On to a shore thing

Our band of sea­soned sailors re­veal their favourite cruise ports

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - KEN­DALL HILL CHRIS PRITCHARD GAVIN BELL

A jour­nal note from my last visit to Stock­holm, the fi­nal stop on an itin­er­ary from Helsinki to St Peters­burg: ‘‘The most stun­ning cruis­ing of the trip is at 5am on a Wed­nes­day in the creamy light and mists of the Swedish ar­chi­pel­ago.’’ Clearly I was a lit­tle ex­cited, but who can blame me?

The Baltic Sea en­trance to the Swedish cap­i­tal is a stun­ning jig­saw of about 30,000 is­lands cov­ered in forests and crayon-coloured cot­tages. In­sta­gram is su­per­flu­ous here; no fil­ters could en­hance the ex­trav­a­gant beauty of this ar­chi­pel­ago.

Stock­holm it­self is a city that rarely dis­ap­points, re­gard­less of its mood. In stormy weather it is gothic and broody; in sum­mer its sun-warmed stone and sparkling canals cast a cheer­ful spell. And its cit­i­zens are some of the most po­lite and help­ful you’ll meet in any big coun­try town. Be­cause, de­spite its grandiose streetscapes and ex­quis­ite ur­ban airs, Stock­holm does feel some­how pro­vin­cial. Ingmar Bergman put it best when he said Stock­holm is not a city but ‘‘sim­ply a rather large vil­lage, set in the mid­dle of some forests and some lakes. You won­der what it thinks it is do­ing there, look­ing so im­por­tant.’’ More: crys­tal­cruises.com.

Aboard RMS St He­lena:

Aboard MS Fram:

A se­cu­rity blan­ket bobs in the glis­ten­ing At­lantic, a lonely link to the world. The pres­ence of the ves­sel RMS St He­lena, billed as ‘‘the world’s last grand mail ship’’, is com­fort­ing but next day it sails away, por­tend­ing a week’s iso­la­tion be­fore re­turn­ing from As­cen­sion Is­land to col­lect those who’ve stayed.

Grouped with As­cen­sion and Tris­tan da Cunha, pin­prick St He­lena is Bri­tain’s re­motest colony.

Some among the 4000 is­lan­ders — of African, Asian and Euro­pean de­scent — work in the Falk­lands. Their tav­ern-of-the-seas home, once a place of ex­ile, is where Napoleon died, his grave now a tourist at­trac­tion. Just be­yond a two-pris­oner jail is Ja­cob’s Lad­der: 699 steps to com­par­a­tive moder­nity. No new con­struc­tion is al­lowed within Jamestown (pop. 800), a well-pre­served Ge­or­gian vil­lage wedged be­tween cliffs. Main Street and nearby thor­ough­fares seem plucked from pro­vin­cial Eng­land. I stroll past his­toric ho­tels, B&Bs, ser­viced apart­ments, shops, cheery pubs and three restau­rants (among which Anne’s Place is renowned for seafood). More: rms-st-he­lena.com.

The name in Green­landic means ice­bergs, which sums up the dra­matic ap­peal of this fish­ing port on Disko Bay. Its claim to fame as a UNESCO World Her­itage site is a gi­gan­tic ice fjord, creak­ing and groan­ing with the world’s fastest flow­ing glacier. It reg­u­larly calves ice­bergs big­ger than Syd­ney Opera House, and is be­lieved to be the cra­dle of the one that sank the Ti­tanic.

The town is a bustling place with eco-ad­ven­ture out- lets and sou­venir shops stocked with tra­di­tional Inuit crafts. A good place to view the evanes­cent beauty of ice cliffs in the still waters of Jakob­shavn glacier is a hill­side a few min­utes’ walk from town, where I was adopted briefly by a pair of husky pup­pies.

An ex­cur­sion in a fish­ing boat led to a close en­counter with a cou­ple of big­ger lo­cals — hump­backs cruis­ing and blow­ing on the sur­face.

Ilulis­sat is the home town of the Arc­tic ex­plorer Knud Ras­mussen, who mem­o­rably cap­tured the ethos of the place: ‘‘Give me win­ter, give me dogs, and you can have the rest.’’ Arte­facts from his ex­pe­di­tions are on dis­play in the mu­seum. More: hur­tigruten.com.

I first sailed into Vic­to­ria Har­bour as a young jour­nal­ist in the early 1960s aboard P&O’s old Ar­ca­dia. I had seen the 1955 film Love is a ManyS­plen­dored Thing and headed to the lo­ca­tions where US war cor­re­spon­dent Wil­liam Holden wooed Eurasian doc­tor Jen­nifer Jones.

The for­mer colo­nial Re­pulse Bay Ho­tel was a must and as my ship was in port overnight I had din­ner, like the star-crossed lovers, at the Tai Pak Float­ing Restau­rant (now part of the Jumbo King­dom) in Aberdeen.

I have vis­ited Hong Kong many times since and find it as ex­cit­ing as day one, with the best shop­ping in the world. But many things have changed. The Re­pulse Bay

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