All aboard the booze boat
Due to the high price of alcohol in Sweden (often £4 a pint or more), the Swedes view the booze-cruise between Stockholm and Helsinki as something of a national institution. So it‘s not unusual to meet people partying the entire 16-hour journey to the Finnish capital and then coming straight back on the return ferry.
After boarding. and a reasonable time lapse for passengers to memorise their cabin location, duty-free opens to a stampede and the happy clink of bottles rolling with the tide. A period of relative tranquillity follows while most punters shack up with liquor or ease themselves into a comfy chair in one of the bars. but this calm before the storming of the discotheque is deceptive. Amidst the lower decks, girls chat in doorways while gangs of lads roam impatiently. and upstairs, the more affluent get politely pissed in the sauna. Meanwhile, with a cinema. casino and several restaurants, the smart money weighs up the benefits of a crowded Asian
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eatery. a fine but pricey American-style bistro. or an otherwise disappointing buffet with unlimited lager.
It's all good-natured rather than boorish. with plenty of facilities for families with children. but the teetotal might be advised to remain in their cabins or sample the optimistically named sun deck's considerably fresher air. Crashing through great sheets of ice. the ship‘s progress is a damn impressive sight. but not one to settle the sea-legless. Back inside. two grinning idiots with guitars butcher ‘Hotel California' to great applause. while the evening features what appears to be Gladys Knight, belting out soul classics and whispering slow dances for couples in the lounge. Still. there‘s ample time for the complete inebriate to throw some drunken shapes round a nightclub decorated circa 1985. before passing out to the strains of Dean Martin on the cabin radio. Morning arrives with a headache and Helsinki. but also the promise of much needed peace and hotel hospitality. Recover. then repeat on the return leg.
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