Visby, known as the Town of Roses and Ruins is located in the Swedish island of Gotland and is found at the heart of the Baltic Sea.

From the moment you set eyes on the island you will appreciate its magnificent beauty with its beautiful beaches and exquisite scenery and countryside.  Visby has impressive cathedrals and the rooftops of its nearly 200 stone buildings rising up in the skyline are clearly visible as your ship draws into port. Your adventure begins from your first sighting of the island before you even set foot in port, and you will not be disappointed. Visby has something to offer everyone.savvyguideslogo

If you are interested in history, then Visby offers many historical sites for you to explore. The most impressive historical feature is the Medieval City Wall which extends 2 miles around the oldest part of the city inhabiting 2000 people, and is not to be missed. Dating back to the 13th century, it is one of Europe’s oldest and longest walls of its kind, with all 40 of its towers still intact today.

The spirit of this medieval city can be explored through a gentle stroll down its elegant winding streets, which were designed to confuse any intruders that made it past the great fortifications. Many beautiful rose gardens can be seen during your stroll as well, which gives Visby its name as the Town of Roses and Ruins. Visby is also acknowledged as being on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1995, making it a popular destination for tourists.

And if that has not caught the senses, then why not explore the Stora Torget, otherwise known as the market square for the essential souvenir and shopping experience. Here you can find many different vendors selling jewellery, food, art, craft items and leather goods specific to the country, and gives a real perspective of the life and culture of the people of the island.

For those art lovers, the Visby Museum of Art is a must for its regional offerings, and houses many contemporary paintings and sculptures. A beautiful mosaic can be seen outside the museum of a shepherdess and her sheep. The Ram is a symbol of Gotland, and the imagery of sheep can be seen throughout the island.

Finally, if you have time, St. Mary’s Cathedral provides a pleasant visit containing many striking features including its stained glass windows. This church contains an interesting history being consecrated in 1255 and later restored in 1899- 1907 and in 1945. It is one of the oldest churches still in use today on the island.

Overall, Visby is at the heart of the Baltic and certainly offers the traditional Baltic experience through its spectacular scenery and history.

Southampton, England

Billed as the ‘International Maritime City of Southampton’,  this cruise port is a large city  on the south coast of England. An increasing number of ships are using it as their start/end port for a widening variety of cruises, and with it’s great links to the rest of the UK, it’s a great opportunity to explore both the city and further afield.

Part of the City Walls in Southampton

Southampton has a maritime museum focussed on the Titanic, which set off from here for it’s ill fated maiden voyage, there are some of the best preserved medieval walls in the country, and the oldest bowling green. The shopping isn’t bad either!

The train station and bus station are within easy distance of the port, and the airport is about a 20-30 minute drive away.

Other places to visit within easy reach include:

Portsmouth is a little further along the coast to the east. A 50 minute train ride will take you right through the city of Portsmouth to Portsmouth Hard which is next door to the Naval Dockyard – home to Nelson’s Victory, the Victorian ship the Warrior and the Tudor ship, the Mary Rose. A ticket to the dockyard also gets you into the various museums, interactive naval experience and a boat ride around the harbour including a stop off at the outlet shopping mall, Gunwharf Quays and the Spinaker Tower – tallest building on the South coast and great views from the top.

Salisbury is a picturesque cathedral city that is just 30 minutes away by train. The cathedral dates back to the 13th century, there are many ancient buildings in the streets of the town and there is a bus tour that will take you to Stonehenge, leaving every 30 minutes in the summer.

Winchester is another cathedral City, just 15 minutes away by train. The Great Hall that displays a replica of King Arthur’s Round Table (commissioned by Henry VIII), interesting museums and a very pretty high street are all within easy walk of the station.

Bath is about 1 and a half hours away by train, as is: Central London. Best to visit London if you have plenty of time, however, it can be done in a day if you depart later in the evening. Arrival station is London Waterloo and it’s a short hop by tube to see all the famous sights – Jumping off at Charing Cross Tube allows you to see Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square – the National Gallery (and National Portrait Gallery) which are still both free at the moment. A short walk can take you to 10 Downing St and the Houses of Parliament or, in the other direction, to Leicester Square and Theatreland. Have a look at our new eBook to see what is possible in London on a short visit….!

The Isle of Wight is accessible for foot passengers via the Red Jet High Speed service, running every 20 minutes from Town Quay – the crossing takes 25 minutes and you’ll land in West Cowes – which is a short distance form Osbourne House, the favourite residence of Queen Victoria.

From Southampton Airport  (20-30 minutes by taxi from the dockside) you can access Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney – amongst other places both in the UK and Europe. Always a good idea to check which flights are ‘in season’.

Always be careful when traveling on Sunday in the UK – travel times often take much longer – and rail services can often turn into a bus replacement service running between stations.

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Cartagena, Columbia

A beautiful city

Such a beautiful city! Cartagena is a real treat for the cruise ship passenger. There’s a five minute walk to get out of the cruise port, and you’ll then be faced with a sort of organised chaos as you get yourself into a taxi. The taxi drivers have blue or yellow shirts, with the blue ones seeming to be favoured by the cruise port – we’ve used both and can only say that the blue ones are a bit more expensive! Grab a map from the tourist information booth and make sure you know where the port is on it – very little English is spoken here, so pointing and smiling are very important! Make sure you visit the old walled town, be ready for lots of street vendors – they’re just trying to earn a living, be firm and you’ll be ok. Wander and be knocked out by its loveliness, visit the Palacio de la Inquisicion – weird but interesting, and then when you’re too hot, get to the city wall, grab a cab and go to the Caribe Mall – very few tourists here but great, good value shopping for shoes, clothes and handbags. Taxis are readily available where ever you go. Enjoy – it’s fabulous!

Cozumel, Mexico

Downtown Cozumel

Cozumel is actually an island off the Mexican mainland, and is much visited by cruise ships and their passengers! You’ll dock in on of three places depending on which cruise line you are with. Its quite a walk from the International Pier, but once you get outside the cruise area – with all its shops and stalls, there are loads of taxis who, for a fixed rate, take you to downtown. You can rent buggies, cars and mopeds from here, as well as arrange a tour further afield – rates are posted. Downtown is an area that runs parallel to the sea – a huge variety of shops, a great little museum that gives a great history of the piracy and battles that raged in the 17th and 19th Centuries. Take time to wander behind the main street though – lots more to be seen! As you walk back along the main road, look out for Senor Frogs – lots of people having a great time with balloon sculpture hats on – fabulous!

Costa Maya, Mexico

Costa Maya is a Mexican resort on the Yucatan Peninsula, and  basically fills the ‘gap’ between the Mexican Riviera and Belize. Lots of lovely beaches,

Chacchoben is worth a visit

plenty of diving opportunities and some fabulous Mayan ruins to explore.

We were told by our guide that because the Yucatan peninsula is so flat, every hill or mound is taken to be a hidden Mayan building. Several have been excavated to varying degrees and are worth visiting. Chacchoben is about a 45 minute drive from the cruise port and is a really interesting site. Otherwise, the cruise port itself has a saltwater swimming pool, bars, an artificial beach and loungers as well as loads of shops – including a great art shop where the manager explained all the symbolism in the traditional art to me! There are performances of local dances going on too. Downtown is a short taxi ride away, and is much more of a beach resort.

Belize City, Belize

Belize City is famously the most populated city in Central America’s least populated country. As a cruise ship passenger you need

Everyone arrives by tender

to be prepared to tender in (20 – 25 minutes) – there is a fabulous reef along much of the coast, so the ships are kept away from it.You land at the Fort Street Tourism Village where there are many shops, stalls, a few bars and several tourist trip vendors. You can walk through the village and have a walk around the town, although most take a taxi tour, booked on the boardwalk. Make sure that the driver shows you some of the lovely coast line, the light house, St Johns Cathedral and the National Handicrafts Centre. Lots of Mayan history here too, with the most famous being the Altun Ha site, about an hour outside the city.