The most brilliant thing about taking a cruise is being able to wake up in a new location, sometimes, a new country, every day!
You travel from port to port in your sleep and wake up with a new surprise sitting outside your window. Windstar Cruises’ “The Land of the Midnight Sun” treats passengers to four countries in 10 days. (Read more about this 180 Degrees from Ordinary cruise in our upcoming travel issue due out in October)
#1: Denmark (Currency: Danish krone)
Copenhagen (read more about our departure port in our 2019 travel issue) is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. The city, full of brightly colored, tiled-roof buildings (you’ve likely seen the main drag on Instagram), is easy to walk and navigate. Enjoy delicious food paired with a bold wine or craft beer while sitting at a sidewalk table at one of many small cafes.
#2: Norway (Currency: Norwegian krone)
Long ranked one of the happiest countries in the world, Norway was finally knocked from its top spot in 2018 by neighboring Finland. We used the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: “NORWAY” to research and plan out our port visits. Here are a few highlights that got us excited.
The town of Bergen hosts 4.7 million people annually, is a predominantly Lutheran community and is known as the gateway to the famous Norwegian fjords. It receives only 60 days of sun per year. The town, settled in 1070 and long known for its cod fishing industry, is only about a 15-minute walk from port to center.
Popular Bergen sights include the 1,000-foot funicular, St. Mary’s church and the Bryggan district (The Wharf). The UNESCO World Heritage site wharf buildings are today occupied by charming shops, restaurants and workshops; Instagram worthy!
Fjord country is perhaps the most legendary of Norway’s astonishing landscapes. With some one thousand fjords running throughout the country, it can be difficult to know where to begin. A fjord is a long narrow inlet stretching deep into the surrounding mountains. They were created by a process of glacial erosion during the last Ice Age when enormous glaciers swept through the valleys, creating steep crevices in the landscape.
Geirangerfjord waterfalls, UNESCO World Heritage-listed, are one of the most awe-inspiring features of Norway. Some of the most famous vertical cliff faces are the spectacular Seven Sisters, the Bridal Veil and the Suitor.
Alesund is made up of seven islands connected through underwater tunnels and is the fishing capital of Norway. Destroyed by a tragic fire in 1904, in just three years, the town was rebuilt almost entirely in the art nouveau style. It’s also known for ship building and furniture making. Puffins and seals abound. Make time to hike up Sugar Mountain, which you can reach by electric bikes. Note that the route will take you on busy streets in town and over a narrow bridge.
#3: Scotland (Currency: British pound)
Lerwick is the capital of the Shetlands, a group of islands 123 miles from the coast of Scotland. Historically part of Scandinavia, the isles have been ruled by Scotland since the 15th century. Lerwick, which means clay bay, has 7,500 residents.
Popular tourist attractions include the Clickimin Broch, a round house used as a defensive mechanism during the war. All tourists want to see the adorable miniature Shetland ponies, who really wear wool jackets in the winter. Lerwick is a sea port (known for exporting herring) and also known for sheep rearing because of the high quality wool produced there.
Rent electric bikes from Shetland Bike Project in Lerwick to explore the island and head for Shetland’s ancient capital, Scalloway. On the way, you can see Shetland ponies and pop into Highlands Garden. You can also explore Scalloway Castle and Scalloway Museum. If you need to fuel up for the journey back, head for coffee and cake at the Cornerstone Café.
Bonus island: Torshavn (part of the Faroes)
Torshavn means sheep island. There are 50,000 people and 70,000 sheep. Among the 18 islands making up the Faroes, there are six traffic lights and no point is more than 3 miles from the sea.
You can find the Prime Minister in the phone book (people still use them there) and the Danish krone is the currency as the Faroe Islands have been self-governed under Denmark since World War II. (Before that, they were part of Norway.)
Whale meat is a staple of the diet and the puffin is a specialty. City buses are free and don’t leave without trying the Foroya Bjor, a popular local beer.
#4: Iceland (Currency: Icelanic krona)
Iceland (capital city: Reykjavik) is a volcanic island with geothermal properties. Clean renewable energy is a big priority for the country. The lava fields are lunar-like. NASA has done testing and training there because the environment has a similar look and feel to Mars. The Blue Lagoon is a popular tourist stop, about 45 minutes outside Reykjavik.
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Cover: Bergen is a beautiful community surrounded by mountains and fjords. Photo courtesy Windstar Cruises
Marika Flatt is Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine and was lucky enough to enjoy a 10-day Windstar Cruises voyage with her daughter, who just graduated from high school. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.