1) Palma, Majorca
Package holiday, party island? No chance: people dismiss this fabulous Mediterranean port of call at their peril! Palma is a thoroughly chic port from the harbour restaurants selling the freshest fish and finest crustaceans along the paseo maritimo, to the imposing Gothic cathedral. Despite the fact that you’ll find bars and clubs aplenty they’re generally stylish and distinctly upmarket; in other words, thoroughly in keeping with the superb shopping and general ambience of this vibrant city by the sea.
Taken as a whole, the island has so many appealing facets: beautiful beaches, quiet little villages and verdant countryside – it’s no surprise that, over the years, Hollywood Royalty, writers and artists have flocked here to recuperate, to write and to live a thoroughly Mediterranean lifestyle.
Discover the tranquil side of Majorca with an enchanting trip to the little monastery at Valldemosa. Here you’ll find the Chopin & George Sand Museum where the composer decamped with George Sand & her children to avoid the damp Paris weather of 1838. You can see the very piano that Chopin used to compose his famous and ground-breaking ‘preludes’.
If live music is your thing, why not attend an underground concert with an excursion to the Cuevas del Drach?
2) Vigo, Spain
Another capital now in the rugged shape of Vigo, the historic, swashbuckling capital of Galicia! To really appreciate the scale of Vigo’s magnificent harbour you need to be up on deck bright and early. You’ll be rewarded with one of the best views imaginable on a European cruise as Vigo’s harbour is, simply, breathtaking! Once you’ve seen it, you’ll have no trouble at all imagining how the entire Spanish Armada was sheltered here.
Seafaring acts of daring-do are very much Vigo’s stock in trade and, according to legend, the sea bed off the coast is said to be covered with gold following a British attack on heavily laden Spanish convoy – trouble is, nobody knows exactly where it is! Once ashore you’ll have no trouble locating the imposing castle at Bayona, the very spot where news of Columbus’ discoveries of the New World reached the Old.
If all the sea air and swashbuckling tales give you an appetite then Vigo offers all manner of excellent local seafood restaurants. Remember, this is Galicia the culinary heart of Spain where they take their food very seriously indeed! Aside from the food, beautiful beaches and dramatic, rugged coastline, Galicia is also steeped in Celtic culture. You’ll find this heritage is displayed with great vigour in the region’s music and dance.
In Galicia all roads lead to Santiago de Compostela, one of the holiest places in Christendom and considered amongst the world’s greatest walking routes. Why not follow in the footsteps of countless pilgrims with a tour to the Shrine of St James?
3) Naples, Italy
If you want to experience the real Italy, then a trip to Naples is a must! Crazy traffic, a suitably ‘devil may care’ attitude and the most demonstrable love of life lived in the fast lane, mark Naples out as the quintessential Italian port city. Discover the world’s best pizza topped, of course, with the world’s best mozzarella cheese and finished off with the sweetest pastries – the intricate shell-shaped sfogliatelle is a delicious, calorific classic. Wash it all down with molten espresso coffee (served in true Neapolitan style with a glass of water on the side) a glass of Limoncello and some animated conversation.
Once properly fortified you can plunge into the hurly burly of the centro storico formed by the main streets of Via dei Tribunali and Via San Biagio dei Librai that to this day follow the path of the ancient Roman roads. This is the liveliest part of town and a must for anyone looking for an authentic slice of Italian city life. For a different take on the city why not see it from below with an underground Naples tour that will also show you how to make classic Neapolitan pizza?
There again, you might feel your visit to Naples is incomplete without a visit to Pompeii, the ancient city that was famously wiped off the map when Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. Pompeii is easily reached on a tour from Naples and hundreds of years of excavations will afford you an extraordinary snapshot of the city as it existed 2,000 years ago. You’ll see the Forum, the Temple of Jupiter and the Basilica, Pompeii's largest public building, and the thermal baths.
4) Miami, Florida
Welcome to the Sunshine State of Florida and to what is, in many ways, the capital of cruising, Miami. More cruise ships call here than at any other port in the world but, don’t let that put you off, Miami is way more than a mere jumping off point for the Caribbean. If you want to get a feel for the place why not head for Miami Beach itself? You’ll be enchanted by the famous Art Deco neighbourhood if you head down to Ocean Drive, where film and TV buffs will soon pick up on locations used in Miami Vice and Pacino’s masterpiece, Scarface.
The whole beach front area is a perfect for people-watching and you’ll find plenty of great bars and restaurants where you can sit outside, pull up a chair, order up some seafood and simply watch the world go by! If you’re feeling slightly more cerebral then the Vizcaya Museum is well worth a visit; built in the early 20th century the house and gardens are an extraordinary homage to the Italian Renaissance.
Of course, this being Florida, means that the Everglades are never far away, and the perfect way to see the Everglades is on an MSC excursion that most definitely should include a ride on a jet boat! The wetlands of the Everglades are a vast – 1.5 million acre – area teeming with wildlife from crocs’ and ‘gators to manatees, bald eagles and many, many more.
5) Ålesund, Norway
Naturally, we need a fitting finale to our favourite 2020 cruise destinations and Alesund certainly fits the bill! Gutted by fire at the beginning of the 20th century, Ålesund rose, phoenix-like, from the ashes to stake a claim as Norway’s most beautiful town.
Poised as it is at the entrance to the dramatic Geirangerfjord, Ålesund was never going to struggle for an impressive setting, yet the fire of 1904 facilitated a total rebuild of the port in the classic Art Nouveau style. Pop along to the Jugendstilsenteret museum to see how it was accomplished or simply stroll around town on foot or by bike and marvel at the architecture. For a bird’s eye view of the islands that make up the city, climb the 400 plus steps to Aksla or take a paddle board excursion along Brosundet, the stretch of water that is, to all intents and purposes, the main street.
Ålesund’s famous aquarium is worth a visit especially if the weather turns against you, but if it’s fine you’ll want to explore the fjords and the stunning Sunnmore Alps. Hjørundfjord is considered one of the most splendid in Norway, surrounded on both sides by mountain peaks that rise to around 1,700 metres above sea level.
These ports of call are simply some of our favourites, aimed at giving you some information and inspiration when it comes to choosing your 2020 cruises. To find out more, why not visit the website and explore?