Thursday, September 14, 2017


When I booked this trip to Helsinki, I started researching what there was to do there besides saunas and architecture. Tallinn, Estonia is a day trip from Helsinki, less than 3 hours on the ferry.
If you're familiar with my notion of gateway cities, Helsinki is a gateway. (Bangkok is a gateway: I remember standing in the airport realizing I was only one flight from Kathmandu.) Sure, you could go to Lapland. Or like the people on the left, you could St. Petersburg. (Not today.) Or stay right to Tallinn.

But wait, there's more: Tallink, the fancy ferry service, offers a night boat. I know, it's only a 3-hour tour.

So instead of leaving at 6:30 pm and arriving at 9:15 pm, you get a cabin and stay on board until 8 the next morning.
If you remember having a Eurrail pass and overshooting your destination in order to have a good night's sleep (free), this is the same thing. Only you don't have to sleep in your chair.

Not too shabby, right? This is a B cabin, which can be shared with 4 people. Quite comfortable, despite the mirror behind the curtain, instead of a window.
The ferry is roughly as large as my Princess cruise home from Alaska. It was far from full.

There are elaborate staircases, with teams of women in uniform spraying and wiping them clean. (In a musical, this would be a dance number.) And these elevators, straight out of The Poseidon Adventure or The Towering Inferno.
I have a feeling Estonian design will be less subdued than Finnish design. Then it was off to the Grand Buffet. I had prepaid for the late seating. This turned out to be a mistake.
Not because the food was bad, but because the Baltic was momentarily rough and at my dinner table, I could feel the boat sway. I declined 2 euro shots in favor of potatoes with reindeer and caviar and marinated veal tongue. It was all pretty tasty, despite my wobbly stomach.
I also made a stop at the ship's stores and Duty Free, which were larger than many airports.
They had souvenirs from Estonia and identical souvenirs from Finland. They also had NY baseball caps, just in case.
The family coffee beans are sold next to Tom's homoerotic beans. And rows and rows of licorice, and liquor, and skin creams. All at pretty good tax-free prices. Need a dog or cat toy? No problem! 

How about a slot machine with a view? It'll still take your money.
Cool carpet leads to the lounges.
The Windjammer lounge hosted a rousing round of Finnish karaoke. A man at the next table asked me to dance, at least that's what I think he said.
People sang along.
The larger cabaret seemed to be hosting a trivia contest. It reminded of the time I went to NYC for a press tour the week before Christmas and stayed at the Marriott Marquis, on Broadway with the fantastic elevators and atrium. I was there all week, so they upgraded me to a huge suite and Keith came and met me, and so did Milla. And on the Saturday before Christmas, we went up to the rotating bar and watched tourists in gold lame dance and shop and drink overpriced cocktails without irony.
I got a great night's sleep and am now in Estonia. Don't forget your souvenir from the captain.

A map of the Baltic, for reference, in case you're wondering where Estonia is.

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