Yes, you heard that right, and no, it’s not a myth. There is an actual party ferry from Stockholm to Riga, and I got to experience it myself. Well, technically I think there are ‘party ferries’ between other cities in the Baltic, but this is the one I tried and I can tell you right now that my mind was blown.
When I heard that there was a, quote-unquote, ‘party ferry,’ I thought it sounded cute. I thought maybe there would be a little nightclub onboard similar to the ones I witnessed on cruise ships on family vacations when I was younger. I thought maybe there would be some loud music and some disco lights, a dance floor, and a bar serving drinks.
But, I was in for a treat.
It all started when we were, in true fashion, extremely late for the boat. Before we literally ran down the gangway and stepped on the ‘SS Romantika’ seconds before they pulled away the bridge, I was given a little card with my ticket. And upon closer inspection, printed on this little card, was a lineup. A lineup of dj’s.
A lineup of dj’s. Arranged neatly into three columns…. for three different stages… scheduled until 6am. On the overnight ferry.
Taken a few years back in the Stockholm archipelago… this time we didn’t swim, of course, but we got some similar views!
A Baltic Party Ferry: Let the Games Begin
After having to lie on the actual floor of the hallway to catch my breath from running, I inspected this little card further. I was already astonished enough that there was enough space on this boat for three sound stages, let alone a lineup until basically when the boat docked in Riga.
But, the passengers astonished me even more. The boat had hardly even left the dock (actually it had not even started moving yet) when we heard someone heaving VERY loudly and uncontrollably from down the hallway. Already. I’m not sure if they were already so drunk they were throwing up, or if they had taken/eaten something that didn’t agree with them. But I know that we looked at each other wide-eyed as we realized at the same time that we were in for a bit more than we bargained for.
Girls walked through the hallways dressed to the nines – in heels, short dresses, tight skirts, and enough makeup to fill a Mac store. Music boomed from every other room, with most doors open to reveal 5-10 passengers all sitting, drinking, and talking in seemingly dozens of different languages.
We took some time to explore the boat as it sailed through the breathtaking archipelago of Stockholm before reaching the open water. There were a few side decks where most people were smoking, a convenience store that opened about 45 minutes into the journey (and already had a line of people waiting to buy alcohol… which we eventually joined), and a few different places to sit and eat or take away food.
We arrived on the top outdoor deck and were immediately almost accosted by the filthiest of baselines. It was coming from a set of speakers taller than myself, playing trap, and facing a makeshift dance floor out on the back of the boat. It would have been silly to do anything other than have our own small dance party (no one was there yet because they were all drinking and apparently dry-heaving on the lower decks), and sit and relish in the fact that we were actually legitimately aboard a miniature music festival on an overnight ferry, for which most of the patrons were going very, very hard.
“Well, if this is how it’s going to be,” we thought, “Then we better get ourselves ready.”
We scarfed down some food, got the room situated, got ready, and purchased some of our own alcohol to try and stand a small chance to catching up to the level of some of our counterparts. And then it was go time.
The ‘main stage,’ if you will, was based in the ship’s indoor amphitheater, where they must have held theater shows on other ‘normal’ nights. There was a DJ on the stage, a lighting system honestly fit to match an actual festival stage, and a rowdy crowd dancing to some quite aggressive electronic music. The music they played isn’t usually my favorite, but it just matched the vibe so perfectly I had no choice but to enjoy it.
Some of my new Scandinavian friends and I, wearing his elephant hat. Unclear if he worked for the party ferry of he was just wearing that suit for fun.
The rest of our night consisted of a strange mix of dancing to this crazy electro, meeting new friends, wandering around the boat, drinking in random people’s rooms, going outside intermittently for some fresh (freezing) air, and at one point ending up with a massive elephant costume mask on my head, while on someone’s shoulders. As you do.
It was definitely an awesome party, and unlike anything I have ever been to before. I mean sure, I work on ‘party boats’ in Croatia, but this was different – this was a legitimate massive overnight cruise ferry, converted into a floating rave. I have to commend them on the idea; it was carried out very well.
When I got off in Riga to nurse my hangover and bid the ‘Romantika’ farewell, I learned something even more hilarious: that people book the cruise to Riga, and then back to Stockholm that night. Many of the passengers actually did this as a little mini-festival cruise where they get to spend the day in Riga then get right back on the boat and do it all over again.
I was very intrigued and impressed by the idea of turning something as mundane and tedious as an overnight ferry, into two days of hard partying on the Baltic Sea. These Scandinavians were doing something right! The happiness of this cruise company, Tallink Spilja’s, clientele spoke volumes about this successful idea. Hell, people were booking their boats even when they didn’t need to travel at all! So, I commend you, Tallink Spilja, and I hope to be back on one of your party cruises soon enough where this time, I will know what I am in for.
Here is the boat it was on – you can book it somewhere on the website, but possibly the strangest thing about this whole ordeal is that it is not obvious at all to book! I remember reading this tiny print at the bottom of my e-ticket noting that this was a ‘party cruise,’ probably leading to my assumption it wasn’t anything too special. See if you can figure it out! 😛