SWEDISH RHAPSODY AUGUST 2009
Tuesday 11th August
Time to enjoy more of the sights of this town of Nykoping,including the Stadhuis and
pedestrian area, before taking the train north via Norrkoping. Despite arriving there in pouring rain we had time to see the trams, cinemas, flowers and part of the town centre before resuming our journey up to Stockholm. There the rain had a final hurl upon our heads, then stopped as we walked towards Skeppsbron, looking for our next ship. En route we could see GABRIELLA, VIKING CINDERELLA and MSC ORCHESTRA.
GABRIELLA and VIKING CINDERELLA
Our next ship was built in 1953 for Rederi AB SVEA’s Stockholm-Helsinki service, and since the 1970s has been used as a cruise vessel for 22 hour trips to and from Mariehamn in the Åland Islands: it was to be the fabled BIRGER JARL!
I’d been told to expect Swedish grannies pushing and shoving their determined way to the tax-free shop on the ship, cushioned mattresses at the bottom of steep stairways to soften the fall of any drunken passengers, and general inebriation as soon as the ship left port, so I was keeping an open mind about this experience.
Being herded into the Anedin Linjen terminal building was interesting; the booked fares were paid (very cheap) and the first sitting dinner time changed from 5.30 p.m. to 7.15 p.m., and then we could go fairly near the quayside beside the ship in the strongly fenced ISPS-compliant compound. Ah, another fencing contractor laughing all the way to the Bank, I suspect.
We soon boarded and were guided to an inside cabin number 42 that proved to have its own outside bathroom with big opening porthole; what a delightful surprise to be able to hang out of it and chat to one’s fellow passengers, who were also leaning out of their portholes! And how unusual to be able to sit on the toilet and gaze out at the sea… There were two original Alvar Aalto-designed stacking stools in the cabin.
It was fascinating to explore this ship which has so much original woodwork and other features in it. Passing the passengers playing the slot machines, we came to the forward Cocktail Bar which looked inviting and very popular; I liked the 1950s design ceramic panel on the wall, behind the piano the peached glass mirror with musical notes cut in it, the old silver-coloured rosette bell-pushes beside some tables, and a miniature wooden half-hull on another wall of a Finnboda-built cargo liner.
I liked being able to stand on the promenade deck looking aft at the sheer and curvature of the stern, although part of this was a later addition.
The forward Roslagen original first class dining room had models of the ships, and beautiful etched glass lampshades, and the aft Remmaren dining room was another attractive place for a meal that evening. The smorgasbord buffet food was delicious and plentiful.
I stood midships on the boat deck and realised that under my feet was a brass-ringed porthole, which another shippy friend had mentioned recently. He had been staying in that cabin and the only daylight came from this porthole in the ceiling!
At the bottom of two steep stairways were huge and very thickly padded quilted walls, just as I had been told, which would save falling passengers from certain injury, especially depending on their state of intoxication. The tax-free shop was very popular as soon as it opened after first sitting dinner, and there were permanent queues to buy alcohol and cigarettes
The evening’s entertainment in the aft lounge was a band playing tango music and then a singer, but it seemed the important thing was drinking. Those who smoked came out on deck nearby (most of the passengers) and we enjoyed several conversations with interesting travellers, who were just as intrigued with us as we were with them. There was amazing watery sunlight in the archipelago once the rain had cleared.
Ships seen: Baltic Queen, Viking Cinderella, Blidosund, MSC Orchestra, Gabriella, Birka Paradise, Norrskar, Djurgarden 7, 8 and 11, Galaxy, Saltsjon, Storskar