Chapter 5: Why You Should Consider European Cruises
It could take years to explore all there is to see in Europe. After all, the continent is home to 50 countries, each distinct from one another in culture, people and history. So, even though Europe is the second smallest continent on earth, it surely does not lack in diversity.
France is the most visited country on the continent attracting 83.7 million tourists a year, followed by Spain which attracts 65 million visitors annually. On the other hand, San Marino, one of the smallest nations in the world, is also one of the least visited. Nevertheless, San Marino is stunningly beautiful with medieval structures and mountaintop vistas.
If you want to stand next to architectural masterpieces, experience a mix of charm and modern amenities, and taste culinary pleasures you can’t find elsewhere, it is time to head to Europe — one of the most inspiring and culturally rich continents on the planet.
We’ll focus mainly on Scandinavia, which is part of northern Europe and consists of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and, some say, Finland and Iceland. These countries offer plenty of sightseeing opportunities by boat, making them ideal cruise destinations. They are also known to consistently score high in happiness and longevity studies.
For example, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland took the top four spots on for the happiest countries in the world, according to the 2018 World Happiness Report. The report found that income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity tend to run high for the happiest countries.
In this chapter, we’ll explore northern Europe for a peek at the things that add to their happiness. You’ll discover reasons why you should cruise around Europe and get a dose of happy for yourself.
Imagine small red fishing cabins clustered together in front of staggering frost-coated mountains. Or gentle rolling hills blanketed in mossy green with a scattering of natural pools and waterfalls. Do you feel like you have entered a fairy-tale yet? It’s time to add a northern European cruise to your bucket list if you haven’t already. Let us help you make the magic real.
Examples of Windstar Northern European Cruises
Dramatic fjords, unexpected waterfalls, brightly painted fishing villages popping from backdrops of gloomy mountains. Much of northern Europe is so visually striking you will feel as if you had sailed right into a cinematic masterpiece. However, unlike a film, the scenery you will witness aboard a Windstar cruise is real.
The mist-shrouded hills and waterfalls adorning seaside cliffs like strands of crystals, the fresh sea air and spooky castles — they are all yours to take in. Here are a few of our cruises which bring you close to the magnificence and wonder of Scandinavia.
1. Norwegian Splendors
Our Norwegian Splendors Cruise, starting at $2,599 per person lasts seven days and takes you on a round trip beginning in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. You’ll sail through Sognefjord, the longest fjord in Norway, and explore three other Norwegian destinations before heading back to Edinburgh.
Throughout your journey, you’ll have opportunities to learn about Viking and Scandinavian culture, sail emerald green fjords, feast on local cuisine and more.
Your journey begins at Edinburgh Castle. The castle stands 443 feet above sea level on a volcanic crag and was built as a fort in 600 A.D. Edinburgh Castle has a dark and fascinating past, from housing royalty to prisoners of war. It still stands, dominating the Edinburgh skyline and captivating onlookers.
On the third day of your cruise, you will sail up the longest and deepest, and perhaps the most breathtaking, fjord in Norway on your journey to Skjolden. The Sognefjord area takes pride in their fresh, high-quality local food products such as berries, lamb, trout and goat cheese.
In Skjolden, you’ll be surrounded by emerald-green waters, nestled between Norway’s highest mountain range and Jotunheimen National Park. You’ll visit three more Norwegian towns that are rich in history, culture and natural beauty before sailing back to the shores of Edinburgh.
Is a helicopter ride on your bucket list? While in Bergen, Norway, consider taking our Helicopter Fjord Adventure to tour Norway’s third largest glacier and majestic mountain peaks from the sky.
Do you want an intimate view of Norwegian life to gain insight into their secrets of health, happiness and longevity? Consider our At Home in Stavanger excursion. This tour gives you the chance to visit a local’s home, where they will discuss Norwegian tradition from how they furnish their home to gardening methods. You’ll also be treated to coffee or tea, fresh waffles and the opportunity to ask questions.
2. Around Iceland
Voted by travelers as the eighth most beautiful country in the world, you do not want to miss a trip to Iceland. It may be hard to believe the magic of Iceland until you see it with your own eyes.
From electric blue hot springs to rainbow-colored waterfalls cascading under the northern lights, the Icelandic landscape presents surreal beauty like nowhere else on earth. Whether you want to whale-watch or chat with locals, you will discover why millions flock to Iceland every year.
Our Around Iceland cruise lasts seven days and starts at $5,799 per person. You’ll sail round-trip from Reykjavik, Iceland’s energetic capital city, to remote fjords and fishing villages. In Iceland, you’ll have the opportunity to cross many items off your bucket list.
Have you always wanted to soak in the Blue Lagoon, which contains milky geothermal water that generally maintains a temperature of 98 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit year-round? Do you want to be able to say you stood halfway in the arctic circle? Join us aboard our Star Pride, and you’ll be able to do these things plus more.
Tour with us in the summer and you’ll enjoy almost 24 hours of sunlight in Reykjavik, our first stop on the cruise. Visit the Gullfoss, or golden waterfall, which plummets down canyon walls. On a sunny day, you can catch a rainbow over the falls.
Or visit Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark which is the only place in the world where you can see the mid-Atlantic ridge above sea level. It’s also home to numerous volcanoes, craters and unique formations. Closer to Reykjavik is Reykjanesfolkvangur, a protected park that features lava formations and geothermal fields.
End a morning hiking Iceland’s natural wonders by soaking and relieving tension in the Blue Lagoon. For those who’d prefer to dive into the Icelandic art scene, you will not have to travel far as there are dozens of museums and galleries to choose from in Reykjavik.
On day two you’ll visit Circle Surtsey Island, which rose from the sea in the 1960s, followed by a trip to Heimaey, where a volcanic eruption turned it into a modern-day Pompeii in 1973.
If you miss your chance to soak in the Blue Lagoon while in Reykjavik, you’ll have the opportunity to soak in the Myvatn Nature Baths in Akureyri on the fifth day of your journey. Akureyri is a vital port and fishing center surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Before returning to Reykjavik, you’ll also visit Seydisfjordur, a town with waterfalls; Isafjordur, a small town famous for its alternative music scene; and Grundarfjordur, where you’ll get to explore Snaefellsjokull National Park. Snaefellsjokull features glaciers, unique lava formations and diverse terrain.
3. Star Collector: Fish and Ships: Best of the British Isles
Have you always dreamed of delving into British history, experiencing Irish culture in the homeland or wandering around the Scottish Highlands? The British Isles have the power to enchant visitors from across the pond and we’ve designed a cruise to satiate a need to go there.
Our 19-day cruise makes sure you get to visit the most desirable destinations, taste the best local dishes and take a piece of the British Isles with you back home. The Best of the British Isles cruise starts in Dublin and ends in London for a thorough isle experience. Cruise price starts at $7,599 per person.
Highlights include the chance to zoom along a motorcycle course on our three-seater trike while taking in the scenery of the Isle of Man. You’ll also get to stroll the beaches of Northern Ireland, search for the Loch Ness monster as you enter Scotland’s highlands, visit Glasgow Cathedral and much more. You’ll end the trip in London, where you can hit all the best-known sites like Buckingham Palace or Big Ben and save time to relax with a pint and bangers and mash.
Our separate excursions offer plenty of tours to bring you close to ancient ruins, chatting with friendly guides, taking intimate castle tours or learning how to drink Guinness like a local.
European Cruise Bucket List Ideas
Perhaps you’ve always been fascinated by Stockholm or have long wanted to sip wine in a French vineyard. Maybe you’ve always imagined yourself sailing from London to Barcelona and tasting something new with each stop. Our cruises and excursions allow you to navigate diverse European landscapes and colorful cultures in style and comfort.
We realize that Europe is a bucket-lister’s playground. Many people dream of packing their bags and heading to Europe to explore every mountain, village, port and city. You could create an entire book of bucket list goals to accomplish in Europe and it might even feel overwhelming. Let us help you get started with a few ideas:
- Tour Norway by helicopter: Imagine soaring over fjords and snow-capped mountains. If you would love to feel the freedom of flight, consider adding a helicopter ride to your list.
- Soak in an Icelandic hot spring: What could be more soothing and pure than a relaxing bath in nature? Take advantage of Iceland’s natural spas.
- Have dinner in a castle: Feel like a king or queen with your significant other with an elegant and romantic castle feast.
- Sample local food in Norway: Try brunost, also known as brown cheese, which is whey that has been boiled until it caramelizes. Or you might try sought-after cloudberries which are only briefly in season each summer. Brave bucket-listers might wish to sample lutefisk, which involves cod soaked in lye.
- Sail a fjord: If you live in the United States, you will not have as many opportunities to sail a fjord as you will in Norway. These deep waterways surrounded by mountains will make you feel like you’re navigating the channels of a dream.
- Meet a Shetland pony: These gentle ponies are not only adorable, but they are also strong and perhaps the oldest breed in Britain.
- Drink fine wine in the Medoc and Saint-Emilion regions: Wine-lovers need to visit these areas not only for some of the world’s finest wine but also for breathtaking scenery.
- Eat traditional fish and chips in England: The origin of fish and chips is a little hazy, but the meal gained popularity in the first world war. Now there are about 11,000 fish and chips shops around the United Kingdom and Ireland. Cod is the fish of choice and is traditionally fried in beef lard. The classic condiment is salt and vinegar.
- Visit a whisky distillery in Scotland: Since 1494, the Scottish have been working to perfect their whisky. Used as a stimulant during harsh winters, and as a way to welcome guests, it’s an integral part of Scottish culture.