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Trip Tales: Europe’s Baltic Region Part I

As mentioned last week, July was spent exploring Northern Europe’s Baltic region.  With smaller capitals, this area lends itself pretty well to touring by cruise ship.  Oceania Cruises has a great (albeit, very busy) itinerary that offers three full days in St. Petersburg, Russia; full day stops in other Baltic capitals and an open-jaw format that began in Stockholm, Sweden and finished in Copenhagen, Denmark.  By adding on hotel days in the start/end cities, this trip gave a very good overview of the region.
Grand Staircase, Oceania Marina
Red Ginger Restaurant, Oceania Marina

As repeat cruisers with Oceania Cruises there are several things that appeal to us about the line:

  • great itineraries with longer time in port than comparable cruise lines
  • caters primarily to well-traveled adults
  • elevated food/wine quality
  • tasteful and sophisticated ship décor
  • moderate to small ship size

While I did use points for hotel stays on this trip, as you’ll see below my “bang per point” was not especially impressive.  Mid-to-higher end, well-located city center properties were running about $350-450/night this July and using points was an easy/lazy way to avoid tacking on several thousand dollars above and beyond airfare, cruise fare and sightseeing/dining costs.

View from Window, Sheraton Stockholm

Sheraton Stockholm: Category 5 – Standard Award Night 12-16,000 points/night
Natty Gal Point Usage: 17,750 for Superior Room (standard room award not available)
TPG valuation $0.025/point
$443.75 per night valuation…OUCH!

Property Pros: Great location 5 minutes walk from the train station/Arlanda Express train, 5-10 minute walk to Gamla Stan, the new town and City Hall (site of the Nobel dinner), upgraded room had a great view of City Hall and Gamla Stan, on-site coffee shop made for cheap, easy breakfasts

Property Cons: Lobby a bit chaotic on changeover days when people are transferring to/from cruise ships

Executive Lounge, Marriott Copenhagen

Marriott Copenhagen
: Category 8 – Standard Award Night 40,000 points/night

Natty Gal Point Usage: 50,000/night 40,000 standard + 10,000 upgrade (the only rooms available)
TPG valuation $0.007/point
$350.00 per night valuation ($280 base, $70 upgrade)

Knowing we just didn’t want to lay out any more cold, hard cash on this trip, I opened cards specifically to get the points for these stays.  The Marriott card was opened in February and the SPG card in March, 2016.  With the bonus point offers at the time, minimum spend requirements, etc. it was easy to get enough points for the stays within a month or two.

Property Pros: Good location short walk from train station (which goes to airport), Tivoli and the top of the Stroget pedestrian street; lovely waterfront setting, the rooms have enormous windows

Property Cons: A bit far out from some other sites such as Little Mermaid, Amalienborg Palace, etc., big business hotel, bit lacking in charm (as you’d expect)

Hot Trend Sweeping the Baltics! (cough, cough, ahem)

Wow, it’s August!  How did that happen?  Hope my readers are enjoying a great summer!

My July was spent tooling around the Baltic region of Europe.  Highlights included:

  • The Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden – a fascinating salvaged 17th century warship that sunk on it’s maiden voyage
  • Standing in Red Square in front of St. Basil’s cathedral in Moscow, Russia
  • The architecturally stunning, livable, yet rarely talked about city of Riga, Latvia
  • Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark – singularly the most innocent and idyllic amusement park ever and a return to simpler times.  For instance, the daily activity sheet listed “Peek-a-Boo” as a featured event. Totes ‘dorbs!

But more on those in a future post. 

While on this adventure I’d hoped to identify some great new European fashion trends to bring back to the blog.  This, however, proved to be a bit unfruitful.  Don’t get me wrong…I did identify one clear trend that seemed to be adopted by women both young and old and was seen consistently throughout the region (aside from Russia).  So, what is this hot look that is taking the Baltics by storm?  Wait for it….


Adidas Stan Smith Sneakers

Yeah, for real.  That’s the trend I identified.  I know!  The look that’s been seen throughout the US for the past half-decade was my main fashion take-away from Baltics.  In classic green, red, black and even bling-y gold; Swedish, Finnish and Danish women rocked these kicks.

Even more disturbing is that after bypassing them for years, I now want to hop right on the train!  Maybe the gold pair?  Clean, simple, sporty.  Ugh!  Curse those European women and their influence over me.


Labels to Love: Animated Closet

Natty Gal became acquainted with Animated Closet while working on Fashion Week Cleveland in 2012 and they were one of the featured runway designers.
Founded by Lisette Hazan , this private label emphasizes individuality and creativity.  Inspired by the Bangkok anime artists she met on a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia, Lisette works with multiple artists to create her unique prints. Batches are limited in order to reduce as much waste as possible and leftover remnants are used in other designs.
These boldly patterned, flattering designs are now found in boutiques across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Great Britain.  It’s my understanding that Lisette is trying to clear out all stock in order to fund a new collection.  Hopefully we will see her new pieces online soon!

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