Geneva, 12 May - Tired of going back and forth between the most popular destinations in Europe? Looking for something beyond the usual tourist sights? Then this sophisticated and out-of-the-ordinary East Atlantic odyssey will appeal to many a traveller. From early July to the end of September 2014, MSC Cruises will sail a wonderful East Atlantic itinerary that will provide holiday-makers with a rich programme of fascinating cities a little off the beaten path.
Departing from Southampton in the United Kingdom for a series of nine 11 day/10 night cruises, MSC Opera will take guests on a journey to Amsterdam, Netherlands, Guernsey, UK, Vigo, Spain, Lisbon, Portugal, Bilbao, Spain, and finally Le Havre, France. This beautiful itinerary is an invitation for travellers to discover or visit again lovely European cities that truly have myriads of treasures to be enjoyed. In addition to the cities themselves, MSC Cruises has developed the perfect range of shore excursions that will allow MSC guests to fully appreciate these beautiful destinations.
London, Amsterdam and Guernsey
MSC Opera will depart from Southampton, a large port city doubled with a beautiful medieval city, located on the south coast of England in the pretty county of Hampshire, a delightful region to explore. Southampton is also the gateway to London. A thriving city that has something for everyone: from history to culture, art to architecture, and those visiting for the first time will revel in its iconic red buses, incredibly shopping, amazing entertainment options and key attractions including Buckingham Palace, London Bridge and Westminster Abbey. Visitors can readily visit Oxford Street, explore Hyde Park, go cultural at London’s museums or art galleries, or simply find a typical London pub or just enjoy the uniqueness of the city.
Following its departure from the UK MSC Opera will call at Ijmuiden, only 25km from the stylish capital Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a city which thrives on an eclectic, fashionable blend of old and new, where funky design boutiques brush shoulders with traditional stepped-gable houses. Close by is the region of Zaanse Schans, a conservation area and inhabited open-air museum famous for its windmills. The heritage market town of Haarlem is just 15 minutes. Haarlem gave its name to America's ‘Harlem’ in the days when New York was a Dutch colony known as ‘New Amsterdam’.
Subsequently, MSC Opera will set sail for St Peter Port/Guernsey. With its cobbled streets and picturesque seafront marina, it is easy to see why St Peter Port is considered one of Europe's prettiest harbour towns. It is the capital of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands located off the coast of Normandy. Although closer to France than to England, Guernsey is still loyal to the British crown, but administratively independent, it has its own currency and stamps. With a warmer climate than Britain, the town boasts a bustling collection of waterside cafes and bars, and easily accessible pretty beaches. In addition, travellers can make the most of the absence of taxes to indulge in a little shopping spree, while antiques and art lovers will thoroughly appreciate the town’s eclectic mix of antique shops and locally-made craft.
A taste of Spain and Portugal
Vigo, in the Spanish region of Galicia, is the following port of call of MSC Opera. Travellers will savour some incredible seafood in the world's largest and busiest fishing port, and admire its charming streets lined with fishermen's houses. The view of the city and the estuary from the Old Town is simply stunning. Heading a little further inland, guests will be given a chance to explore world famous Santiago de Compostela – a city that was declared a World Heritage Site in 1993 - and get a glimpse of why people travel from across the globe on the Camino de Santiago (St James’ Way) to get to the shrine of St James the Apostle at the magnificent Cathedral.
The next port of call on MSC Opera’s itinerary is the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon. Gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries and quaint museums are all part of the colourful cityscape of Lisbon. However, the real delights of discovering Portugal’s cool but understated capital lie in wandering the narrow lanes of the city’s lovely backstreets, or exploring by the city’s wonderful old-fashioned trams. Just outside Lisbon, there’s even more to explore: the magical, UNESCO World Heritage site of Sintra, famous for its mountain range, country palaces and cottages; Fatima, an important pilgrimage site; the town of Quelez and its magnificent palace, known as the Portuguese Versailles, and Cascais, a glorious fishing village and favourite summer retreat of the royal family.
Having allowed MSC travellers to discover lovely Lisbon, MSC Opera will set sail towards another beautiful region of Spain: the Basque Country and glorious Bilbao. Thanks to its history and location, the city is a magnificent melting pot of architecture, tradition, sea and mountain, character and history. It is also home to several acclaimed museums including the Guggenheim Museum, it boasts myriads of churches and its cathedral without even mentioning the world-renowned food. Built between the sea and the Pyrenees, Bilbao has plenty to offer, from its exuberant cutting-edge architecture and stimulating art, to the lively alleyways of its old town, the Casco Viejo, and its friendly inhabitants.
The finishing touch: Paris
The last port of call on MSC Opera’s journey will be in Le Havre, France. UNESCO listed Le Havre as a World Heritage Site in 2005. With its fantastic Malraux museum and friendly, progressive feel, Le Havre is far more than just another ferry port. The town is a place of pilgrimage for fans of contemporary architecture. Its fine-arts museum is also among the best in France. Nearby excursions allow travellers to visit Honfleur and Deauville or the Mont Saint Michel. Le Havre is also the gateway to nearby Paris, the City of Lights. Long considered the paragon of style, Paris is perhaps the most glamorous city in Europe. It is at once deeply traditional – a village-like metropolis– and famously cosmopolitan. The most enjoyable way of enjoying Paris is to immerse in its street life and along the banks and bridges of the River Seine. Cafés, bars and restaurants line every street and boulevard, for everyone’s pleasure.
This series of nine 11 day/10 night journeys is available from 09 July 2014 until 27 September 2014. With a vast array of shore expeditions as well as five countries to discover or rediscover, this cruise will bring MSC guests to off the beaten path destinations. For more information, please visit www.msccruises.com .