History of the service
Regular ferry service between Tallinn and Stockholm began on June 16th 1990, when MS Nord Estonia departed Stockholm for Tallinn, operated by EstLine - a joint venture between Estonian and Swedish shipping companies. In 1993, MS Estonia took over the route from Nord Estonia, however her time was cut short by a tragic sinking on September 29th 1994. EstLine continued to operate the route until 2001, when the route was transferred to Tallink - an Estonian ferry company which had previously operated only on the Tallinn-Helsinki route.
|MS Victoria I docked in Värtahammen, Stockholm|
In 2004, Tallink received MS Victoria I - a brand new ship designed for running between Tallinn and Stockholm. She entered service on March 21st 2004, and remains on the route today. On May 1st 2004, following Estonia's accession to the European Union, a stop was added in Mariehamn, Åland, to allow duty-free sales onboard to continue. MS Victoria I was accompanied on the route by MS Regina Baltica until 2006, when she was replaced by Victoria's sister ship, Romantika, which had previously operated between Tallinn and Helsinki. She was transferred to the Riga-Stockholm route in 2009, when MS Baltic Queen, Tallink's newest cruiseferry, entered service between Tallinn and Stockholm.
|Baltic Queen in Tallinn. Source: Wikimedia Commons|
About the service
Tallink operates a daily service between Tallinn and Stockholm. Passengers can book a cruise - departing and arriving at the same city, with approximately 7 hours at their destination, or a single or return trip between the two cities. Passengers have a choice between 6 classes of cabins (8 on the Baltic Queen.) On a single/return trip, passengers may also bring a car, for an additional fee. They may also book a place in a shared cabin for a lower cost, while cruise passengers must book an entire cabin.
|E-class cabin on board Victoria|
A ferry departs Tallinn every day at 18:00 and arrives in Stockholm at 10:15. The departures alternate between the two ships, i.e when Baltic Queen departs Tallinn, Victoria leaves Stockholm. The departure from Stockholm is at 17:30, arriving in Tallinn at 10:45. The ships stop at Mariehamn on the way for 10 minutes, arriving at 04:50 when heading for Stockholm, at 00:50 when headed for Tallinn. For latest, up to date schedules and more traffic information including disruptions, check Tallink's web page on the service.
|A display at Terminal D in Tallinn, informing passengers of the ship's departure time.|
As the ships are designed for a leisure service, they have plenty of restaurants, shops, and entertainment on board. 2 decks of both ships are dedicated to public spaces. Deck 6 is where the shops are located. Passengers can buy sweets, alcoholic beverages, souvenirs, electronics, apparel and beauty products free of tax. Deck 7 is mostly for restaurants and bars - both ships have Grande Buffet, Grill House and Gourmet restaurants and the Sea Pub and Piano Bar. Baltic Queen also has a Russian a la Carte restaurant and a Cigar Club for smokers.
There is a show bar, spanning the stern of the ships on decks 6 and 7, where most on-board entertainment activities take place. Inside is also a PAF Casino and arcade games. There is also a disco, childrens' play room, conference centre, spa with saunas and an information desk.
Baltic Queen and Victoria cruiseferries provide a great experience for people looking for a holiday at sea and for people using it as transportation. While slower than flying, the price includes a night's stay in a comfortable cabin, saving a hotel bill. The best option for travellers on a budget is a shared place in a B class cabin, with a price of around 40-50€ for a one way trip. As passengers on a cruise must book an entire cabin, they are usually entitled to cheaper rates than passengers booking single or return trips. For example, I booked an E-class cabin for 70€ on my cruise, while a return trip on the same dates would've cost over 170€.
The ship is best for group travellers, as the on-board activities are mostly planned as such. Additionally, it is cheaper, as a group of up to 4 people only need one cabin. However, groups should take dining costs into account as well. A dinner in the Grande Buffet costs 31€ when booked in advance, per person, and breakfast is 11€. I recommend passengers to bring food from home if possible, and have breakfast on land outside the ship.
Overall, while I do recommend Tallink's ferry service for transportation and for group holidays, care should be taken when planning it, since expenses on board can go out of control. I would also use caution when booking E-class cabins. The stern thrusters cause vibrations while turning, and this can lead to an unexpected wake-up call as the ship arrives in Mariehamn at night.