Cruising the Baltic Sea
A cruise to Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, Estonia and Sweden provides a rich smorgasbord of history and culture.
Baltic Sea cruises are growing in popularity with leisure group travelers. Northern Europe’s Baltic region encompasses a variety of ports of call, each with its own special charm. They feature world-renowned museums and art collections, stunning palaces and cathedrals, memorable concerts and ballet performances, and other opportunities for cultural enrichment. Guests can also learn about the key role these destinations played in World War I and World War II, the Cold War era, and other important events, including the Solidarity movement in Poland.
Our Norwegian Getaway cruise began in Copenhagen, which is home to famed attractions, including memorable palaces and museums, the iconic statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid and internationally acclaimed Tivoli Gardens. The city is easily navigated by foot, bike, bus and boat. Scenic canal tours depart from Copenhagen’s colorful Nyhavn area, enabling guests to view the city from a different perspective while cruising along its picturesque network of canals. Even with an extra day to explore Copenhagen before our cruise, we only touched the surface of all it has to offer.
Groups Can Customize
“Norwegian Cruise Line offers groups the freedom and flexibility to customize their ideal cruise vacation according to their needs,” says Camille Olivere, Norwegian Cruise Line’s senior vice president of sales. The line has been named “Europe’s Leading Cruise Line” for 10 consecutive years by World Travel Awards.
On Norwegian’s Baltic cruises, this degree of independence extends to the choice of embarkation port. Guests can begin their cruise in Copenhagen or Warnemunde, Germany – the next stop on our itinerary. We used the day in Warnemunde to take a trip to Berlin, a fascinating city filled with a dizzying mix of new redevelopment and a sobering historic past. We spent more than six hours in Germany’s dynamic capital on a well-planned tour, visiting key sites in West Berlin and East Berlin, including the Brandenburg Gate, the sobering Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz with its remnants of the Berlin Wall.
Our Baltic cruise incorporated a visit to Gdynia, Poland instead of the usual call on Helsinki, Finland. Norwegian Cruise Line excursions included a famed organ concert at towering Oliwa Cathedral, a quick stop at the European Solidarity Centre and a walking tour of historic districts in nearby Gdansk, the largest city in northern Poland. We spent our time there exploring historic Old Town, shopping for Baltic amber and relaxing at one of Long Street’s many charming cafés.
St. Petersburg a Cruise Highlight
St. Petersburg is the crown jewel of any Baltic cruise itinerary. From late May through mid-July, travelers can experience the “White Nights” phenomenon of nearly round-the-clock daylight when the skies around St. Petersburg glow pearly white, enhancing evening canal boat rides in this “Venice of the North” or window shopping along Nevsky Prospekt. It’s a magical time to see the city.
We made the most of our two full days and one night in St. Petersburg with an expertly crafted, multi-day, small-group excursion through Alla Tours. It included specially arranged early entry to the hallowed halls of the State Hermitage Museum, enabling us to view exquisite rooms filled with extraordinary art treasures sans crowds. Our guide skillfully piloted us through St. Petersburg’s most sought-after sites, including the palace and park at Peterhof with its gilded fountains, historic Peter and Paul Fortress, magnificent Catherine Palace, the ornate Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, Yusupov Palace and massive St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Additional highlights included a boat cruise along St. Petersburg’s rivers and canals and a hydrofoil ride out across the Gulf of Finland to Peterhof estate. In the evening, we marveled at the Faberge Museum’s opulent art collections and strolled through St. Petersburg with our guide, gazing at the city’s landmarks and monuments ablaze in the brilliant Baltic light.
Tallinn’s Fairy-tale Old Town
We sailed on to Tallinn, Estonia’s enchanting capital city. Tallinn has a storybook feel largely due to its beautifully restored Old Town area filled with winding cobblestone streets and medieval architecture. We climbed the ancient city walls of this UNESCO World Heritage site and stood atop Toompea Hill for the best views, taking in the cathedral spires and turreted towers of the city below. It’s easy to spend the day here shopping for gifts and locally produced crafts, sampling marzipan and specialty chocolates, strolling down Pikk Street, and people-watching from a cozy sidewalk cafe.
While we were looking forward to visiting Stockholm, it was the approach to the city through the Stockholm Archipelago that took our breath away. Arriving on deck before 5 a.m., we were mesmerized as our ship glided in silence along waters as smooth as glass, cruising past tens of thousands of tiny islands dotted with picturesque boat harbors, rocky cliffs and colorful wooden houses. Although Stockholm’s Vasa Museum and Gamla Stan (Old Town) were incredible, the sail through the Stockholm Archipelago ranks as one of my most vivid cruise memories.
Enjoying the Ship
Our Norwegian Getaway Baltic itinerary provided two perfectly timed days at sea. These brief periods of respite gave us time to catch our breath after several back-to-back port days and fully experience the amenity-rich nature of our ship. The Norwegian Getaway is a destination itself, offering guests a wide array of dining options, attractions and award-winning entertainment. Choices abound on this ship, making it easy to accommodate the broad range of leisure group travelers’ needs and interests.
The Norwegian Getaway features over 2,000 staterooms ranging from solo cabins to luxurious multi-bedroom suites in The Haven by Norwegian, the ship’s private boutique hotel. The Haven caters to guests seeking VIP treatment, offering its own private restaurant, bar, pool and concierge service. The ship’s extensive choice of staterooms and family accommodations makes it an excellent choice for multigenerational groups as well.
Intensive port itineraries and days at sea can test any cruise ship’s appeal and the Norwegian Getaway passed with flying colors. The ship features 26 different dining options and a wide array of bars and lounges, a massive water park and the largest ropes course at sea, top Broadway-style shows and entertainment, and some of the most extensive youth program facilities in the fleet. Memorable moments include standing on a plank jutting 164 feet above the water on the ropes course, enjoying mouthwatering lobster and beautiful sea views at Ocean Blue, taking in sizzling performances of Burn The Floor and Million Dollar Quartet, and pulling almost 4Gs while plummeting down the ship’s towering Free Fall waterslide.
On the last day of our cruise, we toasted our journey over frosty cocktails in the ship’s SVEDKA & Inniskillin Ice Bar, savored a delectable steak dinner at Cagney’s and strolled along The Waterfront, the Norwegian Getaway’s quarter-mile oceanfront promenade. While gazing at the sea rippling in the Baltic light, we reminisced about the vibrant destinations we had visited. Baltic cruises offer guests a fascinating mix of historical highlights, spectacular scenery and distinctive cultures. Groups can create their own tapestry of unforgettable experiences.