Friday, November 13, 2015

Cruising with Viking Line - Stockholm to Helsinki, 4th Leg

Date of travel: 18th October 2015

Yes, we knew that there are no train route connecting Sweden and Finland. The only best option was by cruise-ferries to Turku Satama and by train thereon to Helsinki. However, that best option was based on my opinion so that I can take extra miles of the journey by train than other mode of transportation. For not being seen as selfish most of the time to Ane, I reluctantly agreed to take a direct cruise to Helsinki instead. It seems to be a better choice as the journey was amazingly great. Our booking was made on 13th July, i.e. 3 months before the departure date. The price was Euro189 for a Seaside Premium Allergy cabin of 2. We added another Euro20 for a sea view breakfast thinking of only the sunrise view. 

Viking Line cruise-ferries heading towards Stockholm from some other destination that you may view from below map
Viking Line offers a route destination to those 7 cities

Crystal Plaza Hotel made arrangement with the taxi cab to pick us at the lobby. After we had checked out at 12 noon, we decided to look for a halal restaurant. The nearest is located not far from the hotel seems to be the Flame Restaurant. At 2pm we were in the cab heading towards the port. It was on Sunday afternoon, hence the traffic was not much at all on the road to the port destination, i.e. Stockholm Stadsgarden. We arrived at the dedicated berth, Stadsgarden Tegelvikshamn well ahead of time. Once inside, there iss a clear sign after the entrance that the passenger has to check-in at the dedicated counter. Therefore, we just follow the flow of people.

After the check-in, the passengers may either walk up the stairs, take an elevator or lift to the boarding level. We took notice that we have to enter the ship through Gate no. 3 which I'm sure it was according to the ticket. We decided to take an elevator up to the waiting area. For the record, it was my first time taking a cruise. I used to look around years ago from Malaysian Star Cruise but decided to cancel my plan as many people advised me that they serves a non-halal meal in the cruise. That was the time when I don't really understand the real teaching and the meaning of the Al-Quran. I merely followed what people said. In real fact and truth, Islam's teaching is actually very simple. You just need to put a mirror in-front of you and miraculously differentiate between the deeds and the sins; forbidden (haram) and halal (which mainly refers to food, meat). Allah shall lead you His way. 

When I first heard about the Viking Line, I thought it was originated from the German's seafarer's @ interpreted by me as pirates who raided and traded from the Scandinavian homelands. However, from the reading available on the website, it is actually a Finnish shipping company that operates a fleet of ferries and cruise-ferries between Finland, the Aland Islands, Sweden and Estonia, a private listed company. It is operated from the Aland Islands. Aland’s (riverland) original’s name is Ahvaland in Swedish, which means “Land of Water”. It is a region of Finland that consists of an archipelago lying at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea. In my theory, the founder of the company must has a blood relation with those German's seafarer. My 5 cents worth of opinion okay!

Viking Line's history can be traced back to year 1959 when a group businessmen from the Aland Islands province in Finland formed a Rederi Ab Vikinglinjen. The group purchased a steam-powered car-ferry SS Dinard from UK and renamed her SS Viking. It immediately began services on the route Korpo (in Finland) to a capital town of Aland Island, Mariehamn and to Graddo in Sweden. In the same year the Gotland-based Rederi AB Slite began a service between Simpnas (Sweden) and Mariehamn. In 1962, a disagreement caused the split. A group of people started to leave Rederi Ab Vikinglinjen and form a new company, Rederi Ab Alandsfarjan, who began a service linking Graddo and Mariehamn the following year.

Photo-booth for those who wishes to have photo souvenirs from Viking Line (*not free)

Soon the 3 companies, all competing for passengers between Aland Islands and Sweden, realised that they were in the long run all stood to lose from mutual competition. In 1965 Vikinglinjen and Slite began collaborating again and by end of July 1966, Viking Line was established as a marketing company representing all 3 companies. At this time Rederi Ab Vikinglinjen changed their name to Rederi Ab Solstad, in order to avoid confusion with the marketing company. Please take note that the red hull livery was adopted from Slite's Alandspilen service to which it had been taken from the colour of the chairman's wife's lipstick. In 1967 Rederi Ab Alandsfarjan changed its name to SF Line and in 1977 Rederi Ab Solstad was merged into its mother company Rederi Ab Sally.

Important photo to record the process how the vehicles and passengers were loaded onto the cruise

The conflict between the 3 companies does not ended there. Following the bankruptcy of Rederi AB Slite in 1993, SF Line was left as the sole operator under the Viking Line brand. The remaining 2 Slite ships, Athena and Kalypso were auctioned in August 1993. SF Line made a bid for the Kalypso, but both ships ended up sold to the newly established Malaysian cruise ship operator Star Cruises. Only in 1995 SF Line changed their name into Viking Line. Henceforth, our Malaysian famous Star Cruise was related to the story of its original founder. 

View from our cabin window pane
As soon as we entered into our cabin, we started to enjoy a relaxing cruise between these 2 capital cities of Finland and Sweden; Helsinki and Stockholm. The ship, Mariella offer a wide variety of on-board activities, i.e. game room, restaurants and bars. Few deck levels apart from inside sea view, the passengers are free to take in the spectacular scenery of the famous Scandinavian archipelago. Besides, there is a shop selling branded name goods at the tax-free shops. There is also a spa for their passengers to enjoy other than great entertainment and music in the nightclub. The facilities are for the passengers to have a full stay leisure for them to explore the city of their destination. Both Ane and I decided to explore the cruise holiday with our family, a family adventurous trip shall separately begin.
Walkway outside our cabin door

Once the luggage were securely inside, I took a stroll on my own to explore Mariella. She is a gorgeous 10 level deck cruise-fleet. I found my way to the most upper level, Observation Deck without difficulties. By the time I was there, there were many tourist from China already enjoying themselves taking photos. Since it was not that crowded, I still had a moment of peace being by myself there, alone. The view of Stockholm was so beautiful before dawn. One of the tourist helped me to snap below photo to record my presence that day. After I have satisfied with the views and photos that I snapped, I went to sit at Level 6 restaurant balcony glancing through the pamphlet that I collected from the reception. After 5 minutes, I had to leave as it was unbearably cold being outside too long.

Back in the cabin, I convinced Ane to explore the view from the observation deck, which she did and no regret of taking my advice. But by the time she arrived, everyone has left. She took many lovely sunset photos from there, although alone. Above photo was from her, whilst below was what I sent to my husband. There is a free wifi in the whole ship.

We had our meal in the room before saying good night. The next morning however, we were not able to get a good shot of sunrise photo. We headed to the restaurant for our breakfast, open sharp at 7.00 am. Ane was in a hurry for more photos but I chose to enjoy my breakfast, again alone after she left. Later, an elder couple join my table. While her husband went to take food for her, we shook our head to show some respect. It is actually very difficult to converse as Danish, Swedish and Finnish had their own language where people (me included) would prefer to speak in their native tongue than English. At 1 point, when I was in Russia, I gave up asking whether the locals can speak English or not. It doesn't make sense for Russian to speak English as they are a big nations themselves. Why do they need English to converse between them? No reasons right!

2 photos below was what I took of Ane and myself on selfie mode for this entry post. We did not take shower that morning and hardly open our luggage thinking that it would be troublesome to pack again. The moment arrival announcement was made (heard in the cabin), we slowly cleared the room. Before that, we had numerous of photos of Finalnd archipelago, and lots of seagulls photo too of course. Wait for my cities attraction  entry post to know more.

It was a long queue again at the lifts and the exit. In addition to that there is also a long walk from the ship to the outside land. I wish there is a travelator to make the journey shorts. Please take note that there is a custom clearance too but not that strict and no passport checks. I was happy as soon as we arrived at the taxi stand. A local cab driver immediately greeted us in English. In Helsinki, we have no problem to find people that speaks English fluently, Alhamdulillah.

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