Silja’s 11-hour Archipelago Cruise
If you’re not up for the effort of a kayak, then a cruise is the right kind of alternative. Silja’s 11-hour archipelago cruise departs from the Port of Turku at 8.15am in the morning, returning to the same spot at 7.15pm. You swap boats in Mariehamn, switching from the Galaxy to the Baltic Princess. There’s a convenient connecting pedestrian bridge between boats, so no need to set foot on dry land.
A suitable duration for most, the 11-hour cruise glides through Turku’s Archipelago, which the locals adamantly claim to be the best in the world. Don’t believe them? Then just head out on deck.
The scale of the archipelago, comprising tens of thousands of islands, is much better appreciated from a cruise ship the height of an apartment building than from the seat of a canoe! The shipping channel, which at sea level appears so wide, looks more like a sloping maze, zigzagging its was between islands.
40,000 islands and the skies above
The Archipelago Sea is a region of the Baltic Sea, bordering Turku to the east, Åland to the west, Bengtskär lighthouse to the south and to the north the Gulf of Bothnia. The Archipelago Sea has around 40,000 islands and islets, making it the most prolific in the world.
To locals and sailors, the area is often simply referred to as the Turku Archipelago. Although Turku is a world-renowned nature destination, it has been relatively spared the ravages of mass tourism, such as overcrowding, refuse and lost authenticity. For example, out on deck you can spot the Sea Eagles, endangered as little as a decade ago but now thriving in the Archipelago Sea, with the population rising to many hundreds.
The deck of a large cruise ship is a prime vantage point to observe other characteristics of the archipelago. Right next to the Port of Turku is the Island of Ruissalo, where wooden lace villas dating from the Russian Tsarist rule can be admired as you pass by. Their palette of pastel colours, straight from a desert menu, include ‘strawberry milkshake’ pink, ‘banana split’ yellow and of course ‘key lime pie’ green.
Many of Ruissalo’s wooden lace villas are now owned by different clubs and associations but with a few of Turku’s gentry still residing there. They may even bestow a handkerchief wave as you cruise passed.
Good day and ahoy, gentlemen!
On the return trip aboard the Baltic Princess you can also wave to the festivalgoers at Ruisrock (5th-7th July 2019), as you pass close by in early summer. Alternatively, get yourself a ticket to Ruisrock and wave back at the big ships. It’s an unforgettable sight whatever side you’re on.
Riding the wave of responsibility (and veganism)
The role the Swedish ships have played in bringing new food trends to Finland’s shores in undeniable, a pattern being continued in Silja’s restaurants. At least, they keep well up with the times, and are always willing to forge ahead.
“For instance, our restaurants are offering more and more choice for vegetarians. Of course, this is also driven by a general demand for vegetarian dishes,” explains Silja’s Regional Director Nina Honkaranta, continuing:
“Combining vegetarian food with a gourmet experience is something consumers have come to expect these days. My favourite vegetarian option is the Vegan Burger served at our Grill House restaurant – it’s a very popular dish.”
There’s also a purposeful effort to bring the ethical approach to Silja's fish dishes, for example, in recognition of Baltic Sea sustainability. In autumn 2018, Silja was the first cruise liner company to receive the MSC certificate, which is an ecolabel guaranteeing sustainable and responsible fishing practices.
“We are also currently running a project to reduce food waste in cooperation with the WWF,” adds Nina Honkaranta, going on to say:
“The result is that our kitchen serves dishes like zero-waste fish nuggets, for example, which are carefully prepared utilising the entire fish.”
MORE INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS
In cooperation with Tallink Silja.
Text Liina Komi. Photos and video Kim Allen-Mersh.
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