Have you ever wanted to visit a cruise shipyard to see how vessels are built? If you're cruising to Finland next year (or even making an independent land-only pilgrimage) you may be in luck. Two innovative tour companies in Turku, Finland's southern-most big city and home to Aker Yards Finland (building the world's largest ship, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas), will unveil different excursions designed to offer a backstairs look at the shipbuilding process.
Shipyards that build cruise vessels have an enormous mystique -- but are typically off-limits to all but workers and cruise executives and other VIPs.
Admittedly, the tours do not actually venture into the depths of Aker Yards' facilities (too much of a liability); both offer pass-by views and instruction. Still, since the 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger, is outside in its dock, there's plenty to see.
The first option is a 2.5-hour tour, via water bus on the River Aurajoki, which feeds into the shipyard. It'll pull up to the nearby island of Ruissalo, where there's a viewing area that faces Aker Yard. There, a shipbuilding expert will explain to tour goers about the art of shipbuilding and of course, Oasis of the Seas, being outfitted right out in the er, open, will be on view.
From another angle, the second tour stays on land. There's a bus tour that includes stops around (again, but not inside) Aker Yard at related sites, such as locations where parts are assembled and a chance to look at the towering Oasis of the Seas.
Tours are only available next summer; once Oasis of the Seas is completely built -- and sails away -- there won't be anything to see.
Taking the tours can, especially for cruise travelers, be a complicated endeavor. Very few cruise ships actually dock in Turku, a medieval city served as the country's capital (among those with planned calls Fred. Olsen's Black Watch and Saga Ruby will visit in 2009). Still, it is possible to combine a day trip to Turku if you're on a cruise that stops -- as do many in the Baltic season -- at Helsinki, which is about two hours away by train.
The price of the Turku Touring boat excursion is 20 euros for adults and 10 euro children; children
under 7 years of age are free. Call 011-358-2-262-7444 for more info. Cost of Forum Maritime's bus-oriented tour is 20 euro per person for 15 to 20 people (15 is the minimum). Call 011-358-2-28209506, or e-mail email@example.com for more info.
Both tours can be given in English if you arrange in advance.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
Oasis of the Seas Shipyard Tours
October 22, 2008