Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side

Discussion created by erc on Jun 7, 2014
Latest reply on Jun 16, 2014 by sledchick
Just returned from another marvelous Insiders inspired adventure, this time a Silversea Baltic Sea Cruise combined with additional nights at Marriott properties in Malmo and Stockholm Sweden and Copenhagen Denmark. The Silversea line offers smaller ships providing terrific service (our cruise had 315 passengers). We cruised Stockholm/Tallinn/St. Petersburg/Helsinki and Copenhagen.

This was an all inclusive cruise for on board food and beverage, excursions were extra, but priced similar to the bigger lines. We saw castles, palaces, forts, museums, cathedrals, hop on hop offs, bikes, canal tours, food markets and subways (w/o pluto's help, I'm still not clever enough for buses). Whereas, as one might expect, costlier than the larger lines (what the heck, let the kids drive Taurus instead of Lexus when we're gone) the comfort that came with the experience was delightful, leading to a great time. Service was superb, (I felt like shoeman at the Ritz) food was delicious and available 24 hours and passengers were like an Insiders gathering; well traveled, friendly, and quite interesting with fascinating backgrounds and experiences. My jerrycoin and painedplatinum adventures earned me admission to the campfire. An erudite on-board professor (profchiara/foxglove, give it some thought, great perks) walked us thru the histories of each of the cities and countries we visited. Bottom line - these lands have been fighting and conquering each other since at least the Vikings - who by the way, never wore helmets with horns, contrary to the tourists shop offerings.

The fact that beverages were 'included' (not free), had me paraphrasing the Eagles in Hotel California, "we haven't tried that spirit since 1969"  as I sampled all types of spirits (single malt scotch, mmm), liqueurs, cordials, cognacs, beers, and with the advice of knowledgeable and personable sommeliers, excellent wines from all over the world. Now lest you think we were a bunched of hopped up boozers (we weren't, but jokes were funnier) we walked for miles several days, biked informative and lengthy city bike tours and climbed numerous vistas and towers. We did well in the one trivia contest (there were several previous ones, by time we played, we were up against experienced pros) competing against a remarkably intelligent group of Ken Jennings type players. Several teams racked up perfect scores. We knew we were in trouble when the host mocked American football and World Series baseball (I guessed Ronaldo for the Hand of God goal - it was Maradona, well excuuuse me) and I'm still proud of my, wrong, off the head (teammates thought it came from other body parts) Buzz Lightyear Laser acronym answer (they couldn't ask scuba, could they?) - Light Applied Space Electron Ray. A bunch of smartypants doctors smoked us on that one (it was like we were playing anadyr, arkwright, and bpelican). In another contest, Name That Tune, we were prize winners (medalist - not participant, hold the wisecracks, misterchk). Madmax you would have been proud as we dominated the fifties/sixties section (ps - McLintock ). We might even have won it all if not for a controversial question in the song and show/movie tunes, The Lady is a Tramp. I named the tune and said Pal Joey (movie, Sinatra singing to Hayworth), the lovely, but stern Brazilian game show host would only accept the play Babes in Arms and shot me and my chances down with a "No soup for you" type glance as I sank deeper into my seat, a beaten man (where's Brightly Bob when I need him?).

All three Marriott hotels were fine - Renaissance Malmo was a Cat. 5 when I booked it, so a great deal with a certificate. We flew to CPH, crossed the Oresund into Malmo for the evening and took a comfortable and informative four hour train trip up to Stockholm the next am. The Stockholm Courtyard had an excellent restaurant, Bjork where we enjoyed a lunch/dinner type brunch and provided a pleasant mile or so walk along the river into the city (about a $20 taxi). The Copenhagen Marriott, filled to the rafters each day, was the most expensive, yet IMO, least impressive, like a 1980's US suburban model. Nicely situated on a scenic canal, we were able to walk (lengthy, it's not in 'center city') around town from the hotel as a base.
One last note: did you know that French cafés are nicknamed “bistrots” (pronounced “bistro”), which is the Russian word for “quick”? According to the legend, Russian cossacks during the occupation of Paris in 1814 thought that the service was too slow and always shouted “Bistro, bistro!”. Interesting as that tidbit might have been, I would have traded one of the three Russian days for another Stockholm or Helsinki day. After hours of viewing remarkable jewels, gold jewelry, and royal toys and weapons from one palace/museum/castle after another, like a LeBron highlight reel, it became difficult to appreciate the distinctions after awhile (you'll see in the photos my counter strategy).

Overall, a terrific experience, again brought to me by Insiders (big nod to jasper and sg1974) and whereas geared more to the 50-70ish crowd (probably not quite enough action for the young turks kharada, vaboy, and jakeal) it did have several 30ish couples who we kept seeing on the biking tours and shared one inter-generational moment when, climbing up a relatively steep incline in Helsinki some of the less capable riders (not necessarily age based) had to get off and walk, leaving those of us at the top to break into Spamalot's Fisch Schlapping ballad - Finland, Finland, Finland (easy to fake the words) and near the end of the ditty, the historian (yours truly) says, "I said England" at which time one of the last of the bikers walks up panting and proclaimed, "no, this is Finland, I saw it on the brochure". Keep on keepin' on Insiders, and as always, know where you are!

The rest of the tale told in pictures, but as always, don't expect ssindc quality.
For artistic photos be sure to see
and jasper has posted some excellent videos of the various cities. If you need even more photos, try Wikipedia or Trip Advisor or you can wait until my coffee table book published by Cosmo Kramerhaus comes out a day after the return of the BOGOs.



Copenhagen based friends provided fantastic local experiences and knowledge for the entire Baltic Sea region. We're pictured at Nyhavn (New Harbour) where we had fine meals at Cap Horn and Geist. From what I heard (although with all of the 'skoaling' it was hard to hear), Hans Christian Andersen lived in several apartments with Danny Kaye, Hamlet, Beowulf, and Marmaduke as occasional guests.

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City view of Tivoli Gardens from Copenhagen Marriott

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Tivoli Gardens amusement park (2nd oldest in world, we also visited oldest, six miles away). In the middle of the city, performances, rides, lakes, lawns, birds, gardens and excellent restaurants make this a must visit stop.

Lilla Torg (Little Square) from our room at the Renaissance Malmo Sweden

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What's a vacation without an elk burger and a local brew? Lilla Torg

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Apparently without an OSHA (or tort lawyers), Church of Our Savior in Copenhagen has outside steps you can climb all the way to the bulb, even in rainy, slippery weather. PS - It was lovely indoors as well with a remarkable organ dating back to 1698.

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We of course, did climb, without having to worry about any crowds. Here's one of the impressive views.

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A wonderful weekend in Stockholm, here's the view from our top floor Courtyard room, the riverfront just a couple of blocks away.

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Yeah, it's a tourist trap, but we were tourists. Reminded me of several December Redskin games where I'd frozen my fanny off.

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Lots of action in Gamla Stan (The Old Town) Stockholm. I had tasty herring at least a dozen different ways. This appetizer lead to the following exchange at the excellent Fem Sma Hus (Five small houses - lots of tucked away dining rooms). Wisby, a local brew, was the lone pilsner served: Knowing that if I said Visby it would be Wisby and vice versa, I asked for "the pilsner";

Erc - "pilsner please"
Waitress - "which beer?"
Erc - "Wisby"
Waitress - "Ok, a Visby, thank you"
Erc - "You're Velcome"

The Vasa - Whereas this is the only preserved 17th century ship in the world and is a remarkably impressive piece of woodwork and craftsmanship, it sank on it's maiden voyage not having even sailed a mile. An entire museum was jammed with over six tour buses from several countries. I'm compiling my '62 Mets paraphernalia and will debut the "Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?" tour this fall.

Ship dining - Hey look here IAH, it's your son's beer recommendation (as Andy G. might say, it's gooood). For any thinking I don't eat a balanced diet, please note how impressively the sushi sits atop the sashimi.

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Sledchick, this is what you need for those cold N.H. nights - hot rock grilling! Deeelicious.

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And now some obligatory palace/museum shots. Peterhof Palace (the Russian Versailles) designed by Peter the Great. I have scores of interior/exterior shots (several areas were off limits for cameras), many better represented by the Insider link above or Wikipedia.

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The Golden Peacock Clock is one of the innumerable mind blowing exhibits of the six building State Hermitage Museum. Founded by Catherine the Great, it houses the world's largest collection of paintings and rooms of gold jewelry so impressively small and detailed that magnifying glasses are provided for viewing.

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After all the gold, crown jewels, unbelievable handmade jewelry, royal swords, and painted ceilings, The Vodka (pronounced Vohd-ka) Museum (with more than enough samples) was just the ticket. Our tour guide (note sign) put up a good effort, but fell short of your humble author who brought home the gold for the good ol' U.S. of A. God Bless America!