Baltic Cruise ship passengers may wonder which guide book to buy, ahead of a cruise. After all, you’re going to be visiting many different countries – and you might not want the expense or the hassle of carrying around guide books for everywhere.
There is a guide book specifically written for those visiting the Baltic on a cruise ship. “Travellers’ Baltic Cruising” covers the main destinations and allows you to plan your own Baltic cruise excursions.
Fodor’s “European Ports of Call” is another option. As the name suggests, the Fodor’s title covers 70 ports around Europe, and not just those in the Baltic – it may be a good option if you are planning do several different cruises around the continent.
More focused is Rick Steves’ ‘Northern Europe Cruise Ports’. It helps you have a meaningful cultural experience in each port. Inside you are offered one-day itineraries for sightseeing at or near the major Northern Europe ports of call, including:
Southampton and Dover (London), Le Havre (Paris and Normandy), Zeebrugge (Bruges and Brussels), Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Warnemünde/Rostock (Berlin), Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and St. Petersburg.
Rick Steves’ Northern Europe Cruise Ports will give you directions on how to get into town from the cruise port, share sightseeing tips. You’ll find out which Baltic cruise ports are best for an excursion — and which you can confidently visit on your own. Special attention is paid to St. Petersburg cruise excursions.
If you’re spending several days in one destination, then it might be worth buying a guide book for that particular city. Fodor’s, the Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet each publish specialist guides on St Petersburg and the surrounding area. Although the maps can be very useful, guide books date very quickly – even at the time of print, it’s unlikely that all the restaurants, hotels and attractions listed will still be open at the same hours and prices given to the guide book author.
Of course, you may be able to manage without a print guide book, particularly if you take a laptop and your ship has wifi. Other great resources are Wikitravel, which is an endlessly useful resource, and has information on all of the ports that you might land at.
It’s worth noting that the term “Baltic States” usually collectively refers to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. So if you buy a “Guide to the Baltic States”, it will only normally include information about these three countries, rather than all the states surrounding the Baltic Sea. In a way, it’s rather misleading to group the three nations together – although Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were all part of the USSR and are now part of the European Union, they are entirely separate countries and, for example, have different policies towards the Euro.
As well as reading guide books themselves, you might also find it interesting to read up on particular periods and historical subjects which affected this area – you’re on a cruise, so will have plenty of time to relax with some good books. Possibly subjects are the Vikings, the Hanseatic League, Peter the Great and the founding of St Petersburg, and the Teutonic Knights. Most have at least a passing interest in the region’s 20th century history, which includes the Russian Revolution and the First World War, the Second World War, and the fall of communism.
If that sounds a bit too much like hard work, then don’t worry – check out some historical novels. For example, Danielle Steele’s Zoya is an easy read and covers the Russian revolution. Read that, and listen to Boney M’s Rasputin, and impress your fellow passengers with your knowledge of Russian history.
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