Cruising in the Baltic is suitable with children of all ages. It’s a good way to be able to absorb the history and culture of northern Europe without the stress of multiple travel connections, and with the added benefit of all that life on board a ship has to offer.
The Caribbean and Mediterranean might be the most obvious candidates when choosing a cruise holiday or vacation, especially with children in tow, but for those who like a generous helping of culture when cruising, the Baltic region is hard to beat.
If your children are very young then pounding the cobbled streets of Saint Petersburg and admiring the historic architecture of Tallinn might not seem like a match made in heaven, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find method in the madness.
Cruise Lines Who Operate in the Baltic and What They Offer For Children
Keep in mind with all of these cruise lines that not all of their facilities may be available at every time of year. I have been caught out in the past by outside pools being shut in the winter for example.
The moral of the story is always double check exactly what you’ll be getting before you book!
Iconically British, and one of the most obvious choices to go for when sailing from the UK, P&O aren’t the flashiest cruise line on our list but they do offer many of the same great facilities as others, including kids clubs for all ages, a night nursery and family orientated shore excursions.
Critically, P&O tends to offer much more favorable pricing for child fares than other cruise lines.
The modern ships in Norwegian’s fleet are most suitable for children these are: Escape, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Epic
Norwegian cruise lines are known for their laid back vibe, which is well suited to families who can’t commit to set mealtimes, dress codes and other formalities.
On board facilities for children include a kids club with all the usual activities, arts crafts and computer games etc. You’ll find different clubs for different age groups, from toddlers to 17 year olds. Late night babysitting is also available for children aged 6 months to 3 years.
Norwegian’s ships also feature many features outside the kids clubs that appeal to children, including climbing walls and some of the best pools/aquaparks to be found on the water.
Royal Caribbean Cruises
Royal Caribbean offer some of the most ambitious features of all the cruise ships afloat in the world today, with climbing walls, outdoor cinemas, and even inline skating rinks being fitted on many of their ships, including Baltic regular Voyager of the Seas.
As far as their kids club goes, Royal Caribbean goes above and beyond by offering 6 separate age brackets, ensuring that your kids will be mixing with their peers and taking part in activities tailored to their age.
Princess Cruises offer a whole lot of features to keep children occupied, including kids clubs for 3 different age ranges, but also some more unusual activities such as cooking lessons, outdoor cinema screening kids movies, and even a teens only hot tub.
Also worth noting is the company’s collaboration with Discovery Communications (the company behind The Discovery Channel), which means there are many activities on board based on the type of content you’d find there. So think ‘Mythbusters’ style challenges, or other fun science based activities.
The Discovery Communications connection also spills over into activities ashore, with interactive tours provided related to the locations you visit.
What to do When in Port Around the Baltic With Children
Here is a flavor of what you can get up to in the various ports around the region, however these ideas only scratch the surface in a region with such rich history.
A starting point for many cruises in the region, the Danish capital city of Copenhagen has plenty to offer for the youthful traveler.
First and foremost you’ll find Copenhagen’s famous Tivoli gardens are a hit with kids of all ages, with rides, performances and much more on offer.
A boat tour around the city harbor is a good way to spend an hour providing your offspring aren’t too fidgety!
Little Mermaid Statue
The little mermaid statue may have a reputation for being a must see sight for tourists, but in truth it is a little bit of an anticlimax even for children, and your time ashore may be better spent.
Having said that, the statue does form part of a pleasant walk along the harborside, which can be coincided with a visit to the famous star shaped Kastellet fort and ramparts.
If you’re in the market for a spot of lunch, be sure to grab a traditional open sandwich on rye bread from one of Copenhagen’s many cafés.
Oh, and don’t overlook a quick visit to the city’s Lego shop, even if just to pick up a Copenhagen Lego man fridge magnet!
Incidentally if you’re interested in exploring Northern Europe further by cruise ship, in particular the fjords of Norway, with your children, check out our overview on that subject here.
If you have inquisitive teenage children Saint Petersburg offers an endless supply of fascinating (and at times grizzly) historical places of interest.
Most cruise lines offer a two day stop in Saint Petersburg, purely because the city offers so much of interest.
Older Children and Teenagers
The obscene opulence of the Hermitage is a must, as is a visit to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.
A visit to the city’s Defense and Siege of Leningrad Museum offers a harrowing insight into the desperate plight of both the Soviet army and civilians of St Petersburg during the dark days of World War 2, although be warned many of the details are not for the faint of heart!
The Cruiser Aurora battleship is well worth a visit, with its connection to the October revolution, first and second world wars, it’s a must see for history buffs.
General sightseeing in Saint Petersburg can be a more daunting prospect with very young children, but there are specially tailored children’s tours which can remove a lot of the stress of planning out your time.
Private and group tours such as those provided by MaxBaltTours include everything from hydrofoil rides and museum visits, to breaks for ice cream and donuts – a great all round mix of activity!
Along with ballet, St Petersburg has a strong historical association with puppets and puppet theater, which is ideal when traveling with young children.
The Bolshoi puppet theater offers performances involving both human and puppet performers. Many productions are traditional fairytales and are very much a visual affair, so don’t worry about not being able to understand Russian.
Saint Petersburg puppet museum features displays of all manner of puppets and traditional toys. Besides the displays there are also interactive workshops on puppeteering and puppet show performances.
Retaining the traditional name of the city, Leningrad Zoo features over 2000 animals. If your children love zoos you can’t go far wrong with this one.
Sweden’s capital provides a lot for children to do both educational and entertaining, and much of it within a short distance of the cruise terminus.
The island of Djurgården is your best bet for a day ashore in Stockholm as it contains a variety of museums, an aquarium and the Gröna Lund amusement park all within the space of a few square kilometers.
This children’s museum is in large part a homage to celebrated children’s author Astrid Lindgren. The main attraction involves riding the ‘story train’ which takes visitors to various model displays depicting scenes from Lindgren’s work.
There’s also a large children’s bookshop and restaurant.
Located slightly further south of Djurgårdenon the island of sodermalm, this public park is a homage to Per Anders Fogelström’s novel “Mina drömmars stad”, which depicts life in Stockholm in the mid 19th century.
A great (and free) way to entertain the little ones and gain a little historical insight into the Stockholm of yesteryear.
Mulle Meck park
Another free play park, this one is based around the books and computer games of the handyman Mulle Meck (Gary Gadget).
The kids will have great fun clambering over the model cars, rockets and buildings in this park which is located to the north of the cruise terminal in the Solna district.
This one will be enjoyed by younger children as well, but older children will be able to appreciate the history and restoration behind one of Sweden’s most famous tourist attractions, the Vasa warship, the best preserved example of a 17th century warship in the world.
Once again this museum is located on Djurgården, and if you do nothing else when you come ashore in Stockholm you should definitely pay it a visit, especially with older children and teenagers.
Another great place to come for a fun and educational visit, the Viking museum is a stonesthrow from the Vasa museum, and could therefore form the second half of a day out in Stockholm should you wish.
This museum features exhibitions, displays and a ride which guides visitors through the ages of viking history.
The Finnish capital is a surprisingly peaceful place, free from the claustrophobic intensity of some cities, but there’s a lot to see and do within a short distance of the cruise terminal.
Located right in the center of the city in front of Helsinki cathedral you’ll find the oldest house in the city, which also happens to be the home of Helsinki city museum and its Children’s Town section.
This museum features interactive exhibits for all ages of children, enabling them to learn all about the city and its past. In the summer months there are also daily craft workshops for children. Entry to the museum is always free.
The National Museum of Finland
This museum offers the premier learning experience for learning all about Finnish history, with an extensive collection of artifacts ranging from prehistoric times to the modern era. Definitely one for more serious scholars, but well worth a visit if your older children are historically inclined
Estonia’s picture postcard medieval walled capital is a regular stop on many Baltic cruises for good reason. Just walking the streets of the old town is a wonderful experience in itself.
With youngsters along for the ride, you might want to make things a little more interesting with a visit to one of the city’s many attractions.
This is one for everyone, but a walk around this park in the grounds of Kadriorg Palace is a pleasant way to spend a few hours with a stroller (or if you want to tire out a toddler on foot before dinner.)
There are 250 acres to explore, with lakes, fountains and gardens to enjoy in the process.
Besides viewing the old walls from within the old town itself, it’s worth visiting the Kiek in de Kok (Tower) and Bastion Passages Museum at the south end of the old town to get a more in depth look at the history of the fortification. Explore the tunnels with interactive exhibits and enjoy the view of the old town from the second floor of the tower.