OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Join Saga Cruises and discover the charming Latvian city of Ventspils, where you can wander along the beachfront promenade, or visit the secret former Soviet spy complex at Irbene, with its huge antenna. Along with this unusual port of call there are stops in Tallinn and Gdansk, two days in St Petersburg, plus Germany’s Baltic UNESCO-listed city of Wismar with its stunning Gothic architecture and the historic port of Kiel. Not forgetting beautiful Scandinavian cities Helsinki in Finland and Stockholm in Sweden, too. Saga Sapphire is a classic mid-size ship and there’s always a shuttle bus to take you into town if you want to explore on your own.
GETTING THERE: Saga Cruises (0800 096 0079/travel.saga.co.uk) has a 15-night Best of the Baltic cruise departing from Dover on Saga Sapphire on 8 September 2016, from £2,839pp (two sharing), including wine with dinner and UK travel to and from port.
Two cruises in one from Norwegian Cruise Line, with a couple of days in the Baltic (St Petersburg, Tallinn, Helsinki) along with a decent helping of fjords. Calls at Geiranger, Bergen and Alesund open up Geirangerfjord (possibly the most dramatic) and other spectacular stretches of coast. After the fjords you return to Copenhagen for a day before entering the Baltic.
GETTING THERE: Norwegian Cruise Line (0845 201 8900/ncl.co.uk) has a 16-night Norwegian Fjords & Baltic Capitals cruise from Copenhagen on Norwegian Star on 1 May 2016, from £1,516pp (two sharing), including flights.
Most cruises to the Baltic tend to be 10 days
but this seven-nighter crams in the destinations. Sailing from Stockholm you manage two nights in
St Petersburg, plus days in Riga, Tallinn and Helsinki – and only one day at sea. Serenade of the Seas is a big, modern Royal Caribbean ship – there’s a nine-floor atrium with glass lifts, 16 bars, rock climbing wall and Broadway-style shows.
GETTING THERE: Royal Caribbean (0844 493 4005/royalcaribbean.co.uk) has a 7-day Scandinavia and Russia cruise on 10 July 2016 from Stockholm, from £856pp, two sharing, including flights.
HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS
Head across the North Sea on Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s Balmoral. There’s nearly a full day on a leisurely cruise through the pretty islands of the Stockholm Archipelago and a night in the city. The ship calls in Tallinn before two days in St Petersburg, then Latvia’s Riga and Copenhagen on the way home.
GETTING THERE: Titan (0800 988 5823/titantravel.co.uk) has a 14-day Fred. Olsen Baltic Capitals and Stockholm Archipelago cruise from Newcastle on 30 July 2016, from £1,499pp (two sharing) including £75pp onboard credit and free home pick-up and drop-off service.
CRUISE BY TRAIN
Combine a cruise with a two-night city break at a four-star hotel in Berlin. After you’ve seen the sights, you take a first class train to the coast and the port of Warnemünde. Then there’s a 14-night cruise on MSC Opera, first up the Norwegian coast for a taste of the fjords then back, via Copenhagen, and east to Helsinki, St Petersburg and Tallinn before returning to Berlin.
GETTING THERE: Jetline Cruise (0808 102 0231/jetlinecruise.com) has a 16-night Baltic & Fjords Adventure weekly from 1 July to 19 August 2016, from £1,749pp (two sharing) including trains and flights.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO…
On a Baltic ocean cruise you don’t need to have a Russian visa as long as you only get off in St Petersburg as part of an organised excursion; if you want to explore on your own you must have arranged a Russian visa before you leave the UK. If you’re on a Russian river cruise you must have a visa in order to take the holiday. A single entry tourist visa lasting 30 days is available through a number of agencies including the Russian National Tourist Office (RNTO), costing £150-£200 depending on the agency and service level. The RNTO, 70 Piccadilly, London, W1J 8HP (020 7495 7570/ uk.russianvisa.net), has a list of these on its website, and most cruise companies offer a service at time of booking. However, regulations instigated in late 2014 mean that everyone has to report to official centres in London or Edinburgh for fingerprinting.
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