Thursday, 29 August 2013

Experience: Silja Europa Cruise

As a few of you may know, I spent two weeks in Finland in June. I returned to Estonia on the 11th of June, making my 13th trip on Viking XPRS. A couple of days later I bought a new camera. My old one died to a coke bottle that I didn't close properly during my trip to Finland in December. Since I was too lazy to take it to the repairs till early May, it was cheaper to buy a new one. In the meanwhile I had used my mother's camera, but now I chose the best camera for my needs, with a great 12x optical zoom for ships and other details. Works like a charm compared to the 3,5x zoom my mother's cam has. 

Before: The best zoom of my mother's camera
After: The best zoom of my new camera. Same ship, same place, another day.
In the peak of the summer, one thing kept me from travelling around too much - on the first of July, I started going to the Reval Maritime School. The course lasted till the 23rd of August, when I scored 100% on the exam. Basically, I'm now waiting for the right moment to go get my licence to drive small ships, with a length up to 24 meters. I've earned it well. I really enjoyed the course, since it was all about a topic I'm really into and I know a lot more about navigation and safety at sea now. We had two days of practice at the sea, once with a sailboat, and once with a motorboat, that also involved jumping into the water and floating in big orange waterproof suits. I've been really sure the whole time that I'm more of a motorboat person - I really enjoyed driving it, and at some point our speed reached 60 knots. I mean, really, why buy a hairdryer when you can buy a motorboat and go out on the sea? 

But what got me to writing this post in the first place was what happened A couple of days ago. the post is long, so I'll give a song to listen again.

My first real cruise - Tallinn - Helsinki - Tallinn on Silja Europa, 26-27. August 2013

This trip was something I had prepared and looked forward to the whole summer. I wanted it to be as close to my birthday as possible, and I'm glad that my friends Anneli and Taavi could join, so that we could stay on the ship overnight. 

The big day started early for me, as I had to wake up and get ready. Although the ship didn't depart until 1 o'clock, we decided to meet up and board the ship at 10:30. And that's where it all started - just as I reached the port, I remembered that I had forgotten my cake at home. Since we had time till the departure, I thought that we could do the check-in, and then I could run home and get it. But when we went to the check-in, we encountered the first troubles - We weren't allowed on the ship, because Tõnis and I are still kids and the person looking after us has to be at least 30. I had kind of ruined it, saying that we were a group of friends. We were all quite stunned and pissed off after that, but in a couple of minutes I said to them: "Now, how about we go to that check-in counter a little bit farther away, and tell a different story?" After the check-in lady who rejected us had left, we went to a different counter and well, we didn't even need the different story - we were given our boarding passes with no problems. That was a great relief. Then, Anneli and Taavi boarded the ship, and Tõnis took my heavy bags and waited for me at the port while I picked up the cake I had forgotten. 

The cake
Our ship

When we boarded the ship, we put our stuff in our cabin on the 10th deck and went to the sun deck to take pictures. The cruise started on Monday, and Monday is the day when our favourite cruise ship, Aidamar, is in Tallinn. So, we took lots of pictures of surrounding ships. What amazed me was that only Aidamar was slightly larger than our ship. Silja Europa was the world's largest cruiseferry (a cruise ship with a car deck) from 1993 till 2001, mostly owing to her enormous amount of cabins. She can accommodate over 3500 people, which is over a half of what the world's largest passenger ships, Oasis & Allure of the Seas can take. 

Grand Mistral
Finlandia, who had troubles with one of the propellers and needed a tugboat's assistance to enter the port.
Our special favourite Aidamar
Celebrity Eclipse and Norwegian Star, and Aidamar
Fun fact: Silja Europa is the largest ship that sails under the Estonian flag.
We were on the sun deck as long as we could see Tallinn, and Superstar, who departed for Helsinki 30 minutes later than us, passed.

Superstar chasing...
And passing, as we turn towards the east behind Aegna island.
After that, almost until our arrival to Helsinki, we ran around the ship, taking pictures and videos of nearly everything we saw. 

The builder's plate
The crew
Ocean Club seen from the 9th deck
13th sun deck.
Food Market
Islands near Tallinn
That gigantic funnel that we wanted to take home with us
The 12th sun deck in the stern, right behind the sauna and pools.

Catching of the beer and other goods thrown from the sea by the fish strictly forbidden.
Car deck entrance
Cabins, cabins, cabins. We made a video while we walked through a corridor from one end of the ship to another. Took us two minutes.
Time flew fast, and soon enough we saw Helsinki on the horizon. If you read my blog from about a year ago, you can see me mention that Helsinki is my favourite city in the whole world. That hasn't changed at all, I still really want to move there one day. I felt like it would be a sin if I didn't get off the ship in Helsinki, even if the stop was as brief as two hours. Anneli and Taavi stayed on the ship.

Queen Elizabeth in Helsinki as we entered
Superstar, who got there long before us and was about to set sail again, and Princess Maria.
Funnel of Superstar
Passengers waved to us from Queen Elizabeth as we passed
Superstar set sail to Tallinn
Getting off
A really strange nameless ship with random stuff and dummies and such
The  6469876549th reason why I love Helsinki to bits - There are public areas and streets literally meters away from standing ships, and so many great places to watch them come and go. This picture was taken without invading any restricted areas, and without zoom. Tallinn should totally watch and learn.
Another shot from a bit farther away
Princess Maria in all her glory

We spent about an hour walking around in Helsinki and just looking around. Before getting back on our ship, we went on the rooftop of a shopping mall near the port to take pictures. 

A bridge
The 1984651687th reason why I love Helsinki to bits - Even the apartment blocks look good!

Yeah it's that road again. Quite a few similarities with my Helsinki post from a year ago. :D
It's not hard to find a nice view and to get a good picture in Helsinki. Instead, I'm finding it hard to choose pictures for this post.
Our ship from the rooftop

Silja Europa's funnel and Mariella of Viking Line leaving for Stockholm
Our ship's fleetmate Silja Symphony leaving for Stockholm
While we were in Helsinki, Superstar's mate Star arrived to Helsinki. Soon after our departure she passed us again. These Tallink shuttles come and go like trams, not really made for cruising.
After leaving Helsinki, we went to the ship's sauna. Well, I'd call it a spa rather than a sauna because the saunas were separate and connected to the locker rooms, so we chose to enjoy the bubble baths and pools instead. Some friendly Finns were there too, and we asked them to take pictures of us. We chatted with them for a bit (mostly me because I actually speak some Finnish) and when they heard we were Estonian, the discussion immediately came down to owls - Estonians and Finns should get the idea.

After the sauna, we went shopping at the tax free store and I organized a small get-together at the Food Market for the time we arrived to Tallinn. We cut open my birthday cake and sat down for a bit and chatted about anything and everything.

The sunset and a tanker about halfway to Tallinn
Later on I spent lots of time on the sun deck watching ships come and go and taking pictures of the shore. After it was too dark for pictures, Tõnis and I went to dance at the Ocean club. It was really a lot of fun, the general level of dancing was so bad that no one really cared or worried. It really cured a few traumas I've got from the parties at different camps when I was younger. We were probably the youngest people there, and the only Estonians, and the only ones who didn't know like every song that was played there, since the music was Finnish. But by the end of the night, without consuming a single drop of alcohol, we could hardly walk straight. So, our plans of watching the sunrise were cancelled. 
Leading lights of Tallinn
Bright lights, big city
Funnel again
The pool where we were before
Arriving Finlandia
Arriving Viking XPRS
Cabins, cabins, cabins, cabins and I
Arriving Superstar
Ocean Club
Deck 7 in the morning
Cruise ships in Tallinn
The next morning we woke up, packed our things, had a last look at the ship and left. Everyone enjoyed the cruise a lot and I'm hoping to be out there on the sea again soon.

Cabin 10419, my home during my first cruise.

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