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Bilbao, Mykonos or Naples? Disney cruises into Europe

Thought Disney Cruise Line was all about Miami, Florida and the Bahamas? Here are the coolest destinations for 2023 - and our insider tips on how to maximise the fun while you're in port.

Choosing a family holiday is never easy – you want some culture and great food, your other half wants to sunbathe, the kids demand swimming pools and a waterslide, and your teens want to ignore you! The good news is that Disney Cruise Line will tick all of those boxes, and then some. Even better, it’s introducing brand new European travel routes for 2023 with the inaugural voyage of Disney Dream cruise ship into our continent with many trips starting from and ending in Southampton (cue awesome travel bragging for the next 12 months). Here are some of the beautiful stop-offs on offer to whet your appetite. All aboard!

THE DESTINATION: BILBAO

Ships’ Registry: The Bahamas. ©Disney.

The cruise: Disney Dream, sailing from Southampton, 4 days, booking for 30 Aug – 3 Sept 2023.
Tourist must-sees: No trip to Bilbao would be complete without visiting the Guggenheim, the Frank Gehry-designed masterpiece dominating the riverside – even if you don’t make it inside you can gawp at some art outside, like Jeff Koons’ giant flower-clad puppy and Louise Bourgeois’ spider. There’s impressive architecture at every turn in this city, from 15th-Century Santiago Cathedral to art hub Azkuna Zentroa. And when you’re done sightseeing slather on the suncream and head to Getxo, home to glorious, wide beaches just 20 minutes from the city centre.
Muddy tips: You’re in Basque Country, baby, so it’s all about pintxos (tapas-like snacks on bread) – order squid ink croquettes and a glass of local sherry at popular joint Victor Montes in Plaza Nueva.

THE DESTINATION: LA ROCHELLE

Ships’ Registry: The Bahamas. ©Disney.

The cruise: Disney Dream, sailing from Southampton, 4 days, booking for 26-30 Aug 2023.
Tourist must-sees: Pop on some over-sized sunglasses and make your way to this French seaside city’s historic port to snap a selfie at the Three Towers, the city’s medieval landmarks, then climb the largest (St Nicolas), for amazing views. Spot sharks and rays in La Rochelle Aquarium (it’s one of the biggest in Europe) and get a culture fix wandering through Cathédrale Saint-Louis and The Museum of Fine Arts. When Muddy visited La Rochelle we explored by bike – you can easily pick one up from the dozens of Yélo stations dotted around the city.
Muddy tip: Hop in a cab, or take your bike for a longer spin, to cross the 3km bridge linking the city to Ile de Ré, one of France’s most stunning islands where Parisians make a beeline each summer. Chill on the golden beaches, bike through the salt flats, explore charming villages and pig out on dishes like langoustines in cognac on the terrace of George’s, Hotel de Toiras’ new restaurant in Saint Martin de Ré.

THE DESTINATION: NORTHERN EUROPE & THE NORWEGIAN FJORDS – AMSTERDAM, COPENHAGEN, OSLO AND SANDNES

Ships’ Registry: The Bahamas. ©Disney.

The cruise: Disney Dream, sailing from Southampton, 7 days, booking for 3-10 Sept 2023.
Tourist must-dos: Pedal power rules in Amsterdam, so make like a local and hire a bike to reach all the best bits: Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes) in the Jordaan, lined with cosy cafes and indi shops. In Copenhagen, stroll around the funfair filled Tivoli Gardens, sip coffee in a cafe by the colourful townhouses lining the Nyhaven Canal and browse bookshops and boutiques in the Latin Quarter, while in Oslo it’s all about the Royal Palace, Munch Museum (though his most famous painting The Scream is actually in the National Gallery, also worth a visit) and Frogner Park, filled with more than 200 sculptures. 
Muddy tip: Muddy’s fave shop in Amsterdam is Droog, a design store full of amazing things you want to buy (or just copy), from milk bottle lights to marble tables. Psst, in Oslo you can board a boat from Pier 3 by City Hall which will glide you effortlessly past plenty of popular landmarks, like the opera house, Bygdøy Peninsula and maritime museum.

THE DESTINATION: WESTERN EUROPE – CADIZ, LISBON, VIGO & LE HAVRE

Cadiz

The cruise: Disney Dream, from Barcelona sailing into Southampton, 7 days, booking for 15-22 July 2023.
Tourist must-dos: You don’t expect to find a beach in a city, right? Well,  that’s one of the highlights of a trip to Andalucian port city Cádiz, where the golden sands of Playa de La Caleta can be found in the Old Town. Lisbon’s got plenty of cool places to discover too, like Convento do Carmo (a magnificent ruined convent dating back to the 1300s), royal palace, Belem harbour tower and Castelo de São Jorge. Vigo, Spain’s Atlantic Coast city, is famous for its seafood and pretty fisherman’s houses in the old town – if there’s time Cíes Islands, an uninhabited archipelago in the Vigo Estuary, are worth a visit. Go high brow in Le Havre at the Museum of Modern Art, filled with works by Monet, Renoir and Degas, though tbh it’s also tempting to hit the two kilometres of beach where locals surf and swim.
Our insider tips: Foodies will want to know about the homemade chocolate cake served on a silver trolley at Renaissance-style Café Royalty in Cádiz, and that the freshest oysters in Vigo are found in Rua Pescaderia, traditionally washed down with Albariño wine. Don’t forget to check out our full insider Lisbon guide.

THE DESTINATION: MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE – TOULON, LIVORNO (FLORENCE, PISA), CIVITAVECCHIA (ROME), NAPLES, PALMA (MALLORCA)

A Palma courtyard

The cruise: Disney Dream, from Barcelona, 7 days, booking for 20-27 May 2023.
Tourist must-dos: The best view of France’s Mediterranean coastal city Toulon is from the summit of Mont Faron, which you can reach via a cable car about 20 minutes from the centre – make sure your phone’s charged because you’ll want to capture it all. Livorno Port’s a gateway to Tuscany and just over 90 minutes from Florence and Pisa, where you can take in all the famous sites like the cathedral, Michelangelo’s David outside the Vecchio Palace and even the leaning tower.
Rome’s easily accessible from the port town of Civitavecchia, perfect for a day trip to see St Peter’s Square and Basilica, the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain – legend has it if you turn your back and sling a coin over your left shoulder into the water you’ll return to Rome and find love (Muddy is still waiting but hopeful). Next up Naples, home to impressive castles (check out Castel Nuovo and Castle dell’Ovo on the waterfront) and the ancient ruined city of Pompeii, a fascinating insight into how we lived 2000 years ago (spoiler: they had temples but no WiFi). Final stop Mallorca’s capital Palma, home to a magnificent cathedral, historic old town, markets, museums, hilltop castle, Royal Palace and LOADS of great restaurants.
Our insider tips: Pizza in Rome isn’t round it’s square, called pinsa and best enjoyed at Pinsere restaurant. In Naples, check out Ipogeo dei Cristallini – the Ancient Greek tombs that are opening just this month (June 2022) and shine a light on Hellenic art and architecture.

THE DESTINATION: MEDITERRANEAN WITH GREEK ISLES – NAPLES, MYKONOS, SANTORINI, CHANIA

Ships’ Registry: The Bahamas. ©Disney.

The cruise: Disney Dream, from Civitavecchia (Rome), 7 days, booking for 20-27 June 2023.
Tourist must-dos: Get lost exploring the alleyways and whitewashed buildings of Mykonos Town, catch a ferry to Delos Island just off Mykonos (it’s the birthplace of Apollo, classics fans) and snap the windmills of Kato Mili at sunset. We’re all about the views on Muddy and Santorini’s cliff-top town Oia has some of the best on the island, while you’re there sample Greek wines at Santo Winery and hike to scenic Akrotiri Lighthouse. For unmissable moments in Crete’s harbour town Chania, be sure to take a stroll along the Venetian Harbour, check out the Archaeologial Museum and wander the alleyways of Topanas in the old town, home to lots of indie shops and Instagrammable streets lined with historic townhouses.
Muddy tip: Kiki’s Tavern on Mykonos serves the best octopus salad with a view on the island. Pyrgos Village on Santorini isn’t as well known as Oia, but it’s whitewashed buildings are just as photogenic and it’s the highest spot on the island. Rialto Living in Palma is Muddy’s fave shop in Mallorca; fashion, interiors, art and gifts and even a cute café all set in a former 15th Century Palace.

THE DESTINATION: ALASKA, FROM VANCOUVER TAKING IN DAWES GLACIER, SKAGWAY, JUNEAU AND KETCHIKAN

The cruise: Disney Wonder, from Vancouver, 7 days, booking for 15-22 May; 22-29 May; 29 May – 5 June; 5-12 June; 12- 19 June; 26 June – 3 July; 3-10 July; 10-17 July; 17-24 July; 7-14 Aug; 21-28 Aug; 28 Aug – 4 Sept; 4-11 Sept 2023.

Tourist must-do: Alaska’s wilderness waterways are bucket list stuff. Kick off with Dawes Glacier at the head of Endicott Arm Fjord, which soars 600ft high and is over a mile wide – keep your eyes peeled for harbour seals below and bald eagles above. Valley-based Skagway town dates back to the gold rush in the 1800s and you can see buildings from the era perfectly preserved in the centre – discover more about its history at the Skagway Museum. Juneau might be a city but it’s pretty remote, surrounded by water and mountains, and shore excursions you’ll want to try include panning for gold, boat trips to spot humpback whales, kayaking and a flight above the glaciers. Immerse yourself in Alaskan culture at Ketchikan, a city set at the southern entrance of the inside passage waterways and home to the largest number of totem poles in Alaska (drop by the Totem Heritage Centre to discover more) and set in the insanely beautiful Tongass National Forest, home to brown bears and wild salmon. 

Our insider tips: It’s it’s like you’ve stepped into a Western movie when you prop up the bar at the Red Onion Saloon in Skagway, a bar built in 1897 (though these days you’re encouraged to order pizza or nachos rather than start a brawl). Take in all the top sites of Ketchikan for free by downloading a walking tour map.

THE DESTINATION: COZUMEL, MEXICO; GEORGE TOWN, GRAND CAYMAN; FALMOUTH, JAMAICA AND DISNEY CASTAWAY CAY.

The cruise: Disney Fantasy, from Port Canaveral (Florida), 7 days, booking for 3-10 June; 17-24 June; 1-8 July; 12-19 July; 26 Aug – 2 Sept 2023.

Tourist must-dos: Hit the craft markets of San Miguel, Cozumel’s main town, then have fun in Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park (from snorkelling to ziplines to tequila tasting). Divers and snorkellers won’t want to miss the world-class coral reefs and underwater caves ringing the island, with the chance to spot turtles, rays and sharks. Rum tours, glass-bottom boat rides, shopping (it’s duty free!) and even submarine tours await in George Town, the Grand Cayman capital, while in Jamaica climbing Dunn’s River falls in Ocho Rios, retail therapy at The Shoppes at Rose Hall and horse riding on the sand at Montego Bay are all easy excursions from Falmouth. Ending your trip on Disney’s private island in the Bahamas is a dream, with walking trails, lagoons, blissful beaches and amazing restaurants to enjoy.

Our insider tips: Shhh…Muddy thinks the best stretches of sand on Cozumel lie in the Punta Sur Ecological Beach Park; white sand, turquoise water and a scattering of restaurants, but not the big crowds. In Jamaica, we love Firefly, Sir Noel Coward’s former home close to Ocho Rios, where the hillside views are epic and the black and white photos of visiting stars capture a glam, bygone era on the island.

Ships’ Registry: The Bahamas. ©Disney.

Tempted? Find out more about what makes Disney Cruise Line so brilliant – click the links for our curated highlights of a Disney Cruise Line holiday and our take on how it caters so well for the whole family.

Disney Cruise Line

                             

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