Iconic Love Boat returning to Helsinki – many remember Viking Cinderella for its top artists, mega weddings and TV shows

4. January 2024

WED, JAN 03, 2024 09:00 CET

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.

With Cinderella ready for service, it was a golden age for cruises, and in the early years Cinderella served as the third vessel on the Helsinki-Stockholm route together with Mariella and Olympia. On weekends, Cinderella made 20-hour cruises to Tallinn without any passengers disembarking, and the vessel helped to make service to Tallinn extremely popular, starting in the 1990s. In 1993, the vessel replaced Olympia and later also sailed between Turku and Stockholm.

“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. Whatever the day of the week, it was always a party on Cinderella. Virve Rosti, Freeman & Menneisyyden VangitTommi Läntinen, Kirka, Paula Koivuniemi and Nylon Beat got people to party, as did foreign artists such as Toto Cutugno and Ricky Martin,” recalls the vessel’s former cruise director, Jamppe Haakana, now head of tax-free operations on Viking Glory.

“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 understood immediately that she would be something big.”

Cruise passengers were also offered entertainment in the form of various TV shows filmed on board Cinderella. The most popular was Passi ja hammasharja with Tino Singh as presenter. The trivia show Noppapotti and talk show Joonas Hytönen Show were also filmed on board.

Around the turn of the millennium, the incredibly popular GOOM cruises were arranged for students on Cinderella. The cruises were Viking Line’s own concept, and many people met their future life partners there. On the first day of the new millennium, a mega wedding was held on board, with four ministers marrying a total of 70 couples in the nightclub. People in the cruise world nicknamed Cinderella the Love Boat.

In 2003, Cinderella’s red hull was painted white, and the popular vessel was reassigned to the Stockholm-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. 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,” says Johanna Boijer-Svahnström, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at Viking Line.

“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.”

Viking Cinderella’s history in brief

  • The vessel, built in the Perno shipyard, was the world’s largest car ferry during its first few years of service. Cinderella was one-of-a-kind – there was never a sister ship with the same design built.
  • From 1989 to 2003, Cinderella mostly served on the Helsinki–Stockholm route but also made 20-hour cruises between Helsinki and Tallinn.
  • In 2003, Cinderella began sailing under a Swedish flag and was renamed Viking Cinderella, since the name Cinderella was already on the Swedish Register of Ships. The sides of the vessel were painted white, distinguishing it from Viking Line’s other vessels.
  • Since 2003, Viking Cinderella has mostly provided cruise service between Stockholm and Mariehamn. During the summer, the vessel has served the Helsinki–Stockholm route, partly in tandem with Viking Gabriella, and has also made day cruises to Tallinn.
  • On March 8, 2024, Viking Cinderella will be reflagged under a Finnish flag and return to service on the Helsinki–Stockholm route, working together with Gabriella.

Technical data for Viking Cinderella

  • Decks: 12
  • Length: 191 metres, width: 29 metres
  • Berths: 2,500
  • Passenger capacity: 2,560
  • Car capacity: 480 passenger cars

For further information:

Johanna Boijer-Svahnström, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications

johanna.boijer@vikingline.com, tel. +358 18 270 00

Christa Grönlund, Press and PR Manager

christa.gronlund@vikingline.com, tel. +358 9 123 51

Staff memories from Cinderella

Kirka’s 50th birthday party during the vessel’s renovation

“I remember Kirka’s party for his 50th birthday in 2000 really well. Kirka had invited a large number of family members and other guests. Cinderella had just come back from the shipyard, and the renovation wasn’t completely finished yet. There were painters and other workers on board. Together, we removed tarps, and the party guests also pitched in. Kirka also acted as speaker and kept the audience informed. The atmosphere was fantastic!” – Johanna Boijer-Svahnström, Senior VP of Corporate Communications at Viking Line

Top artists created an electric atmosphere

“The unique mood on Cinderella naturally was created by the people who came on board to party and meet like-minded cruise passengers. Top artists, in turn, filled the nightclub to the max and created an electric atmosphere. I’ll never forget when the audience was waiting for an act and I called out to them, “Are you ready?” They answered in unison: “YEEEEES!”– Jamppe Haakana, former cruise director on Viking Cinderella

Red Square on board Cinderella

“When I think back to Cinderella, I see in front of me the cruise director who presided over Red Square each morning on the way home from Tallinn. Passengers could buy wine and chocolate at special prices as well as Estonian products such as cheese and jam. It’s rather different compared to today!” – Lotta Lindroos, Development Manager at Viking Line

Easy access to hard liquor

“In the 1990s, passengers purchased more hard liquor than today since prices were much cheaper compared to on land. To make sure things didn’t get too crazy in the cabins, alcohol purchases on board Cinderella weren’t released to customers until the morning. That’s the way it was on all our vessels back then. Then the old storage room for these purchases on Cinderella was converted into storage space for fragrances.” – Christa Grönlund, Press and PR Manager at Viking Line