Thursday, 30 October 2014

Experience: Baltic Queen, aka How To Miss Your Departure

Last weekend I was in Helsinki again to meet some friends. It was initially supposed to be a daycruise but later on I turned it into a weekend trip, planning to return with the Baltic Queen.
I woke up early on Saturday morning to make it on the earliest departure of the day, on the Superstar. It was still dark as I boarded and it was quite difficult to get any good pictures as the ship backed out of the harbour. The crossing was, fortunately, quite smooth. Contrary to many stories I've heard the vibration wasn't remarkable, and the fact that the crossing took 30 minutes less than what I'm used to made all the difference, because it really felt quick. The ship wasn't very crowded either, but what did bother me along with a lot of people who answered my research poll was people sleeping on the couches, taking up a lot of space. For me, it wasn't the space that mattered so much as the spreading smell of socks. 

Baltic Queen next to us in Tallinn
The harbour as we left: Baltic Queen and Viking XPRS, the latter followed us in 30 minutes
Deck plan
Absolutely packed
La Dolce Vita Bar, extending through 3 decks in the front

Tallink turned 25 recently and the whole ship was decorated accordingly
This is how it really is
Large staircase
Superstar's sister Finlandia near Helsinki
Silja Serenade and Finlandia near Helsinki
Mandatory funnel picture
Silja Serenade near Helsinki
Thou shalt not under any circumstances go beyond this sign
After getting off in Helsinki I had several hours to kill before an interview meeting. Walking around was quite unpleasant with a heavy backpack, therefore I chose to sit in Kamppi and get some work done instead. The meeting was also a great success but after it finished I was so tired that I called my friend and NW-cruise mate to pick me up and we went to the hotel. We were staying at GLO Hotel in the center of Espoo. It's a very nice place; I really recommend it if you're in Espoo or if you're willing to drive or take public transport from Helsinki.
Later that night we drove back to Helsinki to have a rather late dinner, which proved to be difficult in the center on a Saturday night. All the places were either packed, too noisy or had a long line at the door. After searching for over an hour we found a small pizzeria on a relatively quiet street near Kluuvi. 
The next day was spent mainly looking around stores and having a break at some cafe every now and then. I chose to have an early three course dinner at restaurant Kynsilaukka, mainly because it's one of a few places accepting Bitcoin payments. The menu was rather interesting, every dish was somehow made with garlic, including garlic beer, which was quite bitter and garlic ice cream, which must've been one of the most interesting dishes I've ever had, in addition to being quite delicious. 

Garlic ice ceam
In the evening we met up briefly with another NW-cruise mate; in the middle of the meeting I realized that I had miscalculated my time quite badly and hopelessly missed the Baltic Queen departure. Fortunately I was helped out and returned with the Finlandia on Monday morning. The weather was very windy and the ship was rolling heavily. I had many opportunities to take great photos of passing ships but due to the weather and the fact I was extremely tired I skipped it and had a nap instead, while listening to the Bingo game in Telakka bar.

Princess Maria in Helsinki
Mandatory funnel picture - the most notable exterior difference of the two sisters, besides the livery of course.
Another major difference between the two sisters is that bar Nosturi on the Finlandia is on two decks, not three like the Dolce Vita on the Superstar.
Otherwise, although the interiors are obviously quite different, it's easy to tell that Finlandia and Superstar are sisters. Here's the deck plans of the Finlandia for easy comparison. 
And to answer the question in the title - if you're already dense enough to actually wish to miss a departure, finding an excuse to do so or the necessary miscalculations shouldn't really be a problem. Loads of bad luck might sometimes also help.
I would like to thank Timo & Tove for meeting me and sharing memories, Riikka for making the time for a meeting despite your schedules, and also Matti for making most of this possible, keeping me company throughout my stay and saving me from thick trouble after the missed departure.

Maybe next time.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

End of peak, start of another

By now, the cruise season is long over, but I'm still yet to share some happenings from before and after it ended; besides the long journey I had in August which I reported very thoroughly, I have been lucky to attend and photograph many interesting events and visiting ships.
For example, early in September there was an event, during which Port of Tallinn was offering bus excursions to the harbour of Muuga. The bus took us to the entrance of the harbor where we had to pass through radiation detectors and get back on the bus. Although I would've liked to walk to look around beyond the places where the bus took us, the transport was still needed because the distances there are really long. From the bus windows I saw many different buildings with various purposes.

Ammonium fertilizer storage, built to minimize the damage in case of explosion by directing the force upwards
Cranes. One of these can still be seen in the passenger harbour in the center of Tallinn as a remain of it's former purpose as a cargo harbour.
Oil storage tanks
Grain conveyor..
... and storage building, which can be seen from very far away.
container terminal
coal terminal, currently not in use
View from farther away. The guide's talk about all of the facilities being directly linked to the piers made me wish to actualy see a pier, but that was unfortunately not possible. The harbour is large and very efficient and it could apparently serve many more ships than it's currently serving. 
In addition to that, about a week ago three warships and a submarine from the Netherlands visited the passenger harbour and two of the warships were briefly opened to all visitors. The security at the harbour was surprisingly strict, all the visitors were taken to the ships by bus; before boarding Amsterdam, the largest of the ships, visitors had to leave their bags and movement on board was allowed in only one set direction.

Another ship, the Zeeland, was berthed alongside; Victoria on the background.
Star backing out...
... and turning around
Tanker Viimsi leaving the harbour after bunkering Victoria
Busy day
Tug life
Corridor on the Evertsen
From the Netherlands. Helicopter deck on the Amsterdam. On the right the single crane in the harbour, which I mentioned earlier.
Viking XPRS arriving
No zoom; great way to see a bulbous bow in action.
Friendly crew
the submarine Bruinvis

In the meanwhile, Silja Europa sailed to her final destination in Australia. After my previous post about her she sailed to Naantali for a refit and briefly returned to Tallinn, sporting a new Bridgemans livery. I last saw her on the 11th of September while volunteering on a sailboat named Lulu. I planned on taking pictures of her, but as soon as we got close enough, thick fog rolled in. The next evening she set sail towards Australia and arrived at Barrow Island on the 24th of October.

Photo from

Now for the news. In late September, Tallink and my favourite band Nightwish announced that two Nightwish cruises will take place in June 2015, on board the Baltic Princess, starting from Turku. Now, anyone who knows me even a little should understand why missing that was simply not an option. The major obstacle was the fact that booking opened up in early October, with earlier booking advantage to members of Club One and some mysterious Nightwish fanclub, of which no one I know had heard anything. Fearing that the tickets would sell out before I manage to get the funds to book myself a cabin, I put up an announcement on the Finnish Nightwish forum looking for cabin mates using my Club One advantage. Although it turned out that I wasn't getting the advantage code due to being a member of the Estonian Club One and not the Finnish one, it was still successful. Three people contacted me within a reasonable time willing to join, I got the code from a Finnish friend (Thanks Olli), the negotiations went very smoothly and I booked the cruise within the advantage time. I have already met two of my cruise mates face to face and I consider them new friends. I have also added a countdown ticker to the blog.