Holland America Baltic Cruise Itinerary Faces Multiple Changes

Baltic cruise ports remain an issue as cruise lines search for replacements for St. Petersburg, as guests booked on Holland America's Rotterdam experience.

Holland America Line sends a reminder notice regarding significant changes to its popular Baltic Sea itinerary onboard MS Rotterdam, which set sail earlier this week. The announcement was emailed to guests outlining the reasons and the new itinerary adjustments. 

MS Rotterdam Faces Multiple Itinerary Changes

Guests onboard the MS Rotterdam, which sailed on June 3 from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, are experiencing a vastly different itinerary than expected.

Holland America Line has informed guests that due to the vessel not sailing to Russia, several ports have been changed, while also timings for other ports have been adjusted. It is important to note that the cruise line informed guests about the changes over a year ago when St. Petersburg was originally removed.

As noted in the email sent to guests, the cruise line states: “Please be advised that due to port closures from geopolitical events, we will no longer call to St. Petersburg, Russia, on June 11 & 12, 2023. Our call to Tallinn, Estonia, has now been moved to Monday, June 12, from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM.”

Holland America Rotterdam Cruise Ship
Holland America Rotterdam Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia / Shutterstock)

The communication also mentions the addition of two new ports to the itinerary: “As a result, we have revised the itinerary and added calls to Visby, Gotland, Sweden on Saturday, June 10 from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Riga, Latvia on Sunday, June 11 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.” 

Arrival times for Helsinki, Finland, and Stockholm, Sweden, have also been adjusted to accommodate these changes. While the stay in Helsinki will be an hour shorter, the stay in Stockholm, which is world-famous for its fantastic sail-in, has been extended by one hour.

MS Rotterdam, a 99,935 gross tons, Pinnacle-class cruise ship, will operate in Northern and Western Europe through October 7. Cruises sail to the Baltic Sea, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Iceland. 

Following the Baltic Sea cruise, which ends on June 17, the 2,668-guest MS Rotterdam will sail to Norway for an in-depth exploration of the Norwegian Fjords, including calls to Eidfjord, Alesund, Geiranger, Bergen, Oslo, Kristiansand, Ulvik, and Flam.

Balancing Expectations

Historically, Baltic cruises have been popular due to the days spent in the picturesque city of St. Petersburg. However, since February 2022, cruise lines have decided that all calls to any Russian ports will not take place

It has caused a sea change for hundreds of cruises, making cruise lines scramble to find suitable replacement ports, which is not always possible.

Rotterdam Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia / Shutterstock

While most, if not all, guests will understand the decision from cruise lines not to sail to Russian ports, the new ports on offer are not always to the guests’ liking. Especially if a cruise to St. Petersburg was booked before the unrest in Ukraine, and the port was the primary reason for booking. 

Generally, cruise lines have the right to change itineraries for safety, weather, political instability, or other reasons. If a port is cancelled or modified, guests cannot cancel their cruise without penalty unless the cruise line cancels the entire voyage. 

Some cruise lines may offer compensation like onboard credits or a discount on a future cruise when significant itinerary changes are made.

Looking into travel insurance policies that offer ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage is always a smart move, especially when making a booking long before the sail date. This type of policy typically allows you to cancel and receive a portion of your money back, no matter the reason for cancelling.

As for port fees included in the cruise fare, cruise lines often return these to guests when ports are cancelled, and no replacements are offered. In cases where the ports are replaced, the port fees will be used for the newly added ports.

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