For centuries the Baltic region was fought over by Vikings, Slavs, and Teutons who sought dominance over this strategic, thousand-mile-long trade route. Between the 12th and 17th centuries, the German-based Hanseatic League established and maintained a trade monopoly in the Baltic and throughout northern Europe, ensuring the sage passage of goods for every member country. Among the more than 100 alliance participants were major port cities and towns that evolved into magnificent architectural and cultural centers. This Hanseatic heyday is revealed in the old towns of Gdansk, Riga, Tallinn, and Stockholm on our Baltic cruise, and you’ll visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Visby, the ‘city of roses and ruins,’ and discover the natural beauty of Germany’s Sylt Island.
• Discover the scenic beauty of Bornholm Island, graced with rolling countryside, charming villages, unique round churches, and the impressive ruins of Hammershus Castle.
• Step ashore in beautiful Visby; a World Heritage Site, this city of ‘roses and ruins’ was once the trading center of the Hanseatic League.
• Tour the historic districts of Gdansk, Riga, and Tallinn, which feature a treasure-trove of architectural styles.
• Spend two days in St. Petersburg—the Venice of the North—and enjoy a guided tour of the Hermitage Museum, Peterhof, and other important sites.
• Enjoy a daylight transit of the 61-mile Kiel Canal, a fascinating example of 19th-century engineering.
Arrive and transfer to the Paddington Hilton and gather with your fellow passenger in the evening for a welcome dinner and briefing.
Join a half-day tour with lunch at a local restaurant. Board the Island Sky this afternoon and sail in the wake of kings and conquorers as you cruise down the legendary Thames to the North Sea.
As you transit the North Sea, attend lectures preparing you for the exciting cultural and historical encounters ahead.
The beautiful, windswept, 24-mile-long island of Sylt (pronounced zoolt) is the northernmost point of Germany and part of the Frisian archipelago which stretches between Denmark and The Netherlands. Unique to the region is the architecture of the houses found in island villages, their thick reed roofs slope all the way down to the ground and blend with the surrounding vegetation. After lunch ashore go for an optional bicycle tour from the village of Kampen, join a birding tour, or enjoy free time to explore Westerland, the charming capital of Sylt.
Early this morning we begin our transit of the historic 61-mile-long Kiel Canal and sail from the North Sea into the Baltic. Kaiser Wilhelm I set the first foundation stone in place on June 3, 1887, in Brunsbuttel and the final stone was laid by Kaiser Wilhelm II on June 21, 1895, in Holtenau. Today the Kiel Canal is one of the busiest man-made waterways in the world.
After breakfast step ashore on serene Bornholm Island, endowed with sugar-white sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, thick forests, and heather-clad hills. Visit the ruins of Hammershus Castle, Scandinavia’s largest medieval fortress; the unique, round 12th-century churches, Osterlars and Nylars; and the charming half-timbered fishing hamlet of Gudhjem. You may also choose to visit art studios renowned for their glass blowing and pottery.
Enjoy a full day in this city whose history spans nearly 1,000 years. Stop at the Solidarity Monument, in front of the Gdansk shipyard, then view the exhibition, Roads to Freedom, a fascinating audio-visual portrayal of those important, world-changing events. A walking tour through lively Old Town reveals a magnificent collection of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings and monuments. Pass through the Golden Gate and walk down Long Street to the 15th-century Palace of Artus, where Neptune’s Fountain commemorates Gdansk’s Hanseatic past. Also visit medieval St. Mary’s Church, the world’s largest brick church. After lunch onboard, there is time at leisure for further exploration.
Today you drive to the amber center of Palanga. A stroll through the Botanical Park with its 500 varieties of trees and bushes, takes you to the Amber Museum, housed in a 19th-century neo-Renaissance-style mansion. Afterward drive to the Old Town for a walking tour. From beautiful Theater Square, explore the narrow streets that meander between the charming half-timbered houses and shops.
Disembark this morning at Gotland Island, the largest island in the Baltic. The splendid city of Visby, a World Heritage Site, is famous for its intact medieval architecture, especially the 44 guard towers built as part of the city walls in the 11th and 12th centuries. Drive to Almedalen, a green oasis in the city center, then walk past lovely medieval granaries and the city’s oldest building, the Powder Tower. Visit the Botanical Garden, known for its exotic plant collection and take a ride up to a splendid panoramic viewpoint of the city and its spires. Continue your tour on foot along charming cobblestone streets, to visit the impressive St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Gotland Museum with its excellent medieval collections.
Your day in Latvia showcases the riches of this 800-year-old Hanseatic river port. A walking tour takes you to multiple landmarks, including the Blackheads House, one of the oldest buildings in Riga; St. Peter’s Church, a superb Gothic masterpiece; the 15th-century Three Brothers merchant houses; and both St. Jacob and St. John churches. Also visit the 13th-century Dome Cathedral, whose organ concerts are legendary. Continue your exploration by motorcoach, driving past lovely parks along the City Canal lined with the stunning Art Nouveau architecture built in 1899 during the Jugendstil movement. There is free time this afternoon to explore Riga on your own.
Today set out for old town Tallinn, a visual feast of soaring spires, towers, and turrets. After a renaissance in restoration and reconstruction, Tallinn proudly proclaims itself the finest preserved city in the Baltic. In the upper Old Town, visit Palace Square and the magnificent cupola-crowned Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. In the lower Old Town, visit the Town Hall Square, once a medieval marketplace; one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, founded in 1422; and stroll along St. Catherine’s Passage in the Latin Quarter. You will also visit Kadriorg Palace and Park, built by Peter the Great as a summer residence.
Arrive in splendid St. Petersburg in the late morning and enjoy two days of exploration. Visit St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Winter Palace which houses Catherine the Great’s incomparable Hermitage Museum. Enjoy an advanced entry and special guided tour which includes the Gold Room—a dazzling display of jewelry, as well as the famous Scythian and Greek gold. Drive across the Neva River to the burial place of the tsars, Peter and Paul Cathedral, its 18th-century spire dominates the skyline. Visit the spectacular Church of the Resurrection and drive along Russia’s most famous street, the Nevsky Prospect, lined with magnificent palaces, churches, and theaters. A scenic drive takes you to the palace and gardens of Peterhof, a grand summertime residence built by Peter the Great.
The capital of Finland since 1812, Helsinki is a cosmopolitan city with a small-town feel. A city tour reveals the beautiful neoclassical architecture of Senate Square and allows you the opportunity to stroll through picturesque Market Square, where numerous vendors offer a variety of Finnish foods and souvenirs. Or choose to tour Suomenlinna Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built by Sweden in 1748 to protect Helsinki’s harbor.
Today visit Turku, the oldest city in Finland and its one-time capital. Your tour includes the 13th-century castle and cathedral, the handicrafts museum, and lively market. Conditions permitting, board Zodiacs to cruise among verdant islands and rocky outcroppings of the scenic Turku archipelago.
Arrive in Stockholm and disembark the Island Sky. Transfer to the airport for your independent homeward flight.
Based on the expeditionary nature of our trips, there may be ongoing
enhancements to this itinerary.
Ocean-view suite, averaging 230 square feet, located on the Magellan Deck with sitting area, private bathroom, and two to four portholes. Bed can be configured as two twins or one queen.
Ocean-view suite, averaging 240 square feet, located on the Columbus Deck with sitting area, private bathroom, and large picture window. Bed can be configured as two twins or one queen.
Ocean-view suite, averaging 225 square feet, located on the Marco Polo Deck with sitting area, private bathroom, and large picture window. Bed can be configured as two twins or one queen.
Ocean-view suite, averaging 240 square feet, located on the Marco Polo Deck with sitting area, private bathroom, and large picture window. Bed can be configured as two twins or one queen.
Ocean-view suite, averaging 270 square feet, located on the Erikson Deck with sitting area, private bathroom, and patio doors leading to private balcony. Bed can be configured as two twins or one queen.
Ocean-view suite, averaging 325 square feet, located on the Explorer Deck with sitting area, private bathroom, and patio doors leading to private balcony. Bed can be configured as two twins or one queen.
Vessel Type: Luxury Small Ship
Length: 90 metres
Passenger Capacity: 116
Built: 1992 / refurbished 2010
With a maximum passenger capacity of only 116, a vessel of her size is capable of carrying many more but instead the MS Island Sky has the benefit of unusually large suites, luxuriously appointed public areas and spacious outside decks.
On board there is a high ratio of crew to passengers. Our friendly crew of 75 are mainly Filipino and Eastern European and our Scandinavian captains are experienced mariners, having been in service aboard large 2000 plus passenger vessels and who now prefer a less frantic life aboard a small ship. If, like them and us, you prefer a more peaceful life at sea, you will find the MS Island Sky the perfect ship. When choosing the vessel for your next voyage of discovery, you can select a ship with endless entertainment and impersonal service or come with us where peace, high quality service and attention to detail are the order of the day. We promise there will be no organised entertainment, fancy dress, deck games or any of the usual big ship experiences. The atmosphere on board is more akin to a private yacht or country hotel. A little music in the lounge or bar after dinner, guest speakers, informative port briefings from our cruise director and of course good food which may be enjoyed leisurely in the attractive dining room. After a day ashore you will return to the comfort and peace of a well run and exceedingly comfortable ship.
Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. The feeling of luxury is enhanced by the wood panelling and brass, which predominates throughout the vessel conveying the atmosphere of a private yacht. The passenger accommodation is arranged over five decks and all suites have outside views. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring marble-topped vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower, large wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool and excellent storage. There is a mini-fridge, flat screen television with inbuilt DVD player which can also play CDs and a telephone in each suite. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort. Other facilities include a programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries and individually controlled air-conditioning and heating. The suites on each deck have their own colour theme. Soft hues and blended tones enhance the traditional maritime style making the passenger accommodation an inviting and relaxing place to be.
The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. The onboard library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. There is also WI-FI access throughout the vessel. Outside there is a rear sun deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade, a bar and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. On the top deck there is a Jacuzzi and further observation and sun deck. There is also a small hairdressers on board with appointments made on request.
Another benefit of a small ship is the quality of the cuisine. With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the galley is able to provide delicious meals. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, the chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus.
No Single Supplement on Best of the Baltic aboard Island Sky ZE
Follow in the historic footsteps of explorers as you cruise down the legendary Thames River to the Baltic Sea.
From London to Stockholm - 16 days.
Aboard Island Sky ZE.
15 July 2017.
Voyage Rates: US$13 480 - US$26 880
Special Offer: No Single Supplement.
No single supplement on this expedition! Single accommodations are limited and subject to availability