Cruising on the Baltic Sea

Cruising on the Baltic Sea

Let’s talk about cruises on the Baltic Sea! From an early age, the passenger ferries carrying people, cars, and cargo on the Baltic Sea have been familiar to me. Coming from an island, it was often the only way to get anywhere really. While my family and I traveled by necessity, others hopped on a cruise ferry in order to have some fun. There are frequent ferry lines between many cities in the Baltic Sea Region. In this article, we focus on the northern parts of the area, i.e. Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, and Latvia. We also only write about the main passenger lines, there are cargo ships that traffic other lines.

MS Silja Europa, Tallink Silja Line, Mariehamn, Åland, Finland

Cruising on the Baltic Sea: Destinations

Actually, there are three major ports in the Swedish capital, depending on the company and the destination. Ferries departing for Finland or Estonia always stop at the Åland Islands – either in Mariehamn or Långnäs. The reason for this quick (and often seemingly unnecessary) stop is the fact that the Åland Islands is regarded as a third territory with respect to indirect taxation, which enables the sale of tax-free goods to passengers traveling between the Åland Islands and other EU Member States. In other words, the ferries stop at Mariehamn or Långnäs in order to sell cheap alcohol. And this is also the reason why many people travel on those ferries. We are not talking about small ferries here, most of them can carry over 2,000 passengers.

In short, from Stockholm, you can travel to Mariehamn and Långnäs on the Åland Islands, Turku and Helsinki in Finland, Tallinn in Estonia, and Riga in Latvia. The ferry to Riga does not offer duty-free shopping but the prices are low nonetheless.

From Sweden, you can also travel to Eckerö on the Åland Islands as well as St.Petersburg in Russia. We have never tried cruising to Russia because it’s not a direct journey. Instead, the whole tour includes St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, and Tallinn.

There are also frequent journeys between Helsinki and Tallinn several times a day.

Common routes:

  • Stockholm – Åland – Turku
  • Stockholm – Åland – Helsinki
  • Stockholm – Åland – Tallinn
  • Stockholm – Riga
  • Helsinki – Tallinn

MS Rosella, Viking Line, Åland

Four Types of Trips

We have not included the route Helsinki-Tallinn here because there are so many options there.

Two-Night Cruise

Between Stockholm-Helsinki, Stockholm-Tallinn, and Stockholm-Riga. You spend two nights on the ferry and during the day you have 6-8 hours at the destination. This is usually a cheap way to see the capitals in the region, as you get the accommodation included in the ferry ticket.

24-Hour Cruise

Between Stockholm-Mariehamn, Stockholm-Åland, Åland-Turku. You spend one night on the ferry. This is usually a good option for all the party people. You usually don’t get off the ferry. Sometimes you might change ferries, but you will not spend any time at the destination.

Day Cruise

Between Stockholm-Åland. These ferries depart from the smaller harbors some distance away from Stockholm, mainly from Kapellskär or Grisslehamn. Bus transfer from the city terminal in Stockholm tends do be included in the ticket price or added for a small fee. This is usually for people who want to spend a nice day at sea, enjoying some duty-free shopping and good food.

Regular Journey

This is for people who are actually traveling somewhere, not just sitting on the ferry. The length of the journey really depends on where you are going. From Sweden to Åland it takes between 2 and 5 hours for instance. From Stockholm to Helsinki and Tallinn you’ll get to spend 16-18 hours on the ferry. This alternative tends to cost more than the cruise tickets that also include the return. None of the operators do however allow you to end your cruise after the first leg.

MS Galaxy, Tallink Silja Line, Stockholm, SwedenMS Finlandia, Eckerö Line, Tallinn, Estonia

Cruising on the Baltic Sea: Planning Your Trip

If you are planning to travel in the summer, it might be a good idea to book in advance. This holds especially true if you want to bring your car and/or book a cabin. Most companies offer both cruises and route bookings. Depending on the company and the length of the journey, you might have to book a cabin as well. You also need to know whether you are bringing your car or some other type of vehicle. Pets are usually allowed but you have to pay for them.

It might also be a good idea to decide how you want to do with food. All ferries have a buffet as well as an a la carte restaurant. Usually, there is also a cafeteria where you can buy lighter snacks. You can bring your own food, of course, but you are not supposed to eat it in public areas. Note that it can be more expensive to pay for the trip at the terminal, pre-payment is usually preferred. Always remember to read the terms and conditions!

It’s usually possible to book hotels and activities at the destination via the ferry lines.

Here are the links to ferry companies that traffic the Baltic Sea:

Tallink Silja Line, Tallinn, Estonia MS Gabriella, Viking Line, Helsinki, Finland

Cruising on the Baltic Sea: Things to Keep In Mind

Here we have listed some things that you should keep in mind while cruising on the Baltic Sea.

  • Don’t miss your stop! Especially if you are planning to leave the ferry on the Åland Islands you should be aware of the fact that the stop is very quick. It has happened that people have traveled for much longer than they intended to in the first place when they enjoyed the bar too much.
  • Remember the time difference. The ferry will not wait for you if you are late.
  • At certain times of the year, the weather conditions can be bad. It has happened that the journey has been canceled. It does not happen very often, though, so you might end up extremely sea-sick instead.
  • Bring your passport and/or national ID (for EU citizens). Your papers will probably not be checked, but you can never be 100% sure.
  • Familiarize yourself with the rules regarding duty-free shopping.
  • Check out the activities on the ferry: some ferries have a spa, others might have a small cinema. All of them have some kind of performances and shows. Especially when it comes to spa treatments, it is usually a good idea to head to the spa reception once arriving at the boat to book a time.
  • Behave yourself – there is a cell on the ferry and in case you behave in a disorderly fashion, you will probably be dropped off at the nearest port and spend the night in the police station. You would probably not like ending up in a third country when traveling between country A and B.

MS Silja Serenade, Tallink Silja Line, Helsinki, Finland

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Violeta

    It seems that one can cover quite a lot of cities by taking a cruise on the Baltic Sea. Your advice is useful. I had no idea they had a cell on those ferries. I hope I’ll never get to see it on the inside 🙂

    1. Jesper

      It is sadly hard to visit all cities with the same cruise, but it does offer a perfect way to combine two cities in one visit. 🙂

  2. Celma Costa

    I like the route that takes you to Russia, it’s surely a different way to get by.
    In fact, though I’ve always been curious about Scandinavia, I’d also always been quite intimidated… The simple fact that so many things, such as transportation, seem alien to me!

    This would make a great long-term travel through the European seas!

  3. Indrani

    I am sure they get sold out fast. Booking in advance would be the best idea as you said. I am keen to experience the 2 night deal. Hopefully the dream comes true.

    1. Jesper

      There are so many ships going, so it is actually not sold out all the time. The ships are quite big, so it is mostly during the summer that it is important to plan ahead. 🙂

  4. Dane

    I was in Turku a few years ago and my friends wanted to take a party cruise somewhere but they couldn’t find one, to my delight haha. Not really a party guy but I don’t think they had any idea that there were this many options. I certainly didn’t.

  5. Melissa

    Wow, that’s way more options than I ever imagined. I’d like to take a trip around the area in the next couple years, so definitely will bookmark this as an awesome resource on routes. Plus, so many tips/ tricks that I wasn’t aware about…I can see the time difference being difficult.

    1. Jesper

      Hello, Melissa. I hope that you will be able to make the trip one day. Just let us know in case you need any further advice. 🙂

  6. Mike

    Cruises are so much fun and I had no idea the Baltic had so many different options! They all look amazing so its hard to choose. Thanks for all the tips at the end. Really great advice; especially about behaving yourself. It would stink to end up locked up on vacation!

  7. The seems very calm and serene which is surprising for me. My mental image of a northern sea was pretty gloomy and threatening. It is not that frightening after all!

    1. Jesper

      Hello, Jitaditya. It might depend on when you are going. A few days before our last trip they had measured waves with a height of 14,2 meters. That was a record for the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea is usually not as stormy other seas, due to it’s smaller size. 🙂

  8. Shane

    I’ve only ever done a cruise through the Caribbean. This looks like an interesting experience away from the tropical destinations!

  9. Soumya Nambiar

    Are cruise lines the best way to tour these countries? Or do you think flying would be better? Since spending only 6-8 hours seems to be so short to completely explore a city, especially if you are going there for the first time? The cells are used a lot?

    1. Jesper

      Hello, Soumya. It depends on how much time you have. The cruises is a perfect way of including one more country/capital if you are visiting, for example, Stockholm, Riga or Tallinn. If you are going to travel the region a bit further away than the capitals, then flying is probably a lot more advantageous. 🙂

  10. Siddhartha Joshi

    This is a neatly well detailed out guide 🙂 Frankly I never knew about the significance of Baltic Sea as a major transportation route and I certainly learnt something new. I am off to that region soon…would try to hop on for a short cruise 🙂

  11. Thanks for your awesome post. Can you please let me know how much the whole tour requires? I am from Bangladesh & if possible please let me know how can I go there from Bangladesh.

    1. Jesper

      Hello, Iftekhar. I’m not familiar with travel requirements for people from Bangladesh. But the price we paid last time on a cruise Stockholm-Riga-Stockholm was around 80 euros for up to four persons. So it is one of the cheaper ways of traveling in the region.

  12. neha

    The cruise trip does look quiet interesting. I am always pressed by time, so not able to take one. I love the fact that this one has all kind of itineraries. I will go for a 24 hour one when I get a chance

  13. Kristina

    Had no idea there were so many routes to choose from! I’m not really a boat person, but this looks like an interesting cruise!

  14. Oooh, some really good cruise ports around here. We haven’t ventured this far into the Baltic sea yet. We only made it as far as Denmark, so not really exploring the Baltic sea yet.

  15. Ana Ojha

    I feel like going on cruising after reading your post! Last year, I went to Mexico cruise and had a wonderful time!

  16. WhereMonicaGoes

    Interesting article to note next time I go to Europe. I haven’t tried any cruise trips around there and this one is pretty interesting. One can for sure cover different cities in just one trip. I also like it that it can different options. A 24-hour one is perfect for busy people like me!

  17. Allison

    I had no idea cruising the Baltic Sew was so popular. I would love to try the Sweden to Russia route. I find it hilarious that they is a special stop to buy cheap booze lol. I would be stocking up!

  18. Ami

    Stockholm to Talinn is what I would want to do. Nice set of tips that you have shared. Some of them are absolute essentials that most of us do not realise. Thanks a ton

  19. Marlene Marques

    Never thought about using this kind of transportation to cruise the Baltic, but your post is super useful, especially all the tips you give in the end. Would definetly try out the two nights on board to have time to visit the places were it stops. Except for bad weather. I kind of get seasick if the sea is bumpy.

  20. Sandy N Vyjay

    For someone who has never experienced a cruise, this post is an absolute treasure. Cruising on the Baltic seems to hold the promise of a great experience. If I were to choose, probably I would start with the shortest duration one, so as to acclimatize with the sea.

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