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Santiago is the largest of the Cape Verde islands, and nearly half the nation’s population lives on the island. Originally volcanic, Santiago is unusually fertile, and agriculture is an important part of the islands’ economy. The Cape Verde Islands only won their independence from Portugal in 1974, following a violent revolution. The nation is struggling valiantly to progress after a repressive history. Accordingly visitors will notice a striking difference in development between it and many of its neighbors. The Cape Verdeans, though, are friendly and optimistic, and welcoming to visitors. The old capital, formerly known as Cidade Velha, has been renamed Ribeira Grande de Santiago, which was its name when it was an important port in the infamous slave trade. Dating from 1466, it was the first European colonial settlement in the Tropics. Visitors will notice a cluster of well-restored colonial-period houses, as well as a monument to the original pelourinho, or pillory where slaves were both punished and sold. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Las Palmas is a large Spanish city, which just happens to be on the island of Gran Canaria. That fact adds the exotic, slightly African and international flavor to the place. It played an important part in the early exploration and exploitation of Africa and the New World, some of which is recounted in the Casa de Colon Museum. Columbus may have slept there, but it was never his house. It was actually the mansion of early governors. Other museums of note are the Museo Canaria with a number of Cro Magnon skulls, and the fascinating Elder Museum of Science and Technology. For shopping, strolling and general local interest, head to La Vegueta, the oldest quarter and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the adjacent Triana high street shopping district. Most visitors are here for the beaches, and the municipal Playa de Las Canteras is a long, clean and safe option if that is your intention. The Canaria in the name of the islands refers to the indigenous Presa Canaria breed of dogs, which are large, strong and made quite an impression on the earliest Spanish visitors.
Casablanca, located on the Atlantic coast, is with 4 million inhabitants Morocco’s largest city, and at the same time the largest port in Africa. Built on the site of ancient Phoenician Anfa, it remained a small fishing village for many centuries until the French arrived in 1912. Since then Casablanca has become a vast modern city, ever on the increase since Morocco’s independence from France in 1956. A successful blend of oriental-style, white cubic dwellings with modern Moroccan quarters gives the city an interesting flair. Lovely beaches and attractive hotels make for a popular year-round holiday resort. To help understand Moroccan culture a visit to the Medina, the quaint old Moorish quarter, is a must for all visitors.
The great period of “the Discoveries” accounted for phenomenal wealth brought back from India, Africa and Brazil by the great Portuguese navigators. Gold, jewels, ivory, porcelain and spices helped finance grand new buildings and impressive monuments in Lisbon, the country’s capital city. As you sail up the Tagus River, be on deck to admire Lisbon’s panorama and see some of the great monuments lining the river. Lisbon is one of Europe’s smallest capital cities but considered by many visitors to be one of the most likeable. Spread over a string of seven hills, the city offers a variety of faces, including a refreshing no-frills simplicity reflected in the people as they go unhurriedly through their day enjoying a hearty and delicious cuisine accompanied by the country’s excellent wines.
The seaport and naval station of Cherbourg is situated along the English Channel northwest of Paris at the mouth of the Divette River. Believed to rest on the site of an ancient Roman station, Cherbourg has been occupied since ancient times and was frequently contested by the French and English in the Middle Ages because of its strategic location. Most recently passed to France in the late 18th century, the town was extensively fortified by Louis XVI. During WWII the Germans held Cherbourg until it was captured by the American forces shortly after the Normandy landings. Following a vast rehabilitation program that returned it to working condition, Cherbourg became an important Allied supply port. Today, Cherbourg is important for transatlantic shipping, shipbuilding, electronics and telephone equipment manufacturing, yachting and commercial fishing.
Located in the Flemish province of West Flanders, the city of Oostende, the largest population center on the Belgian coast, is protected from the North Sea by a network of dikes. Originally a small fishing village when it was chartered as a city in the 13th century, Oostende has been plagued throughout its history by a constant onslaught by invaders from the sea. Two of Belgian’s kings, Leopold I and Leopold II, later decided to spend their summers in Oostende, which raised the town’s prestige and transformed it into a fashionable 19th-century resort. Following the most recent period of destruction during aerial bombardments of WWII, modern Oostende has grown into a transportation hub and resort town, famous for its sea-side esplanade, pier, and fine-sand beaches. Oostende affords convenient access to the historic Belgian towns of Bruges and Ghent.
London is one of the great entertainment, financial and fashion centers of the world. It dates back to ancient times when the Romans made it a hub of their road system and built the first London Bridge. There are actually two separate cities – the City of London and the City of Westminster – and they function side by side. The City of London is mostly a place of business and finance, while Westminster (the West End) is the locale of the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, as well as theaters, clubs, parks and myriad shops. *Please note that embarkation and/or disembarkation in London, United Kingdom requires the use of a tender.