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Helsinki poised for record cruise-ship season

As cooler destinations gain popularity, the cruise ship industry seems to have finally embraced Helsinki as a destination. This summer is set to break last year’s record for cruise ship visits to the Finnish capital.

Jewel of the Seas saapui ensimmäisten risteilyalusten joukossa Helsinkiin.
Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas docked in Helsinki. Image: Tuomas Keränen / Yle
Wif Stenger

This summer is shaping up to be the busiest ever for the Finnish capital’s cruise-ship business, says the city-owned Helsinki Marketing, which focuses on international visitors.

The cruising season opens on Tuesday as the five-star MS Hanseatic docks at the South Harbour. The summer’s busiest day looks to be July 2, when half a dozen large vessels are to moor in Helsinki, bringing nearly 10,000 passengers.

Last year Helsinki approached the half-million-passenger mark, with 266 ships bringing 478,000 cruise visitors.

The city’s tourism sector is growing fast, says Helsinki Marketing CEO Laura Aalto.

“The rise in cruise tourism is very significant,” she says. “It shows that Helsinki is attractive in the eyes of international visitors at the moment. Last year we had tremendous growth in overnight stays by foreign guests.”

While cruise passengers don’t usually stay overnight in the city, they spend an average of about 64 euros during each day visit. Last year they spent around 32 million euros in Helsinki.

If all the scheduled arrivals take place, that will be 13 percent more vessels than last year, which was already a record year, says Aalto.

According to the regional Cruise Baltic market survey, last year more than five million cruise passengers visited the area. That was another record, and up by 16.6 percent from 2016.

Cooler destinations gaining popularity

Worldwide, cruise vessels carry some 27 million passengers annually. Over the next decade, that is projected to exceed 40 million per year. Cruise Baltic says that more ships are heading to cooler regions such as the Baltic Sea. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) also predicts that destinations with lower average temperatures will become more popular as the planet warms.

“This year for the first time a cruise vessel carrying only Chinese travellers will visit the Baltic. In the larger picture, this is a signal that the popularity of the Baltic is growing quickly,” Aalto tells Yle.

The ship, the MSC Orchestra, is to dock in the Finnish capital on Helsinki Day, June 12, bringing 1,800 passengers. Beginning in May, Helsinki Help tour guides will be out in force on the streets to assist visitors, who will also be served by new support points at city landmarks.

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