Friday, 16 January 2015

Experience: A Graceful New Year

 I was lucky to greet this New Year in the best place possible - on board my favourite ship, the Viking Grace. The New Year's Eve started with a car ride from Tervakoski where I was staying to Turku. Arriving just in time to walk around a bit and do some last minute shopping, I was convinced once again that I really do like Turku.

At 6 in the evening, when the shops closed and shooting fireworks became legal, we drove to Ruissalo, which is an island in the southwest of the city. Since it was dark it was impossible to do any sightseeing, instead we went up to a small floating pier to watch Baltic Princess and the Viking Grace come in.

Baltic Princess came in first..
...and took her spot

I really think her funnel should have the whole frame in white, like on her sisters and the Star.
After a while of waiting, the Grace came in too
Yep, it is her
turning around to back into her spot

Before the Grace turned around it was time for us to drive back to the harbour because the time was right to board. Since she stays in the harbour for just an hour, we parked the car near the harbour and did the check-in right away. Just like last time, the cruise schedules were introduced in the waiting hall before boarding. The introduction was in Finnish, Swedish and Russian, the last of which caused a surprised wow and passionate cheering in the end from the crowd who probably didn't expect that.

After boarding I went straight outside to take photos of the city and fireworks, which proved to be difficult. After trying for about 30 minutes it got a bit cold and I went back inside. 

Leaving Turku behind

Grace's gas tanks, built on the outside for safety
Behind Club Vogue
Smokers' deck as I like to call it and the atrium
Mandatory Funnel Photo
Not-So-Mandatory Fancy Ceiling Photo
My shoes in the cabin "spotlight"
The New Year was celebrated three times - Russian (St. Petersburg) time, Finnish time and Swedish time. We chose to only attend the Finnish time party, not only because it's our time zone but because Finnish time is also the ship's time and it was likely to be the best. In addition to that, when we went to buy the cruise boarding photo we were offered a photo shoot by the photographer. Afterwards, since we were disembarking early in the morning he offered to print out the photos and show them to us some 15 minutes before the Finnish New Year (if you're reading this, thanks a million!). The photos turned out great; we bought two of the best ones, one for each of us. 

 It was quite the classic New Year party, with a countdown and dancing and flying confetti in the Vogue club. After the celebration we stayed up for some hours, watching the Långnäs stop, sitting in Retro bar and enjoying.
31.12.2014  23:59:56
The New Year photo posted by the Viking Grace Facebook page; We should be somewhere riiiight behind the blonde head.
After a few hours of sleep it was time to disembark. I have never seen a city as dead as Stockholm at 6:30 on the 1st of January. The first sign of life we saw besides fellow disembarkers was an open McDonald's restaurant at Slussen. We chose to have breakfast there, resulting in probably my weirdest McDonald's experience ever. Unlike the city, it was absolutely packed with a rather colourful contingent, very dirty and seemed to have gone through a few attempts of cleaning with some of the chairs on the tables. There was also a system error that prevented the placing of any orders which made most of the people angry. After we had finally received and eaten our food, we were just about to head out and witnessed attempts to clean up the place - a bucket full of water was thrown to the floor and no one seemed to care besides us. Luckily, we ran outside just in time. 

After leaving our luggage at the hostel we were staying at, we had some 6-7 hours to kill before the check-in opened. The fact we were dead tired and most stores were closed wasn't helping. We looked around a bit in the center and Gamla Stan, then spontaneously took a ferry named Djurgården 10 to the namesake island where we found a really neat buffet restaurant. After killing lots of time eating there, we took a tram back to the center and soon headed back to the hostel on Långholmen island. It was a nice refreshing walk away from the Hornstull metro station, not too far away from the center, especially if you have transport cards. Långholmen is an old prison island, nowadays a popular recreation area with lots of greenery. Since it was cold and we were tired and the island wasn't too appealing in winter, we didn't spend any time looking around, but I'm hoping to return at some point. 

Waxholmsbolaget ferries
Gröna Lund from sea
Leaving the center behind
The courtyard of the buffet restaurant, looking absolutely lovely even in winter.
A nice pillar in a tunnel near Hornstull metro station, made of  bas-reliefs of human body parts
The hostel itself was a remarkable experience too, being entirely prison-themed. Although a bed sheet rental fee came as an unpleasant surprise this time, making the stay somewhat expensive, it was still quite an experience and I wouldn't mind staying there again. 

Luggage locker
Entrance to the museum
Our room
Mirror. Selfie not intended, honestly!
After doing the check-in it was finally time for some well-deserved beauty sleep and so we didn't wake up until early next morning, just in time to get ready to board the same sweet Grace again. Before boarding we had breakfast in the same McDonald's restaurant again, which, unlike on the day before, wasn't messy at all. The ship seemed quite empty this time with under a thousand people on board - from being almost sold out before, it was a nice contrast. The whole day on board didn't turn boring for a bit. First of all, after departing, we went to look at the ferries who were coming in one after another.

First of all, Silja Serenade of TallinkSilja, from Helsinki
Fortunately that morning wasn't near as foggy as the time I was taking photos of the Grace from her sister Silja Symphony.
Soon after her came Princess Maria of St. Peterline. Usually on the Helsinki - St. Petersburg route, I believe she was doing a seasonal cruise that brought her to Stockholm.
Built in 1981, still going strong
Bye bye
Soon afterwards, the Grace's fleetmate Gabriella followed, coming from Helsinki.
The only decent side view I got of her
Three in one
And finally, after a while of waiting, TallinkSilja's Romantika came in too, from Tallinn.
By the time she turned her back to us, the other vessels were long out of sight.
Absolutely Mandatory atrium photo that was taken in the meanwhile. That place looks totally different each time. 
Yes, we felt quite welcome, thank you ☺
Soon afterwards it was time to claim our spa reservation. The spa is probably my favourite place on the Grace; in addition to the majestic view out of the panorama window, the nice hot saunas and a snow cave, it's the small things that matter. For example the provided robe in addition to the usual towel, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner next to every shower, free fruits and water, and I couldn't help but notice that even the pool ladder side rails were heated.

As we were getting out of the spa the ship started rolling heavily, which was a sign of leaving the Stockholm archipelago. We killed some time in Retro bar until the Mariehamn stop when I went to take pictures. The weather outside was a weird mixture of very nice and very unpleasant; I didn't like the heavy rain at all, but sailing through a double rainbow was lovely. 
out near Mariehamn
Meanwhile on the other side
Baltic Princess heading out to continue to Turku
Galaxy following to continue to Stockholm
Sailing to heaven
Amorella and port of Mariehamn
After the Mariehamn stop I had to dry myself once again since I was absolutely soaked. Some more time was killed in the Retro Bar and in the shopping world once it opened. Unfortunately we were a tad too late for the Bingo, so instead we went to Rockmore Bar to wait for the karaoke to start. There low amount of passengers kind of reflected, although there weren't many seats available, it took a while to get the show going. Still, I sang some songs as well as many others did. The selection was at least as wide as on the Silja Symphony, but to me it seemed to be a much better selection, with at least 10 Nightwish songs in addition to many others. In the end I was very proud of myself for getting Matti to sing the Phantom of the Opera with me. After the karaoke it was just about the right time to pack up and get ready to disembark. Since it was quite late when we arrived back in Turku, we drove straight home, ending the best New Year celebration I've had so far.

1 comment:

  1. Your pictures are simply amazing. It is clear that you enjoyed a lot last year. What are your plans for New Year 2016 party and celebration. You definitely have to make a list of New Year resolution as well. Ain't you?