Cruise the Continent's Northern Shores
Sailing through Northern Europe offers an amazing opportunity to experience extremely diverse cultures in the matter of a week or so. Even better, you can do it all and only unpack once.
Summer is the main sailing season for Europe because the weather is warm and, especially in the very north, the sun stays out all night. Northern European cruises frequently combine the urban, St. Petersburg, for example, with the road (or sea) less traveled, such as Denmark's Faroe Islands. Don't expect all of your fellow passengers to be Americans, although many of them (as well as the crew) will speak English. If you are unsure of navigating a city where you don't speak the language, sign up for a European cruise excursion.
Copenhagen and Faroe Islands, Denmark; Tallinn, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland; Bergen, Flaam, Geiranger and Hellesyltl, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; St. Petersburg, Russia
The British Isles/Europe
Zeebrugge (Brussels), Belgium; Fowey, Isle of Wight and Penzance, England; Bordeaux, Le Havre (Paris), Rouen and St. Malo, France; Cobh (Cork), Dublin and Waterford, Ireland; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland
Selected embarkation points
Dover and Southampton, England; Copenhagen, Denmark; Bergen, Norway
Celebrity, Clipper, Costa, Crystal, First European, Holland America, Lindblad, Norwegian, Orient, Princess, Radisson, Royal Caribbean, Royal Olympia, Seabourn, Silversea.
Although Bergen is the rainiest place in Norway, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable city. Around the harbor is the old Hanseatic Wharf, called Bryggen, where the gabled buildings house restaurants, stores and workshops. There's a morning market along the waterfront, too. Also plan to visit the impressive 12th-century Bergenhus fortress.
The most important activity in Bordeaux, France, is the making and exporting of wines. Be sure to visit the vineyards and chateaux in the surrounding countryside.
Remoteness reigns 600 miles off Denmark's coast in the Faroe Islands. The 18 windswept islands are home to 43,000 people and twice as many sheep.
Here's your chance to meet Santa Claus! From Helsinki, Finland, take your cruise line's Lapland and Santa Claus Village shore excursion. Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle, is known for its reindeer farming and endless summer nights. At Santa Claus Village, send a postcard to the folks at home and grab a photo with Old Saint Nick himself.
A stop in Rouen, France, presents the opportunity to take a shore excursion to the World War II Normandy Landing Beaches. You will moved by the beauty and history of Normandy as well as the kindness of her people.
St. Petersburg, Russia, is full of opulent palaces, theaters and art museums. The most celebrated among them is the Hermitage. Be sure to take a guided tour of this treasure trove.
In Tallinn, Estonia, visit the Old Town, 1 percent of the city that still looks like a 13th-century medieval town.