Sunday, 31 August 2014

Experience: Rosella to Mariehamn and back

This is the 3rd part of a trip report; The whole story can be found under the tag I Must Travel Otherwise I'll Die 2014; First part can be read here.
Straight after leaving the Grace, I left my suitcase in one of the lockers at the terminal and rushed to the center of Stockholm. There I searched for the Viking Line office and some 20 minutes before the bus I found it and bought the ticket. After finishing at the office I went straight to the bus station and got on the Viking Line bus that took me to Kapellskär. The ride wasn't too long, especially because I had never been outside Stockholm and the landscape of Sweden is quite interesting. The wait for the ship after arriving at Kapellskär harbour wasn't too long either and soon enough I found myself on board the oldest ship of Viking Line, the Rosella. She entered service in 1980 and has been in the Viking Line fleet for her entire career, having served the longest time and the most routes in the history of the company. They've replaced her and even tried to sell her many times, first in 1987, but each time something has happened that resulted in the Rosella staying.

Kapellskär harbour
Rosella arriving in Kapellskär
One of the several staircases. Compared to the average ferry I'm used to, the passageways were quite wide. 

I didn't take many interior photos. The ship is quite small and not very luxurious. Although this picture doesn't show it, the Fun Club is on two decks, there is an opening above the stage and the dance floor.
Mandatory funnel picture
Sundeck and Patria Seaways
Patria Seaways connects Paldiski in Estonia to Kapellskär. 
Finneagle had departed a bit before us but we were running faster, therefore we passed her soon enough. 
Cinderella sailing from Mariehamn to Stockholm
Showing her fancy stripes she got during her last docking in January, shortly after I sailed on her.
Birka Stockholm (also known as just Birka), operated by Birka Cruises, which is a sister company to Eckerö Line. 
She also serves the Stockholm-Mariehamn cruise route.
Sun deck, which proved to be a great place for a secret power nap...
... right after a yummy brunch at the Bistro Buffet, which was necessary after I forgot to take my pre-ordered takeaway breakfast from the Grace. Despite the fancy alarm I still woke up an hour later than intended, therefore I was quite in a hurry. Back on topic - the chefs on board sure like to use salt.
Shortly after arriving in Mariehamn

After disembarking I had some 5 hours to kill in Mariehamn, which was well enough, because Mariehamn is not exactly the big lively city I imagine when someone says "capital", even though it actually is the capital of Åland. Mariehamn is a small and lovely city. My experience shows that they probably don't get too many non-Swedish tourists, or maybe I look somehow Swedish, because I was always greeted in Swedish. Almost every store in Mariehamn had a clothes rack or several outside, and as if that's not weird enough, a few of those stores had close to no clothes inside. I spent my day walking and looking around, buying a thing or two and a lunch. I was most impressed by a store that sold 3D printers and -pens. I saw said machines in action and even got to try a 3D pen. Unfortunately, I failed to produce anything worth keeping, so I bought my mother a pair of 3D printed star shaped earrings instead. 

Just the usual street in Mariehamn vol 1
Mariehamn city hall
A signpost showing nautical miles
Picture taken from the doorstep of a store
3D printer in action
A 3D printed shoe, anyone?
View of the whole store
Just the usual street in Mariehamn vol 2
Sankt Göran's church
For some reason I have a thing for sacral architecture...
... and chandeliers
And what's a church without a.... ship?

After several hours of walking around in the city I returned to the harbour a bit early and used the waiting time to educate myself on the political status of Åland with the help of a random brochure and yet another power nap, which was much needed after a nearly sleepless night on the Grace. After boarding I met my friends Nelly and Marcus who were doing a cruise and had a cabin. Most of the return journey was spent playing card games and fooling around all over the ship. The ship was much more crowded than before, mostly by elderly people. We were probably the youngest and definitely the noisiest on board. 
Rosella doesn't have stabilizers, which means that she's close to doing barrel rolls even in calm seas, but during our return journey it was quite windy and the ship was swaying a lot. Our gang found that the best time to go to the sun deck in front of the bridge, especially since the weather was actually sunny and nice. Pictures aren't the best way to show exactly how windy it was, so I'll say I had to pull my shirt down every two seconds. 

Nelly and Ville a bit before I joined
Splish splash
At our very best in front of the bridge
After disembarking in Kapellskär the whole ship full of people were squeezed into buses and we returned to Stockholm. When I returned to the terminal in Stockholm to pick up my suitcase I was surprised to discover that the terminal was long closed. With the help of my overthinking brain I was in for another nearly sleepless, not to mention suitcase-less night.

Next post - Stockholm & Amorella

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Experience: Viking Grace + Turku

This is the 2nd part of a trip report; The whole story can be found under the tag I Must Travel Otherwise I'll Die 2014; First part can be read here.
My beautiful journey is over now, which means that I can finally focus on making it into a story and writing it down for you to read. I left the last post off at continuing to Turku, which I did the next morning. When I first arrived in Turku, I felt a bit confused because the railway station is not exactly the heart of the city and I really had no clue where to go. A quick look at the map fixed that and I headed towards the river where my hostel ship is docked. I stayed on board the Bore, who has a long history connecting Sweden and Finland as a steamship since she was built in 1960. In 1987 she was rebuilt into a cruise ship and her steam engines were replaced with diesel ones and until 2010 she was operated by Kristina Cruises. Although I never got to sail on her, the hostel experience was quite lovely. My cabin was a rather compact one with one bed and an even smaller bathroom. After leaving my suitcase there I went exploring, but since it was Sunday many places were closed so I didn't stay in the center for very long. Instead I chose to kill some time in the hostel common room, which turned out easier than expected. I ended up going for a walk late at night with an Italian I met there.

My home in Turku
Perhaps a nicer view
Suomen Joutsen, a ship with a very long and colourful history that started in 1902, now a museum ship.
Turku castle
Aura river and Turku Cathedral
The heart of the city. For some reason Turku is known as the rear end of Finland, thus the awesome slogan.
Look, I found a flower!
Sigyn, also a museum ship, built in 1887.
Fountain sculpture Harmonia, by Achim Kuehn.
Föri, the southernmost way to cross the Aura river. 
She has been in service since 1903, every day almost all year round. The crossing is free and takes about a minute. Therefore I think it's obvious why I didn't write a separate "Experience: Föri" post.
Several tall cranes stand on both sides near the river mouth of Aura. 
At night Turku was just as beautiful.

Aura river and ships at night
 I had planned the next day for some nice shopping, which I did until I found a really nice small shiny typewriter at a thrift shop. Since I've wanted one for years it was a must-get. The next several hours were spent rearranging my suitcase to squeeze it in.

Quite nice, huh?
One more reason to like Turku - Almost the whole city is somehow sea-related, including several stores. The Forum Marinum store sells postcards of old Viking Line and Silja Line ships. I was so tempted.

In another store I found a rather helpful pair of socks - green for right, red for left, a simple way to avoid arguments between crew members. I wonder how many accidents have been caused by people wearing these on wrong feet.

Welcome to the very heart of Turku

The park on the east bank is actually really nice...
...allowing some wonderful views over the west bank and the center.

When I left the hostel heading for the harbour, I was given the most beautiful farewell. 
After two eventful days in Turku I took the Viking Grace to Stockholm. She started service in early 2013 and even though I've visited the Legend of the Seas, she still really impressed me. In fact, although I'm yet to try the Silja Symphonade sisters, I dare to say that Viking Grace is probably the nicest floating thing on northern Baltic Sea. I'd also give two extra points to Viking Line for free candy, one for each bed in the cabin - quite nice when you're alone in a cabin of four. I started my voyage in the Wellness Spa. Located on Deck 11 in a room with panorama windows, it was really nice to relax in a jacuzzi and watch the rainy weather as we raced past a small tugboat towing a barge. There was also saunas of all kinds and a real snow cave which was a great place to go after a hot herbal sauna. After my spa visit was over there wasn't so much to do besides shopping and looking around - the performance on board that night wasn't exactly my taste and I was hopelessly late for karaoke.

Baltic Princess nearby, taken before boarding
My cabin
The cabin corridors have quite a clever design.
Mandatory funnel picture
Leaving Tallink's Sea Wind behind
Kids' playroom
Staircases have also become something I always take pictures of. 
Entrance to the Shopping World
The renowned atrium of Viking Grace...
.. next to a panorama window extending through three decks...
the neatest sitting area in the whole ship I'm sure

Quite a necessary addition to every cabin in a ship that arrives at 6:30
Awards for "Innovative layout for the handling of stores in combination with the practically designed food preparation areas", "Innovative interior design" - totally earned it - and "Environmental qualities; Being the first long-distance ferry with a dual fuel engine". During the first few months of her service she had to run on diesel but now she's running on LNG (liquefied natural gas), which means that she's silent and runs very smoothly. 
Deck 10 (obviously)
Outside Wellness Spa
The whole ship was looking as if she had popped out of a design magazine
Rockmore bar, where they played the best music
Retro bar, where the karaoke took place
Entrance to Vogue club
inside Vogue club.
What was the ship again?
Bye bye.
After disembarking early in the morning I continued my journey, boarding another ship; I'll tell that part of the story in my next post.

Next post - daycruise to Mariehamn