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Recommendations for newbies for a Baltic Cruise


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Hope this post is allowed.  My hubby and I are new to crusing and will do our first to Alaska summer of 2022.  I am starting to research doing a Baltic cruise for summer 2023.  Our Alaska cruise will be on Princess (we originally had HAL but ended up with Princes during all of the cancellations).  I think I might prefer Princess over HAL, albeit have not experienced either one.

 

That being said, I would like to do a 9 to 11 day Baltic cruise.  Overnight in St. Petersburg is a must.  Willing to spend up to $6000 each.  Judging by 2022 prices, my $6000 per person would included a items....bar, gratuities, wifi, etc.)   The Princess and Holland America websites are pretty easy to navigate.  Silvestrea seems to want you to approach them for a quote.  I can't figure out what you get with Seabourne and Norweigen rooms don't look appealing.

 

That being said, if possible, can someone recommend what they think would be the best bang for your buck cruise line for a Baltic cruise.  Not sure if where I fly in and out of would be an issue (London, Copenhagen, etc.) so that is the smallest issue (although I would prefer London).

 

Thank you all so much. Oh and one last thing,  going by past history, when do you think the 2023 season would be available for booking?

 

Kindest regards!

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Several options for 9 to 11 days cruises from Copenhagen including Princess. Alternatives are Southampton (London) or Amsterdam which will add at least two more sea days.

On a 11 days cruise from Copenhagen in addition to St Petersburg you’ll be able to visit Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallin and Oslo. Will normally include 3 sea days.

You might also want to check Azamara - they normally have options where start and end are different ports like start in Copenhagen and ending in either Stockholm or Southampton.  Which  will allow for some pre- and post-cruis days in different cities.
Another alternative is B-2-B cruise from Copenhagen including Baltic and Norwegian fjords - at least 14 days.

enjoy your cruising.

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6 minutes ago, hallasm said:

Several options for 9 to 11 days cruises from Copenhagen including Princess. Alternatives are Southampton (London) or Amsterdam which will add at least two more sea days.

On a 11 days cruise from Copenhagen in addition to St Petersburg you’ll be able to visit Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallin and Oslo. Will normally include 3 sea days.

You might also want to check Azamara - they normally have options where start and end are different ports like start in Copenhagen and ending in either Stockholm or Southampton.  Which  will allow for some pre- and post-cruis days in different cities.

I haven't really studied various Baltic cruise route options, but isn't Warnemünde in North Germany more popular port choice in Baltic cruises than Oslo, which isn't even on the shores of the Baltic Sea?

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15 minutes ago, Hezu said:

but isn't Warnemünde in North Germany more popular port choice in Baltic cruises than Oslo

Warnemünde (or nearby Rostock) with the option to go to Berlin is also an option. In my opinion Oslo (capital of Norway) is a better choice but you’re tight - not at the shores of Baltic Sea.

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Yes, a minimum two days / one night in port St Petersburg.

And make use of that evening. 

As per posts in https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2696545-master-thread-of-st-petersburg-advice-and-recommendations-from-cruisers-whove-been/ , in order to go ashore without a Russian tourist visa

(complicated and possibly expensive) you must be accompanied by a guide. But beware cruise lines' crafty phraseology - you don't have to go on a ship's excursion bus, there are numerous approved local guides who give you a more personal, more in-depth and more enjoyable tour for the same or lower price in their 16-seat vans. 

 

 

Check that your Stockholm porting is at either Stadsgarden (ideal location) or Frihamnen (OK location). But try to avoid "Stockholm - Nynashamn". Nynashamn is on the coast, 35 miles by road or 75 minutes by rail from Stockholm. More importantly ships which use Nyneshamn don't sail the approach to Stockholm through the wonderful archipelago of islands, some so close you feel you can reach out and touch the trees. A wonderful 4 to 5 hours if you're up that early, or you skip dinner. 

 

Warnemunde is about 3.5 hours e/w from Berlin. Although ships usually depart Warnemunde a few hours later than at most ports, IMHO  Berlin is worth far more than one rushed day.

 

Copenhagen is probably the best turnaround port, and well worth a day or two pre or post-cruise, or there's also Oslo.

As per hallasm's post, all Baltic cruises from the UK  involve extra sea-days. 

 

JB 🙂

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Warnemunde

I've always though of Warnemunde as only a port-of-call.

And have only just found out that there are cruises which start/finish there.

So two birds with one stone - fly to Berlin, three full days there pre or post-cruise, and train to Warnemunde for cruise.

 

JB 🙂

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Agree with departing farther west to cut down on travel time. The point about Stockholm’s ports is also a good one. If it’s your embarkation/disembarkation port, that’s less a concern aside from logistics, since you have pre-/post-cruise time to visit the city.

 

There are some cruises that have a double overnight in St.Petersburg if that’s a keen draw. Among the other ports, Copenhagen, aforementioned Stockholm, and Tallinn are all great places to visit. Warnemunde and Gdańsk are less popular.

 

Oslo is not on the Baltic itself if your focus is on that particular geographic delineation, but it is culturally and climatically similar to the other Baltic ports. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see, but it’s a nice place for a port day (especially since ships can dock downtown (literally a block or two from city hall). It also comes with a few hours of scenic sailing in and out of port through the Oslofjord. (Since we are splitting hairs geographically, let’s split some geologically. Oslofjord is not a geologic fjord, because it was not created by glaciation. It is, however, geologically interesting because the rocks on the east side are over 1 billion years old, while those on the west side are only ~25 million.)

 

For flight connections, Copenhagen and Stockholm are probably the most convenient port in terms of European hubs with lots of global connections through SAS. Otherwise, most destinations will be one flight away from any of the hubs.

Edited by kaisatsu
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30 minutes ago, John Bull said:

Warnemunde

I've always though of Warnemunde as only a port-of-call.

And have only just found out that there are cruises which start/finish there.

So two birds with one stone - fly to Berlin, three full days there pre or post-cruise, and train to Warnemunde for cruise.

 

JB 🙂

Any cruiselines besides MSC (I’m not a fan)?

 

I think Costa (also not a fan) was using it, but I’m not seeing Baltic listings from them these days.

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18 hours ago, MudderBear said:

Hope this post is allowed.  My hubby and I are new to crusing and will do our first to Alaska summer of 2022.  I am starting to research doing a Baltic cruise for summer 2023.  Our Alaska cruise will be on Princess (we originally had HAL but ended up with Princes during all of the cancellations).  I think I might prefer Princess over HAL, albeit have not experienced either one.

 

That being said, I would like to do a 9 to 11 day Baltic cruise.  Overnight in St. Petersburg is a must.  Willing to spend up to $6000 each.  Judging by 2022 prices, my $6000 per person would included a items....bar, gratuities, wifi, etc.)   The Princess and Holland America websites are pretty easy to navigate.  Silvestrea seems to want you to approach them for a quote.  I can't figure out what you get with Seabourne and Norweigen rooms don't look appealing.

 

That being said, if possible, can someone recommend what they think would be the best bang for your buck cruise line for a Baltic cruise.  Not sure if where I fly in and out of would be an issue (London, Copenhagen, etc.) so that is the smallest issue (although I would prefer London).

 

Thank you all so much. Oh and one last thing,  going by past history, when do you think the 2023 season would be available for booking?

 

Kindest regards!

Cunard in a word for the Baltic….. Talk with your booking company or Cunard for price indications.

2023/24 Voyages are muted to be released September 2021, subject to pandemic.

 

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18 minutes ago, kaisatsu said:

Any cruiselines besides MSC (I’m not a fan)?

 

I think Costa (also not a fan) was using it, but I’m not seeing Baltic listings from them these days.

 

 

German line AIDA homeports three ships in Warnemunde or Rostock.

Never tried AIDA. But we'd sail MSC again.

 

JB 🙂

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1 hour ago, John Bull said:

German line AIDA homeports three ships in Warnemunde or Rostock.

Never tried AIDA. But we'd sail MSC again.

In my opinion AIDA is ‘very German’ while MSC and Costa might be ‘too Italian’ - even as a Dane I’ll recommend one of the “American” or “British” cruise lines.

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The Baltic cruise we did alternated weeks between Oslo and the port for Berlin, and we were very glad we did the week with Oslo as we truly enjoyed the port.

 

Agree with finding a private guide for St. Petersburg. We picked one, an Alla comfort tour, and posted it in our roll call. We ended up with a group of 10. Not only was it a very worthwhile tour, but we really bonded with the other 8 members of the group.

 

In your research, do not overlook Talinn; it's a wonderful port.

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2 hours ago, PORT ROYAL said:

Cunard in a word for the Baltic….. Talk with your booking company or Cunard for price indications.

2023/24 Voyages are muted to be released September 2021, subject to pandemic.

 

For St Petersburg I will give two “musts”.

The evening at the Ballet

A visit to the Hermitage with, repeat with, the Gold Room additional visit. Although the price add on is small, the experience is a small party private tour with one of their “professors”, seeing closeup National Treasures.  It will blow your mind as to how long ago, how skilful…. What.

After the Gold Room, pass through the Egyptian Rooms. The visit to the Gold Room is worth the price of “whole price”. The Shop sells a wonderful book of the Gold and Jewellery Rooms. Buy it!

 

 

 

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I'd do MSC again if able to stay in the Yacht Club.  That was fabulous and fabulously priced.

 

Definitely look into booking not-cruiseline tours.  I google, look at TripAdvisor reviews, contact several companies, and then pick the one that seems to have the best communication.  Some totally private tours are only slightly more expensive than group tours, and you can join or arrange small group tours on the roll call forum here (at least pre-Covid - hopefully 2023 will be more "normal.")

 

I loved our Baltic cruise. Tallinn was a revelation.  It was our favorite port.

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I’ll throw my weight behind non-cruise tours in St.Petersburg as well. The cruiselines sometimes phrase their wording to make it sound like you can’t or shouldn’t book private tours, but you can and should. There are private tour companies that have both scheduled and fully private tours. We joined a group from our roll call, and it was amazing because we got to plan to do exactly what we wanted.

 

Most of the other ports are very easy to explore on your own with a bit of planning. Private tours are less common in the Scandinavian capitals given the high labor costs and ease of independent travel.

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On 5/24/2021 at 11:02 AM, kaisatsu said:

I’ll throw my weight behind non-cruise tours in St.Petersburg as well. The cruiselines sometimes phrase their wording to make it sound like you can’t or shouldn’t book private tours, but you can and should. There are private tour companies that have both scheduled and fully private tours. We joined a group from our roll call, and it was amazing because we got to plan to do exactly what we wanted.

 

Most of the other ports are very easy to explore on your own with a bit of planning. Private tours are less common in the Scandinavian capitals given the high labor costs and ease of independent travel.

I set up a group from our roll call; I would suggest if there is not one there already to do your own research and pick one to post on your roll call to try to get others to join. We had a very small roll call (I think 16, but still got 10, a nice number as large enough to be less expensive than cruise line tours and small enough to really bond together.

 

I understand that at least some of the major tour companies in St. Petersburg now also have tours in other Scandinavian countries and give discounts when you book multiple tours. This was not the case when we did out Baltic cruise (2007). But I do agree that you really do not need tours in the other countries; just do your research first.

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We really liked our Celebrity Cruiseline experience in the Baltics with its two night stay in St. Petersburg.  However, we did all our land tours either independently or with a local tour agency ( at St. Petersburg).  If we had been forced to only go ashore on ship excursions, I know our experience would have been diminished.  My concern about all cruises now, is when can independent land touring resume?

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On 5/29/2021 at 7:31 AM, lynncarol said:

My concern about all cruises now, is when can independent land touring resume?

Unfortunately, speculation at this point as Baltic cruises have not yet commenced.

I suspect independent excursions in the Baltic will depend on the requirements of each port the cruise visits.

 

On 5/27/2021 at 5:19 AM, ontheweb said:

I understand that at least some of the major tour companies in St. Petersburg now also have tours in other Scandinavian countries and give discounts when you book multiple tours.

Yes, you are correct - the major independent tour operators in Saint Petersburg offer bundled tours in all the Baltic ports of call -  a much better deal, IMHO,  than cruise tours. You can check them out on Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor.

 

Here is the TripAdvisor link that lists the various independent tour operators in Saint Petersburg (we utilized Alla Tours - excellent tours and stellar customer service) - there are several highly rated independent operators. We pay particular attention to the number of positive reviews that a provider has garnered. 

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g298507-Activities-c42-t139,224,234,235-a_attractionType.SUPPLIERS-zfd240,1440-zfl4-St_Petersburg_Northwestern_D.html

 

On 5/21/2021 at 9:44 AM, MudderBear said:

Hope this post is allowed.  My hubby and I are new to crusing and will do our first to Alaska summer of 2022.  I am starting to research doing a Baltic cruise for summer 2023.  .

 

For those of you familiar with Toms Port Guides, you are already aware that Tom offers an excellent PDF detailing his shore excursion in Saint Petersburg. His guide to his free PDFs in various ports of call contain loads of useful information - we have used his port guides in the past and they were invaluable sources of information for first time visitors - spot on. 

Link to Tom's Saint Petersburg guide:

https://cruisetohome.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/st-petersburg-russia-port-guide.pdf

 

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We did our first cruise with Celebrity to the Baltics and it was wonderful. Warnemunde was an unexpected delight and if you are not going to Berlin or Rostock well worth exploring. We did the Moli train ride out to the coast at Khulensborg (spelling?) which was wonderful. We booked a private guide in St Petersburg and specified the things we wanted to see and they tailored the visit accordingly.  Must sees in my opinion are St Catherine's Palace, the Hermitage (our private tour took us straight to the front of the very long queue) and the Peterhof palace. We also did one ship's tour which was an private evening event at St Catherine's palace which included a tour of the Amber Room followed by a ballet performance and then dinner (and lots of vodka) in one of the other buildings in the complex - absolutely wonderful, we were treated like royalty with a band playing to welcome us - all the other tourists were looking at us like we were famous or something :). Also Talin is very easy to do on your own as the ships dock a short walk from the town centre. We did the HoHo bus in Helsinki which we loved.  Slightly disappointed with Copenhagen, especially the Tivoli Gardens which I didn't rate much but each to their own. Stockholm was also lovely, definitely take a walk down Gamla Stan and as others have said the sail in through the archipelago was incredible.  Whichever line you choose you will have a wonderful time.

 

Amber room.jpg

Peterhof.jpg

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I did alot of research before selecting a Baltic cruise.  It turns out that for St. Petersburg and some other ports included in many cruises in that part of the world, there is an old city port in the middle of everything that the smaller cruise ships can use and a newer port (often very far away from the tourist action!) where the larger ships must go, since they are generally too big for the old ports.  (I think someone has alluded to this earlier in this thread, tho I confess I didn't read all replies!)
When the big ship parks far away, you have to spend alot of your limited time in port and some logistical hassle getting from the ship to the places you want to see, and the scenery you experience might not be the best.  And there is something to be said for arriving at an old European port city near the old docks where everything started. 
We ended up sailing on the 684 passenger Oceania Nautica, which was totally delightful, and (for example) in Saint Petersburg the ship was moored literally within walking distance of the Hermitage (one of the main places we wanted to visit), which was super convenient.  One day there, we were even able to slip back to the ship to catch a quick meal before heading out again for the evening!  (Note that, we arranged our own Russian visas in advance, so we had more freedom to come and go than most passengers, who did not have visas so had to stick with a tour guide 100% of the time on shore in Russia.) 

The fares for the cruise lines using the smaller ships can be higher than for the ships with thousand-plus passengers, but we decided that this was one cruise where it would be worth it to pay a bit more for the time and experience of the things that were the reason we were doing the trip in the first place!  But, in looking at the fares for Oceania, I think your budget might cover it, and of course since you are planning so far in advance, you can take your time to shop around.   

 

 

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7 hours ago, kaymoz said:

I did alot of research before selecting a Baltic cruise.  It turns out that for St. Petersburg and some other ports included in many cruises in that part of the world, there is an old city port in the middle of everything that the smaller cruise ships can use and a newer port (often very far away from the tourist action!) where the larger ships must go, since they are generally too big for the old ports.  (I think someone has alluded to this earlier in this thread, tho I confess I didn't read all replies!)
When the big ship parks far away, you have to spend alot of your limited time in port and some logistical hassle getting from the ship to the places you want to see, and the scenery you experience might not be the best.  And there is something to be said for arriving at an old European port city near the old docks where everything started. 
We ended up sailing on the 684 passenger Oceania Nautica, which was totally delightful, and (for example) in Saint Petersburg the ship was moored literally within walking distance of the Hermitage (one of the main places we wanted to visit), which was super convenient.  One day there, we were even able to slip back to the ship to catch a quick meal before heading out again for the evening!  (Note that, we arranged our own Russian visas in advance, so we had more freedom to come and go than most passengers, who did not have visas so had to stick with a tour guide 100% of the time on shore in Russia.) 

The fares for the cruise lines using the smaller ships can be higher than for the ships with thousand-plus passengers, but we decided that this was one cruise where it would be worth it to pay a bit more for the time and experience of the things that were the reason we were doing the trip in the first place!  But, in looking at the fares for Oceania, I think your budget might cover it, and of course since you are planning so far in advance, you can take your time to shop around.   

 

 

 

 

Yes, small cruise ships can dock on the River Neva, very close to the centre of the city.

But the main cruise port isn't very far away, only about fifteen minutes extra.

 

Bigger advantages are that with the much lower number of passengers you're likely to find immigration a great deal quicker on day 1 (subsequent days it's quick wherever you berth), and that on the ship you'll feel very much part of the city, rather than part of a docks complex.

But although some sights are just a short walk from your berth (St Isaac's cathedral 5 minutes, Hermitage 15 mins), unless you buy (in advance) a Russian tourist visa you'll not be allowed off the ship without a tour booking. And a tour ticket is only good for the time on the tour ticket -  a ticket for the day's tour won't get you thro' immigration again in the evening, so you can't just go for a wander by yourselves. 

Local accredited tour operators offer a variety of evening activities with minimal intrusion or cost, eg take you to a restaurant or theatre or ballet & collect you at the end of the evening.

 

https://goo.gl/maps/kuM51jALFjD7W8uTA 

(cruise ships can berth on either bank off the river)

 

JB 🙂

 

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3 minutes ago, John Bull said:

But although some sights are just a short walk from your berth (St Isaac's cathedral 5 minutes, Hermitage 15 mins), unless you buy (in advance) a Russian tourist visa you'll not be allowed off the ship without a tour booking. And a tour ticket is only good for the time on the tour ticket -  a ticket for the day's tour won't get you thro' immigration again in the evening, so you can't just go for a wander by yourselves. 

Good point. Unless one has a procured Russian visa in advance, IMHO, it really won't matter if you dock in town on the Neva River (small ships) or at the Marine Facade on Vasilyevsky Island (large ships). Those without a visa must be with a tour outfit licensed by the Russian Federation while off the ship.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

We had arranged our own tourist visas, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, so we could move freely while we were at the portstop in St. Petersburg.  We did this long before we left the US, and there was a detailed application required, with fees, plus we had to make our passports available so the visa could be added onto a page therein.  I probably would not have bothered if we'd only had two days, but we had three full days, and this wasn't my first visit PLUS we were planning a later cruise around the northern part of Norway that we thought might include a stop in Russia.

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16 hours ago, kaymoz said:

We had arranged our own tourist visas, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, so we could move freely while we were at the portstop in St. Petersburg.  We did this long before we left the US, and there was a detailed application required, with fees, plus we had to make our passports available so the visa could be added onto a page therein.  I probably would not have bothered if we'd only had two days, but we had three full days, and this wasn't my first visit PLUS we were planning a later cruise around the northern part of Norway that we thought might include a stop in Russia.

I have been to Russia multiple times and I do have a 3 year visa (my third 3 year visa thus far) as I spend weeks in Russia on each visit - I usually fly into Pulkovo or Sheremeteyvo. I only cruise to Russia (via Baltic sea) when I am with friends/family who do not want to go through the cost and hassle of procuring a Russian visa. Procuring a Russian visa is quite costly if you do not live in or near a city that has a Russian consulate (I do not and my last visa cost well in excess of $300).

IMHO, it makes little sense to get a Russian visa if this is your first visit to Saint Petersburg - there is much to see and booking a tour with an independent operator will ensure that you maximize your time in port, see the main sights and ensure that you don't wait in long queues at Catherine Palace or the Hermitage. Add to this the fact that a few of the most popular sights, Peterhof & Catherine Palace, are not located in the city center - both are located about an hour from the city center in opposite directions from each other.

A visa does make sense if you are a repeat visitor and/or are very comfortable with DIY in a city where most signage is in the Cyrillic script. 

Honestly, it is not difficult to get around St. Petersburg & Moscow DIY - both cities have excellent metro systems (signage in the metro is also in English).

If you have already visited the Hermitage on a previous trip, I would also recommend a visit to the gold or diamond rooms (Treasury Gallery - can only be visited by guided tour/small group: https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/news/visitus2020/visitus2020_item/treasuregallery/?lng=en)  and the Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Center (again, by guided tour only - absolutely amazing!).

https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/visitus/staraya-derevnya

A visit to the Eliseyev Emporium is also worthwhile - it is a gorgeous Art Nouveau building on Nevsky that contains an elaborate food hall.

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