Categories Scandinavia Travel Junkie Diary of

Bernadette Abraham

Sunday, December 15, 2013
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Founder of the B+Wellness Retreat and www.BernaciseMe.com Bernadette Abraham is a personal trainer, Adidas ambassador, and mother of four dedicated to helping people live healthier and more active lives. She also runs ongoing wellness retreats throughout the UAE to allow people to escape for a few days (without having to get on a plane) and focus on their health and well-being. The retreat is a kick start into healthy living as it offers the perfect balance of fitness, healthy eating, pampering, relaxation and mentorship. Let’s face it, a mother of 4, is alone a hero in our eyes yet alone a personal trainer who loves to travel and train others…that is just chapeau bas. A beautiful Scandinavian cruise with Bernadette is all we ever love to read!

Here is her diary

Destination Scandinavian cruise.

I’ve become quite a fan of cruises. My husband and I went on a Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon and we promised each other that we’d do it again on our 10th year anniversary. Sure enough, 10 years passed and we kept our promise… we just didn’t imagine that we’d also have our 4 children tagging along with us.

Stayed in We cruised with Royal Caribbean on The Vision of the Seas. It was an older and smaller ship than the previous one we had been on, but the experience was still amazing nonetheless.

As you can imagine, traveling with 4 young children is a logistical nightmare. From finding cars that will fit our family and luggage, to hotel rooms that have connecting doors, to everything in between, cruises make traveling hassle-free! Not only do we get to see up to 5 different countries in one week, everything you can imagine from food, to accommodation, to transportation, to entertainment, to activities is at our finger tips and is included in the price of the cruise.

We had 2 connecting cabins with balconies. It’s really nice to be able to step outside in the early mornings as the ship is docking at a new port.  The view is always spectacular.  But to be honest, other than stepping out for a brief moment or two, we mainly used the balconies for hanging our wet clothes and bathing suits.

There is a considerable price difference between a window cabin and a cabin with a balcony, so we’d probably try a window cabin next year.  From a safety perspective, it’s also more reassuring to know that the kids can’t step out onto the balcony.

You can expect to gain a pound a day with the amount of food available! The best part is the free soft serve ice cream available 24/7 next to the pool deck. The Windjammer is a casual buffet restaurant, which is where we mostly dined. The staff is friendly, talkative, and happy to offer a helping hand.  There is also a formal dining room with scheduled seating times that serve a different set menu every evening, but we didn’t get to experience it this time around because we wanted to let the other passengers enjoy an evening in peace and quiet without kids.

The ship also has two restaurants (Johnny Rockets and a fancy steak restaurant), cafes and ice cream parlors throughout the ship so eating is an activity on its own. As soon as you arrive on-board, there are enough activities to keep everyone entertained.  They usually provide an itinerary for the day listing all of the activities taking place throughout the ship so you can schedule your day accordingly.  There are too many on-board activities to mention but here some of the ones we participated in or watched:  daily theatrical productions, ice carving demonstration, adult game nights, casino, ping pong, jogging track, rock climbing, gym, mini golf, bingo, live music bands, belly flop competition, towel folding, line dancing, pool, hot tub, library, dance party, art gallery, souvenir shops, and really so much more.

The best part for any parent is the kids club. They open all day long and have a full schedule of themed activities every day. It is very safe; no one is allowed inside except the kids and supervisors. They also provide parents with pagers in case they need to get in touch with us.  The kids love it so much they never want to leave when we go to pick them up.

The cost of the shore excursions is additional and you have the choice to pre-book before the cruise or onboard up to 24 hours subject to availability. The excursions we chose were never longer than 4 hours and always had an element of fun for the kids. If you’re not interested in guided tours, you also have the option to purchase a transfer ticket from the ship to the city and be free to roam around yourself.

My suggestion would be to avoid walking tours that have a large number of participants. You never hear the guide properly and you’re always worried about having to keep up with the group.

Month July

In your suitcase Since the weather was cool (in Dubai standards) and I knew we’d be touring a lot I made sure to pack my comfortable “winter” clothes; jeans, Adidas Stella McCartney pants, Adidas wind jacket, close-toed shoes, a few Just Jules cardigans and different tops for layering depending on the weather.

I also packed my Adidas sports clothes and Adipure shoes to sneak in a few workouts in the gym.  And I never leave home without my Gymboss interval timer, which is my preferred on-the-go training tool. Of course I packed my bikini and flip flops.  I also brought a book to read but I never got to open it! I also packed a more formal cocktail dress and a pair of heels just in case.

Shopped at We weren’t there to shop, but we did hit the souvenir stores.  I’m not a fan of knickknacks so we bought magnets from every city we visited to place on our fridge as a souvenir. We also bought Russian fertility dolls for the kids and Viking hats from Sweden, and other small souvenirs for friends and colleagues

Diary Our itinerary went like this: Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland, then 2 days in St-Petersburg, Russia, to Tallinn, Estonia, then to Riga, Latvia, and back to Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden:

We arrived to Stockholm a day before the cruise departure and stayed at the Sheraton.  I have nothing but good things to say.  Upon arrival, they gave each of my kids a printed hard cover book (the story is about a Moose who shares his experience at the Sheraton hotel) that kept them occupied for a few minutes while we were checking-in.  The concierge helped us map out our day and our first stop was the Junibacken – a magical fairy tale world for kids.

We took advantage of the cool weather and enjoyed getting around the city on foot.  Cyclists share the road with motorists and the city has an overall calm, happy feeling to it.

At the end of our cruise, we spent another 3 days in Stockholm.  We bought the Stockholm Card, which includes entry tickets and transportation to almost every attraction in the city and is definitely worth the money for tourists.  We did the Skansen open-air museum & aquarium, police museum, and museum of science and technology.  Each museum was better than the next and filled an entire day.

Stockholm is just beautiful and we’d love to go back as there are still many more attractions and sights to visit.

Tip:  when traveling with kids, find a nearby supermarket and stock up on healthy snacks to keep their hunger at bay and prevent meltdowns while touring.  I would pack organic rice crackers, baby carrots, a variety of hard fruits (so they don’t get mashed), sugar snap peas, and small bread rolls.

Day 2 Cruise – Helsinki, Finland

My first impression of Helsinki was that it felt exactly like home in Ottawa, Canada.  It had the same look and feel from the trees to the parks, weather, and buildings.

We got to see the Helsinki highlights but the main attraction of course was our visit to the Ice Bar Winterland where the kids got to take pictures with Santa, watch husky dogs pull sleighs, sit in igloos, play in snow and do some tobogganing.

Day 3 & 4 Cruise – St. Petersburg, Russia

This was probably our least successful destination.  The good thing is that if you book excursions through the cruise line, entry visas are issued hassle-free directly at the border.

We took a short tour to see the main highlights of the city by foot on the first day and by boat along the Moika and Neva Rivers on the next.  The architecture of the historical sites, palaces and churches are spectacular.  Although my husband and I enjoyed soaking up the culture and history, our kids didn’t care too much and began getting antsy.

We were also constantly being told by the tour guides to watch out for pickpocketing, which put us even more on edge so we cut our tour in Russia short.  We would have loved to watch an evening ballet performance or see a folkloric dance show, but we had to be flexible with the kids.  They wanted to go back “home” and play in the kids club with their new found friends.

Day 5 Cruise – Tallinn, Estonia

I had no idea what to expect in Tallinn, Estonia.  All I can say is that both my husband and I fell in love with it and promised we would return.  It has a romantic medieval feel, is well kept and very clean.  We loved everything about this city.  We got to walk through the narrow cobblestone alleyways and got to see the craft workshops where glass, leather, millinery and ceramic wares are produced.  The next part of the tour took us to Tallinn’s biggest shopping center, (which is probably the size of Marina Mall on a relativity scale) for some time to shop.  We would have preferred to see other highlights other than a mall (plenty of those in Dubai), especially that we noticed a zoo and open air museum across the way, but we were running out of time and had to head back to the ship.

No worries… we’ll be back.

Day 6 Cruise: Riga, Latvia:

We chose to spend the day at the Latvian Open Air Ethnography Museum.  Upon arrival we got to see a Latvian folk group singing and dancing to traditional Latvian folk music and then they got us all dancing too!  We then continued the walking tour and got to see peasants’ farmsteads, windmills, wooden churches and pubs, built in the period from the 16th to the 20th centuries.  It was a wonderful day being out in nature with the sun peeking through the tall trees and the crisp cool air around us.

Day 7 Cruise: Day at Sea

The day was spent doing different activities and watching different performances on the ship.

Tips

The only downside is that the week passes by too quickly and before you know it, the cruise is over.  A 2-week cruise is recommended.

If you get sea sick like me, book a room in the middle of the ship and not too high up to minimize the rocking motion, which is barely noticeable anyway.  The lower decks will have less motion, but more vibration from the engines.  Decks 5 to 7 I think are ideal.

Mode of Travel  It was quite a journey to get there.  We took Middle East Airlines from Dubai to Beirut.  Then Turkish Airlines from Beirut to Stockholm, with a stopover in Turkey for a few hours.

On the way back, we flew Turkish Airlines from Stockholm to Turkey, and then Emirates back to Dubai.

No other airline compares to Emirates. I’ll leave it at that.

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