When Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam explore Europe this summer and fall, both Signature-Class ships will set sail on longer journeys that visit some of the most charming, quaint and lesser-known ports in the region. These itineraries were recently added to the ships’ line-up to add more comprehensive options and to extend the season into the fall when the temperature falls slightly and the crowds diminish … making it an ideal time to visit.
Guests who want to also visit marquee destinations such as Stockholm, Sweden; St. Petersburg, Russia; Venice, Italy; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Barcelona, Spain, need not worry. Those popular jewels are still on the routes. But what makes these itineraries so alluring is that they feature the perfect combination of famous capitals and off-the-beathen-path ports that are on the verge of discovery but still retain their old-world style and ambiance.
From northern Europe to the Mediterranean, join us and explore our picks for the most exciting lesser-known ports on these incredible itineraries.
DRAMATIC LANDSCAPES AWAIT IN NORTHERN EUROPE
Invergordon (Inverness), Scotland
While you might not have heard of Inverness, you probably know about this charming port’s most famous resident … the Loch Ness Monster. Those who are interested can go in search of the monster at splendid Loch Ness — Britain’s deepest freshwater lake — whose murky depths inspire lurid tales of fantastical creatures. The Loch Ness, Water Monsters & Highland Castles tour features Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, Culloden Battlefield and Cawdor Castle — a truly beautiful, traditional medieval castle with exceptionally lovely gardens.
Yet, it’s not all about Nessie. Those who are looking to explore Scottish culture can learn about whiskey on a visit to the distillery that produces Glenmorangie, one of Scotland’s favorite malt whiskies. And photographers will relish in the opportunity to capture the Scottish Highlands — indisputably one of the most picturesque and photogenic areas in the U.K. — with the aid of a professional photographer on the Photographic Expedition in the Scottish Highlands tour.
While Olso and Geiranger are better known Norwegian destinations, Stavanger is a port that’s one of the most beautiful and memorable. Guests might have seen images of Pulpit Rock but not known where to find this iconic location. The answer is Lysefjord, which is accessible from Stavanger. This natural wonder juts out more than 1,500 feet above the sea, and on the Lysefjord: Pulpit Rock Cruise tour guests are able to cruise under it!
Guest Grams said:
The best fjord viewing of the cruise. Although the Ryndam does cruise near to Pulpit Rock, there were other “up close” moments that made this tour worth the money.
Guests who want to climb the rock can do so on the Pulpit Rock Hike Tour. To reach the Pulpit Rock involves a two-hour hike through a variety of different landscapes includeing mountain, forest and marsh with some lovely ponds along the way. The last 600 yards are quite spectacular as you walk along a narrow path with steep cliffs on one side and the Lysefjord far below on the other. Finally, upon arrival at the Pulpit Rock, guests can enjoy fantastic scenery and view the Lysefjord some 1,500 feet below.
Portree (Isle of Skye), Scotland
The mountainous Isle of Skye provides breathtaking vistas from nearly every destination. The largest town on Skye, this port’s harbor is fringed by steep cliffs, and the town’s Gaelic heritage is evident in the local attractions. Harry Potter fans will recognize that the town is home to the fictional Pride of Portree. Everything is a short stroll away within Portree, and nearby Glasgow provides further opportunities for exploration. Visit Dunvegan Castle, stronghold of the Chiefs of MacLeod for nearly 800 years, or Iconic Eilean Donan Castle and the West Highlands. Guest Jeanne had this to say:
There’s plenty of time to visit the castle and roam around the grounds on your own. The guide was very knowledgeable about his land. The scenic drive was awesome.
For the rest of the itinerary details, click HERE.
THE BALTIC BECKONS
In addition to Norway and the British Isles, Eurodam heads to the Baltic next summer. These lovely ports enhance the itineraries, showing the culture and traditions of this stunningly beautiful part of the world.Tallinn, Estonia
Toompea, the old town, is a thicket of turrets, spires, and onion domes that overlooks the rest of Tallinn and the Gulf of Finland. From the brilliantly preserved All-linn (the lower town) to Pirita — site of the 1980 Olympic Games — there’s so much to see and do at Tallinn. Guests can explore the 16th-century ruins of St. Bridget’s Convent, see the walls and towers that surround the Old Town area, and admire the architecture of St. Kaarli’s Church and the Estonian Opera & Ballet Theater.
For the active adventurer, the Countryside Cycling & A Stroll Through the Old Town tour goes through a forest park on the coast and the picturesque area of Kakumae.
While you might have heard of the Kiel Canal that links the North Sea at Brunsbüttel to the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau, did you know that Kiel also is a city in Germany? In fact, it’s Germany’s largest passenger port. Offering the perfect blend of urban charm, culture and history, Kiel also serves as the gateway for Hamburg, a beautiful port city on the Elbe River. From Kiel, guests can visit A UNESCO World Heritage Site: Medieval Lubeck & its Famous Marzipan.
Enjoy the medieval ambiance of the Altstadt (Old Town) with its well-known Holsten Gate — a landmark of the city and one of the few relics of the original fortress. Pass the Gothic Rathaus (City Hall), among the oldest in Germany, and one of the first old age homes in Germany — the Heiligen Geist Hospital. See Buddenbrooks House, home of the famous writers Heinrich and Thomas Mann, and admire some of the city’s 82 quaint alleyways.
Guest Dobo highly recommends the tour:
The trip to Lubeck was so interesting. It is not a strenuous trip, as there is plenty of opportunity to rest with walking distances quite short. Our local guide, Yan, was absolutely fantastic! He was knowledgeable, interesting, enthusiastic, and eager to answer individual questions. As he had chosen Lubeck as his home, he had learned a great deal of its history and could tell us stories about the buildings. This was one of our best tours on the trip. We would recommend others to take advantage of this tour and learn about the history of this area, the Hanseatic League, construction methods, and enjoy the local marzipan. Three cheers for Yan!
Visit these ports and more on the Baltic Adventure cruise.
VISIT THE MEDITERRANEAN IN THE FALL
The Europe season has been extended for Nieuw Amsterdam to give guests more options into the fall. It’s the perfect time of year to visit the region, with less tourists and cooler temperatures. Many of the itineraries explore several countries, making it easy for guests to unpack only once while seeing multiple destinations. Imagine waking up in a new country each day, easily traveling from port to port by cruise ship. These smaller ports make the voyage all the more memorable.
Kotor is located along one of Montenegro’s most beautiful bays. First settled during the days of ancient Rome, the city today has a well preserved urban center with a vibrant community. Medieval architecture and numerous monuments of cultural heritage have made Kotor a UNESCO listed “World Natural and Historical Heritage Site.” To learn about the city, the Traditional Montenegro tour is an immersive experience.
In the old village of Lastva, enjoy a brief walking tour to visit a local house and the St. Maria Church. Learn about olive oil production and enjoy a snack of homemade bread, smoked ham, cheese and wine. On display is an exhibition of traditional arts and crafts, and watch a folklore performance by a local group. On returning to Kotor, stop to explore the city that is known as the jewel of Montenegro. The guide will take you on a walking tour that will include a visit to St Triphon’s Cathedral. Guest JerseyGirl praised the tour:
This tour should not be missed. The only difference is that they now have a little hall where they serve the refreshments and do the folklore performance. You will leave this tour feeling that you have seen something that will be a treasured memory. I have never meet such friendly people. Bring your camera and movie camera too!
An attractive Italian city location in the region of Campania, Salerno is a popular destination and a gateway to the beautiful Amalfi Coast. In addition to beautiful beaches for guests who simply want to soak up the sun, visitors can journey to Positano, Capri, Amalfi and the lost city of Pompeii.
Roman emperors such as Caesar Augustus and Tiberius vacationed on the island of Capri, and the magnificent remains of their Roman villas remain today. Capri is a popular destination for artists and jet-setting travelers, although it’s known for its quaint charm and beautiful landscapes.
Pompeii is probably the most well-known of the attractions. Perfectly preserved since the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, guests learn what the residents were doing at the time of the eruption and gain an insight into the lives of the ancient Romans as you discover baths, theatres, temples, markets and the huge forum.
A dynamic Spanish city with an abundance of attractions, Alicante is a juxtaposition of old-world charm and a busy, buzzy vibe. Modernity runs alongside tradition, and visitors can still find very traditional villages tucked away in the mountains. It’s also known to have some of the best cuisine in Spain. The unbeatable rice dishes are the most typical dish from Alicante.
If you want to learn about the area, set out to visit The Castle of Santa Barbara, a 12th century fortress that sits on Mount Benacantil in the center of Alicante. There’s also Iglesia de Santa Maria, a cathedral in a gothic style that was built in the 14th and 16th century over the remains of an old Moorish Mosque. And the co-cathedral of St. Nicholas is the main church in Alicante and exhibits a striking combination of baroque and renaissance features. The Gravina Palace is located in the Old Town of Alicante and is home to the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts. Built between 1748 and 1808, it houses a rich collection of Spanish artworks.
These ports are featured on the 19-day Gems of the Mediterranean cruise that explores seven countries on one itinerary and includes an overnight at Barcelona.
EIGHT SHIPS EXPLORE THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 2015
In addition to these new voyages, Holland America Line will have eight ships in the region for Summer 2015. The Europe cruises continue to focus on destination diversity, timeless appeal and high-quality experiences. The ships explore the entire region on itineraries that include northern Europe and the Norwegian fjords, Iceland and the Baltic; the British Isles; Canary Islands; Italian and French rivieras; Iberian Peninsula; Black Sea; the eastern and western Mediterranean; and transatlantics.
If you’re taking a cruise that visits these ports, you can pre-booked shore excursions so you get the tour of your choice.
Will you head to Europe in 2015? Tell us which off-the-beaten-path port you’re looking forward to visiting in the comments below.