There was a buzz of excitement at the ferry terminal as everything was springing into action for the weekly ferry to Vladivostok. My flimsy email printout was exchanged for a real ticket and I was through into the departure area. Full airport-type security before boarding meant my bag disappeared along a conveyor belt which was something I wasn’t expecting. As my toothbrush was still in my rucksack from the flights I didn’t foresee a problem, although a towel would have been useful. The Eastern Dream filled up with a mix of Korean holidaymakers and returning Russian workers and we were waved off by a line of DBS cruise ferry workers on the quay.
Wherever I sat or stood people chatted to me, curious about why I was onboard and then keen to practise their English. The very warm feelings people have towards the UK always takes me by surprise. Wayne Rooney and the Royal family were top of the list on the Eastern Dream and there was also interst in Brexit. In the main, Koreans were incredulous I was making the journey alone and Russians very approving that I wanted to explore their country. A Korean buffet for dinner was followed by a cabaret put on by the ship’s staff, including the Captain doing a turn on his saxophone. There was a good atmosphere. The music was loud, the lights flashed and everyone was keen to enjoy the cruise experience. At the end I was very grateful for my bunk, cosy with the curtains drawn and that familiar motion of being at sea.
Vladivostok, on the Muravyou-Amursky Peninsula, is built on hills surrounding the port. The jury’s out on whether it can claim to look like San Fransisco as I’ve never been there. However, I can say that Vladivostok is certainly very attractive with the suspension bridge across to Russky Island, lots of ships and boats and the brightly painted apartment blocks dotted around the wooded hillsides. Immigration was a smooth operation with the border control and customs pretty welcoming compared with others I’ve experienced. Now for Vladivostok.