As the cold of winter sets in, the temptation to escape the chills and set sail to warmer lands grows by the day. But if you limit your choice of cruise destinations to those which are warm and sunny, you’ll miss out on some amazing opportunities to see the best that colder locations have to offer at this time of year.
Here we look at some inspiring cruise destinations for the winter and spring months which are best served cold:
Bergen is known as the gateway to the fjords of Norway. This quaint, medieval city is surrounded by breath taking scenery and during the winter, the snow kissed mountains make it all the more beautiful. There are plenty of fjord tours to choose from in the winter months which often incorporate a visit to Flåm Railway and to the narrow Nærøyfjorden, a UNESCO world heritage site. The Fjord cruise to Mostraumen is also a popular choice, taking you to the most inner part of the Osterfjord and right into the Mostraumen sound, which boats are only just able to pass through.
Aside from the fjords, Bergen is incredibly picturesque and best explored on foot. You’ll love the curious old cobbled streets and tiny wooden houses that look like something straight from a fairy tale book. Points of interest here include the Fisketorget (fish market), the aquarium and the fortress, and there are also plenty of galleries and museums to keep you entertained. While you’re there, don’t miss a ride on the Fløibanen funicular which is just 10 minutes’ walk from your cruise ship. It will take you up Mt Fløyen which sits 320 metres above sea level and when you get to the top, you’ll enjoy amazing views over the fjord, the ocean and Bergen itself.
As cruise destinations go, Oslo, Norway’s capital city, has it all. With its parks, castles and cathedrals it is simply stunning to take in and there’s something for everyone. Despite being the capital, Oslo isn’t as big as you might imagine and you can walk across the city in about an hour. Many tourists head for the Vigeland Park which is a world renowned sculpture park on the way to the Royal Palace and a definite must-see. After that, go to Grünerløkka – here you’ll find an up and coming area that is as unique as it is beautiful with its second hand stores, record shops and quaint places to eat, drink and chill. The fishing town of Son is also worth visiting – this is another alternative area away from the madding crowd where you can see something of how life once was in Norway, quite different to the sights, sounds and smells of the big city.
During the winter months, cruisers with time to spare can head to Oslo Winter Park which has 18 slopes ranging in difficulty to satisfy both beginners and more experienced skiers. There are also opportunities for cross-country skiing in Oslo Marka which can be guided if you prefer. In the middle of the city, you’ll find the fantastic Spikersuppa Skating Rink which is great fun – it’s there until early March and it’s free to skate, although you’ll have to pay for skate hire.
To visit Stockholm is to immerse yourself in Nordic culture and this stunning destination is an eye opener for any cruiser. The only downside is that there’s not enough time to see everything that the city has to offer. If you’re on a cruise itinerary and you have little time to spare, the Vasa Museum is impressive and well worth a visit, as is the Skansen which is an open-air cultural museum and zoo. The old city – Gamla Stan – also draws the crowds. This is the historical centre of Stockholm and walking through the streets will give you a real feel for the city’s history. If you have at least a day here, a trip out to the archipelago is a must. This is the biggest archipelago in Sweden and the second-largest in the Baltic Sea. During the winter months, the routes you can take are limited, depending on the ice conditions – but you should still be able to go. Here you will see some of the 30,000 rocks, islets and islands, many of which are uninhabited and some playing host to ancient villages as well as newer communities. There’s no shortage of excellent places to eat and plenty of interesting activities on offer to keep you entertained. The trip demands at least half a day or better still, a day, to fully appreciate all that is on offer.
Definitely not high on the list of cruise spots for those that love lounging around on the beach, cruises in the Arctic Circle area offer a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience that is unmatched by any other destination. One of the best things about visiting this area during winter months is the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. This jaw-dropping display is at its best until late March when it is dark from 6pm to 1am.
When you choose to travel makes a big difference to your Arctic cruise. If you travel in January, you can expect very short days and polar nights with atmospheric evenings. During February and March you’ll find the days get longer and you can appreciate the snow-clad landscapes during daylight hours. You’ll also have the best chance of spotting the northern lights during the evening. Whichever month you decide on, just be aware that if the snow falls densely, you can miss out on this breath taking experience so allow yourself as much time as possible to maximise your chances of witnessing this glorious sight.
Aside from the Northern Lights, many cruises allow you to explore some of the fabulous towns and cities in this area including Bodø, Svolvær, Tromsø and Hammerfest. You’ll experience natural attractions that are unlike anything else on earth such as the Saltstraumen, a thrilling maelstrom which has the strongest tidal current in the world. There’s also a lively cultural scene with plenty of contemporary restaurants, bustling bars and fascinating historical landmarks to explore.
Take a look at our pick of seven amazing things to experience in the Arctic.
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Moyan Brenn, PJ Hansen