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Royal palaces, vibrant markets & famous dumplings: What to see, do & eat on a Baltic cruise

Baltic cruise vacations tick off a wealth of incredible coastal capital cities around Northern Europe’s Baltic Sea – here’s what travelers can enjoy there.

Baltic cruises pack in beautiful cities, historical treasures and unique cuisine while sailing along Europe’s stunning coastline

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is offering a fabulous Baltic cruise itinerary this summer, whisking jetsetters through eight European countries aboard Norwegian Dawn on an unforgettable northern adventure.

Think Medieval cobbled streets, iconic masterpieces, renowned museums, distinctive churches and more – not to mention some delicious food to keep you fuelled along the way, from Swedish pickled herring to Polish pierogi.

We’ve taken a whistlestop tour of the historical and cultural highlights of a Baltic cruise 2023 with NCL and the tasty dishes on offer in this stunning part of Europe.

What to do on a Baltic cruise

History & Culture

The Baltic region is home to some truly marvellous landscapes and magnificent architecture, as well as some of Europe’s darker history. Luckily your Baltic cruises with NCL packs a real punch when it comes to the region’s highlights, with every stop brimming with treasures.

The itinerary starts at Copenhagen, famous for its charming canals, majestic palaces and jazz clubs. Highlights include The Round Tower (the oldest observatory in Europe), the colourful harbour front of Nyhavn (above, left), the royal palace complex of Amalienborg and the diminutive bronze and granite statue of The Little Mermaid (above, right), from Hans Christian Anderson’s famous fairytale, in the water at Langelinie Pier.

Next, in Berlin, NCL guests can experience the top ten highlights of Germany’s capital on a guided tour, including Checkpoint Charlie, Charlottenburg Palace and the Holocaust Museum.

Not all stops on this Baltic cruise itinerary are well known however, with Klaipėda in Lithuania one such example, although it’s arguably the most historically rich city in the country.

Klaipėda is known for its German timber-framed architecture (dubbed Fachtwerkhäusen) and is snaked with winding cobbled streets and lovely seafront promenades that come alive in the evening. Enjoy the slower pace of life here and don’t miss the old quarters and the Klaipėda Castle site in particular.

One of the region’s greatest gems is the Latvian city of Riga, the largest of the three Baltic capitals. Expect Art Nouveau buildings, a splendid old town and a vibrant nightlife. Look out for the beautiful buildings in Town Hall Square (above); the most popular of all is the Guild House of the Brotherhood of Blackheads.

Do also visit St Peter’s Church (the tallest building in Riga) and Riga Central Market (one of the largest and most visited markets in Eastern Europe and part of Riga’s UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Over in Helsinki, Finland (below, left), you’ll find a slick, minimalist and colourful city. Fun fact, it’s a designated UNESCO City of Design and is the only city in the world with its own Chief Design Officer!

Unsurprisingly the Design Museum here is splendid while other contemporary highlights include the Kiasma museum of contemporary art and the concert hall Musiikkitalo. Tourists visiting Helsinki can easily explore the peaceful and clean city on foot or bike – did you know, a third of the city is dedicated green space?

Another breathtaking capital city call during NCL’s Baltic cruises 2023 is Estonia’s Tallinn, considered one of the most beautiful cities in Northern Europe. Medieval stone walls encircle one of the best preserved Hanseatic town centres in the world with charming cobblestone streets opening into squares, lovely courtyards and soaring church bell towers.

Must-sees in Tallinn (below, right) include Viru Gate (part of the city’s 14th-century vast defence system) and St. Olaf’s Church, Tallinn’s largest medieval building. For the best views of the Estonian city head to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform on Toompea Hill.

What to eat on a Baltic cruise


Baltic food doesn’t get its praises sung enough in our opinion. Sustainably farmed and foraged ingredients and seasonal dishes are all the rage worldwide these days but Finland has been nailing this approach to food for years.

Here you’ll tuck into a range of unusual meats plus plenty of fish such as salmon and freshwater arctic char (there’s an American steakhouse, sushi restaurant and more back on your NCL ship if you’re still hungry for meat!) while veggie options include forest mushrooms, berries (including lingonberries and cloudberries) and herbs.

Lingonberry jam is widely used to accompany a variety of dishes over in Sweden too, paired with everything from meatballs to porridge. Picked herring is a staple on all buffets and crispbread (knäckebröd) is commonly served along with bread and butter. And yes, don’t worry there’s a buffet open onboard Norwegian Dawn too, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner (along with five other complimentary restaurants plus room service).

Talking of, open sandwiches are popular in Sweden, with the shrimp sandwich (räksmörgås or räkmacka) most loved by the Swedes. This sees bread topped with boiled egg slices, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and crème fraîche blended with dill sprigs and roe.

As for desserts, look out for the green princess cake (prinsesstårta) in Swedish bakeries – the sponge cake (above), layered with jam and vanilla custard, is topped with cream then a thin layer of green marzipan followed by a bright pink sugar rose! And remember, if your sweet tooth still isn’t sated then you can tuck into fresh-baked pastries and desserts back onboard Norwegian Dawn.

NCL Baltic cruises also stop at Gdynia in Poland – a country where the cuisine is wholesome, tasty and served in generous portions. The mother of all comfort foods here is the famous pierogi; these dumplings filled with stuffed with meat, vegetables, cheese, fruit or chocolate can be cooked or fried and accompanied by a sour cream topping or butter.

Another comforting dish is zurek; the traditional version of this soup is sour rye flour with potatoes, plenty of vegetables and lots of meat. It can also be served with a boiled egg while some iterations serve the soup in bread! Bigos is also a much-loved food in Poland – the iconic stew is made with sauerkraut, meat (usually beef and/or pork) and fresh shredded cabbage plus a selection of vegetables.

Where to stay on a Baltic cruise

Your NCL ship

When you’re finished tucking into regional specialities and soaking up the intriguing history of these Baltic cities you can head back to your NCL ship safe in the knowledge you’ll be well looked after and will sleep in comfort!

Norwegian Dawn (above and below) – which has a guest capacity of 2,340 – offers a wide range of spacious accommodations, with staterooms to fit every group size and budget. If you want to really treat yourself after days out delving into Europe’s history, stay in the Garden Villa, NCL’s exclusive enclave offering spacious suites complete with king- or queen-size beds, separate living and dining areas, luxury baths and private balconies as well as a certified butler and concierge services.

If you’re not too full of pickled herring you can check out the complimentary eateries and eight speciality restaurants onboard the ship and whisk your taste buds south to Italy at La Cucina, west to South America with an authentic Brazilian churrascaria experience at Moderno, or east to Asia at Bamboo which serves freshly prepared noodles, delicious wok fried dishes and more.

Another perk of Norwegian Dawn is the casino, with games blackjack, craps, roulette, slots, Texas hold ’em all available. Or why not head to the theatre for a high-energy show? Or maybe you fancy indulging in some me-time with a pamper session at Mandara Spa?

On the topic of indulgence, have you considered upgrading? NCL’s Free At Sea Upgrade Package is not only great value but it also comes with heaps of benefits.

If you upgrade from £199pp on top of your cruise fare you’ll receive all applicable packages including Premium Beverages, Speciality Dining, WiFi, Excursion Discounts and 3rd and 4th Guests pay taxes only (on applicable sailings) – how cool is that!

With Premium Beverages, guests can swig on a wide selection of soft drinks, spirits, cocktails, wines by the glass and bottled or draft beer served in all bars, lounges and restaurants throughout their vacation.

Meanwhile, Speciality Dining means passengers can enjoy a smorgasbord of unique dining experiences in Teppanyaki, Le Bistro, Cagney’s Steakhouse and more.

With the Free at Sea upgrade, travellers can also benefit from a $50 shore excursion discount per stateroom, per port of call and stay connected via included Wi-Fi.

Furthermore, if you bring a third and fourth guest they’ll only pay the applicable tax for their cruise – perfect for families travelling with children! Good luck getting the kids to eat that pickled herring though.

Set Sail

Baltic: Germany, Finland & Poland to Stockholm with NCL

Duration: 9 nights

Where: Copenhagen, Denmark | Berlin (Warnemünde), Germany | Gdynia, Poland | Klaipeda, Lithuania | Riga, Latvia | Helsinki, Finland | Kotka, Finland | Visby, Sweden | Tallinn, Estonia | Stockholm, Sweden

Ship: Norwegian Dawn

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Published 01.31.23