A Baltic cruise is a great way to explore some of Northern Europe’s most enchanting destinations. Rich in history and unspoiled nature, these fascinating destinations are renowned for their medieval cities, gothic architecture, classic art museums, fascinating galleries, natural hot springs, and, of course, the mouth-watering cuisine.
Arguably the best way to visit both Scandinavia and the Baltic States is on a Baltic Sea cruise, which offers majestic views, displaying the vast contrast between the city skylines and the forests giving way to cascading waterfalls. The Baltic Sea measures around 634,000 square miles in total, and splashes up against the coastlines of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, and Russia.
Northern Europe is renowned worldwide for being home to some of the most spectacular scenery you could care to gaze upon, with stunning natural features that couldn’t be more different. Reykjavik in Iceland, presents tourists with glacial landscapes, geysers, and volcanoes, whereas Gotland in Sweden is home to beautiful golden sand beaches, and is one of the most popular summer holiday destinations in all of Scandinavia.
As Northern Europe is connected to the North Sea by a series of man-made canals, travellers can opt to set sail straight from many UK embarkation ports, such as Southampton and Harwich, or can choose a fly cruise which minimises sea days.
The Viking era really left its mark on the Baltic region, and many classic traits, in terms of architecture, lifestyle, and even genetics are still seen across Northern Europe. Baltic cruising opens up a whole new world that’s full of ancient history and culture. Although hunters took up residence in the Nordic countries as early as the Stone Age as reindeer grazed the newly ice-free land, the region is primarily known for its Viking settlers. Residents of the Baltic region thrive on ocean life, as the Vikings did, with fresh fish is plentiful in local restaurants and fishing boats can be seen moored in the marinas, ready to head out for the catch of the day.
Away from the coast, even more culinary delights can be found. Denmark is, of course, known for wienerbrød, or Danish pastry - a classic component of the continental breakfast - but it’s also considered to the home of ‘new Danish cuisine’ - a concept that aims to reinvent the somewhat plain and bland classic dishes of the nation, giving them a modern and trendy twist.
Spicy marinades, flavoured salts, and fruity wood chips for creating smoky undertones are common in this type of cuisine, and the best place to sample the delights is at Copenhagen’s Noma - one of the most prestigious restaurants in the world.
By far one of the highlights of a Baltic Sea cruise is the chance to visit St Petersburg, Russia. Access to Russia from the west is notoriously difficult, with complicated and costly visas required to enter the country. However, cruise passengers don’t need to worry about this, and can visit the beautiful country without a visa provided they are a part of an organised excursion.
St Petersburg is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. It takes its influences from both Europe and Asia, which culminates in awe inspiring architecture and a rich culture. The Church of the Saviour on Blood is not to be missed. With its intricate dome-topped spires, decorated in golden hues, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, and it’s easy to see why.
As with the British weather, there is no such thing as a typical summer in the Baltic region. Temperatures tend to be on par with Northern Scotland, and weather conditions can change at the drop of a hat. Roughly 45 percent of the Baltic Sea freezes each winter, with the thickest ice occurring between February and March, so the typical Baltic cruising season tends to run between May and September, when conditions are at their best.
However, the ‘best’ time to travel is certainly up for debate. In the spring, the snow and ice begins to melt, fuelling the waterfalls and making them all the more spectacular. In mid-summer, the days are long, not setting until the early hours, while late summer tends to bring the most pleasant sailing conditions.
The unique beauty, cultural richness, vast history and fascinating landscapes make the Baltic the perfect cruise destination.