July 7-9, 2013
The Viking Line overnight ferry between Stockholm and Helsinki offers a glimpse of Sweden’s watery summer playground.
Summer homes dot the endless chain of large and small islands that make up the archipelago. Tanned blonde boaters out on a cloudless day wave up at the ferry as they zip by. The calm sea with myriad low treed islands looks more like a gigantic summer lake than sea. About 4 hours out of the Stockholm the islands finally diminish into nothing more than large flat rocks until they disappear altogether when you hit open sea.
While the Finns and Swedes use the ferry as a gambling and duty free shopping excursion, for the international tourists it’s a great opportunity to experience the Baltic Sea and visit Helsinki for the day.
The ferry lines have the option of booking back-to-back outward and return voyages on the same itinerary allowing, you to leave your belonging in the cabin while you tour Helsinki between voyages. The trip was far cheaper than our hotel in Stockholm, even with an upgrade to spacious upper deck cabin with sea views.
For some, one of the highlights of the voyage is the smorgasbord dinner. A huge selection of preserved fish dishes, cold salads, hot dishes, and desserts.
While I liked the fish starters and some of the salads many of the other dishes were just OK buffet style fare, i.e., looks pretty but rather tasteless. Other dining options include the Food Garden, a more traditional style restaurant and Ella’s, a popular pizza place.