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“Stockholm on your own” becomes “Stockholm with a Private Guide”!

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

FTC Disclosure: Through business relationships with our suppliers, some may provide complimentary or discounted access to their locations and products to provide hands-on experiences to better assist my clients.

Hi all. Kara starting out again today. We set alarms for 6:45am and 7:00am this morning. Docking operations and the alarms of the folks next door woke me right around 6:40am - to which I saw that Gayle was not only awake but also fully dressed and mostly ready for the day. Gayle: This is so NOT me!

Kara: We had put out the Room Service menu last night - which is our usual plan for a day like today. Our Room Service got delivered right at 7:20am (our window was 7:00 - 7:30am). Unfortunately, we realized right after the server left that Gayle’s bagel was not there. She called back to Room Service and let them know and they said they’d send him right back. He came back to the room WITHOUT THE BAGEL to double check that we were actually missing a bagel. In all my years with Disney I’ve never seen that happen. A few minutes later, a different server returned with the bagel, a BOWL of butter, and another small ramekin of jam. I’m not sure what kind of day that first server was having, but it seemed like maybe he wasn’t allowed to make mistakes today.

Our breakfast foods now complete, we headed to the Walt Disney Theatre a few minutes before 8am for our 8:15am Port Adventure departure time. We opted to do the Stockholm On Your Own departure, which essentially was a bus that took us to Stockholm and then drove us back with no guide in between. A guide was on the bus on the way with us if we had questions or wanted recommendations. That said, we (being mostly Gayle) had mapped out places we wanted to see and things we wanted to do before we went.

Our ride to Stockholm was easy. Unfortunately, when we arrived it had started raining so we donned our rain gear and headed out with Google Maps leading the way. Thankfully, I thought to drop a pin at our Drop-Off location, so it was not at all hard to find at the end of the day (although truthfully we could have found it without the pin). I am not all that directionally savvy even with the map and walking directions. I got us pointed the wrong way once, but we pretty quickly corrected and made our way to the Nobel Prize Museum. (We had planned to see the Nobel Hall during our future stop in Oslo as well, but it is closed during our visit. No problem since I think after seeing the Nobel Prize Museum we might have changed our plans.) This is a nice museum and at about $15 it’s not badly priced. For what it is. But it took less than an hour if you didn’t spend much time using the computerized displays to tell the different stories of each of the Laureates. If you had a list of them you wanted to read about or if you just wanted to pick random ones in each decade and go through their stories you could spend some considerable time here.

Also, it was very, very warm in here. We both forget until we return to Europe that most Europeans don’t do air conditioning. And, I certainly understand that in a place as far north as Stockholm. But it was pretty toasty in the museum, so I was glad to get back outside and cool off. Gayle: It was even warm in there for me!

Kara: We captured some pictures in the square outside of the museum. We realized after leaving this area that a couple of the houses here are quite iconic. I had taken a selfie with them so we just cut my head out of the shot.

While we were on our way to Stockholm from the ship I was texting and messaging my friend Andy. Andy and I met through something called Creative Work Hour. Since I was in his home country, I wanted to try to meet up. He suggested an Italian place called Vapiano in the old part of the city (Gamla Stan), where we already were. We thought he’d be waiting for us, but since the museum didn’t take as long as we’d allocated, we waited just a bit for him. While we waited we checked out the Tube/Metro station to get our bearings, as we’d planned to use that for at least one of our transitions.

While we waited we just enjoyed the breeze on a lovely park bench. One of the many things. I loved about Stockholm was the abundance of benches to just sit and chat all over the city. It’s also an incredibly walkable city and the public transport was wonderful - but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Andy came out of the train station and we finally got to meet in person after spending so many mornings together throughout the last year or so.

We made our way into the restaurant and ordered. Andy got a pasta dish, which looked incredible, and Gayle and I, thankfully, opted to split the Margarita pizza. The pizza was wood fired and one of the best I’ve had. Margarita pizza is very simple but people can do a lot of dumb things to it. These folks did nothing bad to it at all. It was delicious. We had a lovely visit over lunch and then Andy said he’d continue on with us a bit. This is a treat because Andy is very busy and his time is precious, so I felt very grateful to him. Since neither of us knows a word of Swedish it was also nice to have a local guide who is a native speaker.

Andy guided us down to the train station to head to Ostermalm Food Hall. This is a place Gayle and I had both picked out. Sometimes we do these because they offer a great place to people watch. Sometimes they offer a great meal. And sometimes, they offer some insight into the local cuisine. We’d given Andy a bit of ribbing for picking an Italian place rather than something native, but I’m glad he did. I think we might have liked the shrimp sandwiches we saw in a couple of places but otherwise smoked eel - not for us ;-)

After perusing the food hall, we made our way to Kungstergarten. This got us pointed back towards the bus and Andy would be able to catch a boat from here. The gardens were beautiful and we took advantage of the opportunity to learn a bit about the economy (the sales tax on everything but food is 25% and food is 12.5%), the monarchy (the Swedes would like the current crown to abdicate and they are no longer really giving out titles), and the things the Swedes get for their taxes (great health care). Andy also grabbed an ice cream (licorice flavored) from a stand in the park while we took photos. It was Pride month in Sweden so the park would be the setting for a concert later that evening.

Gayle: This park was beautiful. Of course the ideal weather made it shine and was a hub of joy, yet with a relaxed feel. With the large water feature all I could think was it being an intimate combination of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in DC with a number of quaint statue-filled parks we’ve appreciated in London.

Kara: We had given Andy a little grief about Italian lunch, but one of the odd/interesting things we found throughout the city was the influence of American foods - there was a Texas barbecue chain, TGI Fridays (which was the main restaurant at the park), and, of course, McDonalds. We saw several other things as we strolled the streets as well.

As we finished our time in the park, we bid Andy goodbye and then we set off back towards the bus pickup point. I had messed up the time a bit so we still had about an hour left. This gave us plenty of time to quickly duck in IKEA, test out the 100 Restrooms bathroom in the Galleria Mall (where IKEA was) and saunter around the main palace area a bit. Gayle: Hello! We were in Sweden, so we HAD to go to IKEA!

Kara: We decided, inspired by Andy’s ice cream cone, we also wanted ice cream so Gayle quickly found us a gelato shop. We crossed the city bridge and did what Gayle named the “Royal Rhombus” - the ramps up and down at the palace. We also quickly stepped into the courtyard at the Palace.

We made our way down the other side of the rhombus and easily found Letiz Gelato shop. I got a small (which was 2 scoops) of Blackberry and Chocolate. Gayle got double chocolate. This may have been the best Gelato I’ve ever had! It was delicious. Gayle: I readily concur! And this is from someone who’s been to Italy 3x!

Kara: made our way back across the street by way of the lower park area (in front of the Medieval Museum) and then proceeded to our bus pick up point. Luckily, we got there at the perfect time as a bus just pulled up so we walked right on.

We waited a few minutes for the bus to fill up and then began our journey back to the port. As we were waiting, we reflected on how minimal we felt the Disney Port Adventure offerings were in such an incredibly beautiful port city like Stockholm. Gayle: I realize Disney Cruise Line only visits Stockholm a few times a year. And now with the Disney Dream (vs Disney Magic) they have to dock further from the city. However, this city has the capability for Disney to offer some higher-end premium experiences, such as previous cruise VIP experiences and those available through Adventures by Disney. I would have (again) easily paid the increased cost for something like that.

In being new to the city and concerned about our firm arrival and departure times, we quickly realized how very little of the city we visited. While we didn’t have a formal Port Adventure, I’d say this is among my favorite cruise port days. It reminded me of times around London, when we have a basic plan, and end up stumbling onto fascinating places we weren’t aware even existed! I would love to return and spend more time/more experiences in Stockholm in the future, but the actual “getting there” isn’t the easiest of out many travel favorites!

Kara: Once our bus was full, we were on our way. Before we were even out of the city, it began pouring so we were very glad to be back on our nice dry bus. There was a bit of traffic tonight so it took a bit to get out of the city, but it was wonderful to see even more!

We arrived back at Nynashamn and the little port gift shop was open, so we browsed through. Then it was time to head back to the ship. We grabbed some beautiful photos of the Disney Dream as we walked along the “sea wall” as they called it. Gayle: I love opportunities to grab photos of the ship like this - out in nature and not crowded with other ships.

Kara: We had a bit of time between returning to the ship and dinner, so I started this blog post (after a brief finish on yesterday’s). We had been iffy on whether or not to go to Main dining room tonight as it was the special “location” menu which was, of course, themed to Disney’s Frozen. We headed to Animator’s Palate pretty early so that we could move through service quickly, as we wanted to head to 90’s Music Trivia right after we finished service.

Pardon this next part...we're about to be curmudgeonly

We would have been far better served by NOT going to dinner in Main Dining (Animator’s Palate). We both got the lobster ravioli which looked like it was bathed in Pepto Bismol. Gayle: Serious, it was a near glowing pink/peach color!

Kara: The filling was dry and tasteless. We each ate about a ravioli and a half and threw in the towel for dessert. Nadine was disappointed. The head server, who had visited our table earlier, indicated that the feedback on the last sailing was not good and they’d passed it along. He also said that in his 13 years on the ship, they have repeatedly told the kitchen staff that the Pirate Menu is not liked (a menu we ALWAYS skip) and yet they’ve not fixed it. This is one of those places where I don’t get it at all. I realize that you may order food for an entire season, but after that season, transition the menu. Especially the PIRATE menu. You do this how many times a year across the entire fleet? It makes no sense at all.

We got dessert. I opted for the signature raspberry chocolate tart and Gayle got the apple cake. The Apple cake was nothing special. While I’m not a fan of “gooey” food, I really enjoyed the raspberry tart. I wish there had been less mousse on the top, but I know I’m in the minority on this and I respect that. The staff also celebrated Gayle’s birthday tonight. I had called-in that this was her birthday cruise and was beginning to wonder if it was going to get noted since no mention of it was made in Palo. I clearly don’t know how to do this as well as Gayle does. That said, Nadine made a wonderful napkin hat for Gayle - a first for us!

As Gayle finished her cake, I grabbed seats for us in 687. Gayle joined me shortly. We got to enjoy the ship leaving the port as we sang (loudly and out of tune) to 90s music. We definitely did NOT win but we still had fun. We headed out onto Deck 4 to watch a bit of the sail away from the port - as we had a late 7:30pm departure - then it was back to our own Verandah to see a bit more.

Gayle went up to grab water and I grabbed the iPad to begin catching up the blog. We killed time writing, reading, and chatting until the Color Spin Dance Party up on Deck. (This was a replacement for the usual Northern Europe Frozen Deck Party. We never learned why this was changed this year.) We went up about 15 minutes early to get good spots, which was clearly unnecessary as there was no crowd other than a small line of people down on the deck 11 main stage. We grabbed spots up on Deck 12 towards the front of where the crowd would ultimately gather.

Gayle: This was definitely a very different experience than usual nighttime deck parties. First, we knew there would be no traditional fireworks, as that’s the environmental rules in this area of the world. Second, it was CHILLY with notable wind - thus the jackets & hoods! Third, it had been a long day in Stockholm and this jam didn’t kick-off until 10:15/10:30pm!

Kara: The party started with two of the cast members coming out and warming up the crowd a bit. But rather than me explaining it to you - you can watch on your own (22 minutes).

Overall, we’d rate the show in the C range - mostly for the music choice and sound quality. The character dancing was definitely an A+. They just have so much intellectual properly to play with and this was the best they could come up with? We do acknowledge that trying to put a new show together with what you have available to you on board the shi,p while you’re also trying to serve guests is a challenge. It just seemed like this was the least they could do.

Gayle: To end on a high note, I will say I was giddy with delight for the finale. Never in my life did I ever think I’d see the entire main character cast doing the actual choreography to High School Musical’s “We’re All In This Together” - YAY!

Next up… Day of Sloth

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