Rib Eye, and Onion Soup with Blue Cheese, complemented with a select wine list. The highlights of the cruise nonpareil were the extraordinary St. Petersburg, the Hermitage whose collection is as spectacular as that of the Louvre, the magnificent Peterhof Palace, (called Russia’s Versailles), and the baroque Catherine Palace with the awe-inspiring Amber Room, its walls covered with 6 tons of semi-precious stones.
The trips to the city proper afforded time for introductory opportunities; and on our bus trip to Berlin, we learned that one of the members of our group, Dr. Bert Salvador was to meet his son, Robert for the first time in 46 years. Robert found his father in google, and the excitement in the bus grew, as we picked up Robert and his wife, Silke Schneidereit, their daughter, Larissa, as they joined us on our tour of Berlin. It was a memorable good-bye at the end of the tour. (Do visit me at www.tinajacinto.com and like me in Facebook, Tina Hidalgo Jacinto)