Travel insights from VAX VacationAccess
Ocean cruises have a long-standing reputation for taking travelers to remarkable destinations, all while giving them leisure and luxury. But now, with the ability to share Instagram-worthy photos, travelers are looking for exotic landscapes and unique experiences, giving cruise operators the perfect opportunity to expand and diversify their offerings, which is exactly what they’re doing. More recently, cruise itineraries have been featuring remote and unfrequented destinations, places that cruisers might not have the chance to see on their own. So if your clients are looking for new and unexpected destinations to visit, check out these three unforgettable European cruises.
Viking Cruises, Along Africa’s Western Shores: Durban to London
Ok, so maybe this cruise doesn’t start in Europe, but it ends there and all of the ports along the way are well-worth stopping at. This 29-day cruise begins in Durban, South Africa where cruisers will have the opportunity to explore the largest city in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. They can embark on shore excursions such as a hot air balloon ride above the African wilderness, a hike through Oribi Gorge, sightseeing tours of Durban, philanthropic excursions and game reserve tours. They’ll make stops in East London and Port Elizabeth, South Africa before cruising the Indian Ocean for a two-day stay in Cape Town. It goes without saying that Cape Town is a natural wonder. Cruisers can experience the beauty with shore excursions like wine tasting in Stellenbosch, hiking Table Mountain or riding on the back of a Harley-Davidson for an unforgettable coastal drive. After all, how many people can say they’ve done that? Cruisers will then make stops in Lüderitz and Walvis Bay, Namibia and Dakar, Senegal before heading to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is a port city on the island of Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands (hello, wine and picturesque landscapes!).
Tenerife is home to Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its other-worldly terrain. Cruisers can get active by exploring the park, taking a walk through the capital of Santa Cruz for a cultural experience or exploring the Pyramids of Güímar and the Esperanza Forest by way of a guided tour. Oh, and if they want to experience a cinematic view, recommend a scenic drive through Northern Tenerife (cue that romantic Ed Sheeran song). With Morocco next on the list, cruisers can get a taste of life in Casablanca, where they can visit the Hassan II Mosque, learn about the religious diversity prevalent throughout the country and see the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Mazagan and El Jadida, which are home to landmarks that date back to the 1500’s. And, as the cruise comes to an end, cruisers will stop in Vigo, Spain, sight-see through the English Channel and dock in London for two final days of exploring museums, palaces and gardens. Even though this cruise takes almost a month, there is so much to see, do and experience that anyone with the time and means should hop on board.
Windstar Cruises, Scandanavia and Baltic Spectacular
It’s all in a name, right? And spectacular pretty much sums this cruise up. Although much shorter, and perhaps more doable for the typical traveler than the first cruise option, this seven-day cruise is every bit as noteworthy. Cruisers will depart for their journey in Stockholm, Sweden, which is about as far away from a traditional beach vacation as you can get. From there, they will set sail to the Baltic Sea, stopping in Mariehamn, Finland where cruisers can explore the Island of Åland by foot, car or bike. Some of the must-sees are the Russian fortress of Bomarsund; Jan Karlsgården, which is an open-air museum portraying farm life in the 1800s; and the church of Sund, built in 1280. If those activities aren’t enough to transport travelers back in time, then recommend they check out the wooden houses that became a staple of 1900s Finland.
Cruisers will then head to Tallinn, Estonia, a destination known for its stunning medieval architecture, modern cafes and Nordic food. In Tallinn, cruisers can experience why the Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and be sure they visit the towers that date back to the 13-15 centuries, the medieval guild houses and the Holy Ghost Church. Again, cruisers will have plenty of excursions to choose from, such as “Old Town with Estonian Folklore and Food Tasting,” which gives insight into Estonia’s musical traditions and takes travelers past the National Opera, Freedom Square and the Parliament of Estonia. Another historical and unique option is the “Concierge Collection: Soviet Flashback.” During this excursion, cruisers will be onboard an “authentic soviet bus,” where they can listen to Soviet propaganda, enjoy beverages with pickles, see the unfinished bridge to Finland (which is a monument to World War II), listen to stories about Soviet life and visit the site of the Moscow Olympics. But if cruisers choose this excursion, they better be prepared to role-play, as the guide will demonstrate how foreign tourists were welcomed into the USSR: think along the lines of “suspicious interviewing.”
Next is St. Petersburg for two days to explore the cultural center of Russia. While in St. Petersburg, cruisers should visit the Hermitage Museum to view rare collections of Scythian and Greek gold and a 3-section collection of jewelry that was collected over two centuries, referred to as the ”The Treasure Gallery” by Catherine the Great. The museum also houses the “Gold of Nomads,” which are pieces from the Black Sea, Northern Caucasus and Western Siberia that date back to the seventh through fourth centuries. Cruisers also shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Russian Ballet, the city’s Bronze Horseman statue, the Winter Palace and the Peter and Paul Fortress. Then travelers will head to Helsinki, Finland for activities like Finnish food tastings or kayaking the Finnish archipelago, and then they’ll wrap up the cruise in Copenhagen, Denmark, where they shouldn’t miss the perfect photo-ops of those colorful, crooked houses.
Oceania Cruises, Portraits of Europe: Lisbon to Rome
This cruise departs from Lisbon, Portugal, and even though cruisers will only be there for one day, they should get there early enough to make sure they experience the beauty and authenticity of the capital city. Not to mention, Portugal is becoming a top destination for travel, as more and more people are looking for those exceptional yet rare locations. Before hopping on the ship, cruisers should make sure to visit the Belém Tower, Săo Jorge Castle and Jerónimos Monastery. And if there’s enough time, travelers should take the train up to Fátima, which is recognized worldwide for the reports of Virgin Mary appearances to three shepherd children in 1917.
After departing for the journey, cruisers set sail to the North Atlantic and head south to Huelva Spain – another lesser-known paradise. In fact, what’s so great about this cruise is that so many of the stops are in must-see countries, but are in the quieter areas that don’t receive as much attention. From Huelva, cruisers will make stops in Malaga and Alicante before heading to Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona. In Palma de Mallorca, cruisers will be living the life of extravagance as they explore this resort island, known for its beautiful blue waters. For a truly memorable experience, recommend excursions like a hiking Banyalbufar or watching a Flamenco show while eating traditional tapas.
Next on the cruise itinerary are Saint-Tropez in France and then Monte Carlo in Monaco. Talk about luxury. In these spots, the views will be stunning. And the cities? Charming, to say the least. Cruisers will want to make sure they get out and explore and visit local wineries. To finish the cruise, the ship will head to Italy, with stops in Portofino, the Livorno region (Florence, Pisa, Tuscany) and Rome. In these final destinations, make sure your clients check out Michelangelo’s David, the Uffizi Gallery and the Tuscan countryside before heading home to reflect on what an unforgettable experience they had.
And remember, not only are cruisers getting to visit unfrequented locations with these top three cruises, but they are given itineraries and options to help them make the most of these uncharted paths.
Contact us to book your next European cruise.