Some of Scandinavia and Northern Europe's most iconic cities are included on a Baltic Sea cruise, giving you time to soak in the sights and culture of Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, and Helsinki, as well as Tallinn, Estonia, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Copenhagen and Stockholm are the most common departure points for this route (trips are usually 10 to 14 days), while some lines launch from Dover or Southampton, England. If you choose a longer cruise, additional ports could include Riga, Latvia; Gdansk, Poland; and Warnemunde, Germany, the closest cruise port to Berlin.
What We Love
The Food: From Stockholm’s fresh shrimp salad to Copenhagen’s pork sausages, Helsinki’s rye sourdough bread, and the bilini (stuffed pancakes) and borscht (beetroot soup) of St. Petersburg, definitely try the local favorites.
Gilded Palaces of St. Petersburg: Imperial Russia's ornate palaces and cathedrals absolutely cannot be missed here. The Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is particularly stunning.
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Fjords: Itineraries that include Norway treat passengers to the stunning fjords that cut into the country’s long coastline. Sweden also has some fjords in the south, but there's no comparison.
Historic Capitals: All of them, from Stockholm to Copenhagen, Helsinki to Oslo, have well-preserved old quarters to explore. Castles, forts, and grand buildings date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, and sometimes even earlier.
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St. Petersburg: Ships dock here for two or three days because there’s just so much to see, including the top spot: the Hermitage Museum. Back in the mid 18th century, it was a private museum of Catherine the Great; today, it’s Russia’s largest art museum, with millions of pieces, from ancient Greek and Roman works to 15th- and 16th-century French and impressionist masterpieces.
Stockholm: Spend time in the picturesque city's 13th-century Old Town to check out the Royal Palace and ancient churches. And don’t miss the Vasa Museum. The massive warship sank on its maiden voyage in 1628, just minutes after it left the docks, and was excavated and restored about 50 years ago.
Copenhagen: This walkable city is a delight, from its broad boulevards to the narrow cobblestone streets. Check out the daily changing of the guard at the Amalienborg royal palace, the city’s famous statues (including Danish Writer Hans Christian Anderson and the "Little Mermaid"), and the mid-19th-century amusement park at Tivoli Gardens.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's Chilly: Even in the summer, it can get nippy — in Stockholm and Helsinki especially. Temperatures routinely dip down into the 50s, so bring layers you can peel off and put on.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.