Cruising in the Baltic

With the huge draw of Russia’s St. Petersburg, as well as the other beautiful, clean, safe Scandinavian ports, and a limited season of sailings, the Baltic is one of the world’s premier cruise destinations. All major lines cruise here if it fits in their schedules. There is a great mix of stunning scenery, high arts, and fascinating histories. A cruise makes it so much easier to string these places together, you probably wouldn’t visit any other way.

Three of the four countries that are featured on almost all itineraries, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, are considered some of the most politically democratic nations in the world. Yet, they are all monarchies. Russia, though officially a republic, remains one of the most totalitarian countries in the world. Some might suggest its republican history since the 1917 Revolution has been more totalitarian than its absolute monarchy. After all those years behind the Iron Curtain, the chance to see the grandeur of its golden age is on the bucket list for most cultural travelers.

When you touch the history of any European nation, you generally touch the history of all Europe. This is basically because most of Europe has been at war for the last twelve hundred years. From the time of clans, tribes, city-states and duchies to kingdoms, provinces, leagues, alliances, unions and empires, the political map of Europe, from Tunisia to the North Cape, has been re-drawn a thousand times. The Baltic States have been active participants in this mayhem, playing critical roles at a number of important junctions in European history.

One significant thread running through the cultural story of these countries is the evolution of the Christian religions, from Catholicism to Orthodoxy and Protestantism. Scandinavians and their descendants made pivotal contributions in the historic events related to the rivalries of these faiths. There has been a lot of political strife surrounding these transformations and they are central to the development of each of these nations.

You’ll be visiting in summer. That means long daylight hours and the liveliest, most playful time of year for these vibrant people. Take it all in. Be as ambitious as you can stand with the tours, museums, palaces and fortresses. This will be a trip you will talk about for a long time.