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Things you wish someone told you before your first Baltic cruise

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Hi! DH and I are planning our first Baltic cruise. I am wondering what tips everyone has for a first timer. Perhaps something you wish someone would have told you before your first trip to the Baltics...? For example, if you took a balcony cabin, did you have a hard time sleeping because of the late sunset/early sunrise? Are there any ports that are particular beautiful for sail-in or sail-out? THANKS!

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Hi! DH and I are planning our first Baltic cruise. I am wondering what tips everyone has for a first timer. Perhaps something you wish someone would have told you before your first trip to the Baltics...? For example, if you took a balcony cabin, did you have a hard time sleeping because of the late sunset/early sunrise? Are there any ports that are particular beautiful for sail-in or sail-out? THANKS!

 

I think sailing into Stockholm through the archipelago is gorgeous.

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I had a balcony and had no problem with light, the curtains will shut it out if you want that, or you can enjoy the late days.

 

I wish someone had told me to buy all my gifts for folks in Russia, definitely the best prices for all sorts of stuff compared to Finland and Sweden especially.

 

If you buy internet minutes on the ship, the best time to use them is late at night or early in the morning, my connection wasn't slow at all at those times so I got more use out of my minutes, I still had minutes the last morning.

 

If you want to use a St. Petersburg tour company (as opposed to ship's tour), get info on all the companies people used here. Some require you to form your own groups, others put the groups together for you. It's really a matter of taste. I loved my guide and thought the whole two days covered all I could want them to. Plus I went to a modern ballet while there too. Don't be nervous about using any of the tour companies mentioned a lot here, they have reputations to live up to and they do.

 

Aside from St. Petersburg, a lot of the Baltic trip can be do it yourself if you do the research ahead of time.

 

Also, many people go to Berlin which is a long RT from the ship. I chose to spend a day there before the cruise (stayed in Copenhagen for a few days and flew in and out of Berlin for a day). That gave me the opportunity to explore the part of Germany near the ship, so I'd recommend doing some research to decide what you want to do in Germany beforehand.

 

I loved the Baltic cruise, I loved the long days and the places and all the people I met. And I loved St. Petersburg so much I want to go back and do a river cruise.

 

You'll have a great time!

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We would make several recommendations for you Baltic Cruise:

 

1. Book the May 25 date. There are 37 cruises in the Baltic and 68 in June. You will have fewer people at the busy places and less traffic as you travel.

 

2. There is so much to see and do in St. Petersburg 2 days won't be enough. Get a Visa and use a guide on the cruise stay. Return post cruise for a more relaxed stay in an apartment. The Visa will cover both stays and let you go where and when YOU choose. We have stayed twice in May 2009 and Sept. 2011.We used the guide as we pleased to help us shop for food and the transportation system. We just waved our Metro card at the gate and went all over- it war great to be free - in Russia !

We met many people who spoke English and were very helpful.

 

3. If you only stay during the cruise , consider the Baltic Air helicopter

that leaves from the Peter and Paul Fortress. You will see most of the city

in about 20 minutes.

 

Helicopter tour on Victory Day May 9, 2009

 

Europe09366.jpg

 

My DW told me "There are tanks outside". They were staged for the parade on Victory Day.

 

Europe09350.jpg

 

 

You will see this monument on the way to Puskin or the Airport.

 

Europe09192-Copy.jpg

 

 

If you go to the fountains at Peterhof you will see this cathedral.

 

 

Europe09293.jpg

 

 

Finally, if you go to the Spilled Blood make sure that you go inside to see the mosaics.

 

 

SpilledBlood_zpsc56e3db7.jpg

 

 

I f you have any more questions - just ask.

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One thing?

 

Cobblestones are pretty, but they will do bad things to your feet. Make sure you have thick soled shoes and padded socks to absorb the hardness of the cobblestones that are all over the Baltic.

 

We've done tens of miles in the Med and in South America. Walked miles and miles on beaches and in the woods and on glaciers, but our feet have never been as sore as they were from those darn cobblestones.

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I knew a lot about the region going in, but one thing I wish I'd known earlier is that most tour companies in St.Petersburg want you signed up and registered 30 days ahead of time because of the group visa process. (This was a bit nerve-wracking, since we booked our Baltic cruise last-minute, and only about four weeks before we sailed.)

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I'm approaching the Baltic cruise as I did for Alaska--layers of clothes, waterproof (not resistant) jacket, eye-mask for sleeping (I'm very light sensitive), roomy waterproof hiking shoes with SmartWool socks. I absolutely love SmartWool socks --soft not scratchy--and oh so comfortable! I get them at Sierra Trading http://www.sierratradingpost.com/s~smart-wool-socks/?perPage=24

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Just wondering how cold is it in August temperature. Can you wear sandals such as these. Found these are very comfortable for walking in our med cruises. These you can walk in rain with no problem but not sure about Baltics.

 

http://www.merrell.com/CA/en-CA/Product.mvc.aspx/27670W/65039/Womens/Avian-Light-Strap?dimensions=0

 

Thanks.

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Many have mention other good tips. My top two added suggestions would be about the port-intensity of these various cities and locations in the Baltics. It's much different than in the Carib. You need to be "prepared and ready" for the physical work to do lots of walking, be in a go-go mood, wear the best shoes for these efforts, etc. Second, many like to do things on your own and save budget. That's good and can work, kind of. Some ship tours can be worth it in helping to speed and ease your logistics, get you around, be able to see and do more, etc.

 

Below are some more visuals on the two great Cathedrals in St. Petersburg, Peterhof. Lots of interesting architecture and designs to enjoy there in Russia and in the Baltics. Also, on budget, things are not cheap in Stockholm, Copenhagen, etc. That's just the way it is with their high labor costs and tax rates. That's why I like to take pictures and not do much shopping there. My wife, however, has a little different view. In Russia for buying those gift items, you can see a wide variety in quality and prices. Sometime cheap is just that and you can see. There are also very nice things available at better places in Russia, but they are priced accordingly. Might check the gift shop at the Hermitage for some items of decent quality to pick up, etc.

 

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio

 

Did a June 7-19, 2011, Solstice cruise from Barcelona that had stops in Villefranche, ports near Pisa and Rome, Naples, Kotor, Venice and Dubrovnik. Enjoyed great weather and a wonderful trip. Dozens of wonderful visuals with key highlights, tips, comments, etc., on these postings. We are now at 106,592 views for this live/blog re-cap on our first sailing with Celebrity and much on wonderful Barcelona. Check these postings and added info at:

http://www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1426474

 

 

This architectural feature covers the exact site where the Czar had been killed on this location now inside the Spilled Blood Church.:

 

1A-StP-Spilled5Bld.jpg

 

 

A tighter shot showing design details of wall art works in the Spilled Blood Church.:

 

1A-StP-Spilled4Bld.jpg

 

 

A closer look at a part of St. Isaac's interior, including the eight columns of semiprecious stone including six of the green malachite and two smaller ones of lazurite. Internal features such as columns, pilasters, floor and statue of Montferrand are composed of multicolored granites and marbles gathered from all parts of Russia.:

 

StPIssacCathGreenColumns.jpg

 

 

Some of the details at St. Isaac's around the sides at this grand and historic church. This is the Shrine to the Wonderworking Tikhvin Icon of the Theotokos.:

 

1A-StP-St.jpg

 

 

A carved stone statute in these historic and great gardens at the Peterhof:

 

1A-Peterhof-StatueFount.jpg

 

 

These are the surprise fountains that go off on the hour to the delight of kids and others who enjoy such fun at the Peterhof:

 

1A-Peterhof-SurpriseFountains.jpg

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Terry is OH SO right! and always gives excellent advice! The Baltics are port intensive but also fabulous - just be prepared!!

 

Cobblestone warning is very good - good shoes are very important - at least in most of the areas - good sandles (like above photo) will also work depending on the temperature which can never be easily perdicted. In July 2010 we weremall prepared to layer our clothing but never need to - we hit the beginning of an unusual warm time in the Baltic area - temps in the high 80s!! We never even need a blanket on our balcony and had bk outside almost every morning!

 

Good advice given about booking SP tours early - fabulous if you can book a small tour (8-10 people) you'll be able to tailor the tour to your main interests and preferences - history, art, etc. And probably have lunch in a

local place and maybe even a subway ride and market visit.

 

Many ports can be done on your own - just search these threads for lots of suggestions to maximize your time - you'll find lots of ideas!

 

And if you're in Tallin - try lunch at Olde Hansa in the center of town - best mushroom soup ever! Some say its touristy but in that setting its a lot more authentic than the Pizza place down the street!!

 

In Helsinki for something different think about taking the ferry to Suomennlinna fortress - place where the residents go for a picnic. Nice Bistro by the ferry dock for lunch.

 

Whatever you do - have a blast and a great cruise!!!

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Just wondering how cold is it in August temperature. Can you wear sandals such as these. Found these are very comfortable for walking in our med cruises. These you can walk in rain with no problem but not sure about Baltics.

 

http://www.merrell.com/CA/en-CA/Product.mvc.aspx/27670W/65039/Womens/Avian-Light-Strap?dimensions=0

 

Thanks.

I have a Teva version that I use also if it's warmish. A shoe with a similar sole will work well on cooler days.

Edited by Alaskanb

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I think sailing into Stockholm through the archipelago is gorgeous.

 

I agree, it was fantastic.

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If you like to take photos:

 

Several places require you to purchase a ticket/sticker/permit to take photos inside the building. In Russia some places only took Rubles as a form of payment.

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Just wondering how cold is it in August temperature. Can you wear sandals such as these. Found these are very comfortable for walking in our med cruises. These you can walk in rain with no problem but not sure about Baltics.

 

http://www.merrell.com/CA/en-CA/Product.mvc.aspx/27670W/65039/Womens/Avian-Light-Strap?dimensions=0

 

Thanks.

 

While there is a lot of variation, and the temperatures trend downwards during August, I would expect 60s to low 70s F.

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Terry is OH SO right! and always gives excellent advice! The Baltics are port intensive but also fabulous - just be prepared!! Whatever you do - have a blast and a great cruise!!!

 

Appreciate the nice, kind mention by Peg. Not sure my wife would agree that I "always give excellent advice!". She knows better and is not shy in correcting me and/or offering her own views.

 

Many good added tips on this thread. Agree on the fun sail-in to Stockholm. Below are some of my visual samples. Some St. Petersburg places do require an added sticker to take photos inside. Not too bad of a challenge. With good private firms, just tell them in advance and they will have it covered.

 

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio

 

Did a June 7-19, 2011, Solstice cruise from Barcelona that had stops in Villefranche, ports near Pisa and Rome, Naples, Kotor, Venice and Dubrovnik. Enjoyed great weather and a wonderful trip. Dozens of wonderful visuals with key highlights, tips, comments, etc., on these postings. We are now at 106,666 views for this live/blog re-cap on our first sailing with Celebrity and much on wonderful Barcelona. Check these postings and added info at:

http://www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1426474

 

 

Here are some of the fun and interesting sights we saw cruising into Stockholm early in the morning. It was a little cloudy that morning, but we still say many natural settings and unique sights along this route.:

 

1A-StH-CruseIn3.jpg

 

 

1A-StH-CruseIn4Bird.jpg

 

 

1A-Sth-WaterCruisingIn1.jpg

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If you rent a car, clarify how you will be charged (usually you would want to be charged in the local currency) and clarify if you have to fill the car up when you return it, or replace the gas you used, or what.

 

If you visit Riga, take some toilet paper in case you don't find any, or don't see the dispenser on the wall before you enter the bathroom area. (This was in the Central Market; may not be true everywhere.)

 

Be sure you can use your credit card in the places you'll visit. There are problems if you have a chipless, pinless card and want to buy things out of machines (tickets, for example).

 

Determine before you go whether you need to tip or not, and if so, how much. Also, determine what a typical cab ride from Stockholm ports to the airport or train station should be. Stockholm cabs can set their own price, at least for areas other than the airport, so there can be quite a bit of variation in price.

 

Be aware that there are many different currencies (for us, Russian roubles, Latvian lats, euros, Danish kroner (krones?), Swedish kroner (krones?), Icelandic whatevers if you're connecting with Iceland Air (though they will take credit cards in the airport restaurants, so it's not a big deal), and Polish zloty. It's crazy! Of course, you may not need money in each port...In Riga, however, you WILL likely need those lats. Don't assume that everyone will take euros. While some or even many of the tourist places will, the "regular" places (example, McDonalds) will not.

 

Be prepared to move your clocks back and forth a lot. One country (forget which) does not observe daylight savings time, and an extra move forward and back was required, even though we didn't move to a new time zone. Then on top of that, there were the normal moves (for example, when traveling to St. Petersburg.)

 

Find out if your cell phone will work if you want to use it. Virgin Mobile implied pre-trip that it would, but then I couldn't get a thing - no internet, no phone. Still don't know why.

 

If you do an organized tour in St. P (Alla, SPB, Denrus, etc.) make sure you allow plenty of time to get off the ship, get through the passport control in the port terminal, and meet your group. Almost everyone goes off the ship first thing in the morning, and it can take a while to get everyone off, and cleared through passport control. Also, make sure you know what the local time is - usually you'll change between St. P and other ports in the Baltic. If you do an organized tour, don't let your cruise ship tell you to wait until the shore excursions have left. Our line (Oceania) didn't do that, but some people have run into that problem.

 

Catherine's Palace in St. P is very crowded. You might need to wait inside for a while, and it was a bit stuffy for us. Dress in layers if you go! Also, don't take a huge backpack or camera bag, as you may be required to check it.

 

Helsinki was kind of nice on approach - kind of like a mini, scaled down Stockholm approach through the archipelago.

 

We absolutely loved the Baltic. Beautiful. Easy to do a lot on your own in most ports. Every port different. Enjoy!

Edited by roothy123

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PC168, we were there in mid-August. It was mostly nice (very little rain, a bit chilly, but not really ever cold, and sometimes quite warm, actually!) but it can certainly be variable from what I've read. I don't know if I'd want to be wearing sandals the whole time, but if you can add socks, that might help. It sounds like you're aware of this, as you say those sandals can be worn in the rain, but just in case you're not: Keep in mind that it's not uncommon to get some light rain in the summer in most places in the Baltic.

 

Yep, whatever you do, you need comfy shoes! Those sandals look nice, but with the amount of walking that I did, I would have had blisters before I reached St. Petersburg! Of course, I do a LOT of walking, and do most of my touring on my own, using public transportation, foot power, etc. I have learned to take good-fitting shoes (and your feet get bigger as you age - make sure you have correct size!), lots of socks, and at least a couple bandaids, preferably the blister (bubble) kind.

 

Also, as for more "tips" I would add:

Take something (perhaps a tiny over-the-shoulder bag) to hold your cruise key card. You'll be using it a lot - both on the ship and when you leave the ship and return. I used one of those wrist wraps for cell phones for mine. It made leaving the ship and returning easy, too - no fumbling around looking for the key card.

 

When you get on the ship, assuming you're new to that ship, take note of some identifying object on the side of the ship (port or starboard) that will help you figure out which side of the ship you'll need to head towards to find your cabin. On Oceania's ships, there's a wall phone on one side or the other, and if my cabin is on the "phone side" it helps me know which way to turn once I get off the elevator or stairs.

 

We usually book inside cabins - yes, a balcony is nice, but they're usually so much more expensive that we really don't feel the need to have one. There's always the ship's web cam on the TV to show you a glimpse of what it's like outside, and what you're approaching.

 

With balcony cabins, I've never had trouble with light waking me up, and I'm a light sleeper.

 

Some cruise lines give you really comfy, gorgeous-looking comforters, but they are HOT! Unless you're willing to crank up the AC or leave the balcony door open, you might want to ask for a light blanket instead.

Edited by roothy123

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I knew a lot about the region going in, but one thing I wish I'd known earlier is that most tour companies in St.Petersburg want you signed up and registered 30 days ahead of time because of the group visa process.

 

Some tour companies may want you registered in good time - but it'll not be for a group visa.;)

The system is a visa-waiver, not a group visa.

Your tour ticket shows immigration that you are booked to be accompanied by an accredited tour operator and therefore don't need a visa.

We added a couple just a week or so before we sailed, & in theory if the tour operator is agreeable you can book an hour or so before you arrive - just long enough to receive & print-off your e-mailed tour tickets.

 

 

 

If you do an organized tour, don't let your cruise ship tell you to wait until the shore excursions have left. Our line (Oceania) didn't do that, but some people have run into that problem.

 

 

 

Agreed.

P & O allowed us off straight away, but I too have heard of folk being kept back so that ships' tour clients could get ahead in the line for immigration. Princess has been named as a culprit more than once.

The cruise line has no right to control the line for immigration, so don't go to an assembly point on the ship dictated by the cruise line. Instead, meet up near the gangway & go ashore as soon as embarkation starts. Certainly don't let anyone manhandle you to one side to let ship's tours go past.

 

JB :)

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I had a balcony and had no problem with light, the curtains will shut it out if you want that, or you can enjoy the late days.

 

 

I, too, had a balcony and usually tend to wake up with the sun. On the morning that we cruised into Stockholm, the sun blasted me right in the eye, through a quarter inch crack in the curtains. I thought I had overslept, it was so bright, and the sun was so much higher than I expected! It was only 4:50 AM!!! We were on the starboard side on Deck 10. Needless to say, I saw the entire cruise through the archipelago! It is beautiful.

 

So, if you do want to sleep in a little later than 4:50 am, you may want to pack a clothes pin or two to make sure the curtains shut completely.

 

Oh, and the suggestion to take toilet paper with you is a good one. You may need it elsewhere. There were a couple of places in St. Petersburg where we could have used it.

 

Enjoy your cruise!

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I, too, had a balcony and usually tend to wake up with the sun. On the morning that we cruised into Stockholm, the sun blasted me right in the eye, through a quarter inch crack in the curtains. I thought I had overslept, it was so bright, and the sun was so much higher than I expected! It was only 4:50 AM!!! We were on the starboard side on Deck 10. Needless to say, I saw the entire cruise through the archipelago! It is beautiful.

 

So, if you do want to sleep in a little later than 4:50 am, you may want to pack a clothes pin or two to make sure the curtains shut completely.

 

Enjoy your cruise!

Were you on the Emerald Princess? We will be on the starboard side also-- took some binder clips and an eye mask when we went to Alaska. :)

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My recommendations are

- Stay at least two days in St. Petersburg

- Cruising Stockholm Archipelago

- Copenhagen and Tallinn are nice cities to visit

 

Here are some links to videos from my June 2012 Baltic cruise:

Cruising Stockholm Archipelago-

Walking through Tallinn -

Saint Petersburg Highlights -

Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg -

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Were you on the Emerald Princess? We will be on the starboard side also-- took some binder clips and an eye mask when we went to Alaska. :)

 

No, I went with HAL, on the Ryndam. I forgot, I was wearing an eye mask too, but it tended to slip up onto my forehead during the night.

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You may want to skip an evening ballet tour on the first night for a two day stopover. With the hour forward time changes and early starts on both days, many people are too tired to go out in the evening and are no-shows for the ballet.

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I ws there after Roothy, and it was chilly, mid to late August. I don't think I ever wore the sandals I brought along. One morning the rain was blowing so hard, I wished I had brought my water proof rain pants. I was glad I had waterproof Merrels and smartwool socks.

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I ws there after Roothy, and it was chilly, mid to late August. I don't think I ever wore the sandals I brought along. One morning the rain was blowing so hard, I wished I had brought my water proof rain pants. I was glad I had waterproof Merrels and smartwool socks.

Great reminder! Think I will throw my rain pants in too --take up very little space.

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