by Bob Sparrow
I must have gone to bed too early the night before, or perhaps fell into bed in a drunken stupor, but I woke up alert as can be at 5:00 a.m., stepped out onto my balcony and saw the narrow channel we were passing through on our way into the harbor of Stockholm. Over the public address system, our captain was telling us that Sweden is made up of some 30,000 islands. The homes on these islands were beautiful and the grounds meticulously manicured. We were told that many of the homes on these islands are ‘summer cottages’ for the wealthy of Sweden.
Once we arrived in the port of Stockholm, we found, as you might suspect in a country with so many islands, there is not only a ‘Hop On Hop Off’ bus, but a ‘Hop On and Hop Off’ boat as well. We chose the boat. Once on board our driver tells us the name of the boat is ‘Take A Chance On Me’; not exactly a name that instilled a lot of confidence in the driver’s ability to navigate the busy port of Stockholm, until we learned that all the boats in this line were named after ABBA songs. The singing group, ABBA is still big in Sweden, very big. In fact, there is an entire museum dedicated to them. To me, it would be akin to having a museum in the U.S. dedicated entirely to the Monkees.
Our first stop for our water shuttle was the Vasa Museum. Vasa was a ship built in 1628 at the request of the Swedish king, slated to be the most powerfully armed vessel in the world. Unfortunately it was built too high and too narrow, with not enough rocks in the hull for the proper ballast and the ship sunk on its maiden voyage before it ever got out of the harbor! It remained at the bottom of the harbor for hundreds of years, until a crew in the late 1950s was able to salvage the hull. Over the next decade, 98% of the ship and all that it carried, was salvaged and restored and put on display in the Vasa Museum. The museum would seem to be more a tribute to the Swedish salvaging abilities than their ship building expertise.
We were back on the water shuttle and headed for our next stop, ‘Old Town’. Unfortunately, because Stockholm was our last stop, and thus the last of five ‘old towns’ we’d seen in a week, we were suffering from a bit of ‘oldtownitis’. But nevertheless we strolled along the cobbled streets, popping in shops and ultimately stopping for lunch. Stockholm was our shortest shore stay, so after hitting the stops along the water shuttle route, we were back on the boat for a late-afternoon departure.
The journey out of the harbor lasted over four hours as we weaved (as much as a large cruise ship can weave) in and out of the many islands on our way back out. We sat on the Budd’s luxury suite deck in the late afternoon sun sipping wine and watching the islands go by. Beautiful scenery. We had one more day on board and it was all at sea as we crossed the Baltic on our journey back to Copenhagen.
Next: Epilogue and Don’t and Dos of a Baltic Cruise