Ports: We only booked an excursion when we were in St. Petersburg because we had to. I’ll get into more details about the excursion below. Pretty much everyone we encountered spoke English, and if they didn’t they did their best to communicate with us.
Germany: We got off the boat and walked over the to train station. For 6 Euro a person (12 Euro in total) we bought the unlimited transportation ticket. We could get on, and off, the train, trams, and car ferry, as many times as we wanted. We took the train to Rostock, got off at New Market Square and walked around. As it was Sunday, pretty much all of the stores were closed. We ate lunch at a Peter Pan themed burger place. The food was good! We then toured the Cultural History Museum which is housed in nunnery that was built in 1215. No bags are allowed in the museum so you will need a euro coin in order to store your bag. No admission is charged but they will charge you 2 Euro to take pictures. We then walked around St. Mary church and caught the tram back to Warnemunde. What a cute little seaside town. We stuck our feet in the Baltic Sea (man was it cold) and walked around. If you decided to get a drink at the bar on the beach, make sure you have Euro as they do not take cards. Many of the shops right on the boardwalk do not take cards either so it is a good idea to have some euro (very important if you want to use the public toilets). After walking around for a bit we headed back to the ship.
Estonia: Bring sneakers or comfortable walking shoes (not flip flops) as you will need them in Estonia. The streets are the most cobblestoned I have ever seen and I was really happy to have my hiking shoes. We walked from the port in to the old town and walked around. We went into the Tallinn City Museum and the KGB Prison cell museum. If you plan on going to more than one museum you can buy a pass, which will save you a few Euro. I would recommend going to both! We had a really nice lunch on one of the squares, walked around a bit more and headed back to the ship.
St. Petersburg: We booked a two-day tour through Alla Tours and would do it again in a heartbeat. On the first day we went to the Peterhof Gardens, had lunch at a really nice restaurant, went to the Faberge Museum, went shopping and then went back to the ship. On the second day we took a subway ride, went on a boat tour of the rivers, went to the Church of Spilled Blood, had lunch at a really nice restaurant, went to the Hermitage and Catherine’s Palace. Our tour guide Elana was fantastic as was our driver Vladimir. There were fourteen people on the tour and we had a nice Mercedes mini bus that included free wifi.
Customs didn’t take too long to get through the first morning. It is important to remember that only one person a time, unless you have minors traveling with you then a minor and a parent can go up to the window. Make sure you have your passport, tour ticket and Freestyle card. We got through immigration in about 20 minutes or so. They do let NCL tours off first and then the independent tours. The independent tours know this and wait for everyone. Since we had a mini bus we left our backpack with our passports on the bus as the driver was always with it. We heard from a fellow traveler that several people had their passports stolen and had to take the high speed train to Moscow to get new ones.
Helsinki: This was one of my favorite ports, the city really reminded me of Boston. We got off the ship and walked into town, it was about a 20 minute walk. We headed to the Esplanade and walked over to Market Square. It’s a combo Farmer’s Market/Food Stalls/Arts and Crafts fair. I would wait to buy any sweaters until you get to Helsinki, we found the prices cheaper and it was the same goods that they were selling in Tallin. We shopped, walked around and then headed back to the boat.
Nynashamn (Stockholm): We didn’t go into Stockholm as we had seaweed wraps that morning and didn’t have enough time to make it worth it to ride the hour long train ride into Stockholm. That being said the port of Nynashamn was also one of my favorites. Very easy to walk into town, you literally follow the green line painted on the ground. We went down to the marina and had a very nice lunch of a local lager, oysters, preserved salmon for me, and schnitzel for Ben. We then walked around the little shops near the marina, explored the church at the top of the hill and then went to the ONLY chocolate shop that supplies the chocolates for the Nobel Prizes. Man was it good, I wish I had bought more to bring home. We then headed back to the ship and hung out at H2O.