The gateway to Norways spectacularly scenic fjordland, Stavanger is also a town with its own rich heritage as it is regarded as the ‘Cradle of the Vikings’. Your ship will dock right next to Gamle Stavanger, the old quarter, with its collection of 200-year-old white wooden houses (considered national heritage monuments in their own right), 12th century cathedral modelled on Winchester Cathedral, markets, craft stores and art galleries. Look out, too, for the Three Swords monument in the Hafrsfjord rock recalling the Viking sea battle won by King Harald the Fairhair to create Norway as one kingdom back in the 9th century. This is on the way to a recreation of an Iron Age Farm at Jernaldergarden. The other major landmark is a short boat trip away through the delightful Stavanger archipelago to the 2,000ft high Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen).
A former ‘European City of Culture’ with a string of fascinating art galleries facing its Lille Lungedgardsvann Lake, Bergen cruise port nestles amongst the magnificent mountains strung along Norway’s western coastline and is a gateway to Fjordland. This 13th century Hanseatic – and now World Heritage - city was built on the site of an original Viking settlement and is full of historic sites, the best known of which is Bryggen. A collection of 11th century wooden buildings along the harbourfront, this is a World Heritage Site in its own right and has its own museum to tell its fascinating story.
To enjoy the best views of this picturesque city, take the funicular railway to the top of Mount Fløyen, which overlooks both Bergen and the surrounding region. Also the birthplace of composer Edvard Grieg, Bergen is easily walkable and has a lively fish market and an even better general market along the harbourfront as well as many attractive bars and cafes.
Because it was completely rebuilt after being destroyed by fire in 1904, Alesund looks quite different to other Norwegian towns along the countrys west coast now better known as simply ‘Fjordland’. Stretching across three islands at the mouth of the magnificent Geirangerfjord, Alesunds architecture is now an eclectic mixture of mock-Gothic and neo-classical with more than a dash of Art Nouveau. Turrets and spires dot the skyline and you can trace the towns trend setting style development at the Art Nouveau Centre, one of several fascinating museums in the town. The pick is the open-air Sunnmøre while the Atlantic Sea-Park is also worth a visit as one of the largest aquariums in northern Europe.
It is just nine miles long but the snaking Geirangerfjord is the most photographed of all Norways fjords because of the sheer beauty of its setting. As you cruise along to the ships anchorage off Geiranger cruise port, just marvel at the views as spectacular waterfalls with evocative names like Bridal Veil and The Seven Sisters cascade down from the steep rocky peaks that overlook the fjord from both sides. Geiranger welcomed its first cruise ship (carrying a group of Quakers from Scotland) in 1869 and its appeal for visitors has hardly changed since then. It is still just a small village resort which simply makes the ideal base for walking, boating, or motoring tours into a surrounding area full of natural beauty and magnificent scenery with snow-capped mountains, verdant valleys, plunging waterfalls and age-old glaciers. There are superb views from the Dalsnibban mountain plateau overlooking the fjord.
Ships sail along the tranquil Nordfjord to reach the Norwegian cruise port and capital Oslo; a spectacular city surrounded by snow-capped mountains and rolling green hills, it was founded in 1050 and has been Norway’s capital since the end of the 11th century. The modern city, an eclectic mix of ancient castles, frescoed 18th century houses, vast parks and glittering lakes, is a delight. Oslo cruise must-sees include the Viking House Museum with its display of 9th century longboats, the Munch-museet, which houses works by Edvard Munch, and the medieval Akershus Castle - a warren of secret passages, crypts, dungeons and magnificent halls.
Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen was the adopted home of Hans Christian Andersen - commemorated in the waterfront sculpture of his Little Mermaid. And, true to the spirit of its most famous resident, Copenhagen has a fairytale magic all of its own. Discover the beauty of the Copenhagen cruises while visiting the delightful Tivoli Gardens, where you can soar above the city in a hot air balloon suspended from a Ferris Wheel. Stroll down leafy byways as dusk falls and hundreds of lights twinkle through the trees or in the shops and cafés of Stroget, Europes longest pedestrianised shopping street.
Berlin Germany (Warnemunde)
Berlin is a worthy rival to London or Paris in terms of history, art and culture. The city's highlights include the restored Reichstag Building with its magnificent glass dome, the Brandenburg Gate and the stunning Museum Island. Explore the old Cold War hot spots and view the Brandenburg Gate, restored to its original magnificence. Or, stroll along the Kurfurstendamm and take coffee in a local café. Warnemünde is a seaside resort near the harbor entrance to Rostock, one of the city-states that formed the medieval Hanseatic League. Originally a fishing village before it became a spa and resort in the 19th century. Warnemünde is also your gateway to Mecklenburg and the German countryside.
Estonia’s cruise port Tallinn is also a fascinating medieval capital. This multi-faceted jewel of a city and its architecture – a legacy of Teutonic, Polish and Russian rule – will have your eyes on stalks. From the spectacular onion domes of the Nevski Russian Orthodox Cathedral to the Baroque Toompea Castle (home of the Estonian Parliament) and the elaborate Gothic façade of the 13th century Raekoda, Europe’s oldest town hall, all can be explored from our Talinn cruises. Another highlight of a Talinn cruise is the magnificent St Mary’s Cathedral, with its display of more than 100 coats of arms – but do take time out just to stroll the winding streets and cobbled squares of the city’s atmospheric old town, where you will find exquisite amber jewellery, fine lacework and gorgeous woollen jackets at bargain prices.
Saint Petersburg Russia
On cruises to St. Petersburg you will usually stay here overnight; after all the jewel in the Baltic’s crown deserves no less, for here – on the broad banks of the River Neva and in the magnificent palaces and churches which characterise the city’s skyline - you will find Russia at its most dramatic, flamboyant and captivating. Put the Hermitage Museum right at the top of your St. Petersburg cruise sightseeing list; its magnificent buildings and palaces contain the world’s most comprehensive collection of art and sculpture, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Gaugin, Rembrandt and Matisse.
Surrounded by the sea and its own archipelago, Helsinki, the Finnish capital, retains its nautical feel with many sailing events during the summer. Exploring the fascinating sights of Helsinki, cruise passengers will discover the city is also the country’s main cultural focus, offering dance, ballet, opera, and other festivals. The striking onion-shaped cupolas of the Uspensky Cathedral (modelled on the one in Odessa) are just one example of the Soviet influence on a country which achieved independence less than 100 years ago. Highlights of cruises to Helsinki also include some of the traditional Finnish building in the Senate Square and the North Harbour.
Stockholm Sweden (Nynashamn)
One of the most beautiful cities in Scandinavia, Sweden’s capital and cruise port Stockholm – where the Baltic meets lovely Lake Malaren - is approached through a necklace of 14 islands and myriad small islets set in sparkling seas, as you will discover on our Stockholm cruises. The heart of this famous city is its medieval quarter, Gamla Stan, which dates from the 13th Century. Here you can stroll through narrow cobbled streets lined with quirky shops and atmospheric cafés. Embark on one of our cruises to Stockholm for the opportunity to explore the spooky Gothic cathedral of Storkyran, discover the elaborate 17th Century Nessin Palace and visit Sweden’s oldest museum, the Livrustkammaren – home to five centuries’ worth of royal carriages, clothes and weaponry (its most unusual exhibit is Streiff - the stuffed stallion which once carried King Gustav II into battle).
Southampton England (London)
One of the world's most famed ports, Southampton served as the launching point of the Mayflower and the Titanic. Today, it's one of the busiest passenger ports.
Cobh Ireland (Cork)
Pronounced ‘Cove’, Cobh is the cruise port of Ireland’s second biggest city, Cork, and boasts one of Europe’s largest natural harbours. Poignantly, it was also the final departure point of the ill-fated Titanic. With its colourful seafront houses, the town has the feel of a true seaside resort, dominated by a cathedral offering fabulous views over the bay. Nearby Cork City, European Capital of Culture in 2005, hosts many festivals, ranging from jazz and folk to choral and film. The bustling city centre is home to fascinating shops and markets while traditional Irish music can be heard in many of the historic pubs and bars which populate the city centre.
Belfast Northern Ireland
Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, enjoys a wonderful setting of high hills, sea lough and river valley. Its name originated from the Gaelic ‘Beal Feirste’ meaning ‘mouth of the sandy fjord’. Founded in the 17th century, the city prospered becoming one of the world’s leading industrial names, and was home to Harland and Wolff – the shipbuilders who built the ill-fated Titanic. Despite its more recent political troubles, Belfast has emerged as a vibrant, alluring destination. Amidst its beautiful Victorian buildings you can shop in stylish boutiques, sip a Guinness in one its charming old pubs or take a scenic stroll in Barnett Demesne park. The centrepiece is the City Hall, completed in 1906, with its domed roof and grand Italian marble staircase. Other points of interest on the city include Belfast Cathedral, which has the largest Celtic Cross in Ireland plus Celtic themed mosaics and stained glass, Belfast Castle, sitting on the slopes of Cave Hill, and Belfast Zoo.
Glasgow (Greenock) Scotland
Glasgow was Scotland's great industrial center during the 19th century. Today, the city remains the commercial and cultural capital of the Lowlands. Lying on the banks of the River Clyde, Glasgow boasts some of the finest Victorian architecture in the entire United Kingdom, including the stately City Chambers. Elegant Princes Square offers excellent shopping, and among the host of museums and galleries, the Burrell Collection features a superb treasure trove of paintings and art objects.
Considered the cultural capital of Eastern Iceland, Seydisfjordur lies at the head of a narrow fjord flanked by high mountains. This town of some 700 souls achieved municipal status in 1895, the first town in the East of Iceland to do so. The city is also the terminus for the ferry service linking Iceland to the Faeroe Islands and Denmark. Seydisfjordur is your gateway to the wild and isolated scenery of the Eastern Fjords. In myth, these narrow bays and towering mountains were once the home of trolls, elves and ogres. Seydisfjordur boasts a wealth of well-preserved 19th century homes and buildings. In the summer the small town can take on a cosmopolitan air as visitors flock to town aboard the ferry.
A genuine ‘Midnight Sun’ destination, Akureyi cruise port is a charming Icelandic town with a stunning location on the countrys longest fjord - Eyjafjordur. There are several interesting museums and churches but the most amazing feature of Akureyi is its botanical garden - not surprisingly, the most northerly in the world. That this glorious display of flowers and plants thrives is a tribute to the local microclimate which is remarkably mild for somewhere so close to the Arctic Circle. Less surprising is the range of tours to appeal to nature-lovers from whale watching (18 species from minkes to killers have been spotted) to the spectacular ‘Waterfall of the Gods’ at Godafoss.
Along the way, you will also see age-old glaciers, beautiful lakes, bubbling sulphur mud-pits, hidden caves and coves, dormant volcanoes and lava which has turned into bizarre-shaped sculptures.
He name means ‘Smoky (or Steamy) Bay’ but these days the Icelandic capital Reykjavik is even hotter than that. Its reputation now as a truly cultural, cosmopolitan city, with great restaurants and lively nightlife, has made it a hugely popular destination. Another big attraction is the opportunity to swim in open-air pools heated by the very geothermal springs that inspired Reykjavik’s name. Not that Reykjavik - or most of Iceland for that matter - is actually icy at all. It may be the most northerly capital in the world and in the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’, but if you want ice, you have to travel away from the capital on one of the exciting glacier safari tours. But the most popular destination remains the nearby Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, where minerals bubble up from 5,000ft below the earth’s surface.
The Irish capital Dublin has undergone an incredible transformation in the last decade with many modern buildings springing up to add to its historical and cultural appeal. Dublin’s pubs and bars are world-renowned from the city’s oldest, The Brazen Head, to the newest wine bar. A visit to the Guinness Storehouse and Brewery provides an insight into the history of Ireland’s favourite tipple. Grafton Street is a shopper’s paradise with a stop at Bewley’s historic coffee house a must for people-watching. The library at Trinity College is home to the eighth-century Book of Kells, with the National Museum housing exhibits dating back from the Irish Bronze and Iron ages. The city’s literary heritage is celebrated at the adjoining National Library with works of famous Irish writers such as Beckett, Joyce, Swift and Yeats collected together.
The beatiful city of Amsterdam, with its fine gabled houses, leafy canal walks, unusual boutiques and offbeat pavement cafés, is the last word in laid-back relaxation. Capture its true spirit by exploring the narrow winding streets, bustling bars and eclectic shops of Joordan, its fascinating old district. Other must-sees include the house of determined World War II diarist Anne Frank and the multi-level Vincent van Gogh Museum – where you progress, floor by floor, from the artist’s initial sketches to view the full glory of his completed works. Art lovers will also love the Stedelijk Museum – home to major works by Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse and Monet. And, if gardening is your interest, stroll around the daily Bloemenmarkt. This is the city’s only remaining floating market and its riotously colourful plant and flower-laden boats are a fragrant delight.
The approach to Gothenburg’s cruise port is the perfect introduction to this large, bustling, but very friendly Swedish city. Embark on a cruise to Gothenburg and you will sail through a beautiful archipelago of small islands and past sleepy old fishing villages along the mainland coast. Your first impression of the city will be that it is so very green - there are parks and gardens galore including some extraordinarily colourful botanical ones full of rare orchids, roses and butterflies. While enjoying your Gothenburg cruise take the opportunity to visit the Liseborg Amusement Park which has some eye-popping theme park rides but it is also beautifully landscaped with flowers and plants. For shopping enthusiasts, Gothenburg cruises offer a diverse collection of retails stores and venues to enhance their shopping experience. In the city centre, there are all the latest designer stores and an array of cafés and restaurants in or around the main street: the Avenue. Elsewhere in the city, Nordstan is Scandinavias largest shopping centre. And don’t forget to also look out for the impressive Opera House and Maritime Centre.
The peaceful village of Olden has the perfect Fjordland cruise setting - nestling at the southern end of one branch of the beautiful Nordfjord and at the entrance to the gorgeous Oldedalen Valley. A lake in the valley has been turned a rich, deep green by the river pouring down the mountains from the vast, million-years-old Briksdal Glacier. Giant waterfalls also cascade down making the views even more spectacular as you travel through the valley to the foot of the glacier - one of the offshoots of the vast Jostedal Glacier now designated as a national park. Other tours head overland to the inner Nordfjord area with its wind-blown rocks, towering mountains and verdant valleys. Also in the area are folk and glacier museums, a skiing centre on the glacier plateau and northern Europes deepest lake - Hornindalsvatnet.
Le Havre France
The bustling French port of Le Havre offers a selection of sights including Granville Abbey, St Adresse Fort and the Seine Estuary. Its position also makes it the perfect gateway to some of Normandy’s most picturesque towns and villages, including the pretty harbour of Honfleur and inspirational Etretet - characterised by stylish mansions, sheer white cliffs and soaring waves that crash below. Capture the life of Claude Monet in nearby Rouen, where you can wander around the graceful gardens of his home. In the town, half-timbered houses, churches and cafés sit alongside the great Cathédrale Notre-Dame, which is well worth a visit. Also nearby is the Old Marketplace were Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in 1431. Alternatively take in the sights in stylish Paris – the country’s capital. Have lunch in one of the cities many cafes, look at the amazing art in The Louvre and meander through Montmarte where you’ll find the famed Moulin Rouge. And what better way to admire the views from the emblematic Eiffel Tower.
Harwich is a town in Essex, England and one of the Haven ports, located on the coast with the North Sea to the east. It is in the Tendring district. Nearby places include Felixstowe to the northeast, Ipswich to the northwest, Colchester to the southwest and Clacton-on-Sea to the south. It is the northernmost coastal town within Essex. Its position on the estuaries of the Stour and Orwell rivers and its usefulness to mariners as the only safe anchorage between the Thames and the Humber led to a long period of maritime significance, both civil and military. The town became a naval base in 1657 and was heavily fortified, with Harwich Redoubt, Beacon Hill Battery, and Bath Side Battery.
Sailing through Norways beautiful Sognefjord, the worlds longest and deepest fjord, is one of the most memorable cruise experiences. Overlooked by snow-capped peaks and surrounded by cascading waterfalls, this is a sensational approach to the tiny village of Flam, which nestles in the innermost part of Sognefjord. But the fjord is not Flams only claim to fame, it also has the extraordinary Flam Railway. A masterpiece of engineering, this rises more than 2,845ft above sea level in just 12 miles and the views are just as dramatic as the journey. There are a variety of other boat and road trips which promise more fantastic scenery along with visits to farms, mines, villages and isolated mountain lodges.