The start of our Scandinavian cruise
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - May 22, 2019 - 12:00am

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Sorry, we failed to send a column yesterday because there are no cellsites in the high seas. This is because we are taking the humongous “Serenade of the Seas” by the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines for our Scandinavian cruise, from Copenhagen in Denmark, then goes to Stockholm in Sweden, Tallinn in Estonia, then St. Petersburg in Russia. These are countries we’ve never visited and since it is summertime, it was the perfect time for a visit.

This is my second time to take a cruise. The first one was a year and a half ago when we took a Mediterranean cruise from the Princess Cruise Lines on board the “Royal Princess” that brought us to Barcelona in Spain, Marseilles in France, then to the Greek isles of Olympia, Mykonos, and Santorini, Kotor, Montenegro, and then Naples in Italy. I’m joined by my son-law Atty. Jennoh Tequillo, my daughter Dr. Fara Tequillo, their two eldest children Mikili and Keena, and my other daughter Katrina, and my wife Jessica. We are also joined by our good friends, Mr. Francisco “Kito” and Marissa Unchuan who are taking their first cruise.

We boarded the “Serenade of the Seas” on Sunday and it left in the afternoon after passing through a tight security measure. Now that we’ve already taken our second cruise, it’s time to inform people who are asking why the Philippines is not part of the cruise liner industry when the famous tourism magazine Conde Nast put the Philippines as number one or two best tourism destination.

First of all, what we saw in Barcelona the other year and now in Copenhagen are specially-built terminals for cruise ships. Since cruise liners are huge and very long, each landing zone has its own terminal. For instance the “Serenade of the Seas” was docked in Terminal 1. While security was just as tight in Terminal 1, security staff were very polite and good-natured. After getting our passports (Filipino passports are taken by the Royal Caribbean, just like what the Princess Cruise did to us but returned our passports after the cruise was over) Royal Caribbean staff returned our passports when we sailed the following day. This is because St. Petersburg is the only stop that requires passport identification. Although we did get Russian visas, our tour ticket assures us of a single-entry, single-day visa to the second-largest city in Russia.

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 that the cruise liners often release to bring passengers to a landing area. How the tourism industry worldwide has changed thanks to the credit/debit card, taxis in Copenhagen accept your debit card.

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, half of their crew were Filipinos. Though the Royal Caribbean also has a lot of Filipino crew, I saw more Indians in the Scandinavian cruise than Filipinos.

Anyway, there was something I noticed while on board the vessel during lunch and dinner, the dining hall was noisy! It turns out that when people cannot access any wi-fi in their cellphones, they end up talking with the people they are with. This was because the ship was far away from any cellsites to access our cellphones or the 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 whom we met on the ship and they came up with a system that allows their kids 15 minutes of cellphone time in the morning and another 15 minutes in the afternoon and at night. Maybe we should do this!

At this point, we are entering Stockholm, Sweden, 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 17th century royal ship “Vasa,” which sank during its inauguration, sort of the Titanic of the old days. This was something we had to see as they restored it and put it in a museum. Well talk about that tomorrow.

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