June 6 – 17/20, 2018 (12/15 days)
Plus optional Norway extension.
Places: Helsinki - Tallinn - Stockholm - St. Petersburg, Russia
Departure for Europe.
After early arrival we have breakfast and then enjoy a tour of the Reykjanes Peninsula and famous Blue Lagoon. Driving to the Álftanes peninsula we pass Bessasta•ir, the residence of Iceland’s President. We then proceed to the town of Hafnarfjör•ur, situated picturesquely on an ancient lava flow and Lake Kleifarvatn, set in fascinating, stark, moon-like surroundings. Near the lake’s southern end lies Krísuvík, a geothermal field with powerful jets of steam escaping through vents from deep below the earth’s crust, numerous small hot springs, mud pots, boiling pools and other types of geothermal activity. Past the town of Grindavík we come to the Blue Lagoon. A pleasantly warm mineral-rich geothermal pool in a middle of a black lava field, extraordinarily coloured by the rich silica and mineral content, the Blue Lagoon is an enchanting stop in any season. The facilities include modern changing rooms and showers, an indoor geothermal pool and restaurants. We then travel to our hotel in the afternoon for check in and dinner. (B,D)
All full day exploring the Golden Circle, a round-trip tour encompassing three of Iceland’s greatest attractions: the impressive Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall) with thousands of tons of icy water thundering into a deep canyon; The Geysir Area, with numerous hot springs, fumaroles and geysers, including the 30 m Strokkur geyser; •ingvellir, a remarkable geological and historic site. Site of the world’s oldest democratic parliament founded in 930, the beautiful canyon running through the park at •ingvellir is a faultline between two of the earth’s tectonic plates. We’ll also visit a greenhouse and horse stable, returning to Reykjavík in time for dinner. (B,D)
We have a morning flight to Stockholm, and visit the remarkable Vasa Museum. Home to the world’s only preserved 17th-century ship, the Vasa Museum is rare and fascinating. Then we embark on a ship of an entirely different nature for our Scandinavian cruise! (B,D)
This morning we begin cruising and depart for Helsinki. (B,L,D)
We have all day in the capital of Finland, and will make the most of it with a half day city tour. Helsinki’s distinctive sights include the historic centre with Senate Square, the Presidential Palace, City Hall, the Parliament building, Finlandia Hall and the Opera House. The Sibelius Monument and spectacular modern Temppeliaukio Church are also notable. The Church in the Rock, literally carved into the solid rock and crowned with a copper dome, is not accessible during services - we will visit if possible. Built in 1971 Finlandia Hall is Helsinki’s conference and concert hub, home to the Helsinki Philharmonic and one of Alvar Aalto’s most celebrated works. (B,L,D)
Today we have an excursion outside St. Petersburg, to see two of Europe’s most spectacular palaces, both encompassed by the St. Petersburg UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Catherine Palace or Tsarkoye Selo, the “Royal Village” was a gift from Peter the Great to his wife, Empress Catherine I. It was further developed into the extensive royal country residence by her daughter Empress Elizabeth and Catherine II. We’ll have a chance to explore a number of the exquisite rooms, including the Throne and legendary Amber Room, once vaunted at the eighth Wonder of the World. After a little time to visit the extensive gardens we’ll continue to Peterhof Palace, the “Russian Versailles.” Laid out on grand lines by Peter the Great, this summer residence is an elegant sylvan mix of palaces, cascading terraces of fountains and beautiful gardens spilling down to the shore. We’ll enjoy fare at a local restaurant for lunch, and look forward to an evening at the Ballet in one of the city’s famous theatres. (B,L,D)
A city tour will help us see Peter the Great’s vision for his utopian capital. Anticipating many of the Western ideals of the Enlightenment, palaces and gracious townhouses line the canals, people stroll Nevsky Prospect and attend St. Isaac’s or the lovely gem that is the Church of the Saviour on the Blood. We’ll stop at the last to take photos of its exotic blue, green, white and gold-patterned onion domes. Then we’ll cruise some of the 300 km of canals that grace the city, and finish with an expert guided tour of the Hermitage. Begun in 1764 as the private collection of Catherine the Great, the museum consists of four beautiful buildings housing an unparalleled collection of three million art treasures. (B,D)
We’ll have the day in Estonia, including a half-day city tour. Tallinn is a famously picturesque old city, where whole districts preserve their Middle Age glory. It’s known for the quaint narrow streets of Old Town, beautiful Gothic 13th merchants’ houses, Toompea Castle, the century Dome church, the 19th century Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevskij Cathedral, the 15th century Town Hall square, the Old Guild, and St. Olaf’s church. (B,L,D)
Morning arrival in Stockholm. One of the most beautiful capitals in the world, the city is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. We’ll have a City Tour on which we will learn about its 750-year history, enjoy views from different island vantage points and take in the city’s main sights. Then you may return to the ship for a rest and lunch* or spend the afternoon in the city, which offers world-class museums and attractions. (B,L*,D)
We disembark after breakfast and then visit the Open Air Skansen Museum, a 75 acre site (300,000 m•) includes a replica 19th-century town, in which craftsmen such as tanners, shoemakers, silversmiths, bakers and glassblowers demonstrate their skills in period surroundings and costume. There is also an open-air zoo featuring a wide range of Scandinavian animals including the bison, brown bear, moose, grey seal, lynx, otter, red fox, reindeer, wolf, and wolverine and farmsteads with rare breeds of farm animals. In the afternoon we check into our hotel and enjoy time at leisure before dinner. (B,D)
Transfer to the airport for the flight home or continue with the tour to Oslo. (B)