Hurtigruten’s “Spring in Western Europe” visits nine fascinating ports in as many days, including Porto, Portugal, a bustling city that retains its old world charm; Bordeaux, France, one of the world’s greatest wine regions; and the English city of Dover, famous for its chalky white cliffs.  Optional excursions in each of the stops – from a visit to the Saint-Emilion & Pomeral Vineyards to independent cycle exploration in Sark – give guests the opportunity to personalize their cruising experience and start at only $30.  Prices for the April 7, 2011 voyage range from $1,276 to $3,598.

Departing from Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon, built on seven hills along the shores of the River Tejo, the MS Fram sails to the city of Porto, an eclectic mix of old world charm and lively modern commerce.  A short stop in Villa Garcia gives guests an opportunity to tour the stunning Galacia region before arriving in La Coruña, a Spanish port nicknamed “The Crystal City” for the glass and white facades of its harbor-facing buildings.  Navigating the Bay of Biscay, the ship stops in the famous wine region of Bordeaux – a fascinating city comprised of wide avenues, beautiful parks and neo-classical architecture – before continuing on to the idyllic island of Sark and the bustling harbor town of St. Peter’s Port in Guernsey.  After spending a day in Honfleur, a picturesque town on the Normandy coast, the voyage disembarks at Dover.

The optional excursions in each port provide wonderful opportunities to delve deeper into the areas visited, returning with a greater understanding of the histories and current attractions.  Offerings include a tour and river cruise on a typical Rabelo Boat – traditionally used for transporting wine – in Porto, Portugal; a guided bus tour to Santiago de Compostela, a magnificent example of medieval town building; a visit to the Saint-Emilion region, including a guided tour of a local vineyard, lunch in a traditional local restaurant and a tour of the town; a walking tour of the picturesque fishing town of Honfleur, France, with a stop at the Eugene Boudin Museuml; and a tour of medieval Canterbury and its famous cathedral.

Fares include accommodation in the cabin grade of your choice; fixed transfers from the Lisbon airport to port of departure and from the Dover port to London Heathrow Airport; all meals on board, including a selection of drinks for those in suites; and a wind and water proof jacket.  International flights and optional excursions are additional.

The deluxe MS Fram is named after the polar ship built and used by Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen in the late 1800s -- the only wooden ship to venture out on explorations of both the North and South Poles.  The modern intimate design sets it apart from other ships making port in Europe.  Its size, with only 318 passengers on these sailings, allows easier access in ports and up close views of wildlife, and its deluxe status provides more of a yacht environment versus the more common mega ship experience.  The ship boasts excellent conference and meeting facilities, a large glass-enclosed observation salon offering panoramic views of the outside scenery, restaurant with ocean views, wellness center with saunas, work-out room and two glass-screened heated outdoor whirlpools, a bistro, a guest bridge for viewing selected data from the ship’s bridge and a ship’s library.  Its specially equipped tender lobby makes expeditions to shore in Polarcirkel boats both safe and comfortable.