Best Enjoyed Slowly
History and culture for the whole family
For many cruises in Northern Europe, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Copenhagen are popular ports for embarking and disembarking your cruise ship. There are other places available though, such as Dover, Southampton, Harwich, Liverpool and Newcastle in England. The reason the selection of embarkation port is so important is because it is probably the place you will be spending a few days either before and/or after your cruise, so you want a place where there is plenty to see and do
The prime season for Northern Europe/Baltic cruising at one time was confined to July and August, with transatlantic options at both ends. During these summer months, the temperatures could run a very comfortable 60’s to 70’s most days. But today the touring season has been extended and now generally begins as early as May and can run well into September. Cruise fares will also be lower at these “off-peak” times, making a Baltic cruise a very real possibility, even for families.
You have a variety of ship options for Baltic cruises as well, all of the big cruise lines including Celebrity Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises & Norwegian Cruise lines supply them. But a lot of smaller cruise ships also sail that region, including some niche tour providers like Crystal Cruises, Ponant, Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas cruises running their cruises from what amount to large yachts, with only a handful of people aboard. These ships offer the advantage of a more personalised experience, albeit a far more expensive one and they are usually able to get passengers into some of the more “offbeat” ports of call – places that the larger ships simply cannot go.
Itineraries can range anywhere from one to two weeks, and sometimes longer, and many will include a least one overnight stay in St. Petersburg, where many passengers arrange for multi-day private tours to take people around this area.
While a Baltic cruise was long considered an experience best to be savoured by adults, today it is becoming more and more of a family destination, with new touring options opening up all the time that the kids can fully participate in and enjoy.
Copenhagen is a city in Denmark, and the tourism authorities boast that you can walk the entire city in a day. While this may be true, you certainly cannot see everything that the city has to offer in a day. Copenhagen is home to more than 60 museums, as well as theatres, gardens, castles, ancient churches, a planetarium, outdoor café dining and the New Harbour. There are enough things to see and do in Copenhagen to keep you busy for more than a week’s holiday!
When you are getting ready for your trip to Copenhagen, don’t forget to go online and order your Copenhagen card, called the CPHCard. For DKK 10 (just over US$2) you get a card that allows you free train, bus and metro transportation, including to and from the airport. With the card you can get free admission to 60 or so of Copenhagen’s museums and attractions, and discounts on other tourist sites, restaurants and car rentals. Order your CPHCard at least two weeks in advance so it can be posted to you and you’ll receive it well before you leave for your trip.
Tallinn, Estonia’s capital and its largest city, was under Soviet rule until its collapse. Tallinn sits on the banks of the Baltic Sea and is now a major thoroughfare for cruise ships and ferries, and has become a great place for tourism too. As the cruise ships dock, the passengers can come into the city and visit some of the many palaces, churches, museums and towers that Tallinn has to offer.
The palaces are vast and their history ranges from medieval times to the early 20th century. The most famous of these Tallinn castles is the Toompea Castle. This castle was built in stages from the medieval times up through the 20th century. It is believed that there was a wooden fortress on its grounds in the 9th century that was conquered in 1219 by the Danes. After that and until 1710, the castle was occupied by foreign rulers and royalty. In 1710, the castle was taken over by Russian Tsars, and Catherine the Great ordered an addition to the building to house the Estonian Administration. This building was completed in 1773 and still stands as part of the complex today. Building at the complex continued until the early 1900s.
Located in Russia, St Petersburg is also known as the ‘City of Tsars’ or ‘Northern Venice’. It is one of the most cultural cities you will ever visit. The artistic culture is everywhere you look in St Petersburg. There are statues and sculptures in abundance, always ready to capture your attention. Just walking through St Petersburg is an experience you will never forget.
But there is more to do in St Petersburg than just walk through the parks and squares. How can you go to Russia and not see the Russian ballet? It isn’t something travellers should miss. Russia boasts of the best ballet in the world, and has for many, many years. You can see some of these world class performers in St Petersburg at the Opera House.
Oslo, the largest city in Norway, is also the Norwegian capital city. There is a lot to do and see in Oslo, no matter what time of the year you visit. About two-thirds of the 450 sq. km. that is Oslo is forest and hills. Oslo, famous for its skiing, has 343 lakes and 40 islands for the locals and tourists to do a variety of outdoor summer and winter activities.
If you want summertime fun in Oslo, you may not know where to start. Should you head to the hills for a hike through the forest or a picnic with nature? Perhaps you’d prefer the beaches? If you want beaches, catch the ferry and head over to one of Oslo’s 40 islands. Each island has a history and identity all of its own, so you won’t get bored exploring each and every one. Of course, you might have to extend your trip to do that.
Riga is the capital of Latvia, located on the Baltic Sea. There is much for travellers to do in Riga, both day and night. By day, just a stroll around the city to see the exciting blend of old and new architecture can be quite thrilling. Many of the old, medieval buildings still stand amongst the newer building of art nouveau style. By night, you can take in some of Riga’s fast and fun nightlife.
One of the sights you won’t be able to miss is the Dom Cathedral, the largest church in the entire Balkan region. The Dom Cathedral is in the district of Vecriga and houses a world famous church organ. You’ll want to spend at least a few hours at the Cathedral, and then the rest of the day roaming around Vecriga. After dinner at a quaint café, check out some of Vecriga’s vibrant nightlife to top off the evening.
Warnemünde is a small, seaside town in Germany on the Baltic coast, and is a popular stop for cruise ships. There is not a lot to do in Warnemünde because it is so small, but there is certainly enough to keep you busy for a few hours on your port stop. If you plan to stay in Warnemünde for a longer time, you can relax on the beach or take the train to Berlin for some nightlife.
In Warnemünde, the highlight of the trip will likely be a walk around the town to look at architecture which is centuries old. It is recommended to go off the beaten tourist path and check out the lived-in houses. This is where you will find the quaint, small town feeling that Warnemunde looks like it should have. The tourist areas are always full of bustling tourists in a hurry to get back to their ship on time.
Gdansk is a city in Poland in Europe’s Baltic region. The city sits on the mouth of the Vistula River at the Baltic Sea. The big industry of Gdansk is shipbuilding and shipping, and Gdansk has two major ports for these and other industrial activities.
Gdansk was the Polish city that Adolph Hitler demanded be handed over to Germany. When Poland refused, Hitler invaded Poland and this sparked off World War II. The invasion of Poland began on September 1st, 1939, and Gdansk was returned to Poland again in March of 1945. It was in Gdansk where Lech Walesa raised the flame that signalled the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of communism.
Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is a bit unusual for a capital city in that it has the look and feel of a small town. There are no high-rise buildings or skyscrapers, and you can easily get round town on foot or by bicycle, though many Helsinki locals and tourists prefer to explore the area on roller skates!
Helsinki is located near the Baltic Sea and so the climate is milder than the rest of Finland. The best months to visit Helsinki will depend on what you want to do when you get there. If it’s fun in the sun you want, July is the time that the local offices close and the locals retreat to their summer beach houses. The entertainment kicks up around the beaches at this time, and the markets and cafés are bustling.
When you visit Kristiansand, located in South Norway and in the midst of the coolest Riviera, you will feel like you have just taken a step back in time. As you walk down the cobblestone roads of Kristiansand, you won’t be able to help but notice that the Renaissance style houses are one story, ancient wooden houses that are all painted pristine white.
The harbours are a favourite docking spot for pleasure yachts, thanks to the excellent climate of Kristiansand, due to its proximity to the Baltic Sea. A stroll at the marina could take up an entire afternoon, and you could stop for some fresh seafood and cocktails at one of the open air seaside restaurants in the area.
Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and a popular tourist destination. There is much to see in Stockholm. Most of the buildings in the Old Town were built from the 16th century to the 19th century and are now being used as shops, cafés, restaurants, hotels, business offices and museums. There is so much history in Stockholm that it will be difficult to see it all in one short vacation.
Stockholm is comprised of 14 islands, which are situated in close proximity to one another so the water between the islands gives Stockholm a Venice feel. The difference between Venice and Stockholm water, though, is that you can swim or fish in the pure waters of Stockholm from anywhere in town. You can also take a boat tour through the islands or rent a boat and take your own tour of the islands.
Travemunde is a historic beach resort town located in the Baltic Sea. Founded in 1187 and then purchased in 1329, Travemünde used to be a fishing village and port for international trade. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that Travemünde was recognised as a place where people might like to visit for pleasure. At that time, some public bath houses were built to attract visitors.
Travemünde did pretty well until World War II came. When the war ended, the people of Travemünde had to rebuild their town and try to re-establish its appeal as a tourist spot. A spa was built, along with a beach centre and a concert hall. Eventually, a skyscraper was built, and it now houses a café at the top from which you get a breathtaking view of Travemünde. And the rest, as they say, is beach resort history.