Cruises to Scandinavia are not as well known as cruises to, say, the Caribbean. This is especially true for American vacationers, although it is perhaps less true of Europeans, but even the latter often look to southern Europe – countries like Spain, Italy, and Greece – for cruise escapes. This is probably because, fairly or unfairly, the idea of a cruise vacation is deeply intermixed with warm climates – with beaches, tropical drinks, sunbathing, and similar such things. However, such a conception of cruise vacations is unduly limiting. There are many places suitable for cruise vacations that aren’t particularly warm, like Scandinavia (and of course Scandinavia isn’t cold all the time anyway). So, even though Scandinavia isn’t exactly an iconic cruise destination, there are many Scandinavian cruises worth taking. Below we walk you through what exactly a Scandinavian cruise is; in doing so, we hope to introduce you to the basics of Scandinavian cruises.
We can begin nowhere but here: what exactly is a Scandinavian cruise? Not surprisingly, an answer to this question hinges on what constitutes Scandinavia, which is harder to pin down then you might think. Most technically, Scandinavia refers to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, which are all related because of their common heritage (Germanic) and the similarity of their languages (Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian are collectively known as the “Scandinavian languages” and are mutually intelligible). The Scandinavian Peninsula, however, is only constituted by Sweden and Norway, so sometimes “Scandinavia” is used to refer to these two countries only. In the opposite direction, the term is often used to refer not only to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, but also to Finland and Iceland. This broader use of the term, in other words, encompasses all the Nordic countries under the name “Scandinavia.” All we can really say, then, is that a Scandinavian cruise is a cruise that goes to (or remains in) Scandinavia, and the simple fact of the matter is that people aren’t particularly careful about how they use the term. So, a “Scandinavian cruise” (as far as the world is concerned) could involve any one of these countries.
It is just as well to have a loose definition of “Scandinavian cruise” because of the loose nature of cruising itself. Many cruises will incorporate Scandinavia in their itinerary, but not stay within this part of the world exclusively (or even if they stay in this part of the world, they will often stop by ports out of Scandinavian countries, such as Germany or Russia). This is obviously true if the cruise starts at a port in another country, but the same can also be said of trips that go through multiple parts of Europe. If the trip is predominately in Northern Europe and incorporates one or more of the countries above, it could be billed as a Scandinavian cruise, and that’s the bottom line. Such cruises generally pass through the Baltic Sea, where major cities like Stockholm and Copenhagen can be reached, and they may also pass into the North Sea to get to a Norwegian city like Oslo. Other popular Scandinavian cruises focus on the Norwegian coastline and its numerous fjords. The ships will cut in and out of these inlets to get a close view of Norway’s natural beauty. There are of course numerous other places that a so-called “Scandinavian cruise” might take you to, but for the most part they travel by way of the Baltic and North Seas (or if really far north the Norwegian Sea).
As we have seen, “Scandinavian cruises” are not exactly easy to define in any definite way. The term “Scandinavia” is too ambiguous, and the nature of cruising is too fluid. However, the sailing itself of a Scandinavian cruise for the most part takes place in the waters that surround the Scandinavian Peninsula, and if you are interested in checking out this part of the world and exploring the cultures of the countries in this area, Scandinavian cruises, however loosely understood, are worth checking out. For more information, check out our article on some of the specific Scandinavian cruises you can take, and if one of these interests you, you can then read about how to book a Scandinavian cruise.