I arrived at the Helsinki ferry terminal about an hour before departure and was surprised to find so many people there on a Sunday morning.
I had booked the two and a half hour trip as a walk-on passenger the day before for €44.
The ferry (Viking Line XPRS) is massive and looked more like a small cruise ship with at least 10 passenger levels including the auto decks where cars and tractor trailers are loaded, duty-free shopping, bars, deli's, restaurants, coffee shops, poker machines and even a dance club.
Although most of the sun deck was closed that day because it was so icy, there were still small areas outside on the upper deck where we could take pictures. It was bitterly cold but the seas were calm and the vessel cruised along smoothly.
On the ferry I had one of the best meals I'd had so far on my trip. It was a buffet-style layout and they weighed the plates to determine the cost. I went for the local fare and got roasted vegetables, boiled potatoes and breaded pollock. It had a home-cooked taste and was a bargain at € 9, which included a drink.
I might be used to spending a lot of time on the water but I am not used to seeing all the ice and such breathtaking views. The harbor, for example, looked more like surface of the moon than a body of water with ice floes everywhere and nearly no blue visible.
I had booked as a walk-on but that doesn't guarantee you a seat. One entire deck is just cabins reserved by passengers who pay extra . Thinking there was no need for a short crossing like this, I wandered around the ferry and saw 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 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 time passed really quickly.
I enjoyed my voyage across the Gulf of Finland and was happy with all the amenities provided by Viking Line. The vessel docked as smoothly as it had departed and, aside from the light vibration from the engines, you would never know you were aboard a ferry .
There is another ferry company, Siljaline, that departs from the same harbor in Helsinki. It looks equally impressive. Both companies also offer trips to other cities such as Stockholm. I do suggest booking online even if you are traveling without a car. I was traveling on a Sunday in January and it was surprisingly busy.
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.