(Note, I also posted this same report on the Cruise Forum.)
Not planning on doing this as a detailed trip report but will focus on aspects of traveling with two kids, ages 8 and 7. (One boy, one girl.) We spent three nights in Amsterdam followed by a 12 night Baltic Cruise on the Celebrity Constellation. We traveled from July 23rd to August 8th.
Arrived in Amsterdam on a Saturday morning. We prearranged a van on-line through Schipol Travel Taxi service. Van easily fit the four of us and several suitcases. Price much better than what our hotel stated was the cost of their arranging transportation.
Stayed at the Pulitzer Hotel, which is just down the canal from the Anne Frank House. Great location and friendly staff. We booked a Deluxe Family room which featured an alcove area with two double beds for our children. We took advantage of an offer to prepay our room at the time of our booking in May and paid 830 Euro for three nights, which included free breakfast. (Rate plan technically was pay for two nights and get the 3rd free.) Would stay there again with our without our kids. Hotel reserved a van taxi for us when we left for the Amsterdam Cruise Port. I highly recommend making a reservation ahead of time if you require a van as they may be unavailable if two cruise ships are departing the same day. (As a couple leaving our hotel found out.)
In Amsterdam would definitely recommend renting a bike for an afternoon. There is a small playground in the park between the Van Gogh Museum and the Riksmuseum which gave our kids a chance to run around a play a bit. Perfect location actually as my wife and I could have a beer at the cafe while our kids ran around 15 feet away. Didn’t make dinner reservations any of the nights there but found interesting places to eat in the busy streets off the Leidsestraat, about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. HINT: Buy your tickets ahead of time for the Van Gogh Museum and spare your kids waiting in line.
The Ship: We picked Celebrity as we felt it had the right combination of upscale appeal for my wife and I and activities to keep our kids busy. In hindsight, it worked out exactly that way. Boat was not packed with kids, but there were enough kids in the age range of our children to let them make friends during the 12 days. Baltic probably isn’t the first place people think about with young kids, but any concern we had of our kids being bored never materialized. Kids club staff were primarily Canadian, all super nice girls.
We had a slightly larger room which made sense for us given the length of our stay. I understand Celebrity has family rooms which sell out quickly, for good reason, as they offer more space. We had a category a bit up from that with a veranda.
Hints: Family Portrait Pictures on board are actually far less expensive than comparable portrait shots at home. (At least in the US.) We purchased a package for about $200, which gave us several 8 x 11 shots of our kids and our family. Given the need for our son to wear a jacket and tie on formal night, the photos were an added benefit.
We had dinner on six of the twelve nights in one of their specialty restaurants. Twice with our kids at the Tuscan Grille, twice without them at both Ocean Liners and Bistro on Five. On port days, we found it advantageous for our kids to eat dinner earlier at the Buffet and then spend a few hours running around with kids their own age and doing activities from 7 to 9:45 p.m. I think it gave them a chance to do kid friendly in locations that might be heavy on non kid friendly stuff like museums and churches. Kept them happy and gave my wife and I a chance to spend some time together.
We did not use cruise line excursions except in one instance. We’re fairly comfortable travelers and every city (with the exception of St. Petersburg) can easily be navigated on your own with a map.
Warnemunde – We decided not to travel to Berlin. The 3 hour train ride each way didn’t make sense for us. We stayed around Warnemunde, which is a small beach resort town. Worked out perfectly. We walked down to the main beach past the main strip of shops and restaurants. The water was a bit cold but our kids enjoyed the chance to swim in the surf. There was a large playground on the beach and they played there for a long time. We stopped for an afternoon snack at the restaurant across from the beach entrance which had fantastic desserts. My suggestion if you stay in Warnemunde is to bring their bathing suits and a few towels. My wife and I rented a beach chair and the kids got to run around and have fun.
Stockholm – Because of the annual Gay Pride parade getting around the city was going to be a challenge. We opted for the cruise line excursion to the kid’s museum Junibacken and Vasa Museum. (They are next to one another.) If your boat docks in Old Town Stockholm, there no reason to pay for an excursion. Because of the parade, we could not dock there which added a lot of cost to our day. Oh well. HINT: It is very scenic heading into Stockholm from the Baltic. Consider breakfast that morning on your veranda. I would recommend both museums with kids. Would also suggest walking around the old part of town.
Helsinki – The biggest surprise for us was how much we liked Helsinki. We just walked around near the main harbor area and park. We worked our way to the outdoor market and stopped for a refreshment at one of the outdoor food stalls. We didn’t tell our kids until after they are the meatballs that it was reindeer. We did not go to the island fort at Soumenlinna, which is the one thing I wish we had done on this trip.
St. Petersburg – We used DenRus tours and arranged for a private tour for the 4 of us. Cost wise a much better option than the cruise line tour.(Have a review on TripAdvisor for DenRus that goes into more detail.) With kids I highly recommend altering a standard itinerary to spend your time at the Peterhof Summer Palace in just the fountain area. There are a couple of places where your kids can get wet, please let them as it will be a lot of fun for them. We spent three hours in the Hermitage. More time would have been better but as we got to see the Gold Room, I can’t complain. (Given how large it is, you could spend years there.)
Tallinn – Great place to walk around. Easy to navigate, plenty for the kids to see. Make your way back up towards the fort and the Russian Church for a scenic overlook. Wonderful town.
Copenhagen – Tivoli Gardens is a must. We purchased just the entrance pass for my wife and I and the entrance pass/ride pass for our kids. Was a perfect last port day for them. We had intended to just spent three hours there but wound up spending the entire day.
For souvenirs, we purchased national team soccer jerseys Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Tallinn for our son. (Believe it or not, we couldn’t find a Germany jersey in Warnemunde.) For our daughter, we found some really nice winter hats and clothes in Finland. She loved the nesting dolls from Russia, as well.
Other hints: We debated getting a beverage package on the boat. Very glad we did not. Our kids didn’t need that much soda. We stopped someplace to eat at least an afternoon snack in every city, which gave them a chance to try different things. Our son is a finicky eater so it forced him to try one new thing per day. We had our kids learn at least three phrases in each country “Hello”,“Thank You” , and “My name is…”
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Amsterdam and Baltic Cruise with young kids – Trip Report
(Note, I also posted this same report on the Cruise Forum.)