Scandinavia and Russia are not as hot as the southern Mediterranean countries in summer. You are more likely to find yourself wearing jeans than shorts, and might even need a sweater, sweatshirt or fleece jacket. You can certainly buy yourself a locally made wool sweater as a souvenir, but they don't come cheap; you're better off packing warm layers you can put on as needed.
Weather in the Baltics can be unpredictable, and you're bound to experience some rainy days. Bring a small umbrella that you can easily carry in your day pack and a waterproof jacket (bonus if it packs small and can be worn over your warm layers), so you're prepared when the skies open in the middle of your tour.
Many of the Baltic cruise ports are perfect for independent exploration and walking tours. This is not the trip to experiment with those adorable shoes that pinch your feet after a few hours. Invest in a sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers so you can pound the pavement all day without pain.
You've got the shoes, but where do you go? If you're planning to do your own thing in cities such as
, self-guided walking tour instructions are essential for helping you choose an efficient route and
providing information on the places you pass. Download a walking tour app or pick up a Rick Steves' guidebook, which are known for their smart walking tours.
Baltic cruises can be tricky because visitors to Russia need visas, but those are often provided by the tour company you've booked (either independently or through your ship). You will, of course, need a passport to fly into and out of your embarkation and debarkation ports.
If you're planning independent travel in
, you'll need a visa. If you've booked a tour, make sure you print out all the documents they send because some pages will need to be shown to the customs officials at the cruise port.
Keep everything together in a handy travel document case.
Related: 7 Best Cruise Document Holders
If you're used to Mediterranean cruises where every country takes the euro, you'll need to change your mindset for a Baltic sailing. Russia uses the ruble; Poland the zloty; Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Germany are on the euro; Sweden, Norway and Denmark all use different currencies, but they're all called kroner; and some cruises sail from England, where you'll pay in pounds. You'll need to bring or take out different money for the various ports, or plan to charge purchases to your credit card as much as possible.
Pack a currency organizer, so you can keep your bills and coins from getting all mixed up.
Russia's White Nights are famous for late-night events, but if you're exhausted after a day of sightseeing, the midnight sun is not going to help you sleep. Most cruise ships have blackout curtains, but if you're especially sensitive to light at night, throw an eye mask in your suitcase. You might get one free on your flight over, but they're typically flimsy and not that comfortable, so choose your own (such as this soft, molded version) for a better night's sleep.
While most Baltic cruise destinations tend to be safe, pickpockets can lurk anywhere in touristed cities; thieves have been known to hang out in St. Petersburg near major attractions, such as the Hermitage or the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. As a precaution, invest in a theft-proof bag for your day pack. Look for a purse or backpack with slash-resistant straps, secret or locking pockets and even RFID-blocking compartments.
Updated January 17, 2020