14 nights, 7 ports of call, 7 countries, a Baltic Heritage Cruise from Southampton is a 4,000 mile round trip exploring some of Europe’s most beautiful cities, including the cultural capital of Russia, Saint Petersburg. Here’s all the best bits of this spectacular itinerary onboard Princess Cruises Sapphire Princess, a cruise line I’ve collaborated with in the past…
On the 31st August we set sail for Zeebrugge in Belgium, the ‘Princess difference’ was evident from the get-go, though Sapphire Princess may not be the biggest and newest ship in their fleet, it’s a tastefully decorated vessel that isn’t showing its age (fifteen) with the help of a recent refit, and the food and entertainment onboard was some of the best I’ve experienced on any cruise ship.
The cruise line also proud to offer “the ultimate sleep at sea” with luxurious mattresses and bedding – in my experience over the past few years of cruising, they’re right. Restful sleep is also essential on this itinerary, the clock’s go forward 2 hours by the time you reach Russia and you’ll walk your socks off, there’s so much to explore!
Zeebrugge (Bruges), Belgium
Our first port of call was Zeebrugge, the gateway to Bruges or the Belgium capital, Brussels. Most people head to Bruges which is 12 miles away. Princess Cruises (and most other cruise lines) offer a relatively cheap shuttle service to Blankenberge where you can catch the bus or train further afield.
Bruges is a beautiful red-brick city with so much character – watch this space as I’m working with Visit Flanders to show you more of this beautiful area in the coming weeks.
Top things to do in Bruges include;
- A boat ride on the canals
- An indulgent Belgian lunch (moules-frites, beer and waffles from Chez Albert)
- Chocolate/gift shopping at The Old Chocolate House
- Visiting the Historium and tower for panoramic views over The Market Square
Copenhagen, Denmark | Baltic Cruise Highlights
Sapphire Princess docked just 1.5 miles away from the cultural heart of the city, the Nyhavn Harbour. During my walk there I passed the Kastellet fortress, Amalienborg palace (home of the Danish Royal Family) and iconic Little Mermaid statue.
The cost of living is high so eating out in Copenhagen is expensive, particularly on the Nyhavn. However, an hour long long canal ride from the Nyhavn will only set you back about £11/$14 and gives you a nice overview of the city from the water.
The port of Stockholm is around a 45 minute walk from the city centre, you can get a travel card to use the public transportation (cheapest option) or book a private taxi or shore excursion. Stockholm is made up of 14 islands – the Old Town, on Gamla Stan island is a hub of characterful bars, cafes and gifts shops. It’s also home to the Royal Palace and Nobel Peace Prize Museum.
Tallinn, Estonia | Baltic Cruise Highlights
The pretty Medieval town of Tallinn is around a 15-20 minute walk away from the port. Unlike the previous two stops Estonia is less expensive, so I treated myself to a hot chocolate in Tallinn’s Oldest Cafe and walked along the fortress walls (for €3) to soak up the wonderful rooftop views with enchanting spires.
Saint Petersburg, Russia (Overnight)
To visit Russia you’ll need a visa, but if you’re booked on a shore excursion with the ship or an independent tour company, this element can be taken care of for you. The city is Russia’s capital of culture and to make the most of your visit I’d highly recommend booking a tour, particularly if you’re there overnight. I did a tour with Ludmila and it was a brilliant experience over 2 days taking in all the sights including the palaces, museums and underground metro – a full blog post will follow.
Helsinki, Finland | Baltic Cruise Highlights
The city centre is a few miles away so using the local transport or booking a ship’s transfer will be necessary to maximise your time in port. I paid €8 for a day ticket on the local public transport which includes the buses, trams and even some of the ferries. The #14 bus from just outside the port takes you to the Rock Cathedral, one of Helsinki’s most popular attractions.
You can also transfer onto the #7 tram to the Cathedral Square which is in walking distance to the street market and Stockmann, a popular department store for shopping. I walked back to the ship along the harbour, passing through Kaivopuisto park.
Gdyina (Gdansk), Poland
Our final port of call was Gdyina, a young port city in Poland that is close to the historic city of Gdansk where you’ll find the world’s largest brick cathedral and a modern museum of WWII. Gdansk is around 24 miles away so an excursion or use of local transport will be necessary. Uber’s are very cheap in Poland so I decided to use that and explore Sopot, sometimes referred to as the Polish Riviera.
Sopot is only 7 miles away and has a lovely stretch of sandy beach and Europe’s longest wooden pier. At the end of the pier you’ll find Meridian restaurant and a pirate ship taking passengers on a 40 minute voyage into the bay.
Even before I disembarked in Southampton I was eager to share my Baltic Heritage cruise experience, it’s a trip I’ll be sharing stories about for many years to come. A Baltic Cruise from Southampton crams in so many amazing destinations over two weeks and the comfort and relaxation offered by Princess Cruises made it all the more enjoyable. I’ve come back with a new love for Eastern Europe and its breathtaking cities, and a desire to find out what else Princess Cruises has to offer.
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Previous collaborations with Princess Cruises - all opinions are my own.