Missed part one of Jean's favorite cruise ports? You can find that post here.
As summer approaches, my cruising dreams head north. I love to cruise during the long white nights with sunsets around midnight, and light so extraordinary every scene looks surreal. I also love to be onboard ships that can dock close to the city centers I am visiting. Ships that sail into harbors alongside fishing boats returning from the morning catch. This was my experience sailing on Azamara in the Baltic last year. Of all the incredible Northern ports one can visit, three stand out as my favorites.
Cruising the land of the midnight sun.
Scotland touches on all your passions: Golf, food, history, whisky. OK, maybe those are my passions, but a few might be yours, too. Docked in Leith, you are only minutes from Edinburgh and all the treasures of this very independent city. You can even see the port from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle.
The view from Edinburgh Castle.
Travel into the city and spend you day on foot. First, get your bearings and a historical perspective by climbing the hill to visit Edinburgh Castle. As you meander down to the Old and New town, take the small pathways all over the city to peek into the many private gardens. Stop in the National Museum, if only for the café, which is where I took this picture of the artisanal, farm to table delicacies they serve.
The beautiful paths of Edinburgh make it one of the most walkable cities in the world.
A whisky tasting is a must. I love the one at the iconic Balmoral Hotel. End you day back at port, visiting the royal yacht, HMY Britannia. Take a peek inside the life of the royal family as they toured the world from 1954 to 1997.
Touring the royal yacht in Leith.
Copenhagen is so much more than "The Little Mermaid". Pass by if you wish on a canal cruise, but spend you time exploring the ancient waterways of the sea-faring city.
Cloudy skies made for dramatic views during a canal cruise in Copenhagen.
I loved that my first glimpse of Azamara Quest last year was this one.
My first view of the Azamara Quest in Copenhagen.
The Azamara Quest docked right behind a central park of Copenhagen. The next photo is the view from my balcony. We were not parked "close" to the city. We were right in the middle of Copenhagen and could easily hop off the ship for drinks, dinner or some more sightseeing. Few hotels have such a prime location.
The view from my Azamara Quest balcony.
Cruising into the harbor at Helsinki, you pass fishing boats returning from their morning work. You see homes on small islands and inlets. Before you even dock you feel the pristine, small town vibes of this capital city.
Stunning views approaching Helsinki.
One of my favorite Azamara Shore Excursions tours of the entire Baltic cruise was our visit to a horse breeding farm about an hour outside of Helsinki. We met three generations of owners, and the horses and dogs that lived there.
Horses at a Helsinki farm.
The beautiful farmhouse.
Enjoying tea and berries in Finland.
We sampled the finest berries I have ever tasted and learned that the long summer days make the sweetest berries in the world. I also learned that if you freeze them and eat them frozen, even in summer, the flavors are even more intense. Sipping tea, eating berries and learning about the centuries of Finnish farm traditions was magical. It is because of this opportunity and many others like it, that I will be returning onboard Azamara this year. Because exploring is always more than checking off highlights, and every time I eat my frozen berries at home I am transported back to Helsinki.
Feeling inspired? Here are three Baltic cruises calling on these ports:
Explore more Baltic cruise itineraries here.