Last updated on January 13th, 2017

Northern Europe Cruises: What You Need to Know
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Northern Europe is a hot destination right now, especially for cruise lines. More and more itineraries are being added lately, so you have even more choices when it comes to ports of call. Our first cruise was on Celebrity Silhouette, stopping in 7 countries along the way, and it was a really great cruise that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants an easy way to get around to a bunch of Northern European countries at once.

We referred to it as the sampler cruise. Yes, it’s just a day or two in each port, which is never enough time to truly explore a city, but it is a good way to get a taste of what the city and the country might be like so you can decide if it’s a place you’d like to return to in the future.

Read more about what I learned from booking my first cruise.

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Northern Europe Cruising General Info

The Northern Europe cruise region stretches from the British Isles to Scandinavia, and even includes St. Petersburg, Russia. You’ll see that this area is also referred to on cruise websites as Baltic and Scandinavia cruises. They’re mostly all similar, but may contain slightly different ports of call on each itinerary. No matter where you go in Northern Europe, though, one thing is for sure, an incredible array of culture and history awaits you. This isn’t your typical low-energy, relaxing on board type of cruise. This is an active itinerary, where you’ll be spending time in a different major city each day for up to 14 days. There’s very little down time. And while the major transportation issue has been taken care of for you, there is still a lot of planning involved to make sure you get the most out of each port.

Because of the cool climate and short summer, the Northern Europe cruise season isn’t very long. The season typically lasts from May to August, with the shoulder seasons offering the lowest fares. Cruises to this area usually range from 7-14 days, though you’ll find more on the longer side, because of the distance involved. One of the best parts of cruising through this area is the long summer days, with many hours of daylight to enjoy your time in port. It’s typical for the sun to rise at 4am and not set until 11pm.

Which Cruise Lines Visit Northern Europe?

Major cruise ships docked near old town
Major cruise ships docked near old town

The cruiselines that offer itineraries in Northern Europe are numerous. There’s Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, Crystal, Costa, Oceania, Regent, Asamara and MSC to name a few. You can choose the cruise line that best suits your travel style and budget. Some of them are quite a bit more expensive than others. All of the lines I just mentioned are high-quality, luxury cruises, so it’s guaranteed you’ll be well taken care of, but each brings to the table a different set of amenities and expectations.

A few things to consider when choosing the right cruise line:

1. Dining Options – What type of dining do you prefer? Make sure the cruise line offers open seating dining, a good selection of specialty dining, and whether they can accommodate any food restrictions you might have. We personally really preferred specialty dining, read more about why here.

2. Beverage Packages – If you want to enjoy adult beverages on board (and who doesn’t!), check into the beverage package offerings to make sure one fits your needs and your budget.

3. Shore Excursions – Each cruise line offers a different selection of shore excursions. If you’re planning on partaking in the excursions offered by the cruise line, you’ll want to make sure they have what you’re looking for. Some lines even include some excursions in the price of your cruise, which could be an added benefit.

4. The Perfect Itinerary – Again, each cruise line offers different itineraries, sail to different ports and offer different reboarding times, so you may be able to spend more time in port. You’ll want to consider every itinerary in order to find the one that suits you best.

5. Stateroom Choices – Every cruise line has different state room offerings. It’s always wise to look through the options and the corresponding prices to make sure you’re getting what you expect and want. Check the size of the room, the amenities, the extras and the positioning.

How Do I Choose an Itinerary?

The Alcoves
The Alcoves

One of the biggest factors to choosing a cruise line, in my opinion, is the ports of call on their itinerary, and of course, the itinerary itself. Our friends that we traveled with were loyal to Celebrity, so we chose only from their itineraries, but I was almost romanced away by some of the other lines’ offerings.

Most Northern Europe cruises hit up 5-8 different countries. If you have specific countries in mind, you’ll need to shop around. We put a lot of consideration into how many sea days were included, and if there was a full two-day stopover in St. Petersburg, Russia. We lucked out and found an itinerary that also had a two-day stopover in Copenhagen!

Our itinerary left from Stockholm, Sweden, and ended in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Some cruises start and end in the same city, which means you’ll be backtracking. While it might be more convenient for scheduling flights, it will definitely cost you a day or two in transit, which means more sea days. I prefer to spend as much time as possible actually on land, discovering a new city, so sea days are not appealing to me. It’s all up to your preference.

What is a Typical Itinerary for a Northern Europe Cruise?

Nyhavn in Copenhagen
Nyhavn in Copenhagen

I’ve already mentioned a few of the locations that are typical for Northern Europe, but let’s take a deeper look into what a typical itinerary would include.

The 10 most popular cruise ports in Northern Europe are Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Oslo, Norway; Copenhagen, Denmark; London; Warnemünde, Germany (Berlin); and Gdansk, Poland. Other ports are located in Lithuania, Latvia, several different ports in Sweden, Norway and Germany, etc.

Here are a few popular itineraries from top cruise lines. You can see that they all have some ports in common, but if you really wanted to go to Lithuania, your options are limited.

Regent

DayPortArriveDepart
1SunCopenhagen, Denmark5:00 PM
2MonAt Sea
3TueSt. Petersburg, Russia1:00 PM
4WedSt. Petersburg, Russia7:00 PM
5ThuHelsinki, Finland8:00 AM4:00 PM
6FriStockholm, Sweden9:50 AM3:15 PM
7SatKlaipeda, Lithuania1:00 PM8:00 PM
8SunGdansk, Poland8:00 AM3:00 PM
9MonMalmo, Sweden9:00 AM5:00 PM
10TueAt Sea
11WedAmsterdam, Netherlands7:00 AM

 

Celebrity

Day Port Arrive Depart
1ThuStockholm, Sweden
2FriStockholm, Sweden3:00PM
3SatHelsinki, Finland10:00AM5:00PM
4SunSt. Petersburg, Russia7:00AM
5MonSt. Petersburg, Russia6:00PM
6TueTallinn, Estonia8:00AM5:00PM
7WedAt Sea
8ThuWarnemunde, Germany7:00AM9:30PM
9FriFredericia, Denmark9:00AM6:00PM
10SatCopenhagen, Denmark7:00AM
11SunCopenhagen, Denmark3:00PM
12MonAt Sea
13TueAmsterdam, Netherlands6:00AM
14WedAmsterdam, Netherlands

 

Princess

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
1SunCopenhagen, Denmark6:00pm
2MonOslo, Norway10:00am7:00pm
3TueAarhus, DenmarkNoon7:00pm
4WedBerlin (Warnemunde), Germany7:00am9:00pm
5ThuAt Sea
6FriTallinn, Estonia8:00am5:00pm
7SatSt. Petersburg, Russia6:30am
8SunSt. Petersburg, Russia6:00pm
9MonHelsinki, Finland7:00am4:00pm
10TueStockholm (Nynashamn), Sweden7:00am7:00pm
11WedAt Sea
12ThuCopenhagen, Denmark5:00am

 

Holland America

DAYPORTARRIVE  DEPART
1WedAmsterdam (IJmuiden), Holland4:00pm
2ThuKiel Canal (Cruising)10:00am
3FriRonne, Bornholm Island, Denmark8:00am5:00pm
4SatGdansk (Gdynia), Poland8:00am5:00pm
5SunKlaipeda, Lithuania8:00am5:00pm
6MonAt Sea
7TueSt. Petersburg, Russia7:00am
8WedSt. Petersburg, Russia6:00pm
9ThuHelsinki, Finland8:00am5:00pm
10FriStockholm, Sweden8:00am5:00pm
11SatVisby, Sweden7:00am1:00pm
12SunBerlin (Rostock), Germany8:00am11:00pm
13MonCopenhagen, Denmark8:00am5:00pm
14TueAt Sea
15WedAmsterdam (IJmuiden), Holland7:00am

 

The Celebrity cruise itinerary is the one we chose. However, Celebrity has dozens of other itinerary options, as do all of the other Lines, so you just have to hunt around a little bit until you find the one that suits you best. What I like best about all of these sample itineraries is that there are only two sea days on each, and that there is a two-day stopover in St. Petersburg. That is generally the case for most Northern Europe cruises.

Highlights of Our Northern Europe Cruise

We had such a great time on our cruise. I’m sure, in the end, we would have loved any of these cruise itineraries, and any of the cruise lines. But it does pay to be choosy when you’re investing in an expensive vacation. To get an idea what some of the ports are like, I’d like to share some of the highlights of our cruise.

Stockholm

Helsinki

St. Petersburg

Tallinn, Estonia

Warnemunde, Germany

Fredericia, Denmark

Copenhagen

Amsterdam


16 thoughts on “Northern Europe Cruises: What You Need to Know

  1. Elaine J. Masters says:

    I’d go nuts spending only a day or less in a port but get it now. Sampler cruises! If I had very limited time but the resources this would be a great way to do just as you suggest and return to favorite destinations for more exploration. Very comprehensive and interesting

  2. Lesley says:

    I haven’t done many cruises but this is a great direction for me since I haven’t visited a number of these countries. Fantastic tips and details. Holland America seems like the best fit for me but I’m going to look more into it now 🙂

  3. Vicky and Buddy says:

    Cruises are fun and allow you to see a lot in a short time. I went on a cruise in the Bahamas, so it was a bit of a different feel. I’d love to do a Mediterranean cruise one day!

  4. Lieurene Tran says:

    This is a great resource. Thank you so much for providing information as well as the sample itineraries. I’ve been on a cruise to Mexico before but I would love to take one in Europe with my family since I know they would enjoy this.

  5. Kate says:

    I love the idea of cruises and it shows how many places you can see and what you can experience, but I get really sea sick. On the big cruise liners, can you feel the motion of the sea? If its pretty stable and calm, I’d be very interested. The information you give here is so useful and concise. Its great to see at a glance the different options and packages you can go for and the photos are great inspiration!

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Hi Kate. If you get really sea sick, maybe it’s not the best option – but I can say that I rarely felt that we were moving at all, unless the seas were choppy that day and then only a slight sway. You’d have to take Dramamine or another preventative med, I think. I had the most problems after I got off the ship. I was swaying for a good week or two on land.

  6. Sand In My Suitcase says:

    Great post! Yes, if doing a Baltic cruise, we for sure would want at least 2 full days in St. Petersburg. A Baltic cruise is definitely on our wishlist :-). Next time, you might want to try a river cruise. The ships are smaller and more intimate than traditional big ocean-going cruise ships. And they tend to give you lots of time in port for (usually guided) sightseeing.

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