Cruise holidays are a great way to see as many new and exciting places as you can in a relatively short space of time. By day you’ll be enjoying front row seats to some of the finest natural scenery in the world. As night falls and you slumber away, dreaming of what adventures await, the ship will be steadily making its way to the next stop on the itinerary, ready for when you wake up the next morning.
You can reach places inaccessible by land too, and be rewarded with spectacular sights from the water that all the land-lubbers will be missing. If you’re after a stress-free holiday with plenty of sightseeing and scrumptious food that’s already included in the price, then a cruise may be just what you’re looking for.
Here are some of top cruising destinations to put on your list, all chosen for their incredible beauty and unique shore experiences. Which will you try first?
One of the most classical cruise holidays is along the coast of Norway, exploring the dramatic fjords and stopping off in the colourful shore towns. In fact, if you want to get up close and personal with the plunging cliffs and hanging valley waterfalls, going on a cruise really is the best way to realise those dreams!
Keep your camera handy as you sail into Sognefjord, the deepest sea inlet in all of Norway. Located in Vestland, this king of fjords stretches a whopping 205 kilometres inland, with jaw-dropping scenery on all sides. Another much-anticipated location is the UNESCO site of Geirangerfjord, where waterfalls seem to tumble straight from the sky, casting rainbows across the shimmering blue inlet. Steep cliff faces are punctuated by pockets of green mountainside, where grass-roofed cabins perch majestically overlooking the fjord. A visit here is like immersing yourself in a fairy tale!
Popular shore excursions on holidays with providers like the Ambassador Cruise Line include the city of Bergen in the very heart of the fjordlands. Red and white houses cling to the hillsides, and the historic centre is full of charm and small-town character. You can walk in the footsteps of Vikings in Stavanger and Haugesund, or hike to the iconic Pulpit Rock for the best views overlooking the picturesque Lysefjord.
Cruising in Norway isn’t all about the summer either, although there is something special about sailing in the land of the midnight sun. The landscape takes on a whole new look during the winter months, with snow-dusted peaks and of course the famous northern lights, which are frequently spotted off the coast between October and March. Your chances of seeing the aurora borealis dancing across the night skies in greens and pinks are fairly high if you’re on a multi-day voyage, as you have plenty of time on board to keep watch.
Some of the places in Scotland are incredibly tricky and time consuming to reach by road, especially some of the more remote coastal regions and of course the islands. To explore the Western Isles, Orkney, or even Shetland, you’ll need to factor in a ferry to your journey logistics, which just makes the whole travel experience a little more complicated and stressful.
If you want to explore the hidden coastal gems of Scotland in style, then opt for a cruising holiday, which takes in all of the major highlights. Many journeys favour the enchanting Isle of Skye with a stop at the pretty town of Portree where pastel-painted houses line the charming harbour. Shore excursions here can include visits to the pinnacles of the Old Man of Storr, a tour of Dunvegan Castle, and even a stop at the mysteriously named Fairy Pools.
Meanwhile up in Orkney you can sip drams of whisky at a famous distillery, and visit ancient settlements and stone circles to learn about the fascinating history of these remote, and often rather desolate islands. Invergordon is another fun stop, where you can pay your respects to fallen warriors at the Culloden battlefield, pop down to see if you can spot the infamous and elusive monster in Loch Ness, or do some shopping in Inverness.
You know the saying, “Iceland is green, and Greenland is Ice”? Well, it’s true, which means Greenland is a very challenging country to explore by land. Those who do venture to its exhilarating shores will be rewarded with panoramas unlike any other in the world, and photo opportunities that will have cameras working in overdrive.
Unless you’re up for a rugged mountaineering expedition through the interior, the only way to experience Green land is on a cruise. Of course you’ll be sailing past hidden gems that can’t be reached on foot, as well as having all the hassle taken out of transportation and logistics.
You might recognize the picture-postcard town of Qaqortoq from travel magazines and TV documentaries. This well documented but little-visited spot is the epitome of a small coastal Greenland town, with houses in all colours of the rainbow spread out across the undulating terrain. There’s a museum you can visit to discover more about the local culture, and several trails that lead to stunning viewpoints over the bay.
Meanwhile Greenland’s capital city, Nuuk, is the gateway to some of the best fjordlands in the country, where waterfalls and whales are a common occurrence. Pop into the National Museum to see mummies and learn about the realities of living in the Arctic.
Get wrapped up in your warmest woollies as you sail into Ilulissat Icefjord, with lies 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. At the head of the fjord is the Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the most active glaciers on earth. You may see calving at the head of the glacier, where huge chunks of ice cliff break away and come crashing down into the sea. It’s a poignant reminder of climate change, and a spine-tingling event that you’ll remember for years to come. Watch out for icebergs floating in the fjord as you navigate back towards the ocean to continue your epic Greenland adventures.
Have you been on a cruising holiday? Tell us about your favourite locations in the comments below.