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Have you cruised to Scandinavia?


Sandra1616
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Hello

I have been considering cruises to muliple destinations.  I saw an advertisement to Scandinavia and it was captivating.  Have you taken a cruise to Scandinavia? If so, what cruise line, ship, and how long was the cruise?  Did you enjoy yourself, including shore excursions?  Was there any cruise tours besides shore excursions?  What was best about Scandinavia? Would you recommend it to others?  Thanks, Sandra

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In June 2017 I cruised on Crown Princess on a 14 night Baltic Heritage cruise. The ship started from and finished at Southampton and the ports were Bruges, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn, St Petersburg, Helsinki and Gdansk. This was one of my favourite cruises. All the ports were very interesting and able to be done DIY with the exception of St Petersburg. In St Petersburg we did an excellent two day tour wirh TJ Travel which went to all the highlights including Peterhof, Catherine Palace, Hermitage, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and Peter and Paul Fortress. Tallinn is lovely as it is so pretty and easy to walk around. The sail in and out of Stockholm was also very beautiful sailing through the archipelago.

 

In June 2019 I cruised on Sapphire Princess on a 14 night Land of the Midnight Sun cruise to Norway, also to and from Southampton. This was a fantastic cruise and it was amazing to cruise to the north of Norway and not have the sun set for a number of days. I did a number of private excursions and also did some DIY. Norway is stunningly beautiful and I loved this cruise. 

 

I have done reviews of these two cruises.

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com.au/topic/2426743-baltic-heritage-on-crown-princess-3-june-2017/

 

 

 

Edited by PurpleTraveller
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Hi Sandra

PT has given a really good introduction to Scandinavian cruising, including  two of the main types of cruise, what I would call the Baltic cruise and what could be titled Norwegian Fjords and the Western Scandinavian cruise that might include some north Western European ports such as Amsterdam, Hamburg and Bruges. You can combine these two options on a longer cruise.

You can start right in the heart of the action such as Copenhagen or Stockholm, but many cruises start or finish, or both, from the UK, commonly Southampton, from which London becomes an option for pre- or post- cruise stays.

The main season is May to September although you can get specialised cruises in the winter months such as searching for the Northern Lights in North Norway.

What is different about a cruise in Scandinavia? Well, especially in respect of the Baltic option, I would say that the main difference is how port intensive the cruises are, and for good reason. On an average 12 night cruise don’t expect more than one sea day. This could mean that shore excursions are a more important factor than usual, but many of the Baltic ports of call can easily be visited via DIY, indeed I think most people would  recommend that, especially for St.Petersburg where private tours are in my view the better option than cruise ship tours. All of this means a comparatively active type of cruise, so please do bear in mind your mobility and given the amount of walking do take a good pair of shoes.

The other main difference between a Scandinavian cruise and say a Caribbean cruise is likely to be the demographics of your fellow cruisers. This is a generalisation, but I think true; the customers will be a little older with less family groups. Of course this can also differ between cruise lines, Royal Caribbean is likely to be different from say Regent Seven Seas. Almost all the cruise lines sail in Scandinavia so there will be plenty of choice on that score.

Finally, the weather. Well, who knows for sure🤔 but the Baltic can be as wam as the Med in summer, the days are longer and the sea conditions could easily be calmer than the Med, although the west coast of Norway and the North Sea in general tends to a bit less calm than the Baltic.

Going back to the two main options, a Western Norway cruise will be generally more rural, with natural scenery such as the Fjords, whereas the Baltic will be more urban in nature with man made scenery.

The choice is yours - Enjoy

Edited by Belfast Taxman
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PT - a confession. Only now have I gone through your full post of your June 2017 Baltic cruise. Wow! What a great series of posts with great photos. Can I be a bit biased and say my fave was Ballintoy Harbour in N.Ireland (well I am fairly local to there).

just one point about that cruise which appears to go against my previous post and that is because your cruise was Southampton and back again, you did have more sea days than I think most Baltic cruises would have. Our 12 night Stockholm to Southampton in August 2020 has only one sea day 

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We did a Baltic cruise in 2007 for our 30th anniversary, and I consider it our best cruise ever. It was on the Star Princess and a 10 day cruise. It was from Copenhagen to Copenhagen. Ports (I forget the order) were Stockholm, Oslo, Gydnia for Gdansk, Talinn, St. Petersburg (overnight) and Helsinki.

 

We did an Alla private tour set up by me in our roll call in St. Petersburg. That was fabulous.  Other than that we took one ship excursion, and that was only because we did not dock in Gdansk.

 

Oslo was not on a lot of the cruises that we looked at before booking, and in fact on our ship it alternated weeks with the port for Berlin. We really enjoyed Oslo.

 

Stockholm was also a favorite, though we really wish we had more time as there were so many attractions that we found  before the cruise that we thought would be interesting.

 

Talinn is truly a gem, like being in a medieval village.

 

I did my one and only cruisecritic review about this voyage. Here is the link:

 

https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=33517

Edited by ontheweb
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3 hours ago, Belfast Taxman said:

PT - a confession. Only now have I gone through your full post of your June 2017 Baltic cruise. Wow! What a great series of posts with great photos. Can I be a bit biased and say my fave was Ballintoy Harbour in N.Ireland (well I am fairly local to there).

just one point about that cruise which appears to go against my previous post and that is because your cruise was Southampton and back again, you did have more sea days than I think most Baltic cruises would have. Our 12 night Stockholm to Southampton in August 2020 has only one sea day 

 

We did a Stockholm to Southampton in August 2019 (with yes, just one sea day) and it was incredible!

 

To answer the OP's question, yes, my two Baltic cruises (I've not yet been on a Norway fjords cruise) have been two of my favourite holidays. I did one with Princess and one with NCL, and I'd give the edge to the NCL cruise just because the itinerary was one-way instead of round-trip so we had more ports and fewer sea days.

 

The cruises are very different from Caribbean cruises because they are so port-intensive: we were off the ship first thing in the morning and only back for dinner. Sometimes we'd make to to the evening entertainment or into the hot tub to soothe our aching feet before collapsing into bed, only to do it again the next day! We looked upon the cruise ship as our floating hotel, and we didn't even mind sailing in cheap inside cabins as we were in our cabins only to sleep.

 

In most ports, you can DIY without a shore excursion: many of the ports are very walkable and have excellent public transportation. So although the demographic on the ship trends slightly older, you can really customize your on-shore time any way you want. Yes, the Royal Palaces and Old Towns are AMAZING (and the museums, e.g. the Vasa Museum or ABBA Museum in Stockholm or the Bygdoy museums, including the Viking Ship Museum, in Oslo, are top-notch), but you can also visit a sauna or the reindeer in Finland, do a marzipan or chocolate workshop in Tallinn, see Copenhagen by bicycle or by kayak, play Soviet-era video games in St. Petersburg. . . . Well, St. Petersburg is the only city where you don't really want to DIY, but there are independent tour operators offering many different visa-free tour options, including private tours you can customize (our tour that took us to the Soviet Arcade Game Museum was a private tour with Red Sun).

 

I'd recommend grabbing a copy of Rick Steves' Scandinavian & Northern European Cruise Ports from your local library to help you plan.

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On 2/23/2020 at 3:15 PM, trosebery said:

 

 

I'd recommend grabbing a copy of Rick Steves' Scandinavian & Northern European Cruise Ports from your local library to help you plan.

I absolutely agree that this can be a very useful reference source, especially if you are DIY minded with some of the ports of call. However, even though I have the 2017 version, there are times where the info given is out of date. The best way to use the book is in conjunction with internet references which are generally more up to date

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9 minutes ago, Belfast Taxman said:

I absolutely agree that this can be a very useful reference source, especially if you are DIY minded with some of the ports of call. However, even though I have the 2017 version, there are times where the info given is out of date. The best way to use the book is in conjunction with internet references which are generally more up to date

 

Absolutely, especially if you're relying on public transit. (We used Google to help us with bus, tram, and train schedules.)

 

And let me add an additional disclaimer to my own recommendation: there are many things to do and see that are *not* included in Rick Steves' guide. For example, last time we were in Warnemunde/Rostock, we did the Seal Experience at the Marine Research Centre, where we got to go out on the pontoons with one of the researchers and he explained the research studies they were doing and how they train the seals to participate. (We got to play fetch with the seals. Very fun.) I never would have known it was there if I'd limited myself to just Rick Steves' guide.

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You've been given some great info above.

 

There are two basic cruise itineraries, the Norwegian fjords & North Cape or the Baltic. Few cruises include both, but sometimes they can be done as back-to-back cruises.

Both the fjords / North Cape and the Baltic are best done by cruise ship.

If you don't have the time or the pocket for both, you'll need to choose..

 

Norwegian fjords.

Norway's heavily indented coastline and steep-sided fjords mean that exploring by any other means is excessively time-consuming and some fjords impossible to reach. 

Cruises are normally about 7 days, or longer if combined with  North Cape, Iceland etc.

Most (all?) cruise lines offer this itinerary, with sailings from various UK ports and mainland ports like Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Oslo.

There's also a quirky option - Hurtigruten. This is actually a ferry, but very definitely a cut above your average ferry and many people (including friends of mine) have used this option.

We've never cruised the Norwegian fjords - Norway is a very expensive country, we've sailed the New Zealand fyords and kinda take the attitude if you've seen one fjord then you've seen them all. I have my tin hat on, ready to take on flak from fjord-lovers :classic_biggrin: cos I know I'm probably very wrong.

 

The Baltic.

The Caribbean is best toured by cruise ship because there are so many islands.

The Baltic is best toured by cruise ship for kinda the same reason. Not islands, but a huge pond - so much easier to criss-cross by cruise ship than by air or the massive mileage by road or (limited) rail and complicated by Russia being a bit of a blockade. 

Cruises starting in the UK (involves a couple of extra sea-days), Copenhagen, Amsterdam etc. And again itineraries offered by most (all?) cruise lines.

Can be as short as 6 to 7 days (I'd avoid), up to 14 days.

A few things to check on itineraries......

 

Stockholm.

Most ships sail in through the archipelago of islands (one of the world's best sail-ins, about 4 or 5 hours of passing islands so close that you feel that you could reach out and touch the trees). Then they dock right in the city.

But some large ships berth at Nyneshamn, on the coast - an hour by train to Stockholm, and no glorious sail-in. So do try to avoid cruises which say "Stockholm (Nyneshamn)".

If wind and weather are wrong, sometimes at the last minute some ships destined to berth in the city have to berth in Nyneshamn - that's life, but try to avoid ships that plan to berth at Nyneshamn.

 

St Petersburg.

This is the shining crown in any Baltic cruise. Some cruises visit only as a one-day port-of-call, most stay overnight (ie two days), some for 2 nights (ie 3 days). I'd very very very strongly advise at least a two-day visit. 

 

Warnemunde (not on all itineraries)

Often described as Berlin (Warnemunde). But it's about 3 hours from Berlin !!!

It might be the only opportunity for folk on your side of the Pond to visit Berlin. If so, do consider it. But bear in mind it's a long journey and you'l have only a few hours there.

 

Baltic ports are very easy and cheap to DIY.

With the exceptions of

St Peterburg. To avoid the need for Russian visas, pre-book a visa-free tour either through the ship or, much better, through one of the many excellent local authorised tour operators whose names are scattered throughout this forum. They're all very good. Because other ports are so easy to DIY, spend the bulk of your shore spending money here.

Berlin. If you want to make that long journey from Warnemunde to be confident that you won't miss your ship and to see as much as you can in the short time you'll have, you should do it as an organised tour. Tour operators in St Petersburg offer a discount for those who also visit Berlin with them, or there are ships' tours.

 

So, decide whether you want to take a fjords cruise or a Baltic cruise.

If it's the fjords, the ship and cabin are important.

If it's the Baltic, the itinerary and time in port are way more important than the ship.

 

I just might not have been totally objective and un-biased about which you should choose.  :classic_rolleyes:

But weigh up all the advice you've been given on this thread.

 

Have fun choosin'

Have fun cruisin'

 

JB :classic_smile:

 

Edited by John Bull
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9 hours ago, phabric said:

I am doing on Princess Grand  Norwegian Fjords - 7 days and Scandinavia - 7 days August 2021.

Yay!  Have a wonderful time.  We did the fjords cruise a few years back and are doing the Baltics in June.  The Norwegian fjords are absolutely stunning and it's true that the prices in Norway are also pretty stunning, which is why you'll be glad you have everything you need on the ship.  BTW, speaking as someone who has seen them in both Norway and New Zealand, Norway's fjords are more dramatic and beautiful.

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We've done both the Baltics and Norway with small children.  All the ports, with the exception of St. Petersburg and possibly Germany if you want to go all the way to Berlin can easily be toured by yourself, thanks to the excellent local public transport system (there is excellent public transport to Berlin, but it's far from the port and there's a lot of travel within Berlin so you'd need to decide yourself if it would be easier with a tour).  

 

The cruise line you chose doesn't matter nearly as much as the itinerary.  Both are stunning in different ways - Norway has an enormous amount of gorgeous scenery, and the cities of the Baltics are amazing and easily accessible via cruise (except for Berlin).  

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4 hours ago, kitkat343 said:

We've done both the Baltics and Norway with small children.  All the ports, with the exception of St. Petersburg and possibly Germany if you want to go all the way to Berlin can easily be toured by yourself, thanks to the excellent local public transport system (there is excellent public transport to Berlin, but it's far from the port and there's a lot of travel within Berlin so you'd need to decide yourself if it would be easier with a tour).  

 

The cruise line you chose doesn't matter nearly as much as the itinerary.  Both are stunning in different ways - Norway has an enormous amount of gorgeous scenery, and the cities of the Baltics are amazing and easily accessible via cruise (except for Berlin).  

When we did our Baltic cruise, the cruise we picked alternated weeks between the port for Berlin and Oslo. We picked one of the Oslo weeks as it was a port we wanted to see. (My DW who is an art teacher especially wanted to see the Munch Museum which was not on any tour, but we did on our own.) Especially that it is not a port, we were not worried about not seeing Berlin. And actually the Oslo week put us on the ship during our wedding anniversary, number 30, which was also a deciding factor.

 

And I agree the ports are all accessible without tours, except St. Petersburg.

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9 hours ago, Travelling2Some said:

Yay!  Have a wonderful time.  We did the fjords cruise a few years back and are doing the Baltics in June.  The Norwegian fjords are absolutely stunning and it's true that the prices in Norway are also pretty stunning, which is why you'll be glad you have everything you need on the ship.  BTW, speaking as someone who has seen them in both Norway and New Zealand, Norway's fjords are more dramatic and beautiful.

I have done Norwegian Fjords 2x and Scanadinavia 1x.  I have going with 5 people that that have done either cruises before.  I like the Norwegian Fjords better hence the 3x than the Alaska cruises.

 

Before, I bought a small amount of the different countries currencies and only bought a ice cream as everything was so expensive.  You loose money each time you exchange currencies.  This time, I plan on taking US$ for tips.

 

What currency did you take?

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Just now, phabric said:

I have done Norwegian Fjords 2x and Scanadinavia 1x.  I am going with 5 people that that have done either cruises before.  I like the Norwegian Fjords much better (hence the 3x) than the Alaska cruises.

 

Before, I bought a small amount of the different countries' currencies and only bought a ice cream as everything was so expensive.  You loose money each time you exchange currencies.  This time, I plan on taking US$ for tips.

 

What currency did you take?

 

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16 minutes ago, Sandra1616 said:

What did you like best about each of these Norway, Stockholm and Tallin, if you can?  Also Tallin seems new to be talked about? Thanks, Sandra

Norway---as I said in an earlier post, we liked the Munch Museum. We also liked the sculpture gardens. We have not yet been on a fjords cruise.

 

Stockholm--we really liked the Vasa museum. It was really the only port where there was too much to do for the time we had.

 

Talinn--was like being in a medieval village. We enjoyed the entire experience walking through the Old Town following a Rick Steves walking tour.

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1 hour ago, Sandra1616 said:

What did you like best about each of these Norway, Stockholm and Tallin, if you can?  Also Tallin seems new to be talked about? Thanks, Sandra

For the fjords cruise, we liked Flam, Geiringer and Bergen very much.  In Flam, we took the Flambana scenic train up to Myrdal.  If you do this, make sure to buy tickets on line well in advance as it will be completely sold out already when you ship arrives.  We saw many disappointed people trying to buy tickets on the day of.  In Geiringer we took the bus ride up the mountain to the scenic overlooks.  Again, arranged it in advance online with the local company.  As you would expect, both Flam and Geiringer are very small towns and the train/bus are right there where the ship docks.  In Bergen we took the excellent Bryggen walking tour given by the Bryggens Museum.  Again, a short walk from the ship and reserve it in advance as it can sell out.  The tour is an hour and a half and takes you around the Hanseatic quarter and inside the old buildings.  The guide was very good.   There is also a funicular in Bergen that we went up to for the view.  There is a wealth of great information in Rick Steve's Scandinavian & Northern European Cruise Ports book. 

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2 hours ago, Sandra1616 said:

What did you like best about each of these Norway, Stockholm and Tallin, if you can?  Also Tallin seems new to be talked about? Thanks, Sandra

 

We only visited Oslo in Norway. Our favourites have been the Bygdoy museums (Viking Ship, Fram, and Kon Tiki) and the Vigeland Sculpture Park. No tours are necessary. Get the Oslo Pass and use public transit.

 

Stockholm we've spent a few days in. The Gamla Stan old town is really nice and I especially like the Palace's Royal Armory. The Vasa museum is amazing, and we enjoyed the Nordic animals in Skansen. (I found the ABBA museum too crowded when we were there.) I also enjoyed visiting the Icebar and going on an art tour of the subway stations.

 

I'd never thought about visiting Tallinn before we'd booked our first cruise, but it's amazing (and very walkable from the port). Its medieval Old Town is very well preserved, and modern Tallinn (e.g. Kalamaja and Rotermann districts) is very fun too. (E.g. first time we were there, we also visited the Seaplane Harbour Museum, and I enjoyed exploring the Soviet-era sub.)

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A good thing to know about the cities on the Baltic is that many of them are connected by overnight "ferries" that are actually small cruise ships.  It is easy to add a place that is not on your "big ship's" itinerary either before or after your main cruise.  We've added a few days in Oslo before our cruise by using the overnight ferry from Oslo to Copenhagen.  I think if I had known of these ferries before I booked the cruise I would have considered using them instead of the cruise ship.  That way we could have spent as many days as we liked in each port and eliminated the sea days, which are not important to us. 

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 Without repeating many of the comments , we enjoyed our  15 day 2018 Baltic cruise from Amsterdam on Celebrity Eclipse. Our favorite ports were SPG  with  2 DAY DELUXE TOUR FROM ALLA & Tallin with the ship's shuttle to the old town. One thing I have not seen pointed out is where your ship docks. In particular, in Stockholm , our ship was able to dock close to town , but many other ships have to dock at least 2 hours away (which effects the time to tour etc). Thus, I suggest that you look into this aspect of any cruise. 

Edited by dabear
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Good point.  Many ships actually port in Nynashamn (sp.?), which is one hour away from Stockholm by either train or bus.  The transportation is convenient but it does take a total of two hours away from your time in port to get there and back.  Also, if you dock in Nynashamn, you miss a very pretty sail in through all the little islands on the way into Stockholm harbor.  I know Norwegian docks in Nynashamn but I'm not sure who else does.  Probably also worth pointing out that Berlin is 3 hours from Warnemunde/Rostock where the ships actually port so many people forego the trip into Berlin and stay locally.  Friends of Dave does very well-reviewed local tours in that area or it is an easy DIY kind of place.

 

Glad to hear you enjoyed Alla's 2 Day Deluxe Tour as we are signed up for the same.

Edited by Travelling2Some
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  • 2 weeks later...

We did our Baltic cruise on the Regal and it was one of our best cruises we have taken so far. Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Warnemunde, St.Petersburg, Helsinki and Tallinn. We enjoyed St.Petersburg, Tallinn and Warnemunde the most.

Oslo and Helsinki we didthe HOHO bus and explored on our own.

Copenhagen we went to Tivoli Gardens and a pub in the evening.

Tallinn we loved for its authentic restaurants and delicious food. We spent some time in the Olde Hansa restaurant which was a great experience.

Stockholm and St.Petersburg we booked Anastasia Travel  for the tours. As well as Warnemunde to Berlin.

We enjoyed our time with all their guides.

The Baltic cruise in June was a good choice  and we will never forget it.

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