We went all the way to Stockholm and all I did was get some avocado toast.
Well, that’s not entirely true, but that’s how it felt. But let’s start at the beginning: our Norwegian Getaway docked in Nynäshamn just past 7:00 am. We had originally been slated to dock in Stockholm proper, but due to the ship’s berth (and the fact that there was another mega ship docked in Stockholm), we received a notice earlier in the cruise explaining that the ship would have to dock in Nynäshamn instead. The dock in Stockholm is located centrally within the city. Nynäshamn is about an hour away. So while they extended our time in port for the day by an hour, our time was reduced by net one hour.
We didn’t book a tour in Stockholm. There is so much to do and see within the city that we didn’t feel the need. We reconsidered when we got the letter about the change in berths, but we ultimately didn’t book a tour since it’s fairly straightforward and easy to reach Stockholm from Nynäshamn on your own. The ship offered a transfer for $49/pp, but if you were willing to brave it on your own, you could take the train direct into Stockholm Central for less than $10 round trip.
So we woke up and grabbed a quick breakfast up at the Garden Café, and when the ship announced an all clear, we headed downstairs to disembark. There’s an information hut on the pier (one of the longest piers we’ve ever had to walk, by the way!) and we inquired on directions to the train station, which we knew was about a 15 minute walk away. And the directions were so simple anyone can follow them: follow the blue line. There is a blue line and a green line painted on the sidewalk, beginning at the pier. The green line will take you on a walk to the center of the town and the blue line will take you right to the train station. It could not be more straight forward.
The walk took a little longer than 15 minutes for us, but we walked it pretty slowly since it took us uphill in parts. The train to (and from) Stockholm Central runs twice an hour, and you buy train tickets from a machine at the pier (and you do not need to validate or do anything other than purchase the ticket). You can also purchase an all day transit pass that’s also valid on the trains and busses in Stockholm from a small shop at the train station, but since we weren’t planning on riding around their public transit system, we just bought the single ride ticket. Something to note, though, is that you should not buy two tickets as a round trip from your point of origin in Stockholm. Tickets are only valid for an hour, and if you buy them with the intent to save time on your return, you’re going to find yourself with an expired ticket.
The train was right on time and there were many others from the ship (including the entire cast of Burn the Floor) who were also taking the train. And the ride started just fine, but four or so stops away from Stockholm Central, the train was delayed. Multiple times. My best guess (since I don’t speak Swedish and couldn’t understand the announcements) was that we were delayed because of delays within Stockholm Central (which isn’t the end of the line on any of the trains that pass through). The train ride should have taken an hour and seven minutes and took just about two hours. While incredibly disappointing that our short day was cut even shorter, it’s the risk we took in doing it on our own. We passed the time in the only appropriate way: listening to the Mamma Mia soundtrack.
Stockholm Central is in the middle of the city, with tons within walking distance around it (including the main shopping area, Drottninggatan, about a ten minute walk away). In some regards, Stockholm reminded me of home in Chicago and the area in the Loop around Union Station, with just a ton of commerce and shops and cafes a stones throw away from each other.
We tried to find the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off stop, but all we could find was the Red Line bus. We bought our tickets onboard for 300 kr (~$34, which blew past everything I said in Helsinki!) and settled into the covered upper deck. Most of the sightseeing bus lines run an hour or so. This one ran two and a half, which scrapped any hopes we had of having Swedish meatballs at Meatball for the People or visiting the Vasa Museum (which houses a real Viking ship!). We wouldn’t stroll through the parks singing Abba songs or shop along Drottninggatan. All we saw of Stockholm would be out the window of this bus.
I was disappointed – really disappointed. Stockholm was a highlight for me and I felt a little gypped in the change in our itinerary that cut our time so short. I’m a seasoned enough cruiser to know these things happen and I’m so certain I’ll be back in Stockholm again one day, but watching such a beautiful city out a window and not having the time to get off and explore it up close? Man, that was hard to swallow.
Given the delays we had coming into the city, we didn’t want to risk missing the ship should we have another delay coming back, so we hopped off at the stop closest to the train station and spent the rest of our time walking around the area there.
I couldn’t leave without doing something Swedish, so I stopped in a small coffee shop I found near the train station and had Fika, the Swedish custom of taking a break with coffee and a pastry. Stephanie and Mom went into a nearby pharmacy to look for cold meds (coming up empty because, you know, neither of them could read Swedish well enough to understand what was in them) and I sat outside with my coffee, enjoying my Fika and bustling Stockholm street in front of me.
We bought our train tickets, intending to take the 2:04 pm train, but we couldn’t figure out how to use our paper tickets to get into the electronic turnstiles and we missed it, finding out later that we needed to go to a manned booth on the other side of the terminal and have the agent let us in. Since we had a half hour until the next train, we stopped into Blueberry, a small café with toasts and smoothies, to grab a quick lunch. And to be fair, the avocado toast I had at Blueberry was among the best avocado toast I’ve ever had (cue the typical millennial jokes). It wasn’t meatballs or a Swedish pancake, or authentic Swedish fare really, but it was something, right?
Because the trains just pass through at Stockholm Central, we didn’t go down to the track until about ten minutes before our train was scheduled to stop to minimize any risk of getting on the wrong train. Our train was full with people going back to the ship, so we felt relieved to be in the good company of our fellow cruisers so close to back onboard time.
Thankfully, we faced no delays and we pulled back into Nynäshamn right on time, just around 3:45 pm for our back onboard of 4:30 pm. We wouldn’t have time to buy any souvenirs or see the city center, but we had enough time for the leisurely stroll back to the ship, downhill this time, right around a 15-minute walk door to door.
Part of what we lost in the port moving, outside of the time within the city, was the chance to sail through the Swedish archipelago, a series of thousands of small islands in the waters outside of Stockholm. Nynäshamn was lovely, really, a beautiful small town, and the air from all of the fresh trees was so clean and pure, literally like breathing in air so fresh and energizing, but we were still bummed that we were missing the archipelago. We stayed on the balcony until we were out to sea, enjoying the warmer air and sunlight.
Once we were out to sea, we headed downstairs to the Taste restaurant for dinner. I didn’t think the menu was great, but turkey night is Stephanie’s favorite meal on just about any ship and traveling with your family is all about making compromises (…or so I’m told…by my family). At the very least, because this was our first cruise with Norwegian, everything was new and different and that, in and of itself, made each meal (regardless of which restaurant we chose) exciting.
Vegetable Cream Soup
Spinach and Beet Salad
Bibb Lettuce Salad
Potato Gnocchi and Italian Sausage
Watermelon, Shrimp and Mozzarella Cheese
Carved Whole Roast Turkey
Italian Meatballs and Orecchiette Pasta
After Eight Mint Chocolate Mousse
Honey Crème Brûlée
We took our obligatory walk around deck 8’s waterfront after dinner, something we did almost every night when the weather cooperated. We had beautiful sunny skies for most of this trip, and the temperatures were mild to very warm in port, but at sea, it was almost always frigid unless the sun was rising or setting and you were in the direct sunlight. Packing for this trip was a challenge in that regard – the swing in temperatures was nearly 30 degrees at some places, but on nights where we weren’t shivering in the outside air, we spent as much time as possible enjoying the water.
And just about as soon as we got back to the room, we all passed out. It was terrible. We did nothing but sleep just about every night. There were shows, shops, the casino, live music, plenty of evening entertainment, but we were so exhausted. We never got comfortable with the time change (which meant I was napping after dinner and then staying up until 2:00 am just about every night) and between the port intensive itinerary and the long days in these new cities, we were just exhausted.
Mom slept right through after dinner to the next morning. Stephanie and I woke up in time to check out the Glow party in the Tropicana. While Carnival may through better deck parties (sorry, NCL!), I was impressed by the number of people dancing and singing and enjoying the neon rave. Clearly I could use their tips on how to stay awake long enough to have fun on this cruise!
But after we left the party, Stephanie went back to bed and I bundled up to sit out on the balcony. The sun would set around 9:30 every night, but it wouldn’t actually get dark (or fully dark), and on one side of the ship, there would be this beautiful dusk that would last hours into the night. I would just lounge on the balcony for what seemed like hours, enjoying the colors in the sky as we sailed into the night.