Sail the waterways that the Vikings once fared on a Baltic Sea cruise. Although it is not as sought after as the Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea possesses its own charm. Its smorgasbord of cultures and languages, intertwining histories, and colourful traditions make the Baltic Sea a must-see cruise destination.
Baltic Sea cruises navigate the northernmost region of Europe, between the Baltics – consisting of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – and Scandinavia – encompassing Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The most popular ports for embarkment and disembarkment can be found in Stockholm, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark. Others include Amsterdam, Netherlands; Dover, UK; and Southampton (London), UK. However, Baltic Sea cruises aren’t just about sparkling capitals; they will also take you to places such as Stavanger, Norway, where you can embark on a journey through the majestic Norwegian fjords; Tallinn, Estonia, where you’ll wind down cobblestone streets of ancient villages; and Warnemünde, Germany, from which the historic Berlin is only a train ride away.
When to cruise the Baltic Sea
High season for Baltic Sea cruises falls between July and August. However, voyages are offered from May until October. If you book just outside of the peak season, you will not only beat the holiday crowds, but you will also be rewarded with lower cruise fares.
Regardless of the time of year, the weather on the Baltic Sea is fickle. The grey rain clouds in the morning may open up to an afternoon full of sunshine, and you might experience chilly temperatures at night and balmy weather during the day. Despite the ever-changing weather, with highs between 15C and 20C, you’ll be glad you’re not melting in the scalding Mediterranean heat. To prepare for all types of weather, pack layers: a mix of long- and short-sleeve shirts and sweaters or jackets to keep you toasty. Bring a rain jacket just in case, and comfortable closed-toe shoes for days spent at ports of call.
Tips for first-time travellers
Depending on your exact itinerary, you may be dealing with a range of currencies on your holiday. Along with the expected euro used in Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Germany as well as many other European countries, you might find yourself filling your wallet with the Norwegian krone, the Swedish krona, the Russian ruble, the Danish kroner, the British pound, and the Polish złoty. To save yourself from the hassle, make sure you have a credit card with no international fees on hand. But not all places accept card: Some street vendors and local eateries are cash only.
Baltic Sea cruises focus heavily on the ports of call. Luckily, most Northern European ports are easy to explore on your own. In cities like Copenhagen and Tallinn, almost all the tourist attractions are within walking distance of the port. Being mostly flat, Helsinki is a very walkable city, offering pedestrians the Esplanade, a shaded boulevard lined with trees in the town’s centre. Because you will always be on the go, it would be wise to vary your daily activities: Alternate between tour-intensive days and days spent wandering through the old towns.
Popular Ports in the Baltic Sea
- Visit the Tivoli Gardens and enjoy the rose gardens, rides, and fireworks
- Watch the city from above on the Ferris wheel
- Snap a selfie with the Little Mermaid, a sculpture dedicated to Danish author Hans Christian Andersen
- Study the architecture of the charming 17th- and 18th-century buildings
- See the seat of Danish Parliament at Christiansborg Palace
- Explore the 14 islands on which the Swedish capital is built
- Let Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town, enchant you
- Spend an afternoon wandering the halls of the Royal Palace
- Get a closer look of a 17th-century warship at the Vasa Museum
- Get inspired at the Nobel Peace Centre
- See Edvard Munch’s famous work-of-art “The Scream” at the Munch Museum
- Gawk at the hundreds of bronze and iron sculptures in Vigeland Sculpture Park
- Stroll along the waterfront and enjoy the outdoor cafes, trendy shops, and live music
- Study three longboats and artefacts from the Viking age at the Viking Ship Museum
- Visit the Lutheran and Uspenski Cathedrals
- Head to Senate Square to see neo-classical architecture
- Open your mind to the avant-garde at the Museum of Contemporary Art
- Enjoy hours of the summer sun on the lively waterfront
- Kayak along the rocky coastline of the Finnish Archipelago
St. Petersburg, Russia
- See the second largest art collection in the world, the Hermitage
- Dress to the nines and attend a Russian ballet at Mariinsky or Mikhailovsky Theatre
- Go on a canal tour and admire architecture from the 19th century
- Venture outside city limits to explore Versailles-inspired palaces like Peter the Great’s Peterhof and the Catherine Palace
- Walk the cobblestone streets of the 600-year-old Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site
- Observe the medieval architecture from the 1400s
- Stroll along the old city wall and pass by ancient towers on the way
- Study the mixed architecture of the city: classical, gothic, baroque, and art nouveau
- Make your way to Jacob’s Barracks for trendy shops and cafes
- Mosey down the winding cobblestone alleys of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site