I have been visiting my friend Anna-Liisa for a week outside Stockholm and during my visit we did what we call a mini-cruise. Something that is very popular with us Swedes and a concept that is mostly based in Stockholm with 3 shiping companies with very special built vessels does short cruises, but it must be at least 30 years since I did one the last time.
Found a great offer online – outside cabin, 3 course gourmet dinner, breakfast and return coach transfer to terminal in Stockholm city centre, for 995SEK/$118/£67/104€ for 2. So off we went.
Also a chance for me to try my sea legs, but the sea was like a mirror both days – so the only bumping around I did was on the dance floor.
Anna-Liisa lives about 35 min commuter time from Stockholm city centre, so with a coach picking us up more or less from doorstep to vessel, perfect. It was a gray and damp afternoon, but just before boarding the sun came out and we had a Stockholm in sunset.
And what a fantastic trip we had, the vessel – Birka – beautiful vessels, not in a scale like the American cruise liners with all the endless activities -but more than enough to kill 22 hours aboard. M/S Birka have a big tax-free shop, boutiques, bars, nightclub, out door pool area that is covered during cold month and very popular, SPA, casino, buffet restaurant and a la carte restaurant, cafe and panoramic bar.
We got cabin 9248 – very comfortable with a massive “porthole” that gave stunning view.
Had to wait one hour aboard before we had access to the cabin. The cruise docked 16.15 – so they only had about 2 hours to clean all cabins and make them ready for us. We killed waiting in the Lobby bar with a great cup of coffee and kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls).
6pm we left the berth and Stockholm was all in it’s evening gown. Because of all the islands in Stockholm’s archipelago are they only allowed to cruise in low speed, so we were cruising in very comfortable 12 knots. There are approximately 30,000 islands and islets.
We had walk around aboard to check out all the areas before it was time to get all dressed up before a pre-dinner cocktail and dinner.
It was impossible to get any great images from the fantastic food that was served, because of the bad lightning in the dinning room.
They had a special menu on offer – Taste from Lappland, the northern part of Sweden.
Chanterelle and potato terrine with smoked deer,
onion cream and baked tomato
Charr filet à la Norrland with soft whey cheese, lingonberries,
anchovies and herbs in a cream sauce
Roasted reindeer with chanterelles, root vegetables, smoked bacon,
pickled red onion and purée of Jerusalem artichoke
Cranberry panna cotta with bits of toffee, cloudberry,
white chocolate mousse and a small blueberry praline
All inclusive in the package price. Fantastic flavors and we had a Italian full body wine to got with it. Our waitress was very attentive and chatty. Had a great couple of hours in the dinning room.
We played a bit on the slot machines, but didn’t win anything worth mention and what ever we won we put back into the machines.
It was after midnight when we went under the duvets – but we didn’t take down the the blind for the porthole, because I wanted to wake up in the dawn and see the sunrise. Which I did around 6.30am. Oscar got an early start.
We arrived to Mariehamn around 7.30 and it was a beautiful morning. Mariehamn is the capital of Åland, an autonomous territory under Finnish sovereignty. Mariehamn is the seat of the Government and Parliament of Åland, and 40% of the population of Åland live in the city. Like all of Åland, Mariehamn is unilingually Swedish-speaking and around 88% of the inhabitants speak it as their native language, a self-organized group of islands between Sweden and Finland.
Mariehamn was our destination for the cruise – only one hour in port and then we turned back to Stockholm. Nobody went ashore, they only got some fresh provisions aboard as freshly baked bread and cakes for the breakfast buffet.
Their breakfast buffet is out of this world – there was absolutely everything on it from marinated herrings to dessert cheeses and fresh fruit. Even freshly baked mini doughnuts. Amazing.
During breakfast we cruised through fog thicker than milk, so not much sea view – but when we had finished breakfast the fog was gone and I took Oscar outside for some action. It was a very chilly and damp morning, not at all pleasant, but we both got a good portion of sea air.
Went back out again a hour before docking as we passed all the fantastic island with the millionaires villas, Lidingö and Djurgården – the closer to Stockholm we came the more snow there was on the islands. It was bitterly cold out on deck, but with gloves on – I was alright.
3.30pm did we dock in Stockholm and our bus #4 had just arrived with a new load of expectant guests, they have 9 buses in total that pick up guests all over the country, from Jönköping in the south to Sundsvall in the north.
It was well spent money and 22 hours, something I consider do again in the summer, but the price will be on a completely different level.
“Ships are the nearest thing to dreams that hands have ever made.”
Robert N. Rose