How do you choose your next holiday mama? How do you find a holiday that satisfies your inner adventurer as well as your kids’ desires for entertainment and routine?
The next time you’re faced with such a dilemma, spare a thought for the cruising vacation – in my opinion it ticks the boxes for a perfect holiday. You get entertainment for all ages (we travelled with three different generations), you can visit multiple destinations in different countries without constantly needing to repack. Plus you can eat obscene amounts of food for absolutely free (the normal dining rooms are all included in your booking price) and it’s the perfect setting for picky eaters – they can try new foods without you pulling your hair out! In fact, my two didn’t even order from the kids menu at all, preferring Caesar salads and tortellini over mac n’cheese. And finally, a cruise is the ideal scenario for kids who seek comfort in the simple routine of being able to spend every night in the same bed!
This summer, we were fortunate enough to get away from Singapore’s balmy climate for a fortnight, aboard a 14-day Princess Cruise across the Baltic Sea – a voyage I would highly recommend you to try.
The Baltic Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of Northern Europe, enclosed by Scandinavia, Finland, the Baltic countries and the North European Plain. If like me, you’re a stickler for old-cobbled stones and well-preserved medieval old towns and villages, this is the ideal cruise for you. And with European summers, it’s all about beautiful sunny days and cool evenings, without any typically freezing cold European nights.
There are several cruise liners that offer this route, so it’s worth checking out which itinerary and budget suits you best. This one in particular starts and ends in South Hampton, making port stops at Zeebrugge, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, Copenhagen, St. Petersburg and Gdansk.
Before I tell you about the beautiful cities, let’s start with the cruise itself. The daily schedule starts from 6:30 am with deckside yoga classes and goes on all the way until 11 pm every night, ending with a show, the casino or dancing. Children are separated age-wise into three different kids clubs, each offering age-specific activities to keep them entertained, complete with dinner and pj-movie nights. My 10-yr old twins had access to the Wii and X-box, ping pong, baby fusball, basketball, trivia, arts & crafts, and a lot more.
To give you a taste of what to expect, a visit to Copenhagen boasts a peek into charming late-Renaissance and Rococo architecture surrounding beautiful canals, earning Copenhagen the accolade of Venice of the North. The most famous sites here have to be the fabled statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, and Tivoli Gardens, one of Europe’s most celebrated pleasure gardens.
Stockholm, covers 14 separate islands connected by bays, channels and inlets, so the best way to see the city is via the canal cruise. A must visit is The Vasa Museum, which houses the Vasa, a 226-foot-long warship that sank on its maiden voyage in Stockholm in 1628. End the visit with a stop at the famous Stockholm Ice Bar, the world’s first permanent ice bar, where everything is made of pure, clear ice from the Torne River in northern Sweden.
Finally, a close Russian cousin, Estonia remained a pawn in the Soviet empire for 51 long years, until the burgeoning freedom movement led to independence for the Baltic Republics in 1991. Today, Tallinn is the political, commercial and cultural centre of Estonia. Take the time to visit The Town Hall, which was built in 1402 as a meeting place and has been a highlight of the city ever since.
Unsurprisingly, while we only stopped for the day in all the other ports, St. Petersburg was an overnight stop, given how much there is to see in the beautiful city. Rich architecture, glittering castles, museums and churches; a folkloric show, a must-do evening at the Russian ballet, and shopping for Russian matryoshka nesting dolls – that’s just scratching the surface of what the city has to offer.
I could keep going on about each beautiful city and what you have to visit, but that would take a while. But I’m pretty sure that I’ve whetted your appetite for The Baltics – so if you get the opportunity to cruise your way over, grab it with both hands. And unlike air travel and hotels, you’ll only have to unpack once even though you’ll be visiting seven or eight different countries over two weeks. Bon voyage!