Cruise holidays have become about much more than sun-decks and cocktails in recent times and nowhere is this demonstrated more potently than in Scandinavia and the Baltic Region. Visiting cultural meccas like Helsinki, pushing the boundaries of the Arctic Circle in Greenland, travelling all the way east to St Petersburg and embarking on Norwegian fjord cruises, these cold climes offer fantastically varied voyages on the waves.
Typical North European itineraries set sail from ports like Copenhagen or Hamburg and either hop from capital to capital, or concentrate on specific Baltic regions such as Stockholm's islands. But it's along the extensive coastline of Norway where the Scandinavian cruise trip really comes into its own.
The sparkling fjords and snow-covered ports of the Norwegian coast have been attracting attention from holiday-makers all over the world, and deservedly so. A country perfectly suited to sea exploration, World Heritage sites like Geirangerfjord, the chill beauty of the North Cape and modern cities like Bergen make Norway an essential segment of a northern sea trip.
To get the full Norwegian experience, make time for an eight or 11-night cruise of the west coast, beginning in Bergen and cruising through no less than 34 ports, plenty of those famous fjords and, if you travel in summer, the magic of the Northern Lights. Night-time dockings are made even more special with the midnight sun out in full force during the warmer months.
Journeys turn heel at Kirkenes, near the Russian boundary, but not before taking in the verdant mountains and magnificent waterfalls around Geiranger and remote islands like Mageroya, home to the most northerly fishing village on earth. In addition, there are also mini-cruises to explore Oslo's breathtaking estuary in depth or discover the Arctic delights around Lofoten and the Trollfjord in the far north.
In fact, there are few places in the world that resemble the splendor of the Norwegian countryside, and with tour operators specializing in fjord cruises as well as multi-country options, there are many opportunities to see it first-hand. With ships departing from various UK ports including Southampton and Dover, you won't even need to fork out for an airfare to make a start on the Scandinavian adventure of a lifetime.