November 24th 2017

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Beautiful Baltic Beautiful Baltic Beautiful Baltic Beautiful Baltic Beautiful Baltic Beautiful Baltic Beautiful Baltic Beautiful Baltic Beautiful Baltic

 

Continent: Europe. Country: Denmark. City: Copenhagen.

Beautiful Baltic

By Pippa Booker, Southampton City College

The Baltic is becoming one of the most popular destinations for UK travellers.  It’s a neat, 14 day itinerary leaving from the UK, without the hassle of flying, has plenty of wow! destinations and can be very good weather too.

Usually completed in the summer months, we went on P&O’s Arcadia in July 2013.  Leaving from Southampton is always speedy – it’s usually only an hour from arrival at the terminal to lunch on board.  Arcadia is an adults only ship and matched the style of the cruise well.  It was cultured, busy and highly educational – not recommended for children and to some extent, the first time cruiser. 

The 7 ports of call were varied:

Kristiansand is the summer resort of Norwegians; floral, busy, people enjoying the summer sun in boats and on the marinas.  Lovely walk up into the forest behind.  From Norway, we sailed under the Oresund Bridge which links Denmark to Sweden, a feat of engineering which fascinated everyone!

In Poland we berthed at Gdynia, where some guests explored and came back with good reports. However, the main excursions are to Gdansk.  Quite an austere and grey city, we learnt about its history, the Dutch influence shown in its architecture and the famous mediaeval Crane.

St Petersburg was more than expected; formal roads and canals, gardens, bright sunshine, fantastic opulent spires, onion domes and glistening gold.  From the numerous excursions (all passengers either need their own Russian visa or to travel on the cruise ship group visa – there’s no wandering around here!) we picked a guided walk around St Petersburg to see the Church of Spilled Blood on day one and then Catherine’s Palace with its famous Amber Room on day two.  Fabulous.  Plenty left to see on future occasions, too.  We were treated to a fantastic sunset whilst in port, which reflected off our neighbour, Celebrity Eclipse.

Tallinn in Estonia is not known for being a ‘must-do’ destination, but it turned out to be my favourite.  Mediaeval walls, red tiled turrets, swallows screeching around pretty spires reaching into the skies, cobbled streets, charming people and cosy winter souvenirs of reindeer adorned scarves and gloves.  

P&O offered us free transfers into Stockholm city centre, where there are many things to do. The city itself is made up of a number of islands, so wander across the different bridges to see the old town and the museums.  New in 2013 is the Abba museum and an old favourite is the Vasa museum with its complete Viking ship.  Both of these are within walking distance of each other and I’d recommend booking both in advance and arriving as early as possible to avoid the queues.

Copenhagen is a very accessible destination.  You berth right by the Little Mermaid, walk through the Palace past the sentry guards before coming into the city itself.  Nyhavn is the famous canalside street where Hans Christian Anderson lived, Strøget is the longest shopping street in Europe and you will still have time to walk up to the famous Tivoli Gardens.

Final port of call was Bruges.  As ships berth in the commercial port of Zeebrugge, you must take the free shuttle to Blankenburg or an excursion.  We opted for ‘Bruges and Beer’ although there was also a chocolate version!  A guided walk around Bruges filled us with history and a tasting of four local beers quenched our thirst.

Pippa Booker
Teacher of Travel and Tourism, specialising in cruising
Southampton City College
e : pippa.booker@southampton-city.ac.uk
w : www.pippabooker.com

Keywords: Baltic, Southampton, P&O Arcadia, Norway, Kristiansand, Oresund Bridge, Gdynia, Gdansk, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bruges, Zeebrugge