Last year, global cruise association CLIA reported that the Baltics was the most popular cruise holiday choice for Brits, amazingly beating the Caribbean and only just losing out to the Med.
While undoubtedly chillier than these exotic places, the Baltics more than makes up for it with its wealth of incredible destinations lining its shores.
Situated in northern Europe (while it is commonly considered to be east, it was recently reclassified as northern), the Baltic region is made up of Russia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Poland, and Sweden, while Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are known collectively as the Baltic states.
Cruise itineraries through the Baltic sea typically take passengers to the main ports of call, including St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Tallinn, Riga and Gdansk, but some will also venture to Oslo, Visby and Skagen. All the destinations within the region have something different to offer visitors.
While St. Petersburg has changed its name several times over the years, one thing that has remained constant is its awe-inspiring beauty. With its abundant mix of art, history and culture, it is undoubtedly the most European of all Russian cities and a great place to start if you haven’t visited this vast country before.
One of the most famous sites and a must-see is the World Heritage Museum; founded by Catherine the Great and the former residence of the Russian royalty until the Revolution, the museum is now home to artwork by the likes of Da Vinci, Rubens and Rembrant.
If it’s history and culture you’re looking for, Stockholm also makes for another great shore excursion on your cruise through the Baltics. Wander down the medieval streets of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town, take a trip to the Vasa Museum, where you will find the world’s best preserved 17th century ship, or pay a visit to the ABBA Museum. For more things to see and do in Stockholm, read Josh Stephenson’s city guide.
Finland’s major cruise port and capital, Helsinki, is known for being an incredibly tolerant metropolis. Architectural sites of interest include the Temppeliauko Church, a futuristic building that has been built into solid rock, and Helsinki Cathedral, a relic of the country’s former ties with Russia, having been built to honour Tsar Nicholas I.
Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, has become known in recent years as a popular haunt for stag dos, but the city has so much more to offer than great beer and nightlife. The Old Town, beautifully preserved despite having been bombed during WWII, is a Unesco World Heritage Site and has an abundance of charm, with stunning examples of medieval architecture.
What’s particularly great about Tallinn is that it’s relatively small, with the centre being roughly 15 minutes from port, so you can easily make your way round the top spots in a day.
Latvia’s capital, Riga, enjoyed an economic boom at the beginning of the 20th century and this is highlighted through the city’s Art Nouveau architecture, which rivals that of anywhere else in the world. As well as beautiful buildings, the Riga Central Market – supposedly one of the biggest in Europe and filled with rich produce – is well-worth a visit.
There are several lines that sail to the Baltics, but the one with the most comprehensive offering is Oceania Cruises. This year, the line has a number of incredible cruises to different parts of the Baltics depending on your preference.
These include its Scandinavian Ballads 10-day cruise from Stockholm to Copenhagen departing in June; the Vikings and Monarchs 12-day voyage from Copenhagen to Oslo this July, and the Northern Gems 12-day voyage from Southampton to Stockholm in June.
The most popular time to cruise the Baltics is between May and August. If you want to beat the crowds, you could opt for a cruise in September, which is also often better value in terms of price. Look out for several dates through the summer where they offer savings and free gratuities.
For its Opulent Reflections 14-day Baltic cruise from Copenhagen to Amsterdam on board Marina departing on 3 September, Oceania Cruises is offering passengers an incredible 40% savings and offers, including shore excursions, on board credit, house drinks package and free gratuities. The extensive voyage begins in Copenhagen and then visits Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Stockholm, Visby, Gdansk, Berlin, Gothenburg and Oslo, before finishing in Amsterdam.