Lindblad Expeditions: Scotland’s Highlands and Islands

Unique small-cruise on the famous Caledonian Canal before sailing the coastal waters of the Inner Hebrides.

The Caledonian Canal
Continue reading “Lindblad Expeditions: Scotland’s Highlands and Islands”

The Best Cruises Sailing from Scotland in 2020: PONANT

PONANT: From the Norwegian Sea to Spitsbergen – with National Geographic

A luxury polar expedition voyage, leaving from Glasgow with stops in Orkney and Iceland

Continue reading “The Best Cruises Sailing from Scotland in 2020: PONANT”

Going Ashore: The Outlander Tour Shore Excursion

Characters from Netlfix
Netflix Outlander Characters

The success of Diana Gabaldon’s series of books, along with the hugely popular Netflix adaptation, has brought Outlander fans to Scotland in their droves.

Continue reading “Going Ashore: The Outlander Tour Shore Excursion”


Going Ashore: V&A Dundee

© Louise Farquhar

Dundee, located on the north bank of the famous River Tay estuary on Scotland’s eastern coast, is undergoing a renaissance of sorts. With a £1 billion redevelopment of the waterfront underway, the city has been named by National Geographic Traveller magazine as one of the coolest destinations for 2019. This accolade is only one of many, with Lonely Planet also highlighting the city as a global must-visit hotspot.

© Louise Farquhar

The port is a natural harbour, dating back 800 years, with spectacular views of the magnificent rail and road bridges spanning this broad river. As well as hosting cruise ships, the port handles much of Scotland’s agricultural produce and is an important centre for the oil and gas industry.

Dundee is benefiting from the rise in popularity for Northern European cruise itineraries, often being included as part of a British Isles tour or an expedition trip to Norway or Iceland. Cruise ships berth right in the heart of the city, with a free shuttle bus making the short trip to the main attractions. Originally known as the home of marmalade and The Beano, there are now two more jewels in Dundee’s crown; the V&A museum and Captain Scott’s Antarctic research vessel, RRS Discovery.

© Louise Farquhar

The V&A opened in September 2018 and is the first outpost of this world-leading museum outside of London. It is also Scotland’s first design museum. Created by the Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma, the imposing concrete building has a distinct maritime theme, jutting out over the river like the bow of a ship. Home to the permanent and free Scottish Design Galleries, there is also an impressive exhibition space featuring a rotating programme of events which charges an entry fee.

In keeping with the high standards of the V&A museum generally, the shop has an upmarket selection of carefully curated items to buy and the upstairs Tatha Bar & Kitchen is fantastic for breakfast and lunch (booking essential, especially at weekends).

Click here for a direct link to the V&A website.


One Ocean: Scotland & Ireland Golf Expedition

oo Scotland Golf 2
Take in the view

Scotland, the birthplace of golf, is home to some of the finest courses in the world. One Ocean Expeditions, on their Scotland & Ireland Golf Expedition voyage, visit a hand-picked selection of these on this carefully curated 7-day tour.

OO Scotland Ireland Golf Map
Scotland & Ireland Golf Expedition Map

With a strong focus on the infamous course designer, ‘Old Tom Morris’, the cruise offers golf at Machrihanish, the recently restored Askernish, Castle Stuart links, Royal Dornoch, Cruden Bay and Royal Aberdeen. On disembarking in Edinburgh you might choose to extend your stay with a trip to St. Andrews and the fabulous Old Course.

Castle Stuart Golf Links
Sunset Over the Course

So you can concentrate on your swing … One Ocean book your preferred tee-off times, pay green fees in advance and transport clubs by Zodiac to the course of your choice. In between games, Scotland has plenty more to offer. One Ocean have excursions to castles, Neolithic sites, fishing villages, whisky distillery tours and wildlife.

Atlantic Puffin
Orkney Puffin

You cruise on the newest addition to the fleet, the 146-passenger re-fitted RCGS Resolute. Originally built in 1993, this polar expedition vessel is more commonly sailing the waters of Antarctica but ventures further north in the summer for cruises to Canada, Scotland and Iceland.

Castles and Courses
Castles and Courses

One Ocean are specialists in expedition cruising, providing all guests with a comprehensive outdoor kit which includes binoculars and walking poles. Onboard experts highlight points of interest and specialist speakers tailor their talks to the destinations of each particular voyage.



Date: June 5 – 12 2019

Duration: 7 days

Ship: RCGS Resolute



Lindblad: Ancient Isles

Lindblad Iona
Iona Abbey

If Stone Age ruins, an ancient abbey, volcanic caves, fishing villages, whales and seabird nesting sites sounds like your cup of tea … or pint of ale … then Lindblad’s Ancient Isles cruise might be just for you.

Lindblad Ancient Isles Map
Ancient Isles Cruise

Travelling from London to Bergen in May 2019, the cruise basks in the long summer light as it heads north to some wonderful Scottish sites; Iona, Staffa, St.Kilda, Isle of Lewis, Orkney and Shetland.

The expedition cruise market is heating up and few know how to do it better than Lindblad National Geographic. Their small-scale ships venture deeper into destinations, accessing wild places and lost cultures. The onboard expedition team has a naturalist, historian and certified photo instructor to accompany you on hikes, Zodiac trips and kayak adventures.

Lindblad Fingals Cave
Fingals Cave

Your ship on this trip is the flagship 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer. It’s a wonderfully informal ship, shirking the stiffness of more luxurious lines in favour of sociability and discovery. A remote-controlled crow’s nest camera with real-time footage broadcasts on video screens within each cabin and a video microscope gives a marvellous undersea view.

Lindblad Shetland ponies
Shetland Ponies

More information on this cruise can be found here on Lindblad’s site.


Date: May 2019

Duration: 15 days

Ship: National GeographicExplorer

Photos courtesy of Lindblad

The Nieuw Statendam: What we know so far about Holland America Line’s new cruise ship

Holland America Line, founded in 1873, has an excellent maritime pedigree evolving from Dutch shipping and transportation services to up-scale global cruising. As one of the leading premium cruise lines, Holland America Line has stayed true to the traditions and elegance of cruising but also embraced the adventure, culinary interests and cultural stimulation expected from modern sophisticated travellers.

Nieuw Statendam
The Nieuw Statendam in Amsterdam

Their fleet of 15 ships (soon to be 14 when the much-loved Prinsendam retires in Summer 2019) vary in size and age, with the latest being the stunning Nieuw Statendam. This is the second Pinnacle-class vessel in the fleet, following in the wake of sister ship Koningsdam, and the sixth in Holland America Line’s history to bear the name Statendam.

Designed by the respected maritime architect, Bjorn Storbraaten, the ship was built by Fincanteri in Italy and dedicated by Godmother, Oprah Winfrey, in February 2019.

What size is it?

The Nieuw Statendam weighs 99,902 tons, has a length of 975ft and is 114.8ft wide, placing it in the medium-size cruise ship category. A maximum of 2666 guests are accommodated in 1377cabins. Even on sea days the ship isn’t overcrowded, with plenty of public spaces and lots of activities spread out over the 12 decks.

Will I like the vibe?

If you want to relax, listen to great music, explore interesting places and eat amazing food … this cruise ship is a perfect fit.

Nieuw Statendam Main Dining Room
Murano Glass in the Main Dining Room

Renowned designer Adam D. Tihany created the interior to reflect the fluidity of music, incorporating stylish curves and easy movement within the space. The bright and airy feel is modern, without being glitzy, bringing together gorgeous features like the three-storey atrium made of gleaming stainless-steel ‘harp-strings’. In keeping with the history of the company, the traditional promenade deck and elegant nautical lines of the ship are key elements and a welcome backdrop to more contemporary features. Murano glass bubbles hang in pops of bejewelled colour from the Main Dining Room ceiling, sheer white fabrics sway gently beside serene day beds and the clubby violin-shaped Queens Lounge draws on the familiar motif of musical instruments.

Holland America Line guests are discerning travellers, seeking high quality experiences. There is no Laser Tag here, or Go-Karts or water slides. Instead, a $4 million art collection is peppered throughout the ship, unravelling and revealing itself in hidden spaces and interesting corners throughout the many decks.

These touches are indicative of the curious, at-ease and educated customers who book with this cruise line.

What about entertainment?

There is so much to do on the Nieuw Statendam; even a two week cruise won’t be long enough to experience everything.

The Music Walk is firmly at the centre of Holland America Line’s concept, gathering together an inspired collaboration of leading partners from the musical world to offer an incredible range of performances. Billboard Onboard, with duelling pianos, plays sing-along tunes, while the Lincoln Centre Stage offers classical recitals. As the night moves on, so does the tempo, with the brand new Rolling Stone Rock Room belting out rock classics and B.B. King’s Blues Club bringing Memphis to the ocean with their soulful sounds. Definitely remember your dancing shoes!

Nieuw Statendam Aft Pool
Aft Seaview Pool

Many a pleasant hour can be spent in the Greenhouse Spa; with thermal area, heated loungers and whirlpools. This is especially popular on sea days, as is The Retreat, which has private cabanas for rent. For sporty types, the Fitness Centre Spin Studio looks out over the water and an open-air basketball court is perched on the very top of the ship to shoot some (maybe quite bracing and vertiginous) hoops.

In another exciting partnership, O The Oprah Magazine has curated a range of activities, like daily meditation and a well-stocked reading room, which are intended to combine travel with wellness and personal growth. The America Test Kitchen has hands-on cookery workshops and BLEND, partnered with Chateau Ste. Michelle, teaches you to blend your own wine, which you can drink during your cruise.

Nieuw Statendam BLEND

But perhaps the best entertainment on the ship, and maybe all you will want to do for the entire duration of the cruise, can be found in the Exploration Lounge on Deck 12. Simply reclining on a sumptuous daybed, maybe with a coffee or a cocktail, perhaps reading the newspaper or a good book, as the ever-changing oceanic landscape passes by, is surely the best seat in the house …

Is the food good?

Quite frankly, the food is outstanding. Holland America Line have made a concerted effort in recent years to cultivate their brand as one of the leading cruise lines for culinary excellence. Food is overseen by leading chef, Rudi Sodamin, along with a Culinary Council of other top chefs; covering all the main eateries, special dining restaurants, room service and culinary activities.

Nieuw Statendam Pinnacle Grill
The Fabulous Pinnacle Grill

The wonderful double-height Main Dining Room has two fixed sittings plus a popular Anytime Dining arrangement. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served here, with all the old favourites on the menu along with dishes that reflect local areas visited on the cruise. You could happily eat here every night but the speciality (and chargeable) dining options are magnificent and worth the small extra cost. Sel de Mer, which debuted on Koningsdam, is an alluring and intimate seafood restaurant which contrasts well with the Pan-Asian Tamarind, focusing on fresh fusion flavours with a separate sushi bar. Canaletto, located in a corner of the Lido at night, serves Italian-influenced dishes. In keeping with its name, the Pinnacle Grill, towers above all others as the ever-popular steak and seafood restaurant. Wine is abundant and expertly chosen by highly-qualified sommeliers in all restaurants.

Nieuw Statendam Gelato
Gelato Ice Cream Parlour

The Grand Dutch Cafe is unique to the Holland America Line and no other cruise ship cafe can match it. Serving fantastic coffee and Dutch beers (which are chargeable) there is also a range of light Dutch classic dishes. Dive In is a fabulous American joint, where a legendary ‘special sauce’ adds an extra dimension to the ubiquitous burger. The immensely popular Lido buffet is a collection of abundant and diverse food stations, and the place where many people choose to have all their meals. It can be busy. Needless to say, the delicious Gelato ice-cream parlour is one of the busiest spots on the ship.

Where does it cruise to?

In summer, Nieuw Statendam is based in Northern Europe with itineraries travelling to Norway, Scotland, Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia. The ship then heads across the Atlantic for a winter season in the Caribbean. Half Moon Cay is Holland America Line’s award-winning private island in the Bahamas and a popular stop on these winter cruises. Whether in Europe or the Caribbean, shore excursions are carefully curated to provide the best experience for guests. During the cruise, special interactive screens and specially trained crew are on-hand to help with booking.

Will I sleep well?

All staterooms have the Holland America Line signature Mariner’s Dream bed with super-comfortable Euro-Top mattress, massage shower head, glass shower enclosure (no sticky curtains), bathrobes and lovely Elemis products. The decor is modern, decorated in neutral tones, with lots of storage, handy USB sockets, interactive television and free movies. Standard staterooms range in size; from Inside to Ocean View and Verandah. All are spacious and comfortable, with family rooms sleeping five people. Spa versions of staterooms include a yoga mat, iPod station and spa treatments. Signature and Vista suites are larger and have associated benefits, like access to Club Orange. Neptune suites also give access to the Neptune Lounge and a concierge service. Pinnacle, as the name suggests, are the ultimate living spaces with all the other suite benefits plus a separate lounge, dining room, pantry, stereo system and outdoor whirlpool.

Can I go solo? Yes, there are 12 solo rooms and plenty of activities organised with single travellers in mind.

For more information visit Holland America Line or contact me here.

Nieuw Statendam Atrium
The Atrium

Which Cruise Lines go to Scotland 2019?

The 2019 Scotland cruise season is firmly launched, with stunning ships arriving at our beautiful ports every day throughout summer. If you’re not already booked, here’s a quick rundown of some recommended cruise lines visiting Scottish shores this year. Click on the link to go direct to the cruise line’s own site for booking … and don’t forget to let me know how you enjoy your cruise! You can comment on the site, the Facebook page or direct mail me. Have fun!

Holland America Line

British Isles Explorer HAL
The British Isles Explorer

With a fantastic choice of cruises visiting Scotland in 2019, HAL certainly tops our recommended list. From the ‘British Isles Explorer’ on the much-loved Prisendam to the 14-day ‘Scottish Highland Explorer’ – cruises often call into Edinburgh, Invergordon, Kirkwall and Portree.


Ponant seeks out Scotland's Puffins
Ponant seeks out Scotland’s Puffins

L’Austral cruises from Dublin to Tromso in 2019: calling at Islay, Iona, St.Kilda, Kirkwall and Shetland. Also scheduled is the ‘Green and Gentle’ cruise, which journeys from London to Bergen on the amazing Le Boreal; stopping in at Rosyth for a private tour of Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens.

Lindblad/National Geographic

Lindblad NG approaches the Skye Bridge
Lindblad NG approaches the Skye Bridge

The ‘Scotland’s Highlands and Islands’ cruise was awarded the “Tour of a Lifetime” accolade by National Geographic Traveler magazine. The 48-guest Lord of the Glens takes cruisers along the Caledonian Canal, weaves between Inner Hebridean islands and visits some of Scotland’s most important heritage sites.


Hurtigruten Orkney
Hurtigruten visits Orkney

Orkney and Shetland form part of the stunning ‘In the Wake of the Viking’ cruise by this expedition specialist cruise line. Travel from Norway to the magical shores of Iceland, stopping off at the Faroe Islands on the way.


Edinburgh Castle with Viking Ocean Cruises
Edinburgh Castle with Viking Ocean Cruises

The ‘British Isles Explorer’ is a 15-day cruise between London and Bergen; with stops in Shetland, Orkney, Invergordon, Edinburgh and Ullapool. Voyages are offered on several of Viking’s identical ships depending on the date booked.


Hapag Llyod visits Lerwick
Hapag Llyod visits Lerwick

The exciting new Hanseatic Nature cruises between Dublin and Bergen for an expedition journey to remember. Calling at Iona, Staffa, Lewis, Orkney and Shetland this trip aims to explore Scotland’s amazing culture and wildlife. Or choose to journey to Iceland on the Bremen; visiting Aberdeen, Orkney, Lewis and the wonderful Inverewe Gardens.

Aurora Expedition

Duntottar Castle with Aurora Expeditions
Dunnottar Castle with Aurora Expeditions

The ‘Wild Scotland’ cruise travels to some far-flung places, including the stunning remote St.Kilda, Staffa, Skye, Canna and Iona. This is a particularly beautiful itinerary which goes well-beyond the obvious ports of call.

Images courtesy of cruise lines as featured.