What to learn during a cruise ship vacation
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - May 23, 2019 - 12:00am

STOCKHOLM, Sweden— Actually we left London for Copenhagen, Denmark to start our Scandinavian Cruise with my family. A year and a half ago, we took the Royal Princess of the Princess Cruise Lines, but for this vacation, we are taking the “Serenade of the Seas” of the Royal Caribbean. One thing I’m learning quickly about people suggesting that the Philippines should have a Cruise Liner Port, is that in Copenhagen, they accommodate four or six huge cruise liners with each liner docking in its own terminal just like an airport terminal. This is something that we in the Philippines should consider before even thinking that we can join the cruise line industry.

Let me point out with emphasis that security measures in a tourism site is imperative. We have nice beaches, but it is rather inaccessible to the launches or tenders that the cruise liners often release to bring passengers to a landing area. Another vital piece of information is that the tourism industry worldwide has changed, thanks to the credit/debit card… taxis in Copenhagen accept your debit card. In the Philippine setting, only major hotels accept credit or debit cards. Many tourism destinations in the Philippines, which are not in major cities like Cebu or Manila, have this problem.

For this Scandinavian Cruise we met so many Filipino tourists… a lot of them Rotarians from Manila and many from the United States. Yes, compared to the Princess Cruise lines, where half of their crew were Filipinos. Though the Royal Caribbean also has a lot of Filipino crew, I saw more Indians in this Scandinavian cruise than Filipinos.

Anyway, there was something I noticed while on board the vessel during lunch and dinner time… the dining hall was noisy! It turns out that when people cannot access any WiFi in their cellphones, they end up talking with the people they are with. This was because the ship was far away from any cell sites to access our cellphones or internet. Yes, this includes our being unable to access our Facebook so when that happens…we end up talking to one another, which was for me a very positive thing. I talked to some people from the US that we met on the ship and they have come up with a system that allows their kids 15 minutes using their cellphones in the morning and another 15 minutes in the afternoon and at night. Maybe we should do this!

At this point, we are in Stockholm, Sweden for a daylong tour, so once again we have internet access, however we can only tour the city in the afternoon, which by that time, we have passed our deadline. Stockholm has a lot to offer tourists…. like the 16th century Royal ship Vasa, which sunk during its inauguration… sort of the Titanic of the old days. This was something we had to seek as they have restored it and put it in a museum.

The Vasa was a Swedish warship built between 1626 and 1628. The ship foundered after sailing about 1,300 m (1,400 yd) into its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. The Titanic’s maiden voyage got her for many days out of Southampton. The Vasa was salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961. I remember reading about its salvage in a National Geographic magazine when I was still in high school.

We took a tour bus to see Stockholm and learned a lot from our tour guide. For instance, he talked a lot about Sweden being a welfare state, that the total population of Sweden was 10 million and that they were in the middle of a baby boom. We ended our bus tour at the Vasa Museum and believe me it will take your breath away, seeing such a huge wooden warship that is so well-preserved after more than 300 years underwater. The Vasa is one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions and has been seen by over 35 million visitors since 1961. Since her recovery, Vasa has become a widely recognized symbol of the Swedish “great power period.”

The Vasa was built on the orders of the King of Sweden Gustavos Adolphus as part of the military expansion he initiated in a war with Poland-Lithuania (1621–1629) against Catholic Poland versus Lutheran Sweden. It fell into obscurity after most of her valuable bronze cannons were salvaged in the 17th century until it was located again in the late 1950s in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbor. The ship was salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961. This was indeed a unique tourism destination.

After Stockholm we go to other Baltic States and end up in St. Petersburg, known in the old days as Leningrad. I guess this is the highlight of this tour of Scandinavia. There are so many cruise ships travelling these days. In Copenhagen, I saw at least five cruise ships docked to pick up its passengers, while in Stockholm our cruise ship was in the company of another three cruise ships, which were smaller in size. So by next column, I guess my vacation would already be over. But at least, I can write about my first ever visit to Russia, after all, St. Petersburg is the second largest city of Russia.

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Email: vsbobita@gmail.com.

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