Holland America Line’s Baltic cruises take guests back in time to an era where Vikings roamed and czars reigned. The capital cities of northern Europe are filled with storied palaces and quaint Old Towns. Cities like St. Petersburg, Russia, and Berlin, Germany, are some of the most historically and culturally rich in the world. Helsinki, Finland, is heralded as having the world’s best quality of life, and in Stockholm, Sweden, guests find some of Northern Europe’s most delightful urban architecture.
For first-timers it can be an extremely memorable but overwhelming visit, with so many important sites to fit into a day or two! Here are some of the top shore excursions to do in each of these magnificent cities if you’ve never been before.
From the moment you step off the ship, you’ll fall in love with Copenhagen. Its old buildings, cobbled streets and tower-dotted skyline feel like a scene out of a fairy-tale. Tivoli Gardens is one of Denmark’s most popular attractions, drawing more than four-million visitors every year. You can enjoy the gardens, its wealth of flowers, restaurants and entertainment on the Glimpse of Copenhagen and Tivoli Gardens shore excursion. On this tour you also will enjoy a panoramic drive through the streets of Copenhagen to see the Stock Exchange, Christiansborg Palace, the Danish Parliament, Rosenborg Castle, the world-famous statue of the Little Mermaid and more.
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
St. Petersburg was built from the vision of Czar Peter the Great, inspired by Venice and Amsterdam. It lies on a network of canals and features some of the top attractions in Europe, particularly for fans of music and the arts. Most calls at St. Petersburg are overnight, affording guests more time to explore this magnificent city and its surrounding areas.
The Hermitage Museum is one of the world’s most famous art museums, housing nearly three million objects. The Evening at the Hermitage tour is a Medallion Collection tour making it special and unique. The museum opens for an evening viewing, exclusively for Holland America Line guests. Take a tour or use an audio headset and see works by masters like Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci … all without the crowds.
Or guests can take the opportunity to experience a live performance at Mariinsky Theater. This theater has hosted many of Russia’s greatest ballets, plays and operas, including masterpieces by Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. Today, it continues to be the cultural heart of the city.
Helsinki boasts a lively arts and music scene, splendid Art Nouveau buildings and classic cafés. The city’s Design District features shops perfect for wandering, and the harbor-facing restaurants are perfect for enjoying the catch of the day. The Stroll through Helsinki tour is the ideal way to see the top highlights. A coach will take you to Senate Square, where the Lutheran Church stands near the Senate Building. A walking tour will take you past the central railway station to the National Theater and Sanoma Talo before heading to a waterfront café for a snack. Other highlights include Hesperia Park and the famous Rock Church.
Tallinn, Estonia’s largest city, lies on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Dating back to the 12th century, it is not only Northern Europe’s oldest capital but one of its best preserved and arguably most charming! You won’t be surprised to learn that its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, featuring churches and medieval streets. The Walk & Shop in Tallinn’s Old Town tour is perfect for guests looking to sight-see and pick up some souvenirs. A coach will take you to Nunne Street in the Lower Town, and from there you can walk to Catherine’s Passage that features many craft workshops where you can purchase lather, millinery and ceramic goods.
Berlin, reached via a call at Warnemunde, is an intriguing and vibrant city. Though its history does not date back quite as far as other European capitals, it still boasts museums filled with cultural treasures. The Best of Berlin tour will take you past some of the city’s most important highlights by train. You’ll see remnants of the Berlin Wall, Gendarmenmarkt Square, pass Unter den Linden Boulevard and Alexanderplats, a beautiful town square. You’ll also see Brandenburg Gate, the only remaining city gate of Berlin, before enjoying some free time to stroll along Kurfürstendamm — Germany’s most famous shopping boulevard.
Stockholm is a city made up of islands connected by bridges and truly a pleasure to explore. Each island has its own charms: Östermalm features chic design stores; Djurgarden boasts museums including the Skansen Open-Air Museum and Vasa Museum as well as beautiful parks; and Gamla Stan is highlighted by cobbled streets and the Royal Palace that make up its picturesque Old Town. The Stockholm by Land & Water tour covers these three highlights, along with Södermalm and Norrmalm.
Beginning in May, Zuiderdam will sail 12-day Baltic Adventure cruises, roundtrip from Copenhagen. The itinerary includes calls at Tallinn; Helsinki; Warnemünde; Kiel (Hamburg), Germany; and overnights at St. Petersburg and Stockholm. The ship departs May 5 and 29; June 10; July 4; and Aug. 11.
Holland America Line’s new flagship — Koningsdam — will sail a pair of 14-day Jewels of the Baltic cruises, roundtrip from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The ship departs May 21 and Sept. 3 and calls at Copenhagen; Warnemünde; Tallinn; Helsinki, Stockholm, Kiel; Arhus, Denmark; and also spends a night at St. Petersburg and scenic cruises the Stockholm Archipelago.
Rotterdam also will sail a 14-day Jewels of the Baltic cruise, roundtrip from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The ship departs April 29 and spends a night at Stockholm but does not include a call at Kiel.
All these itineraries are included in Holland America Line’s Explore4 promotion so now is the perfect time to book! The Explore4 promotion for guests booking any category stateroom includes a Signature Beverage Package valued at up to $1,400, dinner in the Pinnacle Grill, reduced cruise fares for friends and kids in the same stateroom and 50 percent reduced deposits. Bookings must be made by Nov. 18, 2016. For details click here.
Have you been considering a Baltic cruise? Which of these cities would you most like to see? Tell us in the comments below.