Stockholm is already one of my favorite cities in the world, and a perfect spring day like today just increased my admiration. In the morning, we sailed into the city through the picturesque archipelago’s narrow passages that have long protected Stockholm from invaders. The sun was shining through a clear blue sky over rocky islands dotted with quaint summer homes and the occasional majestic fortress or two. By midday, we settled into our berth just steps from the cobblestone streets and striking architecture of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s oldest neighborhood. From National Geographic Explorer’s back deck, we looked down at the cafés and bars lining the dock below with their outdoor terraces filled with people enjoying the sunshine. It was a location and a view for which any local hotel could have charged a fortune.

We loaded the Zodiacs and embarked on a sightseeing tour along Stockholm’s many waterways. It was a wonderful way to explore the city, sailing leisurely past historical buildings and vibrant waterfront restaurants. Our soundtrack included the horns of passing ferries, party music blasting from outdoor bars, and the excited screams of people on roller coasters at the waterfront amusement park. Things quieted down a bit once we entered the canal that cuts through the Djurgården, a tranquil park that was once the royal hunting grounds. In classic Lindblad fashion, the hotel department surprised our guests with champagne and juice served from a nearby dock.

Our Zodiac ride ended at Skeppsholmens folk school where the Swedish folk pop band Kolonien greeted us at the dock with instruments in hand. They led us on a musical parade into a cozy performance space where they entertained us with a beguiling mix of acoustic instruments and lush vocal harmonies. Their environmentally conscious lyrics and contagious energy enchanted our guests and had them singing and clapping along.