My neighbor has been preparing for her upcoming cruise for months now. Her son is graduating soon with his doctorate in Marine Biology and the entire family is going on this cruise as his graduation present.
Tonight she was showing me an online video about this particular cruise ship and as I sat there watching it, I felt overwhelmed with the sheer massiveness of it all! I believe the number of guests numbered up to 3,600 people, many restaurants, a promenade of shops, casino, lounges and bars, children’s areas, teen areas, pool upon pool, gym, spas, etc. She has been so excited about this for so long and as I watched this, I knew this was not the way I would want to spend my hard earned vacation…trapped in a ship with all of those people…
It brought my thoughts back to the year I was 15(I am not going to tell you what year that was. 🙂 ) Back then, there were still ships that would leave from New York and cross the Atlantic to Europe. We took the Swedish ship the MS Gripsholm from New York Harbor to Copenhagen…it went from Copenhagen to Stockholm, its’ home port.
My parents were exhausted that year and thought if we went by ship both ways, they would get a rest before getting together with the family in Denmark. The journey was 10 days each way.
When I compare the Gripsholm with the cruise ship I watched today, so many differences jumped out at me. The Gripsholm was greatly smaller. I remember there was only one deck with no passengers living in it and that was where all of the activities were…dining room, library, movie theater, lounge, showroom. There was a sauna and a gym downstairs.
The price of the trip depended on which deck you were on. The lowest deck was the cheapest one and that was also where the boiler was and the machinery…it smelled of oil down there and I remember going down there to visit a friend I had met on board and getting sick of the smell. We were on one of the middle decks and at least had a porthole to look out of. The rooms for the most part were on the small side.
There were two seatings for each meal at the dining hall. 6 people per table and you were assigned a table. Being 15, I had visions of a 17 year old boy(and handsome too, I might add) and his parents joining us and I would have the summer of my dreams… What really happened was we were joined by Rudy, Frances and Viola. They consisted of a middle aged newly married couple and his sister…coming from Illinois and traveling to Sweden to visit long lost relatives. After I got over my intense disappointment, I enjoyed this trio immensely. They owned a large farm and this was the first time they had ever been away for a vacation. Rudy was very suspicious of much of the food and in order for him to at least try it, both his wife and sister would say, “Try it Rudy, It’s good for you!” My parents and I were so amused by this that for many years afterwards, all we would have to say at the dinner table was “Try it Rudy, It’s good for you!” and start laughing.
Seeing all of the activities available on that cruise ship, it reminded me of what the Gripsholm had…if my memory serves me correctly, there was a movie theater, library, game room(there were tables there and they could play cards there…bridge basically), ping pong( I must remark here that I actually won a prize in the ping pong tournament…a small vase with the MS Gripsholm logo on it), shuffleboard, indoor and outdoor pools, a sauna, and a playroom for the children filled with games and toys. No computers, no telephones.
Every morning you would receive a printed list of what was going on that day…menu, activities(exercises on deck, various instruction(I remember them doing shooting of clay plates), fashion shows of the clothing that was in the single shop on board, lectures the movies of the day, any shows that day, and all the times of the snacks…mid morning, mid afternoon, mid evening, and midnight. Trust me, I hit them all!
I found other kids to hang around with but it was the summer I wished I were 17 in the worst way…most of the teens were 17 and on their way to Sweden for a year of school. I just didn’t fit in. I found a sweet little 4 year old who I spent a lot of time with(Annie) and by the end of the trip, little Annie didn’t want to let me go. I know her parents were so grateful I spent time with her.
The stewards were all Swedish and one I remember particularly was “Lars”. All of the teenaged girls had a crush on him and he lapped it all up. Tall, blond hair and handsome. After one of the of the dinners, all of the stewards sang the Gripsholm Song…and after all of these years, I still remember it…
“Of all the ships that sail the sea, the one for me, is the Gripsholm
More than just an ocean liner, Not a ship is built that finer!
We play, we sing, we dance, we dine with a glass of wine and a girl.
So lets all skol with one more skol to the great Gripsholm!”
You know, my neighbor can have her fancy cruise ship with all of the bells and whistles…I feel privileged to have experienced the Gripsholm!
til next time…Eva