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Hurtigruten has announced a new 2016 itinerary that links two continents and puts an expedition spin on both well-known and less-frequented destinations in northern Europe, Spain, Portugal and North Africa.
The Cultural Contrasts: Through the North Atlantic to Africa voyage will set sail in September, traveling from Norway to Morocco onboard the 1,000-guest Midnatsol, featured in the Norwegian television documentary “Hurtigruten 365.”
Named for the midnight sun, the ship belongs to Hurtigruten’s Millennium Class, which holds the largest vessels in the fleet. Midnatsol features a two-deck panoramic lounge, a swimming pool, a library, free Wi-Fi access, laundry facilities, a fitness room with a sauna and a 24-hour cafeteria.
A new addition to the line’s usual sailings in Antarctica, coastal Norway, Spitsbergen, Greenland and Iceland, the cruise will incorporate the varied history and geography of the ports while offering advice on sites to visit and presenting lectures that will enhance guests’ onshore experiences.
Dozens of special excursions are designed to give passengers a deeper experience at each destination. When in Porto, Portugal, for example, guests have several excursion options. Cruisers can choose to go to port-wine tastings on the “Port Sights & River Cruise” tour, admire the city’s 12th-century baroque-style cathedral or take a boat ride on a rabelo (a traditional Portuguese cargo boat typically used to transport wine barrels). At the end of their cruise, guests can choose to tour Agadir, Morocco, with a visit to the old kasbah and free time in Souq al-Had, the biggest market in the region with nearly 6,000 shops. The tour ends with “Fantasia,” a folkloric show that is best taken in with tea and Moroccan pastries.
Hitting several bucket-list destinations, the cruise can be booked as a nine- or 11-day journey. Departures start in the North Sea on Sept. 16 or 18 from either Amsterdam or Bergen, Norway.
The route runs through the English Channel to the Channel Islands, where passengers will visit Guernsey, a destination that was highlighted in The New York Times bestseller The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. From there, passengers can take a 50-minute ferry ride to Sark, the smallest of the four main Channel Islands. Sark, which has a population of just 550 residents, was designated the world’s first “dark sky island” in 2011 for its exceptional stargazing.
Other points of interest on the itinerary include the Bay of Biscay, a good place for whale-watching, and La Coruna, Spain, which intermingles Celtic and Roman history. In Portugal, the ship calls in both Porto and Lisbon, the charming second-oldest capital in Europe. Midnatsol also visits ancient Cadiz, Spain, with its more than 100 watchtowers, ultimately bringing guests to Casablanca, Morocco.