When to take a North Sea Cruise to Iceland and the Faroe Islands

Iceland gets a lot of tourism during the winter months because many visitors are hoping to see the spectacular celestial displays of the aurora borealis. Prices of flights can actually go down in the summer, but cruises in the North Sea are less common in winter.

 

North Sea Cruise
North Sea Cruise

Most cruises which visit Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Shetlands and the Norwegian fjords all depart in May and June. The Vikings who inhabited these places 1000 years ago would only embark on long journeys in their long ships during the summer, because they feared the volatile weather of the icy Northern sea. Likewise, a summer cruise is much more enjoyable today, because although you won’t see snow covered peaks, you can see the rolling green hills of the Faroes and the long summer nights of the Northern world.

According to Forbes Life, Iceland is one of The 10 Coolest Places to visit in 2015 and the Faroe Islands are on the new National Geographic Traveller list of must-see places. You can embark on extensive cruise tours of the North Sea from ports in Harwich, Bristol, Dublin or Holland. A shorter tour is more likely to just visit the Northern British islands, such as the Orkneys or the Shetlands, then on to the Faroes, around Iceland and back home again. Longer tours can include Copenhagen, Oslo and the spectacular sights of the Norwegian fjords from which the Vikings originally set sail.

 

Faroe Islands cruise
Faroe Islands cruise

As you wallow in the luxury of the cruise ship, you can reflect on the hardships of the brave men who first crossed the ocean from Norway to Iceland. You might leisurely admire the puffins on the black cliff rocks with a glass of wine in hand, but the Vikings arrived weather beaten, dressed only in wool in their pine long ships, covered in tar. How might they have felt when they saw the majestic and magical horizon of Iceland, green and lush with grass fit for grazing?

The people of the Northern world are all descended from those first Vikings who left Scandinavia in search of new lands. In Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital you can see the Thingvellir, the oldest parliament in the world, while Torshavn in the Faroe Islands also has a very old parliamentary building. The Nordic countries offer cruise ship passengers a compelling combination of natural beauty and human history to admire. Most cruise ships will have knowledgeable guides onboard to educate you on the significance of everything you encounter on your journey.

The North Sea cruise is particularly interesting and convenient if you live in the UK. All the destinations are immediately adjacent to the British Isles, and the British people are historically related to the Nordic people, yet their countries still seem so exotic and exciting. There is something mystical about the cold North and the people who live there. A survey in 1998 revealed that 54.4 percent of Icelanders believe that elves inhabit the rocks and hills of their strange volcanic land. But despite being culturally fascinating and very different from British people, you needn’t worry about translation services while on your cruise, as most Icelanders, Norwegians and Faroese people all speak excellent English. You may need to brush up on your Elvish if you wish to communicate with the little people though!

You don’t have much chance of seeing the Northern lights during a summer trip to Iceland, but there’s so much more that you can see. There’s a chance you will encounter porpoises, pilot whales or even killer whales as well as a variety of sea birds. There are also the beautiful and hospitable Northern peoples themselves, not to mention their quaint turf roofed houses which can be admired during one of your adventurous shore excursions.

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This Year Make The Most of Your Cruise

Make The Most of Your Cruise
Make The Most of Your Cruise

You’ve booked your cruise and you’ve spent the last few months day-dreaming of your hassle-free holiday. In 2014 cruises have become more popular than ever, and to make sure you’re going to make the most of your time on board we’ve written a few handy tips for you to follow so that this year, your holiday lives up to all your expectations:

Arrive a Day Early

It may sound silly, but arriving a day before your ship departs is a great way to alleviate the stress that comes with making travel connections. Instead of spending the day worrying if you are going to make the departure time, why not explore your departure city. Get in the holiday mode early by spending the day shopping and the evening dining out, you won’t regret it!

Sunscreen!

Many a holiday goer has had their holiday ruined by getting burned a day into their holiday. Though almost all cruise liners have a spectacular array of indoor entertainment, such as cinemas and bars make sure you take care of your skin, so that you can spend as much time using the outdoor facilities as the indoor ones.

Arrange a Spa Pass

There are always cruise deals that offer passengers access to their spa areas. The key here is not to spend all your spending money on the luxurious services, but to enjoy the facilities on board. With a day or a week pass you will have access to the spa and steam rooms, which will be a great way to ensure your skin is in tip-top condition to retain that tan you’ve been working on all holiday.

Take advantage of tours

One of the biggest advantages to cruise holidays is that you will have access to so many amazing experiences. For example, if you’re travelling around the Caribbean you can go scuba diving, laze on a beach, hike to waterfalls, tour plantation homes, snorkel with exotic sea life and go dolphin spotting and all this can be arranged and organised for you through your cruise liner. Don’t miss out on all the amazing trips available to you!

Spend at least one day aboard

That said, it’s easy on cruise holidays with so much exciting things available to overdo the sightseeing, and you’re on holiday to relax. Why not skip the rush of touring for one day and spoil yourself with the facilities on offer in the ship itself? The ship’s capacity will be lower while it’s in port, allowing you to spend a quiet day relaxing at the pool, soaking in the view and the sea air.

So there it is; we hope our handy guide on how to make the most of your time on your cruise this year has helped. Have fun, and don’t forget to pack that sunscreen!

Image by Roger Wollstadt, used under the Creative Commons license.

Discovering Italy by Cruise

A unique Way to Visit Rome, Venice and Everything in Between

Today, more and more people are choosing to discover Italy by cruise rather than by means of more conventional vacations involving hotel stays. Cruises offer the unique opportunity to explore many different cities in just a few days without any additional travel costs or inconvenient delays at airports or train stations. Considering most of Italy is surrounded by sea, this country is an ideal Mediterranean destination for cruise goers. Subsequently, a vast number of companies are currently providing Mediterranean cruises which involve visits to top Italian cities including Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, alongside the opportunity to explore the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

Italy by cruise
Italy by cruise

Travelling with a cruise line provides you with the unique advantage of only having to unpack once. Each evening you return to the comfort of your room and sleep in the same bed each night. Modern cruise liners are also fully-equipped with all the entertainment facilities imaginable including bars, restaurants, swimming pools, cinemas, gyms and nightclubs, together with a friendly and helpful English-speaking staff, ready and willing to help should you have any problems or need any advice during your stay aboard the ship. The cruise organisers will also provide a number of planned excursions giving you the opportunity to see all the major sights and attractions in a city in just one day.

In Italy alone there are over 25 ports that can be easily accessed by cruise ships. This being said, the country’s main ports attracting the largest numbers of cruise liners per day include Civitavecchia, Livorno, Naples and Venice. From the port of Civitavecchia, cruise passengers can not only visit Rome and the Vatican City, but they can also take a trip to nearby destinations such as Tivoli, Tuscia and the Castelli Romani. From the port of Livorno, the cities of Florence, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano and the Cinque Terre can also easily be reached by means of a private chauffer or bus excursion. From Naples the city itself alongside Pompeii, Caserta Reggia and the Amalfi Coast are regularly visited by cruise passengers.

When cruising around Italy you will have the choice to explore each destination independently or in organised groups with set itineraries including lunch arrangements and free time, during which you can explore the city at your own pace. There are also a number of tour operators in Italy currently offering all-inclusive day excursions from the country’s main ports. These family-friendly tours enable you to personalise your itinerary and can be booked online way in advance. You also have the advantage of being picked-up and dropped back off at the port when it is most convenient for you, thus eliminating the stress and worry of missing your cruise ship’s departure.

When taking an Italian cruise you also have the opportunity to decide to end your tour by ship in the city of your choice. This means that you may wish to spend more time in a particular destination, such as Rome, Florence or Venice in order to further explore these beautiful Italian cities. This being said, you may also choose to relax in the likes of Sicily where you can readily rent a holiday apartment and spend some time immersing yourself in the richness of the local culture. Either way, discovering Italy by cruise will almost certainly be a memorable occasion for the whole family. Not only can you visit Italy’s most celebrated cities, but you can also explore everything in between thanks to the comfort and convenience of contemporary cruise liners.

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Coffs Harbour Nightlife

Coffs Harbour is perhaps more well known for its family friendly holiday appeal. Its proximity to coastal activities, bush bashing and city living give it a “best of both worlds” type appeal that families just love. What you may not know is that it actually has a thriving nightlife headed up by one of the best Ex Services Clubs in Australia.

Cruise stop off - Coffs Harbour
Cruise stop off – Coffs HarbourErik K Veland

The main part of Coffs Harbour, known locally as “town” features the shopping precinct the Palms Centre and the mall precinct but is also the location that most of the Coffs Harbour nightlife centres upon. The quadrant of the CEX, Coffs Hotel, Plantation Hotel and Coast Hotel makes for an interesting mini pub crawl, especially during the festive times of the year, such as new years and St Patricks Day.

The Coffs Hotel is an old fashioned pub that features a modern clientele. It is a trendy and quirky establishment with punters to match. Featuring a fabulous outdoor entertainment area right in the centre of the building as well as all the features you need in a pub these days it is the capital of the Coffs Harbour nightlife and where most nights start and finish.

Just down the road from the Coffs Hotel is the Plantation Hotel. Affectionately known as the “Planto” this pub has gone through more transitions than the cast of Neighbours but right now stands as the entertainment hub of the city. With live music and DJ’s pumping tunes til the early hours the “Planto” always challenges the Coffs Hotel for the crown of best pub in Coffs.

The Coast Hotel is the newest pub in Coffs Harbour and features a more mature clientele. It is one of the better looking joints around and has a fantastic upper and outdoor area. It is a giant chasm of a bar that is pleasant to be in and appeals to those more into a good time than a fun time.

Outside of the main town area of Coffs you will find the beachside Hoey Moey, one of the most popular bars in Coffs and arguably the best place for entertainment. The Hoey Moey prides itself on luring the best musical acts and is the place in Coffs Harbour you are most likely to catch an international act performing. Situated right on Park Beach, The Hoey Moey is a real Coffs Harbour style pub and most reflective of the oceanic style of the city.

Situated on the corner of Bray Street and the Pacific Highway, the Greenhouse Tavern is to me the most underrated pub in Coffs. It has the best restaurant and alongside the Coast Hotel features the most aesthetically pleasing decor. Coffs Harbour has a habit of rotating its hot spots so I assume sooner or later the new generation of 18 year olds will go back to the Greenhouse and make it “the place to be.”

During New Years and the Jetty Carnival there is no better place to be than the Pier Hotel. At other times of the year the Pier, situated on the Jetty Strip, is just a run of the mill pub but it comes alive when the thousands of punters descend upon the area in December and January and the party comes alive.

The heart of the city, the Coffs Ex Services Club, is underrated amongst the youngsters but the more mature amongst us know how good it is. It gets its fair share of hip musical acts but the place is just a labyrinth of features, up and downstairs. You can really get lost in it.

This guest blog was written by the travel writer down at Skedaddle Car Hire. If this has piqued your interest in this quaint little coastal town in Australia, you should have a look at their Coffs Harbour by car guide.

The most popular cruise destinations in the world

As our small world shrinks ever smaller, the more remote, glamorous and downright outrageous we expect our favourite holiday destinations to become. Paradise islands, frozen landscapes, lavish boulevards and cultural wonderlands appear on the horizon, beckoning the adventurous traveller to see more, to expect greater, to indulge completely in his or her wildest whims. Choosing a cruise widens our expectations ever further, and the outlandish becomes even more possible.

most popular cruise destinations
most popular cruise destinations

Here’s a sample of what the intrepid cruiser can expect in 2014…

Hulu in Hawaii

Take in Hawaii and its islands on a cruise from Los Angeles, and discover the volcano-dappled paradise of the Pacific. On the island of Oahu, in its capital, Honolulu, check out Iolani Palace, trek to the Diamond Head Crater and learn of the history of Pearl Harbour at the historic USS Arizona Memorial. Black sands and lush rainforest characterise, Hilo, or the Big Island, which guards a treasury of natural beauty, including the famous Mauna Kea, the only volcano to have snowfall, the plunging Akaka Falls, which drop over 400 feet into a rainbow-lit gorge, and the tropical Botanical Gardens, where mongooses dart between orchids as the nearby ocean waves roar in the background.

Sun it up in the South of France

With its dazzling azure waters dappled with white yachts and gleaming boutiques, the French Riviera is perfect for travellers looking for glamour in every port. Royal Caribbean cruises incorporate Cannes, Monaco and Nice into itineraries leaving from the UK. For a red carpet afternoon, cocktails and shopping on the opulent Croisette in Cannes or sunning on one of the town’s sun-soaked beaches will make you feel like a movie star. Then, put on your gladrags and head to the Monte Carlo casino for a twenties-style flutter.

Get your bearings in Istanbul

On a cruise of the Greek islands, make sure you call at Turkey’s largest and most vibrant city for a hybrid of western and eastern influences. Dip into one of the city’s iconic, steaming bathhouses, and visit the Blue Mosque, though don’t be disappointed if you don’t find it terribly blue. Visit one of the many museums documenting the rich arts and archaeology which have formed the cultural foundations of the city, then ascend the Galata Tower for a view of the majestic Bosphorus river that carves the cityscape in two.

Become an Antarctic Explorer

Named the second best destination for 2014 by Lonely Planet, this eerie, icy world might as well be on another planet. Channel Ernest Shackleton and join a landward expedition into its silent, whiteout heart of rugged landscapes. You can make friends with the Antarctic wildlife, which may include king penguins, humpback whales and seals, participate in an exhilarating ice kayak race, or snow-walk to an abandoned whaling station.

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