Australians cruising in Europe tend to favour longer itineraries or back-to-back cruises, usually due to the distance they are travelling for their holiday. And if you’ve cruised in the continent before, searching for one which doesn’t double up or repeat ports can be a struggle.
With this in mind, and the fact Europe has some of the highest port repeat rates of any cruise region, cruise lines have been embracing some exciting new itineraries for the forthcoming 2017 European summer season. There are exciting times on the horizon too – some will head for new countries on Mediterranean itineraries – such as Algeria, while others will focus on what seems to be the hottest destination in the world right now – Iceland.
We’ve cast our eye across the hottest (and coolest) of the new European itineraries to catch your eye for next year’s cruise holiday.
The best of Europe’s West Coast (9 days)
Windstar Cruises (Wind Surf) – Departures from June 2017
Sailing on the world’s largest traditional sailing ship Wind Surf, this boutique 310-passenger vessel begins its itinerary in Portugal’s capital city Lisbon before heading north to the city of Porto. A day in the Roman-Spanish enclaves of Vigo and El Ferrol (A tip – make the effort to visit the city’s old Magdalena neighbourhood for a back roads look at life in the city) enchant guests prior to the only day at sea on this voyage.
Relax and use the ship’s delightful yacht-like features and five-star dining as the masted ship traverses the Atlantic Ocean. A call to Brest in France’s Brittany region is an exciting change of pace from the Iberian Peninsula, with local Welsh and Cornish influencing the first taste of Celtic life on the voyage. Here you can tour Brest’s famed castle – the oldest active military institution in the world.
If the Celtic influences of Brest have sparked a curiosity for all things British Isles, the next ports of call will have you transfixed. Off the coast of Cornwall, the Isle of Scilly will showcase some of the most pristine environments in the southern United Kingdom. Moving north to Ireland’s oldest city, guests will find Waterford a mesmerising start to their visit. This town is home to the brand of crystal bearing the same name and one of Ireland’s oldest continuously operating pubs – T&H Doolans, which has been welcoming guests for over 300 years.
Guests will finally disembark in Dublin, Ireland’s largest city and home to institutions such as the Guinness Storehouse and Trinity College. It’s also a great city to add on a few extra days.
Off the Beaten Med (12 days)
Holland America Line (MS Westerdam) – Departures from July.
Starting just outside of the Eternal City of Rome, guests aboard Westerdam will explore ports usually left only to much smaller ships.
Livorno and Monte Carlo are the most “normal” of the ports on offer. With calls to France’s Saint Raphael making for a great starting point, this itineraries also calls in a wide selection of French towns such as St. Tropez and Cannes.
The French island of Corsica is next and awaits guests as they discover the town of Ajaccio and its range of local providores and vineyards. Saluting its Moorish past, the Iberian port of Almeria offers a variety of sights and sounds to behold, from Alcazaba Palace to the old town’s street performers. Its Arabian heritage is impressed upon the town, so guests will get a chance to sample both the old and new world in this town.
Quickly moving you back into the old world, Ceuta in Spanish Morocco sits within view of Gibraltar, yet could just as easily be on the other end of Africa. Ceuta is virtually a world away from the rest of the stunning ports on this voyage, and serves up a fusion of Spanish and Moroccan cultures. The cruises ends with calls to Sete, Marseille and Barcelona for a Catalonian ending, for the perfect way to discover the back “roads” of the Mediterranean.
The European Capitals (11 days)
Princess Cruises (Caribbean Princess) – Departures from April.
Paris, Berlin, Dublin and Brussels – if you know Europe, these are four cities you might not expect to see in one cruise, however Princess Cruises has bucked conventional wisdom and designed this very thing in the form of an 11-day itinerary, all setting sail from another European capital in London – well, Southampton to be precise.
On top of all the key highlights in each of these cities, this itinerary also offers up the British island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. The Irish port of Cork is also on the itinerary, with a visit to Blarney Castle high on most agendas, with the castle and Cork considered the entry to “Romantic Ireland”.
For those less romantically inclined, another option might be to take a trip to the Lakes of Killarney, a beautiful Irish mountain range intertwined with crystal lakes. Rotterdam in the Netherlands rounds out the remaining ports of call on this itinerary, with the city’s attractions such as The Hague and Royal Delft Museum and post war architecture a contrast to the other cities offered on this itinerary.
Returning to London, this voyage is a great option for those wishing to combine a European cruise with a stay either side in the the United Kingdom.
Spain & Morocco (12 days)
Cunard Line (Queen Victoria) – Multiple departure dates scheduled.
If your holiday time is a little more limited and you must travel in the Australian summer, Cunard has an option which allows you to combine a trip from the United Kingdom in winter while not subjecting yourself to the brutal northern winter.
Sailing due south, this voyage transits the Bay of Biscay along the western coast of France before arriving in the Spanish port of La Coruña. Guests then continue to Tangiers, Morocco to go shopping in the Souk or visit the Kasbah Museum in the former Sultan’s palace.
Valencia and Cartagena follow over the next few days prior to a stop in the British territory of Gibraltar. For breathless views, take the cable car up to the Pillar of Hercules, where local Barbary Apes populate the highest point in the territory. There’s over 600 species of flowers growing around this part of the island, which combine to create quite the fragrant reception for visitors.
Keep an eye out as you sail away from Gibraltar, as the white cliffs and the palm, pine and cypress trees make for a captivating final image. A call into the Portuguese capital of Lisbon rounds out the voyage, with two relaxing sea days thrown in before arriving in Southampton.
Canary Islands and Casablanca (12 days)
MSC Cruises (MSC Magnifica) – Departing year-round.
An opportunity to sail aboard the stunning MSC Magnifica before its Australian debut is an opportunity that should be seized.
It’s a stunning ship on which you can spend your nights and sea days on and does a great job of complimenting the destinations it visits. And when that destination is the Canary Islands, the two combine to make a holiday that takes some reckoning to top.
Embarking in Genoa, Italy (about three hours south of Milan), guests will sail to Barcelona before continuing to Malaga. Next up is Casablanca, a port somewhat stuck in a time warp which tends to take guests to a distant land far from what continental Europe delivers. One popular highlight which usually draws a sizeable crowd is Mosquée Hassan II – the largest in Morocco. For a more familiar experience, the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and its many stunning beaches make for an exciting change of pace from continuous sightseeing. Calls to Funchal, Malaga and Rome follow before the ship returns to Genoa.
What do you think of these exciting new itineraries? Which one is your favourite?