Where will I go on a Northern Europe cruise?
Ports of call in Northern Europe vary greatly, so where you will go depends on the itinerary you choose. Northern Europe cruises may include ports in Britain, Scandinavia, Norway and the Baltic Sea.
When is the best time to take a Northern Europe cruise?
Most cruises of Northern Europe are offered from April through September. Visitors can avoid summer's surging tourist crowds by traveling during the "shoulder seasons" in spring (April or May) or fall (September). Temperatures are still comfortable during these months – high temperatures are still in the 60’s -- and there's less competition for the top tourist attractions. A few sailings operate in the winter (October to December) when the weather is much colder.
Will I need a passport or visa?
Passports are required for all international visitors.
Is English spoken?
English is the national language in some Northern Europe countries. In others, it is not widespread but most resorts, shops and restaurants connected to the tourist trade will have some English-speaking staff.
What is the time difference?
Countries in Northern Europe are four to six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, depending on the country.
What is the local currency? Where can I exchange currency?
The local currency in most of Northern Europe is the Euro, while the United Kingdom uses the Pound Sterling. Currency exchange stations are available at most local hotels and airports, though many tourist destinations accept credit cards.
Is tipping a common practice?
Sometimes, service is included in restaurant bills. If not, a tip of 5%-10% is customary on restaurant bills. Taxi drivers generally receive 5%-10% and other service staff, such as maids and porters, generally receive 1 to 2 euros.
What should I wear?
Casual resort wear, including shorts and T-shirts, is the standard daytime attire for most cruises. Bring a variety of footwear, including low-heeled or rubber-soled shoes for walking on deck, sturdy walking shoes for guided tours and a pair of dressier shoes for formal dining. You can check your ship's dress codes for options suitable for nighttime, but most restaurants encourage slacks and nice dresses during evening meals.
Many churches and cathedrals in Europe require some degree of modest attire for visitors. You may not be permitted to enter if wearing "too short" shorts, and women may be asked to cover bare shoulders (it's a good idea to tuck a lightweight scarf into your purse or tote).
What should I pack?
Most excursions in Northern Europe involve sightseeing with a minimal to moderate amount of walking, although some tours may include extensive walking or climbing of stairs. Think about the kinds of activities you will want to try and pack accordingly. Protective hats, good walking shoes and windbreakers are advisable no matter when you travel. Also, remember to pack all of your medications, prescription or otherwise, in a bag you can keep with you as needed.
Is the water safe to drink?
Most resorts and restaurants filter their tap water, though bottled water is available almost everywhere.
What sort of medical precautions do I need to take?
Shots aren't usually necessary for visitors from North America, but it never hurts to check with your health care provider and discuss the countries you'll be visiting.
What types of electrical outlets are used?
U.S. cruise companies use the standard 110-volt outlets. International guests will likely need converters and adapters; these same devices come in handy for U.S. citizens who plan to overnight in hotels at some point during their vacation, as much of Europe uses the 220-volt outlet.
How do I make a telephone call from Northern Europe?
Resort hotels and public phone booths offer direct dialing for international calls. Calling cards also are available for sale in tourist-friendly markets. U.S.-based cell phones might not work everywhere.
Are hotel rooms outfitted with air conditioners?
Air conditioners are less common in most countries in Northern Europe, and some hotels do not provide air conditioning automatically. More expensive hotels will offer completely air conditioned buildings, while other hotels may only offer air conditioning in individual rooms. If recycled air is important to you, make sure to consult your travel counselor before booking a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay.
What is the shopping like? What souvenirs should I buy?
Northern Europe offers a wide variety of shopping opportunities, from daily markets to pedestrian-friendly city shopping areas. Amber can be found in many shops, particularly in Lithuania and Latvia. Those looking for fine crystal will find it in Poland. Purchase artifacts from Soviet-era in Russia, but keep in mind that a special permit is required for taking certain goods out of the country. Scandinavian design is a big draw for shoppers, and large port cities have shops that feature furniture, clothing, and glasswork from world-renowned factories in the region. London is a shopper’s paradise where you’ll find stores ranging from upscale department stores and trendy boutiques to outlet malls and flea markets. Quality woolens, hand-knitted sweaters and tweed are particularly popular in Ireland and Scotland. Of course, you may want to take home a bottle of Scotch malt whiskey from Edinburgh, or a fine piece of Waterford Crystal manufactured in Waterford, Ireland.
How do I get around?
Countries in Northern Europe have extensive public transportation systems that include travel by metro, bus or tram. Bicycle rentals may also be available, and many tourist areas of town are pedestrian-friendly. Shore excursions purchased through your cruise line highlight top attractions and include transportation and a guide.
Can I rent a car?
Rental rules vary by country, but most companies require renters to be at least 21 years old. However, the proliferation of public buses, trains and ferries make car rentals largely unnecessary in this region.
What can I do there?
With so many cultures and countries to experience in Northern Europe, the potential activities seem limitless. Stroll cobblestone streets amid medieval architecture in the well-preserved Baltic capitals of Riga, Latvia, and Tallinn, Estonia. Visit St. Petersburg's legendary Hermitage, considered one of the world's greatest museums, and spend time seeing some of Russia's most notable grand palaces. Tour the cosmopolitan city of Stockholm, well-known for its picturesque buildings, lush parks and unique waterways. Visit the beautiful city of Helsinki, with its small-town feel and eclectic blend of neoclassical and modern architecture. You may see Buckingham Palace in London, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, or Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh. You’ll find plenty of pubs and restaurants serving traditional meals such as fish and chips, bangers and mash, Yorkshire pudding, and Irish potato bread if you’re interested in the culinary delights of this region; and don’t forget to try an Irish coffee or a pint of Guinness.
Do you have any photography tips for travelers to Northern Europe?
There's plenty of historic and natural beauty to capture, so be sure to bring plenty of gear. Users of "point-and-shoot" digital cameras should pack rechargeable batteries, a charger, electric adaptors and high-capacity memory cards (1 gigabyte is recommended). If you're bringing a digital video camera, don't forget the long-life batteries, charger, adaptors and converter. Make sure photography is permitted before shooting in museums, churches and cathedrals; in some cases, you'll just be asked to turn off your flash.