|Subject: Re: Baltic Cruise
Hi Bob and Pat,
Happy New Year!
We took a Baltic cruise in June 2004 on the Grand Princes. Like Lucy's, ours started in Copenhagen so I can't offer any Amsterdam advice. I agree with everything that Lucy has said.
To add a bit more:
St. Petersburg - Definitely use a private tour company like Red October or DenRus. Both are extremely reliable and I've never heard any disappointment about either. And as Lucy says, you won't be standing on a long line for the Hermitage and other palaces. We had a group of 4 people which we felt was ideal. My husband and I were travelling alone on ship but partnered up with another couple to share the costs. We found them on the CruiseCritic board. Red Oct suggested an itinerary which we modified to suit our desires and then once on tour, we lengthened and shortened visits as we wished. Obviously, this can't be done on a group tour. You will need a Visa for Russia which costs $100. pp. If you go on a group tour - either w/ the ship or a company like RO or Denrus - they will get a group visa for you and you won't have to pay for one. The downside of this is that should you wish to go out in St. Petersburg in the evening, you can't just walk off the ship and hire a taxi or private guide to take you to a restaurant or the ballet. You would have to arrange another group tour. Some of the people on our ship took private tours in the day and then took the ship's tour to the ballet or a dinner at Catherine's Palace in the evening. You'll be in St. P during the "White Nights" where it stays light almost 24 hours and it's just amazing.
For all the other cities, it's easy to plan your own itinerary and travel around independently.
I don't know which ship you're on, but some dock right in Stockholm and others dock an hour away. Our ship docked in Nynasham, which is an hour from Stockholm by train. Unfortunately, 1. We had to tender to shore, so there were lines for the tenders which cost us precious time 2. The ship departed at 5:00PM, so we had to leave Stockholm on a 3:00PM train so as to not miss the ship. This severely limited our time in Stockholm, which made it the low point of the cruise. We would have enjoyed spending more time there. The "must see" is the Vasa museum.
I would recommend buying a book that covers highlights of Baltic cruises. I think ours was a Rick Steves book. These are excellent sources of information since they're geared for people who will arrive by ship and have a limited time in each city.
The weather can be quite chilly and/or rainy, so prepare with some rain jackets and sweaters to layer over tee shirts.
It's a great trip; you're picking the perfect time to do it.
Enjoy! Candice NYC