We are once more visiting family on the Åland Islands after a rather eventful night on M/S Galaxy. This time, our travel plans did, however, change just days before it was time to hit the road. Originally, we wanted to come to the Åland Islands on Friday morning. An early morning crossing to the islands changed to a late night trip. This is our latest travel story, about a trip that we usually don’t plan that far ahead off.
Choice of Ship: Timetable and Cancellations
We decided last weekend that we were going to go to Åland today, preferably in the morning as Susann had taken the day off from work. We usually drive the 90 kilometers to Kapellskär, from where the Viking Line ferry MS Rosella leaves. That route only takes a few hours to Mariehamn.
Unfortunately, M/S Rosella’s first departure was in the afternoon due to low season, so we were soon looking for other options. We eventually decided to go with Tallink’s M/S Baltic Princess. The ship leaves from Värtahamnen in Stockholm and makes a short stop around six hours later in Mariehamn before continuing to Turku. This is the best solution according to us. We usually opt to take a cabin in order to be able to relax and to keep an eye on Little A.
That was our plan until Monday. The boat had recently returned to the route after scheduled maintenance. During that maintenance, both of the gearboxes were replaced. Each gearbox has a weight of around 50 tons. For some reason, they had problems afterward and several of the departures were canceled – including ours.
We contacted Tallink and they only gave us one option: we could go with M/S Galaxy on Thursday evening, arriving in Långnäs at 02:50 am. This was not something we saw as the most optimal alternative when traveling with an infant. It was, however, the best option for us to actually get to the Åland Islands. We were finally able to convince Tallink to also include two tickets for the buffet dinner onboard as compensation for the changed plans. Of course, this made the trip a lot more joyful.
Entering M/S Galaxy at Värtahamnen
We arrived at Värtahamnen around an hour before the ship’s departure. We were given a sign with the destination “Åland” as we were not going to the end of the route. Next, we were told to drive to a lane and wait. There was nobody else in our lane, while all other lanes filled with cars and trucks. The workers started to tell cars to drive onboard and lane after lane emptied while the ship got closer to being fully loaded.
Eventually, we were the only car still standing in front of the ship. The ship looked more or less fully packed. We were however told to drive forward and we talked with one of the workers. There was a small spot for us at one of the sides and we were told to enter the ship in reverse. That was for sure a new experience.
Dinner and Rest Onboard M/S Galaxy
Once onboard we made our way to our cabin. We had a standard cabin with a window. Sometimes it can be quite nice to sit and look out, even when it is dark outside. We left our belongings in the cabin and went to the buffet restaurant one deck below to enjoy our complimentary dinner. In general, we had a really nice evening and Little A enjoyed making noises (sounds I cannot describe) to the other passengers. She also very much liked her breadcrumbs.
After dinner and a short walk, we were back in the cabin. Susann and Little A took the opportunity to get some sleep, while I sat down to do some work. All this while all I could see outside were some distant lights and the occasional ice.
Arriving at Långnäs
M/S Galaxy finally arrived at the harbor in Långnäs on the eastern side of the Åland Islands at around three a.m. As expected, we were the only car leaving the ship. It surely felt weird going to a car deck only the three of us. We are used to the fact that there are a lot more people.
Eventually, one of the crew members popped his head from around one of the trucks looking for the car. Once he spotted us he began the work to let us off the ship. As we drove off, we saw the one lonely car waiting to take our spot for the final part of the route to Turku. It really shows that the main reason for this stop is not to pick up cargo and passengers, it is mostly about being able to offer goods duty-free.
Åland greeted us with darkness, snow and 17 degrees below zero. Luckily we only had 30 kilometers left to drive before we would be at the home of Susann’s parents – somewhere warmer.
Winter Landscape on the Åland Islands
After our late arrival, we made sure to rest this morning and enjoy the company of Susann’s mother. It wasn’t until in the afternoon that we took a small trip to stretch our legs. First, we made a stop in the town of Mariehamn, but it was still a bit too cold to take any long walks. Instead, we got back to the car and drove a bit further south, enjoying the views along the road to Järsö. We have included a few photos below from Mariehamn and along the road.