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Northern Europe & BalticsAarhus, Bergen, Copenhagen, Gdansk, Greenland, Helsinki, Oslo, Riga, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Tallinn
First time ever to post here, but I used this board numerous times for our Alaska cruise last summer, which was our first. We were on the Diamond Princess, which the kids really enjoyed.
We are now planning a second cruise for me, husband, daughter (11), son (9) and my in-laws (75-82). The in-laws have travelled very little, but have no interest in warm/tropical vacations. They absolutely loved the Alaska cruise and would love to go there again I think, but DH and I would rather try something else.
We thought perhaps the in-laws would enjoy a Baltic cruise, but I'm a bit worried that the kids will not. It doesn't look like there are as many kid-friendly excursions on the Baltic cruise. Am I right?
Are some itineraries more kid-friendly? Are there many kids on the ships? I realilze that there won't be nearly as many as a Caribbean cruise! We were thinking of either Princess or Royal Caribbean. Good idea?
Has anyone ever brought their kids on a Baltic Cruise? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Is there, perhaps, a better destination that would be appealing for both ends of the age spectrum that doesn't include hot/tropical weather?
I hope this isn't too many questions! Thank you for your help and expertise!
We took our kids on a Baltic cruise last summer - they were 10 & 12 - a year after a great trip to Alaska with them. They did fine and we did not even go an a particularly "kid-oriented" line - we were on Crystal. On the Baltic cruise there was much more of an emphasis on us being out doing and seeing things, so the activities and other children on the ship were not as much of a factor as they are on Caribbean type cruises. Even without organized activities, they still found plenty to do on sea days - movies, games, reading, etc. I think other than that, it really depends on your kids and what kind of travelers they are. We took our kids on all tours and excursions with us - including three days in St. Petersburg - and while they did not necessarily find everything quite as interesting as we did, they were still fascinated by what they saw and I think it's great to expose them to these things. We just made sure they had a couple of things with them to do on the bus or car rides in case they got bored, but otherwise they did fine.
The Baltics is predominately an urban sightseeing and culture trip. We've taken our kids everywhere, so they are used to that kind of travel and had a great time. However, I know a lot of their friends would have hated the trip. Ours were 11 and 13 at the time, so about the age of yours. We all enjoy active pursuits, so what I did to try to jazz up the itinerary was research bike (formal tours and rentals--beware of relying on the free bikes, you get what you pay for, very uncomfortable!) and short hike options. The beach and seaside resort at Warnemunde was fun and very old style European, and there were Segway tours in Stockholm. You get the picture--sprinkling 2-hour "breaks" over the course of your trip is good for everyone! Note, the weather is unpredictable, so there were a couple of days when the best laid plans were dashed by rain. Your only issue might be the grandparents--you parents may have to divide and conquer to accommodate both young and old unless the grands are willing/able to do a few activities on their own. Also be advised, the port-intensive itinerary can become physically taxing/tiring for all. Take your Alaska trip, times two weeks including 2 international flights, and eliminate most of the sea days--that's what a Baltics trip is like!
FYI, the Norwegian Fjords is an itinerary that is more like Alaska than the Baltics--some urban sightseeing, to be sure, but more emphasis on scenery and nature.
__________________ Up Next: The seas await Just Off: QM2 NYC-Southampton-Hamburg - July/Aug 2014 Happy Memories: Royal Caribbean (12) Princess (5) Celebrity (4) Carnival (3) NCL (3) Cunard (2) HAL (1), plus unique voyages (3) on the Pacific Sunrise in the Whitsunday Islands, a Turkish blue cruise in the Mediterranean & Abercrombie & Kent’s Sun Boat IV on the Nile
Thanks everyone for your replies. I will take your experiences to heart.
When we were in Alaska, we did some activities/excursions with the kids and in-laws together, and other times we split up. I don't envision us doing everything together once in port. If we did, I might just lose my mind!
I'm not too worried about our kids as they are good travellers and have been to Europe a couple of times already. My concern is more with the inlaws. They are actually in very good health, but I'm not sure they can go all day, every day when in port. I don't think an itinerary which includes St Petersburg would be the best option. From what I've read, StPetersburg is usually two full days of on-the-go site seeing. Correct or not?
Marzipan- I look forward to reading your review upon your return. Have a great time.
Check the threads in this section about private tours in St. Petersburg with Alla. You can get a private car with guide and driver, and customize the tour (even while en route) to match your needs and desires, as well as your stamina.
A private guide in St. Petersburg will help a lot in keeping things "easier." We found a cruise that included 3 days there so that we did not have to cram as much into two days. Then by having our own guide and driver we could structure things more to our interests and pace. It worked great and we didn't feel like we were killing ourselves to see everything. Plus being a small group with a guide who knows a lot if the ins and outs, we felt that we were seeing a lot more in less time than if we were on our own or with a large ship group.
Just today I got off of the Baltic cruise on Holland America Line's Rotterdam going from Rotterdam-Copenhagen going to Oslo, Norway, Aarhus, Denmark, Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany, Tallin, Estonia, St. Petersburg, Russia, Helsinki, Finland, and Stockholm, Sweden. I am 12 years old and enjoyed this cruise very much! I also highly reccomend the Rotterdam. I was with my parents and two sisters ages 16 and 19. We only went on shore excursions in Berlin and St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg, however, we were there for 2 days) and that was fine. As a kid at the age of 12 I found the shore excursions very interesting and they were not too strenuous. The weather in all of the ports was very nice, however, in St. Petersburg it was pretty hot. The shore excursions we did we full day ones, and the other ports only needed a half day to do everything needed. When we weren't on shore excursions and were back on the ship or at sea days, there was plenty to do! I usually hung out with my sisters in the Explorations Cafe, the internet cafe and library. There is also a program called club HAL for kids but I did not participate in that, and still had plenty to do. So, I think taking kids on a Baltic Cruise would be very fun, especially on the Rotterdam ship.
I know that when I was 12 and if I took a trip like this I would probably have been bored to death as I wasn't into history or culture at that age. Of course all people are different and most kids that were my age at 12 were into sports and the like. But of course now being an adult, I just love learning and exploring the history that Europe has to offer.
We went on a Baltic cruise with my parents to celebrate their 80th & 85th birthdays--just one month after my mom was hospitalized for pneumonia. Maybe not the smartest idea, but we all had a great time.
In St. Petersburg, we spent two days touring privately with Red October, which was a fabulous choice. We could tailor the touring to our interests and my mom's endurance and speed. We were so glad she was alive that we never resented going slowly to suit her. At a couple of stops, she chose to remain in the van, and enjoyed talking to our driver and getting to know a "real" Russian.
I think kids wold enjoy lots of things in St. P, as long as you picked one castle, one church, etc. The fountains that start up without warning in the gardens at Peterhof seemed to amuse the children we saw there.
In other ports, my parents took a half-day shore excursion, selecting ones with limited walking, while we went off on our own, and walked until our feet begged for mercy.
In Copenhagen, a canal boat ride was a nice break from walking, and something I think kids would enjoy. The street performers on the Stroget and Tivoli Gardens are good choices for them, as well.
In Stockholm, the Vasa Museum is fascinating, and the changing of the guard at the royal palace is a non-museum sort of spectacle. Skansen is an open air museum of the type my kids liked at that age.
If you list your ports, you may get other suggestions.
I am just back from a baltic cruise with my 13 year old. She enjoyed the cruise. There was a kids club and a teen club but she did not join them. We were quite jet lagged when we got on ship and the idea of ordering room service at 3 AM or getting up for a snack was a novelty that did not wear off. She was completely entranced with the VASA in Stockholm, the town hall and church in Tallin, the amazing downtown in Copenhagen, Yupurov's Palace in Saint Peterburg as well as the cathedrals. We did a private tour in Saint Petersburg with Alla which made all the difference.
Advance planning is the key to a super fun trip. We went in early August on the Star Princess with 2 young children (age 2 1/2 and 7) as well as my 64 year old mom. Because of my young children, we did all the ports on our own or with a private guide (in St. Pete and Poland). My kids loved our trip. As a couple of the above post mentioned, slipping in fun things was key to our enjoyment for the entire family.
In Copenhagen, the canal tour with ice cream at that cone waffle shop on Nyhavn, our train trip to Hillerod (the Frederickberg castle has a fun room in the basement with a couple of period dresses that they will let a little girl wear and parents can take pictures as well as a long picnic bench with coloring pages for the young ones), and tivoli (your kids will like those wild coaster rides).
In St. Pete, Peterhof was a big hit with the fountains, and we rode the hydrofoil back. Kids liked the hydrofoil with the fast ride, big chairs, and sucking on a russian lollipop. I think the hydrofoil ride was sort of overrated because the boat was old, chairs not in the best condition, the smell of the diesel gas, and the restroom was so atrocious on the hydrofoil. Eating new foods in St. Pete was fun when we let the kids decide what kind of Stolle stuffed pie that they wanted. The imperial bath palace was really interesting at Peterhof. Shopping was very fun here as well.
In Tallinn, they had an interesting torture museum in the town square area. Very quaint city that your family can take it easy.
In Stockholm, we spent a couple of hours at the Vasa museum. It is pretty cool with the interesting artifacts on various floors. We hid out for about 15 minutes on the top floor on the outlook (great view looking down a little at the front of the ship and seeing the entire museum down below). The bottom floor had a few computers that you can play with relating to the sailing of a ship. We spent about 1 1/2 hours in the Nordica Museum near Vasa. They had displays of old dollhouse, lots of Danish China, antique toy area, and other interesting exhibits.
In Helsinki and Oslo, we just rode around the city on those Hop On-Hop Off bus and got off at places that interest us. Low key cities that we just took our time seeing a couple of things, went shopping, and ate at local restaurants.
The key to a fun cruise is booking with a large ship, whether RCI, Princess, or HAL. The kids programs are better and your children has a chance to hang with someone that will click with them. On our cruise, there were over 200 children on the ship (didn't feel or see that many) according to childrens' program coordinator. Plenty of older passengers so that your in-laws will have in common with. Actually we saw at least 5 or 6 families that include a grandparent with them during our cruise.
We were on Star Princess last summer; my son turned 13 the day we boarded. He really enjoyed it overall, but some things more than others.
What he liked:
Walking tour with "Hans Christian Andersen" in Copenhagen
Canal Tour in Copenhagen
Vasa Museum in Stockholm
Touring in St. Petersburg (we used Den Rus), especially the Hydrofoil ride from Peterhof back to St. Petersburg and the fountains at Peterhof
Stopping for local snacks in various ports, including delicious pastries in Copenhagen and, of course, sausages in Poland.
Brownies from the ship's buffet!!
What he didn't like:
Long bus rides (into Stockholm, around Helsinki)
Princess teen club (not enough kids; he did meet some, but they generally just did their own thing)
Shopping (of course, he considers ANY shopping to be too much...)
I think you'd be kicking yourselves if you don't go to St. Petersburg. You don't HAVE to do everything, even if you don't arrange a private guide (which I'd highly recommend, by the way), you can pick and choose from ship tours, such as two half-day tours that aren't so strenuous. It really IS the highlight of the Baltic, though.
By the way, we did Alaska a couple of years before we did the Baltics. I think my son enjoyed the Baltics even more. The reason there were not many kids is that we went early in the season (end of May). Later on, I've heard there are usually more kids aboard.
__________________ Little by little, one travels far. -- J.R.R. Tolkien
Thanks cruisemom and tclowe for all the good information. I really appreciate it.
We've had some changes around here in the past 2 months, so right now we aren't 100% sure if we can pull off this trip next summer. Given the age of my in-laws, however, I hate to wait another year. I've got my fingers crossed!