By Christine P.
Current Sales Supervisor and Former PVM
I wanted to share my thoughts with other avid cruisers about the Northern Capitals itinerary from which I recently returned. I booked a cruise through Online Vacation Center on the Regal Princess sailing in late August 2016. This cruise started and ended in Copenhagen, Denmark and traveled to Oslo, Norway; Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Stockholm, Sweden.
Here is what I found most interesting:
My favorite port of call was Tallinn, Estonia. The Old Town dates back to the 13th century with deep Medieval roots. It’s worth going to the upper part of town to get a panoramic view of the city from Toompea Hill. It’s pleasant to walk this city on your own to experience the culture that the Estonians have worked hard to preserve. For me, it was great to enjoy the scenery and the people without feeling like I had to see all of the “sites” in my short time there.
In Oslo you can enjoy the mountainous landscape and the earthy feel of the city. You will see many houses throughout Norway, Denmark and Sweden with modern architecture that uses lines and windows in excess and is adorned with rooftop gardens. My favorite sites were the Vigeland Sculpture Park, the Gol Stave Church at the Folk Museum and the Olympic Ski Jump. The Vigeland sculpture park was built during a time of turmoil in most of the world during the 1940s. It’s home to the life’s work of Gustav Vigeland with over 200 of his sculptures. Sadly, he died before the park was completed. It’s amazing to see how many people come to view this beautiful park and how accepting their society is of the sculptures that reside there, which mostly depict humanity, its many emotions and the circle of life. The Gol Stave Church sits atop a hill in the park that is the Norwegian Folk Museum (be prepared with the right shoes to hike up the hill!). It’s a gorgeous wood church that was built and meticulously carved in the 1200s but underwent many alterations in the centuries after that. I went to the Fram polar ship museum, as well, which has a fascinating history (and interesting story to tell), but I would only spend 20–30 minutes there if you are thinking about going.
Now on to the main event: St. Petersburg, Russia. I did the two-day tour through the cruise line to avoid having to get a Russian visa. We did have to go through customs every time we got on and off the ship (passports have to be carried at all times). Most of the museums don’t allow you to bring backpacks inside, so I recommend bringing a smaller over-the-shoulder bag. My two favorite sites were the Hermitage Museum and the Church of Spilled Blood. The close runner-up was Peterhof Palace and Gardens. The Hermitage is made up of five separate buildings, one of which is the Winter Palace, home to Russian royalty for many years and a testament of the wealth of the Romanov dynasty. Don’t miss the peacock clock! You will know it when you see it. If you are a fan of fine art like myself, then obviously don’t miss the work of Leonardo da Vinci, El Greco, and Titian either. There are even hidden sculptures by Michelangelo and Bernini. What I found most interesting about the Church of Spilled Blood is that it was used as a warehouse for vegetables after World War II. Once you see it, you won’t be able to believe that fact! It’s absolutely gorgeous! If you make it to Peterhof Palace (which is about a 45-minute drive from the cruise terminal), be sure to take the time to walk the gardens and view all of the fountains. At 11 AM local time, you can even see them ceremoniously turn on the main fountain. In my opinion, the gardens were even more impressive than the palace.
The Regal Princess is a beautiful ship. The crew was extremely friendly, and it’s a very easy ship to navigate. My favorite spots were Princess Live for the trivia and game shows and the Wheelhouse Bar for live music and cocktails. The cruise director was very funny, and the biggest hit onboard was a Beatles cover band that had all guests, young and old, on their feet in the Princess Theater. The all-inclusive beverage package was a great value-added amenity that made the trip a lot more carefree.
But, don’t just take it from me… visit these amazing places for yourself, and set sail onboard one of Princess’s newest ships!