Anna-Leena Harkonen


Adam Gavlak 


All Aboard and Abroad

“I’d so much love to go to Thailand,” I complained to my teenage son.

“I’d love to go to Sweden,” he replied.

Sweden? Is it that easy to make young people happy these days? Apparently it is. All they need is a peer to join them—and Mother, to pay for everything.

I booked a cruise from Helsinki to Stockholm for three. As our departure drew closer, I found myself counting the days.

THIS WAS MY FIRST cruise to Sweden in fifteen years. I used to love impromptu trips to Stockholm; I roamed the tax-free stores and examined every nook and cranny of the ship. But in later trips, I gradually lost interest.

Now it would be nice to see the refurbished ship. Would I still be able to get a kick out of anything?

ON OUR WAY from the terminal to the ship, the boys walked fifty feet in front of me. They wanted to maintain the impression that they weren’t accompanied by anyone.

At some point, they got rid of me. I trusted them so much that I went to bed and allowed them to enjoy the floating amusement park for as long as they wanted to.

Personally, I have no opinion on the nightclub or the entertainment. I was deep asleep in our cabin while the performers were still tuning up their instruments. This is what has become of my life.

I slept like a baby until the boys came back to the cabin at one in the morning. There was a curtain for privacy, but it didn’t protect me from the noise.

BEFORE OUR departure, I found myself excited in anticipation of the opening of the tax-free stores. In the morning, I was among the first people who were let in. I can still feel it, I thought to myself.

I asked my son’s friend his opinion of a perfume I had sprayed on my wrist.

“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s got soul.”

THERE WAS ENOUGH to see on the shopping promenade, but not too much. And there was time to examine every piece of clothing and jewelry.

It felt luxurious to shop completely indoors, with no need for a winter coat that makes you sweaty.

THE DAY IN STOCKHOLM was nice. I’ve tried very much to fall in love with Stockholm again.

When I was a child, the alleys and toy stores in the Old Town, Gamla Stan, were the best places on earth. Naturally, they don’t feel the same any more.

It’s easy to feel somehow inferior in Stockholm. All trends come here before they reach Helsinki, and the people are so stylish. Even their skin looks healthier.

On the ship, everyone is equal.

WE SPENT THREE HOURS in Stockholm before rushing back to the safety of the ship.

I decided to see whether I would still get a kick out of the spa. The place was crammed, and I had to wait for a while to find a place for myself in a jacuzzi.

After an hour in the jacuzzi, I enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine and the sea view in a bar. Such a cliché—but so wonderful.

OUR TRIP was invigorating. It felt like we had been gone for longer than just two nights. 

The boys were happy as well. I asked my son what he had enjoyed the most.

“The slot machines,” he immediately replied.

I DON’T THINK I will be able to rekindle my overwhelming enthusiasm for quick cruises to Stockholm, but I will go again whenever I need an affordable way to leave everything behind for a couple of days.

I will need to travel with someone younger who can fill me in on what’s going on in the nightlife while I’m deep asleep.

© Anna-Leena Harkonen 2023

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