The Baltic Sea has endured continuing popularity as a cruise destination -- and for good reason. Not only do cruises to this area allow you to see Northern European countries you might never step foot in otherwise, but the generally calm waters also provide a smooth and pleasurable sailing experience. (Plus, it's a cheaper way to visit a notoriously expensive part of the world.)
While at least 10 countries have ports on the Baltic Sea, don't expect to see all of them on the typical cruise. On our 11-day Baltic voyage on Holland America's Eurodam, we visited six countries, including some that would have been logistically more difficult to visit on our own.
Ready to begin your Baltic journey? Take a peek at seven popular stops.
Photo: De Visu/Shutterstock.com
Copenhagen might be best known for Tivoli Gardens, the world's second-oldest amusement park, but truth be told, there's so much more to see that you might want to skip it. Instead, peruse Tivoli's perimeter, and then either walk or pedal the city. Copenhagen is one of the most bike-friendly cities, and rentals are easy to find. After visiting the Little Mermaid, who celebrated her 100th birthday in 2013, meander down the Stroget, one of Europe's longest pedestrian streets, a mecca for shopping and restaurants.
Tip: Venture to the Meatpacking District (Kodbyen), a popular, up-and-coming area, where you'll find fun restaurants, including Mother, a cozy, candle-lit Italian restaurant with handwritten menus, and the organic restaurant Bio Mio.
Photo: Oleksiy Mark /Shutterstock.com
Ask anybody who's been to this medieval city what stands out most, and you'll hear about the fairytale spires. You'll get a wonderful view of them -- and Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site -- from Toompea Hill. The city is small enough that you can walk there, but wear supportive shoes, as the streets are cobblestoned. Back in town, stroll by St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church with the city's largest church bell, and St. Nicholas' Church, which houses a small art museum. Once you reach Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square), take a look at the handicrafts being sold by local merchants.
Tip: Tallinn is a Wi-Fi mega-hotspot, most of it free. If you want to connect without having to pay the ship's fees, bring your devices with you.
Photo: Andrei Nekrassov/Shutterstock.com
St. Petersburg, Russia: The City
Prepare to be enchanted by St. Petersburg, dubbed "Venice of the north" because of its numerous canals. It's also one of the world's most beautiful cities, boasting cathedrals, museums and palaces, and a history steeped in conflict and intrigue. Many cruises spend two days there, allowing you to come back into the city at night, when you can go out to dinner or catch a ballet.
During the day, make sure you visit some of the city's most popular -- and artistic -- attractions, including the Hermitage, with its 3 million works of art and artifacts; St. Isaac's Cathedral; and the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, where Alexander II was assassinated.
Tip: Russia's famous souvenirs include matryoshka dolls, lacquer boxes, amber jewelry and Faberge eggs. Take time to peruse St. Petersburg's shops, many of which offer free shots of vodka.
Photo: Roman Evgenev/Shutterstock.com
St. Petersburg, Russia: The Countryside
Having a summer home will take on new meaning when you venture outside St. Petersburg to two of the area's most famous palaces. The first is Peterhof Palace, built by Peter the Great and dubbed the "Russian Versailles." Yet it's the grounds that captivate people, as they're adorned with hundreds of statues and fountains, including some that trick visitors. The main fountain, the Grand Cascade, has a "dance" set to music during the summer. Meanwhile, in Pushkin, you'll find Catherine Palace, another beautiful palace which was restored after World War II; the highlight is the amber room.
Tip: The best way to see all of the sights is through a tour. Although you can book through your cruise line, you can also find tours on your own by doing research online. They're often cheaper and accommodate smaller groups of people, making the experience more intimate, personalized and enjoyable.
Photo: Anton_Ivanov /Shutterstock.com
Helsinki's population tends to be more spiritual than religious, but that hasn't stopped the city from becoming famous for its two main churches. First is the Lutheran Church, what many refer to as Helsinki's wedding cake. The other, also Lutheran, is Rock Church, which was literally cut into a rock. In between these two sites, grab a coffee at Karl Fazer Cafe, a modern classic cafe that has a history dating back to 1891. (The Finns consume some of the most coffee in the world.) It's located in the heart of the city on Kluuvikatu Street.
Tip: Finns revere their saunas, which some say is why they have one of the longest life spans. Join them at Culture Sauna, an urban, contemporary public sauna on the Helsinki waterfront.
While you might know Stockholm as the site of the Nobel Peace Prize, you might not know that it's built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. Although you can easily wander the city on foot, you'll see the area faster by taking a hop-on, hop-off ferry, which affords beautiful views of Stockholm from the water. Two must hop-off stops are the Vasa Museum, where you can see a ship that sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628 and was salvaged in 1961, and Gamla Stan (Old Town), with its winding narrow streets, galleries, stores and cafes.
Tip: Looking for a walking excursion? Take a free tour through Free Tour Stockholm. The company currently offers two different tours -- one of the city and the other of the Old Town -- that last 1.5 hours and meet at easy-to-find locations.
Photo: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock.com
Although you might be tempted to take a three-hour train ride into Berlin, Warnemunde, one of Germany's favorite seaside resorts, is worth your time. Relaxation is the main reason people visit, which is why you'll find them lounging on the wide, white-sand beach. Even if you're not a beachgoer, walking through the quaint town is enjoyable, whether you're strolling the Beach Promenade, climbing the lighthouse or enjoying the numerous streetside fish markets selling their fresh fare. (Try a fish sandwich, but be prepared to fend off the seagulls.)
Tip: You can easily explore Warnemunde on your own, but it's more fun (and informative) when you take a tour through Friends of Dave. Founded by an American expat, the company operates four engaging walking tours, including a full-day outing that takes you to Wismar, a UNESCO World Heritage site where you can sip its famous dark beer, called mumme.
Photo: Wolfgang Zwanzger/Shutterstock.com
Popular on Cruise Critic
We wish there were a magic elixir you could whip up to get a free or low-cost cabin upgrade on a cruise ship. We'd be chugging it all the time. But sorry -- no can do. Before you sit by the phone, waiting for the upgrade fairy to call, there are a few basic things to know about cruise ship cabin
In the wee hours of the morning, under the cover of darkness, they creep. Their flip-flops smack across the pool decks of cruise ships everywhere as they shuffle like a horde of zombies armed with towels, sunscreen and books. If it sounds like a scene from a horror movie, you're on the right track. We're talking about deck chair hogs -- those inconsiderate fellow passengers who rise before the sun to stake out prime poolside real estate, mark it with personal belongings and then abandon it, rendering it useless to others. If you've had enough, we urge you to stand up to these selfish sunbathers and claim the deck chair that's rightfully yours. Join the peaceful revolution by employing the following seven tips for outsmarting deck chair hogs.
It's the end of a decade, 2019, and a lot has changed in the world of cruising -- race cars, haute cuisine, digital everything -- but some tips on how to save on your next sailing stay tried and true. To uncover the best ways to land a cruise bargain this year, we spoke to travel agent experts and consulted industry surveys. What we found is that cruising shows no signs of slowing down, but getting on the right ship to the right destination might mean taking quick action. We've narrowed down the who, what, where and when of finding the best cruise deals in 2019 so you can spend less money and more time enjoying the seas.
Sorry, folks, but it's not 100-percent "anything goes" onboard. Whether it's a safety issue (think lighting fires), a privacy issue (no hanky panky on that balcony) or a consideration issue (please don't blare the TV at 2 a.m.), you'll want to curtail certain activities in your cabin -- or the crew may kindly, but sternly, ask that you do so. In case you're tempted, or simply don't know, here are 12 things we ask that you please not do.
We all know that sinking feeling when you realize you've left something important behind, whether it's your phone in the car or your wallet at the restaurant you just left. That feeling is much worse when you're on a cruise and discover that you've forgotten something at home. While not every "oops" will upend your cruise, some will, while others can prove to be enough of headache to put a dent in an otherwise great vacation. From A to Z, we list a few critical things not to forget the next time you cruise.