Taking in cosmopolitan cities, impressive fjords and breathtaking natural phenomena, demand among Brits for Scandinavia and Baltic cruises is hotting up.
There are many reasons why a cruise taking in Scandinavia and the Baltic appeals to Brits. We’re on the same continent, so there’s less of a culture shock – although that’s not to say visitors won’t be blown away by sights and experiences popping up along the way.
For people who prefer not to fly, these cruises are ideal, as many leave from the UK, with a choice of different departure points, such as Newcastle, Dover, Hull or Bristol.
A ‘typical’ Scandinavia/Baltic cruise would take in some of the region’s capitals, including Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and Oslo, as well as newer-to-tourism destinations such as Estonia’s capital Tallinn and Latvia’s 813-year-old capital, Riga.
They’re all relatively small and easy to walk around – explorers will discover cultured, cosmopolitan cities, cobbled streets, medieval walls, fascinating turrets and awe-inspiring scenery.
Other cruises may take in Gothenburg, Sweden’s hip city that’s nicknamed ‘Little London’, which is best explored on a guided kayaking tour or sightseeing boat. There’s also the opportunity to venture north of the Polar Circle to experience the Midnight Sun in summer or see the Northern Lights in Norway, between September and April.
St Petersburg: Russia’s second city
The highlight of a Baltic cruise has to be St Petersburg. Russia’s second city has a long must-see list, including the Hermitage museum, Winter Palace, Nevsky Prospect shopping area and the ballet. Many cruise itineraries include at least one overnight here, so passengers can fit in as much as possible.
Smaller ships, such as those in the Silversea fleet, can dock on the river right in the heart of St Petersburg, while the bigger ships dock on the outskirts of the city.
Silversea UK and Ireland managing director Peter Shanks said: “Scandinavia and Baltic cruises remain very popular – they offer an immersive cultural experience and are therefore very different to a Mediterranean cruise experience.
“Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki provide a real flavour of the relaxed Scandinavian way of life – with beautiful summer scenery surrounding the famous cities and their famous attractions
“St Petersburg remains the real draw for the region – the museums and palaces really are spectacular and most itineraries will spend two or three days there.”
For the repeat Scandinavian cruise traveller, cruise lines are offering more opportunities to visit less-frequented but equally breathtaking ports.
Saga Cruises, for example, has introduced an Islands of Bothnia cruise taking in Ornskoldsvik in Sweden, from where clients can explore the magnificent UNESCO-designated Hoga Kusten shore, which is the highest and steepest coastline around the entire Baltic region.
The cruise also calls at Sassnitz, a Baltic port on Germany’s largest island, which is almost entirely a designated national park.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, meanwhile, is making the most of its smaller ships, which can sail right into the heart of the Scandinavian and Baltic region. New in the operator’s 2018/19 programme are Erfjorden, Hjorundfjord and Josenfjord in Norway.
The upcoming launch of Scenic Eclipse sees Scenic offering new Baltic and Scandinavia cruises. A 26-day Copenhagen to Tromso trip in June 2020 visits Oslo, Bergen, Flam and Trondheim, as well as Bodo on the Kystriksveien Coastal Route, Lofoten Islands and Alta. Prices from £18,975pp. scenic.co.uk
Hurtigruten’s six-day Classic Voyage South begins in Kirkenes, close to the Russian border. En route to Bergen, passengers call at the Lofoten Islands, Vardo, Hammerfest, Trondheim, Bronnoysund and along Helgeland’s magni cent coastline. There are daily departures year-round from £578pp. hurtigruten.co.uk
Crystal Cruises’ 10-day Copenhagen to Stockholm sailing begins with an overnight in Denmark’s capital city and visits Warnemunde for Berlin, Helsinki, St Petersburg (for two nights) and Tallinn. The itinerary ends with an overnight in Stockholm. Cruise-only prices start from £4,212pp, departing Copenhagen on 10 July 2019. crystalcruises.co.uk
Voyages to Antiquity’s Aegean Odyssey sails the Baltic for the first time on its 14-day Baltic Capitals and St Petersburg cruise on 3 July 2019. Ports include Stockholm, Helsinki, Estonia and St Petersburg (two nights) – where guests can see Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Prices from £2,995pp, including nine excursions. voyagestoantiquity.com