When we saw a deal for a 22-hour cruise on a Birka ship further out into and around the Swedish archipelago all the way to the Åland Islands (an autonomous Swedish-speaking region of Finland) on a proper cruise ship (not the smaller day boats we’d spent time on last summer), we hesitated before snapping it up on LetsDeal.se (a Groupon-like site) because the only weekend that worked for the outing was the one before our move, and that seemed like a harbinger of stress.
But the lure of some of the most beautiful cruise ships in this part of the world, plus the fact that it was one of their Svenska Smaker (Swedish Tastes) food-themed cruises (a “Smak av Lappland / Taste of Lappland“, the northern-most region of Sweden: think elk, reindeer, Sami people, and the Northern Lights), was too strong to ignore. We were basically forced to purchase it!
So this weekend, in between packing up our things in Vasastan and after finally confirming all the to-do’s we had for the move like hiring movers, handymen, painters and whatnot (in Sweden, since you rent from individual owners versus companies, it’s up to you to spackle/paint, register for electricity, etc. before you move in) we traipsed off to a port in Södermalm and set sail on a Birka Cruise ship Sunday evening.
The first thing we did upon embarking was have a drink on the deck while the boat was still docked (when I took the first photo of the post), and then dropped our things off in our room (noting with glee the sea view from our cabin and the fact that it was quite comfortable), and then we went straight up to the main restaurant to sit down to dine as the boat pulled out of the harbor at sunset, leading to fantastic views (seated as we were at a table alongside the wall of windows).
Dinner was divine—I really am so enamored with Swedish cuisine and it was a treat to try a few completely-new-to-me dishes. Our Lappland menu included:
Appetizer: A chanterelle and potato terrine with smoked deer, creamed onion and baked tomato.
Main Course: A filet of char cooked in the Norrland (a northerly-region of Sweden) style with soft whey cheese, lingonberries, anchovies and herbs in a cream sauce.
Roasted reindeer with chanterelles, root vegetables, smoked bacon, pickled red onion and a purée of Jerusalem artichokes (which we both took)
Dessert: Cranberry panna cotta with bits of toffee, cloudberry, white chocolate mousse and a small blueberry praline
After dinner we strolled around to get a taste for the evening’s entertainment on board: card games, dancing, karaoke, a piano bar and whatnot. We chose to relegate ourselves to the whiskey room for a drink and later before heading to bed we stopped by the “club” and admired all the older couples dancing so elegantly around the room.
(Being a Sunday night cruise it was definitely not a “party boat” type of crowd. There were probably only 10-15 other people our age on deck, while the rest were 65+, which honestly made the whole experience even more enjoyable since we didn’t have to deal with any sort of rowdy ruckus).
You’d think that would mean we’d have had a restorative night, but it didn’t turn out quite like we planned. In a huge break from our normal M.O., we had a coffee after dinner and then while watching the dancing we took a coffee cocktail, meaning we really got to enjoy the sea view from our room as we slept a total of 30 minutes tops the whole night.
The next morning I was puffy-eyed and foggy-headed, so I headed up to the top deck for a few slow laps around its circumference. The last few weeks in Sweden have been full of amazing early-spring weather: non-stop, strong sunlight and clear blue skies. It’s still quite chilly, but the sun and freshness mean it’s wonderful to be out and I felt a little better after soothing my eyes and head with the crisp Finnish air and bracing sunshine.
For breakfast (which was a buffet) we snagged another window-side table and enjoyed the view as we pulled up anchor in Mariehamn (the capital of the Åland Islands) and headed back to Stockholm.
After breakfast I returned to the top deck and found a spot where I could sit without being knocked over by the wind and snoozed a bit with the sun on my face, but then later joined R in our room for a nap before we went to the spa and sauna in the afternoon.
By the time we’d spent an hour there, the boat was heading back into familiar waters so we cleaned up, packed, and disembarked in Stockholm just before 4PM where we were greeted by one of my most favorite views in the city.
All photographs by Jillian Mascarenhas, except for the Birka Lappland mosaic (source).