2013 0802 Stockholm and into the Baltic:  Got up at 7:30 after a good night’s sleep. Breakfast in our suite at 8:30 brought by our butler, Nenad. Had Internet troubles, which is becoming the norm. Around 10:30, we headed down to Deck 3 and disembarked. Waited for taxi since none were there. One drove up with the driver delivering flowers from his daughter’s florist shop to the boat. He took us to Milles Garden, which is right across the water from here on an island.

We spent two hours wandering around the garden, the Milles house, the museum. Really delightful to see all this work in one place. Many of the pieces in the main part of the garden are on high plinths, which is how Milles placed them. The gardens/house are high up and right on the water. We could see the cruise ships, including a part of ours – the rest hidden by grain elevators. Wonderful fountains containing sculpture. In the house we saw his collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures and fragments. And in the house of his assistant, Anne, there was furniture by Joseph Frank (whose work we saw in Stockholm at Svenskt Tenn). We stopped at the café there for a bite to eat. It’s really also an elegant deli with high-end meats, cheeses, etc., sort of like the Smoke House at home.

Took a taxi back to the ship. Found out it was gay pride weekend and there would be a march in the city tomorrow. Spent afternoon until 3:30 in our suite. Then it was lifeboat drill. We took our life jackets from the room and went to our assigned assembly point (the restaurant where we ate last night), listened to all the instructions, and followed our boat’s guide outside to under lifeboat #6. We ended up sitting right next to the Prestons from Canada, the folks we had first met at Riche in the city. With 600+ passengers and 400+ crew, all are to fit into six lifeboats. Hope we don’t have to test that.

When the drill was over and we had returned our life jackets to our room, we went up to Deck 10 and Horizons (overlooking the bow of the ship with big glass windows) for afternoon tea. It’s as good as we were told it was. Even scones that were almost as good as Linda’s. Ship moved out of the harbour while we were there. After a while, we went outside on Deck 10 to watch the boats around us, other cruise ships coming and going, and the archipelago that extends from Stockholm out into the Baltic itself.

Then back to the suite and some more watching and pix taking from our balcony until it was time for supper. Back to Deck 10 and one of the premium restaurants, Toscana, for our meal. The food and service was as good as you’d find in the best restaurant anywhere. And we had a table right by a picture window to watch as we emerged from the archipelago out into the sea. The water is smooth so far and the day has been lovely. And Marian played the slots and won a few dollars! Then a gorgeous sunset over the open water and the edge of the world.

2013 0801 – Stockholm and Shipboard: Had a hard time getting to sleep last night – even after midnight – since our body clocks are still not adjusted to the time difference. Set an alarm for 8:00 and went downstairs for the sumptuous continental breakfast. Then Marian stayed in the room while I took a walk along the waterfront in the direction of the City Hall. Could not make it all the way there, though, since I ran out of time.

They came and collected our luggage and we went downstairs to get into the waiting Mercedes for the short trip to the dock where the Nautica is berthed. Got there before 11:00, so had to wait a bit. First you have your passports checked by Swedish security. Then it’s through the scanner for your carryon and body. Naturally, I got patted down. Getting used to it. Marian had one of her carryon bags opened and inspected since there was something in there they couldn’t identify on the scan. Still don’t know what that was.

Entered ship and went up to Deck 5 into the main dining room for check in.  Woman scanning our passports had a hard time, which she found out was caused by her scanner not being connected to her computer! Got our ship ID card/room key. Rooms weren’t ready until 1:00, so we went to Deck 9 to the luncheon buffet. Sat outside over the stern, drank some coffee, ate a light lunch from a huge buffet. Went to the men’s room where there is a sign over the sink to “wash hands often,” and a sign over a tissue dispenser near the door telling you to take one and use it on the door handle. Also, hand gel dispensers at head of buffet line. Good!

Around 1:00, our suite was ready, 8044 on the port side. It’s right by a staircase, which is great. In the suite (PH2), there was a bottle of red wine complements of the booking agency and a cold bottle of champagne with some baked goodies. We left these alone! A knock on the door brought our butler, Nenad from Serbia, who told us all about ship services, room amenities, laundry, Internet, and showed us how to order breakfast to have in the room or on the balcony.

Housekeeper, Margaryta from Ukraine, came and introduced herself and how to contact her, etc. All very nice people here as your would expect.

Weather sort of dreary. So, we did a tour of the various decks that have other than staterooms or suites.  Nice faux artwork everywhere (Picasso, Miro, etc.). All the way up at deck 10 is a beautiful library with tons of books. Elegant furnishings … but that’s everywhere. Also up there are the two premium restaurants, Toscana and Polo Grill … we have reservations there for three of our nights aboard. The bar area up there is where tea is served at 4:00, which we have been told by everyone who has been on this line to make sure to attend. There is also a track on this deck.

Deck 9 has the terrace aft where we had lunch. Also has swimming pool and hot tubs and lots of lounges.

Deck 5 has the big restaurant where we will eat tonight as well as a bar, casino, and other nice areas. Marian scoped out the casino, which is only open on nights where the ship is sailing. Same with the boutiques. Then back to the suite … would have wanted to go ashore to Milles Gardens, but it’s too cloudy, rainy to bother today. Perhaps tomorrow.

Connected to Internet … sort of. It’s very slow and it keeps dropping the signal. So, we plod along at a snails’ pace. And it should be good here in port, so don’t know what the deal is.

Went down to dinner in the Grand Dining Room about 6:30. It seats 300 with a menu that changes nightly. Lots of staff attending to all your needs. The sommeliers do a good job selling. We originally asked for a glass of wine each. We were told we should buy a bottle, drink as much as we wanted, and the balance would be put away with our room number on it and available in any of the onboard restaurants. So, we did that, of course, but left enough for tomorrow night. The menu is extensive and food/service excellent.

Around 9:00, I went up onto Deck 10 outside to take pix of the sunset. Lovely sky.

 





2013 0730 – The Flights and Stockholm: Got to STL airport really early. Andy and Jake took us. Went to the gate which was packed with a NYC flight that should have taken off a while back but was then cancelled and people for a Minneapolis flight from the same gate. After all these folks cleared out, people filtered in for our flight. One woman sate right behind us, but talked on her phone turned in her seat so she was talking right at us – and it was a series of rants at loud volume.

Flight to Detroit left on time and got in a little early. Long walk (and moving sidewalks) from where we came in to the underground tunnel going to Concourse A and its long set of moving sidewalks … but a light show all around us, so okay. Emerging back into the light, we went into the Delta Sky Lounge where we did a FaceTime with Jeff. Really weren’t in there very long before it was time to board our Airbus 330-300 for Amsterdam. Business Class was nice. However, the seats and their backs needed mending since some looked worn while others didn’t have the back fully attached to the seat in front of it. Excellent service and food. Flight was fine. I slept only a couple of hours. Nice seats that go all the way down into a flat bed. Warm quilt and nice pillow.  Flight was a bit over 7 hours. Got into Amsterdam 30 minutes early.

We had to go through passport control as we had expected so don't have to go through it in Sweden, I think. But had to go through security again. Marian went through the metal detector first. She then got a full body pat down including under the wires of her bra. I was fiddling around with my stuff and didn't see it. They wanted me to open my camera backpack and the agent opened each lens and the camera and looked at the filters, etc. I then went through the detector, but it buzzed. So I got a full pat down. And I mean full. Waist band, socks, armpits, you name it. We assembled ourselves and walked into the main part of the terminal and up to the KLM lounge.

So, onward to Stockholm! And that was delayed given some passengers didn’t show up and they had to sort through all the luggage to find theirs and take it off. But we got into Stockholm on time. Business Class on the KLM Boeing 737 was the first three rows, which were three across like coach, but a sign in the middle seat saying it was not to be occupied and was for more room. Well, more food.

Got into Stockholm and had a very long wait for the luggage to come up. They even apologized over the loudspeaker. Exiting, we found our Grand Hotel driver who took us the 40 km to the hotel in a lovely Mercedes. Hotel upgraded us to an even nicer room than we had reserved. Lovely view over the water, Room 536. Lovely place. Our third stay here, but the bellman who took our luggage up was actually born in the year we were last here – 1986.  We asked.

Rainy afternoon. We went around the corner to an ATM to get some local currency. Then started to walk over to the old part of the city, Gamla Stan, but it started drizzling and then raining. Even with the umbrella we borrowed from the hotel, it was too messy to continue. So we returned to the hotel, I got my waterproof camera, and we got directions to a place TK had recommended, Svenskt Tenn, a place filled with gorgeous artisan furniture, fabrics, goodies. This is on the water at Nybroplan. So we continued walking along the water looking into shops and then retraced our steps back to the hotel. For some downtime before dinner at 7:00. We are weary given we’ve been up over 24 hours already with just a couple of hours sleep on the Detroit to Amsterdam flight segment.

About 6:30, we walked back over by Nybroplan and up the street to Riche for dinner. Was raining a bit and worse when we went home, but nice walk and not too far. Very busy place. They kept turning people away at the door the entire time we were there. And we were seated next to a couple from Saskatoon named Bill and Maureen Preston (found out names and place at dinner) who we had seen when waiting for our luggage here since they went with a person holding an Oceania Cruises sign. So we knew they had to be on our ship. Very nice people. He’s an attorney and they are about our age or a touch older (who can tell these days?). Came home and actually stayed up until about 10:30 before lights out, literally. 


 

 



2013 0731 – Stockholm: Slept until after 9:00, which is what we really needed. Nice bed with typical Swedish mattress – just a couple of inches thick and over a solid base. Nice down comforters – sort of singles for each of us on the king size bed. Did a continental breakfast here 9how do they expect you to eat that whole basket of roles and bread and goodies?).

Got our stuff from the room and walked over to Gamla Stan. Went uphill to the castle and then down into the narrow streets and a zillion tourists. Walked around until it was time to climb back up to the castle for the daily changing of the guards. Got a nice vantage point where we could see most of what was going on. I took over 800 pictures today … lots of them of the soldiers and the marching band. Lovely and fun even with the throngs of other tourists. And all along the roads by the castle are tour bus after tour bus after tour bus. 15, 20? More?

When the ceremonies were over, we again went downhill into the old city. We tried to go on streets with the fewest people. Great buildings, shops, lots of sidewalk cafes and restaurants. Strolled around until 1:45 or so. Walked back to the harbor and around to our hotel. After putting stuff away, we went downstairs to the smorgasbord – something we have loved. Well, it’s sumptuous and way too much to eat and it was near 3:00 (when they close) by the time we were done.

As a side note, food/liquor is expensive here. Dinner last night was about $150 and the smorgasbord was more than that. At dinner tonight, our two glasses of wine each cost as much as our main course. That should give you an idea. Again, over $100 for dinner. Not complaining. All wonderful and enjoying every bite … hope pix do the food justice.

Spent the rest of the afternoon in our room. Me downloading pix and Marian writing postcards. Yes, she’s still analog, but that’s a good thing. It was raining all afternoon (while nice and sunny all morning while we were out), so just staying in the room.

About 6:30, we walked about the same route as last night, but farther up the same street to Sturehof for dinner. On the way, we saw some sculptures and a plaque in a park that were dedicated to Raoul Wallensberg, who saved many Jews from Hitler.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raoul_Wallenberg is a link.

Another lovely dinner, but neither of us could finish our food --- ate too much earlier. And it was also a lively place which, like last night’s, was mostly populated by folks who live here. Walked home in the dusk (sill a lot of light at 9:00). And it’s time to pack up to go to the ship tomorrow.

2013 0727 at Home: Last minute stuff like minor changes in airline schedule, transfer times from hotel to boat. Nothing major. Packed this afternoon. Thought I was going to have extra room, but it was an effort to get everything I want to take into the duffel. Weighed it. 45 pounds, which is under the limit, so I’m fine. And I think everything is okay for bills paid, reports made, etc. both personally and Chesterfield Arts. It’s time in limbo now. Bags packed, batteries charged, apps and programs updated, but another full day at home before the trip begins. Hope I sleep better tonight and tomorrow night that I did last night … woke up about 4:00 with mind full of trivia about everything.

I sold my horse trailer. Nice couple from Georgia drove up to get it. While this has nothing to do with the trip, it’s an interesting junction/juncture in my life. I’ve had a horse trailer for over 40 years. But I’m just not riding now. It was a waste to have it just sitting here. However, it’s odd to see the empty spot near the barn where it and its predecessors have idled. One of the firsts of the last.

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