Five Tips For Baltic Family Cruises

Five Tips For Baltic Family Cruises
European family vacations are a filled with a rich tapestry of history and culture. Cruises are often the best way for families to experience Europe, since it eliminates many common travel hassles. Simply unpack once and Europe’s most vibrant cities and destinations arrive at the ship’s gangway each morning.

Many parents take their children on Mediterranean cruises, but Europe’s Baltic region is a gem as well. Baltic cruise itineraries allow families to experience a diverse group of cities with unique cultures and a historic past. Russia’s St. Petersburg is typically the crown jewel in most Baltic cruise itineraries. Other ports often include enchanting cities in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Poland.

If you’re thinking about taking the family on a Baltic cruise, it’s important to choose the right ship and plan wisely. Here are five tips to help you plan a great Baltic family cruise vacation:

1. Be Realistic. Sailing with the family in the Baltic is a completely different experience than taking a Caribbean family cruise vacation. There's a six hour (or more) time difference between U.S. cities and major Baltic destinations. In addition, some of the ports may be over an hour or more away from the cities or attractions you'll be visiting. That can mean lengthy days for kids and teens. Think about arriving at your embarkation port a day or two early to allow the kids to adjust to the time zone change. Choosing the right cruise line can help make the long days easier as well. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line's Freestyle Dining approach means families can have meals together at any time that’s convenient for them. There are no set dinner times and the ships’ wide variety of dining options lets families choose what they’d like to eat and how dressed up they want to be. Eliminating regimented schedules and structure is great for families, particularly on a Baltic cruise. It’s so much easier to just relax and go with the flow after a full day of memorable experiences.

2. Go at the Right Time. If it’s possible for your family to cruise in May or June, consider booking a Baltic sailing during one of these earlier season months. There are fewer people at the major sites and the cost of airline tickets can be hundreds of dollars lower. Summer Baltic cruises are wonderful, but major attractions are often more crowded. On the other hand, if shipboard waterparks and outdoor entertainment features are an important part of your cruise it might be best to visit the Baltic in July or August.

3. Plan It Together. Get every family member’s input early in the planning process and make sure the kids are involved. This will help create buy-in and eliminate potential problems when you get on the ship. Start by getting the family together to talk about each person's vacation interests and preferences. Use your family's interests to choose the best itineraries and ports of call. Talk with a good cruise travel agent to get their suggestions. Also evaluate each cruise line’s programs for kids, teens and families. Choosing a family-friendly cruise line, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, will make a world of difference in your Baltic vacation experience.

4. Choose a Great Embarkation Point. When selecting your Baltic cruise itinerary, look for departure cities that have excellent flight connections, good airfares, a wide variety of hotel options, and plenty of attractions to explore. This last point is important, because it's a huge plus for families to arrive at their embarkation city a day or two early before their cruise. It's more expensive, but arriving early can substantially contribute to your family’s vacation enjoyment. It takes a while for travelers to adjust to that time zone change, particularly kids and teens. If the kids are jet lagged throughout the first half of your cruise, the experience won’t be as rewarding. Getting to a Baltic cruise embarkation port often involves flight connections for many guests. Delays and flight cancellations can be quite common these days. When snafus like that happen, guests (and luggage) can miss the ship. Arrive at least one or two days in advance to allow for potential delays.

Copenhagen is an excellent embarkation port for a Baltic cruise. The city is served by low cost airlines and airfares are typically much cheaper than flights to common Mediterranean embarkation ports like Barcelona and Venice. In addition, Copenhagen has a wealth of historical spots and attractions to explore. Germany’s port of Warnemunde is another good departure point for Baltic cruises. The city is easily accessible from Berlin, so vacationers often choose to fly into Berlin a few days before their cruise to fully experience all the city has to offer.

5. Pick the Right Ship. Top family-focused ships offer attractions for every interest and age group. That’s one of the many reasons why cruising is such an excellent option for a European family vacation. There’s something for everyone and the entire process is hassle free. Norwegian Cruise Line’s combination of amenity-laden ships and exciting itineraries adds up to the perfect Baltic vacation for families. Norwegian Cruise Line’s kids and teens programs are one of their major strengths. The cruise line offers their complimentary Splash Academy youth program on all of their ships in Europe. Splash Academy features programs designed specifically for three age groups: Turtles for ages 3-5; Seals for ages 6-9; and Dolphins for ages 10-12. Programs include parties, interactive arts & crafts workshops, treasure hunts, games, storytelling and much more. Splash Academy also offers activities for Guppies – tiny cruisers between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. Parents with young children under 3 can enjoy fun Guppies events with their child. Parents must be present at Guppies programs to participate.

If you’re traveling with teens, Norwegian Cruise Line is an excellent choice. Their ships are well equipped to cater to older kids with free programs and activities. Entourage is a high energy zone exclusively for teens ages 13-17. This hot spot keeps teens happy with a wide variety of activities including sports challenges and other events. At night, Entourage turns into a teens-only nightclub with a dance floor, video jukebox, large screen television and other amenities. Themed events for teens are offered as well.

Norwegian’s Port Play program for ages 3-12 can come in handy during Baltic cruises, particularly on days when guests are taking long or very active tours. Parents who are booked on shore excursions and want to leave their kids onboard the ship can register for the program, enabling them to have fun ashore while their kids enjoy playing with their friends on the ship. There’s a small fee for supervising kids during meal times. Late Night Fun Zone activities from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. are also available for ages 3-12 on a fee-for-services basis. Families can also enjoy plenty of fun together on Norwegian Cruise Line ships at activities and complimentary events like Escape the Big Top.

Fun isn’t just for kids on Norwegian Cruise Line ships, though. Norwegian’s ships have a wide variety of entertainment and dining options, so it’s impossible for any member of the family to get bored. Adults will enjoy the ships’ many specialty dining options including Cagney’s Steakhouse and Le Bistro, with its delectable French cuisine. Families always love dining at Teppanyaki, where chefs entertain guests with their creative Japanese hibachi-style cooking. Norwegian Cruise Line's ships feature dazzling Broadway-style shows, comedy acts and musical performances each evening, some by European artists. It’s nice to have that kind of international flair and sense of place when cruising the Baltic region.

For more detailed information on Norwegian Cruise Line and its programs for kids and families, visit their website:

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