Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea

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Scandinavia! It’s a part of the world that has always fascinated me, with visions of green forests, northern lakes  and stunning cities, all shining under the endless sun on Midsummer Night’s Eve.

OK, it’s a romantic picture, I admit, likely the result of one too many Ingmar Bergman movies. But the Scandinavian world does have a culture all its own, European but distinct from the countries toA street in medieval Tallinn, Estonia the south. And just next door are the Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia — and of course, Russia, with its own cultural treasures.

It’s a region that deserves to be high on everyone’s travel bucket list, but there’s one thing that keeps many of us from visiting: the cost. Scandinavia is one of the most expensive parts of the world, the land of the $20 hamburger and the $35 club sandwich. Add in the hotel bills, and that’s an expensive trip.

There is one way to see this part of the world without taking out a second mortgage, though: cruising Scandinavia. For one fairly reasonable price, you can take a Baltic cruise that visits most of the Scandinavian countries, as well as their Baltic neighbours. It’s not a full tour, but by cruising Scandinavia you at least get a look at the top of the European world, and you’re still solvent when you get home.

I took a Baltic Sea cruise on the Norwegian Sun in the summer of 2012. It was a great experience: Exterior view of Rosenborg castle, Copenhagen, DenmarkI saw the great cities of the north, toured their castles, walked their medieval streets, saw the Hermitage museum. And on the way, witnessed the famous “white nights” of mid-summer.

In the next few posts, I’m going to present a kind of journal of the cruise, starting from Copenhagen and going all the way to Stockholm, Sweden. Along the way, there will be a little orientation on each port, as well as  some recommendations on what to see and how to see it.

This journal is designed help with your planning if you’re thinking of cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic. And if not, it’ll be a look at some destinations that don’t come up too often in the travel section of your newspaper.

Where we’ll go

The cruise starts with a look at Copenhagen, one of the most beautiful and interesting cities I’ve visited in many years. You can follow along in order, or use these links to visit any of the ports along the way:

  • Warnemunde, Germany, the quaint seaside town that is the gateway to Berlin — or, much closer, neighbouring Rostock, with its lovely medieval centre;
  • Tallin, Estonia, the centuries-old Baltic city that has preserved its beautiful medieval core despite its troubled history;
  • St. Petersburg, Russia, the city of Peter the Great, where our two-day stay includes a visit to the extravagant summer palace, the Catherine Palace and the world-famous Hermitage;
  • Helsinki, Finland, the lovely, sun-drenched city of the north, with its bustling waterfront, fortress island and a church cut into the living stone; and
  • Stockholm, Sweden, the iconic city that was our last stop, with its pedestrian mall and a visit to the city hall where the Nobel laureates are feted.

So pack your bags — we’re cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic!

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About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.

12 Comments

  1. Great trip! It is one of the nicest moment in the year to visit Scandinavia, because of the beautiful light (and the very short nights)!
    If you are looking for an original (and cheap) place to sleep in Stockholm, try the Hostel Af Chapman, an old sailboat transformed into a Youth Hostel. I keep very nice memories from that experience…
    I’ll follow you adventures from my computer screen.
    Do not forget your helmet for the mosquitos 😉
    Gery
    Gery de Pierpont recently posted…Ballyvolane HouseMy Profile

    • Wow, that sounds like a great place to stay. There’s a boat hotel moored in the middle of Copenhagen too — I was tempted to spend a night or two there. Luckily, I didn’t run into any mosquitos on my trip, but I really didn’t get out into the bush.

  2. Hi Paul, Can’t wait to see your articles of your Baltic Cruise. Alan & I have just booked one for late summer! Any suggestions on what to see would be greatly appreciated…All new countries to us! ~ Nancy

    • They were all new countries to me too, Nancy. I’m sure you’ll love your cruise. I have some tips for all the ports, some more than others. Stay tuned.

  3. I spent three nights in Gothenburg last year and loved it. The Scandinavian way of life is very people-oriented, with a lot of public land and amenities. Wide streets with pedestrians, bikes, and trams given priority. A sense of history, a clean, natural environment.

    It’s practically perfect in every way.

  4. Hi Paul, can’t wait to “cruise” with you! Sounds wonderful and relaxing and you’re right: sure will be a lot more cost effective than staying on land in Scandinavia, and more fun too!

    • Scandinavia is one of the world’s most beautiful and interesting places. I didn’t get to Gothenburg, but I’d like to go back.

  5. I’m not a huge fan of cruising, but sometimes it is the most convenient and economical way to see a place. We’ll be heading to Alaska this summer on a cruise and as much as I wanted to do a road trip, we just won’t have enough time to do so. Not to mention, hotel rooms up there are very expensive! At least on a cruise, we’ll get there faster and (hopefully) spend less money.
    Rhonda @ Travel? Yes Please! recently posted…Photo of the Week: Temple of Olympian Zeus, AthensMy Profile

  6. Totally agree, Rhonda, although I do enjoy the cruising life — amazingly, since I’m the original independent traveller. For some parts of the world, cruising is just the most practical and economical way to travel. You know when you’ll get there, your room and meals are paid for, and there are no unexpected expenses (aside from the onboard gratuities and such). And if you shop well, the price can be more than reasonable. On the downside, you don’t spend as much time as you’d like in the places you visit. But then, in most cases, travel is the art of the possible …

    Like your picture of the Temple of Zeus — I admired it on my Mediterranean cruise this winter. I’d love to see it if they rebuilt all the columns that are lying on the ground.
    PJM92 recently posted…Scandinavian cruise journal: first day in St. PetersburgMy Profile

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