Swedish Sojourn

Exploring the Baltic, Silversea-style

By: By Ana Figueroa

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The Silver Shadow’s itinerary called at little-
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.

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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 red-painted farmhouses.

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 on.

“Try that at home and you’ll get arrested,” she whispered to me.

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 Restaurant.

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 bundle.

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 business.


Silversea will return to the Baltic region in the summer of 2008, offering a new array of itineraries beginning in June.

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