Sail on one of our Europe cruises through eight countries united by the Baltic Sea, encountering fascinating cultures and long-neglected histories. These unique cultural travel experiences allow you to discover fairytale castles and the “city of ruins and roses,” before delving into the European capitals of Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and St. Petersburg, where we spend three nights at the superb Grand Hotel Europe. Each of the capitals has an Old Town, and the buildings have been beautifully restored; especially moving are those of Tallinn and Riga, flourishing in the 21st century. The great cities and Hansa towns of Lubeck and Gdansk are balanced with peaceful island stops for nature walks, where the vitality of summer enhances your educational travel cruise experience.
EXPLORE WITH GLOBAL LUMINARIES
Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union, will speak to Lindblad guests in St. Petersburg and Lech Walesa former President of Poland meets with us in Gdansk.
*Note: 06 Sept 2011 Voyage operates in reverse starting in St Petersburg.
Exploring the Baltic's Historic Waterways itinerary:
DAY 1 — Copenhagen, Denmark/Embark
Arrive in Denmark's royal capital, Copenhagen, in time for lunch and a brief stop to see and photograph the famed statue of The Little Mermaid. (L,D)
DAY 2 — Lübeck, Germany
Today we explore lovely Lübeck, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and once the medieval capital of the Hanseatic League, Europe’s first Common Market. A boat ride along the canals gives us an overview of the Hanseatic and Renaissance architecture. After lunch, join a guided walk exploring this culturally rich city. (B,L,D)
DAY 3 — Christiansø & Bornholm Islands, Denmark
These small islands off southern Sweden have belonged to Denmark since 1522. Today we land by Zodiac at tiny Christiansø. The bastion that stood here in the 18th century is now in ruins; its castle and cannons have made way for a charmingly lazy artists' village. Continue to the verdant island of Bornholm, rich in natural history. Starting at the picturesque fishing port, we visit the ruins of ancient Hammershus Castle, the largest in northern Europe. (B,L,D)
DAY 4 — Gdánsk, Poland
Homeland to our notable guest speaker Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President of Poland, Gdansk is known as the birthplace of Solidarity, the pivotal democratic movement that helped shape the changes throughout Eastern Europe. We dock at the historic shipyards with its moving Solidarity Monument, and stroll the lively streets of Old Town, with superb examples of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Explore the old merchant’s houses and 15th-century Artus Court, and have ample time to explore on your own. (B,L,D)
DAY 5 — At Sea
Time at sea to hear talks about the Baltic’s intriguing history and exciting future. (B,L,D)
DAY 6 — Riga, Latvia
A beautiful Hanseatic city dating from 1201, Riga is dominated by its jumble of eclectic architecture from many periods, with Parisian-style parks and boulevards. The historic city center is a World Heritage Site, recognized as having the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in Europe. We explore the cobbled streets of Old Town dominated by the magnificent Dome Cathedral. (B,L,D)
DAY 7 — Visby, Gotland, Sweden
During the Viking Era, and for several hundred years onwards, the island of Gotland and especially the city of Visby, became a center of trade in the Baltic Sea. Today Visby is a well-preserved, walled city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The narrow, winding streets evoke the Middle Ages and together with the numerous gardens, have earned the city its nickname “the city of ruins and roses.” See the superb Viking exhibits at the Fornsal Museum and take a walk along the ramparts to enjoy the views. (B,L,D)
DAY 8 — Stockholm
Today we arrive in Stockholm, the royal capital of Sweden. The city that “floats on water,” Stockholm is built on 14 islands. Our exploration begins with a guided walk through the cobbled streets of the Old Town Gamla Stan, the Royal Palace and the famed Vasa Museum with its remarkable 17th-century warship, raised virtually intact in 1961. (B,L,D)
DAY 9 — Swedish Archipelago
Today is a day of exploration. We wind our way through the enchanting islands of the archipelago, looking for opportunities to kayak, walk ashore and soak up the idyllic Swedish landscape. (B,L,D)
DAY 10 — Mariehamn, Aland Islands, Finland
Politically part of Finland, linguistically Swedish, and culturally autonomous, the Aland islanders are proud inhabitants of a naturally beautiful archipelago that is also home to a wonderful maritime museum. We'll explore via foot, as well as Zodiac and kayak. (B,L,D)
DAY 11 — Tallinn, Estonia
The capital of Estonia, Tallinn, is known for its awe-inspiring city walls and narrow, well-preserved medieval streets. Our walking tour includes the scenic Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Town Hall Square, where a new breed of entrepreneurs have proudly opened an array of shops, cafes and galleries. A highlight is the vista from Dome Hill of Tallinn’s picturesque assortment of spires and gables. Have free time this afternoon to continue exploring this compact city on your own. (B,L,D)
DAY 12-14 — St. Petersburg, Russia/Disembark/Grand Hotel Europ
Be on deck as National Geographic Explorer sails along the Neva River and docks in sight of the grand Hermitage Museum. St. Petersburg, with its grand palaces, canals and parks, is an illustrious finale to our journey. We disembark and check in to the five-star Grand Hotel Europe, spending three days exploring St. Petersburg’s imperial luxuries and artistic bounty. Visit the Hermitage, with its renowned art collections, the grandiose Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Peter the Great’s Summer Palace at Petrodvorets, with its gilded fountains and grand cascade, and the opulent palace of Catherine the Great at Pushkin. On one evening, dinner will be on your own with the option to attend a ballet performance at Catherine’s private bijou theater in the Hermitage. (Day 13: B,L; Days 12 & 14: B,L,D)
DAY 15 — St. Petersburg/Home (B)
The tour ends after breakfast in the Hotel
National Geographic Explorer
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition
Length: 108 meters
Beam: 16.5 meters
Speed (average): 14 knots
Built / Refurbished: 1982 / 2008
Capacity: 148 (single & twin cabins)
National Geographic Explorer is a state-of-the-art expedition ship. It is a fully stabilized, ice-class vessel, enabling it to navigate polar passages while providing exceptional comfort. It carries kayaks and a fleet of Zodiac landing craft. An Undersea Specialist operates a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and sophisticated video equipment, extending access to the underwater world.
Public areas: Bistro Bar; Chart Room; Restaurant; Global Gallery; Library, Lounge with full service bar and state-of-the-art facilities for films, slideshows and presentations; Mud Room with lockers for expedition gear, and Observation Lounge. Our “Open Bridge” provides guests an opportunity to meet our Officers and Captain and learn about navigation.
Meals: Served in single seatings with unassigned tables for an informal atmosphere and easy mingling. Menu is international with local flair.
Cabins: All cabins face outside with windows or portholes, private facilities and climate controls.
Expedition Equipment: Zodiac landing craft, kayaks, Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), hydrophone, SplashCam, underwater video camera, Crow’s Nest remote controlled camera, video microscope, snorkeling gear.
Special Features: A full-time doctor, Undersea Specialist, LEX Photo Specialist and Video Chronicler, Internet Cafe and laundry.
Wellness: The vessel is staffed by two Wellness Specialists and features a glass enclosed Fitness Center, outdoor stretching area, two LEXspa treatment rooms and Sauna.