Cruising the Baltic Sea through Northern Europe and Scandinavia offers so much – from incredible landscapes, to diverse cultures and languages, to Viking histories – and cruising is one of the best ways to be able to see it all.
Cruising also gives you fantastic access to the intriguing cities that sit on the Baltic Sea, plus the legendary Norwegian Fjords, and cruising also gets you up close to spectacular natural environments with volcanoes and glaciers. Or if crossing the Artic Circle is on your bucket list, cruising has itineraries that will get you there and give you the chance to explore some of the most remote and pristine places on the planet.
Almost all of the mainstream cruise lines offer Nordic cruises – this includes Princess, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, Costa, MSC, and P&O. Luxury lines also include this region in their cruise itineraries, with Crystal, Silversea, Cunard, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and Azamara offering a broad range of cruises throughout Northern Europe.
So with this growing trend comes healthy competition and this has broadened the range of cruises designed to specifically attract a younger demographic - from young families and honeymooners, to multigenerational groups.
To match this growing cruising base, cruise lines are working hard to find shore excursions that appeal to this wider range of passengers. With a younger audience in mind, most of these cruise lines are now offering more than just the standard bus or coach tours. There are now more immersive options that include things like rooftop tours of Stockholm, bike rides through Tallinn, walks down Estonia's cobblestone alleyways to kayak adventures along Norway's idyllic green fjords. For onshore activities, the more luxurious lines, like Regent, Azamara and Silversea, are customizing special adventures, and giving cruisers special private tours into more remote Nordic parts.
We have listed below the key ports and must–do attractions for anyone contemplating a Nordic cruise.
Nordic Cruising Port Highlights
This is a very pretty and charming city filled with beautiful 17th and 18th century buildings, lush parks and gardens, and many, many promenades along canals that are ideal for walking and biking. During the longer days and warmer weather of summer, make sure to sit outside and soak up the city’s waterfront café society, and a visit to the Tivoli Gardens is an absolute must.
Helsinki, founded in 1550 by Swedish King Gustavus Vasa, boasts an incredible history and offers monuments like the Lutheran Cathedral, the onion-domed Uspenski Cathedral and plenty of neo-classical buildings. These examples of historic architecture provide a stark contrast to the modern cutting edge design found in places like the Design Museum or the avant-garde Museum of Contemporary Art.
During the warmer summer months, Helsinki's waterfront is the place to see how the local Finnish folk enjoy the long daylight hours and soak up the sun in the many cafes that sit harbourside; the waterfront is also the best place to grab a ride on the ferry to see the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress.
Oslo is not only home to the Nobel Peace Center, but also is museum central – which includes the Munch Museum, where Edvard Munch's famous masterpiece, "The Scream," is located. Like other Northern cities, during the summer, the temperatures encourage locals and visitors alike to the waterfront, which is full of outdoor cafes, trendy shops, street musicians and other performers.
Like Oslo, Old Riga is also on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its incredible and diverse architecture. Exploring the twisting cobblestone streets you will see monuments and buildings that range from Gothic and Baroque to Classical and Art Nouveau. You will need a good couple of hours to discover the labyrinth of alleyways, which meander through historic buildings that have mostly been restored from bombings during World War II.
St. Petersburg, Russia.
All visitors to this great city say that two days is not long enough to see everything, and many cruise lines make this allowance in their itineraries – so for your two days make sure to go to the Hermitage, one of the world's largest art collections; take a canal tour to admire the city’s very pretty architecture; witness a performance at one of the city’s incredible theatres; and be sure to visit one of the Versailles-style palaces in the surrounding countryside (Peterhof or Pushkin).
Get your camera ready for one of the most picturesque northern cities, Sweden's capital, Stockholm. There's a Nobel Museum there, too, located within Stockholm's Old Town. You'll also find the Royal Palace there, along with many small cafes, the perfect spot to pore over a book purchased from the rare book dealers that are found amongst the tourist shops.
There are many tourist shops, promoting Babushka dolls and amber trinkets but Tallinn's restored Old Town still manages to feel like you are right on the heart of the 1400s - with its historic architecture that has remained basically untouched for over 600 years, you will feel like you are living in a medieval storybook.
From the Northern Lights to spectacular sights such as the Norwegian fjords, cruising can give you a truly unique way to see this part of the world. Cruising gives you the chance to sail past enchanted castles and glaciers under the midnight sun; to travel between cities that blend the very old with the very new – cruising can take you to experience big global cities like Helsinki, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Tallin and St. Petersburg, but then also to small, picturesque places like Warnemünde in Germany and Stavanger in Norway.
If you have ever wanted to cross the Artic Circle, cruising provides a great way to really experience and see this part of the world with a couple of cruise lines including Cape North on their itineraries – Cape North is a place that is separated from the North Pole only by the Svalbard Islands, in the Arctic Sea.
For more information go to Scandi-Baltic Adventures
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