How To Explore The Baltic Sea In Style

The Infinity Pool on-board the Viking Star
At sea 

Photo Credit: Viking

If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing the wonders of the Baltic Sea—from the opulence of St. Petersburg, Russia, to sea-sprayed magic of Helsinki, Finland to the laid-back charm of Stockholm, Sweden—we’ve discovered the best way to do so: With a luxurious two-week cruise.

The Kitchen Table
The Kitchen Table

Photo Credit: Viking

Hop on board the Viking Star and set sail on the vessel’s Viking Homelands excursion, a trip that will set sail on the high seas and take you from Stockholm to Bergen with a slew of high-end activities on offer in between. Here, we’ll share a bit about what makes this cruise liner luxurious, as well as the optional port excursions you can’t miss.

But first, a bit about the company: Viking was founded in 1997 with four Russian cruises, and expanded quickly. By 2000, the company purchased Europe’s KD River Cruises in order to grow its fleet, to leverage 40 years of river cruising experience and to acquire rights to prime docking locations in key European cities. It expanded even more that same year, dominating the American market and establishing its US headquarters in Los Angeles, Calif. With the launch of its ocean fleet in 2015, the company has also become a leader in small ship ocean cruising with its first vessel, the aforementioned Viking Star. The brand then launched its second ocean ship, Viking Sea, which was joined by sister ships Viking Sky and Viking Sun in 2017 and by Viking Orion in 2018. The fleet welcomes Viking Jupiter in 2019; four more yet-to-be-named ships are scheduled to launch by 2023.

But back to its first-ever ocean ship, the Viking Star. It’s unique in that every single one of its 930 suites are all veranda rooms, meaning, that regardless of size, everyone receives that same, awe-inspiring view of the Baltic.

Snow Grotto
Snow Grotto

Photo Credit: Viking

Luxury lovers have two solid options in terms of staterooms. While we could never recommend a typical guest room (at 270 square feet, it’s a squeeze), but we do think you’ll love the Owner’ Suite. It’s the largest bedroom on board: 1,448 square feet of space with art from Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen‘s personal collection. Those who book this gorgeous room will sleep soundly in the luxurious Viking Explorer bed; have access to three 42-inch flat-screen, interactive LCD TVs; a mini-bar with alcoholic beverages, water and snacks that are upgraded daily; a huge master bathroom featuring a spacious glass-enclosed shower, double sink vanity, heated bathroom flooring and an anti-fog mirror; two additional guest bathrooms; direct-dial satellite phone and cell service; premium Freyja toiletries; a large walk-in closet; complimentary laundry, dry-cleaning, pressing and shoe-shine services and in-suite binoculars. There’s also a massive dining area that seats six, a living room, a private library, wine and music collections cultivated by Hagen, daily personalized tea or pre-dinner cocktail and canapés by request and guided tours with the captain or key ship personnel. And yes, there’s more. There’s an in-suite boardroom for business meetings and catered dinner parties with a vapor-light fireplace, a pantry, and an ocean-view dry sauna that’s utterly amazing. Plus, guests who book this sweet suite will receive a complimentary shore excursion with a private driver in a port city of your choice, valued at up to $800, the first opportunity to book shore excursions (107 days in advance), four guaranteed reservations at each high-end restaurant on board and the first priority booking of spa treatments (100 days prior to departure). And did we mention the welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot?

If the Owner’s Suite is booked (and it might be—this is a hot ticket and goes quickly), we can also recommend the Explorer’s Suite. In addition to having a cool name, guests will also stay in a 1,163 square foot space with many of the amenities available to those who stay in the Owner’s Suite. Priority shore excursions, however, can be booked 97 days prior, with spa reservations opening up 90 days in advance. There’s only one bathroom, but this suite does have its own living and dining room.

The Owner's Suite
The Owner’s Suite

Photo Credit: Viking

Although there are 930 staterooms on board, with nine decks, the ship still feels small and never feels crowded. There are ten dining options on board. These include The Restaurant, the vessel’s standard option with a menu that includes regional cuisine as well as always available American classics enhanced with locally sourced ingredients, so you can explore new cultures through food; Manfredi’s, an Italian-fare specific eatery; The Chef’s Table, the ship’s one true fine dining option with wine pairings available; World Cafe, a buffet-style, low-key option; Aquavit Terrace, an al fresco eatery; Mamsen’s, a Norwegian-specific culinary offering available in the Explorer’s Lounge; Wintergarden, an elegant space under a canopy of Scandinavian trellised wood where guests can indulge in a full afternoon tea ceremony while enjoying the soft strains of a string quartet; the pool grill for some pool-side afternoon dining; or even room service. There is also the amazing Kitchen Table, where guests can immerse themselves in local culture and cuisine as part of an optional interactive culinary journey. At this onboard cooking school, experience firsthand how the ships’ world-class chefs bring distinct, local flavors from market to table by actually joining the chefs in culinary markets at port, picking your own ingredients, and learning how to prepare regional dishes.

Viking Star
Viking Star

Photo Credit: Viking

And beyond dining, there is so much to do on board. When the ship is at sea, Viking makes sure its guests have a plenty to do, from trivia nights to lectures with historians about the ports of call, indoor/outdoor swimming pools, a stellar fitness center (plus yoga classes!) and a downloadable art tour narrated by Karine Hagen. Read a book in the two-story Explorer’s Lounge with a cocktail at hand (and make sure to head here at twilight for a special touch—stars light up to simulate the night sky at sunset—the LivNordic spa that not only features a hot/cold plunge pool and dry sauna, but the ship’s coolest (and coldest) feature—a snow grotto, complete with real ice shavings that are added fresh on the daily. There’s also a small internet cafe, a theater that runs new films—though only at select times—high-end shops that sell everything from Nordic-inspired gear to fine jewelry to luxe beauty products, and a salon. Basically, there’s something for absolutely everyone.

St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg

Photo Credit: Viking

Now for the excursions. On this 15-day cruise, you’ll hit Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallin, Gdasnk, Copenhagen, Alborg, Stavanger, Eidfjord and Bergen. You’ll have a plethora of both free and paid-for excursions in each port. Here are a few of our favorites, and because you have the money, why not spend it?

STOCKHOLM: The Royal Swedish Opera & Dinner

Enjoy a magnificent cultural experience with a behind-the-scenes visit to the Royal Swedish Opera’s stunning home, where you’ll see the grand hallways and rooms that have hosted many a royal occasion in years gone by. Enjoy an exclusive Viking-only performance by its artists, followed by a gourmet three-course dinner accompanied by selected wines at the opera house’s brasserie. Not long after the majestic opera house opened in 1898, its dining facility became the leading eatery for the capital’s bohemian society, attracting poets, artists and writers. But a few decades later, management decided to close it to the public. The stunning space, with its golden columns and elegant arches, served as a staff canteen, then a mere storage area and even a grocery store. Today, this spectacular part of the Royal Swedish Opera enjoys renewed life as the brasserie, serving ambitious dishes with both local and global ingredients and influences.

ST. PETERSBURG: The Ultimate St. Petersburg

Keep in mind that you won’t be able to explore Russia at all without a visa. These are not only very expensive to get, they’re very difficult to obtain as well. Viking makes this easy for its guests, who don’t have to do anything except enjoy themselves. With this two-day tour, you’ll be able to explore the best of St. Petersburg in two days, from the city’s major sites to its grandest outlying palaces. Join your knowledgeable local guide and tour the opulent rooms of the magnificent Catherine Palace, the summertime residence of the Romanovs. Enjoy a panoramic drive past the main sights of St. Petersburg and a guided visit to the colorfully decorated, onion-domed Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood. Marvel at the treasures of the Hermitage Museum, including the opulent state rooms of tsars and tsarinas. Venture outside the city to Peterhof, Peter the Great’s extravagant palace. Walk through the Throne Room, White Dining Room and Picture Hall before browsing the spectacular gardens. Complete your visit to this stunning city with an evening at the ballet. Return to town by hydrofoil across the Gulf of Finland before transferring to your ship by motor coach.

An Evening of Russian Ballet

If you don’t indulge in the two-day St. Petersburg tour, you should still try to attend the ballet in St. Petersburg, city of Baryshnikov. Upon arrival at the venue, you will be escorted to your pre-reserved seats at the Hermitage Theater, where you’ll catch a world-famous ballet, such as “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker” or “Giselle.” During intermission, champagne will be served in the elegant theater bar, providing you with a chance to mingle with local aficionados of one of the city’s most revered and time-honored art forms.

The Hermitage Behind Closed Doors

Get a private, insider’s view of one of the world’s greatest art collections at the magnificent Hermitage Museum. The museum boasts some three million works of art and historic artifacts precious to Russia’s heritage. If you had the time, it would actually take months to see. That said, only a fraction are on public display; the rest are locked away in a carefully monitored facility, which was closed to visitors—until now. Join a local guide for a tour of the museum’s collection, including both masterpieces and the Hermitage’s grand spaces such as the magnificent Jordan Staircase. Then head by motor coach to the city suburbs and step behind closed doors with your guide for privileged access to the restoration and exhibit center. See how the Hermitage stores their growing collection of exhibits and examine some of the priceless objets d’art gifted to Russian Royalty by countries from around the World, and collection of imperial carriages.

Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn, Estonia

Photo Credit: Viking

BERLIN: Berlin & Lunch at the Reichstag

Enjoy a panoramic tour of Berlin, lunch atop the Reichstag and a private organ concert in a cathedral. After an escorted scenic train ride, meet your guide in the heart of Berlin. A city drive takes you to remnants of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate. At the impressive Berlin Cathedral, delight in an inspiring organ concert. Continue to the Reichstag building, Germany’s first National House of Parliament. Here, take an elevator to the rooftop terrace and the elegant Kafer restaurant, admiring the stunning glass-dome cupola designed by Sir Norman Foster. Few buildings in the city have witnessed so much history. After an unforgettable meal, your city tour commences past the Victory Column, Bellevue Palace and Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Later, browse Berlin’s most famous shopping district, Kurfuerstendamm, before returning to your ship by train.

COPENHAGEN: Ultimate Golf & Spa Experience

Live like Danish royalty for a day on this unique golf and spa tour. Begin your tour by taking in the view of the stunning Kokkedal Castle luxury hotel and spa, with its 18-hole golf course, from the sky. Climb on board your private helicopter, and take in the sights of Denmark’s amazing array of beautiful castles including Fredericksborg, Gurrehud and Fredensborg. Fly over Copenhagen and admire the contrast of modern architecture before returning to Kokkedal Castle. Ladies will then enjoy ultimate relaxation with two luxury treatments at the award-winning spa, while gentlemen will enjoy 9 holes of golf on this stunning parkland, par 72 course. Savour a delicious three-course lunch at Kokkedal Castle’s fine dining restaurant paired with wine, before your private chauffeur-driven vehicle will return you to your ship.

ALBORG: Voergaard Manor House

Immerse yourself in tales of old as you visit Voergaard House. Denmark’s most beautiful Renaissance manor house is rich in history, and hosts the finest private art collection in the country. Its last owner, Count Oberbech-Clausen, amassed a number of spectacular pieces of furniture, antiques, porcelain and silverware from his voyages throughout France, including treasures from Louis XIV and Louis XVI and personal effects once belonging to Marie Antoinette, the last queen to rule France. As you embark on a guided tour, you can imagine the prosperity enjoyed by its occupants. Next you will venture down to the manor’s infamous dungeon, Rosedonten, which now houses a fine wine collection. Enjoy a glass of Péan wine from the count’s own winery as you learn more about the history of the manor and its ghosts of the past before returning to your awaiting ship.

TK
Helsinki, Finland

Photo Credit: Viking

STAVANGER: Pulpit Rock by Private Yacht

Cruise the majestic Lysefjord to Pulpit Rock in style on board a luxury yacht. Embark from Stavanger and leave the flat landscape of the west behind, passing idyllic islands as you head east toward the lofty Lysefjord—26 miles of pristine water surrounded by rugged mountains, steep cliffs, canyons and waterfalls on both sides. The fjord’s name translates to “light fjord,” so named because of the light-colored granite rocks along its sides. Enjoy a glass of sparkling wine while appreciating the breathtaking 360-degree panorama unfolding around you as you cruise to the most famous mountain formation along the fjord—Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock. A monolithic rock formation, it towers almost 2,000 feet above the water. Upon arrival at this iconic spot, your captain will drop anchor so you can soak in the stunning natural beauty around you. After a snack of delicious Norwegian tapas, you will return to port.

EIDFJORD: The Scenic Flam Railway

Marvel at Norway’s stunning beauty during a full-day excursion to Flam, one of its most scenic coastal villages. You will find the countryside as breathtaking as your destination as you ride by motor coach from the pristine shores of Hardangerfjord to Sognefjord, crossing scenic mountain passes and driving through manmade tunnels along the way. Enjoy traveling through picturesque woodland to the spectacular Tvinde Waterfall cascading down the steep cliffside. After a short stroll in the fresh air to get close to the waterfall, we will continue our drive to Flåm. Then, board the Flåm Railway for a thrilling experience as you climb nearly 3,000 feet through 20 tunnels and over numerous bridges. Change trains at Myrdal and continue through more spectacular vistas, alighting in Voss, set amid snow-capped mountains, forests, lakes and rivers. Here, you will pause for a delicious lunch at its famous hotel. Return to your ship through more beautiful scenery via motor coach.

Exclusive Fishing Trip with Gourmet “Chef Arthur”

Join your host for the day—local chef Arthur Fjetland, a master of seafood cuisine—on a culinary tour. Pick up tips on local specialty dishes that are endemic to the region and enjoy a boat trip on a “fiskeskoeyte,” a traditional Norwegian wooden vessel, to try your hand at fishing. As you fish, take in the amazing scenery from the water and enjoy a spot of whale watching. Take your catch of the day back with you, and “Chef Arthur” will talk you through the best way to prepare your catch and cook it to perfection as you enjoy a two-course seafood lunch at one of the village’s oldest residences. A unique experience for any seafood lover or cooking enthusiast who wants to expand their culinary repertoire.

BERGEN: Flightseeing Over Fjords & Glaciers

Take flight on a scenic seaplane trip over the stunning fjords of Bergen and its mountain scenery. You will be picked up for a short transfer to the charming town of Sandviken. Meet your pilot and step on board your Cessna four-seater plane to experience the thrill of takeoff from the water. Soar over the white snow-capped mountains and view the beautiful fjords from above. You will also fly over the stunning Hardangerfjord, blue glacier lakes and Folgefonna—one of the biggest glaciers in Norway. On your return to base, fly over Mount Ulriken and the city of Bergen where you will see your cruise ship docked in the harbor. Have your camera ready for this breathtaking trip to witness the wild, beautiful landscapes of western Norway.

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