07 April 2012

F-John, the New Finnish Cruise Line?

Earlier this week the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat (reportedly) published an article interviewing Johnny Sid, the man behind bringing the former Kristina Regina to Turku as the museum ship Bore. Last August I had the pleasure of interviewing mr Sid when I was making an article on the Bore for Maritime Matters (read the article here). Back then Sid told me of his ambition to start a cruise line. Then it was just theory, but according to the article in Turun Sanomat Sid is currently negotiating with Louis Cruises of Cyprus for the purchase of the 1980/1992-built cruise ship Louis Cristal (ex-Viking Saga, Sally Albatross, Leeward, SuperStar Taurus, Silja Opera) for use for Baltic Sea cruising based in Turku.

The Silja Opera departing Helsinki back in the day. Photo by Kalle Id, reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike 3.0 unported license.
According to what I have been told about the content of the article (I have not managed to secure a copy myself, so take all this with a moderate pinch of salt), Sid has secured funding from German investors and the crewing and operations of the ship would be given to a German company, although it would be owned by Sid's company F-John (a pun on the 1990s Finnish-Swedish passenger shipping giant EffJohn) and placed under Finnish flag. During the winter season the ship would make short two-night cruises from Turku to Tallinn and during the summer longer cruises around the Baltic Sea to places such as Visby, Riga and Bornholm.

Naturally as a Finnish ship enthustiasts I'm terribly keen on this idea. I sailed once on the Silja Opera from Helsinki to Riga about a decade ago and I still consider that trip my favourite cruise of all time. The ship and crew were fantastic and on the whole the experience combined what (as I've later learned) is best in both the Scandinavian-style ferry cruising and in the more international type of cruising. We have yet to see what Sid's cruise service with the Louis Cristal will be like (if it will even be realized at all) but if realized, the company could be one to do away with the most irritating elements of international mainsteam cruising (such as "service" in unnescessary and unpleasant places, the poorly-run buffets and the sad excuses of saunas).

Yet in many places Sid's idea seems to be rooted too much in the Finnish perception of cruises as a variant of ferry travel: the idea of running only Helsinki-Tallinn cruises during the winter season does not seem the best to me. If the desire is to run two-night cruises from Turku, there are several other cities close enough to be reachable instead of Tallinn (that most potential passengers will have seen anyway) such as Riga, Visby and Norrköping - and of course Stockholm. If there will be three two-night cruises per week (plus presumably a 22-hour Turku-Kapellskär cruise to even out the timetable), instead of three cruises to Tallinn they could have one to Tallinn, one to Norrköping and one to Riga on one week, and maybe replace Riga with Visby on the next.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting article, I too would like to see this happen, and would be very tempted to cruise with the proposed new line :)