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CRUISING THE HISTORIC BALTICS
Europe
by Matthew Adams


Mediterranean cruises might be the preferred choice for many travelers. There will undoubtedly be lots of sunshine during a summer Mediterranean cruise, and there are fascinating historic destinations in Spain, Italy, Greece, France and Croatia. However, Northern European cruises that sail through the Baltic Sea also stop at plenty of intriguing destinations in countries such as Sweden, Russia, Germany, Denmark and Poland.

Princess Cruises' Baltic Heritage cruise is one that includes several northern European stops on its itinerary. I took a 14-day Baltic Heritage cruise aboard the Emerald Princess that departs from Southampton. The Sapphire Princess is another ship that you can take the Baltic Heritage aboard. The Baltic Heritage cruise primarily encompasses Scandinavia and the Baltics.

The Baltic Heritage cruise first stopped at Zeebruge, Belgium. From there, I took an excursion trip to Bruge. The city was once a commercial metropolis in Europe, and the Historic Center of Bruge has preserved its historic architecture. Bruge is the Venice of the North that includes an extensive network of canals. There I took a canal boat trip that provides a unique view of the city's historic center.

Stockholm, Sweden is the third stop on the Baltic cruise. As a city situated on an archipelago, extensive waterways also wind through Stockholm. The city includes the Vasa Museum, which is one of Sweden's most notable museums. It houses the salvaged and restored 17th century Vasa warship that sank on its maiden voyage. Alongside the ship itself, the museum showcases thousands of artifacts found with the warship and its armaments.

After Stockholm (and Helsinki), the Emerald Princess sailed for St Petersburg, Russia. This is undoubtedly the cruise's most notable stopping point where the ship remains for two days. St Petersburg, formerly Petrograd, is the historic heart of Russia. That was the capital of the Russian Revolution where Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized the Winter Palace. Lenin first arrived in Petrograd in 1917 after the tsar's abdication during the February Revolution, and he led the communist coup in October 1917. Thus, Petrograd also became Leningrad during Soviet era.

There are plenty of intriguing historic sites at St Petersburg. The Peterhof Palace and Hermitage Museum are probably the city's primary attractions. The Hermitage Museum is one of the world's largest art galleries that showcases Russian, Italian Renaissance, French Neoclassical, Dutch Golden Age and German art from various eras. St Petersburg is also notable for its rich Neoclassical and Russian Baroque architecture.

Thereafter, the Emerald Princess sailed westward and stopped in Tallinn. That is the capital of the former Soviet republic of Estonia. In Estonia, I strolled to the Viru Gate, which is the entrance to the remarkably preserved Old Town. The Viru Gate consists of two round towers that were, and still are, a part of the Walls of Tallinn. Today, Tallinn is among Europe's best preserved medieval cities and its Old Town a UNESCO landmark.

The final port of call was Gdansk, Poland. “Gdansk is where World War 2 started,” the tour guide informed us at the Solidarity monument. The German warship Schleiswig Holsten fired the first salvos of the war at the Westerplatte gateway in Gdansk. The war that followed devastated the city, but Gdansk has now been rebuilt. There I strolled through the Long Lane, from the Golden Gate to the Green Gate. If you visit Gdansk, check out the new Museum of the Second World War that recently opened, which is one of Europe's largest WWII museums.

Thereafter, the Emerald Princess departed Poland and returned to Blighty. The Baltic Heritage cruise provides an intriguing voyage of Northern Europe at its various stopping points in Scandinavia and the Baltics. From Bruge to St Petersburg, the Princess Cruises' Baltic cruise includes unique heritage sites that few other cruises can match.    


If You Go:

Hermitage Museum

Vasa Museum

Viru Gate

Canals of Bruge

Baltic Heritage Cruise

Museum of the Second World War


Photographs:

All article photographs were captured by author except the Hermitage Museum snapshot, which is a creative commons photo.

  1. The Emerald Princess docked in Tallinn.
  2. A gallery within the Hermitage Museum.
  3. One of the Viru Gate towers in Tallinn.
  4. A photo taken in Long Lane, Gdansk.


Contributor's Bio:

Matthew is a freelancer who has produced a variety of articles for various publications and websites such as Swing Golf Magazine, TripAdvisor, Naval History, Artilleryman, dotTech, Bright Hub, Coed Magazine the Washington Post and Vagabundo Travel. Matthew is also the author of Battles of the Pacific War 1941 – 1945. Check out the book's blog at battlesofthepacificwar.blogspot.co.uk