Taking the Ferry Boat from Sweden to Finland

Are you planning a trip around Scandinavia? Have you considered going by ferry? Along with rail and road options, there are plenty of boat routes available in the region. Going by sea is a comfortable, affordable and more sustainable way to travel, compared to flying. When you combine all that with the beautiful sea views of the Nordic archipelagos and the Baltic, you’re onto a winner!

Booking the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki

Having decided to cruise overnight from Stockholm to Helsinki, I went to the Tallink website (route operator) to book. The website is available in 16 languages and very easy to use, with clear descriptions of the cabins available detailing the size, berths (beds), whether or not they have outward-facing windows, which decks they are on, and even noise level advice. Prices range from €109 per night up to €1000+ for fancier cabins and suites. I chose a B class ‘inside’ cabin for €149, upgrading from the most basic option in the hope of avoiding the afore-warned noise! I was emailed a PDF containing a booking number.

Checking in at the Ferry Terminal

Much like flights, the ferry requires you check in before departure. I arrived at Stockholm Värtahamnen Hamnpirsvägen 10, (which is huge by the way – expect to walk a long way) about 90 minutes before the 16h45 departure, entered my booking number into a machine and was issued with a small credit card sized green ticket showing my name, cabin number, and the ship’s WIFI code. I made my way to the boat and, on boarding, stumbled upon a lot of fellow passengers all clogging the vestibules around the elevators. Tip: If you can take carry-on style small bags that you can carry easily, you can avoid this and simply use the stairs to get to your cabin. The green ticket was the ‘room key’ for my cabin. 

Ocean view from MS Silja Serenade

What are the cabins like on board MS Silja Serenade?

As a solo traveller I had a cabin for two to myself. There were two bunk bed style berths, a desk and seat, clothes hanging rack and luggage storage space, bedside table, ensuite bathroom containing a shower, sink and toilet, hairdryer and, amusingly, a fake window – complete with curtains! My cabin was at the very back of the ship which accounted for the shape. I think most cabins have a more regular rectangular shape and contain four berths. 

B Class cabin on MS Silja Serenade

Exploring the open-air decks of the ferry

Onboard the MS Silja Serenade the upper deck was mostly open-air (great for taking photos as you enjoy the scenery), complete with bars and picnic tables, children’s play equipment, a spa area of hot tubs and a sauna on the aft deck (rear); it was wonderful to be able to pop outside when you wanted. There was even a sandpit-style doggy toilet for the comfort of canine passengers.

Playground equipment on MS Silja Serenade

Shopping onboard MS Silja Serenade

A main shopping mall style boulevard ran down the centre of the ship, lined with restaurants and shops selling souvenirs, fashion, toys, luxury brands, and Moomins. There was also a huge duty free shop. 

Shopping Avenue on MS Silja Serenade

What’s the MS Silja Serenade Grande Buffet Dinner like?

When I booked my ticket I wasn’t sure what food would be available onboard so I opted to include dinner at the Grande Buffet for €45. The buffet offered salads and starters (pickled herrings, asparagus salad, cured meats), local and international main dishes (such as trout, pulled pork, potato gratin, chicken nuggets and chips), three cheeses, desserts (ice cream, Haribo-style sweets, and a few cakes), wine and soft drinks. It looked like there were enough options for limited diets (eg vegetarians) and children. Dining is in sessions, so a huge crowd of hungry passengers descends on the restaurant at the beginning of each session, and you need to be among them as some of the dishes ran out. The session start time is marked on your ticket, but since mine was also the departure time of the ship, I didn’t understand that, missed my session, and got told to return for the next session. The food was ok but over-priced at €45 per person. If you prefer a more relaxed and less ‘first-come-first-served’ eating experience, the other restaurants onboard are probably preferable.

Dinner at La Grande Buffet on MS Silja Serenade

Relaxing after dinner when sailing the Baltic

There is an evening entertainment show onboard the MS Silja Serenade, as well as a few bars, so there’s everything you need if you’re looking for a party ship. However, I preferred to send a few messages to friends and catch up on emails after dinner. The ship’s WIFI didn’t seem to reach my cabin, right at the stern of the ship, so I made myself comfy on a seat by a window and enjoyed views of the Åland Islands. While I was sitting there I was approached by an extremely drunk man, clearly making the most of the party ship! I was quiet and he didn’t hang around.

Sailing in to Helsinki

The website booking descriptions were right and my cabin was quiet overnight (perhaps due to being on deck 11, a few decks from the engine room, or maybe because being the last cabin at the stern nobody walked past!) Breakfast was available and the shops were open in the morning, but I went for a walk on the open-air deck to enjoy the view as we entered the Port of Helsinki. Incidentally, there is no danger of oversleeping as the public announcement system loudly announces arrival via the in-cabin telephone speaker, and once the ship has docked housekeeping staff start knocking on closed cabin doors.

View of Helsinki from MS Silja Serenade

Getting from the Ferry Terminal to Helsinki city centre

We docked at Olympia Terminal Olympiaranta 1 in Helsinki. It took a while to disembark as the passengers crowded off the ship. Outside the Ferry Terminal there is a tram stop for lines 2 and 3, which both serve the city centre, as well as taxis and a stop for the city sightseeing buses. 

View of Stockholm Archipelago from MS Silja Serenade

Should you take the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki?

I really enjoyed taking the ferry between Sweden and Finland and absolutely recommend it as a great way to travel in this region, and a sustainable alternative to air travel. All the onboard facilities made it feel more like a cruise ship than just a basic ferry, and while there were a lot of people onboard, it was still easy to find quiet spots and / or party places. Next time, I’d eat in one of the restaurants onboard (instead of at the buffet), and I’d make sure I got to the sauna and jacuzzis before the spa closed. The majority of passengers were Swedish and Finnish but English was spoken by crew onboard whenever I had a question. 

Have you ever used this ferry service? Would you like to?




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