Categorized | Luxury Vacations, Travel

The Best on the Baltic

ACCOMMODATIONS: With suites ranging from 356 to 1,403 square feet, all with ocean-view balconies, the Voyager leaves other ships in its wake. My mid-level (grade 8 out of 12) 370-square-foot-“penthouse” had a sleeping area with a king-sized bed covered in high-quality linens; a sitting room with a full-sized settee, two chairs, and bar-cum-entertainment center (TV, DVD/CD); and an enormous walk-in closet/dressing room. The huge all-marble bathroom was a nautical knockout with separate shower and tub, two basins, and Anichini toiletries. (Grade 8-12 suites include 24-hour butler service.)

ACTIVITIES: On-board spa, beauty salon and (rather tiny) gym, outdoor swimming pool, library, and the usual program of lectures, computer lessons, exercise classes, deck games, etc.

FOOD: Four shipboard restaurants offer culinary specialties that should please all but the most discriminating palates. Show up whenever you wish and sit with whomever you like in the main Compass Rose dining room, which serves an attractive, but not overly lengthy or ambitious “haute cuisine light” menu that a few (mostly U.S.) passengers found wanting in the portion department. I’d give it a solid B, with extra credit for the regional grilled seafood. The “Cordon Bleu” French and Asian restaurants (the latter now replaced by a steakhouse) got higher marks, although only one dinner in each may be reserved per voyage. Up top, the informal Veranda restaurant offers a buffet-style alternative, best for pre-tour meals-on-the run.

ENTERTAINMENT: A perky troupe of young entertainers did a surprisingly good job lifting the spirits of tour-weary passengers with themed shows devoted to jazz legends, ballroom dancing, Cole Porter, and the Beatles. Even more impressive: RSCC springing for a top-flight Russian folkloric show in St. Petersburg featuring a balalaika orchestra, singers, and dancers.

ITINERARY: The cruise begins in either Copenhagen or Stockholm (both of which must be explored on your own). One-day ports of call include Visby, the beautiful medieval town on the Swedish island of Gotland; Tallinn, Estonia (where the four-hour bike tour of the old town and scenic rural areas is recommended); and Helsinki, Finland (take a sailing trip of the harbor or the city highlights tour, which includes a special Sibelius concert at the Finnish National Opera). The three days in St. Petersburg, Russia, are the highlight of the trip, so don’t miss excursions to the Hermitage (go at least twice), Winter Palace, Catherine’s Palace, Peterhof, and the Romanov tombs at the Fortress of Sts. Peter and Paul. Note: Be sure to get a Russian visa if you want to spend any time in the city apart from the organized tours.

BOTTOM LINE: Pricing for July/August sailings starts at $5,500 per person and includes roundtrip economy class airfare from 22 North American gateways, all gratuities, liquor, and (new this year) most shore excursions. Regent Seven Seas Cruises: 800-285-1835, www.TheRegentExperience.com.

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