The Pepsi and Coke of the Scandinavian cruise industry vie to outdo each other with
bigger and fancier boats. The ships are huge—at around 50,000 tons, 200 yards long, and
with 2,700 beds, they're the largest (and cheapest) luxury hotels in Scandinavia. Many oth-
er shipping lines buy their boats used from Viking Line and Tallink Silja.
Which line is best? You could count showers and compare smörgåsbords, but both lines
go overboard to win the loyalty of the nine million duty free-crazy Swedes and Finns who
make the trip each year. Viking Line has an older, less luxurious fleet, but caters better to
low-budget travelers, selling cheap “economy” cabins (shower down the hall) and allowing
summertime passengers the option of paying for deck passage only and sleeping for free
on chairs, sofas, and under the stars or stairs.