As those familiar with cruises know, you can sometimes only have a limited time to see each destination port. So how to you get the most out of every place you visit, and avoid that strange feeling that all the cities are blurring into one beautiful place? Here are some crazy ideas for out there DIY or operated excursions in and from some of the Baltic’s most visited locations:
Short on time to see the city? Why not take a tour on Rollerblades! You can see all the sights you might otherwise have seen on a coach or walking tour, and yet you have the added fun and exhilaration of following a qualified in-line skating instructor down the (sometimes cobbled) streets of the city. Okay, this might not be for everyone! Perhaps it is a bad idea if you have never even worn a pair of skates before. You will also have to have a certain level of fitness – the streets are fairly flat, with just the odd slight incline, but you will still be skating pretty much solidly for a couple of hours. Just the way to burn off all those extra cruise calories – if you are up to it.
For exercise which involved rather less balancing skill, why not take another one of the innovative tours on offer by bike, or kayak?
If you feel like getting out of the city, the subway will take you straight out to a hiking trail-head! Trek in the hills of the Nordmarka Forest and you will find it easy to get away from the crowds. There are amazing and far reaching views over the city and the fjords and sea beyond. For more of an adrenaline rush, Crystal offers an excursion to Lillehammer, home of the 1994 winter Olympics. There, they let you have a go at riding in a four person wheelbob steered by an expert!
Stockholm is a beautiful city seen from any angle, but why not experience it from above? Take the amazing rooftop tour, and you will be harnessed up and taken on to the top of the Parliament Building at Riddarholmen, from where your guide will conduct you on a rooftop tour, pointing out interesting sights below. You must have a good head for heights!
Alternatively, Stockholm is one of the few European cities that allows hot air balloons to fly over the city centre, to take to the skies and enjoy the stunning Stockholm views!
For an authentic Finnish experience hop on a hip and retro Jopo bike for a tour of the city, or if you are feeling flush with cash, hop in a plane and be whisked to snowy Lapland, where you can see the home of Father Christmas and experience a magical, if somewhat inauthentic winter wonderland experience in Rovaniemi, or experience true wonder and natural majesty in less touristy areas of Lapland to cross the Arctic circle in a more peaceful and serene environment.
St. Petersburg/ Moscow:
St. Petersburg is an awe inspiring place in its own right, and one best explored fairly traditionally. Make sure that you see the attractions at their best by taking the more unusual tours, for example at the huge Hermitage Museum, where more unusual tours include looking behind the scenes at renovation rooms, or combine an evening tour with a musical performance. But some tour operators are offering once in a lifetime thrills from the other Russian city, Moscow. Crystal offers cruise passengers the chance to go on their second day in Moscow to Sormovo Airbase and fly in a Fighter Jet! Silversea also offer an amazing excursion here: they say you can be a ‘Cosmonaut for a Day’. You will be taken to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre where you can dock a craft in the simulator before getting a tour of the facility.
The mediaeval city is usually explored on foot or by bike, but if you have been before, or want to try something a little different, why not try a bog hike? Hiking enthusiasts who fancy exploring a rather unusual natural environment should head for North Korvemaa Landscape Reserve or the Lahemaa National Park. Alternatively, you can kayak to Pedassare Island, the highest and most thickly forested of the islands in Kolga Bay, which is inhabited only by the forester and his family. Take a short walking tour exploring the culture and nature of the island before paddling back to shore.
For an alternative to the usual walking and bicycle cruise ship tours, why not DIY and get your adrenaline pumping with a bungee jump from a cable car at Sigulda, or fly in a motorparaplane over the city with a qualified instructor, to get an aerial view of the city you are visiting. You will have to set it all up ahead of time, but with a little work you can create your own amazing and unique excursions during your brief time in port.
If you are intrigued by espionage, and the history of the Cold War, then you should visit the East German Troposphere Bunker 302, top-secret atomic bunker. There is a fascinating guided tour, and you can pretend to be a spy if you are so inclined. Again though, Crystal has come up trumps with the most exotic and exciting excursion from this port. They offer a flight to Leipsig where you get to tour the Porsche factory and test drive a Porsche Cayenne on their race track. This must be great fun, but perhaps not the most ethical or historically aware choice, since many cruise passengers who visit the area are directed, instead, towards Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp where thousands of people tragically lost their lives during the Holocaust, or to one of the other War time sites in the area.
There are of course a great many more options for cruise excursions from the many ports included on Baltic cruises, but the above should give you a taste of the variety of different and quirky excursions that are possible. Before you go on your cruise, it does pay to do your research into what to do during time in port. Adventurous excursions in the Baltic are common, and provide an antidote to the staid shuffling walking tours which used to be associated with cruise passengers!