is quite possibly the best reason to come to
-- partly because if you don't like what you see at the
other end, you can hop back on and return to Stockholm
Somewhat less cryptically, m/s Silja Symphony is one of the
world's largest and most luxurious passenger ferries.
(Evidently, it was at one point the largest, but the Ulysses
currently running between Dublin and Holyhead seems to have
claimed that title.) Basic capacity facts:
At the moment (and for the foreseeable future), the Symphony
(and its near-identical twin Silja Serenade
plows back and forth between Helsinki
, with a token stop at Mariehamn
the Åland Islands
so it can claim tax-free
The trip takes a leisurely 16 hours, but the schedules are
arranged so that departures are around 5 PM and arrival
around 9 AM. To keep you occupied during this time, the
ship features not only the obligatory tax-free shopping
market full of (relatively) cheap alcohol, tobacco and candy,
but an entire "Promenade" full of little specialty shops
and restaurants. This Promenade crosses the length of the ship
-- 200 meters! -- and is 4 floors tall with a glass roof above,
so the end result resembles a shopping street paved with parquet.
Elsewhere on the ship, you can find the Sunflower Oasis
miniature aqua park, the Caracalla Baths spa, two discos,
a casino, a movie theater, the famed Silja all-you-can-eat Buffet,
a number of à la carte restaurants, and more.
Surprisingly, all this swank is quite affordable, since Silja's
business model relies on profits from these stores and services,
not so much the tickets themselves. A current campaign
advertises a cabin for four people for cruise to Stockholm and back
for €84, which works out to €10.50/direction/person.
This is, however, for the cheapest "Tourist II" cabins on floor 2 below
the car decks, and while thanks to Silja's policy of not allowing
teens on board on weekends they aren't quite the pigsties that
competitor Viking's offerings are, they're still at best
strictly functional: bunk beds, a shower/toilet squeezed into
half a phone booth, and a dysfunctional alarm/radio. Sufficient
for illicitly consuming tax-free booze and crashing afterward, yes, but not
very much else.
So the last time I took the Symphony, I was traveling with a guest
from afar and decided to splurge a bit on a Promenade
level cabin, with a list price of €240 for 2 (although I
got it for half that). But on reaching the terminal we were
told that thanks to a booking screwup our cabin was already taken --
would we mind an upgrade to Silja class? (List price €382.)
Why no, we wouldn't... so we rode the elevator to the giddy heights
of the 11th floor and opened the door to our cabin with trepidation.
We were met with an immense double bed, couch, TV and stocked minibar
including champagne with all contents free. The large
windows opened out onto the Promenade below, and to top it off
coupons for the "special" champagne brunch were thrown in.
Alas, some of this free bubbly went to waste, as the missus
had brought along something a little better...
There are, of course, even swankier cabins available: a Commodore class
cabin (nearly twice the size of the Silja cabin, which isn't exactly
small) is €500 and the ship's solitary Silja suite is no
less than €760 (in the off season at that). The law of
diminishing returns would seem to set in at some point though.
In all, if you ever find yourself in Scandinavia, you owe it to
yourself to cross the Baltic Sea on Silja Symphony.
Just the Facts, Mister
Length: 202,8 m
Beam: 31,5 m
Gross tonnage: 58,377t
Speed: 21 knots
Built: 1991 by Kvaerner Masa Yards, Turku, Finland