Louis XIV’s marital stomping grounds, puffins’ Icelandic party pad, a former Prussian capital, Napoleon’s birthplace, and the gateway to Norway’s most scenic vistas are among seven European ports-of-call Crystal Cruises will be visiting for the first time this year. From Crystal Serenity’s current trans-Atlantic voyage to Crystal Symphony’s reverse pond crossing in September, guests will be among the first Crystal travelers to stop in quaint communities, centuries-old fishing villages, and trendy cosmopolitan centers in Lithuania, Norway, France, Iceland, and Spain.
Maiden calls include:
Klaipėda: The third-largest city in “hot” Lithuania, this historic east-west-south crossroads offers metropolitan architecture, as well as the natural beauty of the Curonian Spit right outside. Crystal Adventures: Birdwatch at the Ventė Cape ornithological station, learn about local fairytales at the Hill of Witches Sculpture Park, bike through Old Town, or step inside a former Soviet nuclear missile base.
Heimaey: Virtually destroyed in a 1973 volcanic eruption, this rebuilt island of 4,500 people serves as home to 8 million puffins per year. Crystal Adventures: Explore caves by RIB boat, motorboat past orcas and puffin colonies, or watch locals rope-swing over cliffs to collect bird eggs.
Saint-Jean-de-Luz: This Basque coastal gem, with narrow cobblestoned lanes leading past the Church of St. Jean Baptist, is where Louis XIV married Spain’s Marie Thérèse in 1660. Crystal Adventures: Glimpse Balenciaga’s haute couture, make a pilgrimage to Lourdes, sample Basque delicacies, or daytrip to San Sebastian, Biarritz, or Hemingway’s Pamplona.
Leknes: The Lofoten archipelago’s colorful Arctic trading/shopping center is ground zero for Norway’s most stunning mountains and cliffs. Crystal Adventures: Safari for sea eagles, appreciate frozen art at an ice bar/gallery, or learn Scandinavian history at Borg’s Viking Museum.
Bonifacio: French chicness and Napoleonic history are all crammed into this one medieval Corsican town, perched precariously on the edges of stunningly steep, limestone cliffs. Crystal Adventures: Canoe along the coast, ride a wheel train through the port, or trek cliffside hiking paths past wildlife and gorgeous views.
Palamós: This 800-year-old Costa Brava fishing village is famous for giant-sized prawns, water sports, and some of the best people-watching in Europe. Crystal Adventures: Segway around gothic Girona, taste Salvador Dalí via a visit to his home or a meal inspired by his favorite dishes, or daytrip to Barcelona for a behind-the-scenes tour of Barça Team’s Football Club Stadium.
Akureyri: Iceland’s second-largest city offers a robust cultural scene surrounded by snowcapped peaks and gardens. Crystal Adventures: Visit the “Waterfall of the Gods,” flightsee over Eyjafjordur fjord to Grimsey Island, take a whale-watching expedition, soak in the Myvatn Nature Baths, or sample homemade ice cream, jam, and smoked lamb at local farms.