If you are considering a baltic cruise you probably have a lot of questions. I’ve been on two baltic cruises and I’d wholeheartedly recommend a visit if you are considering it. There are a number of things that are specific to baltic cruises which you should know about before you cruise, in this post we will explore popular questions like, When should you go? What should you pack? Which cruise lines are best and lots more.
Which Countries do Baltic Cruises Visit?
Generally speaking the ‘Baltics’ when referenced in regards to cruising are any countries which border the baltic sea. Popular countries to visit on a baltic cruise include Russia, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Denmark.
The ‘baltic states’ are slightly different and refer to only Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Popular cruise ports include: Oslo, Stockholm, Riga, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Tallinn, Warnemunde, St. Petersburg, Gdansk, Hamburg,
A Typical Baltic Cruise Itinerary
A typical Baltic cruise itinerary would be either a week or two weeks long. There are frequent Baltic cruises from the UK most of which are two weeks long and visit ports along the baltic sea before visiting Russia and then returning.
It is possible to take a Baltic cruises which doesn’t visit the UK, these tend to be shorter and may start at somewhere like Copenhagen or Amsterdam.
Prepare to be Busy!
Baltic cruises are very port intensive and will visit a new port almost every day. In a 14 night baltic cruise you may have 2/3 sea days but generally speaking as the countries are quite close together you won’t have a prolonged time at sea. Baltic cruises provide passengers with the opportunity to visit multiple countries in a relatively short period of time. During a 14 night baltic cruise it is possible to visit 8 or so different countries. If you were to try to replicate this type of trip on land it would be very expensive and very time consuming.
Overnight Stays Are Common
It is very popular for a baltic cruise to include an overnight stay at some point of the cruise. The most popular place for this to happen is many cruise in St Petersburg where most cruise ships will dock overnight. When I visited St Petersburg we were docked with 8 other cruise ships! St Petersburg is one of the busiest cruise ports in the world.
The overnight stay meant that we were able to go on excursions on both days. It is worth checking that the times of your stay allow this though as I recently took another cruise which featured ‘two days in Amsterdam’ it docked at 3pm and left at 10am the next day!
Which Currencies do You Need For a Baltic Cruise?
Baltic cruises visit multiple countries, many of which have their own currencies. I wouldn’t suggest that you keep withdrawing and exchanging currencies because not only is this time consuming but you can also lose quite a bit of money if the exchange rates aren’t favourable.
You may visit places which use British pounds, Danish Krona, Euros, Russian Rubles and many more types. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, especially in cruise ports so it may be worth putting the majority of purchases on a card. I have been on full cruises and never once needed to use cash.
In some places countries which don’t have the Euro currency will take Euros as an alternative. Many of the countries visited on a Baltic cruise take Euros so I would recommended that you do take some cash in the form of Euros and use a credit or debit card in the other countries. It’s always important to have some small coins (Euros are usually fine) for things like public toilets.
In a lot of Europe there is a charge to use public toilets so it’s always better to keep a few Euro coins in your purse. An alternative of course is to find a McDonalds or Starbucks where you’ll almost always find a toilet that you can use for free.
If you do decide to take cash, make sure you read this guide which takes you through everything you may need to budget for, some of these you may not even consider so do make sure you have a read: How Much Cash Should I Bring on a Cruise? Budgeting Guide
When is The Best Time to Take a Baltic Cruise?
The peak time to take a Baltic cruise is in July and August. May, June, September and October are also fairly popular. Winter months are generally less desirable because the weather is poor but cruises do still cruise the Baltics year round.
July and August are the most expensive months with cruises out of this season being considerably cheaper.
In the summer months of July and August there will be the greatest number of cruise lines sailing the Baltics. This does mean that passengers have more choice of who to sail with but it can also mean that the cruise ports are busy. It isn’t uncommon for 3 or 4 cruise ships to dock in the same place at the same time.
What is The Weather Like on a Baltic Cruise?
There is no guarantee of good weather even in the summer months. If you really do care about having warm sunny weather the Mediterranean or Canary Islands may be better option for you than the Baltics. That said, you could get lucky!
I’ve been on two Baltic cruises and both times we had rain almost every day. I took a two week Marella cruise to the Baltics in 2018 and although we travelled in September we had some really bad weather. That said, we had some really lovely weather too! On a few days of the cruise I did manage to sit out on the balcony and try to do a little bit of sunbathing. It wasn’t really ever ‘hot’ but compared to the UK where I live it did feel warm!
We visited Tallinn in Estonia which was brilliant, we took a bike tour and it rained constantly. We were soaked through and the ink genuinely came off of my socks and dyed my feet funny colours. That said, we had an amazing time and it was brilliant. My coat and Cardigan in the photo below aren’t usually that colour, they’re soaked. I particularly like the people in the rain ponchos in the background, I think that says a lot.
What should you pack for a Baltic cruise?
The most important things you can pack for a Baltic cruise are a good comfortable pair of walking shoes and a coat. Regardless of the time of year that you visit the Baltics you may get rain so it’s much better to be prepared. Pack clothes which you find comfortable as you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking.
As far as clothes go I’d recommend you start by packing more underwear than the amount of days that you’re away, I always do this. I’m not too sure why but it’s better to be safe than sorry! It’s also a good idea to bring travel wash so that you can wash some little items in the sink if you are running low on clothes. Cruise ships do have laundries but these can be expensive and it’s usually easier, if you just want to wash a few small items, to do so in the sink.
For a 14 night cruise I always try to pack in the region of: 10 t-shirts/shirts/blouses, 4 jeans/trousers, 4 shorts (if warm), 6 day dresses (if warm), 6 evening dresses, 3 hoodies/sweaters/jumpers, 2 smaller cardigans/cover ups, 3 skirts, 2 pairs of tights/leggings, 1 swimwear, 1 pyjamas, 2x gym wear.
Lots of Shoes
When it comes to shoes the most important thing is to pack shoes that are comfortable. I’d recommend at least one or possibly two pairs of sneakers/trainers/walking boots, during my baltic cruise I got so wet that on occasion it took my shoes days to dry. Having another pair that you can change into is always a good idea.
I’d also recommend you pack another pair of flat shoes for daily walking around the ship or in port. I usually bring a pair of light weight (cheap) sneakers as a back up!
Packing a pair of heels or similar for evenings onboard is usually a good idea. Most cruise lines have some form of formal nights and having at least one, or maybe two pairs of ‘nice’ shoes to wear is always good.
If you are going to be travelling in summer I’d recommend that you bring some sandals of flip flops. It may be worth packing 2 or so pairs so that you can alternate if needed. As far as walking goes I’d say that baltic cruises are one of the most intensive. Of course, you don’t have to do any walking if you don’t want to but most countries visited on baltic cruises are so easy to explore by foot that it would be a shame not to if you are able. Keep this in mind during all of your packing. Don’t think ‘hmm, I haven’t worn this for 5 years but this cruise might be the perfect time’. It probably isn’t, theres a reason you haven’t worn the clothes lately.
Other Must Haves
In addition to your coat it’s probably a good idea to pack a small umbrella. It might sound strange that I’m telling you to pack an umbrella and I’m now going to tell you to pack sunscreen but trust me, you might need that too! The baltics provides extremes of all weather and it can change with very little warning. In Tallinn in Estonia it rains roughly every 3 days even in the summer season.
As far as cruise essentials go make sure that you pack things like your passport, travel documents, luggage tags, travel adapters, phone, camera, credit/debit card, chargers, medicines and toiletries! You’ll find more packing information in my cruise course which teaches you how I make sure that I’m always the person on the cruise who’s paid the least: Start Now.
What Should You Do in Baltic Cruise Ports?
Of course the activities offered does vary by cruise ports but there are some things which you are able to do in almost all Baltic cruise ports. Russia is the only country on a Baltic cruise which requires a special visa which means that you are unable to ‘DIY’ an excursion.
Hop on Hop Off Bus
In almost all ports on a baltic cruise you’ll find Hop on Hop Off buses. I’m personally a big fan of Hop on Hop Off buses because they provide you with everything that you need for a day of exploring. When you cruise you will usually only have one day in port so it’s important to make the most of it.
A daily Hop on Hop off bus ticket usually costs around $40/£30 and this is a 24 hour ticket. 48 hour and 72 hour tickets are usually available for longer stays.
Hop on Hop Off buses allow you to explore a city on set routes. Most Hop on Hop Off bus providers will have a couple of routes and these are usually either named by colours or letters. The best part about Hop on Hop Off buses is that you can join the bus for any parts of the journey you want and repeatedly get on/off the bus.
The buses usually have commentary in multiple languages so that you can learn some facts about the place that you are visiting. I did this in Stockholm and learnt that Stockholm translates to ‘log island’. Fun fact!
There are usually walking tours you can join in most countries in the Baltic cities. Some have a charge and some are free, on the free tours you are usually expected to give a tip, which makes sense. An alternative is to download a walking tour to your phone. If you’re from the UK or most of Europe you can use your internet on your phone in most European countries at no extra cost. If you are from elsewhere you can usually download the walking tour ahead of time.
Make sure you do bring those comfortable shoes and comfortable clothes. During a Baltic cruise it isn’t uncommon for me to walk 20,000 steps per day, my record is 33,000!
Walking is one of my favourite ways to stay healthy on a cruise, many people worry about putting on weight on a cruise but to be honest I genuinely feel as though I come back healthier! To find out the little things I do that make a big difference, check out this post:
Use Public Transport
Most countries visited on a Baltic cruise have relatively cheap and easy to use public transport systems. If there is a particular thing you want to see or do it’s usually possible to buy a bus or train ticket and make your own way to the attraction. You really do see the country that you’re visiting when you travel on public transport, I much prefer it to sitting on a coach with other British people.
It’s usually a good idea to bring some cash for things like public transport although this isn’t necessary in most places. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in most ports. Booking attractions ahead of time can also save you money so it is worth considering this.
Cruise Line Excursions
If there is something in particular you would like to do it might be worth considering a cruise line excursion. Cruise line excursions can be quite expensive but they are often the easiest way to explore a place. Most cruise line excursions are based, at least in some parts, on coaches. Groups will usually be of at least 20+ passengers and you might end up following a tour guide around with a flag on a stick.
If you are visiting St Petersburg you either have to take a ship organised excursion or an excursion with an independent provider. Due to the visas needed in St Petersburg you can’t ‘DIY’ your day as much as in other ports. During my Marella Baltic cruise we took two St Petersburg excursions.
Another option is to take independent excursions with other companies. These are often much cheaper than booking through the cruise line but it does take a bit more organisation. There are lots and lots of companies in the Baltics which provide independent excursions. The main downside of booking excursions independently is if your cruise port is cancelled you won’t get your money back. To learn more about what happens when itineraries are changed, and this happens a LOT, check out this post: Do You Get Compensation For Missed Cruise Ports?
For independent excursions in Russia I personally recommend Alla Tours as an alternative to a cruise line excursion. Alla Tours organise all visas for their guests and the trips are often much cheaper and more personal than cruise line excursions.
Which Cruise Line’s Are Best For a Baltic Cruise?
The majority of large British and American cruise lines regularly cruise the Baltics. Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, P&O, Marella and MSC all offer Baltic cruises in varying lengths. The itineraries and ports offered by all main stream lines are relatively similar.
There are a number of luxury cruise lines who also cruise the Baltics which usually offer smaller less well known cruise ports. Azamara, Silversea, Oceana and Seabourn are just a few of the cruise lines that cruise this route.
Choosing a cruise line can be a very confusing process, there are so many things to consider. Dress codes, dining, entertainment and more. To help you to find the perfect cruise line for you, I’ve put together this video:
To learn about a specific cruise line check out our full recommended cruise lines post. In this post I talk about the positives and negatives of each cruise line in addition to who their typical passengers are and what the experience onboard is like day to day:
Where To Next?
There is not a lot that I love more than going on a cruise, meeting new friends and realising that I paid considerably less that everybody else for the exact same cruise.
Finding and booking a cruise is no easy task. I’ve been able to cruise for as little as $50 per night and I regularly save over 75% compared to advertised brochure prices. You can do it too!
If you have any cruise questions or stories/photos you’d like to share, please join us in our Facebook group!