Those with a desire to expand their cultural horizons as well as their geographical ones will find themselves right at home on a cruise ship. Many lines offer itineraries with an experimental and educational bias across the globe.
Spain: Barcelona is a favourite starting point for fly-cruises, and most lines offer the chance to add on hotel stays either pre- or post-cruise. It’s well worth extending your break by a night or two. Spain’s second city is home to Gaudí’s extraordinary Sagrada Familia, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the 98,000-seat Camp Nou, home of the trophy-laden Barcelona FC.
Italy: The San Siro stadium in Milan (home to both AC Milan and Inter) is another must-see for football fans and can be combined with a shopping spree to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a viewing of Da Vinci’s Last Supper and a night at the opera at La Scala. Norwegian Cruise Line runs two- to eight-day pre-cruises in Italy, which – as well as Milan – take in cultural highlights such as Rome, Florence, Pisa and Venice.
Remaining in Italy, MSC Cruises is one of the many companies to offer excursions from Naples to Pompeii. Its guided archaeological walking tour (from £45 per adult; from £32 per child) allows passengers to gain an insight into how the Ancient Romans lived.
Russia: The cities of the Baltic have become increasingly popular – and many lines now include a stay in St Petersburg to give passengers time to take in the Hermitage Museum, the Yusupov Palace and Catherine the Great’s Palace. A 14-night sailing on P&O Cruises’ child-friendly vessel Aurora next July covers this Russian gem as well as Stockholm, Copenhagen and medieval Tallinn.
Alaska: Celebrity Cruises takes Alaska excursions to new heights with a helicopter tour of the vast Mendenhall Glacier from the town of Juneau. A 30-minute flight over rainforests, alpine ridges and mountain peaks is followed by a trek on the icy surface led by a knowledgeable glacier guide.
Holland America Line is latching onto the growing desire for in-depth excursions by creating an On Location initiative to provide passengers with information about customs, the way of life, off-the-beaten-track locations and insight from locals at several of its port stops.