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Stockholm - pre/post-cruise questions

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I'm going on a Baltic Sea cruise with a group of 7 people in July. We have one night in Stockholm on either end of the cruise so we can see the city (the usual tourist things; Vasa museum is top on the list). None of us have been anywhere in Scandinavia, so this is all new territory.

I'm a relatively experienced trip planner, but usually I'm planning trips for just two or three people to destinations I'm a little more familiar with! So, I have some questions and am hoping the brilliant Fodorite brain trust can help me find a great solution.

The group of seven: One or two single guys, three single women (all age 30s-early 40s), and the parents of one of the women. One of the guys is doing flights based on points and plans to arrive in Stockholm the morning our cruise leaves, so he'll be included for our second hotel night but not our first.

1. Hotel: Under $200/room/night would be fantastic, though that's a starting point that I'm not sure is realistic! I've been looking at Hotwire; it looks like there's a good option there in the Norrmalm/Gamla Stan area. I know that sometimes Hotwire zones can mix really great areas with not-so-great areas (my hometown of Nashville is a prime example!), so not knowing the city well, I'm concerned that we'd end up somewhere that's really inconvenient or not nice. The zone includes the peninsula of Gamla Stan, goes all the way up to Karolinska Institutet, and is bordered by Birger Jarlsgartan on the east. Is that all fine? Am I right that the area close to Gamla Stan (either actually in it, or across the water) is where we'd ideally shoot for?

2. Transport: Normally I'm a big fan of public transit, but it looks relatively expensive (at minimum, $37 round trip per person on the Arlanda Express), and with this many people I'm wondering if a car service or taxi would be more cost effective. Of course we'll also need to get to and from the cruise ship - the cruise company offers airport transfers, but I haven't seen anything about hotel transfers. Any suggestions there would be great.

Of course, any suggestions on sightseeing, restaurants, etc in Stockholm are also welcome! We're all very excited, but this trip has come about pretty suddenly and we haven't had time to do a ton of research yet. We're all budget-conscious so probably no fine dining, but we do like to eat. :) Thanks in advance for your help!

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