We joined 12 friends on the glorious Crystal Symphony for 11 nights, 6 countries, and too much fun to count!
Some destinations are better seen by sea, and this itinerary lends itself to a ship as you are able to see the most important ports of call of the Baltics: Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, and finally glorious St. Petersburg (where we luckily had three full days to explore). The ship also explored the charming smaller medieval ports of Visby, a Swedish Island, and of Tallin, the capital of Estonia.
The Crystal Symphony, a 922 passenger large ship has been voted the world’s best cruise line for 21 consecutive years. I know lots of ships are “award winning,” so let me explain what Crystal does well. They are large ships but still only carry less than 1000 passengers. The mass market ships of similar sizes are carrying 3000 passengers! The ship has outstanding entertainment, making for nights at sea filled with great fun! Food is absolutely incredible, from Nobu at Sea, to authentic Italian, to a glamorous dining room. The menus are exceptional, satisfying the biggest food snob, and the wines poured are absolutely delicious. Everything is included, however extra costs apply if you would like to select a special vintage, indulge in a cigar from the cigar room, or get a massage. I’ll be honest, if you are someone that needs to stay wired, the cost of the internet may make you eyes pop, but I guess that is simply an expectation when dealing with satellites at sea. The spa and fitness centers are fantastic and you can opt for massages, personal training and even targeted physio health consultations – so no excuses in taking care of yourself, even with the daily indulgences and late nights at the saloon or casino.
Below is cocktail hour in the Palm Court on the Crystal Symphony and the smoothest seas I have ever sailed!
A photo journal of our ports of call:
OSLO, NORWAY –
We hit the food market in just about every city on this trip – a great way to enjoy the local vibe!
Norway is best enjoyed on the water – and it is no different in Oslo where the reclaimed Docklands is a very lively area –
The Astrup Fearnly Museum of Modern Art is well worth the visit
Just next door it is the Thief Hotel – a great place for lunch or drinks on the roof.
The Crystal Symphony from the shore –
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK –
Copenhagen is a fabulous city, and one in which I wish we had more time. One of the beautiful things about cruising is you see where you would like to come back and hunker down for a while.
Our first stop was to the Nimb Hotel which is located right at the entrance to Tivoli Gardens. This is a fantastic property for families traveling as the Tivoli Gardens are the original amusement park that inspired Walt Disney to create Disney world. Families have as much in and out access with compliments to the park when staying at Nimb. This means after a day of touring, parents can kick back with a cocktail at the hotel or at one of Nimb’s many restaurants and bars and while kids let off steam on a few rides. The summer has wonderful concerts in the park and it is quite a relaxing setting.
One of the most elegant hotels in all of Scandinavia however, is the D’Angleterre!!
The original family took the property back over after being saddened by the lack of upkeep and completely restored it to its original grandeur. With less than 100 rooms and a very large number of suites, the accommodations have wonderful light, one of a kind art and furniture, and a very soothing and modern design.
The first floor rooms have very high ceilings, and many rooms have balconies. The food and beverage on property is fantastic with a destination restaurant for locals and a champagne bar with a DJ on the weekends. The spa is a true oasis and a delightful must for those that need a little time to unwind from the travel.
The location of the D’Angleterre may be the absolute highlight, located in the city center at King’s New Square, where all of the wonderful boutiques and unique restaurants are located. Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square) is a public square in Copenhagen, Denmark, centrally located at the end of the pedestrian shopping street, Strøget.
Just adjacent is Nyhavn, a 17th century waterfront, canal and entertainment district. This is the place to stay!
And of course, we could not miss the food market for people watching, small bites, and some wonderful wines and beers!
We visited the famous Mermaid to bid farewell before boarding our ship. We promised to return!
VISBY, SWEDEN –
HELSINKI, FINLAND –
SETTING SAIL FROM HELSINKI TO ST PETERSBURG –
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA –
Our room at the sumptuous and elegant Four Seasons Hotel Lions Palace St Petersburg, 15 foot c
St Petersburg really is more magnificent than I had ever fathomed! Decadent, ornate, otherworldly and perfectly preserved from the days of Peter the Great. This is a city that leans more European than Eastern, and is very comfortable for Western tourists to gaze into Russian life while walking, cruising, dining, and venturing around town.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood –
The Admiralty –
St Isaacs Cathedral –
A fun group of bachlorettes out celebrating –
Vodka Tasting at Four Seasons Hotel Lions Palace –
My absolute favorite day was at Peterhof, the summer palace with its incredible rooms and art and the spectacular fountains! The best way is to arrive by hyrdofoil, but they were closed today due to rough seas, so we drove.
One of my favorite meals of the week was at this wonderful Georgian restaurant – this is a busy and fun restaurant with excellent food. The sommelier can help you select a Georgian wine, which are aged underground in ceramic vessels. At first the color may be off-putting, but the wine is excellent!
I loved this quote that I saw “The Hermitage may not be the number one museum in the world, but it is not the number two.”
One of the largest and oldest museums in the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise over three million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The rooms alone in the winter palace are worth the trip!
No photos allowed, so you will just have to go yourself!
Our last day was spent taking the metro around – a great experience. Many of the underground stops were sumptuously designed in the time of Lenin and are certainly fancier than anything you will find in the underground in New York or London. Kind of fun!
St. Petersburg is a city that you can get around fairly well between metro, taxi, boat, and on foot. Of course, having the name of where you are going written in Cyrillic is always a good idea!
The city is stunning by sea and definitely a must!
Had a great laugh at these potties at a coffee shop in St. Petersburg –
TALLIN, ESTONIA –
What a charming and industrious capital of Estonia. I adored this town and the people.
And if you decide to stay a while, this is the place –
Relais and Chateau property, Three Sisters –
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN –
First stop, the incomparable Ett Hem
Our last food market visit, another gorgeous place to watch the locals, and drool at the food! Fabulous coffee catching up with our friend and her little girls!
Stockholm is incredibly green, stately, and spotless. Another that I wish we had more time to explore.
A fabulous last night out with our Swedish friends, Natalie and Roland!! Thank you for showing us your town!