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Experience report Silja Lines Helsinki-Stockholm

On July 13th I took Silja Serenade from Helsinki to Stockholm. They are the guys that invented the promenade in the middle of a cruise ship which now most major cruise ships have. So the Silja vessels are more like cruise ships than like a ferry, yet they operate every day on a very punctual schedule. It's like a resort-hotel that changes its position over night. You start in the middle of the one city and the next morning arrive in the middle of another one. Journey time is 17 hours and it's actually too short given all the entertainment options - and the fact that you may want to sleep for 6 or 8 hours as well ;-)

Should I take the cruise from Stockholm to Helsinki or from Helsinki to Stockholm?
Vessels depart at 5pm local time, you can embark from 3.30pm and start with the roof-top spa (sitting in a hot tub enjoying the view over the city etc.) or whatever else. If you depart from Stockholm the first 3 hours of the cruise are going to be through the archipelago and are absolutely scenic. The next morning in Helsinki only the last 30 minutes are actually scenic, so you have plenty of time for your breakfast. If you depart from Helsinki the first 30 minutes will be scenic and you should consider maybe an early breakfast the next morning so you can enjoy the sail through the archipelago for at least the last 60-90 minutes.

What kind of cabin should I book?
The choice is from a 4-bunkbeds interior cabin to a luxury exterior suite. The thing is: You will only need your cabin as a luggage storage room, to sleep and to take a shower. If you're sailing in June and July please note it doesn't really get dark at all. If you're a light sleeper any exterior cabin (with window or porthole) might be too bright for you at night. On the other hand if you cannot handle being in a closed box with no windows - go for the exterior cabin. All the cabins from Deluxe and up have recently been renovated and look like nice 4 star hotel rooms. The A2 or A4 exterior cabins still look like on a ferry boat but are clean, comfortable - although I would suggest not to squeece 4 people into one of those. 2 is fine though.

The Tallinksilja website wants me to pre-book meals. Do I want that?

Despite the website promising you to save some money over buying on-board that's not true. Also if you prepay your breakfast you still have to wait in line with all those people who pay as they go. My clear recommendation: There is so much choice on board, wait until you see it and pick whatever you like. The Grand Buffet by the way has a nice and big selection BUT it's packed with travel groups and just not the nicest experience IMHO.

Keep in mind that Helsinki is in Eastern European Time whereas Stockholm is in Central European Time. The departure and arrival times on the website are local times. Both countries are Schengen countries. Currency on board is €uro and of course all major credit and debit cards are accepted. There is a slow but free Wi-Fi but given you're on the sea don't expect any mircales.

UPDATE: On the Helsinki side the tram goes directly to the ferry terminal and it's very easy to use it around the city. A ticket valid for 80 minutes is €2.90 and can be purchased via app or at kiosks. On the Stockholm side there is construction in the ferry port. The easiest to do to get there is to buy the Flybusarna charter bus ticket from the central station to the Tallink Silja terminal for SEK 600 oneway. The public bus is "only" SEK 420 but the bus stop is maybe a 500 yards walk via a covered walkway-bridge from the terminal.

Posted by
10119 posts

Thanks for this information. Our Swedish friends in Stockholm have recommended that we take this trip over to Helsinki and back.

Posted by
2779 posts

It's a great experience, especially during the White Nights. Yes, of course you can do a roundtrip. But you can also take it from Stockholm to Helsinki, then a short ferry to Tallin and then the ferry from Tallinn back to Stockholm. In the latter case make sure you sail on Baltic Queen as that's the much, much nicer ship on the Tallin-Stockholm vv route than Victoria I.

Posted by
54 posts

Thanks for posting your review! We are booked going the other direction on Viking Line on August 12. All the reviews I found said that the two lines are pretty similar nowadays, and I'm very much looking forward to this part of our trip. I also didn't pre-book the food, because I just couldn't guess what we'd want at that point of our travels.

We are planning to take a Tallink-Silja boat from Helsinki to Tallinn for a day trip, but will purchase that ticket when we're there and can choose the least rainy day for walking around Tallinn.

Posted by
2779 posts

I've been on Viking boats earlier. The offering is a bit reduced compared to Silja but also not everybody needs live shows on stage and all that. Quality-wise they're very good as well.

The choice of ferries between Helsinki and Tallinn is HUGE! You have Viking Line (best boat experience there is the XPRS, apart from the speed boat), Tallink (best boat experience the brand new Megastar that runs on LNG and is just like a floating shopping mall) and Eckerö Lines (MS Finlandia, loony toons livery for what ever reason) ;-)...

Posted by
5199 posts

I've taken both Silja and Viking over the years. I think the food in the restaurants is better than the buffet.

On my last trip (Viking line), we had dinner in the Food Garden restaurant and it was an excellent meal. The next day we had breakfast in the same restaurant because the line for the buffet was so long. The breakfast was also outstanding.

Posted by
1 posts

Round-trip "cruise" fares (Stockholm–Helsinki–Stockholm) on Tallink Silja seem to be much cheaper than a one-way fare from Stockholm to Helsinki (approximately €100 on the day I'm thinking about travelling). Is there any downside to booking a cruise and just not using the return portion of the trip?

Also, it's slightly cheaper to book on the Swedish site than on the international/US site. Anyone have any experience doing it that way? Any reason not to book on the Swedish site?