Northern European Capitals Disney Cruise, Part 5
by Alice McNutt Miller
Since we did not need to meet for today's DCL excursion--"Porvoo and Helsinki Highlights" -until 9:45 a.m. today, we got to sleep in a bit. After breakfast in Topsider's, we headed to the Walt Disney Theatre, and met up with a couple of our tablemates for the excursion. After boarding the bus, we made our first stop at Helsinki's Rock Church. This was a beautiful, contemporary church built-as the name implies-with native rocks in the side of a hill. The entrance to the church is rather "unimpressive" (the words of our lovely guide), but the inside was quite striking. The most interesting architectural element was the fact that the domed ceiling was covered with a spiral of copper "wire."
The next stop after the Rock Church was the Sibelius Monument. Jean Sibelius was Finland's most famous composer. He lived from 1865 to 1957 and his most famous composition is "Finlandia." The Monument was designed by Finnish architect Eila Hiltunen and was quite controversial when it was built in1967. The monument looks like a series of huge organ pipes, and is quite impressive. The thing that amazed me was that not only could visitors get very close to the monument; you can also touch it and get inside of it.
From the Sibelius Monument, we loaded back onto the bus, and drove about an hour outside of Helsinki to the village of Porvoo, the second-oldest village in Finland. We stopped just outside of Porvoo at a farm where we had our lunch in an old converted distillery.
The old town of Porvoo was delightful.
We had a bit of time on our own to see the old church, do some shopping and eat some ice cream. Our guide told us that the Finns have the highest annual consumption of ice cream in the world, and you could tell, as there were ice cream stands everywhere.
On the way back to Helsinki we stopped briefly at another old church, which looked very similar to the one in Porvoo. One interesting thing about these churches is that they each have a "church boat," which is a small model of a ship hanging from the ceiling, which is meant to symbolize Christianity. I don't think that I have ever seen one of these in any other country that I have been to (although it is quite possible that I have missed them!).
In Helsinki, we got off the bus in the Senate Square (beautiful!), and walked down to the open-air market on the waterfront.
There, we bought (and ate) some of the most luscious strawberries that I have ever eaten.
Back to the bus, and back to the ship.
That evening after the Pirates dinner
we saw a magic show put on by Jason Bishop in the Walt Disney Theatre. He was amazing, and the show was top notch.
Then it was time for the "Pirates IN the Caribbean" deck party. It was a great party, but since we weren't IN the Caribbean, my own opinion was that they should have done the party in some kind of Viking theme. Oh well, it was a lot of fun!
Day 10-StockholmWe woke up early this morning, and had breakfast in Lumiere's before we headed to the Walt Disney Theatre to meet for today's excursion: "City Hall, Royal Palace and Old Town" in Stockholm, Sweden. I had originally planned to do this port on our own, but because of changes in the tide, we had to leave port at 2:45 instead of the originally-scheduled 4:30, so I decided to do another Disney excursion instead.
The first stop on our tour was the Stockholm City Hall. The City Hall was built around the turn of the 20th century, and is a beautiful, imposing building. It is used as the administrative offices for the City of Stockholm, and is also the venue for the awarding of all of the Nobel prizes except the Peace Prize, which is awarded in Oslo, Norway. The room with the gold mosaics was particularly impressive.
From the City Hall, we headed to Gamla Stan-Stockholm's old city. The Royal Palace is located there. The Royal Palace was occupied by the Swedish Royal Family until the 1980s, when the King and Queen decided to move to the suburbs so that their children could take advantage of a public education. The Palace was the venue for the recent wedding of the Crown Princess, and our tour guide was full of helpful information like: "This is where they had the ceremony," and "this is where they cut the cake." Evidently, the wedding was a cause for great celebration in Sweden.
After we left the Palace, the rest of the tour group moved on to the Cathedral, but we decided that we had had enough of palaces and churches, and were more interested in the pursuit of the Baltic's best ice cream. We may have found it in Stockholm. Thank goodness we avoided the Ben and Jerry's and found a great local place.
After the ice cream, we walked back out of Gamla Stan to find some lunch. (Yes, I know, technically the ice cream should have come AFTER lunch, but oh well, we are on vacation after all.) We stumbled upon a very cool restaurant behind the Grand Hotel called "B.A.R." and had an amazing lunch of assorted shellfish, cold cuts, duck liver pate (the best I have EVER had!) and steamed artichoke. Fantastic! If you are ever in Stockholm, I highly recommend this place.
We caught the shuttle back to the ship, and Rob and I headed to the pool. The sail away through the Swedish archipelago was stunning. More bingo this afternoon (we didn't get a bingo, but we were lucky enough to win a cool photo album during the raffle).
After tonight's dinner "Taste of Scandinavia," Rob and I met some of our table mates in the Walt Disney Theatre for tonight's show "Walt Disney: The Dream Goes On." Nice show. We really enjoyed it. After the show, Rob and I headed to the promenade lounge and met up with a couple of other cruise friends for "Trevor's Ultimate Disney Trivia." I thought I was a Disney fan, but this stuff was HARD!!! After the trivia, we went to Rockin' Bar D for an ABBA tribute. We were tired, though, and didn't last very long.
It was a great day, and we LOVED Stockholm. What an amazing and beautiful city. Rob and I definitely plan to go back.