THE SUMMERTIME BALTIC- ROUND TRIP CRUISE OR FLY CRUISE?

The 2015 Baltic cruising season will kick off in the next few weeks, and cruise travellers from all over the world will once again be presented with an absolute glut of cruise and fly cruise opportunities to visit what is, without doubt, one of the most compulsive, mesmerising and stunningly beautiful cruise destinations anywhere on earth.

Several unique factors combine to give the Baltic a quite distinctive cachet; the long, almost endless summer daylight makes a spectacular backdrop for a host of fairy tale cities that look like scenes straight out of a Brothers Grimm tale.

There is Tallinn, with its squat castle turrets and clutch of copper plated spires looming against the sky, and cool, sophisticated Stockholm. Stately, French accented Saint Petersburg, just over three hundred years old and already suffused with an aura of turbulent, dramatic history second to none. Helsinki, breezy and beautiful, and bedecked with cool, cutting edge architecture and shopping. And, of course, there is Copenhagen, the rollicking, roisterous, fun capital of Scandinavia. Even Hans Christian Andersen himself would be dazzled by the dizzy parade of delights served up on any Baltic cruise itinerary these days.

And there is certainly no better way to appreciate such a sublime smorgasbord than from the comfort and all encompassing convenience of a cruise ship. In an adventure ranging from between seven and twelve days, you can take what amounts to a kind of floating fairground ride around the ‘greatest hits’ of the region, packing and unpacking only once, and revelling in some signature shipboard luxury en route. As ways to explore the region go, it’s unbeatable. An absolute no-brainer.

For the potential Baltic cruise pilgrim, there are two basic options. Many ships sail from the UK to the region from ports as diverse as Newcastle, Harwich, Dover and Southampton. Nearly all include an overnight in Saint Petersburg.

There are always at least three, perhaps even four, sea days on such cruises, which gives you time to chill out and take stock between sizzling ports of call. You neatly sidestep the summertime hell of regional airports on both sides of the continent. And, if you definitely have the luxury of time, then this is surely the best way to go.

On the other hand, if time away is a concern, you can always maximise your holiday by flying straight to Copenhagen and boarding a ship there for a week long sailing around the principal ports. You still get to see all the big names, thanks to Copenhagen’s brilliant geographical proximity to them, and you also usually- but not always- still get the overnight stay in Saint Petersburg, the city that most passengers consider to be the ‘crown jewel’ of the Baltic circuit.

Plus, if you’re really into seeing Copenhagen- and it is well worth seeing- you could even fly out a few days early for a pre cruise stay, or even extend your time there at the end of your voyage. Quite a smart option for those wanting more than just a conventional fly/cruise experience.

But… be aware that those week long, port intensive cruises pass at a truly spectacular rate of knots. There is little in the way of real relaxation as you soak up all that historic, gilded grandeur. And, for many, that has to be at least a part of any holiday decision.

To sum up, there is no ‘wrong’ way to cruise the summertime Baltic. It is simply a question of priorities, convenience and time available. For many, price will also be a key factor.

But however you choose to see these surreal, sumptuous, glittering cities that hem this most wondrous of northern seas, just enjoy them.

After all, that’s what we travel for. Bon voyage.

Helsinki's busy waterfront is one of the great highlights of a Baltic cruise

Helsinki’s busy waterfront is one of the great highlights of a Baltic cruise

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