There’s a lot that goes into planning a Northern European/Baltics cruise and now is the time to start planning for Summer 2018. By planning at least one year in advance, you’ll be able to secure the best airfare–often available to those who book early–and the best cruise price as the fares tend to rise as the cruise date approaches. In addition, it takes some time to pick the right itinerary for your interests.
While there are a lot of cruises to the Baltic region, I personally wouldn’t consider any that only spends a single day in St. Petersburg, Russia. From personal experience, I think three days is ideal as it gives you plenty of time to see all of the sights at a leisurely pace. We did this on our Serenade of the Seas cruise last year spending three days and two overnights in port.
For North American cruisers, the other benefit of three days in port is that you can use a blanket visa provided by the cruise line or independent tour company. As a result, you will not have to apply and pay for a visa to visit St. Petersburg. The cruise line (provided you book one of their excursions) or an independent tour company will do this for you and your tour ticket becomes your visa for entering the country. And although the costs of visas for U.S. citizens has dropped to $160 as of this writing, there is an additional hassle of the application process itself. Plus, you still have the cost of touring.
We used TJ Travel (https://st-petersburg-tours.ru/) when we visited in July 2016 and were pleasantly surprised. In addition, TJ Travel offered us a 5% early booking discount and another 5% discount for booking as a Cruise Critic group. Thus, we had three full days of touring for a little more than $100 per day that included lunch and a bottle of water daily in addition to transportation and all entrance fees. Tours included “fast pass” entry to many of the attractions, and our group consisted of 12 individuals (two families) in a new Mercedes high top van (almost mini bus like) with captain’s style chairs. The driver also stayed with the van, so one could leave belongings inside without concern. An additional perk was that WiFi was included in the vehicle.
Thus, by booking early, you can secure the ideal itinerary and the best price on both the cruise and on tours. In addition, you can literally have your cruise cake and eat it too as there are a lot of great itineraries being offered by the cruise lines. However, I think that Royal Caribbean (https://royalcaribbean.com) offers the best option for this itinerary that they bill as the “13 Night Ultimate Scandinavia-Russia” cruise, which leaves from Stockholm, Sweden on July 22, 2018 and ends in Copenhagen, Denmark aboard the Serenade of the Seas.
We did this itinerary on the Serenade and it ranks among the best of our more than two dozen cruises to date. The benefits of this itinerary over many others is that you spend the first two days in Stockholm, Sweden, so the ship serves as your hotel. You also spend three days in St. Petersburg and the last two days in Copenhagen, Denmark. Along the way, you will visit to ports in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and two additional ports in Denmark with only a single sea day on this itinerary.
Additional information can be found here:
- 7 Tips for a great Royal Caribbean Baltic cruise: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2016/08/17/7-tips-great-royal-caribbean-baltic-cruise
- Baltics aboard Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas: https://cruiseradio.net/episode-cruise-tipping-questions-serenade-seas-review/
- Serenade of the Seas Listener Review: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/podcast/episode-162-serenade-of-the-seas-listener-cruise-review