Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Experience: A wave of Baltic Sea ferry madness

In Mid-March, I took another Baltic trip with Sverre, with the two main purposes being to catch the first voyages of the returned Silja Europa, and to celebrate his birthday. We met up in Tallinn; I took a bus from Turku and then Tallink's Superstar to Tallinn. During the two hour crossing I didn't have time for much more than to watch the departure, have a breakfast, and finally, upon arrival to Tallinn, have a nice close first look at the Silja Europa for the first time since 2014, when she left for Australia to serve as floating accommodation for a bit more than a year. In the terminal I was greeted by Sverre and we checked in the nearby hotel Euroopa. The same evening we had a nice dinner in Olde Hansa, my old workplace.

Mandatory Funnel
The following day, the 13th of March, was the day I crossed the Gulf of Finland three times in one day - in the early morning we checked out of our hotel and headed to the terminal for the first ship departure of the day, the Star to Helsinki. There we got to enjoy a meal in the world's first floating Burger King restaurant, as well as the first Burger King in Estonia - as the Star is Estonian-flagged. We also had access to Comfort Class, which was nearly empty and offered a very nice view forward, although we couldn't enjoy it much then because the weather was rather foggy. When we arrived in Helsinki, we just had enough time to check in and leave our luggage in GLO Hotel Art and rush to the Viking Line terminal in Katajanokka to catch the Viking XPRS right back to Tallinn. Both feeling somewhat tired, we chose to buy an A-class cabin while checking in for the trip, and that decision definitely paid off, because we spent most of the crossing in the cabin. And that was actually the first time ever for me to have a cabin on the Viking XPRS, despite the fact that I've crossed the Gulf on her dozens of times. The worst morning fog had long gone by that time, but the XPRS was still being a good ferry and blowing her horn every few minutes.

Comfort Class on the Star
Backing out of Tallinn in the early morning fog
Burger King on board the Star
Our cabin on board the Viking XPRS
Safety instructions on the Viking XPRS

Upon arrival in Tallinn we split up, as I wanted to visit my parents (and kitty!) and Sverre met up with Nelly and Christoffer who happened to be in Tallinn that day, too. Unfortunately I returned to the harbour just mere minutes too late to meet them myself. In any case, soon enough it was time for us to get on board the Silja Europa.

But I finally got to meet my sweet kitty Tilla!

Back in 2014, when the Silja Europa left for Australia, I honestly don't think anyone believed that she would ever be seen around here again, let alone serve a route. She's far from the youngest ship out there and apparently her machinery is in bad condition from running on the restless Turku-Stockholm route for so many years. And yet, in January her return was announced and we planned to get on board as soon as possible.

By now she has served a season as a daycruise ferry, first from Helsinki West harbour, and then Olympia terminal; on the 29th of August she stopped and currently she's laid up in Muuga harbour near Tallinn for a refit. In December she will replace the Baltic Queen, doing 22h cruises from Helsinki to Tallinn. The Baltic Queen will then replace the Romantika on the Tallinn-Stockholm route, and the Romantika will go to Riga-Stockholm. So, just like it was back in 2014.

On her first crossing we met quite a few of our friends and fellow ship enthusiasts, and for that reason we hadn't booked a cabin. I ended up cursing that decision to hell, being very tired from the day; we ended up spending most of the time sitting in Windjammer Bar. The most fun (or not, depends on what you like) part of the evening was perhaps the disembarkation. First of all, it was about half an hour of waiting at the usual exit, until all passengers were asked to proceed to the cardeck for disembarkation.

Disembarkation through the cardeck
At least it wasn't snowing
The following morning it was right back to the Silja Europa at silly o'clock in the morning, this time for a daycruise. The four hour crossing was great to get some more sleep and later on we went to the sauna and pools, and spent the entire time enjoying and playing around in the big pool.

That big, still and relatively deep pool, with view to the helicopter deck, is the one and only reason why I consider Silja Europa to have one of the best spas on the Baltic Sea. I do find it nice if for once I can choose to not have water splashing all over my face while I struggle not to float away.

Embarkation through the cardeck
Our Deluxe cabin nr. 11112
My waterproof camera case sure came in handy
Baltic Queen departing as we arrived

Upon arrival I had to go ashore again to take the chance and run some errands, as it was a Monday. It was then that I got a bit of a "shock", having got so used to the public transport in Turku that runs like a Swiss watch (almost), and then using the public transport in Tallinn which is much, much more chaotic.

In the meanwhile Sverre had gone ashore too, and we met up in the center and soon headed back to the ship, to discover that she was moving to a different spot. Nonetheless, we were let into the gangway all the way to the entry, and waited there with a small group of people, watching her approach. During the return journey we both got nice haircuts and then had a dinner in Maxime à la Carte. We were actually supposed to dine in Buffet Europa, but since it was only booked by just a small handful of people (as I realized when we were all called through the public address system), the seating was cancelled.

Upon arrival it was the same story as the day before, disembarkation via cardeck and straight back to the hotel.

Deckies on duty
Our room in GLO Hotel Art
The following day was Sverre's birthday and the first thing we did was to go celebrate in Hard Rock Cafe, which is his (and now also mine) favourite chain restaurant. After that we took a train to Turku where we briefly met up with Matti, before embarking on a cruise on the beautiful Viking Grace.
The same evening we dined in Oscar à la Carte, and the next day we chose to just enjoy the suite and do a little bit of shopping. After disembarking we checked in to good old ship hostel Bore. The next morning I sent Sverre off to the Amorella as he started his journey home, and returned to the hostel for a nap.

Ocean Suite, nr 7826
Ocean Suite, nr 7826
Enjoy the view

Our cabin on the Bore

1 comment:

  1. Especially in summer, the Baltic Travel Old Town is packed with tourists, with the traditional daytrippers from Helsinki increasingly supplemented by Europeans taking advantage of cheap flights. Alas, the new town sprawling all around is largely built in typical concrete Soviet style, now joined with glass-and-steel cubes celebrating the post-Soviet economic boom.

    BalticTravel | Baltic Tours | Baltic Bus Travel | Baltic Tours Operators