Cruise to the Baltic Sea, 2018

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  • CRUISER(S): Anna & Gary
  • Created: August 31, 2018 11:18 am
  • Last updated: September 12, 2021 3:06 am
Cruise Types:
Cruise Region: Baltic Sea
Cruise Line and Ship: Norwegian Breakaway
Cruise Year: 2018
Cruise Month: May
Cruise Duration: 9-13 days
  • Distance 8,211,020.34 ft
  • Time 667 h 50 min
  • Speed 2 mph
  • Min altitude -846 ft
  • Peak 860 ft
  • Climb 9,718 ft
  • Descent 9,695 ft

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  • Distance Instructions
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1. Warnenunde

Altitude: 56 ft
Address: Rostock, Germany
Port Rating
5/5
Warnemünde is the seaside resort neighbor of Rostock, the old Hanseatic red-brick capital of the region of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in Northern Germany. It’s a popular seaside tourist destination for Germans and  I have a ton of childhood memories of coming here once at least every year with my family. The vibe and pace of Warnemünde has not changed much since then, and in fact I bumped into the same staff member at the hotel who worked here when I was a 7. 

My husband and I arrived from Berlin by bus 2 days before our cruise to spend some time relaxing here and stroll around town. The weather was fantastic – suprisingly warm and sunny, especially for early May.  Warnemünde has a beautiful beachfront with superb soft sand and the cute colorful beach cabanas so typical for the Baltic Sea to protect you from the wind (you need them here! Baltic Sea is always breezy). Adjacent to the runs runs a gorgeous and endless beach promenade leading up to the Lighthouse in the town center. You’ll see vast dunes and sweeping stretches of sand on each side of the river's mouth as well as of ancient, timber-framed houses, sleepy squares, modern hotels with spas and boats galore. The seaside vibe is everywhere – from fishing boats, to cruise ships to regular ferries to other parts of Scandinavia and regattas in the summer. Ice cream stalls and hundreds of screeching seagulls are competing for your attention. Everywhere is clean, quaint and attractive.

We took long walks on the beach and around town, visiting little stores and stopping at the many restaurants and cafes for fresh fish sandwiches (they’re so good!). 

It’s nice to visit as a cruise port even just for a day, especially as overnighting can be very pricey here. Because of its close proximity to Berlin (only 2.5 hours), Warnemünde gets many visitors escaping the landlocked city for the beach, especially in summer. For those who may not be aware: Keep in mind that you are in the former Eastern part of Germany with a proud FKK culture, which means you will encounter nude sunbathers of both sexes on the beach. 

2. Tallinn, Estonia

Altitude: 58 ft
Address: P111, Užavas pagasts, LV-3627, Latvia
Port Rating
4/5

The cruise ship docked about a 15- to 20-minute walk from the heart of Tallinn’s medieval Old Town, which is the Estonian capital’s biggest attraction and a UNESCHO World Heritage Site. Despite the many shops, cafes and modern stores, walking the Old town feels like taking a step back into a medieval storybook. We strolled down the cobblestoned streets through the jumble of 14th- and 15th-century architecture with its medieval walls, needling spires and twisting, red roofs and ancient towers. 

We stopped at Town Hall Square for photos - in Tallinn all roads lead to Raekoja plats, the city's center square since markets began setting up here in the 11th century. One side is dominated by the Gothic town hall, while the rest is ringed by pretty pastel-colored buildings dating from the 15th to 17th centuries. We had a quick bite on a little side street (love the food in this part of the world: lots of smoked and preserved fish, beetroot dishes and interestingly: fantastic ice cream). From there, we continued our walk on the tiny winding streets to the upper town, Toompea to get to the viewing platforms and the best views over Tallinn. You need to wear comfortable shoes here because the streets are mainly cobbled and quite uneven and there are a lot of steep hills. We passed Toompea Castle (housing the Estonian Parliament, the Riigikogu), and two churches – St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin. We were particularly impressed by St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral; a gorgeous orthodox cathedral in typical Russian styale. It’s ornate and beautiful and crowns the hill of Toompea. We first visited the Kohtuotsa viewing platform, in my view the prettiest of the three, on the northern side of Toompea hill. It provides fairy tale views over the red roofs and towering spires of the Old Town as well as of the gleaming highrise buildings in the new part of the city. In the background is the Gulf of Finland, the port and the Pirita district. It was a beautiful warm day with blue skies so the view was particularly beautiful. From there, after a 8 min walk we reached the Patkuli viewing platform with similarly lovely views from a slightly different angle. From there we took the stairway back down into town – it takes 157 steps and brings you to Toompark by the Snelli pond.

From there we walked right back to the cruise ship. We didn’t have time to see the other/modern parts of town but it was a lovely day spent in Estonia. One last tip: as with all famous European medieval citys don’t get talked into taking a sightseeing bus tour. They always offer them, but since the medieval Old Towns are pedestrian only no vehicles can go there and you’ll miss the main attractions.  

3. St Petersburg, Russia

Altitude: 13 ft
Address: Leningrad Oblast, Russia, 188675
Port Rating
3/5

Like most Baltic cruises we spent 2 days in St. Petersburg. Our ship docked at the modern St. Petersburg Passenger Port and we were excited to disembark. I had spent a few days in St. Petersburg in the Summer of 2010 and fallen head over heels in love with this remarkably beautiful city. As a cruise port, the visit is a bit more tricky and can be frustrating at times. If you're not on a shore excursion through a licensed operator and want to go out in St. Petersburg on your own, you need a Russian visa, which is an incredibly tedious, time-consuming and costly endeavour. Alternatively, you can also book with a local tour operator that has special certification to carry passengers without a visa, which is what we did. You'll need to book your tour in advance and show your ship a copy of your confirmed tour receipt before you can disembark. With said paper in hand we walked off the ship and stood in line for an insane 2.5 hours in boiling heat to clear customs. We were already exhausted by the time we reached our tour.

We had booked a full 2 day tour taking us to all the main things to see in St. Petersburg, including the famous Hermitage Museum, St Isaac's Cathedral, the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, Catherine Palace, Peterhof Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress and Nevsky Prospekt (the city's main street). The fact that cruise ships typically spend at least one overnight there allows you to explore the countryside, as well, where past the bland Soviet-style apartment buildings of the suburbs are opulent country palaces -- impressive memorials to the best Czarist money could buy.

St. Petersburg is one of the most gorgeous big cities I have ever seen gorgeous place, composed of unbelievably sumptuous Czarist-era palaces, onion-domed churches and the lovely Neva River (where twilight cruises are offered). Peter was inspired by London, Paris and Vienna and carefully developed the city by plan, creating canals and passageways that will remind you of Venice. Most of the design remains intact today, testimony to St. Petersburg's pride -- and the inability of Hitler to conquer the city during World War II. It's a fascinating place, with a lurid past that's fit for a romance novel. St. Petersburg was the capital of Imperial Russia from 1712 to 1914 and remains Russia's cultural capital. All the big names have been affiliated with St. Petersburg, including Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy. The city itself is like a living museum and you are likely to find yourself oohing and aahing at the architecture from your cab or bus. The souvenirs are also to die for: matryoshka dolls (Russian nesting doll), Fabergé Eggs,  amber jewellery, and porcelain.

On the downside I have to mention that compared to 10 years ago:, St. Petersburg on this visit was insanely crowded and not being able to navigate the city freely at our leisure (due to the visa restrictions) did take away from the enjoyment. Especially the Hermitage was packed to the gills; you may have to do a lot of jostling to see the art highlights.The tour was great and informative, but even for two days it felt very rushed as a lot to fit in. It's more challenging to enjoy the stunning beauty of the city this way. We were exhausted afterwards and happy for a sea day. 5 Stars for St. Petersburg, but 3 for St. Petersburg as a cruise port. 

4. Helsinki, Finland

Altitude: 451 ft
Address: Ojajärventie 64, 14300 Hattula, Finland
Port Rating
4/5

Cruising through Helsinki's island archipelago is absolutely beautiful - you'll want to have your camera ready for this experience. 

We docked at West Harbour, which is the port created for larger ships. From here it takes about 15 min by taxi to the city center. Instead we opted for the Hop Hon Hop Off Bus which left from right there by the terminal, took us to all major touristic spots and also included a boat tour. 

Helsinki sits on a granite peninsula on the north coast of the Gulf of Finland, facing the Baltic Sea from three sides, so it's all about the water. In summer, the city's waterfront is the liveliest place in Finland -- whether you're soaking up the sun at a harbour cafe, riding the ferry to the island housing the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, or taking a boat tour of surrounding waterways. We took the bus to the city center and got off at Market Square (Kauppatori), the main planned and paved square in central Helsinki, which is also one of the best-known outdoor markets in northern Europe. Bordering the Baltic Sea, at the eastern end of the Esplanadi, it is full of stands selling Finnish foods, flowers, and tourist souvenirs, and there are often fishing boats lined up in the water selling seafood directly from the boat. We bought some fresh strawberries and then proceeded to board the boat for our boat tour of the Helsinki waterways. This was easily the highlight of our day: Helsinki occupies a peninsula close to an archipelago of hundreds (!!!) of islands. Cruising through this mass of tiny pieces of land by boat was a gorgeous; a natural and scenic feast for the eyes, especially on this bright sunny day with blue skies. It made us want to visit every single tiny island. We saw Suomenlinna , the famous an 18th-century sea fortress and nature area with centuries-old artillery and defensive walls, spread across 6 linked islands. The staff on the boat was lovely too and they had a small restaurant - we had an amazing meal with fresh fish and a plateful of cold Nordic appetizers.  

After the boat ride we continued walking through town, saw many pretty Art Nouveau buildings,  the imposing Uspensky Cathedral and ended up on Senate Square, the oldest part of central Helsinki. Most famous landmarks and buildings are right here, including the incredible  Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, the main building of the University of Helsinki, and Sederholm House, the oldest building of central Helsinki dating from 1757. We spend a bit of time relaxing here before hopping  on the bus back to the terminal. 

5. Stockholm, Sweden

Altitude: 90 ft
Address: Unnamed Road, 763 92 Hallstavik, Sweden
Port Rating
5/5

There are two cruise ports serving Stockholm and centrally located, but our ship actually docked in Nynäshamn which is about an hour drive from Stockholm. In order to maximize our time in the city we took on of the the hop on hop off buses available at the terminal to Central Stockholm. There we were told we could switch to the regular bus routes and explore the city. We were told however, to be back at 4.30 pm sharp which was the meeting point for all buses going back to the ship. 

Stockholm’s beauty is legendary - if you visit you won't be surprised that Stockholmers call their city 'beauty on water'. It's a modern capital city with a flourishing business life that has successfully retained its history and natural splendour. Founded in the 13th century, the narrow streets and medieval buildings of the Gamla Stan (Old Town) sit comfortably close to the modern harbour and port facilities, office blocks, hotels, cafes and of course, cruise ships.

Set across 14 different islands, water accounts for a third of Stockholm’s total area and contributes significantly to one of the world’s most alluring cityscapes. Its numerous waterways are criss-crossed by 57 bridges, while green parklands seem to be around almost every corner. And during the long summer days there are countless open-air drinking and dining options for enjoying the magnificent natural setting. 

Walking around the Old Town, past the 18th-century Royal Palace atop the crown of the hill   and by the waterfront we completely fell in love with the city. Gamla Stan is one of the largest neighborhoods of 16th-century buildings in Europe. Block after block of these four- and five-story structures are painted in vivid colors typical of Mediterranean villages and occasionally feature wrought-iron signs symbolizing ancient craftworkers' guilds or faces of religious figures. Cobblestone streets and arms-width alleys criss-cross Gamla Stan. Boulevards defining Stockholm's busy waterfront are also lined with photogenic architecture -- turrets, spires, stucco patterns -- mostly dating from before the turn of the 20th century. 

We had a lovely traditional Swedish lunch with fresh fish and delicious Swedish meatballs in the city center and almost didn't not want leave our outside table.   

Afterwards, we took the boat tour across from the Royal Palace - unfortunately here, it was much more chaotic than in Helsinki. Two different companies operate Hop On Hop Off Tours in Stockholm, both with red buses and different boats that are impossible to distinguish. Make sure you ask twice to confirm you're standing in the correct line. Both rides, however, were lovely and informative and we passed most famous attractions like Skansen, Royal Palace, Gröna Lund, Vasa museum, Fjällgatan, City Hall, Abba Museum, and the Ekoparken.

Stockholm is a beautiful and large city with much to offer and we wish we had had more time. The only damper of the day was in the evening: We were on the red bus back to the meeting point for our return bus to the cruise ship but lost a ton of time standing in terrible afternoon traffic. We realized that we would not have made it, got off the bus and started sprinting across town, running our lungs out and after 15-20 min arriving at the meeting point completely out of breath and just in time for the ride back to Nynäshamn. 

6. Copenhagen, Denmark

Altitude: 289 ft
Address: Unnamed Road, 599 93 Ödeshög, Sweden
Port Rating
4/5

For most cruise passengers on this cruise, Copenhagen was the port of embarkation and disembarkation on this trip, so getting in and out of the ship was a bit more tedious than normally. The ship docked at Ocean Quay, the newest terminal designed for large ships. This sprawling industrial zone is too far from town to walk, but tour bus companies line up there at the cruise dock to take passengers into town to explore. 

We hopped on the red hop on hop off bus and toured the whole of Copenhagen by bus. I had spent a few days here in 2007 when I was visiting a friend and forgot how pretty Copenhagen is. An active, outdoorsy colourful city with colourful houses, beautiful outdoor and waterfront areas, happy pedestrians and even happy bikers. A country rich in Viking history, grand castles and lush green countryside, Copenhagen has charming 17th- and 18th-century buildings, beautiful parks and gardens, pretty promenades along canals, and ancient winding streets made for walking and biking. During the longer days and warmer weather of summer, outdoor cafe lounging and outings to magical Tivoli Gardens are highlights.

We loved strolling around nautical Nyhavn with its vibrant colours and historic tall ships and had some amazing Smørrebrød for lunch. From here we boarded one of the Canal boat cruises. Our departure was quite delayed due to a big scare: while everybody was seated and waiting for the boat to depart, one of the tourists (a father onboard with his family) had a sudden and scary medical emergency. The captain of the boat jumped into action and handled the whole incident incredibly swift, professionally, and dignified. It was admirable. Once the ambulance had picked up the passenger the captain took us on our tour along the canals of the Christianshavn and Frederiksholm districts, passing by colourfully painted townhouses, bobbing houseboats, and the legendary Little Mermaid statue.

After the tour we again boarded the Hop On Hop Off bus to the Little Mermaid Statue (to see her from the land). My husband some amazing photos of me climbing up and hugging the mermaid statue and we had some great laughs on this sunny day in the Danish capital.

7. Warnemunde

Altitude: -29 ft
Address: Rostock Germany
Port Rating
5/5

We arrived back in Warnemünde and walked over to the bus terminal to catch our bus back to Berlin. It was a partially unpleasant experience: despite the fact that we had lots of luggage and that his behavior was illegal in Germany, the taxi driver refused to take us, because he did not deem it a long distance to make it worth his time/effort. He rudely communicated this, too. This forced us to have to walk 15-20 min heavy luggage, cross a busy road and lift all suitcases to get down and up again on a underground pass under the rail station.  

Comments

  1. Gary

    Looks like you had a blast Anna. I wish I were there… or was I??? haha

Comments are closed.

Comments

  1. Gary

    Looks like you had a blast Anna. I wish I were there… or was I??? haha

Comments are closed.