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Giant cruise ships bringing record number of tourists to Helsinki

Helsinki, which expects more than half a million passengers this year, has opened a new quay for bigger cruise ships.

Risteilyalus Viking Sea Helsingissä.
The Norwegian-flagged Viking Sea is a moderate 227 metres long. Image: Anne-Pauliina Rytkönen / Yle

Helsinki is expecting a record summer as far as the number of both visiting ships and passengers. Altogether 309 international vessels are to visit 'the daughter of the Baltic', bringing more than 550,000 travellers. That's up from last year's record total of nearly 520,000 passengers.

Eight of the cruise ships will be making their maiden call to Helsinki.

In late April, the Port of Helsinki opened the new LHD cruise quay at Hernesaari, the southernmost tip of mainland Helsinki. As international cruise vessels are growing in size, the new dock can accommodate ships of 360 metres.

That is much larger than the familiar passenger ferries that ply the Helsinki-Stockholm route such as the Silja Serenade (203 metres) and Viking Mariella (175 metres).

The port's core areas in the heart of Helsinki, such as Pakkahuone Quay near the Indoor Market and Katajanokka Quay across from it, can only manage vessels of up to 215 metres, explains the port's director of passenger business operations, Sari Nevanlinna.

Tallinn and Stockholm routes also busier

Nevanlinna notes that the regular routes between Helsinki and the Swedish and Estonian capitals of Stockholm and Tallinn are also much busier this summer. Families with children in particular tend to book cruises from around the Midsummer holiday (June 21-22) through early to mid-August, when schools re-open.

Marika Nöjd, communications chief at Estonian-owned ferry operator TallinkSilja, says that Finns seem to be more interested than ever in travel to nearby areas.

"Especially during the summer season we've set records in each of the past few years," Nöjd says.

Besides Finnish families, local cruises on the Baltic are attracting greater numbers of Asian tourists.

"About 13 percent of passengers come from outside our home market," she says. "Cruises are part of their northern European experience."

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