Northern Europe from Hamburg
Day 1 - Hamburg Located between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, Hamburg will fascinate you from the moment you first set eyes on its elegant and austere buildings looking onto the port, one of the largest in Europe. When you reach this destination on an MSC Cruise of Northern Europe, you can get a taste of its glorious history. Hamburg is a cosmopolitan, wealthy and fashionable city, with an aggressive economy, that still prides itself of the title “free Hanseatic city”. It has, in fact, never cut its umbilical cord with maritime trade that has its heart in the port where your cruise liner will be waiting for you. Many tourist come here to visit the Reeperbahn, the red light district, but if you want to take in the atmosphere of the city, you shouldn’t miss an excursion to Speicherstadt (Warehouse Town), where the cobbled streets, gables and turrets combine to make the area on the other side of Zollkanal (Tax Canal) a world apart from the city opposite. Another city icon, St Michaelis, at the western edge of the city centre by Ludwig-Erhard-Strasse, is Hamburg’s iconic church and no wonder. More than any other building, the “Michael” mirrors the city’s irrepressible spirit. Burned down after a lightning strike in1750, it was rebuilt in Baroque style under Ernst Georg Sonnin but it again accidently caught fire in1906. In 1945, the Allies obliterated the roof and decor of church number three. Reconstructed again to Sonnin’s plans, it is now the finest Baroque church in North Germany. Probably the most gratifying attraction during an excursion on an MSC Cruise is the scenery you can admire from one of the best views over Hamburg: the 360-degree panorama takes in Speicherstadt, the container port and shipping on the Elbe, the Alster lakes, and the five spires of the churches and Rathaus.
Day 2 - At Sea
Day 3 - Cork, Ireland When you step ashore from your MSC Northern Europe cruise in Cork, everywhere there is evidence of its history as a great mercantile centre, with grey-stone quaysides, old warehouses, and elegant, quirky bridges spanning the River Lee to each side of the city’s island core. But equally powerful draws are its lively atmosphere and large student population, combined with a vibrant social and cultural scene. Massive stone walls built by invading Normans in the twelfth century were destroyed by William III’s forces during the Siege of Cork in 1690, after which waterborne trade brought increasing prosperity, as witnessed by the city’s fine eighteenth-century bow-fronted houses and ostentatious nineteenth-century churches. The graceful arc of St Patrick’s Street – which with Grand Parade forms the commercial heart of the centre – is crammed with major chain stores. Just off here on Princes Street, the English Market offers the chance to sample local delicacies like drisheen (a peppered sausage made from a sheep’s stomach lining and blood). The west of the city is predominantly residential, though Fitzgerald Park is home to the Cork Public Museum, which focuses on Republican history. Kinsale, 25km south of Cork city, is also waiting to be enjoyed on an MSC Northern Europe cruise excursion. Kinsale enjoys a glorious setting at the head of a sheltered harbour around the mouth of the Bandon River. Two imposing forts and a fine tower-house remain as evidence of its former importance as a trading port, and Kinsale has built on its cosmopolitan links to become the culinary capital of the southwest. Add in plenty of opportunities for watersports on the fine local beaches and a number of congenial pubs, and you have a very appealing, upscale resort town.
Day 4 - Dublin Set on the banks of the River Liffey, Dublin is a splendidly monumentalcity with a cosmopolitan feel and an internationally renowned nightlife. A shore excursion on your MSC Northern Europe cruise can be the opportunity to discover Dublin’s elegance and essentially Georgianarchitecture, hailing from when the Anglo-Irish gentry invested their income in new townhouses. Dublin’s fashionable Southside is home to the city’s trendy bars, restaurants and shops – especially in the cobbled alleys of Temple Bar leading down to the River Liffey – and most of its historic monuments, centred on Trinity College, Grafton Street and St Stephen’s Green. But the Northside, with its long-standing working-class neighbourhoods and inner-city communities, is the real heart of the city. Across the bridges from Temple Bar are the shopping districts around O’Connell Street, where you’ll find a flavour of the old Dublin. Here, you’ll also come across a fair amount of graceful residential streets and squares, with plenty of interest in the museums and cultural hotspots around the elegant Parnell Square. The Vikings sited their assembly and burial ground near what is now College Green, a three-sided square where Trinity College is the most famous landmark. Founded in 1592, Trinity College played a major role in the development of a Protestant Anglo-Irish tradition: right up to 1966, Catholics had to obtain a special dispensation to study here, though now they make up the majority of the students. The stern grey and mellow red-brick buildings are ranged around cobbled quadrangles in a larger version of the quads at Oxford and Cambridge. The Old Library owns numerous Irish manuscripts; pride of place goes to the illustrated ninth-century Book of Kells, which contains the four Gospels written in Latin on vellum, the script adorned with patterns and fantastic animals intertwined with the text’s capital letters.
Day 5 - Belfast Waiting to be enjoyed on an MSC Northern Europe cruise excursion, Belfast has a pace and bustle you’ll find nowhere else in Northern Ireland. In appearance Belfast closely resembles Liverpool, Glasgow or any other industrial port across the water, and, similarly, its largely defunct docklands – in which, famously, the Titanic was built – are undergoing massive redevelopment. Though the city centre is still characterized by numerous elegant Victorian buildings, there’s been an enormous transformation here, too, not least in the greater prosperity of the shopping streets leading northwards from the hub of Belfast life, Donegall Square. In the city centre, you can concentrate on the glories resulting from the Industrial Revolution – grandiose architecture and magnificent Victorian pubs – and the rejuvenated area from Ann Street to Donegall Street now known as the Cathedral quarter. To the south lies Queen’s University and the extensive collections of the Ulster Museum, set in the grounds of the Botanic Gardens. Ever since 1693, when the Royal Society first publicized it as one of the great wonders of the natural world, the Giant’s Causeway has been a major tourist attraction and it’s just waiting for you to visit it too on an MSC Northern Europe excursion. Made up of an estimated 37,000 black basalt columns, each a polygon, it’s the result of a massive subterranean explosion, some sixty million years ago, that stretched from the Causeway to Rathlin and beyond to Islay, Staffa and Mull in Scotland. A huge mass of molten basalt was spewed out onto the surface, which, on cooling, solidified into what are, essentially, crystals. Though the process was simple, it’s difficult, when confronted with the impressive regular geometry of the columns, to believe that their production was entirely natural.
Day 6 - Greenock At your MSC cruise port of call in Greenock, Scotland, you’ll be just a short trip away from Glasgow. Glasgow is a sprawling post-industrial metropolis on the banks of the River Clyde. An upbeat cruise destination, it boasts great bars, clubs and restaurants. Its museums and galleries are some of the best in Britain, while the city’s impressive architecture reflects the wealth of its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century heyday. Set on the banks of the mighty River Clyde, Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, has not traditionally enjoyed the best of reputations. However, the cityscape has been spruced up, and many visitors are knocked out by the architecture, from long rows of sandstone terraces to the fantastical spires of the Kelvingrove Museum. Glasgow has some of the best-financed and most imaginative museums and galleries in Britain – among them the showcase Burrell Collection and the palatial Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – nearly all of which are free. Glasgow’s architecture is some of the most striking in the UK, from the restored eighteenth-century warehouses of the Merchant City to the hulking Victorian prosperity of George Square. Most distinctive of all is the work of local luminary Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose elegantly Art Nouveau designs appear all over the city, reaching their apotheosis in the stunning School of Art. MSC Northern Europe cruises also offer excursions to Stirling. Straddling the River Forth a few miles upstream from the estuary at Kincardine, Stirling appears, at first glance, like a smaller version of Edinburgh. With its crag-top castle, steep, cobbled streets and mixed community of locals, students and tourists, it’s an appealing place. Stirling was the scene of some of the most significant developments in the evolution of the Scottish nation as commemorated by the lofty Wallace Monument high on Abbey Craig to the north-east.
Day 7 - At Sea
Day 8 - Kirkwall Sail on an MSC cruise to the unique and fiercely independent archipelago of Orkney! For an Orcadian, the Mainland means the largest island in Orkney rather than the rest of Scotland, and their history is inextricably linked with Scandinavia. Kirkwall, Orkney’s capital, has one great redeeming feature – its sandstone cathedral, without doubt the finest medieval building in the north of Scotland. Nowadays, the town is divided into two main focal points: the old harbour, at the north end of the town, where inter-island ferries come and go all year round, and the flagstoned main street, which changes its name four times as it twists its way south from the harbour past the cathedral. Standing at the very heart of Kirkwall, St Magnus Cathedral is the town’s most compelling sight. This beautiful red sandstone building was begun in 1137 by the Viking Earl Rognvald, who built the cathedral in honour of his uncle Magnus, killed on the orders of his cousin Håkon in 1117. To the south of the cathedral are the ruined remains of the Bishop’s Palace, residence of the Bishop of Orkney since the twelfth century. Most of what you see now, however, dates from the time of Bishop Robert Reid, sixteenth-century founder of Edinburgh University. A narrow spiral staircase takes you to the top for a good view over the cathedral and Kirkwall’s rooftops. MSC Northern Europe cruises also offer excursions to the heart of Orkney’s most important Neolithic ceremonial complex. The most visible part is the Stones of Stenness, originally a circle of twelve rock slabs, now just four, the tallest of which is more than 16ft high and remarkable for its incredible thinness.
Day 9 - Invergordon When you step ashore from your MSC cruise in Invergordon, you’ll be enthralled by the Scotland’s Northwest Highland region, which covers the northern two-thirds of the country and holds much of the mainland’s most spectacular scenery. You may be surprised at just how remote much of it still is: the vast peat bogs in the north, for example, are among the most extensive and unspoilt wilderness areas in Europe, while a handful of the west coast’s isolated crofting villages can still be reached only by boat. The only major city, Inverness, is best used as a springboard for more remote areas where you can soak in the Highlands’ classic combination of mountains, glens, lochs and rivers, surrounded on three sides by a magnificently pitted and rugged coastline. Inverness Castle is closed to the public, but the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery offers an insight into the social history of the Highlands, with treasures from the times of the Picts and Vikings. A shore excursion on your MSC Northern Europe cruise can also be the opportunity to discover Loch Ness. Twenty-three miles long, unfathomably deep, cold and often moody, Loch Ness is bounded by rugged heather-clad mountains rising steeply from a wooded shoreline with attractive glens opening up on either side. Its fame, however, is based overwhelmingly on its legendary inhabitant Nessie, the “Loch Ness monster”, who ensures a steady flow of hopeful visitors to the settlements dotted along the loch, in particular Drumnadrochit. The first mention of a mystery creature crops up in St Adamnan’s seventh-century biography of St Columba, who allegedly calmed an aquatic animal that had attacked one of his monks. Nearby, the impressive ruins of Castle Urquhart – a favourite monster-spotting location – perch atop a rock on the lochside.
Day 10 - At Sea
Day 11 - Hamburg Located between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, Hamburg will fascinate you from the moment you first set eyes on its elegant and austere buildings looking onto the port, one of the largest in Europe. When you reach this destination on an MSC Cruise of Northern Europe, you can get a taste of its glorious history. Hamburg is a cosmopolitan, wealthy and fashionable city, with an aggressive economy, that still prides itself of the title “free Hanseatic city”. It has, in fact, never cut its umbilical cord with maritime trade that has its heart in the port where your cruise liner will be waiting for you. Many tourist come here to visit the Reeperbahn, the red light district, but if you want to take in the atmosphere of the city, you shouldn’t miss an excursion to Speicherstadt (Warehouse Town), where the cobbled streets, gables and turrets combine to make the area on the other side of Zollkanal (Tax Canal) a world apart from the city opposite. Another city icon, St Michaelis, at the western edge of the city centre by Ludwig-Erhard-Strasse, is Hamburg’s iconic church and no wonder. More than any other building, the “Michael” mirrors the city’s irrepressible spirit. Burned down after a lightning strike in1750, it was rebuilt in Baroque style under Ernst Georg Sonnin but it again accidently caught fire in1906. In 1945, the Allies obliterated the roof and decor of church number three. Reconstructed again to Sonnin’s plans, it is now the finest Baroque church in North Germany. Probably the most gratifying attraction during an excursion on an MSC Cruise is the scenery you can admire from one of the best views over Hamburg: the 360-degree panorama takes in Speicherstadt, the container port and shipping on the Elbe, the Alster lakes, and the five spires of the churches and Rathaus.
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