I’m back from my cruise to Stockholm. We left on Tuesday afternoon, after my walk around Helsinki’s centre. It was a two-tram ride down to the Viking cruise terminal, where we boarded the M/S Mariella. She was a large ferry, with two decks for cars, trucks and bicycles.
Our cabin was Economy 3 class, located underneath the waterline and below the car decks. It was extremely tiny with 3 bunks. We shared a bathroom and shower with other Economy 3 passengers. I didn’t care much though. The cabin served as a place to keep our stuff locked up, to have a few drinks, and to sleep. The rest of the boat was cruise-ship standard. It had a few a la carte restaurants and a buffet, as well as a pub, a casino and night club. I spent a lot of time on deck, particularly at the bow of the ship where the wind was so strong you could lean against it and it would prevent you from falling forward. It made my face do that rippling thing that happens to dogs when they stick their heads out the car window, and astronauts when they are in the centrifuge.
We drank a lot the first night. None of us is a drinker, but Arttu and Jen and I decided that while on a booze cruise it would be criminal not to be a bit excessive. We polished off a big bottle of Amaretto, half a bottle of Vodka flavored like those inedible Salmiakki candies that Finns love to eat, and an assortment of other drinks, including wine and coolers. The photo below is from a point at which I was still able to operate a camera, albeit poorly.
We woke up slightly dehydrated in Stockholm. It’s a beautiful looking place, with all the old European charm you can handle. We were pretty hungry so we ate… Italian food. Honestly it didn’t occur to us to seek out a Swedish restaurant. I’m having a hard time getting accustomed to not leaving tips for service industry people here. We’ve received mostly excellent service from everyone, and my instinct is to leave a tip. But Jen and Arttu were insistent that it’s not necessary or expected, so I’ll just live with it. Everything is more expensive here, due to high labour costs, so I guess they get their “tips” built into their wages. There’s a 25% sales tax in Sweden, and a 22% tax in Finland, but they’re integrated into the prices, so what you see is what you pay.
We met up with Sima, who’s another artist from deviantART (http://netslov.deviantart.com). She’s young but has lots of talent. I think she’ll go far.
We were pretty exhausted and hungry when we got back to the ship for the return trip. Fortunately, we had reserved tickets for the ship’s excellent buffet. I would have to say this is maybe the best buffet I’ve ever had in my life. That’s not saying a lot, but this was truly good. There was roast pork, beef, numerous types of salmon filets and smoked salmon, grilled chicken, salads, pastas, veggies, desserts, drinks (including wine and beer). Everything was delicious. I wish I could go back right now because I’m hungry. Unfortunately I’ll have to just make some pasta and sauce in Jen’s kitchen and survive on that instead 😛