I was in the ship's computer university room with a dozen or so other digital camera novices for a complimentary lesson on how to tweak photos into e-mailable masterpieces. My wife was in the Starlite Club lounge, listening to celebrity guest Doris Roberts, a three-time Emmy Award winner, spill the beans on the other members of her ''Everybody Loves Raymond" cast.
Time flew by that day, one of 11 mostly sunny days and, for the most part, sunny nights, during a Baltic cruise in June on the Crystal Symphony that began in Stockholm and included stops in Helsinki; St. Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; Warnemunde, Germany; Oslo, Norway; and Dover, England. In Sweden, Finland, and Estonia, daylight lasts more than 20 hours in summer, but still, we managed to sleep.
We boarded the 940-passenger vessel in Stockholm, after two days of touring the Swedish capital.
The 9-year-old, 50,000-ton ship had recently undergone a $12 million refurbishing. After being escorted to our stateroom, we found a bottle of French champagne awaiting us in an ice bucket. Complimentary bottles of a red and white wine also were available, as were two bottles of liquor and nightly hors d'oeuvres.
We unpacked and watched the vessel wend its way through the Swedish archipelago. Sweden is a patchwork quilt of islands -- 24,000 of them, we learned, only 150 of which are inhabited.
Our stateroom had a floor-to-ceiling sliding window wall and balcony, a king-sized bed, sofa, desk and chair, TV with a VCR, and a wall safe. Also available were binoculars, terry cloth robes, and slippers. The faux marble bathroom had a glass-enclosed shower and Jacuzzi tub.
In Helsinki, we paid for the ship's 2-hour motorboat tour ($59 per person) that took us along the city shores, passing old villas, modern wooden houses with elaborately built saunas, a docked fleet of icebreakers, and several small deserted beaches.
In St. Petersburg, a Russian six-piece band in black uniforms welcomed us with jazzy American and Russian tunes as we disembarked. Two days and three other Crystal Symphony tours ($59-$79 each) in and around the city let us soak up some of its tragic past and explore its historic sights. Tallinn was the next stop. No tour this time, just a brief stroll through the old city, interrupted by a heavy rain that sent us hurrying back to the boat.
A holiday atmosphere prevailed on the warm, sunny day we arrived in Oslo. The boat docked a short walk from a busy kiddie park with a Ferris wheel, whirling rides, and squeals of the young riders. Downtown was close by, and easy to explore on foot.
That night was a black-tie, affair, the third during the 11-day cruise. Captain Otto Nergaard, a middle-aged Norwegian in an impressive blue uniform, hosted a cocktail party before dinner in the showplace Galaxy Lounge. As usual, dinner was a gourmet feast: caviar and seafood appetizers, six entree choices, including beef Wellington, my favorite, and flaming baked Alaska dessert.
After dinner each night, we retired to the 400-seat Galaxy Lounge for showtime -- eight talented, spirited young singers and dancers, backed by an eight-piece orchestra.The last day was spent at sea, packing and bidding our personable tablemates from Seattle and Sarasota goodbye. As we left the ship in Dover, England, we were relaxed, better informed, and very happy campers.
Si Liberman is a freelance writer in Florida.