Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
KeithJenner

Ultimate Baltic itinerary ports

Recommended Posts

I’ve just finished the Ultimate Baltic’s cruise on the Spirit, which includes some extra ports on top of the usual Baltics itinerary.

 

I had considered writing a detailed report of these ports, as they are ones which are turning up on a few more itineraries both this year and next, but as it isn’t about tipping or something else for people to argue about, it Isn’t really worth too much effort. However, I will make a few comments about Klaipeda, Gdansk and Riga in case they are of use to anyone.

 

If anyone has any questions about any of the other ports on these itineraries (or the standard Baltic’s cruises) then just ask and I will try to help.

 

Klaipeda:

 

Quite a few people said they didn’t think there was much in Klaipeda, and they probably had a point, but I really enjoyed it. Someone on our roll call had found a local brewery which does tours (Svytury). Apparently it was €10 and included a tasting. As it was, we were never charged and the tour was interesting. The tasting at the end was really fun and included snacks as well as tasters of 5 beers. It would have been well worth the €10 if they had charged it.

 

The brewery (which is Bart of the Carlsberg group) was a lot bigger than I had expected. We found a nice pub on the way back afterwards to try some more.

 

The dock is very close to the town centre, and I thought the old town was very nice, if a bit quiet. There are a number of sculptures around, which were quite fun. I thought it was a nice, relaxing port stop.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gdynia (Gdansk)

 

I was really looking forward to Gdansk, which was somewhere I had always wanted to visit. The port is in the nearby town of Gdynia, and we were planning on taking the train which looked quite easy to do, with a regular service.

 

However, a few months before the cruise I noticed reference in the NCL shore excursions to Stutthof concentration camp. I’ve never been to a concentration camp before and thought this would be a good opportunity. As I also wanted to see Gdansk, I knew that we would have to take some type of tour rather than DIY. I contacted a few companies who either said that they were booked or would only do one or the other. So, we decided to go with the NCL tour. Afterwards, some people on the roll call did find a company to take them, but we decided to stick with the NCL tour.

 

It was OK. I’m not a great fan of tours and our guide was adequate, but didn’t really engage us. The camp was interesting (it’s something that having now done I have no wish to see again), and Gdansk was a really interesting city, but we didn’t have as long as I would like there.

 

If I was going again I would spend more time in Gdansk. If anyone going there would like to see Stutthof then I would recommend it, but take a private tour and expect not to have as long as you need in Gdansk.

 

Certainly this was the port which we felt we hadn’t done as well as we could have.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Riga:

 

I have heard many good things about Riga, which is a port which turns up on quite a few itineraries from other lines, but is relatively rare for NCL.

 

It certainly met my expectations. It is a very easy walk into the old town from where the ship docks. I planned our own walk after finding places which looked interesting on tripadvisor, and managed to see a lot whilst walking less than 3 miles in total. It reminded me of places like Tallinn, which people who have done the usual Baltic route will know.

 

After our walk, we stopped at a bar/restaurant at Dome Square and had a few local beers and a snack, which were both excellent.

 

Certainly, this is another of those Baltic ports which I could spend a lot more time in. Highly recommended.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you dear! For giving the briefs of the 3 ports. May you please do the same for Le Havre, Bruges and Amsterdam?

 

I'm now okay about cancelling the same cruise as yours as I found a similar one - Jade June 27 2020 - and booked it. Same as the Spirit's but no Bruges or Le Havre and with Oslo added. Round trip from Amsterdam.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
49 minutes ago, bluesea777 said:

Thank you dear! For giving the briefs of the 3 ports. May you please do the same for Le Havre, Bruges and Amsterdam?

 

I'm now okay about cancelling the same cruise as yours as I found a similar one - Jade June 27 2020 - and booked it. Same as the Spirit's but no Bruges or Le Havre and with Oslo added. Round trip from Amsterdam.

 

 

Yes, I will write something up tomorrow. I’ve got some time hanging around at airports or on trains to fill.

 

It was a shame you couldn’t make it, but I’m glad you found the alternative. You’ll love it. 🙂 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Following.  Thank you very much for doing this.  My folks booked a super last minute cruise on Wednesday (72hours ago) 😲, and just got on the ship that you got off today.  This well be extremely helpful. 

 

Just to confirm, Riga, Klaipeda, Tallinn all walkable from port to town center?  What about Gdynia?  Any for fee shuttles by either NCL or locals at ports that are not walkable?

 

Sorry for the barrage of Qs, I'm trying to help them plan out a few DIY ports.  Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Glide_Path said:

Following.  Thank you very much for doing this.  My folks booked a super last minute cruise on Wednesday (72hours ago) 😲, and just got on the ship that you got off today.  This well be extremely helpful. 

 

Just to confirm, Riga, Klaipeda, Tallinn all walkable from port to town center?  What about Gdynia?  Any for fee shuttles by either NCL or locals at ports that are not walkable?

 

Sorry for the barrage of Qs, I'm trying to help them plan out a few DIY ports.  Thank you.

Yes, Riga, Klaipeda and Tallinn are all walkable to the old towns.

 

It is also walkable into the town of Gdynia from the port (a bit further, but not far). However they really want to get into Gdansk, which is 15-20 miles away. To get there the options are taxi or train unless they use some sort of tour.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for doing this.  Will be relaying this valuable info to them once they reach Helsinki.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, KeithJenner said:

Riga:

 

I have heard many good things about Riga, which is a port which turns up on quite a few itineraries from other lines, but is relatively rare for NCL.

 

It certainly met my expectations. It is a very easy walk into the old town from where the ship docks. I planned our own walk after finding places which looked interesting on tripadvisor, and managed to see a lot whilst walking less than 3 miles in total. It reminded me of places like Tallinn, which people who have done the usual Baltic route will know.

 

After our walk, we stopped at a bar/restaurant at Dome Square and had a few local beers and a snack, which were both excellent.

 

Certainly, this is another of those Baltic ports which I could spend a lot more time in. Highly recommended.

 

 

We are going to spend 5 days in Riga ahead of our ex-CPH baltic cruise this fall.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IN Gdansk, the Solidarity Center located near/in the old shipyard is a very interesting visit. As it isn't at all close to the docking area for the ship, a tour would be necessary. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/18/2019 at 5:03 AM, CPT Trips said:

IN Gdansk, the Solidarity Center located near/in the old shipyard is a very interesting visit. As it isn't at all close to the docking area for the ship, a tour would be necessary. 

Yes, I've heard that it is worth visiting. I would certainly consider it if I returned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/18/2019 at 1:15 AM, casofilia said:

How about doing Tallinn as well please.

Thanks

Mike

I'm always happy to talk about Tallinn.

 

Back in 2003 when we took our first cruise, the unexpected highlight was Tallinn. We didn't know much about it beforehand and really loved the town.

 

Since then we have been to many other ports that we really enjoyed, but none were as much of a surprise to us, and Tallinn was the first. It holds a special place for us.

 

For a first timer, I would strongly advise just get to the old town and walk round. Last time we were there we downloaded a free walking tour so we had a route to follow, but you really can just walk around and enjoy the views and the atmosphere.

 

It has certainly goy busier in the last 15+ years, but is still a great town to visit. Make sure you go to  Toompea to see the views across the city. Also, Kiek in de Kok tower is worth visiting (particularly if you have young children who will just me entertained by the name).

 

The old town is a short walk from the cruise port.

 

This time, we went to the KGB museum at the Viru hotel just outside the old town. This hotel dates from the communist times and the KGB had a secret floor at the top from where they used to spy on foreign visitors. It was well worth visiting, and really was quite an eye opener. You need to book in advance, as there are only 2 or 3 tours a day with about 20 person capacity. If it is your first visit to the town then there are probably other priorities, but it was a fun 1 hour tour as a change.

 

Tallinn has certainly changed since we first went there, and looks fairly affluent these days. Make sure that you pick up some Kalev chocolate. They have their own shop but it is also available in shops around the city.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The other three ports that we haven't previously visited before are not on all of the Ultimate Baltics itineraries (except Amsterdam which is usually the embarkation port). However, as bluesea777 asked so nicely I will cover them here. They are pmts which seem to be turning up on NCL itineraries a bit more recently.

 

Le Havre:

 

Similarly to the way that Warnemunde is a gateway to Berlin, Le Havre is used by many people as a way to get to Paris. Quite a few people on this trip went there for the day (mostly using NCL I believe) and seemed to enjoy the day.

 

The other popular option was to do tours of the D-Day landing beaches. I did this a number of years ago (driving myself as we took a ferry to Cherbourg) and it is well worth doing. I would also recommend Caen and Bayeux as places to visit (the famous tapestry in Bayeux is worth seeing).

 

Also, the nearby village of Honfleur is supposed to be very nice.

 

Given all these options, you may be disappointed to hear that we just went for a walk in Le Havre itself. Having done the landing beaches and Bayeux/Caen before, we decided to have a quiet day before a couple of busy ones. We did consider Honfleur, but decided against it.

 

The walk into town is a little frustrating as you have to walk round an inlet, but it was quite a nice town considering its past (it was almost totally destroyed in the war and was rebuilt from new rather than recreating the older town as places like Gdansk did. It was less than a mile into the town centre from the port.

 

We did find once we got into town that there was a fairly short train ride to Honfleur, and I would probably do that next time.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We went to Honfleur when on a Princess cruise (tour) a couple of years ago and it was great, especially the visit to the Calvados distillery on the way to the town; lots of samples!!   The town was very interesting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Zeebrugge:

 

Somehow I have avoided going to Brugge before, despite having heard many times how nice it is.

 

Now, having been there, all I can say is that nobody told me just how nice it was.

 

Firstly, how to get there from Zeebrugge. I will say here that there are other options, such as Ghent or Brussels, but honestly, go to Brugge, its much nicer. You can get an NCL tour, or an "on your own" tour from them, but that is relatively expensive. Some people booked a shuttle from the port to the city via third parties, and that seemed to work well.

 

I quite like using local transport, so we decided to use the tram and train. It is the cheapest option, and it quite easy. First you need to take the port shuttle to the gate (I believe that everyone using non NCL transport has to do this bit). The port (or NCL) also offered a direct shuttle to Blankenberge station, which cuts out the tram part, but it didn't seem much quicker and cost $15 compared to €3 for the tram.

 

At the point the port shuttle drops you off you walk a short distance until you find a tram stop in between the two road carriageways. Get on the tram and pay the driver the €3 fare onboard. You are going to Blankenberge station.

 

From there, trains run every hour to Brugge. I brought a return ticket online in advance and as it was a weekend we got a special rate of €4.80 return.

 

Once you are in Brugge, however you get there, just walk around and enjoy it. It is honestly the nicest city I have ever visited. Even streets which have no buildings of particular note are nicer than the highlights of many places. Ass to that great beer and chocolate and you may have the perfect city.

 

Getting back is easier as you can time your return to the train station for the hourly train. One word of warning, there is a window to buy tickets at the Blankenberge tram stop, so the driver gets annoyed if you try to buy from them.

 

One of the highlights of the entire trip. We are already planning our return for a longer stay.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Amsterdam:

 

Another city which I have managed to avoid in the past. I have had plans to visit a few times but had not got there previously.

 

Our priority was to visit the Anne Frank house. You need to book in advance, and tickets sell out within a couple of days. There is also the option of an introductory program, and that can sell out within hours. Tickets become available 2 months out at midday Amsterdam time.

 

We got our tickets for the afternoon, so in the morning we just had a walk round. I have to say that first impressions were not good. There was lots of litter floating in the canals and on the pavements, and the area we first started walking round was not particularly attractive. It did improve though, and we found some very nice areas to explore.

 

The Anne Frank house was very interesting. I would certainly recommend booking the introductory program if you can. I was expecting a film, but it was actually a presentation by a staff member. It really helped us understand the house before we entered, and whilst we did take the audio guide, I didn't feel it was necessary after the introduction.

 

Overall, I liked Amsterdam, but perhaps not as much as I had expected to. We certainly enjoyed Brugge a lot more, and there were many other ports on this itinerary that rate higher.

 

One other point about Amsterdam is that you have to know where you are docked. We were in Amsterdam itself, and the port is less than a mile walk from Centraal Station. Many cruises stop at Ijmuiden, which is about 20 miles away and transport links are not great.

 

Another advantage of being in the city is the sail out. It wasn't something I had particularly looked at previously. I hadn't seen the route we had taken to get there during the night, but when we left I just assumed we would head East as you reach open water quite quickly. However, we actually headed to the West, which meant a couple of hours sailing along the canal and a lock at the end. Certainly the most enjoyable sailing we did except for the final sail in to Stockholm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, KeithJenner said:

We were in Amsterdam itself, and the port is less than a mile walk from Centraal Station. Many cruises stop at Ijmuiden, which is about 20 miles away and transport links are not great.

Wonder why NCL is switching back and forth... current NCL Spirit sailing is stopping in ljmuiden instead of Amsterdam.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Glide_Path said:

Wonder why NCL is switching back and forth... current NCL Spirit sailing is stopping in ljmuiden instead of Amsterdam.

Yes, we got the better deal with a few of the ports, Copenhagen being another one.

 

I don't think that there is another ship in port, so I wonder whether it may be due to restrictions getting through the lock, or something like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Re Bruges

 

I first went there as a 10 year old in the fifties with a school party from Liverpool, what an experience for a 10 year old.  I think that was what started my love of travel.

We went back when we were visiting a daughter's exchange family in Marquillies.   Hardly a change in the centre and we had a lovely day; the beer, the chocolate, a boat trip, the market and a long walk.

Brilliant place to visit and we will return one day, we hope.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, KeithJenner said:

Yes, we got the better deal with a few of the ports, Copenhagen being another one.

 

I don't think that there is another ship in port, so I wonder whether it may be due to restrictions getting through the lock, or something like that.

 

Our June 2020 Jade Ultimate Baltics cruise is a round trip from Amsterdam, departing from Amsterdam proper and returning to Ijmuiden. It's okay with us as we plan on going to Amsterdam a few days early pre-cruise, and going directly to airport for the flight back on disembarkation.

 

And yipeeee, guess what? I just had a look at the CPH 2020 cruise schedule and saw that our Jade will dock in Langelinie!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/19/2019 at 9:38 PM, KeithJenner said:

Amsterdam:

 

Another city which I have managed to avoid in the past. I have had plans to visit a few times but had not got there previously.

 

Our priority was to visit the Anne Frank house. You need to book in advance, and tickets sell out within a couple of days. There is also the option of an introductory program, and that can sell out within hours. Tickets become available 2 months out at midday Amsterdam time.

 

We got our tickets for the afternoon, so in the morning we just had a walk round. I have to say that first impressions were not good. There was lots of litter floating in the canals and on the pavements, and the area we first started walking round was not particularly attractive. It did improve though, and we found some very nice areas to explore.

 

The Anne Frank house was very interesting. I would certainly recommend booking the introductory program if you can. I was expecting a film, but it was actually a presentation by a staff member. It really helped us understand the house before we entered, and whilst we did take the audio guide, I didn't feel it was necessary after the introduction.

 

Overall, I liked Amsterdam, but perhaps not as much as I had expected to. We certainly enjoyed Brugge a lot more, and there were many other ports on this itinerary that rate higher.

 

One other point about Amsterdam is that you have to know where you are docked. We were in Amsterdam itself, and the port is less than a mile walk from Centraal Station. Many cruises stop at Ijmuiden, which is about 20 miles away and transport links are not great.

 

Another advantage of being in the city is the sail out. It wasn't something I had particularly looked at previously. I hadn't seen the route we had taken to get there during the night, but when we left I just assumed we would head East as you reach open water quite quickly. However, we actually headed to the West, which meant a couple of hours sailing along the canal and a lock at the end. Certainly the most enjoyable sailing we did except for the final sail in to Stockholm.

There was one thing I meant to mention about Amsterdam, but forgot.

 

They encourage the use of bicycles in Amsterdam, and then encourage it a bit more.

 

I'm all for ecological transport, but in the drive towards cycling they seem to have forgotten that everyone has two legs which they can use. I would say that many roads had a cycle path about 3-4 times the size that pedestrians have, despite the fact that pedestrians far outnumber cycles.

 

There are some practical issues that this presents to pedestrians. Firstly, cyclists don't follow the same rules that cars do, so don't assume that the cyclist will stop at a crossing. We saw a few occasions where people almost got hit by cyclists.

 

Secondly, for days following your visit to Amsterdam, you will dream about the 'ding, ding' of the bicycles bells. It is persistent everywhere in the city.

 

It probably isn't as bad as I've made it sound. I walk a lot, and on occasions have issues with cyclists, so maybe I am biased, but from talking to others, it was clearly very noticed in Amsterdam. I asked a few people what their main memory was from Amsterdam, and multiple people instantly said the cyclists bells. 🙂

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • SAIL-AWAY GIVEAWAY - Enter Now for a Chance to Win a 7-day Cruise for Two
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...