The Baltic countries has been high on the bucket list to explore, long before I got together with my partner. However, with him believing himself to be a Viking in his previous life, it was a dream of his too to see the Baltic states. As such it was the plan, once student debt (my end) was paid off, we would look at the bigger adventures. Enter a Baltic cruise being high on our agenda and one of the first bigger holidays we invested in for some time.
The trip took a lot of discussions, a fair amount of saving, a global pandemic and at the very last minute itinerary changes due to horrendous events with the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. With a two year delay and locations removed from the agenda we were determined to set sail and luckily in May 2022 we finally did.
And what a trip that was most definitely worth the wait. 14 days, six countries and too many glasses of wine to count – we had an amazing time.
Our journey began at Southampton docks with a seamless valet service for the car and baggage handlers. Docking a cruise liner is something we had never experienced before so we were those people – the ones that were first in line be seated at the boarding area, to board and to run around exploring until our room was ready.
Unlike other passengers, who were clearly seasoned cruisers – with their 5 litre bottles of water, 1 litre of spirit and soft drinks, we were in awe of the size and splendour of Britannia. As soon as you board, food is at your disposal, with the buffet pretty much open most of the day. So of course, after a bite to eat, we were checking out the gym facilities. If I was to be on board for 14 days with limitless food – I was going to need to balance it somewhere.
The first couple of days involved sea days (and there would be a couple to follow). From Southampton it is quite a distance to get to the Baltic sea. However, after several busy and stressful months (and years of waiting for this trip to happen), it was time to wind down, enjoy the views and work out what we can get out of the ship.
Me? I was straight to the spa. A two hour treatment with dry float and hot stone massage, followed by a chilled moment on the balcony with the Kindle whilst the other half went to the gym. A spot of lunch and then it was time to check out the onboard entertainment. And so we set our routine for sea days – spa, gym, onboard quizzes (other guests started to roll their eyes at 3pm when they saw us rock up for the music quiz), the pub and of course, for the other half, the football. Every other sea day there would be something we wanted to see at the cinema too. It was a great time to just switch off too – as wifi on board was expensive and unreliable.
We were soon invited to our cabins, where our luggage was waiting to be unpacked. As a first time cruiser I knew there was one thing I had to have – a balcony! If a cruise is on your bucket list I would give you one piece of advice – pay extra for the balcony. You will not regret it – the sunrises alone are just to die for.
If you have visited the Baltic states in summer months, you will know that the days are incredibly long and light. At 4am on day four I jumped up to bright blue skies thinking we were docking into our first port – Copenhagen. What I saw instead was we were hours away, but the views were a delight. Lots of Islands passed by, before we eventually docked.
Again, being first timers, we were ready at the docking level at the exact time we sailed into port – not understanding the need to have clearance first!
Soon enough we were heading down the gang plank to jump on board the “hop on, hop off” bus. Many guests prefer to book excursions onboard. However, being one that likes to explore and find my own way – I much prefer to use the hop on services that seem to be at every port – to get around. Not only are they cheaper, but they also stop off at all the major attractions.
Copenhagen has been a location that has been high on both our lists for many years and it did not disappoint. It was a fantastic first port of call for the trip.
We took to most the city on foot, stopped for lunch at the famous Nyhavn and checked out the Rosenborg Castle. With glorious blue skies it was picture perfect, a location we know for sure we would visit again.
The only problem – it was too short! We would have loved to have more time here, but alas, we had to get back to ship as we did not want to be “that couple” everyone else was waiting for.
Day five saw us call into the port that is Kiel, Germany. Now, this was probably the least enjoyable location on the agenda. The town was small, with not much to see, it was mainly what I would call a “sailors” port. We only spend, at most, an hour here, before heading back to the ship.
This day was one of the best weather wise, as such with most guests on land, we soaked up the sun and made the most of the pool area.
One of the locations that was exciting for us was Stockholm. In comparison to the blue skies of Copenhagen and the warm temperatures of Kiel, Stockholm was grey and extremely cold. The first signs of the “Baltic” weather for sure.
The weather didn’t hinder our enjoyment though. As with Copenhagen we jumped on board the tour bus to jump on and off on our own free will.
Unlike many, we did not head to the ABBA museum, but explored the quaint cobbled streets, enjoyed the architecture and souvenir shops. We of course ensured we tasted a bit of local cuisine – cinnamon swirl for me, beer for him
Visby, Gotland- Sweden
Gotland was not part of the original itinerary. Upon booking several years back we had two days scheduled for St Petersburg, Russia. That was obviously not meant to be and we were grateful for a change in itinerary rather than the trip being cancelled. Visby, on the Swedish island of Gotland, was one of the replacement port.
This small town was ever so quiet on a Sunday morning as we docked. This allowed us to explore, with no other tourists (we were much faster walking into the main town than others). Gotland has never been one I would have thought to visit, however it is now one I would like to explore more.
Before we knew it we were back at the ship before others had even set out to the town. As such I had my pick of staff at the spa for a bit more pampering whilst the other half had one of many many naps on the trip.
Tallinn was everything for me! The Estonian capital had everything I wanted from a city – it had charm, it had culture, it had history and the day was glorious with blue skies.
As with other ports we used the hop on hop off buses as this gave us direct transportation back to the dock if we needed it.
Here we explored St Olafs Church, Aleksander Nevski’s katedrall, Viru Gate and took in the views over the walled city. It was, by far, my favourite port of call on the whole trip. Whilst we knew Copenhagen and Stockholm would win us over, Tallinn was the underdog. The hidden gem of a city that I would recommend everyone to visit and have done ever since.
The southern capital of Finland was another small gem within the Baltics. Whilst much smaller than its neighbours it still had the charm and kept us entertained with its culture for several hours.
The market square, Helsinki Cathedral, Uspenski Cathedral and the city museums are all highly recommended, along with a boat tour if you have time too.
Being a small city its worth just heading out on foot, which is exactly what we did. The great thing about arriving via cruise liner is that you cannot miss it. Everywhere you go you will spot the ship and easily make your way back to port.
Bruges was neither on the original or the revised itinerary. As we headed into two sea days to stop off at our final port, Skagen, we had a captain announcement in regards to weather. High winds prevented us from docking at the location as such we were headed to Bruges for the final port.
I had been to Bruges over twenty years ago and loved it. The other half had never been and was extremely excited about visiting the city. The only issue is this time round there was no hop on bus, we had to book transport via the cruise excursion team. It was one expense that I was happy to pay as it was a fantastic last port day.
The city did not disappoint. We had an abundance of culture, history, sights to see and of course the food and drink. How could you not enjoy the waffles (both of us) and beer (him). As it was the last port we also picked up some extra drink souvenirs.
Bruges was a delightful end to a wonderful trip that was nearly four years in the making.
Leaving the cruise liner was the saddest I have ever felt when ending a holiday. Many people have mixed feelings about cruise holidays, but I loved every moment. From arriving onboard, to many many beautiful sunsets, relaxing on sea days with a book on the balcony and waking up every day in a different port.
Despite the one very questionable day at sea with high winds, it was by far the most enjoyable adventure I have had to date.
I have found my sea legs and I am itching to get back to another adventure on the ocean some day soon. Any recommendations?
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