Advice for your next cruise can come from many places - even a first timer who hasn't yet embarked can discover information that can help guide us. Experience does count for quite a bit though, and few have more experience cruising than cruise ship captains. What are their favorite European ports? What tips do they have to share with other travelers?
CAPTAIN MAGNUS DAVIDSON OF AZAMARA JOURNEY
Favorite European Port: Edinburgh (Leith), Scotland.
A favorite port of mine would have to be my home town of Leith, Edinburgh. Our ship docks right next to the Queen's former Royal Yacht Britannia and from the port, it's a short distance to the center of Edinburgh - which is in my view the most beautiful city in the UK.
DO: From the port, it's a ten minute drive to the center of Edinburgh. During the summer months when Journey visits, Edinburgh is a hive of activity, with the city gearing up for events like the Edinburgh Festival – the biggest arts festival in the world. Walk up the Royal Mile and you’ll see a whole range of wonderful, historical sights - like the Palace of Holyrood House and the new Scottish Parliament buildings. At the top of the mile sits Edinburgh Castle – an absolute must-see, offering incredible views over the views over the city.
EAT: The area of Leith – known simply as 'The Shore' – is a mere five minute walk from where the ship docks and is one of the most vibrant areas of Edinburgh, with a large number of restaurants and bars lining the river, the Water of Leith. Here you have a variety of dining options from the Michelin starred establishments of 'The Kitchen' and 'Wishart's' to other less opulent but equally delicious choices such as 'The Ship on the Shore' - my favorite seafood restaurant, where the Shetland Mussels are always my first choice on the menu.
SECRET INSIDER TIP: Prepare yourself for the one o' clock gun fired from the castle each afternoon - it has been known to scare the daylights out of visitors (and occasionally longtime residents)!
BEST TRAVEL ADVICE I'VE BEEN GIVEN: Leave the guidebook at home. Sometimes it's best just to wander and get lost in a city.
CRUISE: 15-night “Journey to the North Cape” cruise on Azamara Journey, departing Edinburgh (Leith) on 24 July 2018. The cruise overnights in Leith, before continuing to Bergen, Flam, Gudvangen, Geiranger, Svolvaer, Troll Fjord, Tromso, Honningsvag, Olden and Haugesund in Norway, and Skagen and Copenhagen in Denmark.
CAPTAIN CARL SMITH OF AZAMARA QUEST
Favorite European Port: Kotor, Montenegro
“Kotor has been my favorite port ever since I visited for the first time some 15 years ago! There’s nothing quite like sailing into the stunningly beautiful fjord-like Bay of Kotor on a cruise ship; and the old-world atmosphere of the town is breathtaking.”
DO: I love the hike up to St John's Fortress at the top of the hill. Dotted with old churches and war-time ruins, the walk is rich in history as well as beauty. And the view at the top looking out upon Kotor Bay is out of this world!
EAT: I love the pizza with Njegušk prosciutto! Montenegro’s crisp sea and mountain air apparently give this cured meat its flavor!
SECRET INSIDER TIP: Visit "The Lady of the Rock" opposite Perast – this beautiful church sitting atop a man-made island is teeming with maritime history and mythology, and is considered a guardian angel to all sailors – and cruise ships - that pass by.
BEST TRAVEL ADVICE I'VE BEEN GIVEN: Pack everything you think you will need - then remove 20 percent from the case! You’re always bound to pick up keepsakes of your travels along the way, so you want to leave room in those suitcases, if catching a flight back to Australia, post cruise.
CRUISE: 10-night Adriatic and Med Treasures voyage on Azamara Quest, departing Venice on 16July 2018. The cruise calls to Koper, Hvar, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Amalfi, Rome, Florence and Portofino, before finishing in Monte Carlo.
CAPTAIN MICHAEL KARATZAS OF CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION
Favorite European Port: Gibraltar, UK territory on Spain’s south coast.
“The Gibraltar Straits connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and at their narrowest point, separate Gibraltar from Africa by only seven nautical miles – making the tiny British territory a curious melting pot of languages and customs.”
DO: The Rock – you must visit the Rock of Gibraltar. At over 4000 metres high, the Rock boasts a wealth of fascinating sights, including Europa Point, one of the rocks many lookouts offering breathtaking views, including the Moroccan Coast in Africa on a clear day; and, of course, the famous Barbary Macaque monkeys, who call the Rock of Gibraltar home.
EAT: My favorite are Rosto, a delicious pasta dish with meat sauce, and Torta De Acelga, a spinach pie which is actually of Italian origin but very popular in Gibraltar.
SECRET INSIDER TIP: For anyone planning a trip to the top of the rock be sure to make it back onboard with all your belongings – those monkeys like to take souvenirs from tourists!
BEST TRAVEL ADVICE I'VE BEEN GIVEN: Learn some greetings in the local language (perhaps while you’re relaxing on the ship’s deck on a sea day) and SMILE! You’ll find building rapport with the locals you meet will make your travels even more memorable and rewarding.
CRUISE: 10-night Italy and Spain voyage on Celebrity Constellation, departing Rome on 7 May 2018. The cruise calls to Naples, Sicily, Malta, Mallorca, Cartagena, Gibraltar, before overnighting in Barcelona.
CAPTAIN PANAGIOTIS SKYLOGIANNIS OF CELEBRITY REFLECTION
Favorite European Cruise Port: Mykonos, Greece
“Mykonos is a medley of modernity and tradition and its allure is hard to resist. I love the blue skies, the vibrant fishing boats peppering its shores, the bursting purple bougainvilleas and whitewashed cube houses and the white-sand beaches – combined, they all create a picture of enormous beauty.”
DO: I love going to the beach, and in Mykonos you can go to a different one every day, if you choose. If it is your first time visiting Mykonos, I’d recommend discovering its rich history by visiting the small island of Delos, which features prominently in Greek mythology.
EAT: Seafood – of course! You must not leave port without trying fresh calamari and sea bass in a local restaurant.
INSIDER SECRET: Definitely take advantage of one of our ship’s organised excursions. My highest recommendation is "Ancient Delos", where you’ll enjoy incredible views of the Cyclades Archipelago during a scenic boat ride on the Aegean Sea and discover spectacular floor and wall mosaics at the Hellenistic mansions of Delos.
BEST TRAVEL ADVICE I'VE BEEN GIVEN: My best pieces of advice are not to sweat the small stuff, and to really try and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and flavors of each port of call – you’ll create memories that will last a lifetime if you follow these two golden rules.
CRUISE: 10-night Italy and Greek Isles voyage on Celebrity Reflection, departing Rome on 8 June 2018. The roundtrip calls to Sicily, Malta, Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, Athens and Naples.