16 Replies Latest reply: Jun 16, 2014 9:50 AM by Sledchick RSS

Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side

erc Platinum
Currently Being Moderated
Just returned from another marvelous Insiders inspired adventure, this time a Silversea Baltic Sea Cruise combined with additional nights at Marriott properties in Malmo and Stockholm Sweden and Copenhagen Denmark. The Silversea line offers smaller ships providing terrific service (our cruise had 315 passengers). We cruised Stockholm/Tallinn/St. Petersburg/Helsinki and Copenhagen.

This was an all inclusive cruise for on board food and beverage, excursions were extra, but priced similar to the bigger lines. We saw castles, palaces, forts, museums, cathedrals, hop on hop offs, bikes, canal tours, food markets and subways (w/o pluto's help, I'm still not clever enough for buses). Whereas, as one might expect, costlier than the larger lines (what the heck, let the kids drive Taurus instead of Lexus when we're gone) the comfort that came with the experience was delightful, leading to a great time. Service was superb, (I felt like shoeman at the Ritz) food was delicious and available 24 hours and passengers were like an Insiders gathering; well traveled, friendly, and quite interesting with fascinating backgrounds and experiences. My jerrycoin and painedplatinum adventures earned me admission to the campfire. An erudite on-board professor (profchiara/foxglove, give it some thought, great perks) walked us thru the histories of each of the cities and countries we visited. Bottom line - these lands have been fighting and conquering each other since at least the Vikings - who by the way, never wore helmets with horns, contrary to the tourists shop offerings.

The fact that beverages were 'included' (not free), had me paraphrasing the Eagles in Hotel California, "we haven't tried that spirit since 1969"  as I sampled all types of spirits (single malt scotch, mmm), liqueurs, cordials, cognacs, beers, and with the advice of knowledgeable and personable sommeliers, excellent wines from all over the world. Now lest you think we were a bunched of hopped up boozers (we weren't, but jokes were funnier) we walked for miles several days, biked informative and lengthy city bike tours and climbed numerous vistas and towers. We did well in the one trivia contest (there were several previous ones, by time we played, we were up against experienced pros) competing against a remarkably intelligent group of Ken Jennings type players. Several teams racked up perfect scores. We knew we were in trouble when the host mocked American football and World Series baseball (I guessed Ronaldo for the Hand of God goal - it was Maradona, well excuuuse me) and I'm still proud of my, wrong, off the head (teammates thought it came from other body parts) Buzz Lightyear Laser acronym answer (they couldn't ask scuba, could they?) - Light Applied Space Electron Ray. A bunch of smartypants doctors smoked us on that one (it was like we were playing anadyr, arkwright, and bpelican). In another contest, Name That Tune, we were prize winners (medalist - not participant, hold the wisecracks, misterchk). Madmax you would have been proud as we dominated the fifties/sixties section (ps - McLintock ). We might even have won it all if not for a controversial question in the song and show/movie tunes, The Lady is a Tramp. I named the tune and said Pal Joey (movie, Sinatra singing to Hayworth), the lovely, but stern Brazilian game show host would only accept the play Babes in Arms and shot me and my chances down with a "No soup for you" type glance as I sank deeper into my seat, a beaten man (where's Brightly Bob when I need him?).

All three Marriott hotels were fine - Renaissance Malmo was a Cat. 5 when I booked it, so a great deal with a certificate. We flew to CPH, crossed the Oresund into Malmo for the evening and took a comfortable and informative four hour train trip up to Stockholm the next am. The Stockholm Courtyard had an excellent restaurant, Bjork where we enjoyed a lunch/dinner type brunch and provided a pleasant mile or so walk along the river into the city (about a $20 taxi). The Copenhagen Marriott, filled to the rafters each day, was the most expensive, yet IMO, least impressive, like a 1980's US suburban model. Nicely situated on a scenic canal, we were able to walk (lengthy, it's not in 'center city') around town from the hotel as a base.
One last note: did you know that French cafés are nicknamed “bistrots” (pronounced “bistro”), which is the Russian word for “quick”? According to the legend, Russian cossacks during the occupation of Paris in 1814 thought that the service was too slow and always shouted “Bistro, bistro!”. Interesting as that tidbit might have been, I would have traded one of the three Russian days for another Stockholm or Helsinki day. After hours of viewing remarkable jewels, gold jewelry, and royal toys and weapons from one palace/museum/castle after another, like a LeBron highlight reel, it became difficult to appreciate the distinctions after awhile (you'll see in the photos my counter strategy).

Overall, a terrific experience, again brought to me by Insiders (big nod to jasper and sg1974) and whereas geared more to the 50-70ish crowd (probably not quite enough action for the young turks kharada, vaboy, and jakeal) it did have several 30ish couples who we kept seeing on the biking tours and shared one inter-generational moment when, climbing up a relatively steep incline in Helsinki some of the less capable riders (not necessarily age based) had to get off and walk, leaving those of us at the top to break into Spamalot's Fisch Schlapping ballad - Finland, Finland, Finland (easy to fake the words) and near the end of the ditty, the historian (yours truly) says, "I said England" at which time one of the last of the bikers walks up panting and proclaimed, "no, this is Finland, I saw it on the brochure". Keep on keepin' on Insiders, and as always, know where you are!


The rest of the tale told in pictures, but as always, don't expect ssindc quality.
For artistic photos be sure to see
http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/message/69710#69710
and jasper has posted some excellent videos of the various cities. If you need even more photos, try Wikipedia or Trip Advisor or you can wait until my coffee table book published by Cosmo Kramerhaus comes out a day after the return of the BOGOs.



Copenhagen.jpg

 

Copenhagen based friends provided fantastic local experiences and knowledge for the entire Baltic Sea region. We're pictured at Nyhavn (New Harbour) where we had fine meals at Cap Horn and Geist. From what I heard (although with all of the 'skoaling' it was hard to hear), Hans Christian Andersen lived in several apartments with Danny Kaye, Hamlet, Beowulf, and Marmaduke as occasional guests.

TivoliGardens view.jpg
City view of Tivoli Gardens from Copenhagen Marriott

Tivoli pagoda.jpg
Tivoli Gardens amusement park (2nd oldest in world, we also visited oldest, six miles away). In the middle of the city, performances, rides, lakes, lawns, birds, gardens and excellent restaurants make this a must visit stop.

Malmo.jpg
Lilla Torg (Little Square) from our room at the Renaissance Malmo Sweden

Malmo Elk burger.jpg
What's a vacation without an elk burger and a local brew? Lilla Torg

Churchof our Savior.jpg
Apparently without an OSHA (or tort lawyers), Church of Our Savior in Copenhagen has outside steps you can climb all the way to the bulb, even in rainy, slippery weather. PS - It was lovely indoors as well with a remarkable organ dating back to 1698.

View Copenhagen.jpg
We of course, did climb, without having to worry about any crowds. Here's one of the impressive views.

Stockholm Courtyard view.jpg
A wonderful weekend in Stockholm, here's the view from our top floor Courtyard room, the riverfront just a couple of blocks away.

IceBar Hotel.jpg
Yeah, it's a tourist trap, but we were tourists. Reminded me of several December Redskin games where I'd frozen my fanny off.

Pickled Herring.jpg
Lots of action in Gamla Stan (The Old Town) Stockholm. I had tasty herring at least a dozen different ways. This appetizer lead to the following exchange at the excellent Fem Sma Hus (Five small houses - lots of tucked away dining rooms). Wisby, a local brew, was the lone pilsner served: Knowing that if I said Visby it would be Wisby and vice versa, I asked for "the pilsner";

Erc - "pilsner please"
Waitress - "which beer?"
Erc - "Wisby"
Waitress - "Ok, a Visby, thank you"
Erc - "You're Velcome"

Vasa.jpg
The Vasa - Whereas this is the only preserved 17th century ship in the world and is a remarkably impressive piece of woodwork and craftsmanship, it sank on it's maiden voyage not having even sailed a mile. An entire museum was jammed with over six tour buses from several countries. I'm compiling my '62 Mets paraphernalia and will debut the "Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?" tour this fall.

Sushi.jpg
Ship dining - Hey look here IAH, it's your son's beer recommendation (as Andy G. might say, it's gooood). For any thinking I don't eat a balanced diet, please note how impressively the sushi sits atop the sashimi.

Poolside Grill.jpg
Sledchick, this is what you need for those cold N.H. nights - hot rock grilling! Deeelicious.

Peterhof Palace Fountains.jpg
And now some obligatory palace/museum shots. Peterhof Palace (the Russian Versailles) designed by Peter the Great. I have scores of interior/exterior shots (several areas were off limits for cameras), many better represented by the Insider link above or Wikipedia.

Hermitage Peacock.jpg
The Golden Peacock Clock is one of the innumerable mind blowing exhibits of the six building State Hermitage Museum. Founded by Catherine the Great, it houses the world's largest collection of paintings and rooms of gold jewelry so impressively small and detailed that magnifying glasses are provided for viewing.

Vodka Museum.jpg
After all the gold, crown jewels, unbelievable handmade jewelry, royal swords, and painted ceilings, The Vodka (pronounced Vohd-ka) Museum (with more than enough samples) was just the ticket. Our tour guide (note sign) put up a good effort, but fell short of your humble author who brought home the gold for the good ol' U.S. of A. God Bless America!

(For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    jerrycoin Alumni Steward Platinum 60 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    erc,

     

    Wow!

     

    This is some fabulous experience!

     

    Thanks for sharing:

     

    Hot Rocks Dining!

     

    "Vohd-ka" Museum, now that would make my day!

     

    This is a wonderful post, and it was a lot of work to put it together, so let me share with you how much others and myself appreciate it!  You mention so many MRI in you story and like you, I "Thank-all" for their contribution to my travel experiences.

     

    Lastly, Yes, God Bless America!

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    blava007 Platinum
    Currently Being Moderated

    erc

     

    Without any question; one of the BEST and insightful insiders write-ups on travel experience.  

     

    Thank you for sharing and providing such great details and photos.

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

    • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
      erc Platinum
      Currently Being Moderated
      Thanks guys for the kind words. For all the value of the discussions sharing tactics in navigating the Rewards programs, I still find Insiders insights on trips and locations to be the hook that brings me back to the site time and time again.
      I schedule over half of our travels based solely on Insider recommendations (both of you were instrumental in my London trip), next in line; Hotel Punta Islita Costa Rica drawing from tker's experience, Marriott Grand Chateau with a guiding hand from vaboy, Belgium virtually shadowing psudad's and newhilton's itinerary and now due to tef's most recent writeup, the Union Station Nashville Autograph has moved onto the radar screen.

      In my previous life as a responsible adult, I traveled to most major US cities, so this forum is invaluable to me in highlighting fresh approaches to cities I've visited professionally or as a chaperone of teenage athletes and is perfect for reducing the unknowns of international travel.

      Keep on keepin' Insiders, we're all in this together.

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
        jerrycoin Alumni Steward Platinum 60 Reviews
        Currently Being Moderated

        erc,

         

        Thank-YOU, for your kind words!

         

        That was really a great report!

         

        Am in Nashville, (Brentwood RI). This week Huntsville (RI), then on to Memphis (RI)!  A Marriott week!

         

        BTW, keep those stories and photo's coming!  We can never get enough!

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    iahflyr Platinum 26 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    erc,

     

    First, welcome back to the U.S. and know you were missed by at least one or two of us.

     

    What a fantastic journey you took us on, as expected much humor throughout the story and excellent information.  The pictures are stunning, but I'm with Jerry on this one......Vohd-Ka Museum, a must see!!

     

    Splendid job pal, can't wait to learn more of your travels aboard the yacht.

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    painedplatinum Platinum 2 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    erc

    Simply top notch..not much else to say. But, I'll try...... Well written, highlighting many interesting sights and experiences. Informational, for someone like me that has not traveled this particular part of the world, excellent basics. That's what a novice needs to dare to travel somewhere new. You simplified things nicely. Pictures worth 1000's of words, these snapshots flow better than a coffee table book (I mean that as a compliment).

     

    Now, let's get away from technique and talk about content. I'm the guy who can stretch a buck with the best of them....I appreciate you not skimping out, but going for the Mercedes so the kids can get a Taurus. I'd be afraid that much of my time would be spent complaining that the additional dough wasn't worth the experience. I need high rollers like you too shake me out of the creeping frugal malaise...I know Mrs. Pained appreciates your effort!

     

    I'm filing this masterpiece for future reference. Many thanks for sharing.

     

    I'm interested to see if arkwright and sg1974 like it as much as I do.

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

    • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
      erc Platinum
      Currently Being Moderated
      painedplatinum

      As a fellow 'frugalite' (like many Insiders who have had the good fortune of accumulating means for travel, we grew up valuing and preserving capital and those ways stay with us) I know exactly what you mean about dissonance that comes with an occasional step up in operating styles.

      What helped me (ammo for Mrs. Pained) address the issue;
      1) I was pretty confident this would be my sole trip to the region
      2) I dealt more with the incremental cost increase (vs. a regular 'big ship' cruise) rather than the absolute cost - for example, excursions were similarly priced, so I was dealing mostly with the cruise purchase differential which I 'amortized' in the following ways;
           I tried everything they had to offer - I decided w/o pushing myself to an uncomfortable level, that I would trade sleep for activities and try all the different foods, beverages, services (like their offer of boxed lunches - which not only saved me money, but came in handy in between excursions) and games - quizzes, cooking demonstrations, lectures, and yes, workouts. Even with my 'included' alcohol sampling plan, because I paced it out with activity and food, I only had a bit of a buzz once - after capturing the tour bus Vodka Museum championship (no way I was going to lose that after dropping Name that Tune and being schooled in the Trivia Contest; plus I had twice the girth of the tour guide, shame on me if I couldn't take him).
      3a) I followed my usual technique of looking for deals to reduce costs; I flew on award miles and by booking early and crafting my trip around econo saver availability, went for 120k miles*, fortunately UAL used SAS, so the flight was very comfortable. *A tip I learned a while back - for an additional 30k miles, Mrs. Erc was able to fly back first class (we know Dulles inside out and were 'fresh', so going out was fine), not only did I get credit for being a prince of a guy (if I say it enough, perhaps the Mrs. will believe it) but by her returning 1st class, I, the econo-schlub (but with a nice aisle seat and movies), got to bypass the huge bag check line at CPH, an airport I didn't know my way around, and we checked bags (remember ssindc, erc don't play dat) under her ticket receiving first out bag status saving us at least twenty minutes back at Dulles as all customs lines converge after bags.

      3b) By booking early (10 months out) and watching rates like a hawk - they went down twice, even stumbling into a CY with breakfast for two rate (probably the only one because after I booked I didn't see it again) I was able to minimize the damage of high rates and was fortunate with the Ren Malmo being a Cat. 5. (no longer, of course) allowing for a rare certificate true savings. Copenhagen (the city, not just Marriott) hammers you, I even had a Best Western Hotel.com rate as a backup. Marriott started at over $700 for four months and never dropped below the $250 I stumbled into (again, never to be seen again). I even commented about rates (perhaps rudely so in hindsight, but I was fuming at $700) when the Concierge posted an otherwise excellent writeup about the property on Insiders.

      So, all in all, it was a great experience, worth the incremental expense (which can be recouped if necessary, by trimming a future trip), but here's the catch; it's a style one could very easily get used to, so that's where the lifelong discipline comes in (like the current exercise routine paying for the additional 3,000 additional calories per day I splurged on) or the kiddies will be riding bikes, not Tauruses; of course, I'm not opposed to them earning their own lifestyle, which they are somewhat succeeding at .

      herring.jpg
      Great for absorbing the vodka shots - remove onion, keep friends

      Cooking demonstration.jpg
      Cooking demonstration by ship's Top Chef - Although Mrs. Erc greatly enjoyed, all I heard was; "Let's get started" and "let's taste the results"

      photo bomb.jpg
      Name the King's Crown photo bomber and next waffle at SpringHill is free.

      aerial view.jpg
      Aerial view of the Hermitage. No, I didn't use jasper's "contacts", this was a video in the coffee shop, but it provides a good feel for the scope of the museum.




      ps - Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder won Tony for Best Musical - remember we heard it here first on Insiders. I'm on a roll, Kinky Boots and GGuide -  back to back winners on Marriott Getaways - whoo hoo (but like California Chrome, no Triple Crown, three years back, Spiderman, so I shall remain my humble self )

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
        iahflyr Platinum 26 Reviews
        Currently Being Moderated

        A fantastic amount of information put out, wonderful tips on keeping Mrs Erc at the top however; my plan is to travel in First Class with Mrs. IAH and I may have just learned she doesn't want me up there with her and I can save miles anyway!!   Wait, I'm trying to use all my UA miles.

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

    • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
      sg1974 Gold
      Currently Being Moderated

      pp,

       

      that was a great report as per usual from erc.

      they are always entertaining, helpful and bring back memories.

      i remember having my quota of herring in stockholm!

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    californian Platinum 37 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    Great post,  Terrific pictures,  I am not sure how you got the great pic of the Vasa since it is so dark in there.

     

    I did the trip by land and wished I did a cruise.  I would have enjoyed it more.

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    arkwright Platinum 2 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    Erc, My friend,

     

    A highly informative and engaging account of what was clearly a deeply stimulating and enjoyable journey.

     

    Thank you,

     

    A

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    foxglove Silver 3 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    erc Welcome back! It's good to have that wit back on these boards and in absolutely top-notch form. Great travelogue and wonderful read -- thanks for sharing!

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    madmax Gold 7 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    erc, great post and I've always wondered about Silver Seas. The cruises look very inviting, but not as much as you made this one seem. It's so much better to hear first-hand from someone who has actually been there, done that. And btw,

    (Madmax you would have been proud as we dominated the fifties/sixties section (ps - McLintock )...glad someone got it.

    My advice would be don't go Carnival now

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    pluto77 Alumni Steward Gold 25 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    Erc,

    Welcome back.  You are officially the Insiders King of the Travelogue.  Your trip reports are masterful, and have me for one, wanting to duplicate them in their entirety.  When lining up my future travels from the Travel Gods, you may overhear me saying, "For this next trip, we'd like to order one of your 'ERC' specials... "  Oahu, London, the Baltics - Let's go!

     

    Thanks for taking us along for the ride and for taking the time to share your tips and tricks (and in such an engaging fashion.)  Very much appreciated.

     

    I'll let you get back to that post-cruise treadmill now...   On deck - Belgique, Oui?  Did someone say, 'Waffle?'  'Oh yes. I believe it was - You!'

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    jakeal Gold 15 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    Erc,

     

    Wonderful reporting and pictures!  The scenery looks great and the food delicious.

     

    It is always enjoyable to read your posts.

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Baltic Sea Cruise with a dash of Marriott on the side
    Sledchick Platinum 9 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    Everyone else's comments were just what I wanted to say after reading your travelogue!   It was wonderful.  And thanks for the photo of the beef -- I love my meat still mooing like that!  How did you know?

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

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