Finnlines’ Kappelskar – Naantali route is a freight oriented Sweden – Finland service which has grown considerably since its early Finnlink days. In recent years, it has been operated by a pair of the Fincantieri-built Star class vessels.
Once Finnlines was fully absorbed into the Grimaldi Group in 2016, there soon began talk of new ships for the route. The order was placed in January 2020 at China Merchants Jinling (Weihai) shipyard, builders of the Stena E-Flexer series.
FINNSIRIUS entered service on 15 September 2023 and will be followed in a few months by her sister FINNCANOPUS. The term game changer can often be used for new ship classes, but in the case of the award winning Superstar class that seems justified. Not only do the ships bring a new level of capacity, but the passenger accommodation has opened up whole new markets for Finnlines.
Designed by Knud E.Hansen and Deltamarin, with interiors by dSign Vertti Kiki & Co., FINNSIRIUS and FINNCANOPUS will for the first time offer mini-cruises and even picnic cruises on the route. On a 236m 66,000gt hull, FINNSIRIUS can accommodate 5,200 lane metres of freight on 4 vehicle decks, together with 1,100 passengers in 323 cabins – doubling the passenger capacity of the earlier vessels.
Both ships are equipped with a variety of energy saving measures including a Litium-ion battery installation which enables the ship to have zero emissions in port. They also have auto-mooring, an air lubrication system and a shore power connection, together with a specially designed, ice class 1A Super hull and rudder bulbs. All of these contribute to make the vessels extremely efficient as well as better for the environment.
It is however in the passenger accommodation that the real sense of FINNSIRIUS and FINNCANOPUS being a game changer can be found. Passenger cabins dominate deck 9, including a variety of standard cabin types, plus some enormous suites.
Deck 10 contains more cabins, including for the crew. Also on this deck at the aft end are the freight driver spaces, including a dedicated Sauna.
Finnsirius – Public Spaces
The main public rooms are on Deck 11, above the bridge. Forward are the Cargo Buffet smorgasbord to port, and the Fisherman’s Bistro to starboard.
The Bistro has a very wide variety of seating areas and styles, and makes excellent use of floor to ceiling windows, as do all the public rooms. Within the Bistro there is a special family area, and even a pet zone. Hot food in the bistro is made to order.
In the centre of this deck, and quite literally at the heart of the ship, is the Duty Free store. With the calls in the Aland islands in each direction, the company can now offer the all important duty free sales and trips which form a significant part of the traffic on the nearby rival Stockholm – Turku route operated by Viking Line and Silja.
With the supermarket being inboard, the outboard spaces are given over to seating areas, with much of the seating facing the windows. In common with other areas of the ship, there are muted classic colours, varied seating and lighting. Most seats have easy access to a power point of some sort.
The information deck is located in this area, and to starboard is a small kids area.
The aft space on this deck is Barrel Bay. This is the main bar and location of any entertainment that might be on offer. This wine and Tapas bar, also has a section which can be separated off for private parties, wine tasting and tapas. This bar even has cosy looking fireplaces for those icy Baltic nights. There is a central stage with a video wall. In a late September cruise, the entertainment consisted of a couple of concerts played onto the video wall, although oddly their music was eclipsed by the ambient soundtrack of the bar.
Deck 12 has further public spaces in 2 separate blocks, separated by the Helipad. Forwards is the Stellar Lounge. This is the premium business lounge. Stretching across the entire front of the ship, with unbeatable views, this delightful space is open on the day sailings. It has a selection of refreshments and snacks included in the entrance fee, together with a bar and a Duty Free ‘corner shop’ for those for whom a trip to the deck below is too much. Within the lounge, there are also several Meet & Co meeting spaces which can be reserved for a fee.
Aft, portside in this section of superstructure, is also a smokers glass house enclosure. To starboard is Micke’s Wine and Dine – the a la carte restaurant for the ship and the location where Premium Breakfast is served – included in the cost of some of the better cabins.
The aft accommodation block on Deck 12 is the Spa and fitness space. This includes multiple Saunas, indoor, outdoor and children’s hot tubs as well as Gym, Yoga room and a separate Spa cafe and shop. There is also the Under the Stars bar – outside but under a clear canopy.
Also on deck 12 is a space themed play area. While largely enclosed, this facility is part of the outer deck.
One aspect which is very noticeable about FINNSIRIUS is the effort which has gone into introducing digitalisation, which also has the benefit of keeping manning costs low. Every food venue has a range of self service kiosks available for ordering. Every venue with an entrance fee has automatic gates and card entry. The Duty Free shop also has a big section of self-service tills, which are in a gated area where the gates open to leave the store upon production of a receipt.
Overall the public accommodation shows a lot of attention to detail, with emphasis on the views and passenger comfort. The ship is heavily but discretely branded throughout, and some of the venues even sell bespoke souvenirs.
With the standard of accommodation, and variety of cabin types, leisure and dining facilities, and the offering of minicruises, Finnlines is very clearly taking aim at a slice of the market currently taken by Viking Line and Silja from Turku. With Silja being down to a single ship, this may well be the right time. However FINNSIRIUS is certainly a different product than those vessels.
With very limited onboard entertainment, and most venues closed during the much longer turnarounds on the Finnlines route, passengers will have a more relaxed and low key experience than onboard the rival party boats with their large show-lounge and nightclubs and multi venue entertainment. It offers a high-end experience for transport passengers and a more chilled out experience for mini-cruisers.