Europe is one of the most popular parts of the world which Australians venture to for their cruise holidays, and according to official industry statistics, this is growing further. But when many people think of European cruising, destinations such as Venice, Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul and Copenhagen spring to mind.
However if you’re the type that goes in search of those off-the-beaten-track experiences, the continent is also home to a wide variety of small ship expeditions which take guests well away from the popular tourist haunts & into parts of the continent travellers rarely tread. In doing so, these adventurers enjoy sights and sounds far removed from traditional Europe.
Expedition cruising is almost be definition an experience which is generally synonymous with regions of the world such as Antarctica and the Arctic Circle, the Kimberley, the Amazon River, Alaska and other far-reaches of the planet. It’s generally not so closely associated with parts of Europe, but this is exactly how Lindblad Expeditions has managed to design a series of itineraries in the continent which delivers travellers into hugely remote bays, coves, rivers and waterways. Here, we’ll take a look at some of Europe’s most remote corners.
Which ship? On its expeditions in Scotland, Lindblad Expeditions charters the 48-passenger small vessel Lord of the Glens, which is specially adapted to cruise close to the coast as it ventures around the starkly rural parts of the country, such as the Caledonian Canal or the Inner Hebrides, which provides access to some colourful and remote villages by the sea. Guests can enjoy off-ship experiences such as kayaking in Loch Ness, visit the Isle of Iona and the Isles of Mull, Eigg and Skye.
The ship is comfortably furnished with rich mahogany as well as teak and brass. The line describes it as something of a stately British manor on the water. All cabins are outward facing and feature windows or portholes, with a community room and dining room onboard.
Itineraries: Travellers can explore this part of the world on the eight-day ‘Scotland’s Highlands and Islands’ itinerary, which travel round-trip from Inverness – a regional centre in northern Scotland which can be easily reached by air. Expeditions are quite limited in their frequency and operate only during the warmer months of June, July and August. Fares start from $9,190 per person twin share.
Which ship? Very different to anything else operated by Lindblad Expeditions, guests on the company’s Mediterranean itineraries may find themselves sailing on the masted Marjorie Merriweather Post sailing yacht Sea Cloud, which was built way back in 1931 but still sails today in first-rate condition, lovingly operated by a crew contingent of 16. The ship caters to 58 guests over 28 outside cabins, while the original owner’s cabins are also used, including marble bathrooms and even a fireplace.
The top decks are fitted today with plenty of lounges and places to relax and watch the crew work, while the dining room is set up to host regular black-tie galas, but this is not part of the casual Lindblad Expeditions style.
Itineraries: Three different itineraries are available to Lindblad guests in the Mediterranean, operating in May, June, July, August and September – the peak European summer. Sailing on such a majestic vessel, fares are high, with the 15-day ‘Voyage to Antiquity’ from Valletta, Malta around Sicily to Athens, starting from $24,250 per person twin share.
Also on offer is the 11-day ‘Greece to the Dalmatian Coast’ cruise, which starts at $15,260 per person twin share. This one-way cruise moves between Athens and Dubrovnik, Croatia, stopping in remote ports along the way such as Korčula, Kotor and Olympic, among others.
A shorter eight-day ‘Sailing the Greek Isles’ itinerary sailing round-trip from Athens is also available, with rates starting from $11,540 per person twin share. This tour takes guests around some of the smaller Greek Islands such as Tinos, Amórgos and Sifnos.
British & Irish Isles
Which ship? Heralded as the flagship of the Lindblad fleet, the National Geographic Explorer is one of only two wholly owned (non-chartered) vessels exploring Europe – the other being the National Geographic Orion. Much larger than its Scottish and Greek counterparts, Explorer looks after 148 passengers over 81 cabins, of which 13 include a balcony. It is also equipped with all of the exploration equipment needed to make the experience.
The ship features a bistro bar which serves hot coffees and drinks throughout the day, and guests are often found in the observation lounge. Guests can also visit the Captain in the bridge at their leisure. It even has a fitness centre, massage centre and spa.
Itineraries: The flagship vessel operates a typically flagship itinerary in the form of a complete 18-day ‘England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales Circumnavigation’. This voyage sails in April and May each year and is priced from $22,970 per person twin share. Much of the terrain visited on the lap of the British Isles is rugged and difficult to access by food or other modes of land transport.
Guests visit Lindisfarne, Iona, Skellig Michael, board zodiacs for a cruise just off the Cliffs of Mohr and visit parts of the land inhabited since Stone Age times. The itinerary itself runs from Edinburgh, Scotland and heads south, all the way around before ending with a visit to the Shetland Islands and disembarking in Bergen, Norway.
A wide number of additional itineraries ranging in duration from 8-15 days are operated by National Geographic Orion along the French Atlantic Coast, into the Norwegian Fjords, Scandinavia, Portugal & Spain and many other parts of Europe. More information about these expeditions can be found HERE.