Monday, June 23, 2014

Cruises: don't fall in the traps!

Silja Symphony heading towards Stockholm

Helsinki is ideally located in the Gulf of Finland, close from Saint-Petersburg (Russia), Tallinn (Estonia) and Stockholm (Sweden). A lot of boats are schuttling back and forth between Finland's and Estonia's capitals from early morning to late evening 7/7. The cities are just separated by 130km of water. It is the perfect destination for some shopping (especially alcoholic beverages as the prices in Finland are really high), enjoying a spa massage or having a walk in the picturesque old town. Going to Stockholm means for many people partying on the boat in the clubs and bars until late. Some of them won't even disembark. Since a couple of years, the company St Peter Line is offering visa-free trip to Russia for a stay shorter than 72 hours.

This article is not about telling you which trip is the best, which company is the cheapest. No, it's about the traps that you should avoid.

Gift cards: the poisoned chalice

Free trip to Stockhom! Free? Really?

Fantastic! You got a free trip for your birthday! The person that gave it to you wanted to make you happy. And happy you are! You are very excited and you invite 3 of your friends to enjoy the trip. First surprise: how can you use the vaucher while booking on the Internet as the vaucher doesn't have a unique code? Yep, you have to go to the office in town and book your trip (or by phone). The hostess tells you that you will give the card at the checkin and asks you to pay 48€. "I'm sorry but it's a free trip," you will certainly reply. Yes, the trip is free but you have to pay the harbor fee: 12€ per person (6€ per way)! Now you are warned. Next time, you'll wait for a 20€ cabin offer with all taxes included.

Cheap cabine: tax-free

In Helsinki there were some posters at the end of June 2014 advertising the cruise to Saint-Petersburg in July for 130€. Very good offer as during the high season cabins are usually around 2-400€. First thing that will irritate more than one non-Finnish speaker: the discount is not written on the website. But when you change the language: surprise, surprise. You find a section called "tarjoukset" (discounts). Okay, so the discount really exists. When you try to book a cabin for you and your best friend, you see that there is a discount but it shows 195€. The difference is huge. Is the offer expired? At the office in town, they explain that the offer is still valid and the cabin is at 130€. "But you have to add the taxes." What taxes? 6€/person for the fuel, 7€/person for the habor taxes and 25€/person for the visa-free shuttle bus! "Do you want to book the cruise for 206€?" No, thanks M'am.

These are two situations that happened to me and I share them in order for you to don't be disappointed or feel fooled.

NB: This article is not against Silja Line or St Peter Line. It is just a warning for passengers about hidden costs.

Visa-free cruises Helsinki-Saint-Petersbrug: St.Peter Line
Daily cruises from Helsinki or Turku to Tallinn or Stockholm: Tallink Silja Line
Daily cruises from Helsinki or Turku to Tallinn or Stockholm: Viking Line
Daily cruises Helsinki-Tallinn: Eckeröline
Daily cruises Helsinki-Tallinn (fastest ferry): Linda Line

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