Baltic Sea cruises offer an in-depth cultural insight into the treasures of Northern Europe, a sophisticated and inspirational alternative to the heat and crowded beaches of Mediterranean cruises in peak season. If you can travel during the shoulder seasons of May, June and September, you may even enjoy a bit of breathing room at some of the key sights of the region.
Those that choose to spend their summertime cruising this sheltered body of water – there is just one narrow outlet situated between Sweden and Denmark – can expect long hours of sunshine, mild temperatures and a calm, smooth sail for the majority of the trip. Plus, you can indulge in a banquet of rich history, natural landscapes and interesting sights, laid on by countries like Denmark, Russia, Finland and Germany.
The only real challenge is choosing your cruise line.
Whilst price may be a key factor in many traveller’s choice of cruise line, the itinerary offered and time at ports of interest will also play a crucial part. Nobody wants to feel rushed as they wend their way through Europe – cruise review site, Avid Cruiser, recommends a solid three days in St Petersburg, the most coveted destination of any Baltic Sea cruise, and to check that there aren’t too many ports squeezed into the itinerary.
Bear in mind, too, that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to cruise ships; at least, not if location is important to you. If you dream of docking right in the heart of some of your favourite cities such as London, Helsinki or Stockholm, consider the fact that this will only be feasible for smaller, up-market ships. The larger ones will be required to dock further out of town which could easily mean a long bus ride to get into the thick of the action. It depends on what your priorities are.
Another factor to consider is the type of shore excursions offered by your cruise line and what sort of experience they offer. For example: are you more comfortable on a smaller, more intimate tour? Do you prefer plenty of time and space to take photographs? Some cruise lines will deliberately under-fill their coaches to allow holidaymakers more space to manoeuvre.
Then, of course, you need to think about what sort of cruise experience you’re looking for in general. P&O, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises are favourites amongst families; more mature cruisers tend to opt for Saga Cruises; those who enjoy a little bit of luxury might want to explore what Seabourn and Silversea Cruises have to offer; and those with their eye out for a bargain would do well to check out Cruise & Maritime Voyages or Thomson Cruises.
As previously mentioned, St Petersburg is considered to be one of the highlights of a Baltic cruise. Tours to the sensational Catherine’s Palace and intriguing Hermitage Museum are always popular as is a tour of the city by boat – it is, after all, commonly referred to as the Venice of the North.
Copenhagen is a vibrant port city and a must-do here is a trip to the famous amusement park, Tivoli Gardens. A tour of Helsinki wouldn’t be complete without taking in UNESCO-protected Suomenlina Island and the Fortress whilst the glorious countryside surrounding cobblestoned Tallinn is best seen via a tour.
However, don’t feel that you have to stick to the organised trips. Many key cities involved in a Baltic Cruise such as Helsinki, Stockholm, Tallinn and Oslo are within easy walking distance of ship’s docks and there’s no better way to truly discover a city that to wander at leisure, on foot.
Once you’ve booked your Baltic Cruise, don’t forget to purchase your travel insurance. Medical Travel Compared can help you locate the right policy for your individual circumstances – many of our insurers even provide cover for those with pre-existing medical conditions.