The first port of call on our Baltic cruise was Oslo. We couldn't get into City Hall where they award the Nobel Peace Prizes, which was a disappointment, but did get to see the well done Nobel Peace Prize Center. In the afternoon we went to see the Viking Museum (well worth the time) and the Vigeland Sculpture Park, a definite worthwhile stop that could have used far more time. The fjord region is quite a distance from Oslo and was therefore left to another trip
Aarhus is Denmark's second largest city, and is probably added to cruise itineraries to fill the distance between Oslo and Warnemunde (Berlin). The main attraction is the Old Town Open Air Museum (Den Gamle By). It is about a 20 minute walk from the ship, but there are some spots along the way to tour, visit, or get refreshed. Den Gamle By is interesting enough, but is certainly not a major tourist site.
In the brief time available after traveling to and from the port in Warnemunde, we managed to get an amazing amount of sightseeing done. Like most major cities -- think New York, London, Paris, Rome -- doing Berlin in 6 hours or so is insane, but at least we got a good overview.
Jewish Museum Rating:
An amazing amount of interesting information, exceptionally well laid out.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, and the entire Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We did a walking tour of the town and the only site we had time to go into was the Alexander Nevsky (Russian Orthodox) Cathedral, where a service was in progress. There are no seats in Russian Orthodox churches, so there is a lot of walking around. That gives a lot of opportunity to see the amazing and ornate decorations within all R.O. churches. We had time at the end of the tour to walk around on our own, and enjoyed doing so; Tallinn is just that interesting place to explore.
Truly one-of-a-kind, even in St. Petersburg, but there is MUCH that it competes with.
Catherine Palace Rating:
Beautiful, ornate, priceless.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood Rating:
Like the other churches, definitely worth a visit.
City Tour Rating:
A good overview of one of the great cities of the world.
Hermitage Museum Rating:
Beyond even our expectations in terms of how luxurious, well appointed, beautifully furnished, amazingly gilded, and full of priceless art this iconic stop was. Best if seen with a tour company that gets early admission, because the crowds get fierce!
Peter & Paul Fortress Rating:
Like all of the cities major attractions, this is a jaw-dropping stop.
Peterhof Palace Rating:
Actually, we had time on the FULL 2 day tour to only do the gardens, but they were worth every bit of the time spent there. Besides excellent landscaping and plantings, the statuary and Palace as a backdrop make this a Must See site.
Russian Ballet Show Rating:
The Alexandrinsky Theatre was almost worth the price of admission. The ballet company and orchestra were not top companies, but certainly decent, making this a very worthwhile experience.
St. Isaac's Cathedral Rating:
Like so much of St. Petersburg, with all the amazing, ornate, beautiful palaces, churches, and museums, you think after a while it would get repetitious, but with sites like St. Isaac's it never does.
Helsinki is a fairly modern city; in addition, almost the entire city was closed while we were there because they were celebrating Midsummer's Night (the longest day of the year, about 20 hours of sunshine). Still, the Rock Church was open and very much worth the visit. Sibelius Park, with the two statues to the great Finnish composer was also a welcome stop.
Stockholm is the largest Scandinavian city and had many interesting sites to visit. The main highlight for us was the Vasa museum, showing the ship that sank in 1628 almost immediately after launch. The engineers said it was top-heavy. The king, who helped design it, said it wasn't. Guess who was right. Besides the almost perfectly preserved ship it had a lot of information about the times. Due to the limited time we had here, the rest of the tour was a drive around town, with photo stops and some free time, but much more time was needed, especially to see the Opera where the Nobel prizes are handed out or City Hall where the Nobel banquet is held. That, of course, is the common downside of cruises, but the brief overview was excellent.