Friday night The Olympic terminal has an atypical view of the Corona era: a lot of people in the same space. They all have the same destination, the Tallink Silja Serenade, which flies from Helsinki to Tallinn.
The wait for many has been long, as the last time a Serenade ride has traditionally been passengers in mid-September.
On Friday, more than a thousand paying customers will board the ship. That’s about a third of the full capacity of normal times. However, during the Corona period, a maximum of 75% of the total number of passengers will be taken on board.
The announcement echoing in the terminal reminds of safety intervals and hand hygiene. The check-in machine will not issue a boarding pass either unless you are sure you know that you are not allowed to travel as a corona symptom. The automaton also says that a face mask must be worn on the ship.
Riihimäki residents Timo Lindqvist and Irina Lotnikova booked their cruise a month ago.
“We just start spending time when there haven’t really been other trips here,” Lindqvist says.
Time is spent shopping and good food, the couple plans. Usually they have headed for cruises a few times a year. Now the cruise serves as a substitute for foreign tourism for them.
“Maybe this cruise symbolizes some kind of freedom,” Lindqvist says.
Same notes Serenade’s curator Oskar Lehmusniemi. He is in charge of all the services visible to passengers.
According to Lehmusniemi, the cruise has not only concrete employment effects but also a symbolic significance.
The majority of the ship’s workers have been laid off for a long time, so Friday’s detachment of the Serenade from port is a cautious first step towards some degree of normalcy.
For Lehmusniemi, the fact that the Serenade has returned to Helsinki’s cityscape is a sign of a gradual return to everyday life.
Pause after that, the first Serenade cruise, according to Lehmusniemi, attracts especially regular customers, “cruise fans,” as he describes it.
The people of Vantaa recognize themselves as such Merja and Sauli Muotio. The couple, who have been together for ten years, calculates that there are fifty cruises behind. Now they are on board in honor of their wedding day in a couple of days.
“We love cruises,” says Sauli Muotio.
However, they are a little upset. Originally, the cruise was already booked in December for Silja Europa, the same ship on which Muotiot got married seven years ago. The cabin was the same as it was then, but then Europa changed to Serenade.
“In the end, however, we were satisfied, because we also like this ship,” says Merja Muotio.
On cruises, Fashions get a break from everyday life. In addition, they provide them with ease when all amenities are close by.
“And then of course the cabin. We appreciate a good cabin class, and even now we have a suite, ”says Merja Muotio.
“This is our way to get on holiday quickly and easily,” says Sauli Muotio.
Serenaden the nightclub is harnessed for the cornerstone of cruise aesthetics. Guidance echoes from the loudspeaker: in the first round, one horizontal row is retrieved.
Among the bingo hunters are Topi and Tapani Niiniaro, Nils Fast mixed Mikko Kalander. The quartet is by no means the first time on the ship’s bingo table, as under normal circumstances they tend to cruise several times a year. In countries, bingo is also a common hobby, but winnings are secondary. It is more important to meet people.
It has been important for a group of friends to get on a cruise, as the epidemic has kept them largely at home. Tapani Niiniaro navigated as soon as he got on the ship to the spa department.
“You don’t even know how good it was to be in the hot tub between your ears. Something different is needed here, not always in the heat. ”
However, the quartet does not think they will get the main bingo pot.
“I’ve never seen anyone win it,” Topi Niiniaro notes.
Friends also offer Bingo Tickets to members of the media. The graph is a bit on the way to the rules, but more experienced bingo players will advise helpfully.
“The first time is exciting, the second is addictive,” they predict.
The presenter lists the bingo numbers in turn, but they get mostly painful exclamations from Niiniaro, Fast, and Kalander. Bingo wins will be a dream this time around.
Slightly before ten o’clock Serenade pours into the port of Tallinn – and stays in place for more than 12 hours.
Even if the ship sails to Tallinn, passengers will not be disembarked and will not be allowed on board from Tallinn.
The ship has restrictions familiar from many countries. Boarding and disembarking are staggered, Human Pumps are avoided and restaurants are not filled with customers.
However, the opening hours of restaurants are freer than in Helsinki, for example. Passengers must be guaranteed that they receive food from the ship, so the food restaurants are open on the Saturday side.
Otherwise The Serenade complies with the restrictions of Åland, as the ship’s home port is Mariehamn. In principle, alcohol could be served in international waters until morning, but in Serenade, serving ends at midnight.
“This has been very confusing in the countries, but it has been for us too. In other words, what is allowed and what is not, ”says curator Lehmusniemi, referring to restaurant restrictions.
The ban on dancing and singing, on the other hand, will reach the Baltic Sea by the end of June. The party band is playing, but there is no point on the dance floor. Karaoke is not possible either.
Despite the more undressed activity on offer, virtually all cruisers interviewed by HS send the same message: the start of cruises brings a nice variation to the middle of the gray Corona everyday life.
Saturday in the morning, however, curator Lehmusniemi is a bit serious.
Technically, the ship has worked flawlessly, the passengers have been happy and given good feedback, he says.
“But there have been challenges with these,” the curator notes and points to his face mask.
“We were thinking of a new plan on how to make this work better. In the early evening, the masks were relatively good, but then it decreased. ”
According to Silja, the mask is required almost everywhere on the ship, but when the evening was dark, the instructions were not widely communicated.
“The use of masks must work in good cooperation with customers. There is room for improvement here, ”says Lehmusniemi.
According to him, the company will inform about the masks more clearly in the future. But if a passenger refuses to wear a mask, demanding it is challenging, Lehmusniemi says. Nor can passengers really be removed from the ship in the middle of a voyage.
However, Lehmusniemi emphasizes that customers have not received “very much” feedback about a non-functioning mask escape.
Also the safety intervals were non-existent throughout the evening. For example, during the evening program, the ship’s 700-seat nightclub was full of celebratory cruise crowds. The dance floor closed sign felt indifferent.
According to Lehmusniemi, there was a pent-up need to celebrate on the ship.
“Now there was a little more party crew involved than we’re used to. Even though we were prepared, we were a little rusty, ”says Lehmusniemi.
According to Lehmusniemi, however, the cabin extensions did not become any more complaints.
“I might have expected even more disruption.”
According to him, the shipping company is able to provide a framework, but in the final games, the joint contribution of all those on board is needed to ensure a safe cruise – in Lehmusniemi’s words, mass discipline.
Partyers however, there is only one group of cruisers among families with children, enjoyers, and shoppers, for example. According to Lehmusniemi, more families with children will arrive on Saturday.
“On Saturday, the cruise passenger structure will change a bit,” he estimates.