Themed River Cruises: Golf on Europe’s Top Courses with AMA Waterways in 2019

AMA Waschu Valley Danuber
The Waschu Valley

Immortalised by Johann Strauss in his famous waltz, the Danube is one of Europe’s most famous rivers, flowing through the heart of continent from the Black Forest of Germany to the Black Sea. The 1700-mile waterway meanders past UNESCO status countryside along with fine cities brimming with fascinating culture and history; such as Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Imagine combining this adventure with playing on some of Europe’s best golf courses?

AMA Golf
Beckenbauer Course

AMA Waterways, widely recognised as one of the leading luxury river cruise lines, offers a sensational Concierge Golf Programme to marry the two interests together in perfect harmony.  Offering certainly one of the best golf river cruises in 2019, each 7-night journey includes all the luxuries you would expect with AMA, such as fine dining and beautiful accommodation, as well as shore excursions and at least 5 games on these top courses.

  • Albatross Golf Club, Albatross Course, Prague, Host of the Czech Open
  • Hartl Resorts Beckenbauer Course, Bad Griesbach, Germany, Host of the Porsche European Open
  • Diamond Country Club, Diamond Course, Atzenbrugg, Austria, Host of the Lyoness Austrian Open
  • Penati Country Club, Legends Course, Senica, Slovakia, Host of the Slovakian Open
  • Pannonia Country Club, Budapest, Hungary, Host of the Hungarian Open
AMAMAGNA
AMAMAGNA

On arrival at each destination, you will be chauffeur driven to the day’s course with tee times,  practice balls and trolleys arranged in advance. After your round, during a pleasant lunch in the clubhouse, AMA staff will clean your golf clubs before returning you to the ship to enjoy dinner and all the facilities.

AMA Massage
Spa Services

For non-golfing partners, there are plenty of on-board activities as well as thoughtfully curated shore excursions. A generous discount is also offered on the cruise price. ‘Pre’ and ‘Post’ cruise options can be added to allow more time in Prague and dates run until mid October. Watch the video below to see the AMA experience.

For more information visit www.amawaterways.co.uk or contact Louise here

Images Courtesy of AMA Waterways

Ski France: is Samoëns the perfect resort?

The dizzy heights of Tignes, Val D’Isere and Courchevel attract Brits in their thousands every season, but are we missing a French secret?

The pretty village of Samoëns is a Savoyard gem; a monument historique revered for its precious links to the French stonemason trade. The ancient village, built at the foot of Mount Criou is only an hour from Geneva airport and served by a modern gondola swishing skiers to the Grand Massif in a mere 8 minutes.

View of the village from the express gondola

Narrow streets wind at an easy pace, taking in specialist shops showcasing the finest Haute-Savoie produce, towards a lovely square centred around an old lime tree. Locals queue out the door of the award-winning patisserie, the saucisson and cheese shop is a feast for the senses, après-skiers sip vin chaud in outdoor bars, bric-a-brac shops are a treasure-trove of chalet-worthy finds and gorgeous little cafes serve tartiflette smothered in gooey reblochon.

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The Grand Massif, watched over by the magnificent Mont Blanc, has 265km of piste and includes the snow-sure resort of Flaine. The gondola to Samoëns 1600 opens up the whole area with a wealth of runs suiting all abilities, including the 14km blue Cascade run.

On my recent trip, the Christmas celebrations were wonderfully French, French and French! Christmas Eve brought a stunning fireworks display, set off from the famous Jardin Botanique Alpina to waterfall in the sky above the village. Locals and visitors enjoyed gastronomique dinners late into the night before exchanging presents. Christmas Day was spent on the slopes enjoying the spectacular views and (luckily for us) warm sunshine.

Fireworks at Christmas

It’s worth noting that skiing back to Samoëns village isn’t possible, although you can ski to nearby villages and get the excellent ski bus back easily. Otherwise the gondola is the best way down and a pleasant end to the day. There are free nursery lifts for beginners and wonderful mountain restaurants dotted around the pistes. Prices are pleasantly affordable compared to the more high-octane French resorts.

Hotel Neige et Roc

We stayed as a family in two studio apartments at the Hotel Neige et Roc and ate at the wonderful Le Serac in Samoëns and Le Puzze in Morillion … both relatively cheap and serving fantastic Savoyard cuisine. Our ski hire was from Xtreme Glisses and we were very pleased with the service and quality.

For more information on Samoëns click here.

Radar: Azamara introduce new ship Pursuit

Azamara is a leader in small-scale luxury cruising with an emphasis on destination immersion. This summer sees the introduction of Azamara Pursuit: the third in the Azamara fleet. This Renaissance-class ship was built in 2001 and acquired by the line’s parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) in March after 12 years with Carnival. With a history as Swan Hellenic’s Minerva II, Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess, and most recently as P&O Cruises’ Adonia the Pursuit is firmly moving forward with its own identity after a major refurbishment in Belfast.

Azamara Pursuit in Belfast
Azamara Pursuit in Belfast

The maiden voyage for Pursuit will depart on 1 August 2018 and travel to eight Norwegian destinations, including Kristiansand, Flam and Haugesund, with overnight stays in Oslo and Bergen. Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, said: “We’ve seen unprecedented support from the UK market for Azamara Pursuit, so we are delighted to be able to show our recognition of this by allowing its transformational journey to take place here. We’ve seen double the UK demand for Azamara Pursuit than we usually see for its sister ships, so this is a really exciting time for us as a brand. The maiden voyage will depart from Southampton and provide travellers with the opportunity to enjoy a country-intensive voyage to Norway, visiting eight destinations in the Scandinavian country. We launched our country-intensive series last year as an opportunity for guests to explore countries on a more in-depth level, which is part of our commitment to Destination Immersion.”

www.azamaraclubcruises.co.uk

 

5 Reasons to Cruise the Baltic

Stockholm archipelago
Stockholm archipelago © 2017 Louise Farquhar

I am delighted to be featured today on Helm – the Cruise Cotterill blog. Click over and discover my 5 Reasons to Cruise the Baltic.

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood
Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood © 2017 Louise Farquhar

Last summer I enjoyed a fabulous 14-day tour of this fantastic region with Celebrity Cruises on the superb Celebrity Eclipse. Read my full review here.

Celebrity Eclipse
Celebrity Eclipse

In Photos: Scandinavia and the Baltic

After our recent trip with Celebrity Cruises to the Scandinavian and Baltic region we can reflect on the experience; looking at photos of the places we visited and contemplating the positive (and sometimes negative) aspects of these destinations. This particular itinerary on the Celebrity Eclipse visited Zeebrugge, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn, St. Petersburg and Warnemunde over 14 days. Pictures do ‘speak a thousand words’, offering a unique account of a trip and these will hopefully help readers decide if this adventure is one for them.

Zeebrugge is an access port to the historic town of Bruge, as well as further afield to Ypres and Flanders Field. The shuttle bus takes you to Blankenberge – one of Belgium’s most lovely seaside resorts.

Blankenberge Beach
Traditional beach huts on Blankenberge beach © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Coffee in Blankenberge
Belgian coffee in Blankenberge © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Blankenberge Bistro
Bistro in Blankenberge © 2017 Louise Farquhar

Copenhagen is the gateway to the Baltic, rich in Scandinavian culture and modern design. Tivoli Gardens, a traditional amusement park, inspired Walt Disney and Hans Christian Andersen.

Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Copenhagen Flowers
Copenhagen Flowers © 2017 Louise Farquhar

Stockholm is a vibrant city surrounded by pristine forests and a stunningly beautiful archipelago. The historic Gamla Stan, with its cobbled streets and Royal Palace, contrasts with the modern centre where visitors find leading museums and the famous Ice Bar.

Stockholm archipelago
Stockholm archipelago © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Stockholm
Stockholm by the river © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Changing of the guard
Changing of the guard © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Stockholm Ice Bar
Stockholm Ice Bar © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Stockholm at night
Stockholm at night © 2017 Louise Farquhar

Tallinn is a Medieval gem, with a well-preserved quaint centre only a short walk from the cruise terminal. Beyond the old town are abandoned and neglected post-Soviet buildings giving a stark reminder of the recent history of this fascinating place.

Tallinn
Tallinn approaches © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Tallinn's abandoned buildings
Views of the former Patarei Prison from the abandoned Linnahall 1980’s Moscow Olympic sailing venue © 2017 Louise farquhar
Tallin graffiti
Graffiti covers Tallinn’s abandoned buildings © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Tallinn's historic centre
Tallinn’s historic centre © 2017 Louise Farquhar
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Tallinn can be very busy © 2017 Louise Farquhar
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Tallinn’s oldest cafe © 2017 Louise Farquhar

St. Petersburg is the pinnacle of the voyage with its onion-domed churches in eye-popping technicolour, world-leading art collection and glittering palaces. A visa is required to leave the ship, which comes as part of any shore excursion. With the high crime rate in the city a group tour may be a safer option. There is poverty here as well as riches, and the information you are given on trips seems carefully curated to the point of being restricted in terms of some Russian history and current affairs.

The Winter Palace
The Winter Palace on a walking tour © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood
Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood © 2017 Louise Farquhar
St. Petersburg military
Russia’s military might on show as battleships and submarines line the river © 2017 Louise Farquhar
The Hermitage Museum
Crowds at The Hermitage Museum © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Touring the Hermitage Museum
Touring the Hermitage Museum © 2017 Louise Farquhar
St. Petersburg housing near cruise terminal
Standard housing near St. Petersburg cruise terminal © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Naval Defences
Naval Defences on Russian sail away © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Russian sea fort
Russian sea fort © 2017 Louise Farquhar

Warnemunde is a pleasant seaside town but has limited interest. The port is more beneficial as a starting point for Berlin excursions, which can be lengthy and expensive,  or trips to the nearby town of Rostock.

Warnemunde harbour
Warnemunde harbour © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Warnemunde house
Warnemunde house © 2017 Louise Farquhar
Warnemunde lighthouse
Warnemunde lighthouse © 2017 Louise Farquhar

And so after 14 wonderful days …

Sunset on the Baltic
The sun sets on the Baltic © 2017 Louise Farquhar

Viking Ocean – Trade Routes of the Middle Ages

The Viking Ocean Cruise line is a world-leader in luxury voyages focusing on cultural enrichment and authentic experiences. The Trade Routes of the Middle Ages itinerary traces medieval commercial trade routes and includes overnight stays in some of Europe’s most picturesque cities

Viking Ocean Trade Routes of the Middle Ages
Trade Routes of the Middle Ages

In 2018, the 15-day cruise, from Apr 14 – Apr 28, starts in Barcelona and ends in Bergen. En-route there are visits to Cartagena, Malaga, Porto, Paris, Falmouth, Portsmouth, Zeebrugge and Amsterdam.

Viking Ocean Cruise to Barcelona
Barcelona

An overnight stay in Barcelona allows time to discover this vibrant city; stroll down Las Ramblas boulevard, admire the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, watch a performance of flamenco, dine late over delicious traditional tapas.

Next, visit the historical city of Cartagena, rich with remarkable architecture spanning the ages. Highlights include the Roman Theatre and Roman Forum. Further afield there are trips to Murcia’s stunning Mar Menor, an inland sea formed by an accumulation of coastal sediment.

Viking Cruise Alhambra Palace
Alhambra Palace

In Andalusia, the stunning city of Granada is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, and easily reached from Malaga. The Alhambra Palace is a renowned example of Moorish architecture and one of Spain’s most significant historical sights.

Viking Ocean Aquavit Infinity Pool
Aquavit Infinity Pool

A day on the Atlantic Ocean, sailing through the famed Strait of Gibraltar into the Alboran Sea, is a scenic treat. It’s also a chance to sample the many onboard facilities, like the fabulous infinity pool.

Viking Ocean Porto
Porto

Porto, famous for exquisite wine, also has a beautiful historic quarter to explore.

Viking Ocean Snow Grotto
Snow Grotto

The second sea day gives invaluable time to relax. The Spa, Sauna and Snow Grotto are unique aspects of the Scandinavian Viking Cruise experience.

Viking Ocean HMS Victory
HMS Victory

Port calls in England include Falmouth, gateway to the dramatic county of Cornwall and famous as a backdrop of many films. Henry VIII built his Pendennis Castle here to defend his country from France and the Holy Roman Empire. Portsmouth is equally picturesque. Enjoy sailing between Napoleonic forts in the Solent Strait and passing stunning citadels at the harbor’s entrance. Then discover the city’s prestigious maritime past. This historic naval port houses such historic vessels as Henry VIII’s Tudor battleship Mary Rose and Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory.

Paris
Paris

Le Havre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the starting point for excursions to Paris. After a scenic drive through the Normandy countryside, the sights of the French capital await, whether that be a trip up the Eiffel Tower or a tour of Notre Dame Cathedral. If you already know Paris well, you might choose to visit the D-Day beaches or the pretty artists’ town of Honfleur instead.

Viking Ocean Cruise Amsterdam
Amsterdam

Visit the medieval city of Bruge. Walk the cobblestone streets, climb the towering belfry in the Market Square to see the guild houses and tree-shaded squares, and shop for lace and chocolate. Then onto Amsterdam, the celebrated city of canals and great works of art. You can see Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, in the excellent Rijksmuseum.

Viking Star Wintergarden
Wintergarden

Cruising the North Sea gives the chance to sit for a while in the lovely Wintergarden.

Viking Ocean Cruise Bergen
Bergen

Bergen, with its beautiful 18th-century wooden houses, is a delightful final destination. Visit the Hanseatic Museum or Troldhaugen, the home of Norway’s famous composer, Edvard Grieg.  For a great view over the city, take the funicular railway to the top of Mt. Ulriken.

Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon

‘Pre’ and ‘post’ cruise extensions are certainly worth considering, allowing you to gain a deeper insight into either Barcelona or Bergen, as well as Iceland. The latter choice offers four days in this fascinating country after docking in Bergen. Visit the capital city, Reykjavík, the hot springs and waterfalls of Thingvellir National Park and the legendary Blue Lagoon, a natural geothermal spa. All hotels, breakfasts and transfers are included.

Viking Star Atrium
Atrium

Viking Star is a 930 guest, all-veranda, adult-only ship. The all-inclusive experience includes shore excursions, wi-fi, all onboard meals as well as beer and wine with lunch and dinner, speciality restaurants, complimentary self-service laundry and 24-hour room service.

Viking Ocean Lanai
Lanai

Photos courtesy of www.vikingcruises.co.uk

Best River Cruise: Russian Volga with Viking

Viking River Cruise Volga Helgi
Helgi

Despite some political and social instability surrounding Russia, the region remains a popular and exciting river cruise destination. Tensions have led to a reduction in the number of cruise companies operating in the area, but some, most notably the world-leading Viking River Cruise line, still maintain a significant presence in the market. Their established Waterways of the Tsars is a 13-day tour from Moscow to St.Petersburg, or vice-versa, attracting adventurous travellers seeking to combine a safe and relaxing holiday with education and cultural interest.

A Viking cruise on the Volga, which is Europe’s longest river (3,690km) and Russia’s main waterway, reveals the real country, weaving together the authenticity of traditional villages and fairy-tale churches with bucket-list icons such as the Kremlin and Catherine Palace. This particular itinerary offers plenty of time in each of these magnificent cities, along with the option of pre/post cruise extension stays.

Viking River Cruise Uglich
Uglich

Viking, who started sailing in Russia in 1997, have a wealth of experience in the area and own their four vessels outright. The 204-passenger Akun, Helgi, Ingvar and Truvor are identical luxury vessels, refurbished to a high standard with a mix of stateroom classes and suites. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows offer panoramic river views. As expected of the largest river cruise line in the world, the Viking experience is exemplary with wonderful food and wine, elegant surrounding and discerning service.  Of special note is the inclusion of shore excursions, ensuring guests have the fullest experience on their voyage, with a great choice of curated trips and unique opportunities.

As well as visiting the main sights of Moscow and St.Petersburg, highlights on the Waterways of the Tsars include tea in the home of a Russian family in Uglich, a trip on the Moscow Metro, bathing in a traditional ‘banya’ Russian bath house and an evening of spellbinding Russian ballet.

Viking River Cruise Volga Map
Volga River Cruise

Photos courtesy of www.vikingrivercruises.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Best Cruises: Iceland

Following on from our feature on Iceland we pick our top cruises to the Land of Fire and Ice.

Windstar: Around Iceland Reykjavik to Reykjavik

Windstar Iceland Cruise
Iceland with Windstar

Windstar, the niche provider of yacht-style ultra-luxurious cruises, takes the graceful Star Legend to Iceland on a circumnavigational tour of this magical place. With the cruise line’s ethos firmly rooted in traditional sailing Windstar offer a unique perspective on Iceland; finding secluded bays and rarely seen wildlife, able to stay longer in special places, giving guests an authentic experience and real sense of the true Iceland. Although the Star Legend is a motorised vessel, with no masts or sails, it still has the intimacy of the original Windstar brand, offering a small-scale private-yacht experience. Equalling any exploration cruise in terms of accessing remote places, the Star Legend also carries passengers in total style and comfort.

Iceland Cruise Godafoss Waterfall
Godafoss

The trip, starting and finishing in Reykjavik, visits many geological wonders as well as the iconic Icelandic waterfalls, thermal waters and national parks. Highlights include Surtsey Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which rose from the sea in the 1960s making it one of the world’s youngest places and the Viking Sushi Experience where pristine seafood is caught and instantly prepared for guests onboard a small local fishing trawler as whales and sea-eagles glide and soar nearby. Departures in July and August 2017. www.windstarcruises.com

Lindblad Expeditions: A Circumnavigation of Iceland

Hurtigruten Iceland Cruise
Jokulsarlon glacier

This professional and well-rounded itinerary truly captures the drama, intrigue and history of Iceland as it takes guests on a ten-day voyage around the whole island. Visits to Reykjavik and the established (and busy) tourist sites on the famous Golden Circle tick obvious boxes but Lindblad, in keeping with their strong expedition focus, then seeks out the rugged western frontier and remote north-east coastline.

Lindblad Iceland Cruise
Blue Lagoon

Sailing on either the National Geographic Orion or the National Geographic Explorer, the curious and adventurous traveller experiences world-class field geology, expert-led hiking and kayaking, Zodiac tours of hidden places and surreal scenery. Iceland is a first-rate photography destination after all. Of course itineraries can change, sometimes due to the weather, but with Lindblad this is more often to take advantage of rare wildlife sightings or to linger over exceptional light. Expeditions are scheduled for July 2017 and June/July 2018. www.expeditions.com

Azamara: Fjords and Iceland Voyage

Azamara Iceland cruise
The Colours of Iceland

Azamara Journey embarks on a summer voyage to Iceland with stops in Denmark, Norway, The Faroe Islands, Scotland and England – it’s common for an Iceland cruise to incorporate visits to other Northern European destinations.  Three days are spent in Iceland, out of a total of twelve, with two of these docked in the lively and cosmopolitan capital, Reykjavik. This vibrant city is an excellent base to explore the waterfalls, geysers, lava fields and thermal waters of The Golden Circle; Iceland’s famous tourist trail.

Azamara Iceland cruise Akureyri
Akureyri

A further day is spent in Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city, where the unexpected botanical gardens are located. Two thousand species of native and foreign plants grow here, surprisingly without greenhouse cover despite the Arctic location. Departure date is July 2017. www.azamaraclubcruises.co.uk

Hurtigruten: The Elves, Sagas and Volcanoes of Iceland

Hurtigruten Cruise Iceland
Heimaey

With a heritage dating back to 1893 and widely regarded as a leader in Arctic exploration cruises, Hurtigruten is a popular choice for an Icelandic cruise. The Grand Arctic Traverse is a stunning nineteen-day voyage starting in the picturesque Lofoten Islands then travelling to the isolated island of Jan Mayen, followed by Iceland and finishing in Greenland. However, with only three days spent in Iceland, the alternative Elves, Sagas and Volcanoes of Iceland circumnavigates the island and is ideal for travellers seeking a comprehensive and exciting Icelandic experience.

Hurtigruten Iceland Cruise
Hornbjerg Cliff

MS Spitsbergen, a polar-class vessel, takes a full twelve days to sail around the coast. Itineraries are suggested only, with the final journey being determined en-route according to weather and opportunities – this is a true expedition cruise. As well as visits to the established thermal bathing sites and waterfalls, the captain usually stops at remote islands such as Siglufjörður and Grimsby, where guests can access wildlife and geological sites by Polarcirkel boats, and the Westman Islands which are famous for their volcanic activity and whale-spotting. Exploration cruises sail in June and July 2017. www.hurtigruten.co.uk

Images courtesy of Windstar, Lindblad, Azamara, Hurtigruten

Best Cruises: Autumn Mediterranean

Escape the crowds with a late-season cruise.

Crystal Serenity Sorrento Mediterranean Cruise
Crystal Serenity

The Mediterranean is one of the most established and enduringly popular cruise destinations in the world. This beautiful and diverse region stretches along the shorelines of Europe, Africa and Asia – bringing together many cultures and stunning scenery.

Mediterranean Cruise Florence
Florence

Cerulean sky, turquoise sea, superb beaches, Unesco World Heritage Sites, glittering casinos, lavender scented hillsides, pristine forests and of course … the food … enticed 220 million tourists here last year

Mediterranean Cruise Petra
Petra

But such ambrosia comes at a cost – the peak summer months draw huge crowds with most Europeans vacationing during July/August and families on school holidays travelling at that time too. Ports are congested and attractions swamped. Add stifling temperatures to the most expensive rates of the year and a summer Mediterranean cruise can start to lose its appeal. Instead, consider taking an autumn sailing. It’s a great alternative for those seeking a calmer experience, more comfortable weather and cheaper prices.

Viking Sky Cruise
Viking Ocean’s Cities of Antiquity & the Holy Land

Viking Ocean’s Cities of Antiquity & the Holy Land voyage sets sail in October 2017 on the brand new Viking Sky. This ‘grown-up’ cruise takes passengers on a 15-day journey from Athens to Rome, visiting many ancient and intriguing sites, especially in the culturally rich Eastern Mediterranean. Naples, gateway to Pompeii, and Crete, home of the legendary Minotaur are particular highlights, as well as stops in Israel and an overnight in Haifa which puts the holiest sites within reach: Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

Silver Wind Mediterranean Cruise
Silver Wind

Also this Autumn, Silversea sends the intimate and yacht-like Silver Wind on a 10-day voyage from Monte Carlo to Venice. This gold-standard Mediterranean cruise visits key sites with plenty of glamour, cultural gems and European romance. Helicopter tours from Monaco swoop over the dazzling Cote d’Azure, Livorno offers truffle hunting in the Tuscan countryside, private tours of The Vatican City can be booked in Rome, the ancient city of Pompeii is easily reached from Sorrento, Mount Etna beckons when stopping over in Sicily, Dubrovnik opens up the beautiful Elaphite Archipelago for exploration and a gondola serenade in Venice is the perfect ending to a wonderful Mediterranean experience.

Seven Seas Explorer Mediterranean Cruise
Seven Seas Explorer

The Regent Seven Seas Explorer raised the bar for new cruise ships when it launched in 2016. Offering ultimate luxury, impeccable service, ultra-modern technology and superb cuisine it’s a shame sea days are so few and far between when cruising the Mediterranean on this vessel. This year it travels on a Western Mediterranean odyssey from Rome to Barcelona later in the season. The 14-day trip calls at the classic cruise ports of Rome, Pisa, Monte Carlo, Sorrento and Palermo as well as visiting the gorgeous Balearic Islands, Sardinia, Corsica and the fabulous Spanish cities of Valencia and Barcelona.

Seabourn Encore Mediterranean Cruise
Seabourn Encore leaves Venice on Mediterranean Cruise

Seabourn’s Autumn Isles is perhaps the ultimate late season Mediterranean cruise. 20-days of blissful travel on the brand new and totally stunning, Seabourn Encore. Leaving from Barcelona, the trip journeys at a gentle pace to the idyllic Balearics, Corsica and Sardinia taking in ultra-glamorous stopovers in legendary St.Tropez and Monaco. Cultural visits to Rome, Florence and Amalfi add interest and the chance to tick off those ‘bucket-list’ destinations. There’s even a whole day of scenic cruising – an unexpected and rare treat on a Mediterranean cruise.

Azamara Journey Mediterranean Cruise
Azamara Journey

For a taste of the exotic, Azamara’s 17-night Route of the Frankincense follows the ancient spice traders from Europe’s oldest city, Piraeus in Greece, all the way to the futuristic Dubai. The archaeological wonders of Athens including the Acropolis, Parthenon, and Temple of Olympian Zeus are early stops before traversing the Suez Canal for an overnight in Luxor. Sailing the legendary Red Sea leads to Jordan and the chance to visit Petra, an ancient city carved into the side of the Nabateans mountain. Oman and Dubai bring the trip up to the modern day.

Crystal Serenity Venice Mediterranean Cruise
Crystal Serenity in Venice

If the Dalmatian Coast is on your ‘must-see’ list then Crystal’s Adriatic Adventure this September may prove irresistible. The 7-day round-trip on Crystal Serenity from Venice takes in Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia and Corfu for one dazzlingly beautiful day after another. Medieval towns, serene beaches, ancient ruins and, of course, the romance of grand Italian canals offer a truly unforgettable Autumnal cruise.

Spice routes Eastern Mediterranean Cruise
Spice routes of the Eastern Mediterranean

 

Photos courtesy of  Viking CruisesSilverseaRegent Seven SeasSeabournCrystal Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises

 

 

 

Cool Places: Kirkwall – Gateway to the Orkney Islands

 

Orkney Cruise Sea Cliffs

The Orkney archipelago is a place of magic and mystery; a stunning coastal landscape steeped in ancient history.

Orkney Cruise Brough of Birsay

The chain of 70 islands, separated from Scotland’s rugged north coast by the formidable Pentland Firth, are grassy-green and flat-topped. Rich in marine life and seabird colonies, the islands are also home to a wealth of prehistoric sites, standing stones, Viking relics and sunken warships.

Orkney Cruise Ships Kirkwall

The majority of Orcadians live on the ‘Mainland’ which is the largest island, centred around the bustling town of Kirkwall where most cruise ships arrive. Others have homes on a few outlying islands, with enchanting names like Sanday and Papa Westray, accessible by ferry or small plane, although most islands are uninhabited.

Orkney Hurtigruten Cruise ship

Cruise ships generally drop anchor in Kirkwall harbour, bringing guests ashore by tender, or berth at nearby Hatston Pier, a short 2.5 miles from town, accessible by complimentary shuttle bus.

Orkney Cruise St Magnus Cathedral

The St. Magnus Cathedral is Kirkwall’s most significant landmark. Built in 1137 and dedicated to the martyred Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney, this is the most northerly cathedral in the UK and owned by the people of Orkney themselves. The Highland Park Distillery is located on the outskirts of Kirkwall. The superb visitor centre has fascinating and fun tours showing how this famous Orcadian whisky is made – and offers a welcome nip of the amber nectar too.

Orkney Cruise Skara Brae

Orkney is world-renowned for the number and quality of ancient sites it hosts and cruise ship passengers can easily see several of them in one day. Local guides offer comprehensive tours and car rental is readily available for visitors who prefer the independence of self-discovery. The most prominent site, and an absolute must-see, is Skara Brae on the western side of the main island. This Neolithic site, uncovered by a fierce storm in 1850, is one of the best-preserved in Western Europe and transports visitors back 5000 years.

Orkney Cruise Churchill Barriers

The Ring of Brodgar, The Standing Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe are a trio of established historical sites clustered near to Kirkwall and easily enjoyed on a return journey from Skara Brae. Ness of Brodgar, a current archaeological dig, is ongoing beside these sites and visitors are welcome to view the excavations from a platform overlooking the site.

Orkney Cruise Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar stone circle, with 36 megaliths and over a dozen burial mounds, is older than Stonehenge and dates back to the 3rd Millennium BC.

Orkney Cruise Maeshowe Orkney

The chambered tomb of Maeshowe, dating back around 5000 years, is one of the finest examples in Europe. A narrow passageway, lined with huge slabs of Orcadian stone, leads to a large chamber perfectly aligned with the winter solstice which illuminates the tomb at the setting sun. In the 12th century, Viking raiders broke into Maeshowe and their runic graffiti is easily seen on the walls.

Orkney Cruise Stones of Stenness

Nearby, the Standing Stones of Stenness, again dating back 5000 years, encircle a large hearth and are mystically beautiful.

Orkney Cruise Tomb of the Eagles

Another Neolithic chambered tomb, The Tomb of the Eagles, was discovered on South Ronaldsay by a local farmer in the 1950s. Thousands of human bones were found inside, along with the remains of white-tailed sea eagles and artefacts of the time. Walking tours describe this interesting story in depth, taking visitors along the cliff path to the tomb and then showing some of the items recovered in the visitor centre.

Orkney Cruise Churchill Barriers

Orkney played an important strategic role in WWII and visitors to the islands can see the impressive Churchill Barriers, built to protect the British fleet while anchored in Scapa Flow.

Orkney Cruise Italian Chapel

The causeways link several small islands and lead to the intricate and beautiful Italian Chapel. Italian POWs, who were in Orkney constructing the Churchill Barriers, adapted a plain prion hut into an intimate chapel complete with stunning Italian artwork.

Orkney Cruise Stromness

Stromness,on the West Mainland, is Orkney’s second largest town and a popular port for smaller vessels. The quaint cobbled streets lead visitors to the excellent Pier Arts Centre, famous writer George Mackay Brown’s Memorial Garden and another poignant memorial, this time in honour of Orcadian explorer John Rae who is credited with finding the final portion of the North West Passage.

Orkney Cruise Tall Ship

Viking, Silversea, Crystal, Seabourn and Hebridean Island Cruises are due to visit Orkney in 2017.

Photos courtesy of Cruise Orkney

 

New River Cruise Ships for 2017 – Crystal Bach

River Cruise Crystal Bach

June 2017 sees the launch of Crystal Bach, one of four new luxury river yachts being introduced and an integral part of Crystal’s ambitious evolution to become ‘The World’s Most Luxurious Hospitality and Lifestyle Brand Portfolio™’.

River Cruise Itinerary Crystal Bach

The all-balcony, all-suite ship accommodates 106 guests on tours of the Rhine and Moselle rivers, taking in spectacular UNESCO sites, historical towns, hilltop castles and terraced vineyards.

crystal river cruise

Voyages include a Crystal Signature Event in Amsterdam where guests are treated to a complimentary exclusive concert at the Royal Concertgebouw, considered one of the finest concert halls in the world. Guests will tour the theater’s great hall, which is famous for its superb acoustics; then enjoy a private performance of master works in various genres in the charming “Kleine Zaal,” or the “Spiegelzaal,” two of the hall’s more intimate Baroque venues.

River Cruise Crystal Bach

Public spaces are conveniently located on a single deck, with the impressive glass-domed Palm Court as a focal point.

Crystal Bach Petite Suite River Cruise

Suite are offered as Petite, River or the ultimate Crystal, ranging in size from 188 sq.ft. to 759 sq.ft. with premium butler service. Features include king-size beds, panoramic windows, walk-in wardrobes, bathrooms with double vanities, ETRO robes and slippers, wall-mounted flat-screen HD TVs and Nespresso machines.

Crystal Bach River Cruise Dining

Dining centres around farm-to-table, Michelin-inspired cuisine in multiple, open-seating eateries: the elegant Waterside Restaurant, namesake Bistro cafés and the exclusive Vintage Room; and the Palm Court.

Crystal Bach River Cruise Pool Spa

Additional noteworthy amenities include a well-appointed fitness centre, luxurious spa and complimentary use of electric bikes, watercrafts and kayaks.

Photos courtesy of Crystal

www.crystalcruises.com