RAUMA, Finland - A tribute to luxury, the Victoria I, the new cruise liner of the Tallink company, will carry passengers on the Stockholm-Tallinn route beginning in March 2004. Ilon Wikland, the illustrator of Astrid Lindgren's books and the godmother o
The 150 million euro, 193-meter Victoria I is a sister ship of the Romantika that was delivered in May 2002. The twins are the largest Estonian ships and were built by Aker Finnyards, a Norwegian-owned shipbuilder based in Finland.
The Victoria I can accommodate 2,500 passengers in 740 cabins, 550 cars and will have a conference center for 400 people. It is expected to provide about 400 new jobs.
At the moment the ship is being painted and equipped at Aker Finnyards, its producer's dock in Rauma, Finland.
Yrjo Julin, president of Aker Finnyards, said that all the latest security measures had been implemented on the new vessel, and that it would have more safety cameras than the Romantika.
Certain measures have been taken to improve the environmental impact of the Victoria I. The new ship's bottom paint is non-toxic. Emissions will be lowered by catalytic converter units, and all the dirty water from the ship's cleansing systems will be transported to ports and processed there.
The key feature of the Victoria I, however, is its increased number of luxury cabins and suites, and poshrt interior of bars and restaurants.
Vaino Konga, head of Tallink's Swedish division, said that Swedish tourists wanted to have more luxury than the Finns when taking a boat to Estonia.
"Both passenger and cargo traffic at the Tallinn-Stockholm line has been increasing every year. Luxury and business travelers are our primary interest today," he said.
Last year Tallink's passenger volume between Estonia and Sweden made roughly 420,000 people, and the company hopes that in 2003 this number will reach half a million.
According to Konga, Tallink has been on the Swedish market for a relatively short period and is not very prominent yet, so a new ship is an opportunity to win popularity there.
Tallink Group CEO Enn Pant said renewing the company fleet was essential to keep passengers' interest.
"We have another option for building a ship of the same class. Whether we will order it will be decided in autumn 2004," Pant said.
Pant added the special marketing campaign for the Tallinn-Stockholm route and the Victoria I will cost Tallink about 5.7 million euros.
Because of the impressive production and marketing price tag the tickets on the Victoria I will be more expensive compared with other Tallink ships, Pant said.
In September 2003 Tallink ships served a total of nearly 200,000 passengers, 160,000 of whom traveled between Estonia and Finland. From August 2002 through August 2003 the company transported 2.6 million passengers and registered a turnover of 191 million euros.
Estonia's joining the EU will force the ferry operator to close the tax-free shops - one of the main attractions for tourists - on board its ships. To compensate for the loss, the ships on the Tallinn-Stockholm route will stop at Aland Islands, a tax-free zone that exists pursuant to an agreement between Finland and the EU.
Tallink Group has recently applied for 6.3 million euros from the Estonian government to cover the losses expected from the tax-free trade abolition.