The Silver Shadow’s itinerary called at
visited ports in the Gulf of Bothnia.
Santa sang to us in the middle of July. Well, he wasn’t actually
Santa. His real name was Lasse. And he served reindeer for lunch
(something the real Santa would probably not do). Nonetheless, it
was easy to get lost in fantasy on our Arctic Circle Safari.
The exclusive shore excursion during our Silversea Baltic cruise
took us into the realm of the native Sami people (also known as
Laplanders) in the far north of Sweden. Here, reindeer scampered
gracefully across a lonely highway. Strapping men donned elaborate
black and red traditional costumes. Their thick suede boots curled
up at the toes and jingled merrily when they walked.
Sitting on reindeer pelts in a kota, the traditional Sami
teepee-like structure, Lasse not only sang to us, he described
(through an interpreter) some of the traditions of his enigmatic
people. Later, Lasse’s wife showed off some of their furry-legged
chickens, an evolutionary adaptation to the cold climate that
delighted my 14-year-old niece, Julia.
The Baltic has become increasingly popular as a cruise
destination, bringing thousands of visitors to this mysterious and
stunningly beautiful land. But, we saw no other cruise ships during
our Swedish Sojourn itinerary on the Silver Shadow. Silversea is
known for creating unique voyages for discerning travelers, and our
cruise certainly fit that bill. Sailing from Stockholm into the
Gulf of Bothnia, we called on little-visited ports that seemed
worlds away from our hectic lives back home.
One morning, we arrived in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, and the entire
town turned out to greet us. Literally. No cruise ship had docked
there for more than three decades, and we stepped down the gangway
to the sound of cheers and a local band. The gleaming Silver Shadow
no doubt seemed like an apparition compared to the Russian cargo
ships that normally call at the port.
During the Arctic Circle shore excursion,
guests visited with the Sami (Laplander)
people on a working farm.
One of the advantages of cruising on an intimately sized ship such
as the 382-passenger Silver Shadow is that shore excursions are
more personalized and flexible. On a day-long excursion into the
Swedish High Coast (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), our tour guide
brought a guitar. As we stepped into a centuries-old wooden church
she sang a lovely version of a popular American song. But, what our
group really wanted to hear was Swedish, and she gladly obliged
with a beautiful folk tune. Soon, she opened up and told stories of
growing up in this beguiling setting of forests, meadows, lakes and
My niece listened intently as our guide explained that in
Sweden, it is perfectly legal to wander the countryside eating wild
berries wherever you find them, regardless of whose land you are
“Try that at home and you’ll get arrested,” she whispered to
Another day, as we strolled to the Nobel Peace Prize Museum in
Oslo, we concluded that the Scandinavians are simply more
enlightened than the rest of us.
In the Land of the Midnight Sun, the sky turns a silvery gray at
night, but never completely dark. That’s a disadvantage if you’re
with a teenager who doesn’t want to go to bed. So, we often watched
movies till the wee hours of the morning. Julia’s midnight requests
for room service would have probably exasperated a lesser line. But
not Silversea. One night, the perplexed staff didn’t understand
what she meant by a “chocolate shake,” so Julia simply described
the ingredients. Soon, a gleaming silver tray arrived laden with
goblets of ice cream, buckets of chocolate syrup and pitchers of
ice-cold milk. Service and cuisine have always been hallmarks of
the Silversea ultra-premium experience. After long Scandinavian
summer days filled with adventures ashore, we opted to dine
in-suite. Our Silver Suite featured its own dining area, so how
could we resist the temptation to dine casually? As casually, that
is, as one can dine when attentive waiters come in to set your
table with fine linens, silver and china before serving delectable
courses ordered from the ship’s main dining venue, The
As we cruised to Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark, each
country seemed to have the most exquisite souvenirs. But, at least
to a teenager, the best souvenir was something on the primitive
side. During our Arctic Circle Safari, our hosts asked if anyone
was interested in taking home a reindeer pelt. Julia raised her
hand, expecting a neatly trimmed soft pelt, similar to those we had
seen in local gift shops. Instead, Lasse and his friends proudly
handed over an enormous, stiff roll of fur tied up in an unwieldy
We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, wondering how we’d get
it home. So, for the duration of our cruise, our luxury suite
featured a huge slab of furry hide that we affectionately dubbed
Rudolph. Sometimes we spread Rudolph out on our stateroom balcony
to air out, but most of the time, we kept him rolled up rather
obtrusively in our elegant entryway.
Room stewardesses, waiters and ships personnel came and went,
all clearly taking note of our somewhat odd-smelling room fixture.
But, this being Silversea, they simply smiled and went about their
Silversea will return to the Baltic region in the summer of 2008,
offering a new array of itineraries beginning in June.