My very first voyage with Oceania Cruises was a journey through Scandinavia and the Baltic. I had never visited this region of the world before and wasn’t sure what to expect. Today, eight years later, the fascinating destinations found along the Baltic Sea remain some of my favorites.

Our cruise began in Copenhagen, a fantastic city that is quintessentially Scandinavian and thus offers a perfect welcome to the region. Colorful 17th century homes line meandering canals; elegant parks embrace grand palaces; and a low skyline is broken only by the soaring spires of churches and castles. Copenhagen is also the perfect place to relax and refresh after a transatlantic flight to Europe, because this city demands nothing more than a leisurely stroll to enjoy its many charms.



Amble along the colorful Nyhavn waterfront and stop for some refreshment in one of the many inviting cafés. Or meander along lovely Langelinie Promenade to see the iconic Little Mermaid statue – with a view of your ship as a backdrop! There are also any number of parks and gardens and several impressive royal palaces to explore within a mile or two of the cruise pier, including Amalienborg Palace, Rosenborg Palace and Christianborg Palace. A relaxing canal cruise is another a great way to take in the sights of this scenic city.



If you haven’t yet explored this region of the world, I encourage you to add it to your bucket list. And if you’ve visited before, I’m guessing you’re like me and eager to return. Meet us in Copenhagen this summer and explore the many charms of Scandinavia with Oceania Cruises!





Of all the amazing places I have traveled over the years, St. Petersburg truly captured my heart. So you can imagine my delight when I heard that Oceania Cruises is now offering a dozen St. Petersburg shore excursions FREE on five Marina sailings in 2014. And with two or three full days in St. Petersburg on each sailing, you can explore at will because the number of free shore excursions you can enjoy is UNLIMITED.

On the shore excursion St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral and Spilled Blood Cathedral (a great deal at $195 and an even better deal for free), you will visit three magnificent centers of spiritual life. St. Isaac’s Cathedral is a breathtaking monument to 19th century Russian architecture with its shimmering gold-plated dome that is a dominant feature of the city’s skyline.



6a013480ad3a9d970c01a73d9f3bae970d-200wiStrikingly different but no less captivating is the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, so named because it was constructed as a memorial on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. From early childhood I have been impressed by images of this style of Russian Orthodox temple so different from Western cathedrals. The colorful exterior and five copper-plated and enameled domes positively sparkle in the radiant summer sun. The interior is adorned with an incredible collection of mosaics, the largest in Russia and one of the largest in the world.

If you are an art lover, a visit to St. Petersburg may well inspire you to relocate permanently and spend the rest of your days wandering the Hermitage. If that seems impractical, the next best thing is the Hermitage, A Wealth of Art and History shore excursion (normally $195). Because of the convenience, comfort and a host of other reasons, an Oceania Cruises shore excursion is always the best way to experience a destination, but I especially recommend an excursion when visiting the Hermitage. The expert guides allow you to circumvent the lengthy lines and ensure that you see some of the most renowned works in the collection.



One of the oldest and largest museums in the world, the Hermitage boasts a collection of more than three million works of art and artifacts, only part of which can be displayed in the complex of historic buildings that includes the Winter Palace, the former state residence of the Russian emperors. Some of my favorites include the 23 works by the Dutch master Rembrandt, Michelangelo’s sculpture Crouching Boy, and two of Leonardo da Vinci’s oil paintings, an extremely rare medium for this Italian Renaissance polymath. The environment in which these masterpieces are housed is as impressive as the works themselves.



These are just a few highlights of the 12 free shore excursions. There is obviously a great deal to see in St. Petersburg and no better way to see it than by taking advantage of this great deal from Oceania Cruises! And for a limited time, Oceania Cruises is also offering free pre-paid gratuities, unlimited Internet, and a shipboard credit up to $300 per stateroom on the sailings below, as well as the option to purchase a $99 premium economy air upgrade on select sailings. There has never been a better time to explore this magical city:



Guests onboard Nautica
recently visited the incredible Geirangerfjord on Voyage of the Midnight Sun, and this weekend Marina’s guests will also have the opportunity to see this
breathtaking destination on the Isles
& Fjords

Just northeast of Bergen, Geirangerfjord is one of the world’s
longest and deepest fjords and is considered an archetypal fjord landscape. Its
exceptionally captivating beauty derives from its narrow canal flanked by
steep-sided rock walls that rise over 4,500 feet above sea level and descend more
than 1,500 feet below.


The sheer walls of the fjord have numerous waterfalls, the
most famous being the Seven Sisters. The falls are made up of seven separate
streams, the tallest cascading from a height of 820 feet.

At the head of this nine-mile fjord is the little village of
Geiranger, where Marina will stop on
this journey so that guests can further explore this astounding fjord.

Highlights of a shore excursion in Geirangerfjord include Eagle’s
Bend, a viewpoint reached by a meandering road of switchbacks and hairpin turns
that climbs to a fantastic vista of the scenic mountains and the fjord below. At
Flydal Gorge, the view towards the fjord is also superb. The ship in the
distance looks like a toy boat, giving you a perspective on the soaring height
of the mountain cliffs that embrace the fjord.


Equally scenic is the lovely Djupvatn Lake. Usually covered by ice and snow until the end of June, the
lake lies over 3,000 feet above sea level and is part of the Otta river system.


Next year offers just a single opportunity to visit the
magnificent Geirangerfjord, when Nautica
sails there on Path of the Midnight Sun,
which departs on August 2, 2014. Don’t miss the chance to see one of the most
fantastic fjords in the world!


Photos by Peter Pretty



Guests onboard Nautica
wrapped up a thrilling journey to the top of the world today on Voyage of the Midnight Sun, and to
celebrate we are sharing photos provided by guests who have enjoyed this
adventure in the past. Typically Oceania Cruises offers an itinerary that
ventures this far north just once a year, and it is a special trip for guests
who truly yearn to explore the far reaches of the world. Remote and
indescribably beautiful, these northern ports offer a glimpse of untouched
areas seldom seen by most travelers.

Kristiansand, the capital of Vest-Agder County in Southern
Norway, is Norway’s fifth largest city, with approximately 90,000 residents.
Founded in the 17th century by King Christian IV, the old section of the town is
brimming with character, notably its strictly right-angled streets called kvadraturen in Norwegian. This photo of
the shores of Kristiansand captures the quaint beauty of the city.


Equally as enchanting is Bergen, which has been one of
Norway’s major port cities since the 9th century. On the Troldhaugen & Fantoft Stave Church Tour, guests enjoyed a
fascinating tour of Bergen and the suburbs including a stop at Troldhaugen, the
home Edvard Grieg, one of Norway’s most famous composers. The excursion also
visited the stunning Fantoft Stave Church, originally built in 1150. After a
fire in 1992, the church was reconstructed exactly like the original, using
timber from the Sognefjord forests north of Bergen.


In North Cape many guests participated in a crab fishing
on a deep-sea raft in the waters near Sarnesfjord. King crabs can
live up to 30 years, measure up to 6.5 feet between their claws and weigh as
much as 22 pounds. The king crabs caught on this excursion weighed in the
neighborhood of 10 pounds, and guests enjoyed a fantastic meal at the end of
the day.



One of the northernmost towns in the world, Hammerfest is
situated on Kvaløya Island. The modern town was completely reconstructed after
it was destroyed in World War II. The Hammerfest
and Sami Camp Walking Tour
explores the streets of this beautiful town and also
visits Mikkelgammen Sami camp, where guests learn about
the history and culture of the Sami people. On this excursion guests were
treated to a reindeer spotting along the way.



Surrounded by mountain peaks and glaciers that rise
majestically from the Arctic Ocean, Magdalena Bay is embraced by absolute
wilderness and is covered with ice most of the year. One of the most remote and
exotic places in the world, the bay is renowned for its pristine beauty. Very
few travelers ever make it this far north, which is why this cruise was
especially exciting for Oceania Cruises guests.


The journey ended in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark
since the 13th century. Far from being spoiled by modern developments, the city
has done a remarkable job blending 20th century additions with the old world


This unique cruise that makes its way to some of the
northernmost destinations in the world is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and
usually this type of itinerary is offered only once a year. Next year Nautica will journey north on the Path of the Midnight Sun, departing
August 2, 2014. Don’t miss the chance to see some of the most remote and
beautiful places on earth!


Photos by Peter Pretty



IMG_4412 Armor w Oceania SignvcOn Marina’s recent
stop in Estonia, guests visiting the Old Town at the heart of Tallinn were
greeted appropriately by this knight in (not so) shining armor. On the UNESCO
World Heritage list, Tallinn is considered one of the best-preserved medieval
town centers in Europe. With cobblestone streets and beautifully preserved
buildings dating from the 11th century and earlier, it is easy to be
transported to a different time.

Many of the state buildings, churches and original
residences date from the medieval period and have been preserved in their basic original form. The cobbled square has been at the heart of Tallinn life since the
11th century and is dominated by one of the most famous symbols of Tallinn, the
Gothic town hall, dating from the early 14th century. The town hall has been meticulously
preserved down to the ornate dragon rainspouts.


IMG_4569 Dragon Water Spouts

A particularly delightful aspect of the Old Town is the
little shops and open-air markets where visitors can buy local handmade crafts
like these hand-knitted sweaters and pullovers with traditional Estonian folk
patterns and these souvenir bells with hand-painted scenes of Tallinn.

IMG_4409 Souvenirs

One of the more popular attractions in Old Town is the 19th century Russian Orthodox cathedral, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Slightly out of place in this medieval city, it has been viewed by locals as a symbol of Estonia’s history of oppression and was nearly torn down in 1924 during a brief period of independence. After neglect during Soviet rule, the Cathedral was restored to its former beauty and now this classic onion-domed cathedral serves as one of Tallinn’s more famous tourist icons.

IMG_4399vcA Nevsky Cathedral

To get above the scene, guests visited Toompea Castle atop
Toompea Hill. The original wood structure was built in the 9th century,
and the stone structure was added in the Middle Ages. Substantially
reconstructed over the years, it still retains its original shape and currently
is home to the Estonian Parliament. Near the castle, there were archery pits
set up for visitors to take target practice, offering insight into the peaceful
and relaxed atmosphere of this region, for how often does one find weapons
available for public use in close proximity to a government building?

IMG_4393 Toompea Castlevc
IMG_4506vc Archery Pits Toompea Castle

The views from Toompea Hill of the Old Town and its
beautiful colorful buildings with red roofs were gorgeous on an equally
gorgeous day.


Guests also visited the oldest church in Tallinn and
mainland Estonia, Toomkirk, also called St. Mary’s Cathedral. Originally a
Catholic cathedral, it became Lutheran in the 1500s and now belongs to the Estonian
Evangelical Lutheran Church. Established in the 13th century by the
Danes, the Baroque dome was not added until the 18th century. Over a
hundred medieval coats of arms line the interior walls of the church.

IMG_4424St Mary's Toomkirk Churchvc
IMG_4451 Church Interior

No trip back to medieval times would be complete without
fire breathing and a meal inspired by ancient history. At Old Hansa Restaurant,
guests are treated to a medieval-themed experience with servers in medieval dress
and music and entertainment from centuries ago. The food was simple and
delicious: fresh baked bread, Hansa House smoked herring, juniper cheese spread and dark honey
beer in a big ceramic tankard (what Old Hansa calls women’s size!).

IMG_4601 Fire Breather
IMG_4611 Food

Tallinn was a lovely escape into the past, made all the more
wonderful when Marina guests returned
to their thoroughly modern, immensely comfortable home on the sea.


Photos by Vanessa Cordo