Currently, Russian calls have been removed from all cruise itineraries and we think it is unlikely they will return in the near future. So, is the crown without its most sparkling jewel still worth a visit? We would answer with a resounding yes!
First of all, the dazzling cities. Imagine that on a single itinerary, you could visit an amazing nine countries (Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, Denmark and Norway) of which no fewer than seven capitals, to include Stockholm, Helsinki, Berlin (on a day trip from Warnemunde), Riga, Tallinn, Copenhagen and even Oslo. What better way to explore this extraordinary region?
Once there, you will be enraptured by the magical light, the natural beauty, the extraordinary history, the wide-ranging architecture and the history, as well as the intertwined literature and art.
The seafaring Vikings roamed through the Baltic, connecting trade routes stretching into the east as far as Baghdad and west to the Celtic settlements of the North Sea and spreading culture, art, crafts and coinage far and wide.
Highly prosperous mediaeval trading centres grew and off the beaten track islands of today, such as Visby, used to be the bustling centre of Hanseatic trade. Despite its tiny size, Visby has the largest number of preserved ruins in all of northern Europe, including churches, fortresses and more, dating back to the 12th century.
The Hanseatic league linked the bustling seaports of the Baltic Sea with the rest of mainland Europe, not to mention the British Isles and the prosperity of that golden age can still be found today in the cobbled streets of Tallinn, Gdansk and Stockholm's Gamla Stan.
As for the natural beauty of the region, the glowing light creates magical long evenings in the height of the summer and the evocative coastline with cliffs, golden sand beaches and towering sand dunes, has inspired artists through the ages, in particular the romantics of the 19th century and great composers, such as Sibelius. As you spot the rocky island outcrops of Sweden and Finland, you will expect to catch sight of a Moomin at any moment.
Beautiful Stockholm offers magnificent palaces and maritime marvels, whilst for more contemporary art and design, Helsinki will take your breath away. Along the beautiful harbour front of Gdansk, heady cooking aromas entice you to sample Polish specialities and in Riga, glorious art nouveau architecture fills the old town. The amazing sand dunes of the Curonian Spit in Klaipeda (Lithuania) are stunning or travel inland to the capital, Vilnius. And, if your cruise ends in wonderful Copenhagen, make sure you book an additional couple of nights to enjoy this supremely walkable waterfront city and make the most of its amazing restaurants.
In short, if you are worried that you should save your Baltic cruise until St Petersburg opens up again, our advice is, these packed itineraries are full of activity, so make the most of the opportunity to explore the rest of the Baltic more thoroughly.