A cruise in Northern Europe perennially tops lists of favorite destinations for North American travelers. Anyone who has been there looks forward to returning one day, and those who have not yet made the voyage dream of going.
There are plenty of good reasons for this popularity. This is a prosperous and sophisticated corner of the world with great cities, rugged landscapes and architecture that encompasses modern masterpieces as well as ancient churches and castles. There aren't many places on earth richer in history than the countries of Northern Europe, and of course, the art, music and literature of this region form a large part of the cultural fabric of the western world.
What can I do on a Northern Europe cruise?
There are basically three types of cruises to Northern Europe.
Baltic Sea Cruises
A cruise through the Baltic Sea to the great capitals of Northern Europe can pose a challenge by having to choose among the many fabulous sightseeing opportunities. Each city is filled with hundreds of museums, stunning royal palaces, historic architecture, and begs you to walk every block with your camera ready. One of the best ways to cover all the city highlights in just a few hours is to take one the many narrated tours available, and then return to those places of special interest.
Copenhagen is a great walking city, and its canals provide a unique perspective and an enjoyable way to tour. One of the most popular attractions here is the famed Tivoli Gardens. In Helsinki you will be amazed at the melding of historical and ultra-modern architecture, and you'll be taken back in time 1000 years when you visit the Viking capital of Oslo. Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and is the home to an incredible 600-room royal palace. Named in honor of Peter the Great, St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum holds an encyclopedic collection of art, and is a must-see, even for just a few hours. The medieval city of Tallinn is remarkably unchanged since it was founded in 1154 with narrow cobblestone streets and gabled houses, and the port city of Gdansk is another medieval attraction with a vibrant market area. Formerly divided, the city of Berlin has undergone continual change and now been united into one of today's most vital centers of art and culture.
Norwegian Fjords Cruises
If there were no fjords; the coastline of Norway would only be 1,700 miles. But when you measure the shoreline created by these deep gorges, the total is over 13,000 miles long. It also becomes one of the most ideal spots to explore by sea.
In striking contrast to the cosmopolitan Europe most people think of, the Norwegian Fjordland is dotted with tiny cities, pristine hamlets and charming fishing villages against a backdrop of towering mountains, sweeping glaciers and rushing waterfalls. The ports of call all along the western coast of Norway and north above the Arctic Circle are former Viking strongholds and boast long summer days and cool temperatures.
One of the most popular adventures in every port is the escorted hiking tours that take you through the lush countryside past rushing waterfalls and fields of wildflowers. One of the best takes place in Geiranger where you can walk right up to Birksdalen Glacier and enjoy lunch at a Norwegian Inn. In Flam, take a steep ride almost 3,000 feet into the mountains on a narrow gauge railroad for a fabulous photo excursion. And in every town the center of activity are the busy waterfronts. Here you'll find fish and flower markets, museums, churches and the tidy homes and gardens that make an enjoyable and leisurely independent walking tours in the pleasant temperatures.
British Isles and Ireland Cruises
Where else can you find 5 countries with their own distinct variety of
cultures compiled into two islands (two islands that are smaller in size than
the state of California)? So much culture is packed into Ireland and the British
Isles, which is why the area attracts millions of visitors every year.
The most popular ports to visit in Ireland are Cork and Dublin. In Cork,
tourists take the time to venture to the Blarney Castle where they can take part
in the tradition of kissing the Blarney Stone for the gift of eloquence. Dublin,
Ireland's capital, is full of estates, gardens, museums, and exhibits. Dublin is
an epicenter for the history of Ireland; rich historical examples of almost
every era can be found in the city, timelining beyond St. Patricks Cathedral
which was built in the 3rd century. Your stop in Northern Ireland will leave you
in proximity of the Botanic Gardens Park, Irish Linen Center, Grand Opera House,
and Trust's Crown Liquor Saloon.
In Scotland, you can search for the phantom
Loch Ness Monster, visit the Orkney Islands to traverse among the white-sand
beaches, wave-breaking 1,000 foot cliffs, and concentrated prehistoric sites, or
fill an entire day castle-hopping. A stop in Wales will give you the opportunity
to take a breather and enjoy the beautiful landscape and visit the many national
parks. Walk through England, the land of America's forefathers and visit all the
famous sites of London and the cities surrounding the area. The sites that are
pictured on postcards - Buckingham Palace, Southampton Maritime Museum, Big Ben,
Westminister Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square to just scratch the
Where do Northern Europe cruises go?
The most popular Northern European itinerary sails through the Baltic Sea and visits the capital cities of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, along with St. Petersburg, Russia. Other ports of call along the northern European mainland are sometimes also included. It is common to find the ships sailing round-trip from Southampton or Dover, which are convenient to London. But round-trip Copenhagen itineraries can also be found and are very convenient to this part of Europe.
- St. Petersburg
Some itineraries in Northern Europe concentrate on the Norwegian Fjords and may even visit Iceland or Greenland. The following are the ports of call along the west coast of Norway and beyond. Again, these cruises generally depart from and return to Southampton, Dover or Copenhagen.
When can I go on a Northern Europe Cruise?
The latitude in Northern Europe limits favorable cruising conditions to the Baltic and Norwegian Fjords to the height of the summer season in June, July and August.
How do I get there?
Most cruises to Northern Europe range between 7 and 14 nights, and usually depart from Southampton or Dover, which are the port cities closest to London. Some may event depart from Copenhagen or Stockholm. Air departures from the US usually leave late in the afternoon and fly overnight to arrive in Europe early the following morning, which adds an additional day to the trip.
Almost all major cruise lines offer cruises to Northern Europe including Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Radisson Seven Seas, Oceania Cruises, Seabourn, Cunard Line, Silversea, Costa Cruises and Windstar.