Thursday, 2 May 2013

Experience: Viking XPRS

Last weekend, I had the honour to visit Helsinki and even stay for a night. The Tallinn-Helsinki route is the busiest in the Baltic Sea, and among passenger routes, one of the busiest in the world. As I've mentioned before, it's crossed by several ships every day, and I crossed it on Viking XPRS twice this weekend.

Viking XPRS
Shortly before boarding

I have also mentioned that I've been on Viking XPRS very many times (now 12), starting from July 2011. I always end up choosing her, because she's the only Viking Line ferry here, she's quite new, and Viking Line has the easiest rules for underage travelling, the best harbour spots in both Helsinki and Tallinn, and it's much more affordable than the market leader Tallink. I don't want to yell out that they have the best price-quality ratio, because I don't have any experience with Eckerö Line and I can't remember much from my last time with Tallink either.

For some reason I still have most of the tickets.
As soon as I got on the ship, I immediately rushed to the sun deck. It's very large on Viking XPRS - it has four levels, covering up large areas in the stern. For me, it serves as the perfect place to take photos while leaving the harbour.
Sun deck
At the time of my trip, Viking Line had some French Weeks campaign going on. Since I didn't stay overnight on the ship, I probably missed the best of it, but my general impression was good, as always. The ship is maintained very well. I usually spend my time sitting near the bow, in the Blue Deli restaurant, but this time I chose to go to the Dance Pavilion instead. There was less people there and music was playing quietly, making it a good environment to just sit and enjoy. Another favourite spot of mine is near the large window. When the weather is nice, I just stay on the sun deck, but this time it was a bit too cold and windy. During the return journey, since it was an evening departure, the Dance Pavilion was much more crowded and there was some really nice live music, and some old couples were dancing to it. Later on I was forced to leave the Dance Pavillion to see if I could charge my phone somewhere - and surprisingly, I didn't have to look for a socket for a long time. Some were in very bad locations, but since there was many, I could choose the best spot. While looking, I saw a clown roaming around freely on the ship. It made me think that it's impossible to be in a bad mood on that ship.
I felt very welcome.
Dance Pavilion
Dance Pavilion window
The big window
When we left, Silja Europa was in, and also Isabelle, who is here for maintenance before entering her new route. Star had just left 30 minutes before. I also noticed Linda Line's Karolin leaving at the same time as us, and already on her way back when we arrived to Helsinki.
Star leaving
The gorgeous Silja Europa at home
Isabelle having her livery changed, step by step, from Viking Line to Tallink...
Before I forget, a few more words about Isabelle: She's currently still sitting in Tallinn, her funnel was painted white and has the Tallink logo, and the Tallink logo is also on her sides, so she will stay red, it seems. Quite a pity, a red ship is a very Viking Line thing, so it's not a very good step by Tallink. Isabelle is entering the Riga - Stockholm route on 6. May. No news about Silja Festival yet.

Karolin in Tallinn
Karolin in Helsinki (and you can find Star if you look carefully)
On the sea I also saw Superstar returning from Helsinki and far ahead I noticed Gabriella, who had arrived to Helsinki shortly before we did. Silja Serenade was also there, and as we entered the harbor, we had a small ferry named Tor racing us for a few minutes. 

Superstar on sea
Silja Serenade
When I got off in Helsinki, I noticed a cruise ship there. When I looked at the name, it felt familiar. Then I remembered that I had seen it on the cruise ship schedule of the Tallinn harbour, and so it was - When the cruise season opened here a few days ago, she was the first ship to call. 

The best view of Astor

The next day Gabriella and Silja Serenade had left for Stockholm; Mariella and Serenade's sister Silja Symphony had come to Helsinki. When I left for Suomenlinna on board Suomenlinna II, I got great pictures of both of them. At Suomenlinna I also spotted Linda Line's Merilin arriving to Helsinki. 

Suomenlinna II
A closeup of Suomenlinna II
Merilin arriving
Silja Symphony from the sea
Silja Symphony from the shore
And a little bit closer

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