So You Want To Take A Baltic Cruise

Many of you have expressed interest in taking a Baltic Cruise and several have asked about costs. For you, here’s a breakdown on what we paid. Beware: prices escalate rapidly!____________________________________________________________

We had been reluctantly looking for a Baltic Cruise. I say reluctantly because every time we seriously considered it, either pricing was prohibitive or the ship visited too few ports and not necessarily the one’s we wanted to see. A Baltic Cruise was on our bucket list and even though we like to think we can handle lots of walking and humping luggage from place to place, it’s not as easy as it was when we were 20 and we wanted to do this while we were both still reasonably healthy.

Visby, Sweden
Visby, Sweden

In late April as we were scanning cruise sales, we saw something called, ‘The Ultimate Scandinavia and Russia Cruise’. It was an 11 night cruise with only one day at sea. It called in ports in seven different countries, of those; six countries would be new territory for us. The highlight of this cruise was to spend three, full days in St. Petersburg, Russia.  This is unheard of in the cruising world as most ships spend just a day or two in the city. Other stops included Copenhagen, Denmark; Tallinn, Estonia; Visby, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Rostock, Germany; Stockholm, Sweden and Klapeda, Lithuania – A first time call for Royal Caribbean.

We were intrigued, so we picked up the phone and called Royal Caribbean. We just

Nyhaven - Copenhagen's Old Town.
Nyhaven – Copenhagen’s Old Town.

returned from a long anniversary road trip and leaving again in two months was not something we looked forward to doing. But if we were ever going to take the leap, the time was now. We wanted a balcony, even though we didn’t know if we would use it on a cruise where the temperatures are cool. But the price was unbeatable and a balcony was only a few hundred dollars more. With all the time in ports, the Serenade of the Seas would be mainly used for transportation and accommodations, with the added bonus of having someone cook and pick up after us. The price, close to $2,000 each, included our taxes and gratuities and a bonus of $200 for onboard spending. Before you gasp, in Baltic cruise terms, this is a very good price. However, once we committed to the cruise, the costs really began to add up.

The quaint streets of Rostock, Germany
The quaint streets of Rostock, Germany

Having made the decision to sail, there was not much time to coordinate everything else that needed to be done. First, there was the air. We were flying into Copenhagen and out of Stockholm. Few airlines fly to both places and prices bordered on the outrageous. Coach seats from Orlando started at about $2,500 each – more than what we were paying for the cruise. Flying has become a misery and we were really hoping to not fly in economy class. So I decided to use some accumulated American Express Membership Miles and I picked up two, Business Class tickets on Air France from New York. I was thrilled that I saved about $8,000 on the tickets, but everything has its price. I had to pay taxes of $1,100. and I had to purchase two, roundtrip tickets on Jet Blue to New York for an additional $700.

We stayed at a hotel in Orlando and bookended our trip to park our car free in their lot instead of paying $20 a day to park at the airport. That added another $200 for the hotel, but saved $300 in parking fees for 15 days. We live 70 miles from the airport and with an early flight, it’s essential we stay near the airport. Getting the free parking was gravy.

FlowerLady
Selling flowers in Klapeda, Lithuania

Then there were the tours. I did some advance research and happily discovered that in just about every case, we could walk to see the highlights of the area, but that did not apply in St. Petersburg. There you have few choices: you can apply in advance for a visa and go through the arduous process of trying to get one, or you can take tours with the ship and your visa is included as part of the ticket price. You cannot get off the ship in Russia without a visa. So we booked three tours for the three days. We would be gone 12 hours the first two days seeing the highlights of the city and a fun painting class and tea party on the last day. The cost: nearly $1,000.

Everything I read about Copenhagen advised to beware of sticker shock and they weren’t kidding. I was leery about booking a Scandinavian brand hotel, so I went for my first choice: a Hilton. I thought I was seeing things. The price was $800 a night and it didn’t include breakfast – something everything I read said to look for – and wifi  was extra.

I was willing to beg, so I sent an email and asked if they could possibly lower the rate to $250 a night. I’m sure they are still laughing. They said no.

Catherine's Palace, St. Petersburg
Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg

So I booked a Best Western that included breakfast and free wifi for a mere $250 a night for two nights. Believe it or not, that was the best priced hotel in the city. I read great reviews on the property and it was located in the center of everything. It was really nice and having breakfast at the hotel saved us about $60 a day.

Finally, I was afraid we might miss our flight, so we stayed an extra night in Stockholm after our cruise ended. We stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott for a mere $110 a night.

Taxis, meals and miscellaneous costs came to around $500.

If you’re keeping track, the total cost was a whopping $8,110. Now I was able to save money on the cruise and on the air and honestly, if we had to pay full price for either of those, we would not have gone.

For the record, our vacations are financed through sales of my artwork and Marshall’s books. Our rule is not to deplete savings to travel. If we don’t make sales; we don’t travel.

For us, this was excessive; the most we ever spent traveling, but was it worth it?

Absolutely!