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Viking Ocean Cruises: Viking Homelands Cruise from Bergen to Stockholm

Viking Ocean Cruises offers a Viking Homelands cruise that cruises between Bergen, a charming former Hanseatic town and gateway to the Norwegian fjords, and Stockholm, a grand capital city of 14-islands linked by 57 bridges in the Kingdom of Sweden. Our cruise was aboard the Viking Jupiter.

How to choose?

We received a nearly hundred page colorful publication labeled “Cruise Documents” that is mailed to passengers before the cruise. It gave us helpful information for preparing for the cruise as well as the included and optional tours. We read the descriptions of spectacular scenery, castles, gilded palaces, and opulent cathedrals as well as former concentration camps and other remnants of darker times.

Options include boat, train, plane, motor coach and helicopter rides. There are Viking settlements, World War sites and of places that flourished as part of the Hanseatic League, the German merchant association that suppressed piracy and monopolized Baltic trade from the 13th to 15th century.

There are over 100 different excursions offered for the eleven ports. So where to begin?

We consulted guidebooks and booked our choices in advance, worry-free. Unlike most other cruise lines, Viking Cruises does not charge a fee for changes or cancellations made up to 48 hours before the tour. 

A complimentary 2-3 hour walking or motor coach tour is offered in each of the eleven ports. These are overviews of the top attractions with well-informed guides. There is usually with free time afterwards to linger or to add an optional tour. 

Since this was not our first visit to the area, we wanted to explore beyond the major sites and needed to examine the optional trips, as well. We find a mix of longer and shorter tours along with some independent time in port to be the most enjoyable, especially with longer cruises. Here are some tips if you choose an itinerary like this one.

The ultimate tours

First, take a look at the longer excursions you might consider and plan around those you choose. These options in three of the ports stand out.

Norway’s fjords

The Ice Age reshaped Norway into a land of soaring mountains, fjords, and glaciers, creating one of world’s most scenic regions. Here are our top tour choices. 

The 7-hour “Norway in a Nutshell” train and motorcoach tour is the most comprehensive excursion. Travel to 3,000’ elevations, pass though 20 tunnels, visit an open-air museum high in a mountain valley, stop by a waterfall, and return down breathtakingly steep hairpin turns.

These half-day tours are ideal for those who prefer a later departure time and more time to relax onboard:

Alternatively, the included 2-hour scenic tour travels by motorcoach along the mountainside’s switchback turns to Stegastein Viewpoint, a 100’ long ramp that offers a spectacular view 2,000’  follows.

There is also an optional excursion aboard the Flåm Railway, one of the world’s steepest standard gauge railway lines. This 12 mile trip along challenging terrain passes several waterfalls and is considered to be one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world.

Grand St. Petersburg

Tourists who want to visit Russia on their own must have a visa which must be applied for well in advance. Most people book an organized tour on the ship or reserve a tour with a private company in advance.

As the capital of the Russian Empire for two centuries (1712–1918) St. Petersburg is a cultural center filled with architectural splendor and priceless art. The ship docks for two days and one night here.

The Ultimate St. Petersburg tour is an ambitious two day itinerary that includes a panoramic city tour and a stop at major attractions like the Hermitage, which is the second largest art museum in the world, and the  Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, built on the spot where Alexander II was assassinated in 1881.

This tour travels the countryside to Catherine the Great’s magnificent palace and Peter the Great’s lavish Peterhof and its gardens. The evening is spent at the ballet, followed by a hydrofoil ride back to the ship. If you expect this to be your only visit to St. Petersburg and want to see all you can, this is the way to go.

Some find the pace a bit overwhelming and choose the included panoramic city tour by motorcoach and add an additional attraction like privileged access to the Hermitage one day and a countryside palace or the Faberge Museum on the other, perhaps adding the an evening at the ballet or a canal cruise in the “Venice of the North”.

Historic Berlin

Berlin: Your Way is an included full-day excursion to Germany’s reunified historic and cultural capital city.  A map and orientation tour are provided.

With 3 1/2 to 4 hours on your own in the city, you can choose the treasures of Museum Island or places like the glass-domed Reichstag Parliament building, Checkpoint Charlie, see remnants of the wall, or a walk along the renowned shopping street, Kurfürstendamm, or “Ku’Damm.”

You may want to add an additional historical tour or a visit to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial Site, headquarters of the network of Nazi prison and labor camps.

Keep in mind that the train ride between the port, Warnemünde, and Berlin takes 3 to 5 hours in each direction. It departs 6:15 am and is scheduled to return in time for dinner.

Another included tour travels the Warnow River from Warnemünde to Rostock, which has been restored after years of Communist occupation. City gates and brick Gothic buildings remain from its glorious days as part of the Hanseatic League.

The walking tour includes the 13th century Town Hall and St. Mary’s Church, which survived World War 2 unharmed. Its astronomical clock built in 1472 by a blind Hans Düringer is the only clock from this period that still keeps perfect time. An optional tour adds stops at microbreweries in this city known for its beer.

And there’s more…

Stavanger, Norway

There’s walking tour in Stavanger, Norway, which has has more 17th and 18th century wooden houses than anywhere else on earth. As the headquarters of Norway’s offshore oil drilling it is the site of the Norwegian Petroleum Museum, where you can learn about the science and technology of the oil business and about life on the rigs, all on the included tour. 

Have a Viking encounter and peer into a dungeon in Denmark’s Aalborg. See the Dutch Renaissance house built as the largest house in town in 1624 by Jens Bang, the wealthiest man in Aalborg. Perhaps it’s the grotesque heads and masks that face the old city hall that make it one of the city’s most photographed places in Aalborg.

Does the Utzon Center remind you of the Sydney Opera house? Aalborg’s Jørn Utzon designed it. In your free time you can eat street food with the locals at The Lighthouse and try some Aalborg Aquavit, a spirit flavored with caraway or dill.

Copenhagen, Denmark

After stopping to see The Little Mermaid in the harbor and driving by the major attractions–Tivoli Gardens, palaces, museums, and Nyhavn (New Harbor)— of Hans Christian Anderson’s regal and cosmopolitan city, the optional tour we selected visits two of Denmark’s finest castles, the fairy-tale Frederiksborg and Kronborg, which Shakespeare immortalized as Castle Elsinore in Hamlet.

See Notable Travels’s story on the city for more about what to see and do in Copenhagen.

Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk, Poland, a former royal residence, was once one of the most prosperous cities of the Hanseatic League. Destroyed in World War 2 and named the City of Solidarity its protests against the Communists, its former glory has been restored.

The Amber Museum features beautifully crafted examples of the glowing “Gold of the Baltic Sea.”Hungry? Try some pierogi and Goldwasser, a strong liqueur with herbs, spices and small flakes of gold made here since 1598. 

Optional tours include the Teutonic Knights’ Malbork Castle, once one of the most powerful fortresses in Europe, the 19th century Elblag-Ostróda Canal, where cranes and railway tracks handle the elevation changes, and Stuttthof, the first concentration camp built outside Germany. 

A relaxing day at sea

The next day is spent cruising the Baltic Sea. It is a popular day to visit the Nordic Spa.

The brackish water of the Baltic Sea is less saline than the ocean because of fresh water runoff from the surrounding land. Both marine and freshwater species, notably the popular herring, thrive here.

Tallinn, Estonia

The cobbled lanes of Tallinn, Estonia are lined with gabled houses, government buildings and churches like the onion-domed Russian Orthodox Church of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Lutheran Dome Church.

The Upper Town’s scenic viewpoint offers a sweeping view of the town below. The nearby Song Festival area was the site of the bloodless Singing Revolution won in 1988 when 300,000 citizens sang against Soviet rule.

Shop for wool and linens and handicrafts along Katariina Passage and Müürivahe Lane or stop in a café for some vodka shots and pickles. An optional excursion includes folk dancing in an 18th to 20th century rural village setting at the Open Air Museum at Rocca al Mare. 

Helsinki, Finland

The included Helsinki tour heads to Sibelius Park, which honors Finland’s finest composer, before circling the sights of the city. The stately neoclassical buildings were built of  local light-colored granite after the Russians burned Helsinki to the ground in 1808, giving Helsinki the name “White City of the North.”

There’s free time to explore or browse the waterfront open-air market before catching the last free shuttle back to the ship. Porvoo, known for its much-photographed red warehouses by the river, is much as it was in the Middle Ages and a delightful place to spend the day. Excursions to Porvoo include Malmgard Castle or Haikko Manor.

For more activity, other options include hiking in Bergen’s Woodland Hills, bicycling in Flåm and Tallinn, and kayaking. You can see Pulpit Rock by private yacht or don a thermal suit and speed through the Stavanger archipelago in a rigid inflatable boat as you watch for seals and sea eagles.

Ride a Duffy Boat or take a fjord safari in small boat and hike to a fjord and goat farm. Flightsee over Norway’s fjords and glaciers in a four-seater plane. The opportunities go on and on. 

Stockholm, Sweden

Take the included tour in Stockholm and you will still have time to explore. Stroll the cobbled lanes in the Old Town, Gamla Stan. If you get hungry, try a dagens lunch, the special of the day.

Don’t miss the Vasa Museum, in Djurgården, where you can see the salvaged and preserved 17th century warship that sank on her maiden voyage. It is one of Scandinavia’s most popular museums.

Tour the Royal Palace and its museums.

Or take an excursion to Drottningholm Palace, built in the 1600s and residence of the royal family.

Explore the serene green spaces and choose from the wide range of attractions in Djurgården, the former royal hunting grounds.

Strolling Skansen, the living history museum that was the inspiration for Colonial Williamsburg, for example, is a delightful way to spend a few hours.

Get out on the water with a boat tour around the city or an excursion to an island or two in the archipelago.

Whether you choose the convenience of booking one of Viking’s post tours or simply want to explore on your own, consider extending your stay to experience more of what Stockholm has to offer.

Want to know more about this or other Viking Ocean Cruises?

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