I feel like this post has been a long time coming. Most of you don’t know this but I have spent (and I guess still do spend) a lot of time on sea. Not on a small boat or anything, but on cruise ships on the Baltic Sea (which I now realise sounds really strange). In fact, in 2014 I calculated that I spent a full 20 days on a ship that year, which is absolutely insane (it was work related, not a hobby haha).
I’ve basically grown up going on cruises my whole life. In Scandinavia and the Baltics most people will have traveled on a cruise ship. For my family it was a super common thing to do, especially during the holidays. Because we lived in Sweden and most of our relatives live in Estonia, taking a ship across was the easiest form of transport (especially with a car). There are links between most countries in the region like Sweden, Finland, Noway, Estonia, Latvia and Russia.
Because cruising is like a second nature to me I don’t give it a lot of thought but whenever I talk about it with people who aren’t from Scandinavia I always get a lot of questions. Thats why I thought it would be fun to put together this post on some info on these types of cruises and what my favourite things are to do on them.
(Throwing another fun fact in there: I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on human interaction on board Baltic cruise ships 😂 I really do sound like I’m obsessed with cruises)
Here’s some info:
While there are a few different cruise companies in Scandinavia/Baltics the company I’ve exclusively traveled with is called Tallink & Silja Line. They’re the largest passenger cruise company in the region and have a fleet of 14 ships- pretty cool!
When you think about cruise ships you’re probably automatically referring to ones like Royal Caribbean etc. These cruises are almost mini versions of that- the longest cruise that Tallink Silja Line offers is 40 hours and most ships are smaller than those operating in the Caribbean. But that doesn’t mean they’re small! The average capacity of a cruise ship on the Baltic Sea is about 2,500 people, which is still pretty big! This isn’t a tiny ferry, you’ve got several restaurants, bars, shops, show bar, disco (lol), spa etc. So there’s definitely enough to do on one of these cruises.
Here’s some answers to common questions I get asked a lot:
What countries can you travel to/between?
Tallink Silja Line has routes between Stockholm & Helsinki, Stockholm & Turku, Stockholm & Tallinn, Stockholm & Riga and Helsinki & Tallinn (connecting 4 countries).
How long is a cruise?
The max time you could spend on one cruise is 40 hours. That includes a one-way trip to your destination, a stop there for about 8 hours and then a return trip. A one-way trip is about 16 hours. You can also combine these with hotel stays. This is why these are perfect for weekend getaways- you get a day city break as well as 2 nights on board the ship.
The shortest cruise is between Stockholm and Turku which takes 23 hours and you can’t get off the ship.
When is the best time to travel?
Arguably, the best time to travel is in the summer months because the views are spectacular. The Swedish archipelago is one of the most beautiful places in the world. If the weather is nice enough you can spend hours sitting on the sundeck enjoying a glass of wine.
On the other hand, a lot of people prefer to travel during the autumn, winter or spring because it’s not as busy on board. It’s also not as loud and you’re likely to get better deals.
How much does it cost?
This completely depends on a)when you travel and b) what kind of cruise you’re looking for. They have different cabin categories to choose from: the cheapest option is to go for a windowless cabin and you can upgrade all the way to a cabin with a massive balcony. It depends on your budget but there’s something for everyone!
And no, before you ask, none of the cabins are under water so you don’t have to worry 🙂
Who should go on a cruise?
A lot of people associate cruising with older….umm generations. And while I highly recommend cruises for older people as they’re comfortable, I would say they can appeal to anyone. They’re great for families with small kids as there are tons of stuff to keep kids busy like play rooms, games and activities. Also! Silja Line is the official carrier of Moomin, so you can meet them on board!
They’re also great for couples because there are wine bars and lovely restaurants to dine in, or for stag and hen dos (even though fellow passengers might not find that very fun).
Is it safe to travel with a cruise ship?
Very. Cruising is one of the safest modes of transportation- a report in 2011 found that cruising had the fewest fatalities per billion passenger miles. The cruise industry saw a 0.08 passenger fatality rate as compared to 0.8 for commercial air, 3.3. for passenger cars and 11.9 for the U.S. rail system.
So, there’s some basic info for you. I want to show what else you can do on a ship. I’ve put together a small list of my top 5 favourite things to do on a Scandinavian and Baltic cruise ship. If you have any questions send them my way!
Top 5 things to do on a cruise ship:
Sleeping on a floating bed is basically like a baby that’s being gently rocked to sleep. Some of my best sleeps have been on cruises and that says a lot because I’m generally a terrible sleeper. If you are considering a cruise I would definitely recommend getting one with a window and double bed. There’s nothing nicer than lying on your bed and watching the world float by. And it’s also a lovely, calm way to wake up in the morning.
Duty free shopping
Most routes have duty free shopping options, similar to what you’d find at airports. I wish I had more photos to show you of the shops on board but I never really take any photos there because I’m busy…well, shopping. Shopping on board is actually much nicer than at the airport because you don’t feel rushed. You can browse for hours and finally drop off your shopping in your cabin afterward.
Most of the ships have a cosmetics/perfume shop, a “supermarket” that stocks alcohol, cigarettes, candy etc and then a clothing/accessories store. A lot of people actually travel on the cruise ships just to do some duty free shopping as alcohol is insanely cheap compared to inland prices.
Also! Tallink Silja Line’s newest ship Megastar that goes between Helsinki and Tallinn has the world’s first and only floating Khiel’s in it which I thought was really fun!
Don’t forget to eat
Again, I don’t have a lot of photos from the different restaurants on board and I wish I did because there are so many to choose from! Normally, people associate the cruise ships with their all you can eat buffets, which might be tempting but I would avoid them (not because the food is bad but because there are much better alternatives to choose from). In general, the ships have between 3-6 different restaurants on board – think seafood, sushi, Italian, gourmet and a grill. All of these change menus frequently, too! On top of that you also have several different bars to choose from. You could easily spend a weekend eating your way through the ship.
Enjoy the views
This is an obvious one but even after traveling on these ships like half my life I never, ever get sick of the views. In the summertime I like to secure myself a spot on the sundeck and stay there until the sun goes down.
Have a spa day
Some of the ships also have a spa and pool area. They have a pool or two, jacuzzis, saunas and you can even book yourself in to get a massage. I would avoid them during the high season though as they can get super busy, especially when there are a lot of families with kids on board. It is a nice way to spend a few relaxing hours!
And that wraps things up! I hope this has inspired you to go on a mini cruise in Scandinavia 🙂