Coming to Berlin for just one day? Not a problem!
Every summer we get many questions from people who come to Europe for a cruise in the Baltic sea. These ships usually make a halt for a day in Warnemünde/Rostock in North-Eastern Germany, where there's not much to do except using the day to visit Berlin. Here's a collection of the most frequently asked questions.
► Should we really go to Berlin on our cruise?
This is a question that cannot be answered with a clear Yes or a clear No. First of all, Berlin is definitely worth a visit, and we can accomplish a lot in one day. Secondly, it's a question of alternatives: Your vacation time is precious, and there's not much to do in Rostock and the surrounding area, which is basically very rural. However, you should take into consideration that you'll be spending some time on the road, traveling to Berlin and back (see exact details below). Your ship needs to dock in Warnemünde/Rostock for about 11 hours or more, otherwise the trip to Berlin won't make much sense.
► Can you organize somebody to pick us up, take us to Berlin and bring us back?
Yes, we can. We'll organize a chauffeur that will wait for you at the Cruise Center, holding a sign with your name. He'll take you to Berlin and be at our disposal for the tour too, after which he'll take you back to the ship. All the chauffeurs we regularly work with speak sufficient English, of course (which is quite hard to find in North-Eastern Germany).
► Can we make our own transfer arrangements and book you just for the tour itself?
Yes, if you prefer to do so. We're happy to help in organizing the transfer for you; but naturally, you can also book a private chauffeur yourselves. We’d be happy to guide you with any driver of your choice, as long as he/she speaks English or German (otherwise it might be a little difficult to tell him/her how to drive and where to take us in Berlin...). Alternatively, you could come with the ship's bus and use one of us as your guide in Berlin, either for a walking tour or with a local driver. You could even rent a car and drive to Berlin on your own; in this case please remember that only you will be registered as the driver, so you'll need to be the driver in Berlin too, following our directions.
► When do we meet you?
We will meet when you get to Berlin. The chauffeurs we're working with, when organizing cruise tours, live in Rostock (where your ship will most probably dock – Warnemünde is Rostock’s cruise port). Our idea is to make the chauffeur's route identical with your route: Because they live in Rostock, they don’t have to drive to Rostock before picking you up, nor do they have to drive back to Berlin after bringing you back (as is the case with chauffeurs that live in Berlin and naturally want to be paid a lot more than the Rostock chauffeurs - usually twice as much).
► How much time does it take to get to Berlin and back?
About 2.5 hours for each direction, depending on traffic of course (on weekends there's less traffic than on weekdays). Depending on the arrival and departure times of your ship, this usually leaves you with about six to seven hours to spend in Berlin itself.
► What can we cover on our tour with you?
A classical “Berlin in a day" tour covers all the important sites in both East and West Berlin. During our day, we will focus on and make stops at the most important locations, including Brandenburg Gate, Paris Square, the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall, Potsdam Square, the Book Burning square, the Holocaust memorial and many others - please contact us for a complete itinerary. To this classical tour, we can add some more in-depth extras, depending on how much time you can spend in Berlin that day. This would usually be the Jewish Quarter (with the New Synagogue, the old Jewish cemetery and other locations) and the Jewish Museum. If your time is short, we can focus on one of these extras.
► Can we visit the former concentration camp Sachsenhausen during our tour?
No. Although the former camp is somewhat near the highway between Berlin and your port, it's actually not that close to Berlin and can't be included in our tour. Technically speaking, you could do that on your way back to the ship, but you'd need to dedicate at least 2 hours for a meaningful visit (including the driving time through the countryside and back to the highway). However, since you'll probably have just about 6-7 hours for Berlin, we don't recommend making that even shorter by visiting Sachsenhausen on your way back.
► Can we change the suggested route?
Yes, you can. Our suggestions are based on our experience and on what most people are interested in, but our planning is flexible and we can focus on what interests you, combing various topics into one unique tour that suits your preferences. You can also decide during the tour itself that we shift our focus from one topic to the other (for example, from the wall and German history to the Jewish story of Berlin, or vice versa).
► Do we have time to eat something during the day?
Yes, and we will find the best solution to meet your expectations. This can be a quick sandwich break, a fine restaurant with local food for slowly absorbing the chequered history of this city, or anything in between - depending on your time, your energy level and your needs. We can also visit a kosher place (although there aren't too many kosher restaurants in Berlin).
► We have a certain health condition, can you adjust?
Of course we can, and it is very important that we know about it. For example, people with diabetes need scheduled breaks. If there's any special need that should be taken into consideration, please make sure to inform us about it in advance.
► Can we bring our friends with us?
Yes, you can. The Mercedes type of car that most chauffeurs use has room for seven passengers, i.e. six guests + one guide. If you are looking for other (Jewish) people on the same ship to join your tour, you could post your question on the forum of cruise critic, the forum of cruise addicts, or the forum of cruise mates. You might also want to try the more general Berlin forum on TripAdvisor. We've been told about these forums by previous guests, and if you know of other good websites to look for tour partners, please let us know so we could share them with other guests as well.
► Our ship guarantees that if their bus is late and the ship has left without us, they will pay to get us to the next port in time. Can you do the same?
No. Only your ship can give you this guarantee, because they can always wait for their own tours to return, without actually taking the risk of leaving before you're there. For anybody else (such as ourselves or the drivers), the costs involved in giving such a guarantee can be immense. Please think about this aspect before contacting a service other than the one offered by your ship. However, planning a “safety zone" for your return to the port, about 60-90 minutes before your ship's departure, will keep you on the safe side. In the unlikely event of a major problem on the highway (e. g. if it's blocked because of an accident), then it would be a problem for everybody on the highway, including the ship's buses. In such a case, a short telephone call with the ship will make sure that they know you're having the same problem as their own tours, and that you'll arrive shortly after or even before their buses.
► How much time do we need to book you in advance?
Since we only do private, tailor-made tours, this is a question of availability. The sooner you contact us, the higher the chances that one of us is still available and can reserve the date for you. Please also take into consideration that it's not just up to our calendar, as we also have to find a good (English speaking!) chauffeur who's still available on the requested date.
► What happens if you can't find an English speaking driver?
This doesn't happen often, but sometimes all of our usual, English speaking drivers are already booked or out of town, etc. If this happens, we will ask you if a professional driver with basic English language skills would be an acceptable alternative for you (basically, this shouldn’t make much of a difference, since the drivers just drive; but for the general experience of our guests, we always try to book a driver who can converse in English).
For all other details, please write us an email with the following important details:
The date you're docking in Germany
Where you're docking (most probably Warnemünde/Rostock)
Your ship's name
At what time of the day you want to be picked up (your ship might dock at 5 am, but obviously you don't have to get out of bed so early, unless you want to)
At what time you want to be back at the ship (if your ship leaves at 11 pm, you could have a nice dinner in Berlin before heading back, or you could head back early and have dinner on board)
How long you'd like our tour to be (depending of course on the time left after deducting a total of about 5 hours of traveling time to Berlin and back)
How many guests are coming with you
Any special requests you might have, such as focusing on a specific topic, kosher food, visiting a specific address during our tour, or if you’re traveling with a child who needs a child seat in the car, etc.
We'd be happy to advise you personally and make you an offer according to your specific requirements.