The Baltic Sea is experiencing a revival as more cruise ships return to the area in 2024, particularly in its eastern ports. Following a downturn due to the pandemic at first, followed by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the future of cruising in the Baltic was bleak. 

However, the latest data from Cruise Baltic, a network of 32 cruise destinations across nine Baltic countries, shows a promising rebound, with an increase in cruise line calls anticipated for 2024, signaling a robust recovery for the region’s cruise industry.

Cruises to the Baltic seemed to be on a permanent downward trajectory after the pandemic and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine had led to a noticeable shift in cruise calls. The fact that all cruise companies removed St. Petersburg from their itineraries made guests second-guess booking a cruise in the region. 

However, recent developments indicate a positive change, with cruise lines scheduling more visits to the region. The Baltic stands out as one of the world’s most port-dense regions, typically offering itineraries where guests explore a new port every day.

Cruise Baltic’s 2024 forecast shows significant growth in individual port calls, with Klaipeda expecting a 41% increase, Gdansk showing a 90% increase. Even Turku, known as the place where the world’s biggest cruise ships are built, boasts an impressive 133% increase in cruise calls.

Cruise Ships in the Baltic (Photo Credit: Dennis Gross)

Just over 4.3 million cruise passengers are expected to take a cruise to the Baltic in 2024, during a total of 926 cruise ship calls to the region this year.

While the results are excellent for the region, they still fall short of the number achieved before 2020. In 2019 nearly 6 million cruise passengers sailed to the area, during 2,750 cruise calls. 

We’re very pleased with this development and to see the growing interest in several of our destinations. Cruise guests are, like all other travellers, on the lookout for new and unique experiences, and by promoting new aspects of our region towards the cruise lines, we stay relevant among our target group,” says Klaus Bondam, Director of Cruise Baltic.

Although the absence of cruises to St. Petersburg initially affected the Baltic region, it has led to a noticeable benefit for other ports in the area. The two to three days ships that would have typically been allocated to the Russian port are now redistributed among various other ports.

Last year’s situation called for a new and strengthened narrative for our region. This, combined with our new strategy, enabled us to redefine and retell the story of the Baltic Sea region. The aim of our work is to support our members and push the positive development in the region in every way we can,” said Bondam.

Cruise Ship in St Petersburg (Photo Credit: Kirk Fisher)

Traditionally popular cruise ports in the Baltic, such as Stockholm, Helsinki, and Tallinn continue to draw in the crowds as the number of visits from cruise ships increase. The Swedish capital city of Stockholm expects to welcome 128 cruise ship calls, Helsinki expects to welcome 90 cruise ship calls, and Tallinn expects 90 cruise ship calls as well.

The two cruise ports that will welcome the highest number of cruise ships are Copenhagen, Denmark, with 283 cruise ship calls, and Kiel, Germany, with 218 cruise ship calls. Both cities are the major turnaround ports in the Baltic Sea. 

A large number of ships that sail in the Baltic area will cruise here for a week, followed by a cruise to Western Europe or the Norwegian Fjords. 

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Increased interest in smaller ports is particularly intriguing, with Klaipeda in Lithuania expecting 41 calls, Gdansk in Poland set to receive 42 calls, Gothenburg in Sweden looking forward to 81 calls, and Riga preparing for 62 calls. Other well-known ports in the area include Oslo with 148 calls, Rostock with 130 calls, and Kristiansand with 129 calls.

The Baltic region is home to a wealth of medieval towns and modern cities. Tallinn, with its well-preserved Old Town; Stockholm, known for its stunning archipelago and historic sites; Helsinki, with a vibrant seaside atmosphere; Riga, with its medieval Old Town; and Gdansk, featuring a rich maritime history and beautifully restored city center, all offer visitors an excellent reason to visit.

Nearly all major cruise lines offer cruises to the Baltic, with TUI Cruises Mein Schiff, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, and several smaller luxury cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Silversea at the forefront.

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