Thousands of Australians flock to Europe to cruise every year. Aside from the iconic port in Southampton, where the majestic Queen Mary 2 sails from on her transatlantic voyage to New York, there are a great number of ports in amazing countries.
While popular cruise destinations include Germany and the Netherlands, the Baltic region, with its diverse itineraries, for both ocean and adventure cruisers, is now on the bucket list for many who take to the sea.
There are some stunning itineraries in Scandinavia where cruisers can visit Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland with ease. The region is fast becoming popular for Australians to visit due to its stunning natural surroundings and lush landscapes as well as rich history.
It’s also where cruisers can see one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world – the northern lights. Many small ship cruise lines offer added tours to see this spectacular light show.
Another highlight is the Norwegian fjords. Here you will be struck by the ice-capped mountain ridges and jagged architecture of its peaks. There are more than 1,000 fjords in Norway with seals and porpoises swimming in the blue saltwater lakes.
Other popular cruise destinations include Russia, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, and most of the major lines offer fabulous itineraries, be it on megaliner or a smaller luxury ship.
Germany is home to one of the largest ship-building companies in the world, Meyer Werft and has cool ports such as Hamburg. A typical Hamburg visit includes a tour of the city hall and the grand church St Michaelis (called the Michel), and visiting the old warehouse district (Speicherstadt) and the harbor promenade (Landungsbrücken).
In Netherlands, visit the Anne Frank Museum and head to the historical city centre, a compact living museum with everything within walking distance, from the diamond cutters to the world famous museums and art galleries.
Lines such as Princess Cruises offer stunning itineraries where you can watch the Russian Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, visit WWII sites such as the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and explore the Kronburg Castle in Denmark.
The United Kingdom (UK) is one of the most visited parts of the world. The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are lots of different places to visit, from London, the capital of the UK, which is a hotspot for fine food, great shopping and a bustling night life, to Douglas on Isle of Man, which is a sleepy town famous for its water wheels and horse-drawn tram (one of only two left in the world). Other historic places to visit include Edinburgh, which is steeped in history and hosts festivals throughout the year including the Edinburgh Comedy Festival, and Newcastle, once a heavily industrialised town and is now one of the UK’s funkiest cities. Lines such as P&O Cruises, Cunard and Princess Cruises call at Southampton, one of the worlds biggest ports. Visitors will be able to see ships on Southampton waters year round. The UK also has major airports where you can catch connecting flights to river cruise destinations in France, Germany and Hungary.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
The historic centre of Belfast is small enough to be explored by foot. St George’s Market on May Street, near Belfast Central Station is Northern Ireland’s largest indoor market. Farmers markets are held on Saturday, selling local produce, clothing and crafts. The open-top Belfast Sightseeing bus tours shows visitors famous murals painted on the ends of terraced houses, Harland and Wolff shipyards, where the ill-fated Titanic was built, and Queens University.
Who goes there: All Leisure Group, Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Crystal Cruises, Fred. Olsen, Holland America Line, Louis Cruises, The Majestic Line, National Geographic Expeditions, Noble Caledonia, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Ponant, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Sea Cloud Cruises, Silversea, TUI Cruises.
Best for: Maritime buffs and singles.
Douglas, Isle of Man
Douglas is the capital of the Isle of Man, which has its own government and parliament. When you arrive, visit Laxey, a delightful village on the electric railway between Douglas and Ramsey. It’s famous for its water wheel, said to be the world’s largest in operation. Douglas is also famous for its Manx produce including smoked kippers and Manx tartan cloth.
Who goes there: Azamara Club Cruises, Olivia Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn, Silversea, Swan Hellenic, Windstar Cruises.
Best for: Couples.
Dover is full of history, with a medieval town centre, and of course the famous White Cliffs. It is worth visiting Dover Castle, which has a number of museums. There is also the Dover Museum, the Roman Painted House Museum and Pines Garden. Neighbouring Canterbury, with its historic cathedral, is a 30-minute bus trip away and worth a visit if you have time.
Who goes there: AIDA Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Voyages of Antiquity.
Best for: Families.
The capital of Scotland is steeped in history. It is also one of the funkiest towns in Europe with a number of festivals throughout the year. Some of the most well-known include the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Comedy Festival. There is an amazing list of museums and galleries – some of the best include the National Museum of Scotland, the Museum of Edinburgh and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Check out Edinburgh Zoo, the second most popular attraction in Scotland and is home to two giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, on loan from the People’s Republic of China.
Who goes there: Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Costa Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, Viking Ocean
Best for: Everyone.
Harwich is known for its architectural heritage with many medieval homes still intact. A pair of lighthouses that once guided vessels into this North Sea port are still standing and one now houses the town's maritime museum. Some of the town’s notable public buildings include the parish church of St Nicholas, built in the Gothic style, with much of the original furnishings still inside.
Who goes there: Costa Cruises, Phoenix Reisen, Voyages of Discovery.
Best for: History buffs and older couples.
Holyhead is known for its beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. There are lots of excellent walking trails including routes to South Stack Lighthouse and Holyhead Mountain through the Holyhead Breakwater Country Park. There are many medieval monuments that remain around the town as well as religious sites such as burial grounds.
Who goes there: Azamara Club Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, TUI Cruises.
Best for: History buffs and older couples.
Recognised by the Guinness World Records as the World Capital City of Pop, Liverpool was the birth place of bands such as The Beatles, Atomic Kitten and Ladytron. Liverpool is also one of the most historic maritime cities in the United Kingdom. As a major British port, its waterfronts and docks are some of the city’s most famous landmarks. The Albert Dock has restaurants, bars, shops as well as two hotels. It is worth visiting the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the Tate Liverpool as well as The Beatles Story museum which is also on Albert Dock. There are plenty of gardens as well as art galleries. The city also hosts the Liverpool Biennial festival which attracts some of the biggest names like John Lennon’s former wife and controversial artist, Yoko Ono. Liverpool is also known for its thriving nightlife with some of the UK’s biggest and best clubs.
Who goes there: AIDA Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Crystal Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Disney Cruise Line, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Hapag-Lloyd Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Phoenix Reisen, Ponant, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
Best for: Everyone.
London is the largest city in the United Kingdom and is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Visitors could spend years in London and still not see everything. The major landmarks include Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, Tower of London, Piccadilly Circus and the London Eye. London is also a fantastic place for shopping. Pick up pieces from local designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Galliano, Stella McCartney and Jimmy Choo from iconic department stores such as Selfridges and Harrods. London is also famed for its food, from fine dining at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester hotel to Bangladeshi food in Brick Lane, there is something for every palette. There is a wealth of art and culture. Enjoy opera at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden or catch an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical at a West End theatre.
Who goes there: Azamara Club Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Crystal Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Silversea, Viking Ocean Cruises.
Best for: Everyone.
Once an industrial port town, Newcastle has been transformed into one of the most happening UK cities. The city retains much of its medieval street layout and has some great tourist attractions such as the Theatre Royal on Grey Street where visitors can catch performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Newcastle also hosts a number of festivals. If your cruise ship stops at Newcastle in April, you might be able to catch the Newcastle Beer and Cider Festival, which has performances, exhibitions, concerts, conferences and film screenings. Newcastle also has a bustling nightlife and is filled with bars, clubs and restaurants.
Who goes there: AIDA Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Disney Cruise Line, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Silversea.
Best for: Couples, singles and night owls.
Plymouth has become one of the most popular seaside destinations for both local and overseas tourists. Union Street was at the heart of Plymouth’s historical culture and it was a place sailors found entertainment of all kinds. During the 1930s, it attracted performers such as Charlie Chaplin. In August, the British Firework Championships attract tens of thousands of people to Plymouth. Its notable landmarks include the Royal Citadel, built after the English Civil War, and the Plymouth Naval Memorial, commemorating those killed in World Wars I and II.
Who goes there: Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
Best for: History buffs and couples.
Portsmouth is a great place for the entire family. The waterfront has good shopping, eating and drinking holes. Portsmouth has three theatres which specialises in classical, modern and avant-garde drama. Other attractions include the D-Day Museum and, at the dockyard, HMS Victory, Mary Rose, HMS Warrior and the Royal Naval Museum. Portsmouth is the birthplace of author Charles Dickens. There are plenty of things for kids, too, including the Pyramids Fun Pools and Blue Reef Aquarium.
Who goes there: Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Crystal Cruises, Swan Hellenic, Voyages of Discovery.
Best for: Maritime fanatics, history buffs and families.
Southampton is one of the United Kingdom’s busiest ports, frequented by the world’s largest cruise ships. Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises and Cunard have headquarters in Southampton. The city is home to the longest surviving stretch of medieval walls in England, as well as museums such as the Tudor House Museum and SeaCity Museum, which has an exhibition on Titanic. Southampton also has a thriving music scene and a number of good restaurants including The White Star Tavern, Bugle, The Pig and the Michelin-starred The Terrace.
Best for: Foodies, maritime lovers and history buffs.
Who goes there: AIDA Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cunard, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Silversea, Tui Cruises, Viking Ocean Cruises.
Ideally located on the route between the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, Le Havre in Normandy is a popular port of call for many international cruise lines. Located at the mouth of the Seine River, the major port in north-western France is a model of concrete grandeur. Visit the Museum of Modern Art and St Joseph’s Church. If you are a history buff, you might want to take the D-Day landing beaches excursion. Another popular of call is Cherbourg. It has the best seafood fresh off the boat and dining in a bistro is a distinctly French experience. Visit the Museum Emmanuel-Liais, a museum of natural history and archaeology.
Cannes is a resort town on the French Riviera and is famous for its film festival which attracts some of the world’s biggest movie stars. The coast is lined with sandy beaches, upmarket boutiques and palatial hotels. The iconic waterfront avenue, Promenade de la Croisette, is known for its restaurants, cafes and boutiques. There are also a number of museums including the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence and the Musée de la Castre, which houses artefacts from the Pacific Atolls, Peruvian relics and Mayan pottery.
Who goes there: AIDA Cruises, Azamara Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cunard, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea, Star Clippers, Voyages of Antiquity, Windstar Cruises.
Best for: Families.
An important naval base during the Napoleonic wars, the city has a number of learned societies, such as the National Academic Society of Cherbourg, and several museums dedicated to its residents. One well worth a visit is the Muséum Emmanuel-Liais, a museum of natural history, archaeology and ethnography, in the former home of Emmanuel Liais, mayor of Cherbourg, astronomer and explorer. For the foodies, you can’t go past the fresh seafood so look for lemon sole, red mullet, scallops and mussels when ordering.
Best for: Foodies and maritime history lovers.
Who goes there: Azamara Club Cruises, Costa Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises UK, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Viking Oceans.
A World Heritage site since 2005, the centre of Le Havre was brilliantly rebuilt under the guidance of architect Auguste Perret after being all but obliterated by WWII bombing. Attractions include a museum full of impressionist paintings, a soaring church with a stained-glass tower and gardens with views over the city. The markets are known for their wide selection of cheeses, pate, apples, cider and calvados.
Best for: Well travelled tourists.
Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Crystal Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, P&0 Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Viking Oceans.
Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris. Founded more than 2,500 years ago, it is now a major centre for art and history with many museums and galleries. Those interested in history and architecture should visit Hotel de Ville, Marseille’s city hall, which was built in the 17th century, and the Cathedral of Sainte-Marie-Majeure, built in the 4th century and enlarged in the 11th century. For the foodies, try the traditional Marseille bouillabaisse, a seafood tomato broth soup served with French crusty bread. And the locally made aioli, a sauce made from eggs, lemon juice, olive oil and lemon juice served with boiled fish.
Who goes there: AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea, Voyages to Antiquity.
Best for: Foodies and history buffs.
Take a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, which follows a sweep of beach along the Mediterranean and is home to the Hotel Negresco, the city’s most famous palatial hotel, constructed in 1912. Place Masséna, the city’s main square is surrounded by lovely historic buildings where you’ll find perfume shops and designer boutiques. There are a number of other squares to visit, including Place Rossetti and Place Garibaldi which stand out for their architecture and history. While in Nice, try some local specialties such as the roasted vegetable dish Ratatouille or fried bread called Beignets. Nice has a huge range of cuisines including Nicoise, French, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish and Italian.
Who goes there: AIDA Cruises, Azamara Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Disney Cruise Line, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, MSC Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea, Windstar Cruises
Best for: Families.
Known for its relaxing resort lifestyle, St Tropez is great for windsurfing, sailing and canoeing. Many visitors flock to the city for its array of water sports including scuba diving. Visit the Citadel of St Tropez which is a well-known tourist attraction. One of the best places to stay in is the Hotel Byblos and Les Caves du Roy. The city is a holiday destination for the rich and famous – many of which, have sleek super yachts and sailing boats moored around the harbour.
Who goes there: Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea, Star Clippers, Windstar.
Best for: Couples.
Fast becoming a popular cruise destination, Russia’s rich history and vibrant cities makes it one of the best countries to visit. The capital of Russia is Moscow, home of the Kremlin which is home to the president and tsarist treasures which are in the Armoury. Also in the capital is the Red Square which also has Lenin’s Mausoleum. If you have a bit more time pre or post cruise, try and visit Lake Baikal which is an ancient lake in the mountainous Russian region of Siberia. There are some amazing trails for hikes and in the winter, ice skating and dog sledding.
The stunning Russian city is guilded in gold leaf and rich in the history of the Russian royal family. Some of the tourist highlights include Peterhof Palace and Garden, the Russian Museum and St Nicholas Church. The Hermitage Museum which has one of the largest art collections in the entire world – more than three million pieces. You will see paintings, graphic works, sculptures as well as archaeological artefacts.
Best for: Couples, art and history lovers.
Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Silversea, Viking Oceans.
Germany is a popular ocean cruise destination for international cruise lines. Sampling the country’s hearty cuisine is a must, especially at any street stall which sells bratwurst and chips. The two main ports are Hamburg and Kiel. The busiest is Hamburg, which sits on the banks of the River Elbe. It is a cultural hub with more than 100 music venues, 60 museums and 40 theatres. Modern art lovers make a beeline for the Kunsthalle gallery and the Hamburg State Opera House. The port of Kiel on the Baltic Sea has a long maritime and military history. Visit the oldest building in the city, St Nicholas Church and stroll along Holstenstrabe, the longest shopping street in the country.
This seaport on the River Elbe is the second largest city in Germany and has a rich history, stretching back to medieval times. Modern Hamburg is a cultural hub with more than 40 theatres, 100 music venues and clubs and 60 museums. For modern art lovers, visit the Kunsthalle Hamburg or the Museum for Art and Industry. The Hamburg State Opera is a beautiful venue where visitors can watch the Philharmoniker Hamburg. For the foodies, try local specialties such as birnen, bohnen und speck (green beans cooked with pears and bacon) or pannfisch (pan-fried fish with mustard sauce).
Best for: Everyone.
Who goes there: Azamara Club Cruises, Costa Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Silversea.
Attractions include the oldest building in the city, Nikolaikirche or St Nicholas Church, and the Holstenstraße, one of Germany’s longest shopping streets. There are also a number of lakes and parks for the outdoor lover, and two botanical gardens. The Kiel Regatta is held during the last week of June and is the largest sailing event in the world.
Best for: Families and maritime lovers.
Who goes there: Costa, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cunard, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC.
Home to our very own Princess Mary, this lovely Scandinavian country has some of the best restaurants in the world, quaint towns and royal palaces. It also has Nyhavn harbour, the Tivoli amusement park as well as the iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ statue. Cruises lines like Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn, Silversea and Regent Seven Seas depart from Copenhagen, the country’s capital. While you’re in Denmark visit Aarhus which has world famous museums like the ARoS art museum.
Stroll past Denmark’s Tivoli Gardens and along the cobbled and bike-filled streets where the locals are considered to be the happiest in the world. See the famous Little Mermaid sculpture at Langelinje Pier and visit the Church of Our Savior and Rosenburg Castle. Stroget in the heart of the city is one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets with a wealth of shops.
Best for: Curious travellers.
Who goes there: APT, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea.
Sweden is a Scandinavian nation with thousands of coastal inlands and inland lakes. The country also has vast boreal forests and ice-capped mountains which makes it a nature-lovers paradise. Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and has innovative and slick fashion brands like Acne (known for their suave leather jackets). Gothenburg is the best place to go island hopping. And with its endless summer evenings, the locals often kayak from island to island. Sweden is also the place where you can see the Northern Lights.
The capital of Sweden is best known for 1970s pop stars ABBA so don’t miss the ABBA museum. The capital is made up of 14 islands connected by 50 bridges. Jump on a hop-on, hop-off boat for a tour of the canals. Go to the archipelago for spectacular views of the islands and take a stroll in the old town of Gamla Stan, a bustling area dating back to the 13th century, that’s packed with restaurants and souvenir shops.
Best for: All ages.
Who goes there: APT, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages,Cunard, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises UK, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea, Viking Oceans.