Port and Travel Tips
We've looked through travel guides, talked to our friends, and consulted the experts at Holland America to give you the inside scoop on visiting our ports of call. See below for the highlights to look for in each city and the options you'll have for getting around. We hope this information helps you plan ahead for your cruise. In some of the cities, some advance planning can make your visits more efficient and enjoyable, such as arranging admission to some galleries and attractions in advance.
Holland America excursions take care of all arrangements for you and insure a good, timely experience. We know many of you prefer to explore on your own. If you make your own arrangements, remember that ship staff cannot assist you with changes or challenges. And we always leave port on timeómake sure you're back on board! Holland America excursions for our cruise will be available in the coming weeks. We'll be sure you know when you can look through the list. We will also schedule Holland America on-board experts to give their Port Talks before each arrival.
Doing this research has made us look forward to our cruise even more. We hope you share our excitement!
London, England, United Kingdom
The Pound (£1 = $1.67)
More than 300 languages are spoken in London, more than anywhere in the world.
London has 800-plus bookshops and more than 380 public libraries, including the British Library, which houses the Magna Carta.
There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London: Tower of London, Maritime Greenwich, Westminster Palace (which includes Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church), and the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens.
From Heathrow to Central London: Our hotel will be adjacent to Heathrow airport. Here are the three best options to get into town:
1) Heathrow Express. Nonstop trains run every 15 minutes from 5:10 a.m.–11: 25 p.m., from Heathrow Central (Terminals 1, 2, 3) and Heathrow Terminal 5. The ride between the airport and London Paddington takes 15 minutes. Tickets are available online, at the station, or on the train. Standard fare is £26 ($44) on board, £21 ($35) in advance. Returns are £39 ($65) on board, £34 ($57) in advance.
2) Tube. Heathrow has three Underground (Tube) stations: one for Terminals 1 and 3, one each at Terminal 4 and Terminal 5. This is the most cost-effective option. A single cash fare is £5. 50 ($9.18). A Zone 1–6 Day Travelcard (see: "The Tube," below) is £16.40 ($27.37) for all-day Monday–Friday, or £8.90 ($14.85) for weekends. Tickets are available at the TfL Travel Information Center in Heathrow T123 station. Visit their website for more information.
3) National Express Coach Bus. Buses run from the central bus station, a short walk from Terminals 1 and 3, to London Victoria Coach Station. Tickets can be bought from the travel center at Heathrow central bus station. Cost: £5.70 ($9.50) each way. Time: 45 minutes to an hour.
Taxis are also available, but run £45–70 ($75–117).
Learn more at the Heathrow website.
The Tube: London's underground subway system is the quickest, easiest way to get across town. Greater London is served by 12 Tube lines, split into six zones: Zones 1 and 2 are in Central London; Zones 6–9 cover the outer edge of the city. A one-day Oyster card is the most economical option: £9 for unlimited rides in Zones 1 and 2 (compared to £4.70 for a single journey if you pay in cash). Lines run from 5 a.m. to midnight, Monday–Saturday. Free Tube maps are available at any Tube station and at tourist information centers.
Bike Tours: Many themed bike tours are available. You can also rent a bike (called "cycle hire" in England) thanks to London's public bike-sharing program. There are more than 8,000 bikes and 550 bike-docking stations located around the city. To rent, simply pay the £2 registration fee (good for 24 hours—you'll need to use a credit card), then start riding. The first 30 minutes are free; payments after that: £1 for 30 minutes to 1 hour, £4 up to 1.5 hours, £6 up to 2 hours, £10 up to 2.5 hours, £15 up to 3 hours, £35 up to 6 hours, £50 up to 24 hours.
London Official City Guide App: If you have a smartphone, it might be worth downloading a free app created by visitlondon.com that features information on events, shopping, museums, parks, maps, and more.
London is a huge city with myriad options for shopping. Here are just a few:
Alfies Antique Market: London's largest indoor market, with more than 600 stalls selling antiques, vintage clothing, and collectibles. There is also a rooftop café. (13-25 Church Street,St John's Wood, London)
Covent Garden London: Housed in the iconic Market Building and Piazzas, offering restaurants, cafés, and the Apple craft market. (41 The Market, London)
Portobello Road Market: The market has existed since the 1800s but became famous for its antiques in the 1950s. Stalls offer everything from bread to posters to designer clothes. (Portobello Road, 72 Tavistock Road, London)
Oxford Street: The heart of London shopping, featuring more than 300 stores, designer outlets, and landmark stores like Selfridges, John Lewis, and Debenhams. (Nearest Tube stops: Oxford Circus, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road)
Bond Street and Mayfair: Luxury window-shopping at its best—a favorite of celebrities. Shops include Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany & Co. (Nearest Tube stops: Bond Street, Piccadilly Circus)
Carnaby Street: The birthplace of the fashion and cultural revolution during the 1960s. Carnaby and the 13 surrounding streets feature everything from independent boutiques to new designer fashions to classic English pubs. (Nearest Tube stops: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus)
Trafalgar Square: Located in Covent Garden in London's West End (geographically, it is in central London). The square is home to Nelson's Column, the iconic stone lions, the Fourth Plinth, fountains, and the National Gallery (free). Nearby is the National Portrait Gallery; have lunch at its rooftop restaurant for a great view of Nelson's Column. Also within walking distance are Leicester Square, Soho, the river Thames, and Covent Garden Market (see "Shopping").
Greenwich: One of London's oldest, most picturesque areas. Greenwich is a World Heritage Site, home to the Royal Museums Greenwich (a suite of four major museums: the National Maritime Museum, Queen's House, Cutty Sark (the last-surviving tea clipper), and the Royal Observatory; Trafalgar Tavern, one of Charles Dickens' haunts; and The O2 Arena, Europe's biggest—and the world's busiest—arenas.
Bankside: A cultural hotspot, featuring Tate Modern (free), Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Clink Prison (London's oldest jail), and the London Dungeon.
South Kensington: Home to three of London's biggest museums: the Science Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Natural History Museum—all of which are free. Hyde Park—London's Central Park—is nearby. There, you'll find the Diana Memorial Fountain, the Serpentine Bridge, and the Joy of Life fountain. Next to Hyde Park are the Kensington Gardens; look for the bronze Peter Pan statue, the location of which was chosen by author J.M. Barrie.
Buckingham Palace: One of the few working royal palaces in the world today. Tours are available and include the 19 State Rooms that form the heart of the palace. Cost: £19 ($32). See the Changing of the Guards.
Houses of Parliament: Tours run most Saturdays. They include a 75-minute guided tour and allow visitors to stand on the floor of the House. Cost: from £15 ($25). Tours take place at 15-minute intervals.
Westminster Abbey: More than 1 million people come to see the 700-year-old coronation church of England each year. The Abbey is open Monday to Saturday; Sundays is it open for worship only. Cost: £18 ($30).
Tower of London: A place with many identities, the Tower of London has been a place of torture, a royal palace, an armory, a fortress—even a zoo, the first in London. Since 2012, it has also housed the Crown Jewels. Cost: £19.50 ($32.50). Open Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sunday–Monday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
The London Eye: A giant Ferris wheel. On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction. In addition to a ride in the Eye, the ticket price includes a show of 3-D aerial footage of London—including the famous New Year's Eve fireworks. Cost: £18.80 ($32). Open 10 a.m.–9:30 p.m. daily.
Tower Bridge: Built in the late-Victorian era, Tower Bridge is an icon of London. Walk across it for amazing views of the city, or visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition, where you'll learn how the bridge works and its history. Cost: £8 ($13). Open daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
London's free unlimited Wi-Fi network covers most of the Square Mile's outdoor areas. (The Square Mile is a nickname for central London.) The network is named "_The Cloud" and no password is required. For easy access, download The Cloud's "FastConnect" app, which automatically connects users once they are in range of the network and eliminates the need to re-enter credentials each time.
Public toilets are prevalent around London, but, as in many European cities, most charge a fee to use. Here, it is typically £0.50. There is an interactive toilet map online that could be useful. Otherwise, buying a water or treat in a café then using the restroom is always a good option.
Dover, England, United Kingdom
EMI will offer transportation from our hotel at London's Heathrow Airport to the Dover cruise terminal, on the morning we sail.
For those that wish to travel earlier and spend some time in Dover, here are two options to do that on public transportation. All public transit from Heathrow requires a connection in Central London.
Option 1: National Express bus. This is the cheapest option. From Heathrow, go to the Central Bus Station between Terminals 1 and 3 and get on a bus going to London Victoria Coach Station (45–50 minutes; £7 ($11.70). From Victoria Coach Station, get on a bus to Dover Town Center (3 hours; £7 ($11.70).
Option 2: Train. Trains are faster and more frequent than buses, but more expensive. The fastest line is between London St. Pancras International Station and Dover. From Heathrow, take the Piccadilly Underground Tube line to the London St Pancras Station. From St Pancras, find the train going to Dover Priory. Time: 1.5 hours. Cost: £38.50–£53.10 ($64.28–$88.65). *Note: On the trains to and from Dover, there are no reserved seats and no help is given with your luggage. You just board the train and find a seat that suits you on a first come, first served basis and store your luggage as best you can. Ticketing on U.K. railways is very complex. On the Dover run, the cheapest tickets are normally off-peak tickets. Tickets can be purchased at train stations from manned stations or machines.
Widely known as "the gateway to England," Dover boasts the world's busiest ferry port. The town is located on the southeastern coast of England in Kent County, about 65 miles southeast of London at the foot of the famous White Cliffs. The Strait of Dover separates it from Calais, France, which, being only 22 miles away, you can see on a clear day from the cliffs. Dover River runs through town. Dover is the most important English Channel port and its lighthouse, built by Romans, is said to date to 43 A.D.
Currency (for Dover and London)
The pound (£1 = $1.67). ATMs are available and your best option for exchanging money.
Language (for Dover and London)
Word Cheat Sheet (for Dover and London)
Chips = French fries
Crisps = potato chips
High street = main street
Motorway = freeway, highway, interstate
Tube = subway
Cultural Tips (for Dover and London)
The locals' accents will be thick, so don't be afraid to ask them to repeat something.
Say "please" and "thank you" more often than you think necessary.
Smoking is prohibited in most public places.
It is considered very rude to cut in line in Britain.
Afternoon tea is no longer the norm, but most towns entertain the practice for tourists.
Food to Try (for Dover and London)
Fish and chips: usually fried cod and French fries
Pasty: a pastry filled with vegetables, gravy, and meat, then baked.
Bangers and mash: sausage and potatoes
There aren't many public restrooms in Dover. The best thing to do is to buy a coffee or snack at a café and use the restroom there.
The town's main shopping nodes are the High Street and Biggin Street. Shops around Dover's town center range from larger national outlets—Marks & Spencer, Dorothy Perkins—to locally owned fashion, art, gift, and book stores. Most shops open at 9 a.m. and close around 5:30 p.m.
The Port of Dover is located one mile from the town center, or about a 20-minute walk. Taxis are available and take major credit and debit cards; Dover Heritage Taxis also take all currencies.
Once in town, Dover is easy to explore on foot.
Trains run from Dover Priory to London Charing Cross, London Victoria, and London St Pancras. Trains run approximately every 30 minutes; the ride takes 1–2 hours and costs £40 ($67). You will need to take a taxi between the cruise terminal and the train station.
Buses operated by National Express also run from Dover (Ferry Port) to London Victoria. The ride takes approximately 2.5 hours and costs approximately £20 ($33). You'll need to take a taxi from the cruise port to the ferry port station in Dover.
Free Wi-Fi is available at the Dover Marina Hotel, near port; Ramada Hotel, near city center; and the McDonald's on Biggin Street, just off High Street, across from St Edmund's Chapel.
The average high is 65, low of 57. It is typically overcast and rainy.
One of the oldest castles (12th century) in England, built by Henry II. The Pharos Lighthouse is said to have been built by the Romans during the first century A.D. Inside is a military museum that includes an exhibit of WWII spy equipment. This is also where you can see the Secret Wartime Tunnels that were used during the evacuation of Dunkirk for Operation Dynamo and the Battle of Britain during WWII. The 200-feet-below-the-ground tunnels were originally excavated to house cannons to be used on Napoleon if he invaded. Cost: £18.70 ($31.12).
We will have the best view of the cliffs as we depart from and return to Dover. If you would like to visit, we recommend taking a bus tour. The Dover Rover Guided Bus Tour includes a trip around town, the Roman Painted House, Dover Museum, Dover Castle, and the White Cliffs. Cost: £8 ($14).
Built during the reign of King Henry VIII, Walmer Castle was originally designed as part of a chain of coastal artillery defenses and eventually evolved into the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Duke of Wellington held the post for 23 years. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother regularly visited the castle in her last years. The armchair in which Wellington died and an original pair of "Wellington boots" are among the highlights, but the magnificent gardens are the real treat. Cost: £7.70 ($12.81).
1.2 million (urban); 1.9 million (metropolitan)
Apart from Jutland, which is connected to Germany, Denmark is made up of a concentration of small islands. Copenhagen, the country's most populous city and its capital, is located on the eastern coast of Zealand and stretches across part of Amager. A number of bridges and tunnels connect the parts of the city. Copenhagen is situated just across a narrow strait from Sweden. Denmark as a whole is flat and has one of the largest coastlines in Europe.
Krone ($1 = 5.43kr). Currency is expressed with "DKK" or "kr." ATMs are available and your best option for exchanging money.
Danish, but most people also speak English.
Word Cheat Sheet
It's a common belief that Danish is one of the hardest languages to learn, but it never hurts to try. The Danish alphabet has 29 letters: the basic 26-letter Latin alphabet plus Æ, Ø, and Å.
Hej = pronounced "high" = Hello
Farvel = pronounced "fah-VEL" = Goodbye
Godmorgen = pronounced "good' MORG-en" = Good morning
Godnat = pronounced "good' NEHT" = Goodnight
Tak = pronounced "tahk" = Thank you
Food to Try
Smørrebrød: open-faced sandwiches served in almost every restaurant in Copenhagen. The colorful meal is the norm for lunch and involves cold cuts of meat or fish, pâté, mayonnaise, and cheese on rye bread, and topped with garnishes like red onion, parsley, or pickled cucumber.
Rugbrød: rye bread. Rye bread is a staple of the Danish lifestyle. The traditional Danish rye bread is less sweet andmore darkandsourthan other Scandinavian and German ryes. It is rich in whole grain, full of fiber, fat-free, and takes more than24 hoursto prepare the sourdough and bake the rye bread.
Smoked, pickled, or marinated herring: smoked herring from the Danish island of Bornholm, also called "gold from the sea," is a national treasure. Marinated or pickled herring is also considered a must-try Nordic dish dating back to the Middle Ages.
Stegt flæsk: fried slices of pork (like thick-cut bacon) on the bone served with yellow potatoes topped with a creamy parsley sauce.
City Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen), across H.C. Andersens Boulevard from Tivoli Gardens, has a free public toilet open from 8 a.m. to 11p.m.
Copenhagen is full of design-led stores selling everything from trendsetting lights to exquisite glass and ceramics. Shopping in Copenhagen is generally expensive compared to the States. The city's main shopping area is centered on the longest pedestrian street in Europe: Strøget. At the end of the street, you'll find the largest department store in Scandinavia, Magasin du Nord. Five other shops worth visiting:
- Hay (Nytorv 9), purveyor of simple, functional, and good-looking furniture and accessories.
- Royal Copenhagen (Amagertorv 6). Founded in 1775 and best known for its classic blue-and-white hand-painted dinnerware.
- Georg Jensen (Amagertorv 4), renowned for silver cutlery and jewelry.
- Ilums Bolighus (Amagertorv 10), a department store devoted to Danish-designed home items.
- Normann Copenhagen (Østerbrogade 70), a cinema-turned-interiors emporium in the affluent Østerbro neighborhood.
According to the United Nation's 2013 World Happiness Report, Denmark clocks in at 7.6 out of 10 on the global-happiness scale—the highest score of any country in the world. The United States ranks 17, between Mexico and Ireland.
You will the people of Copenhagen hospitable, eager to help. It is a wonderful city to explore as you wish.
Be very cautious when crossing bike lanes. Half the citizens of Copenhagen bike to work and are speedy. If you are an avid biker, feel free to rent one and join in. If you are not comfortable on a bike, however, it would be better to walk or take advantage of the other public transportation options (see "Transportation").
Copenhagen is home to Noma, the restaurant that's been named the World's Best Restaurant three times (it came in as No. 2 in 2013). And there are plenty of other very popular, famous restaurants to choose from, including Relæ, Aamanns, and Royal Smushi Café. It is advised to make online reservations two months in advance.
Copenhageners tend not to dine late, therefore many places do not have late-dining hours.
This is a very environmentally conscious city. There are electric buses, everyone recycles, 64 percent of the hotels are certified as eco-friendly, 75 percent of the food served is organic, it is the 2014 European Green Capital, and it aims to be the world's first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.
Denmark is a monarchy, headed by Queen Margrethe II.
Free city maps are available from the Copenhagen Visitor Center (Vesterbrogade 4A, across from Tivoli Gardens).
If you don't plan on participating in a HAL excursion, you may want to look into purchasing a Copenhagen Card. For $58 (€42), it gives you access to 75 museums and attractions, free public transportation (bus, train, and Metro), and discounts on restaurants. You can book online or purchase a card at the Copenhagen Visitors Center in downtown Copenhagen (Vesterbrogade 4, opposite the main entrance to the Tivoli Garden). Visit the website (above) to see everything that's included.
Tivoli: In 1843, businessman Georg Carstensen got Royal permission to do as other European cities were doing and build a "pleasure garden":Tivoli Park. While other parks closed, Tivoli continued to evolve with the times and is now the world's second-oldest surviving amusement park. Trees—lime, chestnut, elm—bushes, flowers, fountains, sculptures, and benches populate the park, which has 26 rides, including the roller coaster that turns 100 this year. Up to 4 million people visit each year, making it Scandinavia's most popular attraction. Open 11a.m.–11p.m. Children under 8 get in free; for everyone else the cost is DKK 99 ($18.25).
Canal Tours Copenhagen: One-hour tours popular even among locals. They include seeing the Copenhagen Opera House, Amalienborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace, Black Diamond library, and the Little Mermaid statue. Hop-on, hop-off tours and more site-specific tours are also available. Tour times and prices vary depending on your choice.
Rosenborg Castle: Home to some of Denmark's greatest treasures, including the Danish crown jewels and regalia. The Great Hall features the coronation throne and the famous Rosenborg tapestries, which have hung there since 1693. Hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Cost: adults: 90kr ($16.60), children ages 17 years and under: free. Location: castle entrance is Øster Volgade 4a, over the bridge over the moat from King's Garden.
The Little Mermaid: This lovely statue is a favorite destination. Be advised that, really, it's a small little statue!
From the Ship: Depending on our dock location it will likely be a 15-20 minute ride from the city center. We are tentatively scheduled to dock at Langelinie: if so, the walk in to town is quite lovely and passes by the Little Mermaid statue. Otherwise, public buses, taxis, and trains will be available at various costs. If we are further out, a special shuttle bus will be available, at an estimated cost of US $19 per person, roundtrip.
Walk/Bike: Copenhagen is a small city and most everything can be reached within 30 minutes on foot or 10 minutes on bike (see "Culture" to read about Copenhageners and biking). Information about prices, locations, and bike (and helmet) reservations is available online.
Metro/bus/train: The Metro, bus, and train services have a fully integrated ticket system: one ticket gives you access to all three. The Metro runs 24 hours a day. A single, 2-zone ticket costs 24kr ($4.42); a 10-trip ticket costs 150kr ($27.65). Your best option is to buy a City Pass: it's good for unlimited travel for 24 hours and costs 80kr ($14.75). You can purchase all tickets at Metro stations (machines accept credit cards) or online.
Remember: Transportation is included if you purchase a Copenhagen Card (see: Highlights)
The Copenhagen Visitor Center (Vesterbrogade 4A, across from Tivoli Gardens) has free Wi-Fi.
The city's official website is a great resource.
Warnemünde (Berlin), Germany
Travel to Berlin
Travel time from Warnemünde by bus or train is approximately three hours. In order to enjoy your visit to Berlin, please plan on using all of our port time in Warnemünde: from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Holland America excursions will leave by bus directly from the port in Warnemünde. Drinks, snacks, and tour guides will be on board. HAL will offer the option of booking the bus transfer only, without an actual tour.
Public trains are available and may be a good option for those a bit more adventurous. The Warnemünde station is a short walk from the port. Be sure to plan for your timely return.
Berlin: 3.5 million
Warnemünde is a fishing hamlet on the northeast coast of Germany on the banks of the Warnow River. Its soft, wide white-sand beaches are popular with locals and tourists alike, and the town's laid-back vibe can be felt everywhere, especially in the many charming restaurants and pubs. It is the seaside suburb of Rostock, a larger city of 200,000 located 15 minutes south, as well as a jumping-off point for Berlin.
Berlin is both a city and a state in Germany. It is the nation's capital and largest city, located in the northeast corner of the country near the Poland border. The Spree River runs east to west through the city; the main street is Unter den Linden.
Euro (€1 = $1.37). Finding ATMs are scarce in Warnemünde; we recommend exchanging money ahead of time or, if you're planning on going to Berlin, ATMs are easy to find there. Credit cards are accepted in bigger stores and most restaurants—as well as most taxis—but many grocers, boutiques, public-transport ticket machines, and museums are not equipped with credit-card machines. Credit cards in general are disliked in Germany due to high transaction fees. It is recommended you have cash on hand.
German. English is generally understood in Berlin.
Word Cheat Sheet
Hello: Hallo (HA-lo)
Goodbye: Auf Wiedersehen (aüf-VEE-duh-sane)
Thank you: Danke (DAHN-kuh)
Excuse me: Pardon (pronounced as it is in English)
Please: Bitte (BIT-tuh)
Food to Try
Currywurst (preferably from a wurst stand): Currywurst is to Germany what pizza is to Italy. The traditional dish consists of sliced pork sausage served in a curry-tomato sauce. It is such a staple to Germany that a museum, Deutsches Currywurst Museum, was created in its honor in Berlin.
Knödel: dumplings that accompany many meals—a larger version of spätzle. Knödel can be made either of mashed potatoes or bread and are either boiled or fried.
Apfelpfannkuchen: Apple pancakes
Wurst: sausage. There are more than 1,500 variations of wurst, the most popular being bratwurst (fried sausage made of pork and spices), wiener (Viennese sausage smoked then boiled), and blutwurst or schwarzwurst (blood sausages).
Weisse Bohnensuppe: white bean soup
Rote grütze: red-fruit pudding made from black and red currants, raspberries, and sometimes strawberries or cherries, thickened with a little cornstarch and served with cream.
Sauerbraten: literally translated as "pickled roast," this is a pot roast marinated in wine, vinegar, spices, and herbs for up to 10 days. It is usually served with sauerkraut, dumplings, and pilsner beer.
Schnitzel: a thin, boneless cutlet of meat (often pork) coated with breadcrumbs, fried, and served with a slice of lemon and side of potato salad or sauerkraut.
Restrooms are generally easy to find and very clean. They will be more available in Berlin. A charge of €0,50 is common and it is therefore recommended you keep a few coins handy.
Public toilets used to be a mainstay of Berlin—so much so that a design unique to the city, the Café Achteck, or "Octagon Café," dominated the streets, with 140 structures peppering the streets in 1910. Today, there are only 30 or so left, with just a handful in working condition. One that is in working condition (and clean!) is on the corner of Sonnenallee and Elbestraße in Neukölln. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, it could be fun to check out.
More practical—and prevalent—options include: large department stores (look for "Kundentoiletten" or "Kunden-WC" on the floor guide), train stations, hotel lobbies, McDonald's or Burger King, public buildings/government buildings, and restaurants/cafés, if you purchase something. Starbucks requires you buy something, then use the code on the sales slip to open the toilet.
There is a 19% value added tax (VAT) on most goods in Germany.
The Alte Strom ("Old River") area has many restaurants, pubs, and gift shops. It is an old arm of the Warnow River and exudes maritime charm, with fishing boats and sailboats and colorful fisherman's cottages.
The best shopping options are in Rostock's many markets and squares: Kröpeliner Strasse, Doberaner Platz, Neuer Markt, Universitätsplatz Square. It's always worth taking a closer look either side of the main streets—that's where many small shops and pubs, housed in old warehouses and restored town houses, are located.
The best thing to do is start walking: Berlin has no distinctive shopping area, and some of its treasures can be found in the least expected places. Conventional shopping can be found on Kurfürstendamm in the west, with an Apple store and flagship Uniqlo opening this year. In the east, Friedrichstraße, a major north-south street in Berlin Mitte district, offers a similarly up-market selection, but with slightly younger fashions at places like theQuartier 206store. For more chic, cutting-edge boutiques, head to the area around Mulackstraße street, also in the Mitte district. Another shop to check out: KaDeWe (short version of Kaufhaus des Westens, or "department store of the west") was built in 1907 at Wittenbergplatz on Tauentzienstraße in Berlin's City West, where the Schöneberg district adjoins the Charlottenburg district. The six-story, luxury department store is a staple of Berlin. (Take the U-Bahn to Wittenbergplatz on the U1, U2, or U3)
Culture, Other Facts
Germans are known for their efficiency and schedules. This is a culture that prizes forward thinking and careful planning. Rules are strictly enforced, public areas are kept clean, and formality is the norm. Greetings are formal, with a quick, firm handshake.
Berlin is a big city (554 square miles; New York City is 490 square miles). If you're planning to explore on your own, be sure to have a game plan—and map—in hand.
Smoking regulations are quite strict. Smoking is prohibited on all means of transportation, as well as in shops, public buildings, and restaurants. Some places have designated smoking areas. There are no restrictions to smoking outside unless stated.
Tipping: tips and value added tax (VAT) are included in all prices, but if the service was satisfactory, an extra tip is recommended. For taxis: 10%. Restaurants: 10–15%.
The drinking age in Germany is 16 for wines and beers, 18 for liquors.
Average August temperatures: high, 76; low, 58.
Visit Rostock, a maritime city filled with red-brick buildings dating from Hanseatic times (13th– 15th century). Rostock was once one of the largest and most powerful cities on the Baltic, home to the region's first university in 1419. Sites include St. Peter's Church (Petrikirche), St. Mary's Church (St. Marien-Kirche), and Town Hall (Rathaus). At St. Peter's, you can take an elevator—or climb 196 steps—to the 148-foot-high viewing platform (€3 [$4], open 10 a.m.–6 p.m.). From the observation deck, you'll be able to see the whole city, Warnow River, Warnemünde, and the Baltic Sea. Beer lovers will want to visit the Hanseatische Brauerei Rostock (Hanseatic Rostock Brewery). The brewery has been in operation since 1878 and its pilsner is famous throughout Germany. To get to Rostock: catch an S-1 or S-2 train from the train station, located next to Warnemünde Cruise Center. The trip takes less than 20 minutes and costs less than €2 ($2.74).
The Warnemünde lighthouse: Built in 1897 and provider of one of the best views of the town with its 120-foot perch.
Warnemünde beaches: Famous for their soft white sand, the beaches stretch almost 10 miles and have been awarded the E.U. Blue Flag status for cleanliness. The East Beach is less developed and backed by miles of sand dunes. The left bank of the river offers restaurants and beer gardens, and a few old fishing boats have been converted into fried-fish stalls. The West Beach is the main tourist beach, lined with hotels, ice cream parlors, cafés, bars, and shops.
To explore on your own, we suggest a Berlin Welcome Card. The Welcome Card gives you unlimited rides on public transportation within city limits as well as discounts on 200 of the city's top highlights, including tours, museums, and restaurants. The lowest option, price and time-wise, is the 48-hour card for €18.50 ($25.37). You can purchase it at the Berlin Tourist Information booth (at the train station), from ticket machines in S-Bahn stations, and online.
Reichstag: The most famous landmark in Berlin, home of the German Parliament. Entrance is free, but registration is required. Register at least two hours before your visit at the service center in Scheidemannstraße.
Brandenburg Gate: The only remaining city gate in Berlin, formerly representing the separation of East and West Berlin. It now symbolizes German unity.
Unter den Linden: Berlin's most elegant boulevard and well-known street, stretching from Brandenburg Gate to the Schlossbrücke bridge. Many important institutions—Humboldt University, State Opera, Neue Wache memorial, Zeughaus (Armory)—are located along the street.
Berlin Television Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm): At 1,207 feet tall, the television tower is the highest publicly accessible building in Europe. It was inaugurated on October 3, 1969, just before the 20th anniversary of the GDR. It was meant to symbolize the "superiority of socialist societies" and show that a "better future was being built in the East." Now, it has been redefined as a symbol of Berlin united.
East Side Gallery: A mile-long open-air gallery created on remains of the Berlin Wall featuring paintings by hundreds of artists from dozens of countries.
Checkpoint Charlie: The transition point for members of the Allied forces, as well as the scene of the "tank standoff" in October 1961. The nearby Berlin Wall Museum offers more historical context and a replica of the first Allied guardhouse set up on the median strip of Friedrichstraße.
Gendarmenmarkt: Considered by most Berliners to be the most beautiful place in Germany, if not all of Europe. The square exemplifies architectural beauty, housing both the French and German cathedrals as well as the Concert House.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: The Holocaust memorial, located near Brandenburg Gate, covers an area of more than 11 square miles with 2,700 concrete pillars of varying heights. Designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman, the memorial creates a grid-like structure built on unevenly inclined ground that is at once disorienting and powerful. Beneath the memorial is a must-see museum featuring video, mementos, and stories of victims of the Holocaust.
The ship docks in the center of Warnemünde, and it is a short walk to the train station and city center. Warnemünde is easily explored on foot.
Travel time from Warnemünde by bus or train is approximately three hours. In order to enjoy your visit to Berlin, please plan on using all of our extended port time in Warnemünde: from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Rest assured that this will not be the night Garrison puts on a big APHC show, but we might plan a fun party for those that stay in town.
Holland America excursions will leave by bus directly from the port in Warnemünde. Drinks, snacks, and tour guides will be on board. HAL will offer the option of booking the bus transfer only, without an actual tour.
Public trains are available and may be a good option for those a bit more adventurous. The Warnemünde station is just a slightly farther walk from the port. Be sure to plan for your timely return.
If you purchase a Berlin Welcome Card, you can use it to travel for free on public transportation in Berlin Zone AB.
Berlin's extensive, efficient public-transportation system of buses, S- and U-Bahns (above- and below-ground trains), and trams makes sightseeing in this large city much more doable.
Buses: The 100 and 200 buses drive past many notable sites and can serve as a more affordable alternative to tour buses.
S-Bahn (above-ground train): the stretch between Zoologischer Garten and Alexanderplatz passes by the Tiergarten, with the Siegessäule (Victory Column); Reichstag (parliament building); and government buildings.
There are three different pay zones in Berlin: Zone A covers all areas within the S-Bahn line (most of city center); Zone B goes to Berlin's city limits; Zone C covers Berlin's surrounding areas. You will likely only need Zone AB. Your best option is to buy a day ticket, allowing you to travel as often as you want on all public transportation on the day printed on the ticket until 3 a.m. the following day.
Single trip AB: €1,50 ($2.06)
Day ticket (best option): Berlin AB: €6,70 ($9.19)
Maps, time tables, and more information on fares are available online.
Burger King (both in Warnemünde and Rostock) has free Wi-Fi access. Look for restaurants with green-and-white "Free HotSpot" stickers in the window.
Berlin offers people 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi. The hotspots are called "KD WLAN Hotspot+" or "30 Min Free WIFI." Registration is not necessary.
In addition to these, you can find other available hotspots with the App "Hotspotfinder." It is available for free in the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.
A list of Internet cafés and Wi-Fi hotspots can also be found online.
Starbucks and McDonald's also offer free Wi-Fi.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia. It is located in Northern Europe in the northeast part of the Baltic Sea Region on the coast of the Gulf of Finland.
Euro (€1 = $1.37). Finding ATMs will be easy here.
Estonian. Most shopkeepers and service providers will be able to speak English.
Word Cheat Sheet
Tere (TEHR-reh) = Hello
Tänan (TA-nahn) = Thank you
Palun (PAH-loon) = Please
Bye (same as English) = Goodbye
Vabanda (VAH-bahn-dah) = Excuse me
Tualett (TOO-ah-let) = Toilet
Pronunciation Cheat Sheet
The role of vowels in Estonian is among the greatest in any European language. Here's how to pronounce the vowels õ, ä, ö, ü.
Õ = sounds like the "o" in "lonely" and "cold."
Ä = sounds like "a" in "sad," "cat," and "had."
Ö = most similar to the "ea" combination in "search," "o" in "word," or "e" in "nerd."
Ü = sounds like "u" in "super."
Food to Try
Traditional Estonian cuisine relies heavily on pork, potatoes, and vegetables, and was influenced by German culture.
Silgusoust: Baltic sprats (small fish, similar to herring) with bacon and cream.
Mulgikapsad: pork with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes.
Verivorst: blood sausage and barley.
Sült: boiled pork in aspic jelly (a clear, savory jelly used as a garnish).
Suitsulõhe: smoked salmon.
Kissell: a pudding-like dessert made of fruit purée and thickened with potato starch.
Kali: Referred to as "the Estonian Coca-Cola;" a kind of nonalcoholic, unfermented beer. It's sweet with a light fizz.
In Tallinn, you may wish to seek out:
Balthasar, an excellent all-garlic restaurant, where all meals can be ordered in different levels of "garlic-ness";
Street vendors selling paper cones of yummy cinnamon roasted nuts; and
Chocolate, from well-known artisan cafés and even direct from the factories. You might even avail yourself of cocoa-based treatments at local spas.
There are quite a few public toilets around Tallinn. As in many European cities, be prepared to pay a small fee to use them (typically €0,50). There is a Google map that lists 10 locations.
Balti Jaama Turg, a Russian market, is considered a Tallinn must-see. Every day, some 50 stalls fill the streets opposite Balti Jamm, Tallinn's main train station, selling everything from antiques to dishware to locally made preserves.
The best places to shop are along Old Town's Viru and Müürivahe streets. It is highly recommended to visit the outdoor knit market on Müürivahe Street, where craftswomen sell their knitted products along the town wall. Also intriguing is the shopping in St. Catherine's Passage. Here, in medieval-style workshops run by the Katariina Guild's artists, onlookers watch as glasswork, ceramics, leather goods, quilts, and other items are created right before their eyes.
Popular souvenirs: hand-knit wool sweaters, carved wooden beer mugs, felt hats, limestone candle holders, handmade jewelry, Soviet-era trinkets, dark Estonian chocolate and other sweets made by the Kalev confectionary, and hand-painted marzipan.
Situated between Eastern and Western Europe, Estonia is a melting pot of culture and tradition. In general, Estonians consider themselves a northern people and identify most with Scandinavia. Poetry, art, and music (especially music) are very important to Estonians, as is individualism. Estonia has a very distinct national identity of which it is very proud, and many of the decisions made by leaders reflect the desire to remain unique despite being a member of the European Union.
Despite Tallinn's Old World charm, Estonia is a modern country, and a worldwide leader in technology. Skype was invented here. You may well see cutting-edge technology in daily use that will soon be part of our own lives.
Personal space is highly valued and respected—an arm's length or more is the norm. Physical touch is not common and generally frowned upon. Greetings involve a firm handshake and maintained eye contact. It is considered a sign of dishonesty or distrust if a person is reluctant to make eye contact during conversation. Estonians make very little use of gestures. Do not wave or point a finger at anyone. It is considered highly rude. Estonians tend to be polite, formal, and reserved during initial meetings. Avoid being overly loud.
Tallinn was named a European Capital of Culture in 2011. Approximately one-third of the population is Russian.
It is recommended that you purchase a Tallinn Card if you plan on touring many Tallinn attractions or taking a sightseeing tour. The card costs €24 ($33) for 24 hours and entitles you to free admission to the city's top attractions, free public transportation, a free sightseeing tour, and a handful of other discounts. Cards can be purchased at the A and D terminals of the ferry passenger port, bus station, and train station. They can also be purchased at Tallinn Tourist Information Center in town or online.
Tallinn TV Tower: The tower reopened in the spring of 2012 after much remodeling. It offers a panoramic view from 558 feet, an outdoor terrace on the 22nd floor, an interactive multimedia exhibition about Estonia on the 21st floor (which has a see-through glass floor), and a restaurant.
St. Olav's Church: This 14th-century Gothic church, at the end of Pikk Street, is considered the most beautiful in Tallinn. Once the tallest structure in the world, its 407-foot spire can been seen from all over the city. An observation offers spectacular views of the city. €2 ($3) to climb the tower.
Raekoja Plats: Town Hall Square is the hub of Old Town and looks like it comes from a fairy tale. Historically it served as a market place and it remains the social heart of the city, hosting year-round open-air concerts, craft fairs, and markets.
Old Town: Tallinn's medieval Old Town is known around the world for its well-preserved, authentic Hanseatic architecture, fairytale-like atmosphere (think Beauty and the Beast), and abundance of cafés, restaurants, and galleries. It is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and often referred to as the "medieval pearl of Europe."
Kiek in de Kök Museum and the Bastion Passages: The tower Kiek in de Kök and bastion tunnels play a large role in Tallinn's historical fortifications. The tunnels, constructed from 1630 to 1710 were built to shelter men, ammunition, and supplies, as well as to trick enemies. The tower was built from 1475 to 1483 and boasts 27 cannon embrasures and 30 handgun openings. Hours: 10:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Cost: €4,50 ($6.20)
Central Tallinn is very compact and most easily seen on foot. Public buses and taxis will be available, at reasonable cost.
As of 2012, there were 353 public Wi-Fi hotspots in Estonia.
St. Petersburg, Russia
You must have a travel visa to visit St. Petersburg. Holland America excursions take care of this process for you. If you would like to obtain one on your own, we suggest VisaCentral/CIBT to help you. Note that Russian officials will not process visa applications earlier than 90 days out from the visit date, which means you should not send in your application before May 15th. More information about the visa process →
If you do not make arrangements for a visa before leaving on our cruise, or you do not book a HAL excursion, you will not be able to leave the ship in any way. There is nothing anyone on board can do to help you. These are very real, firmly enforced regulations that we cannot circumvent.
The easiest way to visit St. Petersburg will be on a HAL excursion. They take care of the visa process for you. There are a wide variety of excursions, from simple shopping trips to bus tours to evening performances to private car tours. Although all trips are escorted, there is a reasonable amount of flexibility once you are out and about. Tours allow you to skip long lines and some visit sites at exclusive after-hours times. These excursions include group visa procedures (note: this is for the time you are on the particular tour only). HAL includes fees for visiting attractions, and includes extra fees for headsets and photo-taking permissions.
Third party excursions are available. They are not guaranteed and you will have no recourse in the event of any problems. When booking a third party excursion, be sure that a visa is secured for you, and be aware of additional fees that may be incurred.
We suggest you sleep on board overnight. Please, though, feel free to plan an evening ashore. St. Petersburg at night is wonderful. But staying in a hotel will be difficult to arrange and will generally require that you obtain a tourist visa on your own.
Rubles (35 rubles = $1). You need your passport to exchange money. Most stores will accept major credit cards, but for street vendors you must pay in rubles; it is illegal to use foreign currency. Exchange booths are prevalent, especially along Nevksy Prospekt (the main street). Do not plan on using an ATM here.
Russian, but English is widely spoken.
Word Cheat Sheet
ресторан: pronounced "restoran;" = restaurant
туалет: pronounced "tualet" = WC / toilet
кафе: pronounced "kafe" = café / coffeehouse
Интернет: = Internet (pronounced same)
Спасибо: pronounced "spasibo" = thank you
Такси: pronounced "taksi" = taxi
Автобус: pronounced "autobus" = bus
Food to Try
Borscht: soup served hot or cold made from a meat or chicken bouillon of cabbage, beets, carrot, potatoes, and other vegetables
Solyanka: soup made with meat, pickled cucumber, olives, peppers, and spices
Blini: thin wheat pancakes fried and filled with anything from sour cream to meat to caviar
Vareniki: thin dough stuffed with berries, cottage cheese, potatoes, or buckwheat; boiled and served with sour cream
Herring "under the fur coat": layered salad of beets, carrots, potatoes, herring, onions, eggs, and mayonnaise as dressing
Pelmeni: balls of minced meat wrapped in thin dough and boiled, then served with different sauces
Clean and plentiful. Most charge a small fee of 1 ruble.
The flea market behind Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood has many souvenirs. Popular items include Matryoshka nesting dolls, painted boxes (look for handmade wooden boxes, not the cheaper plastic or cardboard knockoffs), Gzheli (blue-and-white ceramic dishware), Ushanka (Russian fur hat).
Russians tend not to take notice of strangers on the street (no eye contact, smiles, nods, etc.), but if you need help with something, they are friendly and willing to help.
Don't wait for a store clerk to come ask if you need help—go ask them. Cutting in line is normal: stand close to the person in front of you and be firm about your place.
Be careful when crossing the street. Drivers—especially taxi drivers—are aggressive and pushy.
St. Petersburg is an extremely popular city to visit. It will be busy and crowded. You may be moved along when visiting popular sites. August is likely to be hot, especially inside crowded museums. Mosquitoes can be bad in August.
Be aware of pickpockets and tricky vendors employing ruses such as foreign-made souvenirs sold as genuine, or showing you an item and then selling you the empty box. Holland America invites a large group of authorized vendors on board while in port; you can trust them to be truthful and fair.
Named in honor of St. Peter, not Peter the Great, the founder of the city.
May 1703–August 1914: St. Petersburg
August 1914–February 1924: Petrograd
February 1924–July 1991: Leningrad
July 1991: Rechristened St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is the cultural capital of Russia. It was built for this specific purpose by Czar Peter the Great (1672–1725), who spent many years traveling in Western Europe and, upon his return, declared that Russia needed to become more like Europe. He decreed that men shave their beards, and he built a new capital — where the Neva River meets the Baltic Sea — to give his new Russia a fresh start. St. Petersburg is Russia's "window on Europe." Far more English is spoken here than in Moscow, and St. Petersburgers have a more welcoming attitude toward tourists.
St. Petersburg is made up of several islands and was built on a swamp. St Petersburg's center lies on the south bank of the River Neva, with the River Fontanka marking its southern boundary. Many of the city's top sights are located on and around Nevsky Prospekt, the street that is the backbone and heart of the city, stretching from the Alexander Nevsky Monastery to Palace Square.
The Neva River has always been considered the main street of the city. The river flows from Lake Ladoga to the Gulf of Finland. Before joining the Baltic, the Neva splits into branches and forms a delta, where downtown St. Petersburg is. Walking along the banks of the Neva, watching the bridges open and the ships cruise under, is a popular way to spend an evening. From May to October, all bridges across the Neva are raised from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Peter and Paul Fortress
Located in the oldest part of the city, the fortress was built by Peter the Great on a small island in the Neva delta. It was founded on May 27, 1703—the birthday of St. Petersburg. In the middle of the fortress is the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the burial place of all the Russian emperors and empresses from Peter the Great to Nicholas II. The weathervane—a golden angel holding a cross atop the cathedral's gilded spire—is one of the city's most prominent symbols. Tickets: 280 rubles ($8); seniors 80 rubles ($2.30). Take the metro to the Petrogradskaya stop.
This 18th-century complex of palaces and gardens lies west of city center. The Versailles-inspired palace overlooks fountains and gardens that open onto the Baltic Sea. It's quite far from the city, but accessible by train (Baltiysky station to Noviy Peterhof) or hydrofoil. Peterhof Express has boats leaving from St. Petersburg every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; return trips run until 8 p.m. Round-trip tickets cost 1,100 rubles ($32). Separate tickets are required for the Grand Palace, open Tuesday–Sunday, 10:30–6 p.m.; 550 rubles ($16).
The State Hermitage Museum
The collection of the State Hermitage includes more than 3 million works of art and artifacts. The main architectural ensemble of the Hermitage, situated in the center of St Petersburg, consists of the Winter Palace, the former state residence of the Russian emperors; the buildings of the Small, Old (Great) and New Hermitages; the Hermitage Theatre; and the Auxiliary House. The museum complex also includes the Menshikov Palace and the Eastern Wing of the General Staff Building, the Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre, and the Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory. Tickets can be preordered on their website and cost $17.95 for a single-day "simple" pass or $25.95 for a two-day combined-entrance ticket. You must have a valid form of ID with you to enter the museum.
A giant food market offering a look at local vegetation and a chance to immerse yourself in Russian culture. Open daily 8 a.m.–8 p.m.
St. Petersburg's signature thoroughfare and considered Russia's most famous street. Stroll the three-mile street and view its upscale shopping and restaurants, palaces, museums, and cathedrals.
Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood
The signature multicolored onion-domed church built on the spot where Czar Alexander II was assassinated by terrorists in 1881. It features incredible mosaics and stonework. Located at Naberezhnaia Kanala Giboedova; great view from Nevsky Prospekt.
St. Petersburg has the deepest subway system in the world. The terminals are adorned with sculptures and art and have the feel of a gallery. The system is very efficient: During the day, trains arrive every 2–3 minutes, with slightly longer waiting periods early in the morning and late at night. On average, the stations open at about 5:45 a.m. and close between midnight and 12:30 a.m. You can transfer from one line to the other until 12:15 a.m.
Look for signs with a big blue "M" signifying the entrance to the metro. The flat fare for a trip is 14 rubles ($0.40). The city uses a system of tokens ("zheton") the size of larger coins. These can be bought from the cashier windows (the easiest way to make yourself understood is to have exact change ready and use your fingers to signal the number of tokens you require). There are also vending machines in most stations. The smaller orange machines allow you only to insert a set denomination of note (currently 100 rubles) and obtain a set number of tokens plus change. If no light is showing, the machine is not working. The second type, which are computerized with a touchscreen, allow you to choose the number of tokens you require and pay with different denominations of note or coin. This type can also be used to buy or replenish cards.
Getting around on the metro can be a bit of an adventure if you do not read Cyrillic. Metro maps in English are available in the tourist publications that are distributed around town, but they are not posted at metro stations. Furthermore, even if you do read Cyrillic, the signs in the stations are difficult to read from the trains.
In addition to the metro, buses, trolleybuses, and trams are all available. The city center is best seen on foot. There is no metro station at our port, Sea Station (Morskoy Vokzal), so the best way to get to the city on your own will be abus (K154, K183, K275, and K346) from the first stop on Bolshoy Prospekt to Vasileostrovskaya Metro Station. From the green line, Vasileostrovskaya is only one stop west from Gostiny Dvor, in the very center of the city.
For taxis, it is strongly recommended that you phone for a taxi on arrival to ensure that you are charged fairly. Be sure to have your destination and the ship's location written in Cyrillic with you.
St. Petersburg has a number of places where you can access free Wi-Fi. In coffee shops or bars, be sure to buy a drink first, and then ask about Internet. Typically, there is no fee. Shokoladnitsa or Coffee House cafés, which are a chain, all have Internet access. Any hotel belonging to a large international chain, like Sheraton or Hilton, will usually have Wi-Fi in public areas. McDonald's offers Wi-Fi. Read more about internet in St. Petersburg →
Several places still have banks of computers: Café Max on Nevsky Prospekt is the largest. Other Internet cafés in the city center include Tetris, WWW Café, and Shangrinet. In each of them, you'll pay around 50–60 rubles ($1.50–$2) per hour for Internet access. Café Max is the most expensive at more than 100 rubles per hour.
More Information About the Visa Process
You must have a tourist visa to visit St. Petersburg, or have joined a planned excursion that takes care of that for you. This is different from any city we have visited on previous cruises. If you do not have a visa, you will be unable to walk away from the ship.
All visa applications must include a Russian Support Letter, or "Invitation". This comes from the Russian embassy. Tour operators will take care of this for you. VisaCentral will include this in their application process.
Please understand that these regulations are enforced directly by the Russian government. Holland America, APHC, and EMI have no involvement with the process and there is nothing we can do to help.
Visas must be obtained before you leave home. They cannot be obtained while traveling.
Obtaining a Russian Visa on Your Own
Obtaining a Russian tourist visa is a detailed process. We suggest VisaCentral (a CIBT company) to help you. We have made special arrangements with them to provide you an application kit customized for our cruise. They are offering special rates for our cruise. They are also offering access to their Platinum Service Group, a group of trained professionals ready to assist you personally on the phone.
A note about timing:
The Russian Embassy will not accept visa applications more than 90 days out from your visit. For our cruise, this means May 15th. If you submit your documents and passport before then, they will hold on to your passport until May 15th before starting the process.
The normal turn-around time to process your visa, once received at VisaCentral, is 10 business days. You should allow 3 weeks to complete the entire process "door to door". You will not have your passport during this time. The 3 weeks need to start after May 15th and end before August 8th (when you will likely be leaving for our cruise). If you plan to travel during this time, please plan accordingly.
Get your application kit:
Click on our cruise at this link and then choose your home state. Then choose to download the kit or have it emailed to you. Email may be the best option for some internet browsers. It is a large file and can be difficult to download.
The Visa Central application kit provides all the information you need. They even include FedEx labels. They provide an optional concierge service to fill out the online form on your behalf: you fill out a VisaCentral form, and they take care of all the online details for you. This helps avoid having your application declined for procedural reasons.
The Russian Tourist Invitation will be included as part of the process, if you are applying online see the detailed instructions to fill in that section of the site.
You will need to physically send in your passport with the application.
Neither EMI nor APHC can assist you with this process.
Book an Excursion Instead
You do have another option. And we recommend it.
When you book an excursion with Holland America, they take care of the visa process for you. This is included in your excursion price.
Excursions will be available for booking in April. We will be sending more info about that shortly.
St. Petersburg is a stunning place to visit, but can be difficult to navigate on your own (unless you read Cyrillic and speak Russian). Using an excursion is a good choice. Many details and costs will be taken care of on your behalf: transportation, admission fees, tour headset fees, photo-taking fees, jumping tour lines, and most of all the visa process. Holland America will offer you a full range of tours, from simple shopping trips to bus tours to after-hour museum visits to evening performances to private car tours. We are told that once out on a tour, there is a reasonable amount of freedom to explore on your own.
You may arrange excursions through other vendors. When comparing prices, be sure any extra fees are included in your comparison price. Be sure arrangements are made for you to connect from the ship to your local operator. Most importantly, be absolutely sure that the visa process is taken care of, in advance. Neither Holland America or APHC will be able to provide assistance with third party tours.
A visa provided through an excursion will only apply for the time you are actually on the excursion.
Helsinki is located directly north of Tallinn, across the Gulf of Finland, and is the northernmost national capital on the European continent. The city technically includes numerous islands, peninsulas, and bays, but the city center is on the southern part of Finland connected to the mainland. During summer solstice, especially the month of June, the sun is out for 18 to19 hours a day. In August, the sun rises around 5:30 a.m. and sets around 9 p.m. Temperatures on average are in the 60s with rain and fog.
Euro (€1 = $1.37). Finding ATMs will be easy here. It is recommended to have currency on hand.
Finnish. Swedish is also widely spoken, as is English.
Word Cheat Sheet
Terve (TAIR-veh) = Hello
Heippa (HAY-puh) = Goodbye
Kiitos (PEE-tos) = Thanks
Vessa (BAY-suh) = Toilet
Joo (Yo) = Yes
Ei (Eh) = No
WC signs (to read): Miehet = Gentleman / Naiset = Ladies
Exit/entrance signs: Uloskäynti = Exit / Sisäänkäynti = Entrance
Food to Try
Finnish cuisine is based on fresh, local ingredients depending on the season. It features an abundance of simple dishes made from vegetables, mushrooms, berries, and fish. In August, the main ingredients tend to be root vegetables, crayfish, duck, chanterelle mushrooms, and apples.
Karjalanpaisti: the national dish of Finland—slow-cooked beef and pork, seasoned with onion, peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt. Typically served with a side of root vegetables.
Ruisleipä: sour rye bread. Bread is very important in Finnish cuisine.
Kaalikääryleet: cabbage rolls (cabbage leaves filled with ground beef, rice, and onion).
Viili: a traditional fermented yogurt. The "short" variety has the consistency of commercial yogurt; the "long" version is more viscous.
Laskiaispulla: pastry filled with whipped cream and almond paste.
Rönttönen: pastry filled with lingonberry compote.
Salmiakki: salty black licorice. This is a polarizing food, but also a staple in Nordic countries and worth a try!
Toilets are located throughout the city and easily accessible. Cost: €0,50.
Design District: A cluster of 25 streets and 200 shops branching out from Dianapuisto Park, located in the heart of the city. The Design District initiative began in 2005 as a way to bring together all the creative businesses in the neighborhood—to "create a new kind of urban culture and encourage activities that highlight local design expertise." Guided tours of the District are offered, as is a map of all the participating businesses, available from Tourist Information (Pohjoisesplanadi 19) or the Design District website.
Market Square: Helsinki's most famous market, filled with booths selling traditional foods, handicrafts, and souvenirs. Open 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; located near the center of the city. Look for the old lady with her trained cats!
Ryijypalvelu: Purveyor of Finland's most extensive range of wall rugs, or ryijy.
Loyalty, reliability, punctuality, and independence are highly valued in Finland. Finns are proud of their heritage and current society, and the country is filled with an abundance of arts. They enjoy nature, are environmentally conscious, and value their privacy. Saunas are prevalent throughout Finland and play an important social role. It is a where Finns let down their guard; it is considered odd if you're not naked.
Do not tip at restaurants. It isn't the norm here.
Don't hesitate to ask for help. Finns are friendly even if they appear more stoic than smiley.
Honor personal space and maintain eye contact when talking.
Don't compare Finland to Sweden.
Keep public displays of affection (even hand holding) to a minimum.
Table manners include holding the fork in the left hand and knife in the right while eating.
Bread and shrimp are the only foods to be eaten by hand. Everything else—even fruit—is eaten with utensils.
Eat everything on your plate; Finns do not appreciate waste. When you're finished, place your knife and fork across your plate with the prongs facing down and the handles facing to the right.
Finland, like Iceland, is Nordic, not Scandinavian.
The ethnic makeup of Finland: Finn 93%, Swede 6%, other 1%.
Two official languages: Finnish and Swedish.
Finland is an egalitarian society, which is reflected in their gender-neutral language.
Helsinki is well-known for its architecture; Finland is home to Eero Saarinen, designer of the St. Louis Arch and the former TWA Terminal at JFK Airport. The city boasts the largest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Northern Europe. Neoclassical, Byzantine-Russian, Neo-Renaissance, Jugend, Nordic Classical, and Functionalist architecture is also on display. Wooden architecture can be seen in the Käpylä, Puu-Vallila, and Etu-Töölö districts. The newest example of wooden architecture is Kamppi Chapel (2012).
Kaivopuisto Park: Helsinki's oldest and best-known park, surrounded by embassies and villas—and the sea and rock cliffs are nearby.
Helsinki Cathedral: Built in 1852 and designed by architect Carl Ludwig Engel, the Cathedral is an Evangelic Lutheran church and, for many, the symbol of Helsinki. It is located in Senate Square, a few blocks from cruise port. Open 9 a.m.–midnight.
Senate Square: The Square is filled with Neoclassical architecture. The four buildings dominating the square, all designed by Carl Ludwig Engel, include Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, the University of Helsinki's main building, and the National Library of Finland. Sederholm House, the oldest stone building in the city, is located on the southeast corner of the square.
Temppeliaukio Kirkko (Rock Church): Designed by architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, the underground structure is built inside a massive block of natural granite and was completed in 1969. Inside, the church is circular, with walls of bare rock and a domed ceiling covered with copper wire. Light streams in from 180 vertical windows that connect the dome to the walls. The church is located in western Helsinki, near the National Museum of Finland. Open 11:45 a.m.–5: 45 p.m.
Sibelius Monument: The monument resembles organ pipes and is located in Sibelius Park, in northwestern Helsinki. A bust of the composer is on one side of the steel structure.
Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral: The largest Orthodox church in Western Europe, completed in 1868. The church, with its red-brick façade and golden cupolas, is one of the clearest symbols of Russian influence on Finland's history. It is located in Katajanokka island, just east of city center. Open Sundays 12 p.m.–3 p.m.
Tapio Wirkkala Park: The concept of this new park, inaugurated in 2012, was to take a classic park design and give it a modern twist by making it an "immersive total work of art." It is designed by famed stage designer Robert Wilson and pays homage to designer Tapio Wirkkala. The rectangular park is divided into nine rooms, each symbolizing different domestic spaces. It was realized in collaboration with students of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts. The park is located in the Design District, near the Design Museum.
Helsinki is a safe, friendly city that is easy to navigate on foot. However, if you wish to cover more ground, the tram is convenient. The cruise port is a 10-minute ride from city center; shuttles will be available at reasonable cost.
The tram is the main means of public transport in the inner city, with some 200,000 people using the network every day. Tram 2 is regarded as the "sightseeing tram." The route runs through the districts of Eira, with its embassies and Kaivopuisto Park, as well as the upcoming arts district of Kallio. The route is popular with both tourists and locals. Tram 4 is the "architectural tour," hitting spots like Uspenski Cathedral, the National Opera House, and Aalto House. Tram 6 is the "design and culinary tour." It includes Hietalahti Market Hall, the Design District, Helsinki University Botanical Garden, and Tapio Wirkkala Park.
A two-hour ticket costs €4,00 and can be purchased from a ticket machine at the tram station.
Most of city center has access to free WLAN Hotspots, named "Helsinki City Open WLAN." No registration or password is required.
Our second overnight stay will be in Stockholm. Travel in and out of the city is easy. Stockholm is a vibrant city active well in to the evening; plan to get out and enjoy. We suggest you spend the night on board—after all, your room is paid for and close to town. But if you wish, do not hesitate to stay over in a hotel. You may come and go from the ship at any time.
Sweden's capital spreads out over 14 islands in Lake Mälaren and, to the east, the Baltic Sea. Stockholm is known for its architecture, many waterways, and parks. It has been nicknamed the "Venice of the North."
Sweden Kronor ($1 = 6.40 SEK). It is recommended you have currency on hand for street vendors and smaller transactions. ATMs are widely available. Larger stores and restaurants will accept credit cards.
Swedish. English is widely spoken.
Word Cheat Sheet
Ja (yaw) = Yes
Nej (nay) = No
Tack (tah) = Please (when used at the end of a sentence)
Tack (tah) = Thanks
Hej (hey) = Hi/bye
God dag (G?D-dog) = hello, goodbye, and good day (used any time from morning until 5pm)
God kvåll (G?D-kell) = good evening
Toaletten (twa-LET-ta) = toilet (or look for WC signs)
Food to Try
Look for a restaurant's dagens rätt, or daily lunch special. They are typically seasonal, plentiful, and traditional, and come with a beverage.
Lingonberries: lingonberry jam is widely used to accompany everything from meatballs to pancakes to porridge. It is rarely used on bread, however.
Sill (Pickled herring): a staple at every meal, available in many flavors—mustard, onion, garlic, dill—and often eaten with boiled potatoes, sour cream, chives, and crispbread (see next).
Knäckebröd (crispbread): like a cracker. It's a flat, dry piece of rye bread and a staple of Swedish cuisine.
Smörgås (open-faced sandwich): the Swedish concept of open sandwiches dates back to the 1400s when thick pieces of bread were used as plates. One of the most popular varieties is the räksmörgås or räkmacka: shrimp sandwiches. They are often piled high with shrimp, hardboiled egg, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, and topped with crème fraîche, dill, and roe.
Prinsesstårta (princess cake): yellow sponge cake lined with jam and vanilla custard, topped with whipped cream, and sealed in a layer of green marzipan.
Kräftskivor (crayfish): especially popular in August, when the shellfish are in season.
Pannkakor (pancakes): more tender and thin than American pancakes, comparable in texture to French crêpes. Not just a breakfast food; pancakes are often served for lunch.
Stockholm does not have many public toilets. The few available charge SEK 5 ($0.75). The best way to find a toilet is to purchase something at a café or pub.
Don't feel obliged to leave a tip; service charges are usually included in the bill.
It is not unusual to be seated at a table with strangers at restaurants. Don't feel you have to engage with them—it's the norm to act as if they are not there.
To summon a waiter, make eye contact; do not wave at them.
Sweden is an easygoing country with friendly citizens who are generally more than happy to help answer questions.
Stockholm is the self-proclaimed "Capital of Scandinavia" and the biggest city in the region.
Europe's largest royal palace is located here: the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden.
The King of Sweden is Carl XVI Gustaf. His position is largely ceremonial; most government duties are performed by the Prime Minister and Parliament, making Sweden a constitutional monarchy.
The Stockholm Card is available for purchase (SEK 495 / $78 for a day) and includes free admission to more than 80 museums and attractions (including Drottningholm Palace and Court Theater, a guided tour of the Royal Opera House, City Hall, National Historical Museum, Nordic Museum, the Royal Palace, Skyview, and Vasa Museum), free public transport, free sightseeing (walking, canal, boat, and bike tours), and additional bonuses.
In the evening, we suggest exploring the waterways of Stockholm by canal boat, and enjoying dinner and a show. You might want to pick a restaurant during the day and make a reservation.
Gamla Stan: Stockholm's birthplace, circa 1252. Gamla Stan is one of the largest and best-preserved medieval city centers in all of Europe and doubles as a living museum. Its quaint cobblestone streets are filled with cafés, shops, and colorful buildings. Be sure to spend some time just wandering around and enjoying the Old World atmosphere.
Drottningholm Palace: Sweden's best-preserved royal palace, constructed in the 17th century, and the permanent residence of the royal family. The Palace Theater was built in the 18th century and is the only theater in the world that still uses the original stage machinery regularly. (SEK 100 / $15.70)
The Royal Opera: Sweden's national venue for opera and ballet since January 18, 1773. The tour takes visitors backstage and into the royal rooms. (SEK 100 / $15.70)
City Hall: The location of the annual Nobel Banquet. From City Hall tower you can see the entire city. Tours begin from the entrance located along the colonnade on the courtyard's south side and are available every 30 minutes between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. (SEK 100 / $15.70)
National Historical Museum: The world's largest Viking exhibition, with more than 4,000 artifacts, plus more from Sweden's history. (SEK 80 / $12.55)
The Royal Palace: Built in the 18th century on the location where the Tre Kronor castle burned down in 1697, in Gamla Stan. The Palace has five museums (including the Tre Kronor Museum), the Treasury, the Armory, and the Royal Stable. (SEK 150 / $23.50)
Skyview: A view of Stockholm from 425 feet above sea level, at the top of the world's largest spherical building: the Ericsson Globe. (SEK 145 / $22.75)
Vasa Museum: The only preserved 17th-century ship in the world. More than 95% of the ship is original and decorated with carved sculptures. The Vasa sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 and was salvaged in 1961. It has since been restored and is the most-visited museum in Scandinavia. (SEK 130 / $20.40)
Although berthing is never guaranteed, advance plans call for us to dock at Stockholm's premier cruise ship pier called Stadsgården. It is a lovely 1.5 km stroll into town from here. Buses will be available wherever we dock, at reasonable cost.
Note: Taxi prices are not regulated in Sweden and can vary greatly. Approved taxis with metered fares always have yellow license plates. Check the price of the taxi, located on a yellow label on the rear door window, before getting in.
Stockholm Public Transportation (SL) is comfortable, efficient, and safe, and includes buses, underground trains, commuter trains, trams, and ferry lines. The underground (called the T-bana) is the easiest way to get around town. All of central Stockholm is located within Zone A; Zones B and C house such destination as Drottningholm Palace and Nynashamn (see "Highlights"). The most economical option for making use of the SL is to purchase a 24-hour, unlimited use card. They can be purchased at SL Centers with credit cards, along with individual tickets.
24-hour card: 115 SEK ($18)
72-hour card: 230 SEK ($36)
75-minute, single-zone card: 36 SEK ($5.65)
75-minute, two-zone card: 54 SEK ($8.47)
Fun Fact: Swedes consider the T-bana the world's longest work of art, as many of the stations feature mosaics and other artwork.
Stockholm was the first city in the world to introduce publicly available 4G. Here are a few places that offer free Wi-Fi around town:
Stockholm Tourist Center. Name: "Homerun Wireless Zone." Ask staff for a code.
Wayne's Coffee, Espresso House, Pressbyran: coffee chains with free access.
Radisson Hotels, Scandic Hotels, First Hotels, Nordic Coffee Hotels: ask staff for details.
We will be docked in Århus for six hours. Keep this in mind when making plans.
319,000 (urban); 1.25 million (with surrounding area). Thirteen percent of the population is made up of students, making Århus the youngest city in Denmark.
Århus, situated on the east coast of Jutland, is the second-largest city in Denmark and claims the unofficial title "Capital of Jutland." Its name originates from the city's location around the mouth of the Århus River and translates from Icelandic as "river mouth."
Krone ($1 = 5.43kr). Currency is expressed with "DKK" and/or "kr." ATMs will be more difficult to find here than in larger cities. It is advised you keep some currency from our time in Copenhagen.
Danish, but English is widely spoken.
Word Cheat Sheet
Hej = pronounced "high" = Hello
Farvel = pronounced "fah-VEL" = Goodbye
Godmorgen = pronounced "good' MORG-en" = Good morning
Godnat = pronounced "good' NEHT" = Goodnight
Tak = pronounced "tahk" = Thank you
Restaurants to Try
Brasserie Drudenfuss: An organic café and bistro located in the Latin Quarter, known for its creativity and culture. Graven 30, 8000 Århus C
Svineriet: World flavors cooked up in a renovated warehouse in Latin Quarter. Said to have some of the best food in Eastern Jutland. Mejlgade 35, 8000 Århus
Your best bet is to purchase something at a café and use the bathroom there.
Areas to Explore
Latin Quarter: The Latin Quarter is the oldest area of Århus, dating back to the late 14th century. Pustervig Torv Square lies at the heart of the quarter and is a popular gathering place. The Latin Quarter is filled with chic shops, cute cafés, and some of the city's best restaurants (see above).
Strøget: A pedestrian-only street in the middle of Århus known for its excellent shopping.
Vestergade District: Home of high-end shopping, The Church of Our Lady, and picture-perfect Møllestien: one of the most beautiful streets in the city, covered in hollyhocks and roses.
ARoS Art Museum: One of the largest museums in Northern Europe and the main art museum in Århus. The roof is home to Olafur Eliasson's work Your rainbow panorama: a 492-foot long, circular walking path made of tinted glass, and offering 360-degree views of the city. The museum's collections range from works from 1770 to contemporary pieces, as well as rotating exhibitions. 90 DKK ($16.77).
Århus Cathedral: A 12th-century church featuring Denmark's largest stained-glass window and a 15th-century wooden altarpiece. Climb the 310-foot bell tower to see examples of historic Århus (15th-century Church of Our Lady) and innovative Århus (ARoS Museum).
Den Gamle By Museum: The world's first open-air museum, founded in 1909. It features 75 historic houses and character actors, and shows what life was like in Denmark in the 1800s, 1920s, 1970s, and more. Open 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; DKK 108 ($20).
Botanical Garden: A colorful garden full of flowers and plants from around the world, located in the heart of the city.
Århus is one of the smallest cities on our trip and is best explored on foot. The cruise terminal is a 10-minute walk from downtown.
There are sites to visit out of town. Please be mindful, however, of our short time in port. This might well be a good place to plan to take it easy. HAL will offer a limited number of excursions. These include the Hans Christian Andersen home, Fyrkat (a Viking fortress), a temperate rain forest that offers recreational options, an entertaining steam train ride, and visits to a number of small villages.
Free Wi-Fi hotspots should be easy to find here. Check with cafés and bars.
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