Estonia’s capital got a boost from Saturday 14 July when the Spanish cruise operator started to fly passengers on five of its own Air Pullmantur planes in and out of Lennart Meri Airport with Pullmantur expecting approximately 18,000 to pass through Port of Tallinn between now and September when the company’s Baltic season ends on the 15th.
Previously, Pullmantur had used Helsinki but it can be assumed the Finnish capital lost out to its neighbor and rival due to costs – Port of Helsinki has been by some way been the most expensive cruise ship call for years with fees for pilots to navigate its difficult approach plus environmental and waste management expenses adding up significantly while the city-owned port is seen as a juicy source of much needed revenue too.
Last year another Spanish operator, the now defunct Happy Cruises, used Tallinn’s compactness and comparative cheapness to turn around over 7,000 cruise tourists. The airport is a mere 5 kilometers from the city center cruise quay and thus passengers can transfer and be aboard their ship or plane in under an hour easily.
"The procedure will take place every two weeks," stated Lauri Linnmãe, Tallinn airport spokesman adding that "The service in terms of added value was in an entirely different category to just bringing a ship or an airplane to the country because it represented a big challenge for Estonian tourism and transport companies due to the demands required in terms of logistics coordination, client service and cross-cultural management."
"It means that the passengers who arrive from and depart back to Madrid before starting or completing of their cruise will need a long value chain providing work for tens of firms and a livelihood for many employees simultaneously," he concluded.
Pullmantur uses Empress during its short summer north European season that starts and finishes in Copenhagen as well as Tallinn calling at Warnemünde, Stockholm, Helsinki and St Petersburg in between when travelling from the Danish capital and in reverse from Tallinn. Two nights will be spent in St Petersburg taking advantage of the 72-hour visa-free rule for cruise ship visitors while the voyage between Stockholm and the German city of Warnemünde is so long it requires a night at sea.
Built in St Nazaire, France in 1990 as RCI’s Nordic Empress, the 48,500 gross ton, 208-meter long ship now takes up to a maximum 1,853 passengers (with a crew of 675) and has been in Pullmantur’s colors since sold in 2008 and now flies the Maltese flag with Valetta as home port. According to the company’s website, fares start from €699 or €999 if the flights are included. Pullmantur became a subsidiary of RCCL in 2006 and before becoming Empress, the ship operated under the name of Empress of the Seas for two years.