The Baltic Region: Cruise or Land Tour?

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Dec 6th, 2018, 12:31 PM
  #1
Wm
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The Baltic Region: Cruise or Land Tour?

Would love to visit the Baltic Region, but not sure of the best way to do this. We have explored using a cruise line (Tauck, Seabourn) as friends have enjoyed this experience. We would also like to consider a land tour. We do want to spend some time in St. Petersburg. We are an older couple who enjoys architecture, culture, scenery, and good food and wine. We have done a small group land tour to Croatia and one cruise on the Danube via Tauck otherwise have traveled independently. Your advise would be most appreciated.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 12:43 PM
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Some cruises spend 2 nights / 3 days in St. Petersburg so that might be enough. I know visas can be an issue. You can get a lot more info on this option over on Cruise Critic - there is a ports section where there will be much discussion and information. I've done independent travel and cruises - I like both. Cruises do let you cover more ground IMO when distances are not close for the sights you want to see.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 01:48 PM
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Wm
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Thanks suec1 for your quick reply. Have you cruised the Baltic area? If so, which cruise line did you use?
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Dec 6th, 2018, 02:28 PM
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Easy enough to travel in the Baltics without a tour at all, although if I had to pick cruise or a land tour I would pick land as I would expect to get longer at each stop.

Back in 2004 I traveled to Vilnius, St. Petersburg, Novgorod and Moscow by train as part of a longer trip. I arranged train tickets and home stays ahead of time through an agency in Australia, if I were doing it today I would consult seat61.com for information on the trains and book hotels through the usual sites. In 2011 I visited Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga independently, see: The "B" Trip, Part One, Baltics
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Dec 6th, 2018, 03:23 PM
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We did a Celebrity cruise several years ago - in addition to the 2 nights in St. Petersburg we also went to Tallin, then Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, a port on the German coast where you could take a long excursion into Berlin. Cruise started and ended in Amsterdam. We contracted with a private tour company in St. Petersburg and had a very full 2 days of sightseeing. I liked cruising for seeing this part of the world - I've gotten where packing and unpacking on a land tour is a pain, also I thought the food on the ship would probably be better than local cuisine. There are other places where I would prefer a land trip, but to see a variety of Baltic countries, this worked for me.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 03:39 PM
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I've seen on cruise critic that there are several Baltic cruises that terminate in Saint Petersburg, and they seem to be cheaper than the rest of them. I think it's a perfect opportunity to spend additional time in SPB - or maybe take a tour to Moscow or Kazan. You will,.of course, need a visa in that case.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 04:01 PM
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I had the opportunity to travel to the Baltic region last summer on a Viking Ocean cruise, which worked well for me. The 15-day cruise started in Stockholm and ended in Bergen, Norway with overnight stays Stockholm, St. Petersburg and Bergen. I was traveling with a group of friends, so we hired a private guide in St Petersburg, well worth the cost. The tour companies also provide the Visa. In addition to the cruise we went were in Denmark and Sweden for about one week prior to the cruise, along with several days post-cruise in Bergen and Oslo. Train from Bergen to Oslo (6+ hours) included spectacular scenery. Regardless, if you take a land tour or a cruise, the Baltic region has so much to offer from museums, architecture, parks and garden....
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Dec 6th, 2018, 04:30 PM
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Like Suec1, we did a Baltic cruise, ours on Princess. Out of and into Copenhagen. Scandinavian capitals. Warnemund for a tour of Berlin. Tallinn and 2 nights in Saint Petersburg. No cruise excursions, went with SPB tour group all the way.

No problems, no visas. Recommend.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 05:00 PM
  #9
kja
 
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Like thursdaysd, I found it easy to travel to these areas independently -- and I went to Russia in 1994! It really depends on one's priorities, but FWIW, I wish I'd had more than the 6 days I gave St. Petersburg, and I don't think any tour gives you that much time.
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Dec 7th, 2018, 07:03 AM
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If you are interested in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as St. Petersburg, I would definitely do a land based trip so you can see more than the port cities. For example, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a 3 hour or so drive from Klaipėda, the port. The connection to St Petersburg by air is very easy from any of the Baltic countries. We flew from Vilnius to St Petersburg. Getting a visa for Russia is a nuisance but I think it’s the best option. You can see the city at your own pace. You don’t need a guide if you’re willing to do a little advance planning.
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Dec 15th, 2018, 01:27 AM
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We traveled the Baltic area on a cruise (Royal Caribbean), and it was one of my best trips! The advantage of cruising is that it is easy, and you can see a lot of places. It is also great that you can go to Russia and see St Petersburg without the trouble of getting a visa. All the other Scandinavian capitals are nice and beautiful, and a cruise gives you a good feeling of them. The disadvantage of this style of traveling is limited time (one day for each city, 2 days for St Petersburg), and you feel there is much more that was left behind the scene. So I am planning to come back overland and stay longer next time. Anyway, for a first visit a cruise is a good idea.
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Dec 16th, 2018, 07:52 AM
  #12
Wm
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Thank you to all of you for your thoughtful responses. We need to further explore options as we really want to spend more time in St. Petersburg than organized tours afford.
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Dec 17th, 2018, 01:07 AM
  #13
 
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Most of tour operators can customize an individual tour for you for as long as you want. For intance, you can take half-day tours to the places that are not easy to reach or navigate (Catherine's Palace, Pavlovsk, the Hermitage...) and spend the rest of the day wandering around on your own. However, in this case you will probably need a land tour, not a cruise. Overland you can allow about a week, and maybe take a day trip to Moscow or Novgorod. With a cruise you only have 2-3 days, which is definitely too short.
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Dec 17th, 2018, 06:56 AM
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We went the cruise route. We took a longer cruise that gave us two days in some of the ports, including St. Petersburg. We used a travel group in some of the ports (like St. Petersburg) to make sure we got to see what we wanted to see. Anastasia's Travel arranged private tours for us, and got us where we needed to go and took care of all the visa paperwork. We didn't want to do the ship excursions because the groups are always larger and I was afraid we would not get to see what we wanted to see.
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