The windswept icy wilderness of Iceland and Norway? Or the laidback beachside towns of the Mediterranean? Each has its charms, but all are best explored by sea – and a new class of game-changing vessels promises next-level space, design and service.
Icons to undiscovered lands: Northern Europe
Jagged fjords, open seas the colour of spearmint, and storybook villages are what you can expect when you set sail on a journey to the remote townships of Norway and Iceland via Belgium and the Netherlands’ iconic port cities.
Dotted with medieval castles and ancient churches, the Belgian city of Bruges is one of the Continent’s most captivating towns. Order a hot chocolate – Bruges is one of Europe’s chocolate capitals – and watch the world go by at one of the cobblestone cafes of the Markt, the city’s historic central square.
Winding your way up the coastline, you’ll head for Amsterdam. Spend a day exploring this city’s famous canals or head to the buzzing Oud-West neighbourhood for meatballs and stroganoff from the legendary Hap-Hmm restaurant. It’s a hit of urban culture before you venture into the wilds of the North Sea.
The crinkled coastline of Norway beckons. Your cruise will dock close to Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, which looks like a Christmas card with its colourful pitched-roof warehouses on the waterline and surrounding mountains. Oslo might be better known, but this is the city real Scandi-philes say should be on your bucket list, partly because of its immediate proximity to the country’s grandest fjords, but also because of its UNESCO-heritage listed medieval buildings and surprises like the Magic Ice gallery, where works made of crystalline ice and inspired by artists such as Edvard Greig are showcased in a frozen museum.
Next you cruise northwards to the picturesque coastal towns of Geiranger, home of Geirangerfjord, the best known of the Norwegian fjords, and Alesund. As you then cross the Norwegian Sea to Iceland, keep an eye out for fluttering puffins or pods of whales.
The ancient glaciers, folklore and culture of Iceland is best explored on a voyage in the summer months, when the temperatures are brisk but tolerable and the towns are bustling. The remote fishing town of Isafjordur is wild and untouched, carpeted with wildflowers and towering peaks perfect for hiking, while Akureyri is filled with pretty boutiques and museums. The journey ends with an overnight stay in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, giving you time to explore Michelin-starred restaurants like Dill, as well as Viking relics, cosmopolitan shopping streets and thermal springs.
Coastal classics and culture: The Mediterranean
The balmy beach scenes of the French Riviera, the energy of Spanish cities, the historic art and architecture of Rome and Tuscany. A cruise checks off the big musts with time to relax in luxury in between.
The beauty of Italy is that it’s not a holiday of compromise. Its greatest cities, with their relics, galleries and romance, are close to the pleasures of its dramatic azure coast. Beginning in Rome, cruising the western coastline takes you close to the Tuscan glories of Pisa and Florence, with sunny stretches of sea for a breather.
As you round the curve into the French Med, the French Riviera glimmers with glamour. Dotted with yachts and palm trees, flanked by broad seaside promenades, Nice makes for a quintessentially French afternoon. Take a long lunch and an easy stroll, making time to visit the Musée Matisse, home to one of the largest collections of his Fauvist masterpieces in the world.
Visiting the islands and port cities of Spain, you’ll feel the shift to a different kind of energy. Vibrant Barcelona, offers some of the world’s most innovative restaurants as well as stunning Gothic and modernist architecture. The island of Ibiza buzzes with electric nightlife but also has relaxed white-sand beaches.
A stop at the historic British island of Gibraltar is steeped in history but you’ll also find natural wonders. Climb to the top of the famous Rock of Gibraltar to see as far as the North African coastline.
The end of the journey puts you on the cobblestone streets of Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, where you can discover the joys of a bargain at the bustling Feira da Ladra markets or watch the sunset from the city’s rooftop bars.
Do it in style
There’s little that’s more exhilarating than the sensation of fresh ocean air on your skin as you turn face to the wind. Norwegian Cruise Line’s two brand new Prima Class vessels prioritise this feeling of freedom and space.
Norwegian Prima – which embarks on its maiden voyage around Northern Europe from August 2022 – offers NCL’s largest accommodation options and the most suite categories of any new ship, with more outdoor space than any other new contemporary or premium cruise vessel. Infinity pools, outdoor walkways and alfresco dining options are expansive, designed to immerse you in your surroundings, whether land or seascape.
Norwegian Viva will sail the Mediterranean from June 2023. Like her sister ship, Norwegian Viva is a smaller vessel designed for a boutique-feeling, elegant experience. Both feature the biggest balconies and inside staterooms of any Norwegian Cruise Line ship, as well as an expansive 4000m2 walkway, The Ocean Boulevard.
Aboard both ships you’ll find The Haven, a luxury suite with interiors designed by Piero Lissoni, one of Italy’s premier designers. In this retreat – known as a ‘ship within a ship’ – guests enjoy the services of a personal concierge and 24-hour butler, as well as luxurious facilities such as an elegant sundeck, spa and infinity pool plus an exclusive restaurant and outdoor bar for guests of The Haven.
You’re in regions famous for cuisine so, naturally, onboard dining is a highlight of the journey on these new ships. Choose from global cuisine such as classic Texan barbecue, Indian curries or Spanish-inspired tapas at the upscale Indulge Food Hall. Or take a table at one of the premium restaurants, including Onda by Scarpetta, where seats are set both indoors and in the open air. There’s no dining schedule – you’re free to indulge whenever the mood strikes.
This is the new way of cruising, as luxe as it gets.