Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cruise ship sauna

#1 in a series of Unique Saunas
We took a cruise in January. Early on our first day on the ship I checked out the saunas in the spa area. There were two spa areas, one regular and one a fancy setup, called a thermal package. 

The thermal grotto package included use of an elegant (ceramic tiled) sauna, two different aromatic steam rooms (one had aromatic vapors, but only 10 minutes' steam was recommended) and “rainforest” style showers. 

The thermal grotto included tiled lounges that were heated. (Comfy, yes, but maybe hard to cool down there.) The package included a private sanctuary pool for paying spa guests.

After I heard the dollar figure on the thermal package, I became less entranced. But the facilities were lovely. At the beginning of the two-week cruise, unlimited visits to the thermal grottoes went for $179 per person; the price dropped to $119 after a week.

One night (while we awaited the 1,800 passengers stranded in Punta Arenas, Chile, to reboard our ship) it was quiet. I decided to take a sauna — the regular sauna, not the expensive thermal package. 

When I arrived, a trio of Japanese women told me the traditional wood one “wasn’t that hot, but the steam room was much nicer.” For them, but not for me — I was on a reporting mission. 
Both were available within the women's locker room area (men also had their own). Everything in the regular steam room was tiled, and a lot steamier. 
The traditional sauna was commodious, at 10 feet by 10 feet perhaps, with three tiers of wooden benches. It would have been hard to add water to the rocks, though I didn’t see the sign prohibiting it. A drinking fountain was some distance away but there were no cups or dippers or easy ways to carry water. I didn't think to bring a water bottle.

As the only sauna-taker, I stretched out on the top bench, first checking the temp (77°C) and the humidity (10%). Then I flipped the sand timer and enjoyed a 30-minute relaxation. Ahhh, life is good. 
There were plenty of regular showers nearby, but still it was hard to cool down. (Sorta like the one at Grandpa Ivar’s when we had to get dressed too soon to allow the next partakers their turn.) Another time I would come prepared to take a dip in one of the swimming pools (which were on a deck below).


Thursday, March 10, 2016

St. Urho's Tay — Wednesday, March 16

It's that time of year again when Americans with Finnish roots celebrate Urho's miraculous rescue of the grape crop. The words he uttered: “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, Mene taalta hiiten!” (Grasshopper, grasshopper, go home!) so alarmed the little critters that they all disappeared. 

You might practice saying the words — you never know when something like that will come in handy. For sure, dig out your purple and green clothing to wear on St. Urho's Tay, interestingly timed one day before another fun March celebration. 

Lots of ways to celebrate:
Beforehand: A Grasshopper Hop in Crosslake, Minnesota—March 5. So we missed that. 
Finland, Minnesota, kicks of festivities this weekend, March 11-13, their 41st annual event: a Miss Helmi talent and beauty contest, food, music, parade!
On the actual day, March 17, the day is commemorated by folks in Butte, Montana, (crowning of St. and Miss Urho, live music and bag pipers) and in Donna, Texas (dinner).

Menahga, Minnesota, celebrates March 18-20 by crowning their own St. Urho King and Queen, a magician/comedian, pancake breakfast, horse drawn wagon rides, mojakka feed, the changing of the guards, St. Urho’s Day parade, bar stool races on Spirit Lake and live music. And on Sunday, enjoy the Blueberry Pines snow sculpture contest (if snow remains).

In Finlayson, Minnesota, on March 19, you can enjoy a parade, various tournaments for volleyball, basketball and cribbage, a pancake breakfast, antique snowmobile show, kid games, a medallion hunt.
Squaw Lake, Minnesota, also celebrates March 19. 

If nothing else, kick back and appreciate a nice glass of wine.