Happy belated New Year and welcome to the first post in my Baltic Sea series! As you may well know I’ve been dreadful at posting regularly (read: at all) but hey—new year, new you right? That’s what I’m going with for the time being. Anyhow, this novella of a post essentially covers my first time on a ship for more than a few hours. Disclaimer: this is more a personal reflection and overview of the trip, rather than a review for NCL.
Last year my cousin and I decided to take a trip to Europe before my senior year began. The only problem? We weren’t sure where to go. I was up for backpacking around the continent whereas he wanted to know we would be clean and housed every night. He wanted to do a month-long vacation while I had two weeks free between the end of my summer job and start of school. So what were two young adults ready to travel the world without a plan to do? We booked our own Titanic adventure, minus the music and sinking ship, courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Lines.
I had to trust Nick on this one, since he’s been on cruises before and this was my first experience. So while I handled flight information he looked up potential cruises and sought out any deals to be had—which he happens to be excellent at, by the way. We decided on their 9-night Baltic Sea cruise since it hit a lot of countries we wanted and was fairly inexpensive. The priciest part of the trip, as with many international ventures, was the airfare. After waiting for rates to drop and drop we booked our tickets and prepared for our trip.
Departure day finally rolled around and, suitcases in tow, Nick and I boarded our flight to Europe. One thing you should know about Nick is that he hates flying—positively dreads it. Faced with the prospect of spending twelve hours much higher above ground than he would like, he decided to take full advantage of Air France’s complimentary drinks service. Side note: G.E. Massenez Poire Williams blends nicely with champagne and a dash of sugar. One transfer and too many airplane meals later, we landed in Copenhagen and got to navigate our way to Norwegian Cruise Line’s port (but I’ll go into navigating the lovely city in a later post). Dropping our luggage was surprisingly easy and learning they would transport it to our rooms for us? Yes please.
A quick summary of our itinerary: it was marketed as the Baltic capitals cruise. Nine days around the Baltic Sea, covering six countries including Denmark. Our first stop was in Warnemünde, Germany, followed by Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Stockholm, with a few days at sea sprinkled in. We elected to take on most of the cities independently, booking NCL excursions at St. Petersburg and Stockholm and exploring the rest on our own. The cities were all incredible, but I’ll get into those later.
My only experience with cruise ships, other than watching Titanic and seeing photos of people’s trips on Facebook, was nonexistent. I knew this wasn’t your typical Caribbean cruise but, beyond that, I was essentially going in blind. I’m glad I packed warm clothes because the Baltic Sea in late summer, while not freezing, was quite a bit chillier than home in Washington, DC. If you’re a fitness fiend definitely pack some workout gear—I know you’ll be on vacation but trust me, the NCL fitness facility is worth that extra five pounds of running shoes and tanks. Not overwhelmingly huge and not obscenely tiny, they manage to stock equipment for most every workout type. They even have personal trainers if you’re so inclined to spend the extra money.
I was pleasantly surprised with all the ship had to offer. From dining services to lounging on any of their upper decks, the cruise line covered it all. This was a more family-oriented trip I think, as Nick pointed out the other passengers were all either families or older couples. Apparently his Mediterranean cruise the year before was party central. As such, they had plenty of game nights and entertainment—I was a bit underwhelmed with their theatrical performances, but if you know me you know I’m hard to impress when it comes to the performing arts. The staff were also great; always friendly and willing to help, they truly made sure we were taken care of. We met people from around the world and everyone was more than willing to engage in conversation.
Truthfully I’d rather get to the trips themselves than talk about the ship we travelled through three time zones on, so time to wrap this post up. To summarize, Norwegian Cruise Lines gave me a great first cruise experience. Traversing different European countries was a huge bonus, but given how attentive everyone on board was and how organized and well-maintained facilities were, I could definitely see myself going on another cruise with them in the future. Maybe next time I’ll skip the time zone hopping and do a full-on relaxation cruise…if I can handle that much down time. Got questions about NCL or my trip? Ask below!