If you’d like to explore both Helsinki and Stockholm with your kids, one of the best ways to do it is by taking a Moomin cruise with cruise operator Silja Line.
Who is Moomin?
Moomin is a character created in the 1940s by the Finnish illustrator and comic strip author Tove Jansson. Moomin is one of the biggest exports of Finland, present in everything from towels and pens to clothing, books and movies. Moomins even have their own theme park in Naantali, Finland and a chain of cafés.
Who offers the Moomin cruise?
The Moomin cruise is offered by cruise operator Tallink under the Silja Line brand during weekends and the summer months. The best time to go on a Moomin cruise is between June and July. Tallink also operates variety of ferries and cruises sailing between Helsinki and Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallinn and Stockholm and Riga.
Where do I hop on the ship?
You can take the cruise from Helsinki or Stockholm. The cruise leaves Helsinki at 5 p.m. and arrives in Stockholm the next morning. It then sails overnight back to Helsinki. You can also take a one-way cruise. You should book the cruise in advance.
Day 1: Moomin cruise heads towards Stockholm
My 2.5-year-old son and 4.5-year-old daughter have been talking about “going on a boat” for two weeks now. My son especially is over-excited, though I suspect he has no idea, what “going on a boat” actually means.
As we hop on “a boat” in Helsinki—more precisely on a cruise ship called Silja Serenade which can hold more than 3,000 passengers—there is a quartet playing welcome music to greet the travelers.
“Opera!” My son shouts making everyone around us smile.
This is what I love about traveling with kids: fresh perspective. Apart from the quartet, my kids marvel at elevators with windows, slot machines, the fact that there is a shower and a hair dryer in our cabin, and of course, the toy shop on the ship’s shopping alley.
We stay in a special Moomin cabin. It has two bunk beds, a sofa, a table, small corridor and a bathroom. The cabin is on the 11th deck (the ship has 12 decks) and our window has views on the 7th deck, where the shops and restaurants are.
In our cabin, Moomin characters can be found adorning the beds, the door and the lamp.
In the fridge, among other refreshments, there is a special Moomin kid’s party drink resembling champagne. These are free of charge.
After settling in, we head towards the children’s play area few decks down. This area has two huge rooms with ball pools, slides, computer games, Lego area, play kitchen, and movie and drawing areas. There are staff members in the area, but child-minding is left to parents.
Moomin Characters and Silja Line’s very own Harri Hylje (Harry the Seal), visit the play area on every cruise. This is lovely for older kids, but my toddler is a bit traumatized by Harry the Seal. He wants to go home immediately he sets his sight on this walking, white, gigantic sea animal.
Day 2: Moomin cruise arrives in Stockholm
The cruise arrives in Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, around 9 a.m. We head towards Södermalm’s Nytorget area. This is Stockholm’s trendy neighborhood, and there is a variety of hip shops such as Acne Studios (Swedish denim brand), Swedish Hasbeens (Swedish wooden clogs) and local kid’s fashion brand Mini Rodini.
There is also a lovely playground for kids and lunch joints worth visiting, like Swedish Meatballs restaurant and a very New York-style Urban Deli.
From Södermalm we take the subway to the center of Stockholm (for practicality, I purchased a day-subway card already on our ship, and that was a good choice). This part of the trip is dedicated for mommy. My kids suffer through a visit to Åhlens, a local department store, which has a shop-in-shop deal with Japanese brand Muji, which I love.
As we return to our ship, I ask the kids what they found to be most exciting in Stockholm.
“Me did like subway!” exclaims my son.
“The flowers,” says my daughter.
Great. I guess they are a bit young to appreciate the concept of being on a foreign land.
Around 6:30 p.m., we head towards the ship’s casino to watch the Mama Africa show. The show consists of dancers, acrobats and music, all entertainers coming from the continent of Africa. It is a rather unique experience.
These ships must be the only place in the world where it is perfectly okay for a toddler to watch a show while munching on his sleepy toy, while in the next table there sits a group of young adults all enjoying alcoholic beverages—and no one seems to be bothered by the existence of each other as would happen in your local show hall.
The show really is enjoyable for all age groups. My kids are especially mesmerized by the acrobats.
Later in the evening we visit the Moomin Disco, which starts at 8 p.m. But ten minutes before showtime, my daughter decides she would rather go to sleep than spend the evening dancing. So we are off to bed and sleep tight till next morning.
I must stress here that these two nights we spent cruising, my toddler slept through the night. That is something he never does at home.
Day 3 The cruise returns to Helsinki
The ship returns to Helsinki at 10 a.m. During the cruise we have had our breakfasts and dinners at the restaurant called Grande Buffet. As the name suggests, it is a huge buffet offering everything from salads, sushi and tacos to warm main courses. The breakfast consists of wide variety of different food as well.
The buffet is a bit difficult to master alone with two small kids, but works well if the whole family is present.
Apart from the buffet, the ship has a fast food restaurant, a café, a seafood restaurant and a fine dining restaurant. All these are good choices with children, too, even the fine dining restaurant, since families with small kids habitually dine there earlier than more exclusive and calm atmosphere yearning adults.
After breakfast, we pack our stuff, which has almost doubled after doing some shopping in the ship and in Stockholm.
“Me afraid Harry the Seal,” my toddler points out when we leave our cabin.
“Bye bye ship,” my daughter says. “That was really fun!”
The author and her family received a complimentary cruise from Silja Line. All opinions are her own.