Actually, we’ve been back since Thursday; fortunately for us we had the rest of Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday off before returning to work tomorrow. I’ve already blogged about the cruise, with photos, in two parts; Part I discusses all the places we visited and Part II is about the cruise itself, the ship and our general experiences. (I wrote the second part mostly to serve as a reference for people who are looking for input on their own cruise-vacation decisions.)

The short version is that we had a great time and were much impressed with Celebrity, which was far better than MSC, the previous big-ship cruise line we’d sailed with. (Our first cruise was adventure travel to Antarctica, on an expedition run by Peregrine Adventures and booked for us by Mountain Travel-Sobek. It was a wonderful trip but is a completely different species of travel and can’t be compared.) The downside was the weather: chilly and rainy most days of the trip. Saint Petersburg in particular is amazing; I may never need to visit an art museum again. (Actually, after the travels of the last six years, I may never need to visit an art/historical museum, church, cathedral or castle again. Or at least not for a while.)

The trip sort of got me thinking about friendships; lots of people were on the cruise in big family groups and sometimes it felt a bit lonely with just the two of us. In the six years we’ve been expats, we’ve been forced to be a self-sufficient unit: we make local friends, but we keep moving away from them. The result has been a different sort of friendship sphere than most people have: I sometimes envy people like my brother and SIL, who have dear friends they see frequently, but on the other hand, I have friends around the world and it’s a lot of fun to meet up with them when in travel. On this trip, in Helsinki we met up with Bob, an old friend and coworker from Texas, who just happened to be there the same day we were as part of a few days of sightseeing in Europe after a business trip to Moscow. The last time we saw him was when we went backpacking together in New Mexico, and before that, camping in Colorado. Then in Copenhagen, we met with Maria, who lives there (we also met her on our previous visit to the city, and I once went to Amsterdam to have dinner with her when she was on business travel. I’ve been friends with Bob since around 1993-1994, and with Maria since about 1997-1998 (half her life, she pointed out) and it’s wonderful to have the chance to catch up with them in person. So it’s not that I don’t have good friends; I just seem to work on a different system than most people. It leads to some lonely times now and then, but it’s wonderful when you get to meet up.

(For US people, when we get back to the States we plan to travel around for a year, and I’m going to put out general queries here, on FB and on Ravelry to see who is in the path of our travels and wants to get together. I hope to see lots of people as we travel around the US. Bonus points if you know of a nice place nearby where we can camp.)

On the other hand, Ted’s parents are talking about all getting together for a cruise to celebrate their 50th anniversary in a few years, and I think we’ll enjoy going with a group too.

Given how much of my social life is normally online, probably one reason I did feel a little isolated on the cruise was that I was offline the whole time, aside from a quick email check on the public WiFi in Helsinki (mostly focused on figuring out where Bob was). Internet withdrawal was less painful that I expected; I don’t think I’ve been offline entirely for such a long time since we went to Antarctica (around 2004), though I’ve had limited connectivity on other trips since then. I had plenty to read, so of course I was fine. (Went through the whole Borrowers series, Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, and I don’t remember what else. Incidentally, I was fibbing slightly about no internet access – I only brought the first Borrowers book, and ended up buying the others while on the ship, via my Kindle. I wasn’t able to retrieve email on it, though. And even without those books, I’d just have fallen back on the other several hundred books on the Kindle – or in the ship’s library.)

I will be at home for just this week, then I’m off for a business trip to Japan for a week and a half – this is probably my last one there. I do hope they have good TV coverage of the Olympics! At least we get to see the Opening Ceremonies Friday night before leaving – I say “we” because Ted has a trip to Taiwan at the same time.

And I can then begin my Ravellenic Games knitting project – formerly known as Ravelympics until the USOC sent a cease-and-desist letter (yes, really), the idea is that you cast on a project during the Opening Ceremony and finish before the end of the Games. I am planning to make a Nerys shawl during the Games – the designer is a Dutch woman who occasionally comes to our local knitting group. Meanwhile I’m working on a Thera sweater; I finished the front during the cruise and hope to get the back done today or tomorrow, though I doubt I’ll finish the whole thing before the Olympics.