(a 35 minute read)

A travelogue of ports and shore excursions in Norway, Germany, Belgium, and the UK while on a Princess Western Europe cruise from Copenhagen to Southampton.


Western Europe Cruise featured - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

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Note: This is a long-form, photo-intensive account of my experiences for readers who want to cruise virtually, as well as travelers seeking detailed information before booking a Princess Western Europe cruise of their own.

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A Princess Western Europe Cruise


This post is the third and final installment in a series of three based on my Princess transatlantic cruise from North America to Europe. The 25-day voyage was a back-to-back of two itineraries: the 14-day Northern Europe Passage and the 11-day Western Europe cruise.

The first post in the series, An Enchanted Princess Transatlantic Cruise Review, details my onboard experiences, as well as ship facilities, services, activities, dining, and much more. If you want to read this series sequentially, you may want to start with this one.

The second post, A Princess Transatlantic Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions, is a travelogue of my adventures on the first itinerary in the Azores, France, and Denmark. The content covers excursions booked through Princess, as well as independent land tours.

There had been 2,307 guests onboard for the transatlantic leg from Ft. Lauderdale to Copenhagen. Between the guests who disembarked in Copenhagen and new guests who boarded, there were 1,563 passengers onboard for the Western Europe itinerary from Copenhagen to Southampton. With nearly 750 fewer guests aboard, it was a noticeable difference, but I didn’t complain.

Originally, the port of Skagen, Norway, was on both itineraries, but for a dubious reason both calls were cancelled. The Enchanted Princess remained in port in Copenhagen an additional day to compensate for the cancellations. You can read more about this decision in the first post.

There would be six ports of call on the Western Europe cruise itinerary between Copenhagen and Southampton. For various reasons—primarily prices and limited activities—I did not book any shore excursions through Princess on this leg. In Oslo, Kristiansand, Hamburg, Bruges, Falmouth, Weymouth, and Portland, I explored the cities and towns on foot, assisted by either hired or complimentary shuttles.

I loved all of the port destinations, got lots of exercise, and had a blast in my ambulatory independence!


European Ports & Shore Excursions


The Enchanted Princess departed Copenhagen around 6:00 PM, and there would be a full day at sea enroute to Oslo, Norway.

Oslo, Norway


Oslo Fjord - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Two mornings later, the Enchanted Princess sailed into Oslo Fjord, through the harbor, and ported at the cruise terminal near town.

Because I had such a great adventure with the Hop On Bus in Copenhagen, I purchased an advance ticket online with the same company for Oslo. 

Norway Hop On bus - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

As it turned out, it was not expeditious to buy an advance ticket. When I boarded at the port I had to sit there for at least 45 minutes waiting for them to sell tickets at the door and fill up the bus. You know, sales over service.

There were no USB outlets on the buses as there had been in Copenhagen, the Wi-Fi was not working on any of the three buses I rode, and after my second ride, buses no longer appeared on the website live map.

Akershus Fortress & Castle

Akershus Fortress Oslo - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Because it was so close, I got off the bus at the first stop to explore the Akershus Fortress and Castle that date to the 1290s AD.

Akershus Castle - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The fortress grounds are open to the public during daylight hours with no admission fee, but the castle is only open to visitors on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 to 5:00 PM. I was there on a Monday.

Akershus Fortress and cruise ship - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Royal Caribbean‘s monstrous Voyager of the Seas was ported immediately adjacent to the fortress, making it difficult to get decent pictures without a big-ass ship in them.

The visitor center was hosting a special exhibit of costumes and props from the big-budget Danish motion picture Margrete: Queen of the North (2021).

Norway’s World War II Resistance Museum is also located on the fortress grounds. Unfortunately, time did not permit a visit for me.

Deichman Public Library & Opera House

One of my missions for the day was to sync 900+ of my iPhone photos to iCloud because Princess Cruises MedallionNet Wi-Fi had sucked big-time in Europe. You can also read about this snafu in the first post.

The fortress visitor center agent directed me to a coffee shop. I enjoyed a delicious double mocha latte, but alas the Wi-Fi was too slow. I headed next to an Internet café, a microscopic hole-in-the-wall with only two computers and no Wi-Fi.

I ended up at the Oslo visitor center, and they directed me to Deichman Bibliotek, an ultra-modern public library with more of a bookstore vibe. I did not get a complete back-up, but was able to sync approximately 600 photos to iCloud.

Before hopping back on a bus, I grabbed photos of the public library and Oslo Opera House. I had read that the opera house is supposed to look like an iceberg emerging from the water. Try as I might, I didn’t see it.

Frogner Park & Vigeland Public Art Installation

Frogner Park Oslo - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

My second stop in Oslo was at Frogner Park, Norway’s most popular destination with between one and two million annual visitors. The park is open 24 hours and admission is free.

Vigeland woman and hair - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The greatest attraction to the park is the Vigeland public art installation, the largest sculpture park in the world featuring works by a single artist. Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) is Norways’s most famous and prolific sculptor who also designed the Nobel Peace Prize medal.

The 80-acre installation features 212 bronze and granite nude sculptures depicting family life and the human form in motion, all created between 1924 and 1943.

Vigeland fountain - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Four key elements of the Vigeland installation are the Bridge, the Fountain (which was not flowing during my visit), the Monolith, and the Wheel of Life.

These sculptures are unlike anything I have ever seen. If only there were a way to keep the bird sh*t off these priceless pieces of art.

Vigeland Museum - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The adjacent Vigeland Museum is housed in the artist’s former studio. His ashes reside in the museum’s tower in a self-designed urn and monument. The museum is open from 12:00 to 4:00 PM daily and closed on Sundays. If you plan to see the museum during your visit, you will need to schedule your itinerary with intention. It was closed by the time I arrived.

Museum District

The route of my third and final ride on the Oslo Hop On Bus passed through the museum district on the Bygdøy Peninsula. For posterity, I grabbed some crappy exterior photos of the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum (polar exploration), the Norwegian Maritime Museum, and the Viking Ship Museum (closed and reopening in 2026 as the Museum of the Viking Age).

Oslo Stave Church - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I also took a shot through the window of the moving bus of the Gol Stave Church (dated 1157–1216 AD), now located within the outdoor Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.

The Hop On Bus delivered me back to the ship, but I was not yet done with the day. I walked around port and visited two additional sites.

Nobel Peace Center

Oslo Nobel Peace Center - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The Nobel Peace Center opened in 2005 as a showcase for the Nobel Peace Prize and the principals it represents: broadmindedness, hope, and commitment. Through multimedia and interactive technology, the center presents the stories of Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel laureates, and their work.

Royal Palace Square & Park

Oslo Royal Palace - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The Royal Palace in Oslo is the official residence of King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway. The palace was constructed between 1825 and 1849.

Palace guided tours are available during the summer, and the changing of the guard is daily at 1:30 PM. The Palace Square and surrounding Palace Park are open to the public.

Enchanted Princess cruise ship in Oslo Norway - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I walked through the port commercial district buzzing with busy shops and restaurants and arrived back at ship shortly after 6:00 PM. It had been full, but fun day exploring Oslo.

The ship would depart later that evening and sail through the night to Kristiansand.

Kristiansand, Norway


Kristiansand is a Norwegian port city perfect for exploring on foot, and that is exactly what I did. It was windy, and the high was 53° F, but the skies were clear and sunny.

I set off wearing multiple layers that I soon began to shed. The Enchanted Princess was the only ship in port, and with nearly 750 fewer passengers than the transatlantic leg, so I didn’t expect it to be too crowded in town.

Port Commercial District

Most port cities these days are building commercial districts near their cruise terminals that are easily accessible by locals and tourists alike. Kristiansand is no exception. The Kilden Performing Arts Centre and Fiskebrygga (fish market) are prominent venues in the district.

Kunsthall Public Library

Kristiansand Kunsthall Bibliotek - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I walked into town, stopping at the Kristiansand visitor center to gather brochures and maps before heading to Kunsthall Bibliotek to sync more photos to iCloud. I paid 5 krone ($.10) at a self-serve credit card terminal to use the library’s public toilet. While pay toilets are common in Europe, that may just be the smallest amount I have ever charged to a credit card.

Yes, the man pictured above was walking around town on skis. Beats me!

Kristiansand Cathedral

Kristiansand Cathedral - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The Neo-Gothic Kristiansand Cathedral (1884) is situated in the central square. I grabbed a few photos, but as frequently is the case, a view of the church façade was obstructed by restoration scaffolding.

I hate not being able to get quality photos of historic structures during my visits, but I am grateful to see these ancient treasures receiving the preservation they so deserve.

Posebyen

Kristiansand Posebyen - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Posebyen, Kristiansand’s old town, is a15-square block quadrant, home to Northern Europe’s largest collection of old low-rise timber houses. The narrow streets are fronted by charming white zero-lot-line homes boasting red tile roofs, colorful doors, and window boxes.

Markensgate

Kristiansand Markensgate - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

After touring the historical district, I headed south to Markensgate, a 9-block pedestrian street lined with restaurants and shops of every kind. Much has been said about the exorbitant cost of living in Norway, and due to a capricious purchase I made, I happen to have a personal illustration of exactly how much things cost.

Earlier in the day I walked into Vituspotek, a Norwegian chain pharmacy, to buy some dental floss. I didn’t check the krone to dollars exchange rate. I mean, how bad could it be? The cashier rang up my purchase, and later I checked the charge on my credit card mobile app. The dental floss had cost me $15.67. I nearly sucked all the air out of the room.

NOTE TO SELF: Be sure to stock up on dental floss at home. The Walmart Equate brand dental floss I typically buy costs $.87. Do the math, dude!

Odderøya

Odderoya sign - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I spent nearly two hours of my afternoon in Kristiansand hiking and exploring the island of Odderøya. The 170-acre island is a former naval base used for military activity beginning in 1667 AD.

In 1999, the fortress was decommissioned and ownership transferred from the military to the municipality.

Odderoya cove - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Today, Odderøya is in transition, developing recreational areas, creating a nature reserve, and preserving the many historical military sites that populate the island. A plot of land has been set aside for a housing development with 500 homes.

Odderoya military battery - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

During my hike, I traveled approximately half the distance of the island, paralleling the eastern coast before crossing the mountain to return along the western coast. I encountered several former batteries, artillery installations, and bunkers along my route.

Odderoya cholera cemetery - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Perhaps the most poignant location I visited was the cholera graveyard, now a picnic area situated near the quarantine harbor.

I would love to have spent more time investigating scores of historical sites marked on the Odderøya map and brochure, but that will have to wait until my travels lead me north to Norway once again.

Kristiansand Howard and moose - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

At the end of a wonderful day in Kristiansand, Norway, I returned to ship and ran into my newest furry friend.

My mobile Health app showed that I had walked more than 20,000 steps, but I will take exploring on foot over a treadmill any old day.

There would be a day at sea enroute to Hamburg.

Hamburg, Germany


Hamburg had lots of options for excursions. Some passengers were catching the train from Hamburg to tour Berlin, Bremen, or Hanover, a 2 to 3-hour ride each direction. I didn’t care to spend 4-6 hours on a train and feel rushed in any of the distant cities, so I headed out on foot to see what Hamburg had to offer.

Situated up the Elbe River, 135 miles from the North Sea, Hamburg is Germany’s second-largest city after Berlin and the third largest port city in Europe after Rotterdam and Antwerp. With an intricate network of rivers and canals, the city has more than 2,500 bridges.

Most of Hamburg’s historical structures were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1842, World War I battles, Allied bombing during World War II, and the North Sea Flood of 1962. That said, there is still much to see and do in the city dubbed “The Gateway to the World.”

Central Square & Rathaus (City Hall)

Hamburg Rathaus City Hall - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I boarded the complimentary Princess Cruises shuttle from the port into town and exited at a stop adjacent to Central Square and the Rathaus (City Hall). Completed in 1897, the ornate Neo-Renaissance structure dominates the square.

Hamburg City Hall interior - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The seat of local government with its opulent vaulted hallway are open to the public, and guided tours are available on select days.

Hamburg Hygeia statue - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

A bronze fountain and statue of Hygeia, the goddess of health, is located in the courtyard of City Hall. The popular sculpture memorializes the defeat of the 1892 cholera epidemic. At the time of my visit, the sun was not at an optimum angle for photography. I got some great silhouettes, though!

Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus Districts

Hamburg Speicherstadt District - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

In 2015, Hamburg’s Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus Districts, along with the Chilehaus were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for their architectural and historical value.

Constructed with red brick in the Gothic Revival vernacular on a group of narrow islands in the Elbe River between 1885 and 1927, the Speicherstadt District is the world’s largest historic warehouse complex.

Hamburg Kontorhaus District - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The adjacent Kontorhaus District, built between the 1920s and 1950s, is distinguished as Continental Europe’s first unified business district.

Hamburg Chilehaus - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

One of Germany’s first high-rise buildings, completed in 1924, the Chilehaus reflects a ship’s bow, and is a significant artistic and architectural depiction of German Brick Expressionism.

Five Guys

I know it’s not the authentic way to travel, but at lunchtime I came upon a Five Guys outlet. I was exhausted, and it was there. So yes, I did have a hamburger in Hamburg. If it’s good enough for President Obama in Munich, it’s good enough for me.

Saint Pauli District

Reeperbahn business - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

For the record, I took a stroll along the Reeperbahn in Hamburg’s Saint Pauli red light district. I am not one to diminish art and free expression, but trashy thoroughfares with indigent people sleeping on the streets is a real downer.

I like the Beatles, but I wouldn’t consider myself a superfan. My apologies to my friends who are, but I wasn’t very well prepared for touring this section of town. After doing a bit of research, I know I passed the Indra where the Beatles played in the early 1960s before achieving fame, completely oblivious to its significance in music history.

Hamburg St. Joseph Catholic Church - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I can’t verify the story of the Beatles urinating in the street as nuns walked past, but I can verify that the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is on the same street as the Indra, and I did see nuns walking around.

Reeperbahn McDonalds - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

A McDonald’s located in the same building as the sex club . . . now that was different.

Saint Michael’s Church

Hamburg St. Michaels - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Saint Michael’s Church is a stunning Baroque beauty inside and out.

Hamburg Martin Luther statue - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

After the Reformation, some Catholic churches across Europe were converted to Protestant churches. Due to Martin Luther’s dispute with the Roman Catholic Church in 1517 AD, religious imagery, ornate furnishings, statuary, paintings, and icons were removed from many churches so that the focus of worship could be on the pulpit.

Hamburg St. Michaels altar - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Apparently no one notified the designers of Saint Michael’s, because its decor is every bit as opulent as great Roman Catholic cathedrals I have toured during my travels.

Hamburg St. Michaels balcony - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Originally constructed as a Lutheran church in 1669 AD, Saint Michael’s was not one of the aforementioned converted cathedrals. As a result of a lightning strike in 1750, a fire in 1906, and Allied bombings, the current incarnation is the third structure at this site.

Hamburg St. Michaels organ - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Constructed with a Latin cross plan, the church has five organs and seats 2,500 people, a historic megachurch, if you will.

Hamburg St. Michael statue - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I read up on Saint Michael, the angel after whom the church is named. Even though the battle between the Archangel Michael and the dragon is taken from the book of Revelation, and his position is recognized by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Saint Michael was not venerated and never mentioned in the white evangelical tradition in which I was raised.

Composer Johannes Brahms was baptized at St. Michael’s in 1833 and later confirmed at age 15. There are 2,425 people interred in the church crypt, including composers Johann Mattheson and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, son of Johann Sebastian Bach. Tours of the church crypt and clock tower are fee-based and open to the public.

A €2 donation is suggested when visiting the church.

The Krameramtsstuben

I was curious to visit the historic Krameramtsstuben or “Grocers Apartments,” two medieval timber-framed houses among the oldest residential buildings in Hamburg. The walking route on my mobile Google Maps app showed that it was literally across the street from Saint Michael’s.

Griswolds Hamburg - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

As I approached the location, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A vintage RV plastered with stickers and towing a Zodiac on a trailer was parked directly in my line of sight of the historic buildings. Had the Griswolds embarked on European Vacation Part II?

Hamburg Krameramtsstuben - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Thankfully, I was able to compose a shot of the buildings, cutting the eyesore out of the frame.

Built between 1620 and 1700, the Krameramtsstuben have survived all of Hamburg’s disasters. Today, these buildings that once belonged to a grocers guild contain a restaurant, shops, and galleries.

Saint Nicholas Church Memorial

Hamburg St. Nicholas spire - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The last site I visited on my walking tour of Hamburg was not on my original list of things to see. But of the many steeples, bell towers, and clock towers across the skyline, I could not ignore the single Gothic spire that towered over the city.

Hamburg St. Nicholas south wall - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Photographing the south exterior wall, and entering through the façade of the Saint Nicholas Church, I thought I was entering a sanctuary. And I guess I was, but as I continued moving forward I discovered the nave was open to the sky.

Hamburg St. Nicholas apse - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The first Saint Nicholas church at this location had been a wooden chapel completed in 1195 AD. and dedicated to the patron saint of sailors. It’s replacement, a 14th-century brick church that had been heavily involved in debates during the Reformation, was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1842.

Hamburg St. Nicholas facade - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

This was the third church, a Gothic Revival cathedral designed by English architect George Gilbert Scott, completed in 1874. At the time of construction, it was the tallest building in the world, and it remains the highest church tower in Hamburg.

Hamburg St. Nicholas window - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Sadly, the roof of the church collapsed and the nave was badly damaged during the Allied Operation Gomorrah firestorm in July of 1943. Only the bell tower, sections of the side walls, and crypt survived.

Hamburg St. Nicholas apse exterior - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

A decision was made that the church would not be rebuilt, and in the late 1980s a charitable foundation began work to preserve the ruins as a memorial to the victims of war and tyranny between 1933 and 1945.

Hamburg St. Nicholas carillons - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

In 1993, a 51-bell carillon was installed at the previous site of the church organ. An elevator to carry visitors 250 feet up the 483-foot spire was added in 2005. A museum and event space now occupy the former church crypt. Admission to the viewing tower and museum are fee-based, but the grounds are free and open to the public.

When I returned to ship, the Health app on my iPhone showed that I had loved Hamburg with more than 25,000 steps. My lower back would remind me the following day.

Bruges, Belgium


After a restful and much-needed day at sea, we sailed into the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium.

Bruge Cruise Express - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

This was my first visit to Belgium, and I purchased a round-trip shuttle ticket from the Port of Zeebrugge into Bruges. The driving route paralleled the 7.5-mile Boudewijn Canal that gives Bruges an outlet to the North Sea.

Bruge dachshunds - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

If you thought I would eventually tire of exploring historical European cities, you would be wrong. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I couldn’t get enough. My city walks left me physically exhausted at the end of the day, but they also left me longing for a time when I could return and explore in depth.

And yes, I LOVE wiener dogs!

Bruges landscape - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Located in the Flemish (Dutch influenced) region of Belgium, Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders. Having survived natural disasters and world wars virtually unscathed, it is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe.

Bruges has three UNESCO World Heritage designations: the Historic Centre of Bruges, the Belfry of Bruges, and the Ten Wijngaerde Béguinage.

Bruges tulips - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

As in other ports on this itinerary, spring blooms were bursting out all over.

Bruges canal boat - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

With its picturesque network of canals, Bruges along with no less than 39 other European cities has been dubbed the “Venice of the North.”

Bruges City Center - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

It was a Saturday, with two cruise ships in port, so the city center was packed with tourists and locals out enjoying the spring weather. Everyone was on their best behavior, but with all the jostling and close quarters, there were times I felt invisible on the sidewalks, much like a middle school hallway. “I mean, seriously? You don’t see this tall, portly man you just plowed into?” And of course it was almost impossible to get photos of any scenic or historical structure minus people.

In spite of the overpopulation, I was in my glory, especially when my wanderings led me down side streets.

Saint-Salvator Cathedral

Bruge Saint Salvator Cathedral - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The Saint-Salvator Cathedral began as a parish church in the 10th century. It is considered the main church in Bruges, although I am sure it does not get nearly as much attention as two other churches in town.

Saint Salvator Cathedral wall carpet - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Among the most noteworthy cathedral furnishings are the 18th-century wall carpets and the original paintings upon which they were based.

Jean I Carondelet mausoleum - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The reclining mausoleum statue of Archbishop Jean I Carondelet (1469-1544) cracks me up!

Belfry of Bruges

Belfry of Bruges scaled e1655036379938 - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

First constructed c. 1240 AD, the Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell and clock tower that overlooks the Market Square. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site in two designations, as a significant contributor to the Historic Centre of Bruges, and as a property in the Belfries of Belgium and France.

Belfry of Bruge interior - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

For a fee, visitors can climb 366 steps to the top by way of a steep, narrow staircase.

The belfry is the subject of the narrative poem The Belfry of Bruges (1846) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown; Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o’er the town.”

Belfry of Bruge clock scaled e1655036349383 - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The belfry is also featured prominently in the motion picture In Bruges (2008) starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleason, and Ralph Fiennes.

Belgian Waffle & Hot Chocolate

I did not have time to sample many Belgian delicacies, but I made time to visit a food truck for a Belgian waffle and hot chocolate. I cannot tell you how delicious they both were.

Belgian waffle hot chocolate - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The waffle was light and crispy and left powdered sugar all over my body. The hot chocolate was without question the best I have ever tasted. All hot chocolate should taste this way. It reminded me of the song from the Polar Express soundtrack I used to sing on repeat with my perfect nephew Nathan.

Museum of the Church of our Lady

Musea Brugge has 13 museums and unique sites within the walls of the city. This is one of the reasons I must visit Bruges again. Although my time was limited, I purchased a ticket for one of them, the Museum of the Church of our Lady. There was something inside I wanted to see in person.

Church of Our Lady Bruges - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Church construction in the Gothic vernacular—complete with flying buttresses—began in 1270 AD. At 379 feet, the church tower is the tallest structure in the city, and the third tallest brickwork tower in the world.

Church of Our Lady Bruges tombs - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The church museum houses many historical furnishings and art treasures, including 13th-century painted tombs and the ceremonial mausoleums of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold.

Church of Our Lady bronze hand - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

And the bronze hand sticking out of the pillar? I asked a docent about it, and she said they have no idea what it is nor its purpose.

Michaelangelos Madonna Bruges - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Without question, the most-treasured piece housed in the Church of our Lady is Michelangelo’s Madonna (1594 AD). The sculpture has an incredible story, and because I could not retell it better, I have copied the text of the museum’s interpretive panel below:

“Only one of Michelangelo’s sculptures left Italy during his lifetime: this Madonna and Child. Jean Mouscron, a scion of a wealthy Bruges-based family of cloth traders, purchased the work from Michelangelo in 1506 for the sum of 100 ducats. In 1514, it was installed in a sculpted altar in the south nave of the Church of Our Lady. Several members of the Mouscron family are buried at the foot of the altar. They stipulated in a document that the sculpture should never be moved, but history decided otherwise.

Napoleon seized the Madonna for his National Museum in Paris. The statue returned to Bruges in 1815, after his defeat at Waterloo. During World War II, the Madonna was stolen a second time. This time, Hitler wanted it for his large museum in Linz. The Allied Monuments Men recovered the sculpture, along with several other valuable artworks, from the Altaussee salt mines in Austria.”

Michaelangelos Madonna chapel - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

This sculpture shares similarities with Michelangelo’s Pietà that depicts Mary cradling the body of Jesus after his death. I saw this piece at St. Peter’s Basilica when I visited the Vatican in 2015.

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Basilica of the Holy Blood in Burg Square Bruges - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

It took me forever to find the entrance to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Because it does not have a grand façade, it was hiding in plain sight in Burg Square, attached to the same structure as City Hall. I walked right past it and then circled the area once again before finding the entrance near the inside corner.

Basilica of the Holy Blood stairs - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The Basilica consists of two chapels on two levels. Construction of the lower Chapel of St. Basil was completed in 1149 AD. It remains virtually unchanged and is one of the best-preserved Romanesque structures of West Flanders. I did not visit this section.

Chapel of the Holy Blood Bruges - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The upper Chapel of the Holy Blood was originally constructed in the Romanesque vernacular, but later renovated in Gothic Style in the 15th and 19th centuries.

Chapel of the Holy Blood windows - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

A cloth relic stained with the blood of Jesus, allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea, is said to have been transported from the Holy Land to Bruges by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders, after the 12th century Second Crusade. An alternate legend reports that the relic arrived during the Fourth Crusade.

Chapel of the Holy Blood Bruges priest - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

As I entered the upper chapel, I could see visitors filing past a priest seated on an elevated dais. I followed suit, depositing a small donation in a collection container.

Basilica of the Holy Blood prayer pamphlet - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

After I viewed the relic, the priest handed me a small folded publication with a prayer printed in several languages. Photos of the relic were not allowed.

Windmills

Bruges canalside park - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The longest hike of my Bruges city walk was out to see the windmills situated canalside along the city ramparts. It would take some effort, and I knew the clock was ticking, but I was able to visit two of the four existing windmills, and it was totally worth it.

Bonne Chiere windmill Bruges - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The Bonne Chiere windmill was originally built in 1840 and then rebuilt in 1911. This wooden standard mill on four brick dices was built simply for decoration and never used for grinding grain.

Sint Janshuismill windmill Bruges - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Built in 1770, the Sint-Janshuis Mill is the only one of the four mills situated in its original location. The mill is open to the public and has a museum inside. It is still functional for grinding flour.

The clock was ticking, and I began the long trek back through town to the parking area where the shuttle bus was waiting to carry me back to ship.

I was grateful for a day at sea to rest up before reaching England.

Falmouth, Cornwall, UK


Falmouth, UK, was an unscheduled bonus port added to our ever-changing Western Europe itinerary a few days earlier. I never heard an explanation for the addition, but I was grateful to have another destination to explore rather than spend another day at sea.

Enchanted Princess in Falmouth Harbour - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Fog was thick as pea soup as we sailed into the harbor, and rain was in the forecast. I had visited the UK at least three times previously, and it never rained during any of those trips. In fact the last time I was there in 2018, they were experiencing a horrible summer drought.

Enchanted Princess tender boats - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The Enchanted Princess was the largest cruise ship ever to anchor in Falmouth Harbor. British officials boarded the ship, and all guests and crew walked through mandatory passport control. After clearing immigration, I boarded one of the tender boats that was shuttling passengers ashore. Fate would determine what all I could discover before my head got wet.

Falmouth Pendennis Castle - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Falmouth is situated in the county of Cornwall on a narrow strip of land at the mouth of the River Fal. Makes sense. The western side of the peninsula is lined with beaches, and the eastern side boasts the third deepest harbor in the world. The region’s mild climate, makes it a popular tourist destination.

The Mayor & Mayoress

Falmouth Mayor Steve Eva and Mayoress Victoria - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The lovely people of Falmouth made us feel so welcome in their town. Mayor Steve Eva and his wife Mayoress Victoria came out to meet us and greeted everyone as we stepped off the tender. When asked, the mayor explained that the gold medallions on his ceremonial livery collar commemorate more than 100 mayors who have served the town since 1664.

Complimentary shuttles were waiting to carry us into town. I know some destination marketing and PR folks who could take lessons from the fab folks in Falmouth.

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle moat - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I set off to explore Falmouth on foot as is my custom. The fog soon burned off and there were a few hours of dappled sunshine skies before the clouds rolled in, bringing a light drizzle in the afternoon.

Pendennis Castle Falmouth UK - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I had read about Pendennis Castle and saw it in the distance while tendering to shore. When I learned it was only a 15 to 20 minute walk from the shuttle stop, I headed there first.

The castle complex setting was so picturesque that I could not stop taking pictures.

Pendennis Castle cannons - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Henry VIII ordered the construction of the fortification to serve as an artillery fort to protect England from invasion by France and the Holy Roman Empire.

Gyllyngvase Beach & Gardens

IMG 9283 - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Dark clouds rolled in while I was at Pendennis Castle, but I decided to head down Cliff Road to Gyllyngvase Beach.

Falmouth flowers - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I toured Gyllyngdune Gardens and Queen Mary Gardens, two seaside botanical parks. But there were wildflowers, perennials, and flowering shrubs, all abloom and growing from every trailside nook and roadside cranny.

Falmouth agaves - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Falmouth is not exactly the subtropics, but I did not expect to find Florida in the UK. There were palm trees, agaves, and Australian tree ferns everywhere. And I’m pretty sure I saw some banana trees.

Falmouth UK palm and condos - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Tell me this does not look exactly like a Florida Gulf Coast condo and landscape!

Harbour Lights Fish & Chips

I ducked out of the rain for lunch and got me some delicious fish and chips and a pear cider, oh yes I did!

Churches

Falmouth has its share of historical churches. The Church of King Charles the Martyr (Church of England) dates to 1662 and memorializes King Charles I who was executed for treason at the end of the English Civil War.

Falmouth Methodist Church, completed in 1876, suffered damages from German bombs during World War II. In 2022, the congregation held its final service in the building due to declining membership and mounting maintenance expenses.

Jacob’s Ladder

IMG 9334 - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Enroute between the two houses of worship I happened on the Jacob’s Ladder steps. As the story goes, in the 1840s businessman Jacob Hamblen installed the 111 steps down a steep incline to facilitate transit between his business and property. Needless to say, I took a circuitous route back into town to avoid the climb back up.

National Maritime Museum | Cornwall

Falmouth National Maritime Museum - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The rain began to fall harder, but I grabbed a shot of the National Maritime Museum | Cornwall as I headed back to catch the shuttle. The itinerary for an upcoming booked cruise includes Falmouth, and I look forward to exploring more of this seaside town.

The ship would sail through the night to our next British port.

Isle of Portland and Weymouth, UK


Portland UK harbor - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

My 25-day back-to-back Transatlantic and Western Europe itineraries were nearing the end. The final port of the cruise was the Isle of Portland, County Dorset, UK. The isle is connected to the mainland by a sand spit, a barrier beach 4 miles long and 1.7 miles wide, and again I would be exploring—you guessed it—on foot.

As in Falmouth, destination representatives could not have been more hospitable. Friendly volunteers welcomed us at the cruise terminal in Portland and again in neighboring Weymouth. Complimentary shuttles were running continuously between the two towns, so I decided to tour Weymouth first and work my way back to Portland. The sun broke through the clouds, and I prayed the rain would hold out.

Weymouth Harbour

Howard at Weymouth Harbour scaled - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I hopped off the bus and headed into town along the harbor, across the bridge, and through town to the beachfront.

Weymouth Esplanade

Weymouth Esplanade - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The Weymouth Esplanade runs 1.3 miles along the sandy beach. A handy map marked with sites of interest along the beachfront made it easy to design a self-guided walking tour.

Weymouth public restrooms - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

One of the first things I noticed was that Weymouth has lots of free public restrooms. One of the most difficult tasks for visitors exploring cities is finding a place to pee. Travel destinations, take note!

Both Weymouth and Portland were departure points for the Normandy D-Day landings. The esplanade was populated with war monuments and memorials, many honoring American soldiers, along with statues of British nobility.

St. John’s Church

St. Johns Church Weymouth UK - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Always one to check out historic houses of worship, I continued beyond the esplanade to St. John’s Anglican church, a Neo-Gothic structure completed in 1854.

Greenhill Gardens

Greenhill Gardens - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I walked as far as Greenhill Gardens and then began making my way back to the esplanade.

Weymouth palms - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I passed more palm trees, and I was still incredulous that they grew in the UK. I swear the small variety looks almost like Florida’s saw palmetto.

Weymouth beach huts - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I stopped to speak to a local couple about the rows of cabanas, similar to those I had seen in Falmouth. They call them “beach huts,” and they are rentals. This couple was paying about £1,600 per year for one of the pastel-colored huts. Most of the huts are permanent structures, but I passed workers assembling seasonal huts along the beach.

Alexandra Gardens

Alexandra Gardens carousel - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I retraced my steps along the esplanade until I reached Alexandra Gardens. The location of the “gardens” dates back 150 years, but today the space is occupied by a small amusement park with rides, arcade games, and fair food.

Nothe Fort & Gardens

Weymouth sidewalk to Nothe Fort - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Before leaving Weymouth, I headed out to Nothe Fort, walking the curving sidewalk that fronts Newton’s Cove.

Nothe Fort Weymouth UK - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

Nothe Fort was built as a coastal defense between 1860 and 1872 to protect both Portland and Weymouth Harbors. The fortress is situated along England’s Jurassic Coast, but it is not technically within the designated UNESCO World Heritage boundary that begins to the west. Beats me!

I routed my return walk through the lovely Nothe Gardens. In addition to their natural beauty, the lilac and rose fragrances were intoxicating!

Portland Castle

Around noon, I hopped the shuttle from Weymouth back to Portland. I had hoped to head out to the lighthouse at Portland Bill, the tip of the island, but clouds were rolling in and there was a drop in temperature.

IMG 9557 - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

So I decided to tour Portland Castle and then walk as much of the immediate area as I could before the impending rain fell on my head.

IMG 9595 - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

As with Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, Henry VIII constructed Portland Castle between 1539 and 1541 as an artillery fort to protect Britain against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire.

IMG 9565 - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

At the Portland Castle café (tea room), I enjoyed a British ploughman’s lunch, consisting of ham, cheese, bread, butter, chutney, a pickled onion, salad, and apple. I ate it without mayo, salt, or salad dressing, and if you know me, that is a challenge. Everything was super fresh with large portions, and I could not eat it all. I loved it!

IMG 9567 - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

I also ordered tea and a scone. The tea was delicious, but the large scone was cold and stale. The pre-packaged clotted cream was hard with a yellow film on top. Oh well, two out of three ain’t bad!

Castletown D-Day Centre

IMG 9614 - A Princess Western Europe Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions

The Castletown D-Day Centre located just around the bend from the castle honors Allied Forces with an impressive collection of original WWII artifacts, weapons, and wartime vehicles, including a Sherman tank.

Victoria Gardens

To wind up my brief tour of Portland, I walked down to Victoria Gardens, a lovely public space with a memorial to American forces.

In the distance, I could see the dunes of the sandy spit that connects the Isle of Portland to the mainland, but alas it was time to head back to ship.


Afterword


When asked, I always reply that London is my favorite international city. But aside from a day trip to Bath and Stonehenge many years ago, prior to this cruise I had not visited any of the smaller towns and villages.

Exploring scenic and historical sites in Falmouth, Weymouth, and Portland, and meeting so many friendly Britons reminded me how much I love Great Britain. If I can nail down a driver—my American brain won’t allow me to do the drive-in-the-left-lane thing—I will return to road trip all over the British Isles.

Sailing into the port of Southampton was bittersweet. As much as I love traveling the world, this had been my longest cruise ever, and I was ready to go home. I said goodbye to the Enchanted Princess, hopped a shuttle from Southampton to Heathrow, and flew back to the United States.

The Enchanted Princess had room for improvement, but I was grateful she had carried me across the Atlantic and to so many lovely European destinations over the previous 25 days. In case you missed it, you may want to read the first post in this three-part series: An Enchanted Princess Transatlantic Cruise Review.

Second in the three-part series, A Princess Transatlantic Cruise: Ports & Shore Excursions, is a travelogue of my explorations in the Azores, Brittany and Normandy, France, and Copenhagen, Denmark.

This post, a travelogue of my experiences in Norway, Germany, Belgium, and the UK is the conclusion to the series.

Click here for lodging options on TripAdvisor!


I Would Love to Hear From You


I enjoy dialogue with Backroad Planet readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Have you ever done a Princess Western Europe cruise? If so, I would love to hear about your experience. I invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and I always respond!


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Howard Blount is founder and editor of the travel website Backroad Planet. He has traveled internationally since boyhood and lived abroad in Mexico, Chile, and Paraguay. Now his passion is navigating the roads-less-traveled of this amazing planet in search of anything rare and remote. On the stuffy side, “Mr. Blount” has been a writer, consultant, and published author with houses including Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill.

Retired from a 35-year career as a middle school teacher, Howard enjoys spending his time on anything that includes mountains, waterfalls, dachshunds, gospel choirs, books, classic movies, autumn, sandhill cranes, Florida springs, rain, gloomy days, log cabins, abandoned sites, unearthed history, genealogy, documentaries, To Kill a Mockingbird, castles, cathedrals, Civil Rights history, cold sheets, National Park Passports, quotes, Reba Rambo, Dionne Warwick, most things Apple, all things British, Jesus, and lists.

And on a random note, Howard is a fourth cousin once removed to Truman Capote.

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