We spent a fantastic nine-day cruise on the Norweg

(36 Reviews)
100% Recommended

Corey Montgomery

Roseburg, OR
Travel Leaders Certified Travel Specialists

Although it seems like yesterday, I joined the Fly Away Travel team in 2000. Through out my career I have had the good fortune to help guide thousands of clients all over the world. The most rewarding thing about my job is ensuring that my clients...

Entrance to Tivoli Gardens In Copenhagen Denmark

We were accompanied by four other couples on the cruise, all customers at Fly Away Travel. We were blessed with relatively fantastic weather, with some minor exceptions, for this time of year in the Baltic region.  We saw some of the most amazing European and Scandinavian cities, the highlight of which was a two-day visit to the former czarist capital of Russia, St. Petersburg (formerly called Leningrad under the communist, Soviet regime). We embarked in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Our first stop was in the northern port city of Warnemünde, Germany.  Many of the nearly 4,000 passengers took excursions to Berlin.  It was a three-hour train ride and back, so we opted to enjoy the historic city of Rostock, just a couple of kilometers from the port.  We had decent weather that day and sampled a former East German city and its medieval Old Town, feasting on Wiener-art Schnitzel (called Wiener Schnitzel in Austria, a pork cutlet) and other German specialties at the Braugasthaus"Zumalten Fritz"Restaurant. Our second port of call was Tallinn, Estonia, a quaint Baltic seaport and Estonia’s capital and cultural hub.  Unfortunately we had a rainy day in Tallinn, but we still were able to visit its walled, cobblestoned Old Town and see Kiek in de Kök, an impressive 15th-century defensive tower along the ancient city wall.   Our next two days were spent on a private tour of St. Petersburg.  We learned that it had been raining constantly for the last few weeks but we were once again welcomed with near perfect weather, albeit a bit cold…but it was Russia! It is a major port city on the Baltic, and was the imperial Czarist, pre-communist Russia capital for two centuries, having been founded in 1703 by Peter the Great.  It remains Russia's cultural center.Everyone on the cruise was required to do one of three things in order to enter St. Petersburg.  Russia requires a visa for U.S. persons.  A U.S. visitor must either go through an extensive and expensive process to obtain an official visa to Russia.  However, since we were cruise ship patrons, we could opt to take a guided tour and avoid the visa application process.  U.S. visitors who either sign up for a Norwegian Cruise Lines excursion tour or obtain their own private Russian tour can enter Russia through what is considered a “ship visa,” at no additional cost.  The cruise line excursion is usually a fairly large group driven around the city on a bus.  Private tours are much smaller and you are transported around in a 12-passenger van.  We opted for the private van tour which was not only much less expensive, but much more intimate and personalized.  We had our same one tour guide on both days just managing our small, 10-person group.The sites were amazing; most all renovated after World War II when the German and Finnish armies surrounded and sieged the city, literally bombing most of the medieval palaces into near oblivion.  The Russian government has made a significant effort to restore the major palaces and churches to their original states; however, during our tour we noted some portions of the extremely elaborate and ornate building interiors only partially restored.  We visited Fountain Park which is also known as "the Russian Versailles;"Tsars Village which is filled with lavish, imperial palaces; Catherine Palace, the home of the legendary Amber Room; the Hermitage Museum which is one of the largest museums of art and culture in the world; the Church of the Spilt Blood--a marvelous Russian-style church; St. Isaac's Cathedral; and the Faberge Museum which has the largest collection of Faberge works in the world, including some of the famous Imperial Easter eggs.  It was an amazing two days.Our next stop was Helsinki, Finland, which was a bit of a disappointment for two reasons.  Our weather luck faded and it rained nearly the entire day.  And second, we came to learn that Helsinki is actually about the same age as the United States.  Finland switched back and forth from being a part of Sweden and Russia for centuries, only becoming an independent country in 1809.  We only did the bus tour and due to the rain, returned to the ship fairly early. Stockholm, Sweden, was our last port of call, and it was extraordinary as was our weather that day!  We purchased tickets for the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus and boat tour.  The first and foremost location we visited was the Vasa Museum, a maritime museum, in which is displayed the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged.  It was a 64-gun warship that actually sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 right in the Stockholm harbor.  The restoration is not complete; however, it is magnificent to view.  We took boat tour and focused the rest of our day exploring Stockholm’s Old Town. We really loved our entire trip.  Of  the locations we visited, I am adamant that we must return to explore Copenhagen in more detail, especially Tivoli.  We also feel like we need to return to Stockholm to continue our explorations.

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