Sunday, 23 March 2014

Experience: to my beloved city on my beloved ship

On Friday I did something I've done many times before - a daycruise to Helsinki on Viking XPRS. As I have mentioned I booked the trip hardly a week before and I never really found a moment to plan my stay. I found myself wondering what to do only about an hour before the departure, but as it always seems to be with Helsinki, I had no problems keeping myself entertained at all. I guess I can add that to my long list of reasons why I love Helsinki to bits.

I'll start with Viking XPRS. While planning my first five or so trips on her, I did indeed check and consider other offers, but I've always just ended up choosing her, completely unintentionally. I never had any special reasons to pick her, especially since I started with her before I was even into ships. It has always been about the price-quality ratio, age restrictions (if you're under 16 you have to ask mommy or someone relevant to travel, that's about it really) and perfect locations in both cities. 

And now it's come to this - I'm starting to understand why some people develop a kind of an emotional bond with one specific vessel, even if she's not so remarkable in any way. It feels quite different when you know exactly what's around the corner, where you can find power plugs and where you most certainly will not find them, the direction of the ship at any given time, the tiny imperfections in her livery, the sound of the ship engine in different situations, etc.

Now that I was back on her for the first time after her recent docking, and as expected, not much was changed. Along with her shiny new Estonian flag came a new crew, slight changes in livery which I already discussed, and I found the ship looking much fresher both on the outside and inside, and the ship store rearranged. Still the same Viking XPRS I know. 

Yeah, she's Estonian alright.
Ships in the morning - Viking XPRS, Superstar, Silja Europa
Met Star about halfway..
.. and Finlandia close to Helsinki.
An army of angry bloodthirsty Villes. I assume they haven't been fed this morning, or maybe I've been calling them cute too much.
Some days before the trip I was playing around with the idea of bringing my bike along to make moving around Helsinki easier. I contacted Viking Line and found out that bringing a bike along will cost 5€ a crossing, obviously I would've had to change my booking, and show up at the car check-in. The latter was the only part of it I found somewhat thrilling, and considering the rapidly and unpredictably changing weather conditions and a rather limited budget, I dropped the idea. I didn't have to regret it, because during my first hour in Helsinki it was raining. I'll surely do a biking trip some other time, but this time I took a one-day transport ticket instead. Not only did it cost less than bringing a bike, but it was also much more beneficial - at one point, I found myself hanging around in Itäkeskus, then near the West Harbour, then in the center again, then Suomenlinna, then Hakaniemi, and so on. I can now proudly say that I've had my transport ticket checked in Helsinki as well. I hardly noticed it until the lady actually asked to see my ticket. I wish they were as cultured here in Tallinn too.

A kiddie train in Itis (a shopping mall in Itäkeskus)
A really nice building at Abrahaminkatu.
Going to very different places and areas in one day, many of them completely new to me, made the day feel so much longer, more eventful and successful. I've determined that, when travelling, I'm a day person - I tend to run out of energy and things to do just about at the time the sun sets. Therefore it's much more beneficial for me to cruise in summer, in addition to many other reasons. This time my trip was at the time of equinox, so I only returned to the port to wait for the ship about two hours early, which isn't bad at all. 

Princess Maria and Finlandia at the West Harbour
Another view of Princess Maria
Suomenlinna II
I have been to Suomenlinna three times now, and all of those times, unfortunately, have been during winter season. I probably wouldn't even have bothered this time, but Suomenlinna just happens to be the birthplace of some of the greatest ship photos of Helsinki (even though, as I've mentioned a ton of times, the whole city is packed with great photo spots). The last time I was there a year ago I had no intention of taking ship photos, and the timing wasn't so good either. When going to Suomenlinna, I've always been served by the ferry Suomenlinna II, but this time I had Suokki instead. There was hardly any difference between them, especially in the exterior, but the interior of Suokki seemed much older, probably because everything is made of wood. On ferries that small and with crossings taking only 15 minutes, differences don't really matter though. 

The best of all photo spots
Silja Serenade in the morning
passing by Gabriella
Both Stockholm ferries in one picture
Silja Serenade departing Helsinki
Approaching Kustaanmiekka strait
Gabriella doing the same thing about 30 minutes later
.. and gone.
Also, I almost forgot to mention that tomorrow, one year will have passed since the creation and the first post of this blog. Surprisingly for myself, I haven't changed much in it ever since and I've been quite successful so far, which means that I probably will keep going in the same direction. I'm always open for ideas, suggestions and questions, though. ☺

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Estonian Maritime Academy II

Today the doors were open at the Estonian Maritime Academy again. Obviously, I was there. Again.

This year it was very different compared to last year. Since the academy will be united with Tallinn University of Technology, the event connected the whole university and instead of the long lecture, there was a fair-like thingy, where I could learn about all the opportunities they offer. I didn't really expect that, and thus turned up right at the beginning. Most of the time I spent chatting with the nice people at the Maritime Academy stand, tying some knots, learning more about the future of the institution etc. Had I known that the event was going to be different, I would've turned up later though - I ended up having to find something to do until the bus took us to the building of the academy. 

This little guy was lurking around at the fair, smiling and waving to people. When one of the cadets blocked his camera, he lowered the iPad on top (at least I think it was an iPad or smth?) and we had a little laugh. When I wanted to take a picture of him, I felt a strange temptation to tap him on the shoulder. I'm not quite sure if he was really cool, or a little bit creepy - especially when he stared at me for like a minute. 

After the fair, as I mentioned, we were taken to the building of the Academy and shown the bridge simulators. Last year they still had some programming bugs and the rooms smelled like restoration works. This year the simulator was well improved with many different real ships and areas available, and it still smelled like restoration works. I got to drive a coast guard patrol boat out of the harbour - after crashing it into a pier. ☺

On the bridge of Silja Festival, in icy waters, near a burning tanker.

All in all, I had a lot of fun. Now I only have one year left to reconsider, which I probably won't, because I've already had a year to do it and I still haven't.

Monday, 17 March 2014

In the meanwhile

It's been about a month since my last update, and although it may seem like I haven't done much, that's not the case. I've done some little shipspotting, mainly with the goal to get some proper photos of the regulars. Some more, like Victoria I for example, have gone through a docking.  I have started some serious work on my school research about the history of passenger ship traffic between Tallinn and Helsinki since 1965. To make conclusions about the current situation, I have opened up a poll - if you haven't answered yet, I'd greatly appreciate if you did so here.

Do you like Silja Europa? 
Or perhaps Superstar?
I'm also quite proud of myself, because I've got a job in the meanwhile - quite a nice one, in fact. The people there are really nice, the work itself is fun, the atmosphere is awesome and getting paid for it is like a really sweet extra that comes with it. So, should any of you find yourself in Tallinn - or if you live here - head over to Olde Hansa the medieval restaurant and have a taste of delicious almonds made at the spot. You may even find me right there. Maybe. ☺

But the greatest news of them all is that I'm going to Helsinki again on Friday. It will be the first day cruise I'll be doing alone, also I'll get to see if anything at all has changed on Viking XPRS during and after her recent docking. It's also by far the most spontaneous trip I've ever had - I booked it two days ago after seeing a sweet offer of 15€ per face for a day cruise, with the condition of at least one minor in the company. Nothing was said about any adults though, and I'm in my last 6 months of minority now. Lucky.