While in Stockholm recently, we discovered a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy some of the natural beauty of the Stockholm Archipelago – on a car ferry! Visiting Northern Europe is expensive for North American tourists, especially Canadians while our dollar is so weak, so this was a happy find.
While searching for cruises online, we stumbled upon the Silja Serenade, a car ferry / cruise ship that overnights from Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland. Our cabin with 4 bunks for 2 nights was less than the cost of 1 night in our hotel in Stockholm.
The ferry is set up like a cruise ship with activities for kids, nightly entertainment, restaurants, a big duty free store and a handful of boutiques. Our cabin was small, but clean and comfortable, and all four bunks folded up to make the room feel bigger in the daytime.
Our hotel allowed us to leave our bags with them when we checked out because we had a room booked for our return. This way we were able to travel with small carry-on bags, perfect since we walked and took the subway to the port.
We boarded at about 2pm and after dropping our bags in our room we went up on deck to check the place out and get ourselves a tasty beverage. We wanted to find a great vantage point to view the archipelago once we left port. Note – unless you have your back to the view – there are ONLY great vantage points.
The ship left the dock just before 5pm and we were reluctant to leave the deck at 7pm for our dinner reservation, but as luck would have it, our table even had a spectacular view. Offspring loved the kids buffet: pizza, salmon, chicken strips, fries, spaghetti, and a delicious sauce that she put on everything. It even included a dessert buffet and sundae bar. She was impressed by the drink system which was controlled by a mounted iPad. Our dinners were terrific too.
We stayed up to watch the sunset – because …
sunsets on the water are this sensational
The ship stopped shortly after midnight at Mariehamn. They have to stop there on the trip in order to qualify for duty free, and we learned that a lot of people make this trip just to buy cheap booze.
When we woke up we were in the Helsinki archipelago, closing in on the port. We got right onto one of the Hop On Hop Off buses and did a short tour into downtown Helsinki before hopping off to find some lunch. We walked some more, touring a market, a couple of cathedrals, and a cool art installation in the square, then bussed back to the ship.
We had signed up for a bridge tour so we got back on board a little early. The bridge was impressive, and I would have loved to have been up there to see the ship leave the dock.
We got underway with plenty of daylight left, so we got to see a lot of the trip that we had slept through the night before. Offspring hung out in one of the play areas until I had to drag her out for dinner. After dinner we attended a show geared toward kids and Offspring got out on the dance floor with all the other kids. Later I put her to bed and my Mom stayed in the cabin to read while Dad and I went up to the disco, the highest point – so I could photograph the sunset. We got there a little early, so naturally we did a shot of tequila – with orange and cinnamon – yum!
In the morning we had coffee on board and got packed up. I took Offspring to the Kids Zone again and she played until they closed and kicked us out.
We disembarked and walked to the Eastside Cafe for breakfast before taking the subway back to the hotel.
I highly recommend this trip and think it would be fun to do with a couple of days in Helsinki to really take in all the sights and perhaps go to a sauna.
Many thanks to Visit Stockholm for providing me with a VIP pass and City Key which gave me 48 hour access to museums, attractions and the hop on hop off busses and boats, and to my parents who sponsored the trip to Sweden so Offspring could hang out with her siblings.