Woke up this morning to find us docked in Yalta, Ukraine. It’s a beautiful city, built on high hills that come right down to the water with no plains between, skyline of grand old houses and new apartments, punctuated by the bright golden domes of the Orthodox Cathedral.
Before we could go ashore, I had to get our passports back from the front desk—normally they keep them for the duration of the cruise and handle all the immigrations issues at once, but Ukraine insists that everyone carry his own passport going ashore.
Which was the usual bureaucratic joke, of course. As we disembarked the ship, a very bored and disinterested Ukrainian immigration official briefly glanced at them while she chatted on her phone, and that was that.
Our tour here was to the Livadia Palace, the summer palace of Czar Nicholas before he was killed in 1917. It was also the location for the historic meeting of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in 1945.
Czars lived pretty good, as you might well imagine. The place is large but not absurdly so, beautifully designed and built. It sits high on the hill, overlooking the curve of the land and the Black Sea, cooled by breezes and surrounded by 68 acres of parkland. The vast formal room that was used for the conference is an architectural delight: balanced, airy, well-lit yet still comfortable. The royal apartments upstairs were impressive without being forbidding.
FDR had a downstairs room converted into his bedroom, being unable to climb the stairs. Stalin and Churchill stayed elsewhere. There are many photographs downstairs of the conference and its attendees, while upstairs are photos of the Royal Family, especially the only son, Alexi.
After our visit to the palace, we made our way back to the seaboard—with some amusement as our enormous bus (manufactured by Hyundai of Korea and decorated with hideous curtains and valences) struggled to navigate the very narrow streets filled with oncoming traffic.
Walking along the waterfront is interesting because of the people. There are thousands of tourists here from all over Ukraine and Russia, who flock to the tiny areas of “beach” as early as 6:30 in the morning to begin cultivating their skin cancers. The men wear tiny speedos, even the guys built like me. That’s not a good look, by the way. The women aren’t wearing much more, but that bothers me less. The beach is jammed, the water is jammed, it just doesn’t look like fun to me but thousands of them are doing it so I guess it’s alright.
Walking back to the ship seemed like forever in the baking heat, but we made it, barely. We have come all this way to sit in the ship’s movie theater and watch Tina Fey and Steve Carrell in Date Night, but even Gail was laughing so it must be a great comedy.
After an adequate dinner (more caviar!) in the Dining Room, the evening entertainment was the pianist who narrated our transit of the Bosporous two days ago. He has a routine we have seen before, two years ago on the Celebrity Infinity rounding South America, and it hasn’t changed a note. A “musical trip around the world”, he plays music from 19 different countries accompanied by a drummer and a bass player and a slide show. It isn’t very deep entertainment: Micky and Linda left and went to bed early.
So that was day 8 of our trip. Next up: Sevastopol. We were supposed to start at 8:30, but got moved up to 8:15 because for some reason we can’t dock there but will have to anchor out and take tenders into shore. Better get to sleep early.