Top of the Ports

The top ten ports visited by Rich onboard Marco Polo during the 2011/12 season.
 

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Top of the Ports

 

At the time of writing I’m in my 12th year of cruising and my 5th with Cruise and Maritime Voyages. I’ve been to some extraordinary destinations on my travels. Chilean fjords, The Falklands, Antarctica… and so on. This year I’ve already been to Madeira, the Canary Islands, Cape Verdi, Lisbon, the Amazon, the Caribbean and the Arctic Circle.

I was asked to make a presentation at the Kensington Olympia for the Telegraph Cruise Show. I opted to do a ‘run down’ of some of the best ports that the Marco Polo and Ocean Countess currently visit.

It’s time for the top ten…

 

10 Ponta Delgada, Azores

Feels so unintimidating and homely. Beautiful cobbled streets and pavements. Great weather. Modern port. Scenery. Furnas Lake and beyond, rolling green hills. A walker’s paradise. Excellent fishing.

 

9 St. Petersburg, Russia

Church on Spilled Blood, St. Catherine’s Palace, The Hermitage… this is an extraordinary place for treasures, history and culture. The Russian security is a worrying sideshow.

It’s improved vastly over the last five years with proper cruise terminals and better facilities. You could take a rush hour tour of St. Petersberg incredible underground system

Vibrant, insane and unforgettable… Just part of a great cruise along with Tallinn, Warnemunde, Stockholm, Copenhagen, the Kiel Canal and more. Truly great.

8 Tresco, Isles of Scilly

I’m cheating, it’s not a port. But we tender directly to it so why not. Perfect gardens at the Abbey, but there’s more. New Grimsby (pictured) is a beautiful haven. Sandy, deserted shoreline. For any keen gardener, the brilliant guides offer masses of advice and humour.

St. Mary’s is superb as well. Trek along the coast line and find Julie’s. Have an afternoon with a Crab salad with the house champagne, Marco Polo anchored in the distance. Bliss.

7 Reykjavik, Iceland

I’ll admit, it’s not the most exciting capital city we visit. We sail from London, we’ve done Barcelona, Rio, Buena Series… But Reykjavik is a truly individual port. Scenery of Iceland is staggering. Some of the best is around Reykjavic and Isafjordur.

Sulphur, lava, glaciers, geysers … It’s almost alien. And it’s so close to Britain. Godenfos waterfall (pictured) is exquisite. Powerful. Primitive.

6 Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Duart castle (pictured). The greenest sail-in. The unbeatable Mish Nish Restaurant on that -oh-so-picturesque front. For an alternative, take the ferry to the mainland and explore the west coast of Scotland.

5 Iles Du Salut, French Guiana

Three islands off French Guiana. Tame, abundant wildlife. A paradise

But there’s an Incredible savage history. It’s the backdrop to the film and book; Papillon. Devil’s island just across a narrow shark infested current.

Monkeys, macaws, agoutis, capuchins and sea turtles. Masses of iguanas. An unexpected wonder.

4 Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

From wildlife to history. Our history. Kirkwall is fine. Solidly built, great church, but the islands are incredible.

The Old Man of Hoy sits close by. There’s Scapa flow – scene of one of the most daring enemy attacks in British waters. Neolithic remains are being unearthed at an alarming rate. Scara Brae – step back 5,000 years. Long before the pyramids.

Ring of Brodgar; an immense standing stone circle

Brock at Maes How – once every year the sun shines down the tiny shaft. Lighting one special tomb. Incredible Viking graffiti. You can watch online if you can’t make it there.

3 Ulvik and Eidfjord, Norway

4.30 am. Coffee station at the ready. Dawn over the fjords. This stretch is very dear to me. I’ve seen people in tears just gazing at the immense beauty. Then the walls come towering in…

There are prettier fjord towns: Flam for example

There are more dramatic fjords: Geiranger with its seven sisters and potential tidal wave

But this is the one that the passengers see first. It’s utterly captivating.

2 Manaus, Brazil

It’s a rain forest! It rains, but you can escape in this Incredible opera house. The variety of options available here is quite dizzying.

Swim with Pink river dolphins, explore incongruous river bank beach paradises, trek into the forest itself – you’ll find tribal cultures just minutes from the city.

There’s the meeting of the waters, but Manaus is the pinnacle of an extraordinary expedition. We’re getting better and better at presenting the Amazon to our passengers. Lessons are learnt every time.

When to switch off the lights so we don’t get as many massive bugs.

When to have a ready made pontoon ready in case the day’s port was washed away.

How to tour responsibly in places like Boca de Valeria.

It’s such an experience.

But what’s at number one? Which place above all is my favourite? For the top of the chart, we head to the top of the world.

1 Alta, Norway

Really? Cold, remote, expensive shopping. But…

Alta is the most northerly port on a breathtaking adventure in the land of the northern lights. The excursions are overwhelmingly wonderful. Husky sledges, snow mobile rides, polar zoo…

Igloo hotel – a hotel made entirely of ice that melts away every spring.

But don’t. You might miss my personal obsession

When the Northern Lights are around Alta is an unmatched destination. The thrill of seeing these natural illuminations in full flight is wonderful. But with this cruise there’s even more…

A calm day at sea can turn into a whale watcher’s wet dream

Take a scenic train ride to Sweden

Lofoten islands

Bergen

Awe inspiring scenery around Molde

Take in Voss, Hardangerfjord views

Alesund’s exquisite charms

Svartisen Glacier

Blue nose certificates

And you don’t have to be at the top of Norway to see the lights, so every single night turns into a safari.

Have a good trip port pickers.

 

 

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