Last month, Oprah and Obama were in Copenhagen to push Chicago’s failed Olympic bid. Obama arrived and returned home on the same day; Oprah stayed in the exceptionally pricey Karen Blixen suite at D’Angleterre. Fortunately, Oprah has money to burn in what Mercer’s Cost of Living Index cites as the world’s 7th most expensive city. You don’t.
What then are the implications for you on Baltic cruise pre/post stays in Copenhagen or Stockholm–the two main turnaround ports in northern Europe? How can you avoid emptying your wallets in these two must-see capitals?
For the past two years, I’ve lived about an hour away from Copenhagen, in a small city situated at the gateway to the Baltic Sea. One of the reasons I chose to live in Helsingborg, Sweden, was that Copenhagen was just too expensive. $8 for a glass of water; $7 for a cappuccino; such pricey accommodations and dining that after prolonged exposure, the mind eventually concedes defeat with regard to any aspirations to travel cheaply.
Well almost. Last week, I paid $38 for a beer and a caesar salad at Radission SAS Scandinavia. My reaction? Ouch!
Here’s how to avoid dumping wads of cash when overnighting in the Baltic’s leading homeports.
Forget Four Star Hotels? Not Necessarily
In Copenhagen, put yourself in the four-star Hotel TwentySeven. It’s a Clarion Collection Hotel, and the rate is about $150 per night for one person and around $180 for two. Rooms are small, but breakfast and dinner (buffet style) are included, which can save you a bundle over dining out. WiFi is included, and there’s an IceBar next door, where hotel guests get a free refill on a cocktail, a $17 value. Total cost per couple for two nights: $360.
How about Stockholm? Let’s say you are on Silver Whisper, departing July 28, 2010. You arrive July 26, staying two nights. You’ll pay $450 for the two nights at the Sheraton Stockholm, where WiFi from your room is an additional $30 per day (free terminals, however, in the lobby); Radisson SAS Strand, $490; Hilton Slussen, $820.
To save a bundle, book the Scandic Anglais, situated in trendy Stureplan, a 10-minute walk from Gamla Stan, but only two minutes from the best shopping in Stockholm, WiFi and breakfast included, and free use of bicycles. Total cost per couple for two nights: $300.
Skip The Bus Tour; Walk Instead
With the exception of St. Petersburg and Warnemunde (for Berlin), the Baltic ports are highly walkable cities. In Tallinn, Estonia, start your walks in the Upper Old Town and head back to the ship through the Lower Old Town, with a guide to explain the history.
Other Baltic walks: Stockholm’s Old Town, Djurgarden and Strandvagen; Copenhagen’s Stroget and from Langelinie (the Little Mermaid won’t be there, however; she is at the World Expo in China during 2010) to Nyhavn; Helsinki’s Kauppatori market and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Suomenlinna Fortress (you will need to take a 10-minute ferry from Kauppatori market to get to the fortress).
Skip The Train To Berlin
Sure Berlin is a wonderful city, but from where the ship docks in Warnemunde, it’s nearly three hours by train to get there — and nearly three hours back to the ship. I’ve watched fellow passengers board the ship exhausted from the long day in Berlin. Do yourself a favor and travel by train (20 minutes) to Rostock instead. You’ll get a taste of former East Germany as well as a Hanseatic city founded in 1218 that features one of Europe’s first universities, a town wall and gothic churches.
Return by boat to Warnemunde (40 minutes) and enjoy a walk on the wide, sandy beaches. You’ll be back on board ship hours before those who traveled to Berlin. Germany’s capital is worthy of an extended visit, not just several hours on a shore excursion.
Don’t Deny Yourself The Fairy Tale
Despite the crushing costs of the Nordic capitals, both Copenhagen and Stockholm are worthy of two nights pre/post. You are only visiting, not moving to or living in the Scandinavian capitals. Yes, you may spend more for hotels and dining than you would back home, but how often does one get the chance to visit such fairy-tale nations? Think Tivoli, Hans Christian Andersen and the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, and Astrid Lindgen (creator of Pippi Longstocking), Skansen and Gamla Stan in Stockholm.
Do you have tips for saving money on Baltic Sea regions? If so, please comment below.