Embarkation day. 8/21/18

Today is the day we board the ship, Viking Sea, for our trip around the Baltic. But first we head downstairs to the RBG Bar and Grill where breakfast is being served at the hotel.  It is very busy in the breakfast area with mobs of Americans bound for cruises today vying for the food as if it is the last meal they will ever have. I really do not like the buffet mob scene. What I tend to do is go to the area of the buffet where there are no people, the table of the unloved. As long as I do not have to be part of the noisy, grabby rabble I am happy with whatever I can cobble together for breakfast.

Today the hordes were not appreciating some smoked meats, radishes, pickled cucumbers, and liver pate. I look at these unloved ingredients and think, banh mi!! I find a loaf of dark bread that no one is eating and cut a slice and make a really delicious open-faced bahn mi. Yay, for unloved food!

Ingredients for a banh mi breakfast!

Later in the morning we head out to the ship, the Viking Sea. Since we are on our own, we take a taxi instead of the Viking bus. Our taxi driver is confused and takes us to the wrong place. When he realizes his error he turns off meter. Before you know it we are through the formalities of getting on the ship and in our cabin. Here’s what it looks like.

Living room with table and also a desk and TV
Shower/bath area
Main bathroom
Large deck that wraps all the way around the cabin
View of Stockholm from the ship

Our cabin steward, Jerek, tells us all the ins and outs of our cabin and life aboard in general. We spend some time looking around and figuring out where we will put stuff later when our luggage is delivered. While waiting for our bags, we sample a little lunch.

John introduces himself to the bar team and we run into Castor who was on our previous cruise in June, 2017. He recognizes John and gives us hugs. It is nice to see someone we know. They refer to us as Sir John and Miss Mary.

John enjoying his first ship beer

After a sampling of various salads I decide on the squid and shrimp salad. The baked salmon is also really good.

Shrimp and squid salad with salmon

When we return to our room our luggage has arrived and we spend some time getting it all sorted out. It is so nice to think that we will not have to live out of suitcases and unpack and repack repeatedly. A hint that I picked up on Cruise Critic is that you can put magnetic clips on the walls and hang all your various papers up. Underneath the wallpaper the walls are made of metal. I think it will really help us to keep our stuff orderly.

Ingenious way to stay organized

Even though we are feeling much more alert today, after our afternoon room organization we spend a little email catch up and sleepy time. Today instead of feeling drugged when we wake up we are much more alert. I think we are turning the jet lag corner!

We get dressed in fancier duds for our dinner at Chef’s Table at 8PM. Since the staff will probably be all new since we were here last time, we have to make them understand that we will probably be dining at this venue every other night regardless of their “rules” of only three reservations. Everyone is very nice, earnest, and sweet so we are off to a good start.

Our dinner tonight is called a Gastronomic Journey Through Time. First course is an amuse bouche, Roman Empire Delicacy. I am not sure what is ancient or Roman about it but we are served a romaine and cucumber gelee with a goat cheese mousse paired with a tangy Riesling Kabinett, Selbach, Mosel wine from Germany. I think the gelee is weird.

Roman Empire Delicacy

Next we have an oxtail consommé paired with a San Leonino Chianti Classico Reserva, 2014. Both the wine and the soup are very good.

Gallic oxtail consommé

Next we have a palate cleanser, “medieval black and blue,” which consists of vodka, mint, and mixed berries. It is dark red and I keep expecting to taste beets. Meh.

Medieval black and blue

Here is a picture of our main course plus John who is looking dapper tonight. He substitutes a glass of wine for his traditional beer.

John in traditional wine pose

The main course is a real standout. It is Renaissance-style lamb filet with sweet potato mash, and a glazed carrot medley. We talk to the chef about it later. It is cooked sous -vide to a perfect internal temperature earlier in the day and then quickly roasted later at service. We like it a lot. It is served with a Donnafugata Sherazade from Sicily.

Renaissance lamb filet with carrots and sweet potato

Finally there is a course that we can do without, dessert. I am a real dessertaphobe and this is especially true if the dessert features chocolate. So I mostly just look at the 21st century nut brownie with pistachio ice cream and sip at the Torre Vento Dulcis in Fundo (Moscato) from Apulia, Italy. (We were there in March!)

Nut brownie with pistachio ice cream

Even though we have harangued everyone with our explanation about why we need to eat at the Chef’s Table outside of the regulated times, they are nice enough to take our picture towards the end of dinner.

John, Mary, and Stockholm

Slow train ride to Stockholm. 8/20/18

Our train this morning leaves at 5:56 AM but it is no problem because John and I have been up since 2:30 AM. Oh, jet lag (shaking my fist!) We leave the hotel in plenty of time (5:10 AM) to find our train at the station which is just across a plaza from our hotel. We arrive on the platform at 5:20. Better early than late! Around 5:30 the train rolls in.

John watches as the train rolls in

Finally at about 10 minutes to 6:00 they allow us on the train. It is pretty packed. The train takes a little over 5 hours to get to Stockholm. Oslo and Stockholm are only 250 miles apart so the train averages less than 50 mph. However the train is equipped with WiFi so I finish my blog and do some puzzles. We also get a little boxed breakfast with wooden utensils.

Bread, kefir, muesli, apple juice and ham and cheese in the train breakfast box

Shortly after 11:00 AM we are in Stockholm. Our hotel is very near to the train station and they have a room that we can have right away.

Our very Scandinavian room at the Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel
The view out our window

After getting ourselves settled and trying not to fall asleep we head out to Gamla Stan, the oldest section of Stockholm (the island pictured on the left above.) John is super vigilant that I not fall down today.

We have chosen Matgatan for lunch today. It is highly rated on Yelp! Even though there is zero ambiance and the stools we sit on are super-uncomfortable, the food is quite good. We each order the pulled pork “burger” that comes with cole slaw and crispy potatoes. It is quite a bit of food. We should have split one order. Even John cannot eat it all. He must still be full from our train box.

John in traditional beer pose
Pulled pork, cole slaw, and crispy new potatoes

After lunch we walk around for a while but it is Monday and as is typical in Europe almost all museums and attractions are closed. We try to find a church to look at but strike out. Since we are both really tired we head back to the hotel around 3:00 PM.

Narrow street in Gamla Stan
The House of Nobility in Gamla Stan

As we enter the hotel we notice that their restaurant is the RBG Bar and Grill. Any restaurant named after the Notorious RBG will be our landing spot for a drink later today.

The RBG Bar and Grill

As it turns out we are really tired since we got up so early and not hungry so we make coffee and tea in the room and have an early night. Here is hoping that we will sleep better tonight.

Boarding the ship tomorrow!


Stockholm. June 9,1996

I sleep very intermittently. Out of 7 hours in bed, sleep is only worth about 4 hours. We eat breakfast at the hotel and then catch a taxi to see the Vasa, a Swedish battleship that sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628.

Vasa Museum with masts sticking out of the top

The ship is very well preserved. The Baltic Sea is not salty enough to support wood worms. We watch a video and take a tour.

The Vasa inside the museum

Afterwards we catch a taxi back to the hotel and buy a lovely piece of glass at the hotel shop. Then we are off to catch the Silja ferry to Helsinki. John will be attending the HP conference on board.

Ferry which travels back and forth between Stockholm and Helsinki

We get on board and are directed to a really nice cabin. There is a sitting area with a big window and a king size bed. This is bigger than some European hotel rooms we have been in. The ship itself does not seem luxurious, though, it is more like an overnight ferry with an accordion playing disco music.

Sitting area of our cabin
Bedroom of the cabin

We have not seen anyone we know. John and I go down to the Bon Vivant restaurant and have dinner while the ship is pulling away from Stockholm. Beautiful! I order a duck compote and sauteed flounder and John has a veal main course. It is all good.

Later on deck I talk to a 9 year old boy from Espo, Finland. He speaks English really well. Thank goodness everyone speaks it! We also take a ride in an elevator where, after me, John is the shortest person there!

Mary on the deck near our cabin at 11PM!

Stockholm. June 8, 1996

We get up on the late side after an on and off sleeping night. We eat breakfast at the hotel, the SAS Radisson Royal Viking.

Today we are sightseeing in the old town.

Mary sightseeing by the harbor in Stockholm
John beneath the Swedish flag

It is very crowded. I buy a magnet, a Tshirt for Jon, a book for Sarah, and a Viking for the windowsill.

A crowded, narrow lane in Gamla Stan (old town)

We head over to the Royal Palace and see the changing of the guard. It is all very stately until the military band breaks into “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Kind of weird. We look in some glass shops but don’t find anything we want. We head back to the hotel around 3 PM. Nap time!

Mary waiting for the changing of the guard
John by a statue in the palace grounds
Changing of the guard in Stockholm (Stock photo)

Later we eat dinner in a restaurant in the cellar of the town hall called Stadshuskällaren. It is where they hold the Nobel ceremonies. I order a salmon roulade as a starter and follow that with veal. At last there are some vegetables!  John has veal pate and a entree of monkfish.

Interior of the Stadshuskällaren,

It is all good. We walk back to the hotel in the dimming light around 11 PM.

HP conference Sweden, Finland. June 6-13, 1996

June 6-7, 1996

The flight seemed very long on AA via Chicago. We do not sleep much. We arrive in Stockholm on Friday, June 7, 1996 at 9 AM. The airport seems to be out in a forest somewhere. We take a hotel shuttle downtown to Stockholm. It is very pastoral on the way in.

John finds that he has a meeting and must leave for it by 10:45 after we have only just checked in at 10AM. He takes a shower and is on his way. I, on the other hand, sleep off and on until he gets back around 3PM. Then we both nap until 6PM, shower, and walk to the old city.

Stockholm is a beautiful, clean city with shops, restaurants, and waterways. There are old buildings with picturesque tops. We walk around the old city and decide to have dinner at the restaurant, Stortorgskallaren. It is in an old wine cellar and is a very intimate setting with European (glacial) service. We have wine and kind of a carpaccio of reindeer with mousse, lettuce and lingonberries. The deer is a little gamey but good. The next course is salmon with horseradish butter and we finish up with brandy. It is all good.

Inside Restaurant Stortorgskallaren

We walk around for a while after dinner and then back to the hotel. Even at 11PM it is still light out.