Pete Cassy | September 19, 2023 | Fred Olsen Cruise Lines | Balmoral
A very pleasant and relaxing cruise to Sweden, her beautiful towns and cities accessed via pretty waterways, described as fjords but hardly as spectacular as those of Norway. Been on Balmoral a few times already so knew what to expect around the ship. Having recently been on a couple of cruises with P&O we felt better looked after. There were more staff who were always very pleasant and hard working. The food was better. Fears of disturbance from the engines ( cabin 3086) were unfounded and we were very lucky with flat calm seas most of the time. The resident house band, Family Affair, were worth a special mention in the night club and Sailaway Parties. They were excellent with a great range of music, well delivered.
The choice of ports of call was good. Stockholm is a beautiful city and worth a few days to see everything but a visit to the Vasa museum is a must. The massive wooden warship that sank in 1628 is in there looking just like the day it was completed and is in fact 98% the original ship.
First port of call was Lysekil, a popular holiday resort that I’d never heard of. Pleasant enough but not much happening as it was a Sunday. I understand that the King of Sweden has a holiday home there. Trelleborg, Sweden’s most southerly port was next. Things to see included a reconstructed Viking fort and a massive water tower almost 200 ft tall and a pleasant shopping centre and pedestrian streets.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Visby was next and it is stunning. With its complete stone city walls and ancient street pattern and buildings it is enough to just wander around taking it all in, maybe stopping for a coffee and a cinnamon bun. After Visby, there was an overnight stay in Stockholm which gave the opportunity to see many of its attractions ( I counted 39 museums of all descriptions including the Vasa and the ABBA museums). A stroll around Gamla Stan, the old town, is a good way to experience the buzz of this capital city.
Last port of call was Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city. The open top bus tour and canal boat trip is a good way to see the city for about £16.00. Canals, fortifications, old buildings and the stadium where Bruce Springsteen nearly brought the house down (literally, it had to be strengthened after 65,000 had the place rocking).
We were blessed with beautiful weather all the way round, which always makes a place attractive ( the first time I visited Stockholm it threw it down all day). Sweden is expensive generally, but not as bad as I was expecting. A coffee can cost £4.00 but I got one for about £2.80 in Visby, cheaper than a lot of places in the UK. You have real trouble using cash, even the local currency, Everything is done by credit card these days ( even public toilets) so you will need a credit or debit card with you at all times. Everyone speaks English and the Swedes are very friendly and helpful. Give this cruise a try if you’ve a mind to do it. We loved it.
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