Image: An aerial view of downtown St. Petersburg
Dmitry Lovetsky  /  AP file
An aerial view of downtown St. Petersburg — one of the stops on your seven night North Europe cruise aboard the Costa Mediterranea.
updated 6/23/2008 11:32:01 AM ET 2008-06-23T15:32:01

The Real Deal: Seven nights aboard a cruise ship and all meals, from $899—plus taxes and fees of up to $309 per person.

When: Depart on Sept. 7, 2008.

The fine print: Seven nights aboard the CostaMediterranea cruise ship, all meals (sit-down or buffet-style), and 24/7 room service are included. Taxes are an additional $234 per person, plus $63 for fuel surcharges and $12 for all other taxes. Airport-ship transfers are not included but can be booked through Costa Cruises for an additional $22 per person each way. Based on double occupancy; single supplement ranges from $719 to $899. In order to enter Russia, passengers must obtain a visa. For information, visit the U.S. Department of State Web site. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: No deadline; based on availability.

Contact: 877/882-6782, costacruise.com.

Why it's a deal: The $899 rate is a savings of 57 percent off the original cost of this package, listed as $2,109. The reduced rate breaks down to about $128 a night, compared with the $301 a night standard price.

Trip details: The North Europe cruise package includes seven nights aboard the CostaMediterranea, an 86,000-ton ship featuring 17th- and 18th-century Italy motifs as well as elements from Mediterranean Sea mythology. The vessel also boasts the ornately decorated Maschera d'Argento Atrium, which spans 10 decks.

The ship sets sail in Copenhagen, the Danish capital, at 7 p.m. You'll spend a night on the sea before arriving at your first destination, Tallinn, Estonia. The history here is interesting. After only a brief period of independence, interspersed with a succession of foreign rulers, including the Danes, Swedes, Germans, and Russians, Estonia finally regained its independence in 1991. The country's capital, Tallinn, is a full-blown metropolis, famous for its historical landmarks, music festivals, and sailing.

Sightseeing attractions include a 13th-century fortification at Toompea hill and the Gothic Town Hall, which is topped with a weather vane of the town's symbol, Vana Toomas, which dates back to 1530. Its rich history aside, Estonia is known for its intricate embroidery, leatherwear, and ornate jewelry. Explore the city on your own or opt to join a guided sightseeing tour, which starts from €48 for an adult and from €34 for a child (ages 4-14) for a 3.5-hour excursion.

The next stop is St. Petersburg, Russia's second city, built in the delta of the Neva River. Some of the city's most recognizable sites include the Peter and Paul Fortress on Zayachy Island in the Neva River and the Hermitage art museum, with its Russian-baroque-style Winter Palace. Be sure to visit Nevsky Prospekt, a popular street that counts as the city's commercial and cultural center. Optional guided sightseeing starts from €53 for an adult and from €37 for a child for a 3.5-hour tour.

From St. Petersburg, you'll sail to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Here you can admire the landmark architectural work by local designer Alvar Aalto, such as the music venue Finlandia Hall. Other attractions include the Presidential Palace, the Lutheran cathedral in Senate Square, the Temppeliaukio Church, and the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral. You could also take a ferry shuttle to Suomenlinna Island, home to the ruins of an 18th-century fortress. Organized tours start from €53 for an adult and from €37 for child for a 2.5-hour tour of the city by coach. Each tour is followed by a boat cruise along Helsinki's canals.

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Hop back on the ship and leave Helsinki for Sweden's capital, Stockholm, a 14-island part of the archipelago on the east coast where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. Cultural and historical attractions abound here, partly because this city luckily escaped bombing during World War II owing to the country's neutrality.

Be sure to check out the medieval Old Town, Gamla Stan, known for its maze of narrow alleyways; the ceremonial changing of the guards at the 600-room Royal Palace (no longer the royal family's residence); Drottningholm Palace and Theatre, located on an island on Lake Mälaren; and the Vasamuseet, a museum inside the royal warship Vasa, which in 1628 sank to the bottom of Stockholm's harbor as it was about to begin its first voyage. Or you can take advantage of optional guided sightseeing tours, which start from €32 for an adult and from €22 for a child for a two-hour tour of the waterways of Stockholm.

In the afternoon, you'll board your ship to commence the overnight sail from Stockholm back to Copenhagen, from where you'll fly back to the U.S. If time allows, visit some of the city's major treasures, such as the Amalienborg Palace, home to the Danish royal family since the 18th century; the statue of the Little Mermaid, erected in honor of author Hans Christian Andersen; and the 150-year-old Tivoli Gardens amusement park. If you still have time to spare, you can join an optional 2.5-hour tour of the city for €47 for an adult and €33 for a child.

Not ready to leave? Additional nights start from $139 per person at Copenhagen Admiral Hotel. Before you go, visit the official tourism Web sites for Denmark, Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Sweden.

Getting there: A recent search on Kayak showed that the lowest round-trip fares to Copenhagen, for travel during the first two weeks in September, start from $681 from New York (Icelandair), $953 from Houston (Continental), $996 from Chicago (multiple carriers), and $1,051 from L.A. (Continental).

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

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