Like most people, when I hear the term Baltic, I picture visions of ice breakers and Russian submarines. I even use the term sometimes when describing how cold I am.
Well, it's the wrong name for one of the best cruise areas in the world. Go there in summer of course!
For most cruisers their first Scandinavian cruise is often their fourth cruise, after the trips to the more familiar destinations in the Med and Caribbean, and most of those are on the North Sea visiting the Norwegian Fjords. Nice, but a bit boring really. Scandinavian Sea cruises are the best value there is for multiple destinations. There are ten countries to visit and some of the most spectacular harbours in Europe.
There are a few starting points for Scandinavian cruises but because Copenhagen in Denmark has an excellent airport that is really close to the city, the majority start here on a fly-cruise basis. I really like Copenhagen so I recommend staying a day or two to see the Tivoli Gardens amusement parkat night and the Nyhaven harbour restaurant area for a very long lunch and people-watching session. Just don't get your hopes up to see the famous Little Mermaid in the Harbour. It got loaned to Shanghai and in it's place is a live feed on a big screen out in the water of where it is in China. You can see their locals walking past it. One of the funniest things I've ever seen.
A lot of cruises head north from Copenhagen to Oslo which is so cute the cameras just never stop clicking. I don't recommend using words like quaint to the rather large local descendants of Vikings. They still look capable of a good pillaging! Unfortunately, it's pretty expensive so take the organised tour, see the castle, have a meal of Herringor Salmon at the Harbour front and have a sunset drink on the deck back on board.
As much as I like Oslo's harbour, I think Stockholm's offers even more and that's the next stop on most cruises after Norway. So much water and so much blondeness in a city that's so easy to walk or cycle around. From Stockholm it's another short hop to Helsinki in Finland which is technically not Scandinavian but Nordic, but that's getting a bit pedantic. There are still a lot of blondes, Helsinki is a pretty town and the locals go all out to be friendly as they, like all the Nordic countries, speak perfect English.
The big picture stop on any Scandinavian Sea cruise is St Petersburg. What a monument to the grandeur of a different age of Russian emperors and the opulence of the aristocracy of the 1800s. You could spend a week gawping at the art and architecturehere but most cruises only give you two days, so make the most of it.
In my opinion, hitting four of those five big destinations is essential, leave out Helsinki if you must, but if you've got the time there are another five countries to visit. Heading further south you can visit Riga in Latvia, Vilnius in Lithuania, Tallinn in Estonia, Warnemünde in Germany (which is a short train from Berlin) and Gdansk in Poland.
Whichever cruise you take, you'll love the Scandinavian Sea where the temperature in summer is anything but Baltic!
Written by Adam Johnson.
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