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TravelSilja Symphony Review: - a Memorable Cruise Experience

Silja Symphony Review: – a Memorable Cruise Experience


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In late November, we wanted to visit Stockholm for one day. We hopped onboard Tallink’s m/s Silja Symphony which is a large ferry between Helsinki and Stockholm. Despite its strict schedule, the ferry offered us an experience akin to that of a leisurely cruise ship. To get insight into the interior of the ferry and its services, read the story of our cruise and learn how we reviewed the ferry.

Cruise to Stockholm Onboard m/s Silja Symphony

In late November, we decided to take another day cruise to Stockholm. We planned to spend our remaining Amex restaurant credits in the Oxenstiernan restaurant in Stockholm and after that, to visit Stockholm’s Christmas Markets. We had a discount coupon for Tallink Silja, so we chose to board Tallink’s m/s Silja Symphony, a sister ferry to Silja Serenade which we had previously experienced. In this article, we detail our trip and provide a review of the ferry.

Christmas Market
The Christmas season had just started on m/s Silja Symphony.

Day in Stockholm Cruise

A day cruise from Helsinki to Stockholm is a convenient and cost-effective way to visit Stockholm. The ferry arrives in Stockholm at 10 am and departs back to Helsinki at 5 pm, providing 6 hours of efficient time to explore the Swedish capital.

Information about Silja Symphony

M/s Silja Symphony is a big Finnish-built ferry that transports passengers and cargo between Helsinki and Stockholm. It was built in 1990 in Turku, Finland and the ferry is operated by Tallink. The ferry has almost 1,000 cabins and it can carry 2,900 passengers in addition to cars and trucks. It is one of the biggest ferries sailing in the Baltic Sea and it feels like a cruise ship.

Class A cabin
Basic cabins in m/s Silja Symphony are small but they are clean, renovated and comfortable.

Our Cruise Experience

Last year, we had a day in Stockholm cruise onboard m/s Silja Serenade. To complete our ferry review articles, we booked our trip this time on m/s Silja Symphony which is a sister ferry to Serenade. Below, we review the services the ferry provided us.

Booking

Booking the trip on Tallink’s website was straightforward. It functioned effectively and provided the ticket via email immediately after the payment. However, it may not always offer the most affordable rates. Due to a discount coupon we had, booking through the official channel was the best option for us this time.

Given the numerous ferries between Finland and Sweden, we advice to compare prices. Ferryscanner is a practical tool for this and it frequently finds the most affordable fares. Typically, weekdays outside the main season are the least expensive days to travel between Helsinki and Stockholm. Departing on Friday is usually the most expensive choice.

Departure from Helsinki

Silja Symphony departs from the Olympia Terminal in the South Harbour of Helsinki. It is accessible by tram in just 10 minutes from the Helsinki Central Railway Station. Alternatively, if the weather is favourable and you have minimal luggage, walking is a viable option as well, especially in the summer.

Upon our arrival at the terminal, we checked in using a self-service machine. The kiosk issued our boarding passes, and we were ready to board the ferry immediately. Boarding took approximately 15 minutes due to a higher number of passengers than usual.

Boarding the ferry was a pleasant experience even though the terminal is old and quite small.

Exploring the Ferry

Soon we were inside the ferry and the first task was to find our cabin. We had booked a small cabin in Class A which had an outside window, bathroom and two beds. Classes B and C are similar but they do not have windows and Class C is located at the bottom of the ferry. There is also Promenade Class which has a window to the central promenade of the ferry.

Class A cabin
Class A cabins have an outside window, at least 2 beds, a private bathroom, a phone and a television.

The lock of our cabin’s door was broken. We immediately called the ship’s reception by the phone in the cabin and a friendly service man came in 10 minutes and fixed the lock. After that, we were ready to explore the ferry.

Entertainment on the Promenade
The Promenade is like a lively street with entertainment, bars, restaurants and cafes.

Happy Lobster
Happy Lobster is one of the à la carte restaurants on the Promenade.

Since the ferry is quite old, now and then, there are minor things that need some repair.

Dinner at Fastlane

We were already hungry, so we began our ferry exploration by having a meal. On this occasion, we opted not to avail of the full-inclusive buffet and instead visited the ferry’s self-service restaurant known as Fast Lane. We ordered burger meals with drinks, and within 5 minutes, our delicious meals were ready to be picked up. A meal cost about 25 euros/person.

Hamburger meal
The best thing about Fastlane restaurant is that the simple meals are cheaper than in a la carte restaurants.

The Fast Lane restaurant, like most of the ferry’s amenities, was situated on the Promenade, which is a lengthy and tall corridor running through the ferry. This practical design contributes to a spacious and expansive feel aboard the ferry. We are surprised that the newer ferries departing from Helsinki are not following the same design.

Fast Lane tables
Fast Lane had a cosy and peaceful dining area.

Tall Promenade with glass roof makes the ferry bright.

Grande Buffet
Grande Buffet is a large self-service restaurant which offers breakfast and dinner buffets.

Shopping at Tax-Free

After the meal, we felt, it was a perfect moment to explore the ferry’s duty-free store. It was Black Friday, resulting in a busier store than usual. Various sales were ongoing, and it seemed that everyone had the same idea of indulging in some shopping. The tax-free store was uncomfortably crowded and we did not want to spend too much time there. Normally, people buy souvenirs, sweets, spirits, cigarettes and local products from the store.

Given that our primary intention was to visit Stockholm and not to shop extensively, we refrained from making excessive purchases. Instead, we bought some Christmas chocolates, snacks, and drinks to enjoy during our journey.

On the inbound journey, it was much more peaceful in the tax-free store.

Show at Starlight Club

Starlight, the nightclub of the Silja Symphony, features bars, a stage, and a casino. While the ferry offers free entertainment, there is a cost for drinks. We enjoyed an hour at the nightclub, tasting beer and Finnish lonkero while watching a cover band performing evergreen hits. Starlight is the place where the main entertainment of the ferry happens and it is also a place for dancing. The club is located at the bow of the ferry offering also a nice view outside.

We wanted to feel fresh the next morning and decided not to stay awake too long. That is why we headed to sleep in our cabin early.

Breakfast Buffet at Grande Buffet

In the morning, we start our day with a hearty maritime breakfast at the Grande Buffet restaurant. The buffet was situated below the Promenade and the selection was quite extensive. Regrettably, it was also crowded, but there were still numerous unoccupied seats and tables available.

Breakfast table
We were lucky to get a window table in the breakfast buffet to enjoy the views of the winterish Stockholm archipelago.

As usual on the Finnish ferries, the buffet offered a wide assortment of cold and hot dishes suitable for breakfast, along with inclusive coffee, tea, and other hot beverages. Unfortunately, there were long queues, and the restaurant’s layout was not very practically designed for the large number of customers. A little patience was needed but we got a stomach-filling breakfast.

Coffee machine
The breakfast buffet included complimentary hot and cold drinks.

Time in Stockholm

After breakfast, it was time to exit the ferry and explore Stockholm. Silja Symphony arrived at 10 am at Värtahamnen Terminal in Stockholm so we took a metro from Gärdet station to the centre. It is also possible to walk to the centre in one hour if the weather is good enough.

On this occasion, we visited Stokcohlm’s Old Town to experience its Christmas Market and then proceeded to another Christmas Market at Skansen. Following these outdoor activities, we enjoyed a delicious lunch, but time quickly passed, prompting us to return to the ferry to begin the inbound journey.

PRO TIP

In Stockholm, we recommend exploring Old Town, having fika (Swedish term for coffee) in a cosy cafe and experiencing Skyview at the Avicii Arena.
Elevator lobby
It’s hard to believe that the ferry is more than 30 years old since it is in so good condition.

Other Services on the Ferry

There were numerous other amenities aboard the Silja Symphony that we didn’t have the chance to experience this time. The Promenade boasts several high-quality restaurants and bars. At the top of the ferry, there is a disco called New York Club & Lounge where you can also enjoy karaoke when the night is still young and party later. For those seeking relaxation, a visit to the ferry’s spa is a recommended option. In the summer, spending time on the outer decks is a delightful choice, but during the winter, people primarily go outside for smoking.

Outer deck of Silja Symphony
Silja Symphony has also outer decks but in the wintertime, people prefer to stay inside.

The big selection of the services is the reason why many people come to this ferry just for relaxing. They do not even exit the ferry at Stockholm but enjoy the ferry’s amenities. A day in Stockholm cruise is an inexpensive way to unwind even though you can easily spend hundreds of euros on the ferry if you avail of all the services you like.

Bow of Silja Symphony
When we arrived back in Helsinki, snow waited for us.

Rating