City breaks are fun, especially on a ‘triple overnighter’ sailing.
Cruise ship overnight moorings offer passengers a far more immersive experience and leisurely way to enjoy city breaks.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s 10-night Scandinavian City Discovery cruise on the 804-passenger Black Watch included overnight stays in Hamburg, Copenhagen and Oslo, as well as scenic fjord cruising and a sailing through the Kiel Canal.
The leisure time meant guests could enjoy an opera in Oslo, indulge themselves by eating out at top restaurants in Copenhagen and really join in Hamburg’s maritime anniversary celebrations.
Captain Mikael Degerlund sailed in as the harbour’s 827th-anniversary celebrations got under way. The quayside was alive with a maritime atmosphere as tall ships sailed into the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Music, bands, flags flying, street vendors and entertainment made this a special day, and being able to stay late to join in the fun made for an exciting ‘city break’.
The next day, with so much to see, passengers were quick to jump ashore to savour the city’s architectural masterpieces – from St Michael’s Church, with its steeple piercing the skyline, to the flamboyant, wavy-edged Elbe Philharmonic Hall. The building is not yet complete but visitors can take a weekly behind-the-scenes tour. Book in advance
Lovers of Art Nouveau took a 15-minute bus ride from the city centre to the leafy boulevards and elegant late-19th-century houses of Allende Platz, while Beatles fans went on the ship’s own Magical Mystery tour to learn more about where The Beatles started their rise to fame, and acquired their Beatle haircuts, in Hamburg.
Some people packed in several tours. The world’s largest model railway – Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland – was no mere train set, with cities made to scale and an airport with planes that actually take off, all illuminated by more than 300,000 lights.
The Little Mermaid was a hop, skip and jump from the ship, and cruise visitors wandered along the waterside to take a photo of the small statue. They then went into the city to enjoy the café culture because, after all, when in Denmark you must eat a Danish pastry.
The family-run bakery Reihn van Hauen was established in 1876 and the custard and almond pastries were flying off the shelf.
Others made use of the 48-hour hop-on hop-off bus, good value for active guests who wanted to see the main attractions such as Tivoli Gardens and City Hall Square, as well as the Changing of The Royal Guard at the Amalienborg Palace. There is a charge to go inside Amalienborg Palace: 75 DKK / £8.60 adult. Children go free.
The Royal Danish Opera, an impressive limestone building, could be seen as Black Watch sailed in opposite the Royal Palace. Facing the harbour, it’s just a short stroll from where cruise ships dock. Its roof terrace restaurant offers a panoramic view of Amalienborg Palace and the domed Marble Church.
The Copenhagen Opera House is designed by Danish architect Henning Larsen, and a number of Danish artists have contributed to the décor.
Do not miss another architectural masterpiece: the Black Diamond, a modern waterfront extension to the Royal Danish Library on Slotsholmen. This stunning polished granite building hosts concerts, jazz shows and literary events, and is home to the National Museum of Photography, with a collection centered on international photography from 1839 until the turn of the century.
The Museum of Danish Cartoon Art is also in the library, exhibiting more than 200 cartoonists.
Black Watch completed the hat-trick of overnighters in Norway’s capital Oslo.
Scandinavia’s oldest city – a major trading port for 1,000 years – is steeped in history and culture, yet it is not crowded.
Walking is a delight and wide avenues are dotted with parks and squares. Vigeland Sculpture Park was a treat, showcasing the work of sculptor Gustav Vigeland. Stroll through five gardens to see 200 sculptures depicting the Wheel of Life.
On the highest point of the park, visitors will see the impressive Monolith Plateau standing 17 metres high and carved from one single piece of granite. It’s widely believed to interpret man’s yearning for the spiritual and divine. The park is open all year round, 24 hours a day.
Taking a ferry to the Bygdoy Peninsula to view a group of maritime-themed museums, just a few hundred metres from where Black Watch moored, was so much better when there was no need for clock-watching. We had all day to visit the Open Museum, and the Kon-Tiki, Viking and Fram museums.
The Kon-Tiki Museum was the passengers’ stand-out visit, with much reminiscing about the Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002) who crossed the Pacific Ocean on the Kon-Tiki to prove his theory that South Americans originally populated Polynesia.
The Kon-Tiki raft and reed boats Ra and Tigris are works of art, on display alongside artefacts from Heyerdahl’s expeditions.
The adjacent Norwegian Maritime Museum houses marine paintings and everything that is shipping and fishing, while the nearby triangular-shaped Fram Polar Museum has been newly refurbished.
Sports fans, though, could not stop talking about the Holmenkollen Ski Jump Tower, which can be seen for miles, perched high above Oslo. Visitors can go on the ski simulator to feel what is like to fly down the ski jump at almost 100 km an hour.
Culture buffs headed for the National Gallery to see Edvard Munch’s painting of The Scream and other works by Norwegian painters, or bought tickets for the opera house, via the ship’s shore excursion team.
Three city breaks with no luggage restriction, no two-hour check-in times and plenty of porters to help with the luggage – cruising has some rather attractive advantages.
A similar cruise on sister ship Balmoral departs on September 17, 2017. The 11-night ‘Scandinavian Waterways & Capitals’ cruise starts from £1,299 and departs from Newcastle with overnight stays in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo.
WHO SAILS THERE?
Crystal Symphony: 10 days from £3,105 departing Stockholm June 24, 2017, with overnight stays in St Petersburg and Copenhagen. crystalcruises. co.uk 020 7399 7601
Viking Star: 15 days from £4,099 departing Stockholm May 6, 2017, with overnight stays in Stockholm and St Petersburg. vikingcruises.com 0800 014 7541
Prinsendam: 14 nights from £2.650 departing Amsterdam May 20, 2017 with overnight stays in Hamburg and Copenhagen. hollandamerica.co.uk 0800 7245425