I arrived at the Helsinki ferry terminal at 10:00 am, an hour before my departure to Tallinn, Estonia and was surprised to find many people on a Sunday morning. I had booked the 2.5 hour trip as a walk-on the day before for €44 .
The harbor looked more like the surface of the moon than a body of water . Frozen floes of ice everywhere and nearly no blue visible . The ferry ( Viking Line XPRS ) is massive . Looking more like a small cruise ship with at least 10 passenger levels including the auto decks where cars and tractor trailers are loaded. There is duty-free shopping, bars, deli’s, restaurants, coffee shops, poker machines and even a dance club.
Although most of the sun deck is closed today due to the ice on the decks there are still small areas outside on the upper deck to take pictures from. Today , although bitterly cold the seas are calm and the vessel is cruising along smoothly.
It was here in the ferry I had one of the better meals I’ve had so far on my trip. A buffet style layout where they weigh your plate upon check out to determine your cost. I went for the local fare and got roasted vegetables, boiled potatoes and breaded pollock. Home cooked taste and a bargain at € 9 with a drink.
Being used to spending a lot of time on the water , I am not however used to seeing all the ice and the views from aboard are breathtaking. So many people equate boat travel to warmer months but for massive ferries like these with ice breaking capabilities a trip across the Gulf of Finland is maybe more visually appealing in winter.
I had booked as a walk on and this is no guarantee you will have a seat. One entire deck is just cabins reserved by passengers who pay extra . Thinking no need for a short crossing like this, I wandered around the ferry seeing some people sitting and just laying on the carpeted floor. After a walk around the multiple decks I came across an empty bench and set down my pack to relax a bit. It is Sunday afternoon and I can imagine this ferry on a Friday night, with all its bars, shops, slot machines and beer served everywhere could become pretty festive, but today it is peaceful and serene with everyone seeming to be recovering from the weekend. The entire trip came to an end to quick. I was enjoying my voyage across the Gulf of Finland and content with all the amenities provided by Viking Line. The vessel docked as smoothly as we had departed and aside from the light vibration from the engines you would never feel like you were aboard a ferry . There is another company, Silja Line that departs from the same harbor in Helsinki . Equally as impressive looking vessel too. Both companies also offer trips to other cities such as Stockholm. I do suggest booking online even if you are traveling without a car. Myself traveling solo on a cold Sunday in January seemed to be an easy ticket to obtain but I imagine in the warmer months traffic picks up.
So if you find yourself in the Baltic Sea area and need to travel, I found the ferry ride comfortable, scenic and well worth the money.