Baltic States Cruise Guide Cruises to St Petersburg Copenhagen Oslo Stockholm Helsinki Tallinn Riga

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Sea And River Cruises In The Baltic States & St Petersburg

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Cruises In And Around ‘The Baltic States’ And Saint Petersburg

A cruise of the Baltic region often focuses on the ‘Northern Capitals’ that sit along or near the Baltic Sea coastline: Oslo in Norway, Stockholm in Sweden, Helsinki in Finland, Copenhagen in Denmark, and possibly Tallinn in Estonia – plus a few charming non-capital cities in between.

The Baltic Sea is a brackish (slightly salty) inland sea in Northern Europe which lies in a basin formed by glacial erosion. It has two ‘tributaries’: the Gulf of Finland and Gulf of Bothnia.

The capitals

Oslo is often overlooked by tourists visiting Norway in favour of the fjords and more typically ‘Norwegian’ towns such as Bergen – but it has a good number of interesting sights including the Opera house, the medieval castle of Akershus, the Royal Palace, the Cathedral, and the crafts being made and sold around the old Kirkeristen bazaar. It also has countless museums and the National Theatre for opera, ballet and other productions.

Stockholm, which is actually built across 14 islands, has been Sweden’s cultural, political, and economic centre since the 13th century, and boasts two impressive UNESCO World Heritage sites in its vicinity: the Royal Palace Drottningholm (Ekerö) and the Skogskyrkogården (Woodland Cemetery).

In Finland, the capital of Helsinki is also spread across several islands, bays and peninsulas, and its most famous landmark is the grand Neo-classical Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral, built in 1830-1852 in the centre of the city’s grand Senate Square.

Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, manages to be both hip and historical, with trendy bars and restaurants in the revived canal area of Christianshavn, and old churches and grand royal palaces elsewhere.

Recently, Tallinn has become increasingly inundated with tourists as links to the Estonian capital improve, and some Baltic cruises will include it on their itinerary. At its heart of its attraction lies the hill of Toompea, a medieval quarter of narrow, cobbled streets and old houses that has earned itself UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Latvia’s capital, Riga, is the biggest city in the Baltic states, and was a major trade centre of the Hanseatic League in the 13th-14th centuries, and also an important economic centre in the 19th century. As a result its historical centre is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a medieval core surrounded by extensive ‘Jugendstil’ (German Art Nouveau) architecture.

The one non-capital you shouldn’t miss is St Petersburg, so make sure it’s on the itinerary before you book. St Petersburg was the Russian Empire’s capital until shortly after the Russian Revolution in 1917, and this city of Baroque residences and grand palaces is widely regarded as ‘the jewel in the Baltic’s crown’. It has numewrous bridges crossing its various waterways, and has dramatically transformed itself since its Soviet days into a thriving city with cafés, shops and restaurants to enjoy in between absorbing the sights and culture.

There’s a lot to see in St Petersburg, So many people choose a cruise that includes a lightly longer stay there. Many cruise companies now offer a two-day stay and others even three days – allowing a generous amount of time to take in this fascinating city.

Choosing A Cruise

British cruisers can choose to fly to join the ships (usually to Amsterdam or Copenhagen) or to cruise all the way there and back from a UK port such as Harwich, Dover or Tilbury. To see all of even most of the cities we’ve covered here, including time at sea in between, you generally need a cruise that lasts for at least 10 days. Our selection takes this into consideration, so you won’t find any mini cruises here – they just wouldn’t give you enough time to see much of the region’s variety.

Know Before You Go

One thing worth knowing before you go is that most cruise lines seem to insist that passengers can’t go ashore in St Petersberg unless they have either a Russian visa. Use the links on the euromost consulate page & see also our Russian Country Profile

Budget Friendly Cruises To The Baltic States

MSC Cruises offer a 12-day ‘Scandinavia/Baltic’ cruise aboard the MSC Opera from £650. The itinerary includes all the highlights of a cruise in this region despite it’s budget price tag: Copenhagen (Denmark) – Gdynia (Poland) – Riga (Latvia) – Tallinn (Estonia) – St. Petersburg (Russia) – Helsinki (Finland) – Stockholm (Sweden) – Visby (Sweden) – Kiel (Germany) – Copenhagen (Denmark). It also includes two days in St Petersberg, which gives you time to see all the main sights.

The MSC Opera can carry 1,712 passengers across nine decks and is styled in an Art Deco theme. It has all the expected cruise ship facilities – although they are perhaps a little less salubrious and slightly smaller than on more luxurious lines. You can view full details of this cruise at http://www.msccruises.co.uk/crociere/cruise.asp?id=17597&page

Mid-range Cruises In The Baltic States

Celebrity cruise lines offers a 12-day ‘Scandinavia And Russia Cruise’ on board the ‘Century’ costing from £1040 (for an inside ‘Stateroom’), including flights. The itinerary includes Amsterdam (Netherlands) – Berlin-Warnemunde (Germany) – Stockholm (Sweden) – Helsinki (Finland) – St Petersburg (Russia) – Tallin (Estonia) – Copenhagen (Denmark) – and back to Amsterdam (Netherlands). This is an excellent itinerary because it offers two days in St Petersburg, which gives you a decent amount of time to see the sights.

The Century has 12 decks, can take up to 2150 passengers, and has all the expected cruise ship facilities such as health and beauty spa, indoor pool, sauna, kids’ club, various dining options, theatre, disco, casino, sporting facilities, cinema, internet cafe, outdoor pool and even a wedding chapel. We found this deal at bestatcruises.co.uk. View full details at: http://www.bestatcruises.co.uk/cruiseitinerary.php?itin=197C0360-A14B-4661-A916-9B7D3B91E09D&sdt=25-August-2009

Luxury Cruises In The Baltic

The Cunard cruise line offers a 15-day ‘Baltic Splendours II’ cruise of Northern Europe and the Baltic on the Queen Victoria, costing from around £1729. This circular cruise, starting and ending in Southampton, means you don’t need to book any flights if you’re travelling from the UK. The itinerary includes Southampton (UK) – Bruges, Zeebrugge (Belgium) – Bremerhaven (Germany) – Kristiansand (Norway) – Copenhagen (Denmark) – Stockholm (Sweden) – Helsinki (Finland) – St. Petersburg (Russia) – Tallinn (Estonia) – Gothenburg (Sweden) – and back to Southampton (UK). Again, this cruise gives you two days in St Petersburg.

The Queen Victoria can carry 2014 passengers over 12 decks and, like other vessels in the Cunard line, has a world-class reputation for luxury. Alongside all the comforts and facilities, you can also expect a certain level of formality – for example, there are a large proportion of formal nights on their cruises (black tie / evening wear), and you can expect more high-brow entertainment (think piano music or string quartets rather than karaoke). Be aware that the ship also separates passengers into different dining areas based on the standard of the cabin they booked. If that’s your style and you have the budget for it, however, this cruise seems to get good reviews overall.

We found the Baltic Splendours II package offered by Classic Cruise Collection (part of the Co-Operative Travel company). You can view full details at http://www.classiccruisecollection.co.uk/cruiseDetails.php?cruiseID=4890&date

When To Go

A Baltic cruise may bring to mind chilly weather, but in fact a lot of the cruises are only offered in the summer, when temperatures are generally warm – sometimes reaching Mediterranean heights! If you do take a winter cruise, however, pack your woollies as it can be very cold. See the average monthly temperatures in the relevant city guides listed above.

Other useful link:

http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/ – Great for cruise reviews

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