What is a booze cruise?

Trip Start Aug 18, 2011
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Flag of Sweden  , Stockholm,
Saturday, September 17, 2011

A booze cruise, as it is more commonly known in Sweden is a way for Swedes to stock up on the beer and wine that they like to drink in moderation, but buy in advance.

The high taxes on alcohol, (because of the countries former problem with alcoholism,) prompt Swedes to leave the country and take their money with them to spend it in neighboring countries or out on the open sea. The shortest of these cruises is a two hour trip to Aland Island, (O-LAND.) Many Swedes take what is more commonly known as 'the breakfast cruise," to Aland just to take advantage of the cheap prices of alcohol and a good meal out on the open sea. Many Swedes never get off of the boat. They instead watch as those passengers who are disembarking get off and then line up for the buffet restaurant, to enjoy on the trip home. There are about four restaurants on the boat that I traveled on. The prices range from cheap to expensive, catering to every budget and every palate. Many people who travel on these boats are doing it to get from point A to point B, but they still make a detour during the voyage to grab a bottle of Snaps or wine for them to take home.

The market is jammed pack with items that have no tax, because they are in international waters. Cosmetics, clothing, jewelry and candy fill the other shelves, but it is the alcohol that is the big seller. Usually there is someone with samples trying to get you to get the deal they have that day. I tried a very nice white wine, but opted to buy a California brand instead…..got to support the homeland.

What I have always found amusing is seeing the families that take the breakfast cruise. Mom, Dad and grandma, along with whatever children they have go onboard. When you see them getting off the ship, each of them is carrying something heavy from the gift shop. The best part though, is seeing the groups of guys with little rolling platforms with 4-6 cases of beer strapped on with elastic cords. They load them on to their cars or the bus and go home with them. You might wonder, if you go on these trips and buy a ton of spirits, what do you do with it? Do you have to cart it around with you for the rest of the journey? Why no, you don't. The cruise company provided lockers for you to store your goods in, (for a small price.) That way you can buy as much as you want, then leave it and pick it up as you leave, (the lockers are right next to the entrance of the ship.) You are then allowed to move around the boat freely or enter a restaurant unencumbered by your six cases of beer. Or, you can go to the shop for another round or shopping.

The reason why people can afford to do this is because the boat is about ten dollars round trip. So, you spend ten dollars a person to get a nice cruise on the Baltic in the morning. Then you get a good meal and a bottle of your favorite wine, and you are set.

I tried to explain exactly what a booze cruise was and how it helped students travel when I was speaking as an expert about studying abroad in Sweden. I am not sure what I said, but one of t he mothers said that I was promoting alcohol to the students (this is the same woman who could not bother to stay awake for the rest of my speech.) I am not sure what the problem was, and no one else saw what I was saying as bad. I think that they understood that while, yes, you can buy alcohol on the boat, you are not forced to. If the students want to drink they will, and if they don’t want to they won’t. The prices really do not promote drinking. However, I was trying to highlight, that while these trips are called booze cruises, I got to go to three countries on these ships, and will more than likely travel to more as these two years continue.
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