Over the course of 11 enchanting days in June 2023, we explored beautiful Scandinavia aboard the luxurious Oceania Marina. Oceania Cruises lived up to its reputation of absolutely beautiful cruise ships, over-the-top food, outstanding staff and incredible itineraries!
In addition to all the amazing things we did in port, while we were on the ship we were able to take watercolor classes & learned some new line dances poolside (even got my Mom in on the fun this day!). We were also able to play pickleball, miniature golf, enjoy fun mocktails, & great entertainment each night, well, at least most nights. There’s also cooking classes onboard!
One of the highlights was Afternoon Tea each day at 4:00PM. We enjoyed white-glove service providing our choice of tea, finger sandwiches & desserts all while enjoying a talented live string quartet. Life aboard Oceania is simply amazing!
Another thing we absolutely love about Oceania is that you get to not only eat the delicious food in the dining room but also included in the price is being able to eat at their 4 speciality restaurants, Polo Grill (steakhouse), Jacques (French), Toscana (Italian) and our favorite Red Ginger (Asian Fusion). The food is some of the best we’ve ever had!
Here’s what our itinerary looked like and a little bit about what we got to experience on this 10-day Scandinavian cruise.
Our first port of call brought us to the picturesque coastal town of Skagen, Denmark. Skagen (pronounced “skein” – rhymes with vein) is located at the northernmost tip of Denmark, where the North Sea and the Baltic Sea meet.
We took the complimentary 10 minute shuttle ride to reach the downtown area. We were greeted by a quaint town of bright mustard yellow and red roofed homes and buildings. The town’s main street offered a delightful array of cafes, restaurants, and unique shops, providing us with an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the local culture.
A visit to the historic Church in Skagen offered a glimpse into the town’s rich heritage, and we were fascinated to learn about the variety of festivals that grace the town throughout the year. In January there’s the winter-bathing festival, where brave Vikings defy the cold Kattegat waters. In May, Skagen celebrates its bird festival closely followed by the salt-water fist festival. In July they host Denmark’s oldest music festival, Skagen Festivalen.
After walking around the downtown area and doing a bit of shopping, we walked the 3 miles to Grenen Beach. This is the northernmost point of Denmark, where the Baltic Sea and Northern Sea meet. You can walk, but we rode the Sandworm tractor-drawn wagon over the sand to reach the picturesque beach. It’s an amazing experience to stand, one leg in each sea, watching the waves arriving from each direction.
When we were ready to leave the beach area, we asked about where to buy bus tickets (since we had seen bus stop signs along the way and wanted to ride the bus back). We were told by the charming shopkeeper, with a wry smile, “We are a poor town. We can afford the bus stops but not the bus.” Ha! So we made the trek back to town. It was warm and sunny – perfect weather for a stroll back to charming Skagen!
Kiel, Germany (Hamburg)
As our journey continued, we found ourselves in Hamburg, a dynamic and vibrant city in Germany, known for its maritime history, stunning architecture, and lively cultural scene. Please note that Kiel and Hamburg are approximately 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) apart, so plan your time accordingly to maximize your experience.
We started our morning early by boarding a bus that took us to Hamburg. It took about 1.5 hours (with one stop) to get there. We booked the Die Food Tour (Viator) and our tour guide, Ole was awesome! Ole is a tour guide part time, cares for his aging mother and works on an ambulance – formally trained as a chef. He worked for 20 years in the California Bay area.
We started our tour at Hamburg’s brand new, state-of-the-art concert hall, The Elbphilharmonie, or Elphi as it has been nicknamed, is located on the edge of the Elbe River. This awe-inspiring building with its impressive glass facade houses a state-of-the-art main concert hall with the world’s best acoustics. We would love to have taken in a concert but our schedule wouldn’t allow it this time.
From the Elphi, our tour took us through Speicherstadt, the historic warehouse district of Hamburg. This area has a base of 3 million oak trees, hand dug into the earth and placed at the base. It was built by armies of day laborers in 1885 – finished in 1888. When Frederic the 1st came to christen it, he granted it tax free status and autonomy.
From there we walked over a lock bridge to HafenCity. This massive and sprawling development project was built up out of a flood plain. The tide comes in and out twice a day and changes every 6 hours. Here we tasted a local staple – pickled herring served on bread with lettuce and onions). Most of us enjoyed this local favorite. 😉
Our next stop was at an Italian restaurant where we enjoyed a really yummy French pastry. It was ball shaped and either had milk chocolate sauce over the top with vanilla foam in the middle or vice versa. While we smiled a little at the cross-cultural tasting during our Hamburg, the dessert was spectacular!
We next returned to the Speicherstadt area and visited Speicherstadt Coffee, where we tried samples of their many types of chocolate. We would have also tried their famous coffee … if we drank coffee. The shop had fun souvenirs and was cooled by water from the Elbe river that runs through pipes.
If we had more time, we would have visited Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway exhibition. There are meticulously crafted miniature landscapes, including famous landmarks and moving trains. There are two floors filled with model railway layouts but it’s more than just HO gauge trains. They’ve recreated life. Next to the train tracks is an autobahn complete with road traffic accidents and little cop cars with flashing blue lights. You can hear the crowd roar from inside a model football stadium. Or you can see the re-creation of Hamburg’s docks and airport, complete with planes taxiing on the runway. Something to see next time we’re in Hamburg!
Kiel seemed like it would be a fun place to visit and many things to see are within walking distance of the port. We’ll have to explore Kiel next time!
Warnemunde, Germany (Berlin)
Our day started out with a bus ride that took approx 2 ½ hours to get from the cruise port to downtown Berlin. When we got to Berlin, we found the LDS chapel to try and attend church at 10:00 am, only to find out that there was a huge YSA Conference going on and they had changed the times of their meetings. So we missed church but met some really nice people there.
Gratefully a short distance from there was a Hop On Hop Off Bus stop (booked through Viator). We hopped on and rode past the old Berlin Wall (the portion that is still standing) to Checkpoint Charlie. This is the famous Cold War border crossing point between East and West Berlin. We took a little while to explore the Checkpoint Charlie Museum to learn about the history of the Berlin Wall and the divided city. There are amazing pictures and information in a small plaza directly across the street from the Checkpoint.
We then hopped back on the bus and rode past Gendarmenmarkt and Fernsehturm (Television Tower). From the bus stop, it is about an 8 minute drive to Museum Island & Berlin Cathedral which is just spectacular. We next rode to the Reichstag Building, Brandenburg Gate, and got off at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. We saw Bellevue Palace, got off to see Victory Column & Tiergarten.
Getting around was complicated a bit by the World Special Olympics that were ending the day of our visit. For such a great event, we were happy to deal with a little inconvenience. Our big takeaway from our day in Berlin is that we definitely want to visit again when we have more time.
Ronne, Denmark (Bornholm)
Our adventure continued as we docked at Ronne, Denmark, a charming coastal town located on the picturesque island of Bornholm. As we stepped ashore, we were greeted by our cheerful tour guide, Grace, a delightful woman from Portugal, married to a Norwegian. She regaled us with fascinating insights into Denmark’s education system, where social and life skills are prioritized alongside academics in high school.
Bornholm, with its 227 square miles of land, is 90 miles long and 25 miles wide. Grace informed us that the island’s current population stands at 25,000, but before the pandemic, it was only 14,000. The island has a rich history, evident in its seven iconic round churches, possibly built as fortifications and targets of pirates in the past.
We embarked on a visit to Osterlars Kirchen, one of the seven round churches on the island. It was a stunning sight, with frescos dating back to the 1390s adorning its walls. These magnificent paintings depicted eight scenes from the life of Christ, from the Annunciation to the final judgment. The church’s bells, dating from 1640 to 1680, added a touch of history and charm to the surroundings.
Then our tour took us to Gudhjem. This is a picturesque coastal town located on the northern coast. Situated in the Baltic Sea, this charming town is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, traditional fishing heritage, and unique architecture. Gudhjem’s name translates to “Good Home,” and it truly lives up to its reputation as a welcoming and idyllic destination.
Our next stop was Hammershus Medieval Castle and Fortress, an impressive structure built in the 13th century. We learned that it was captured by the Leubek army (German) in 1525 and subsequently rebuilt and occupied until 1580.
We then visited a famous Smokehouse in Bornholm where we ate an authentic smoked fish meal – dark bread, lettuce, smoked herring, topped with onion, radish, raw egg yolk poured over the top. Again, most of us liked our lunch, some did not.
They have smoked fish on the island for 200+ years over fire in smokehouses; women were the best smokers and men caught the fish. Today the commercial fishing industry dominates so no more local fish is processed here. A cute Swedish man demonstrated how they smoke the fish – clean the fish and then soak in salt, then 1 woman or man controls the fire for 4 hours.
Visby, Sweden (Capital of Gotland)
The following day, our ship docked at Visby, a picturesque and medieval capital that delighted us with its charming streets and cobbled roads. Often referred to as the “Land of 100 Churches,” Visby’s rich history was evident in the numerous church ruins scattered throughout the town.
We took a leisurely walk through Visby’s quaint streets, passing by vendors in the lively town square. The beachfront stroll led us to the Botanical Gardens, where we admired the beauty of nature. The gardens were a peaceful oasis, and the lush greenery provided the perfect backdrop for our photos. We continued our exploration, climbing a staircase to explore another neighborhood, where we discovered even more medieval churches that added to the town’s character. The ancient stone walls and ruins evoked a sense of wonder and transported us back in time to a bygone era.
As the day unfolded, we meandered through the streets, coming across charming cafes and local boutiques. The friendly locals added to the warm atmosphere, and we found ourselves immersed in the rich history and vibrant culture of Visby.
As we sailed into the port of Stockholm, we missed the Archipelago Boat Tour, but the sight of the 14 main islands of Sweden and approximately 24,000 small islands that make up the Archipelago was truly breathtaking. The glistening waters, dotted with picturesque islands, left us in awe of the natural beauty that surrounded us. It was amazing how close the cruise ship could get to all the small islands as we sailed into port.
Opting for the Hop On Hop Off boat to Old Town, known as Gamla Stan, we embarked on a journey through history. The cobbled streets and medieval buildings evoked a sense of charm and nostalgia. We got a lot of shopping done as we walked the fun streets of Stockholm. We marveled at the magnificent Royal Palace, an architectural wonder with its grand facades and opulent interiors.
We strolled through narrow alleyways, passing vibrant markets and quaint shops. The scent of history and tradition filled the air, and we couldn’t resist immersing ourselves in the rich heritage of the city. It was definitely a part of the world we’d like to see more of!
Karlskrona, often referred to as the “Little Capital of Sweden,” charmed us with its ice-free harbor, making it an ideal location for the Swedish Navy. The city has a historical significance, as Sweden once controlled most of the Baltic area, with Denmark as their largest threat.
We hopped on a bus tour along the coast to Kristanopel, endearingly called “The City of Roses.” This quaint little sea-side town treated us to a delightful surprise – popcorn ice cream! The unique combination of sweet and savory flavors was a true taste sensation, and we couldn’t help but admire the town’s picturesque setting.
As we journeyed back to the ship, we passed the Kings Bridge and the Naval Base, marveling at the impressive maritime heritage of Karlskrona. The sight of the naval vessels lined up in the harbor added to the city’s allure.
Our Scandinavian expedition reached its crescendo as we arrived in Copenhagen, the vibrant capital of Denmark. Steeped in history and cultural treasures, Copenhagen offered an array of iconic landmarks and attractions.
The Church of Our Lady, also known as Copenhagen Cathedral, was our first stop. We marveled at the grandeur of the cathedral, home to Thorvaldsen’s original statues of the Christus and 12 Apostles. The artistry and craftsmanship were awe-inspiring, and we took a moment to appreciate the intricate details of each sculpture.
From there, we strolled through the city’s charming streets to Radhuspladsen, the large plaza in front of city hall and home to the famous Hans Christian Andersen statue. City hall is worth a brief visit if you have time.
Across the street is the world-famous Tivoli Gardens, a beloved amusement park that inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland. It was not open when we passed, but even looking at it through the wrought iron fence, its enchanting atmosphere was clear.
Next we wandered down Stroget, Copenhagen’s most popular shopping street. We had only made it a few steps before we were lured into Buka Bakery for a delicious cinnamon Twirl. We continued past the Bishop Absalon statue, to get a glimpse of the impressive Christiansborg Palace.
We did not go inside as we were on our way to Nyhavn (New Harbor) and its colorful townhouses from the 17th and 18th centuries. There is no more iconic vista in Copenhagen than a view along the harbor of these charming homes.
We then made our way past the changing of the guard at the Queen’s Palace and through the Citadel to the statue of the Little Mermaid rising from the water. For many, it is the tourist stop most associated with Copenhagen. For us, it would be low on the ‘must see’ list of this amazing city, particularly if your time in the city is short, as was ours.
The historic portion of Copenhagen is small and very walkable for those reasonably fit. Even still, we felt we could spend days in this beautiful city and neither see it all nor tire of its charm.
The cruise pier is within walking distance of downtown Oslo. As we strolled about the pier area of Oslo, we were met with an electric atmosphere as the city was celebrating Oslo Pride Day. The joyous festivities set the perfect tone for our day ahead.
After Troy took care of taking the luggage to our hotel by the airport, we embarked on a thrilling Viking Biking bike tour. We were able to book a Pedicab for Mom and Stacy while the rest of us rode bikes alongside them. The tour took us through the picturesque streets of Oslo, where we learned about the city’s Viking history and its significance in shaping Norwegian culture. The blend of modernity and ancient tales made the experience all the more fascinating.
We started our bike tour at the iconic Oslo City Hall. This architectural gem stands tall, representing both the past and the present of Norway. Inside, we marveled at the impressive Viking-inspired murals and grand halls, which pay homage to the nation’s rich history. From there, we made our way to the Royal Palace, just in time for the Changing of the Guards ceremony. The sight of the elaborately dressed guards parading in unison was a sight to behold, a perfect nod to Norway’s regal past.
We then rode the bikes through the quaint neighborhoods above the palace and made our way over to Vigeland Sculpture Garden. This huge park showcases the artistic brilliance of Gustav Vigeland on full display, with an awe-inspiring collection of sculptures that spanned from 1924 to 1945. The centerpiece, the Monolith, was a towering masterpiece that took 14 years to sculpt. It was an incredible sight, surrounded by numerous other sculptures, each depicting different aspects of the human experience. We discovered that Vigeland had studied under the renowned sculptor of ‘The Thinker,’ Auguste Rodin. The park, known as Frangenvarken, had a central theme of ‘The Circle of Life,’ with the endearing ‘Angry Boy’ statue that has become a mascot for Norway.
As the evening approached, our hunger led us to the charming Rorbura Versthaus. Here, we were treated to an authentic Norwegian dinner that delighted our taste buds. The fish soup was a comforting starter, followed by succulent servings of salmon, whale, deer, moose, and reindeer. Each dish showcased the rich flavors of the region, and we relished every bite while sharing stories and laughter.
Finally, after our dinner, we decided to take a leisurely walk through the heart of Oslo, making our way from the pier to the Central Station where we took the train to our hotel.
This vacation was a truly amazing experience! As you can see from the pictures, we had spectacular weather, the sun was out most days and we couldn’t believe that it didn’t rain on us once! We had a great time spending time together and making memories that will last a lifetime! This was one Fine Outing!