THE BLOG
09/05/2013 06:20 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Berlin by Cruise Ship?

I'm on a Baltic Sea cruise, taking my brand-new Rick Steves' Northern European Cruise Ports guidebook on its maiden voyage. The fun thing about cruising is that every morning when you look out your window or step out onto the deck, it's a different great city. While land travelers often see only the fairy-tale half-timbered centers, cruisers are not shielded from the economic realities of keeping a city fed and powered. Ports are busy industrial machines...and you become part of them. Here's my first look at Warnemünde, the port on the northern coast of Germany, from where most cruise travelers catch the train into Berlin.

Northern Europe (Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea) lends itself to cruising--that's why it was a natural destination for my new cruising guidebook. While in most cases the ship ties up right in the city center, the "port of Berlin" is an exception. Cruisers visit Berlin by the tens of thousands via the northern German port town of Warnemünde, which is a whopping 150 miles away. From Warnemünde, cruise lines charter buses or trains (in the case of my cruise, two entire trains), and over a thousand travelers from each ship get an early start and make the three-hour trip to the German capital for a busy five hours before hopping back on the same train or bus for the three-hour return trip. It's a long day, but if you've never seen Berlin, it's a real hit. While I didn't make the excursion south, everyone I talked to enjoyed their day. I stayed in the north, visiting Warnemünde, a beach town with a popular boardwalk; and Rostock, less than a 30-minute train ride away.

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The cruise port of Warnemünde feels made-to-order for the arrival of cruise ships. Here you see the port, the terminal building (with exchange desk, tourist info, clichéd bars and eateries, and souvenir shops), buses gathering for various excursions, the train station (where private trains chartered by the cruise line await to whisk their cruise travelers south)...and the town itself, awaiting your business.

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Northern German beach resorts feel a bit like English ones: prepared for bad weather. Here, the beach is decorated with traditional rentable windshield lounge chairs.
(Photo by Trish Feaster. Read her blog at The Travelphile.com.)

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Even on a blustery day, the promenade of Warnemünde was packed with people bundled up and out looking for a nice sausage.

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Rather than spend six hours on the train side-tripping to Berlin, I toured Rostock, which has a rustic Hanseatic League flavor evoking a day when it was an economic powerhouse.