A cruise on the Baltic Sea will take you to towns and capital cities filled with history, culture, old-world charm and imperial splendour, says Deborah Stone
This seaside town is full of cafés and restaurants along the River Warnow with a promenade that leads round to the Strand, a large sandy beach lined with rows of colourful cabanas. Bright and breezy, with a fair sprinkling of antique shops and vintage boutiques, it is a delightful place to potter around. Many cruise passengers opt for excursions to Berlin – despite the three-hour train journeys each way – or to the medieval town of Rostock. Only 30 minutes away by coach, Rostock has ancient city walls and the market square has original 15th and 16th-century gable houses.
Must do: Enjoy the local speciality of fischbrötchen – a fish and pickle sandwich – in the riverside café cabanas.
Getting there: Norwegian Cruise Line has a Baltic Capitals cruise departing 23 August 2017 from £1,059pp including return flights to Copenhagen (ncl.co.uk). Find out more: germany.travel.
This medieval walled UNESCO World Heritage site on the Swedish island of Gotland was one of the most important towns in the Hanseatic League. It became wealthy by trading Russian furs and timber as the surviving guild houses and churches illustrate. Medieval vaulted warehouses and merchants’ houses can be found near the harbour while excavations here have also revealed a Viking settlement. In August catch the medieval week with feasts and jousting, and if you tire of the cobblestones head to the sandy beaches out of town.
Must do: Check out the sweet-smelling roses, in flower from summer to autumn because of Visby’s mild climate.
Getting there: Saga Cruises has a 14-night Springtime in the Baltic cruise departing 6 May, from £2,947pp round-trip from Dover on Saga Pearl II (travel.saga.co.uk). Find out more: visitsweden.com.
Enjoy this tiny seaside town with its new Kilden Performing Arts Centre, fish market, cafés and seafood restaurants. The centre is good for Scandinavian crafts shops or you could catch a bus to the Vest-Agder Museum just out of town. This is an open-air museum with 40 old buildings, mostly wooden, rescued from the surrounding area. If the weather is against you the Agder Natural History Museum at nearby Gimlevn is a treat and has the air of an old Victorian exhibition hall.
Must do: Visit the fish market to check out the tanks of crabs and lobsters and buy bottles and jars of fish products or dried salted cod to take home.
Getting there: Holland America Line has a seven-night Norse Legends cruise departing 14 May from £1,019pp (two sharing) on board MS Koningsdam (iglucruise.com). Find out more: kristiansand-norway.com.
Cruise ships moor right in the city centre of Oslo, at the head of Oslo Fjord, with its Viking and maritime museums. From your cabin you may be able to see the walls of Akershus Castle, the former royal residence, or the jetties where you can jump on small ferry boats to the city’s islands. They are home to the Viking Ship Museum, the Fram Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum, where you can see the balsa raft that Thor Heyerdahl sailed in to Polynesia in the 1940s. There is plenty to visit near the cruise terminal, including the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art. It opened in 2012 in Tjuvholmen, near a sculpture park that includes work by Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor. One of Oslo’s best museums is the Historical Museum, which has incredible Viking treasures and the Munch Museum, with 28,000 pieces of the artist’s work.
Must do: Go for a drink at the Grand Café Bar and Lounge in the Grand Hotel, an old haunt of playwright Henrik Ibsen.
Getting there: Oceania Cruises has a 10-day London to Stockholm cruise on board Marina, which calls at Oslo, departing 2 June 2018 from £2,039pp (oceaniacruises.com). Find out more: visitoslo.com.
To read about Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Estonia and Finland voyages, see part one of Baltic Sea cruises.
Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise here.