Iconic Love Boat returning to Helsinki

Although Viking Cinderella has not been to Finland in nearly 20 years, it is still many people’s favourite vessel. A number of cultural phenomena back in those days were born on Cinderella: the vessel is remembered for its hot artists, most popular TV shows and GOOM cruises. At the turn of the millennium, 70 couples were married on board the vessel the same day – no wonder Cinderella’s biggest fans call it the Love Boat.

When Cinderella sailed its maiden voyage from Helsinki to Stockholm in 1989, the vessel was not just the biggest car ferry on the Baltic Sea but also its most luxurious. The vessel, built at the Perno shipyard in Turku, was Viking Line’s new flagship. Panoramic windows that extended over three decks, impressive stairs made of copper, lifts that offered panoramic views and a winter garden made it the finest vessel sailing to Sweden. Cinderella got its name in a naming contest, with Estella, Stella, Daniella and Gabriella being other strong contenders before a final decision was made.

“One of the wow factors on Cinderella was the three-storey nightclub, and top-quality entertainment was the vessel’s biggest attraction from the very beginning,” recalled the vessel’s former cruise director, Jamppe Haakana, now head of tax-free operations on Viking Glory. “Whatever the day of the week, it was always a party on Cinderella. Virve Rosti, Freeman & Menneisyyden Vangit, Tommi Läntinen, Kirka, Paula Koivuniemi and Nylon Beat got people to party, as did foreign artists such as Toto Cutugno and Ricky Martin.

“A lot of the big names in entertainment performed on Cinderella before they became stars. I especially remember the wonderful Maija Vilkkumaa, who performed with us right after she released her first album. When people first heard the sounds of her tango Satumaa from the stage, the nightclub went crazy. I knew immediately that she would be something big.”

In 2003, Cinderella’s red hull was painted white, and the popular vessel was reassigned to the Turku-Mariehamn route for 20 years, with just a few summer visits to Helsinki.

However, on March 8, 2024, Cinderella will make its long-awaited comeback on the Helsinki-Stockholm route. Before that, the iconic vessel, which has served more than 32 million passengers, will be taken to the shipyard in Naantali for refurbishment.

“We are just as enthusiastic as many of our passengers in being able to bring Cinderella back to Helsinki to serve together with Gabriella,” said Johanna Boijer-Svahnström, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at Viking Line. “We have two reasons to celebrate: Viking Line launched its service to Helsinki in 1974 so it’s also the 50th anniversary of the route’s launch.

“Cinderella stole its way into the hearts of Finns – the most dedicated fan sailed as many as 200 times in one year! And Cinderella has not lost its power of enchantment, since sales for our spring cruises have gotten off to a really good start, thanks in part to the cheap Swedish krona. Perhaps we’ll see couples on the Love Boat coming to celebrate their wedding anniversary or the anniversary of the day they met.”