Baltic Sea Cruise

Yesterday, we returned home from our nine country odyssey around northern Europe. We took a cruise marketed as a cruise of (current or former) capital cities on the Baltic Sea. That’s a stretch for the stop in Warnemünde, Germany, where the majority of cruisers take a train ride to Berlin. This cruise itinerary was appealing to us as it visited a lot of iconic European cities, particularly Saint Petersburg, Russia, which was on Kara’s bucket list to visit. So, we booked a balcony cabin. A couple months before the cruise, we got an email offering the opportunity to put in an upgrade bid to upgrade our cabin. In the last week or so, we found out via email from Norwegian that our bid was not enough and we didn’t get the upgrade. Too bad, but it was nothing to be sad about since the cabin we booked originally was still great. Here’s how it went:

  • 09/17 – Flights to Copenhagen, Denmark: When we got to the airport, we found out that our inbound aircraft to Toronto was delayed nearly 2 hours and would cause us to misconnect. The check-in agent stated that all rebooking would occur in Toronto. Given that we would be arriving after 10pm, there would be few same-day options if we waited to have them address our problem then. The check-in agent looked briefly, but did not find any flights to change us to. So after clearing security, I used our delay to search for replacement flights. We called Air Canada to have our flights rebooked, feeding them the flight numbers for various options we found. During irregular operations, it speeds things along if you can provide the agent this information. After that we had to get the gate agent to re-tag our bags for the new routing. For some reason, they were unable to do this using their automated systems. So, they had to write out a manual bag tag. That really made me nervous, but it ended up working out ok. After arriving in Toronto, we got to the gate for our flight to London right after they started boarding. If we had waited to find a rebooking agent in Toronto as they initially directed, we would not have been able to make that flight and would have had to wait until the next day. That would have made things much more stressful leaving little margin to make the cruise.
  • 09/18 – Arrival in Copenhagen: Upon arrival in London, we found a lounge to wait in. After taking a shower, we made our way to the flight to Copenhagen. Right after we landed in Copenhagen, I was checking my phone while we were taxiing. There was an email from Norwegian and they were making us an offer on an upgrade! It was actually lower than any of our original bids and for a suite category higher than the ones we bid on. All we had to do was call to accept. We couldn’t get off the plane fast enough to call them. We accepted the offer to upgrade to a Haven 2-Bedroom Family Villa! The suite had 559 combined square feet between cabin and balcony. It is the third highest cabin category and the category with the second most area. And the category with more area only has two cabins on the ship. So, on a ship with 2,008 cabins, ours was smaller than only 2 cabins! The other part of this is that we were in the Haven, which has private areas of the ship and special services only available to 80 of the 2,008 cabins. This link has more info on that. Anyway, after taking care of that we went to check-in to our hotel and then explored Copenhagen.
  • 09/19 – Board ship in Copenhagen: We did some more sightseeing in Copenhagen before making our way to the cruise port. As part of the Haven, we had a much shorter line and were on board the Norwegian Getaway in no time. We explored our suite and had some lunch before exploring the rest of the ship. Eventually the time came to set sail. As indicated by the map below, we sailed north. This seems a bit circuitous, as most ships could sail south under the Øresund Bridge. The captain explained that while our ship could fit under the bridge by about 10 feet that our draft is too deep for the water under the bridge. This necessitates sailing around the other direction.
  • 09/20 – Warnemünde & Rostock, Germany: We had breakfast in the Haven dining room and it so happened that the windows were pointed towards Warnemünde. So, we had a great view from deck 16 while eating breakfast. Most passengers probably took a train to Berlin. Since Kara has already seen Berlin, we stayed in Warnemünde & Rostock. Rostock was the first area on my mission to Germany. So, since I lived there for 4.5 months, I was able to guide us around the sights. We started by exploring Warnemünde. After that we took the s-bahn to Rostock and explored there. There was some light rain off and on, but we still enjoyed ourselves.
  • 09/21 – Sea Day: On our first sea day we did a variety of things. We played a couple games of trivia, nearly winning one. I killed Kara in mini-golf. We also did the rope course, which was pretty cool. They have a plank you can go on that hangs out over the water. And at the end of the course is a zip line. Let me say that again. We did a ZIP LINE on a cruise ship. Unfortunately for Kara, she got stuck half way through the zip line. For some reason, she didn’t want to do the rope course later in the cruise. In the evening, we went to the Haven courtyard to enjoy the hot tub with 55-60°F air temps.
  • 09/22 – Tallinn, Estonia: We started our exploration of Tallinn by taking a taxi to the Old Town. According to UNESCO, Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. I had originally intended to start our walking tour at the north end of Old Town, but our taxi driver suggested we start from the south end so we would be walking down hill. His English was rough and our Estonian is non-existent, but his recommendation saved us from a lot of up hill walking. So, thanks Estonian taxi guy. We explored Old Town starting with the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which is an orthodox cupola cathedral. There was some rain early on, but it cleared out pretty quick. After we finished up in Old Town, we walked back to the cruise port and had a late lunch on the ship.
  • 09/23 – Saint Petersburg, Russia: Typically, a U.S. passport holder must have a visa to enter Russia, but there is an exception for cruise visitors in Saint Petersburg when they are accompanied by a tour operator licensed by Russian authorities. So, since we booked our tour through a licensed operator we didn’t need a visa. Nevertheless, you are still required to go through passport control after getting off the ship, which is not normally required for visiting ports on cruises. As a result of that, we got some Russian stamps in our passports. Our tour on day one started by visiting the Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral. Nearly all of the Romanov emperors and empresses of Russia are buried here. Next, we went to the Peterhof Palace, which is also referred to as the “Russian Versailles“. We’ve now visited both and can say they are both amazing. As part of lunch, we had some Borscht. The last stop on day one was the Catherine Palace, which was the summer residence of the Russian tsars. After we got back to the port, Kara bought a set of Matryoshka nesting dolls.
  • 09/24 – Saint Petersburg, Russia: Day two of the tour started with a river boat tour on the Neva river. We saw a variety of things, among which was the law school that Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky attended. Next was the Winter Palace of the Hermitage Museum. Aside from being an ornate palace, it houses an incredible amount of art. Among many others, we saw works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, & Rembrandt. Next was the Church of the Savior on Blood. The inside of this church might be the most amazing single work of art I have ever seen. Nearly every surface inside is covered in intricate mosaics. That’s over 80,000 square feet of mosaics. Wow! The next stop was the huge St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The last stop was Yusupov Palace, which was the residence of the House of Yusupov. It was also where Grigori Rasputin was murdered. Our two-day tour of Saint Petersburg was absolutely amazing. As we left Saint Petersburg, we went to deck 17 to watch as we past the Kronstadt Naval Cathedral. This was something that we wanted to visit but that was just too far away to be practical (seriously, go to the Wikipedia page for this and look at the pictures of the interior). We settled for seeing it from the ship at night as we left.
  • 09/25 – Helsinki, Finland: In Helsinki, the day started with some dense fog that burned off fairly quickly. We used a hop on hop off bus to get around, starting first with the Sibelius Monument, dedicated to composer Jean Sibelius. After visiting various other sights, we ate some Finnish street food for lunch at Market Square.
  • 09/26 – Nynäshamn & Stockholm, Sweden: For the stop in Sweden, the ship docked in Nynäshamn. Earlier in the year, Getaway sailed through the archipelago to dock directly in Stockholm. I heard that the reason why we didn’t do that is that they require daylight to safely navigate the archipelago in a ship of this size. So, we had about a 35 mile bus ride to get to Stockholm, where we started with a stop at an overlook with a view of the city followed by the Stockholm City Hall. This is also where the Nobel Prize banquet is held. Next, we went to the Vasa Museum, where the salvaged 17th century warship Vasa is kept. The remainder of our time was spent in the old town (Gamla Stan). We explored the old town and had lunch at a small cafe.
  • 09/27 – Sea Day: On our last sea day, I started by going to a lecture by the captain and chief engineer on the technical aspects of the ship. If you can believe it, Kara had no interest in this event. Go figure. Then, we played a couple more trivia games. After lunch, we pretty much just relaxed in our suite since we had done a lot of walking in the past week and a half. In the evening, we watched from our balcony as we passed under the Østbroen Bridge, which has the world’s third longest main span.
  • 09/28 – Arrival in Copenhagen: Sadly, our cruise had come to an end. We took our bags to our hotel and then went out to explore Copenhagen. Our first stop was the Church of Our Saviour. It has a spiral staircase on the outside of its spire that allows a nice view of the city. Then we went to see Nyhavn, where we also had lunch at a cafe. After lunch we visited various palaces as well as the Little Mermaid statue.
  • 09/29 – Flights Home: On the way home, we only had to take 2 flights. We flew from Copenhagen to Toronto to Nashville.

This trip was absolutely fantastic. I’ve posted the pictures to my Flickr in the collection titled Baltic Sea Cruise 2017, which contains the following albums:

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