With so much fascinating culture, history and architecture, visiting Scandinavia and the Baltics is high on my travel bucket list. But when planning a trip to this region it can be challenging to figure out how to see it all in one trip, and how to handle logistics and transportation affordably.  After much research and consideration, I’ve realized that one of the best and easiest ways to visit the Baltics and Scandinavia is with a cruise vacation.

My Travel Bucket List is Not Complete Without Scandinavia & the Baltics

I’ve been fortunate to explore many corners of Europe over the years.  From Ireland, all around the UK, throughout mainland Europe, down to Naples, Italy…and so many places in between.  Traveling in Europe has already been a memorable experience.  But I’ve never really gotten the chance to venture north of Europe to Scandinavia, or northeast into the Baltic region.

visit tallinn estonia, cruise baltics

Tallinn, Estonia Skyline

Places such as Tallinn, Estonia with its UNESCO-protected old town have been beckoning to me for years.  I imagine myself walking the old cobblestone alleyways, and admiring the medieval architecture that surrounds me.  Tallinn is a lesser known capital city and isn’t on the mainstream tourist path like other major cities in Europe, making for a more leisurely experience compared to my trips to London or bustling Rome.   

Another city I’ve always wanted to visit is St. Petersburg.  This grand city is full of exquisite palaces, and has a distinct culture and history that evoke the feeling of a totally different time. Not far away from both St. Petersburg and Tallinn is Finland, with the capital city of Helsinki.  These cities are tucked northeast of mainland Europe and out of the way of where most of my travels tend to take me. So I want to find a way to finally explore this region that I’ve longed to see for so many years.

Horse drawn carriage in St. Petersburg, Russia

Planning a Trip to Scandinavia & the Baltics – Logistical & Cost Considerations

Throughout my European trips, I traveled by either bus or a rental car, and a few times by water.    My all time favorite way to explore this region is with a road trip through Europe.  I love being able to go at my own pace and take some of the roads less traveled.  Luckily, traveling most of Europe by car is made easier due to good roads, infrastructure, and easy border crossings.

While technically the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are a part of the EU and you could drive there, looking at the map I can see that driving from central Europe would be a bit long and challenging.  Another way to get to this region is is to fly directly into Estonia and then rent a car to drive around.  However, there would be a few border crossings to deal with – including between the EU and Russia.  Border crossings can sometimes be a pain, especially with a rental car. 

Other options include traveling by train or even by ferry; however, both of these options have additional costs and they take up a good chunk of your day for transportation. Plus, you will be hauling your luggage around every couple days, which is never fun – especially on public transportation.

Some train travel research I did on Google

I considered all the different possibilities – the timeline for the itinerary, the costs, rental car options (driving one-way and dropping off, or roundtrip, etc.) and it seemed to me that this trip was sounding more challenging than relaxing.  After jotting all the options down on my vacation planning template and analyzing the pros and cons, I’ve decided that the easiest and most enjoyable way to visit the Baltics and Scandinavia would be to book a cruise vacation.

Cruising Offers the Most Efficient Way to See the Baltics & Scandinavia

We’ve written before about cruise vacations, and how they can be a wonderful option for a relaxing and scenic vacation.  One of the biggest reasons I enjoy taking a cruise is because of how easy it makes the logistics of planning transportation between different countries and must-see destinations.  All of which is a key consideration in this particular trip.

There is no need to worry about border crossings because they are so much easier with a cruise.  There’s also no need to research and stress about taking rental cars over borders (and insurance or one-way drop off fees), nor do you need to fuss with catching public transportation and hauling your luggage around!

Beyond transportation, cruising gives you the ability to just relax and enjoy the experience.  Settle into your stateroom, unpack all your clothes, and don’t worry about anything.  There’s no need to re-pack or move to a new hotel – simple enjoy yourself, go to sleep…and wake up in a new country! 

I love the idea of exploring the charming history of Tallinn one day, then the next day waking up to the opulence of St. Petersburg! When you combine the comforts, style and elegance of a great cruise line, it just seems like such an easier and enjoyable option to explore this region.

Another benefit to planning a cruise is that many of the itineraries we’ve found for the Baltic and Scandinavia region include other major cities that I would love to visit as well, such as Stockholm and Copenhagen.  In particular, Celebrity’s Baltic Cruises offers some great itinerary options and has the quality and style that matches our tastes. 

When you only have limited vacation time off from work, it’s pretty great if you can fit all of these destinations into one awesome cruise vacation.

Sometimes Cruising is the Best Option

There are definitely pros and cons to cruising.  And with this particular vacation, it comes down to the logistics of transportation, and planning a trip where you get to experience multiple destinations in a short period of time.  Having a complicated and challenging itinerary just makes it all so stressful – and who wants that?!?  So when it comes to visiting the Baltics and Scandinavia, I’m quite certain that a cruise vacation seems like the easiest and most enjoyable option.


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