Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Experience: Silja Symphony (21-23.12.2014)

Some days ago I finally had the chance to cruise on another #1 of my bucket list, the Silja Symphony. I was accompanied by my dear mother who had cruised on her in 1993, just two years after she started service and barely a month after she lost her status of the world's largest cruiseferry to Silja Europa. My mother wanted to return ever since, since the cruise was for her the first trip out of the former Soviet Union and she was awestruck. For me the Silja Symphony (along with her sister the Silja Serenade) was the only ship on the Northern Baltic Sea that had the chance to impress me as much as the Viking Grace did.

10 points to whoever spotted that this is, in fact, Silja Serenade. After the recent dockings the most notable exterior difference between the two sisters is the seal on the funnels - on the Silja Symphony he is smiling while on the Serenade he isn't. 
For us the trip started with crossing to Helsinki on the good old Viking XPRS. We spent most of the time in the Dance Pavilion, since it's quite remote, dark and also silent, at least in the morning. I ended up running to the Blue Deli a lot and I couldn't help but notice the music in the Viking's Inn pub - all the world famous Christmas songs in Finnish.

After getting off in Helsinki the first thing we did was walk to the South terminal where the Silja Symphony was already waiting. Although she wasn't leaving anytime soon we needed to leave behind our horribly imbalanced suitcase which was a pure pain to carry along (resulting in me swearing and cursing at it countless times as it flipped over again). After dropping it off we climbed the high hill right outside the terminal to take some photos.

On the other side of the hill we found the German church where a service was just about to finish; we heard the organ play and just as we got outside again the church bells started ringing. Later on we met up with Matti, went to Kynsilaukka restaurant again and walked around a bit. Since the ship was leaving already at 5 in the evening we didn't actually have that much time and therefore we had to return to the terminal soon. The check-in lines were quite long and I didn't see any check-in machines either. After a while of waiting we finally got our boarding cards and Matti waved us off.

German Church
Morning view of Katajanokka
Mikael Agricola Church which was, unfortunately, closed.
St. Henry's Cathedral
Organ of St. Henry's Cathedral
Embarkation, at last!
The first wow - I had imagined the promenade to be lower and more narrow. 
Deck plans
Mandatory funnel photo
Leaving Helsinki behind on the darkest day of the year
Promenade from above. Our cabin was on deck 10, which is the 2nd highest on the promenade.
Atlantis Palace
Stairs from the promenade to the Grande Buffet
Rear end of the promenade
Rear end of the ship
Grande Buffet outside...
... and inside
Mandatory staircase photo
First thing two women like us would do on Silja Symphony - shopping, shopping, shopping! My first advice for those cruising on her in the future: Plan a budget at least twice as big as the initial cruise fare for the ship alone!
A map showing the ship's location on the route - actually working, unlike that on the Silja Europa when she was on the Tallinn-Helsinki route.
A very handy addition, also.
Most of our first evening was spent shopping and spying on the cabins across the promenade. In fact, I believe that promenade is probably the best cabin class one can have on the Symphony, because the perks of seeing the life on the promenade and the nearby cabins add a whole new value to the cruise. When it comes to the price, promenade cabins are the step between inside cabins (which there aren't so many) and window cabins; I definitely suggest going promenade.

Although we woke up early next morning (especially me, messing up the hours once again!), getting out of the ship took us almost until midday. First of all I had to spot the outbound Turku ships in the thick fog, then have some breakfast in the Grande Buffet and get ready. 

Baltic Princess in the mist
A small ferry connecting two islands in the Stockholm archipelago
Viking Grace, who almost went unnoticed; fortunately, she blew her fog horn like a good ferry and I noticed her when she was in 10 o'clock direction from me.
Victoria I in Stockholm. This view immediately reminded me of my cruise on her a bit over a year ago when I was standing on the side deck just like that, looking at the Silja Symphony right there. 
The selection in the Grande Buffet was quite satisfactory and finding a seat was never a problem, although it was evident that the crowds passing through every morning are huge. The crew was working hard too - the dishes disappeared moments after the customer left, almost like magic. 
In Stockholm the shopping spree continued - it took me less than an hour to get rid of the little SEK I had exchanged for the shore leave; after that we switched to window-shopping, which resulted in getting quite a collection of business cards from different stores. Also did some walking and sightseeing, but since the weather wasn't the best, we returned to the ship about an hour before the departure, if not more.

Stockholm christmas market
Some Stockholm findings - excluding the chips, which were from the ship's store.
 By the time the ship departed I was already in the ship's spa. I had thought that there is no way a ship spa located on the upper decks with huge panorama windows can leave me unimpressed, but alas, I found one. The lack of directing signs left me very confused, there were way too few showers and the locker room was very narrow. The three pools seemed quite fine for a cruiseferry spa and I actually felt some envy looking at the kiddie pool which had a fun slide, but what did disturb me was the relatively freezing water in the pools. Although I put up with cold very well, I'd still expect the bubbling bath to feel warm, not slightly cold that took some time to get used to. The scenery was quite nice, but that's about it, I'd say. The price, fortunately, wasn't sky high either; I got what I paid for. Later in the evening I felt like participating in the karaoke, which took place in the New York Club & Lounge above the spa on a whole separate deck around the funnel, which could maybe be called the 13th deck, although it was marked with a star instead of the numeration. After the karaoke the party started in the same place, although the majority of the crowd was at Atlantis Palace, it was still quite nice.

At some  point during the karaoke event we called in Mariehamn, arriving just as Mariella was leaving, side by side with the Rosella who spends her nights in Mariehamn.
Me and Harri the Seal who also seemed to have a long night out. In addition to him, Santa Claus and Moomintroll were on board.
The next morning we also woke up early, went for the breakfast and tried to get off the ship as late as possible. It was cold in Helsinki and the contrast felt huge - we went from fat spoiled pigs with spa access, fine food, candy, alcohol and cosmetics, a great view from the cabin window and entertainment programmes we were too lazy to attend to shivering girls with no home. First of all we dropped off the annoying suitcase (this time I just counted the times it flipped over to stay calm - until I lost count at around 10) and sat in the terminal cafe for much over an hour watching the snowploughs at work. Afterwards we went for a walk and stepped in a few small seemingly 2nd hand boutiques, where the shopping spree unexpectedly continued. We returned to Katajanokka over two hours before our departure, did the check in and sat down to wait. During the return journey we were far too tired to do anything, spending most of the time sitting apathetically at the Dance Pavillion.

To sum up, Silja Symphony is a great choice definitely worth her price. The feel on board was quite glamorous, the shopping and partying possibilities are great. I also found the ship easy to navigate (as long as you get the side of the promenade right), although it was very easy to confuse the direction of the ship while on board. To me an extra cherry on the cake was the fact that the ship is almost entirely symmetrical, built up and designed very rationally. Before cruising on her she looked much smaller on the outside, but after seeing the interior her actual size hit me and now she seems much larger on the outside, too. Compared to another great ferry, the Viking Grace, she is definitely much more majestic; the interior design on the other hand is well overshadowed by that of the Grace, not to even mention the spa. The overall impression was great though; I could've easily lived on board for longer, she would work quite well as a cruise ship. I definitely recommend her to everyone, especially the promenade cabin, and I'm quite certain I'll be cruising again on either her or the Serenade soon. 

No comments:

Post a Comment