Once you have decided to see Stockholm or Helsinki for yourself and have booked your flight, there’s an exciting opportunity to see the other city, hassle-free! There are regular sea connections between the two cities throughout the year. Two shipping companies, Viking Line and Tallink Silja, have regular daily traffic between those two cities, and also to Tallinn.
There are two options for a passenger: you can either take a single trip and travel from one city to another, or have a two-night cruise and spend a day in another city. These are usually overnight trips, so you can check out of your hotel. For a tourist arriving by plane, it’s usually cheaper to have a return plane ticket from the same city, so the two-night cruise is the most convenient way to combine a trip to both cities.
The ships that carry passengers across the Baltic Sea are actually ferries, but the experience is closer to that of a cruise ship than a ferry. The ships also carry lorries and cars, but this is not noticeable outside the ports. The Finns and Swedes have a long tradition of providing these mini-cruises and the service level on board is very high, at times luxurious. As with any cruise ship, there are different price categories, and the quality of your experience depends on how much you spend. If you choose a very basic cabin and have ordinary buffet meals, the price is quite low. However, if you spend more money, you will stay in a cabin almost like a hotel room and will have a choice of restaurants.
A few hours in Stockholm
My family and I took a Helsinki-Stockholm-Helsinki cruise at the end of May, sponsored by Viking Line. We have visited Stockholm several times, and the city is familiar to us, so we decided to visit the Vasa Museum, which is located on the island of Djurgården, close to the city.
The cruise ship arrives in Stockholm at 10am and leaves at 4.30pm, so there’s time to see the city, visit a museum, or have a guided tour, but not all these options: it’s like a teaser for the city. If you haven’t visited either Helsinki or Stockholm before, I’d suggest you go to the city centre. In Stockholm, the old town is very interesting and walkable from the modern city centre.
The best time of year to take this mini-cruise is between late spring and early autumn. The long days and white nights show the best of the marine wildlife and the sea is usually calm. During the winter months, the weather can be very rough, making ferry crossings, at times, terrifying. In the winter time, the sea is partly frozen; the huge ships act as ice breakers and push the new ice from their routes, but the sound of ice floes against the sides of the ship can be loud.
Enjoy life on board
So, what to do on board? The main activity is dining, but there is also a very lively night life, especially at weekends. There are also shopping opportunities, and some products are tax-free. Cigarettes and alcohol are very expensive in both Sweden and Finland, so there’s an opportunity to buy these products at a reasonable price on board.
We are interested in food experiences, so we chose the gourmet-dining option for both nights. The atmosphere on board was very child-friendly, and kids were well catered for. When our son was younger, we would choose the buffet option, where he would always find at least something that he likes. Either way, the food quality is excellent and the quality-price ratio is good.
Start planning your cruise at http://www.sales.vikingline.com/ and create the best experience for you and your family.
My trip to Stockholm was in co-operation with Viking Line. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own.