Arrive in Aberdeen. Embark the Ocean Nova in the afternoon. Settle in to your cabin and familiarize yourself with the ship and her crew. Sail toward the Scottish Islands. Consider arriving a few days early to explore all that the "Granite City" has to offer.
This morning finds you in Orkney, an archipelago of almost 70 islands, with a history dating back 8,500 years to the first Mesolithic tribe that inhabited the area. Travel back in time here, with visits planned to the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae, Skaill House and the Italian Chapel. You also have a chance to pay your respects to polar explorer John Rae, who rests in the shadow of the impressive St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. You may even have a chance to experience the vibrant and lively culture of today at a local pub.
Plan to visit Fair Isle, the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom. It is also the best place to find rare birds in Britain with 27 first records! Many of the 70 people who live on the island are artists, painters, writers, musicians, and weavers - who are particularly famous for their intricately-knitted sweaters. Here you are also introduced to the crofting culture. In the afternoon, visit the Brock of Mousa, the finest preserved example of Iron Age towers in Scotland.
The Shetland Islands are known for their archeological sites, and you have the chance to visit a few of the most impressive. Visit Jarlshof, the prehistoric Norse settlement which dates back 2,500 years. Here you can see the progression of human civilization through the late Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as the Pictish and Norse eras and the Middle Ages. Return back to modern times as you visit Lerwick, the capital and main port of the Shetlands. Return to the Ocean Nova for lunch and set sail for Norway.
Arrive in Norway's second-largest city, Bergen, after crossing the North Sea. Here, have your first taste of Norwegian culture, which has a rich history dating back over 1,000 years. Take a tour of the city, complete with world heritage sties, medieval houses, and some of the best street art in Norway.
In the morning, arrive in Alesund at the mouth of the Geiranger Fjord. You have some time today to explore this beautiful city and its Art Nouveau architecture. You can also travel up to the top of Mount Aksla for a spectacular view of the town.
This fjord is considered to be one of the most beautiful in all of Norway and is a World Heritage Site. As you enter the fjord system, you may want to spend your time on deck, taking in the amazing views en route to the town of Geiranger, including the famous Seven Sisters waterfall. Here you have a chance to visit the quaint town and hike in the nearby hills for more spectacular views.
In the morning, call into Trondheim, the historic capital of Norway. Walk through the quaint historic district, characterized by wooden architecture, where you can visit small specialty shops and enjoy a coffee at one of the pleasant cafés. Also visit the cathedral of the national sanctuary of Norway, Nidaris Cathedral, built over the grave of St. Olav. Work began in 1070, but the oldest parts still in existence date from the middle of the 12th century.
In the afternoon you have a chance to visit tiny Munkholmen Island, just off the coast of Trondheim, and learn about its fascinating history. During the Viking age this was the main place for executions of enemies of the state, whose heads would be placed on stakes for all to see. The islet went on to become a monastery and prison, but today is a park with sandy beaches facing the city.
Today visit the UNESCO-protected Vega Island archipelago as you head northward. Vega is an ornithologist’s dream. Chief among the bird population are eider ducks, raised for their feathers - the houses built for them to nest in can still be seen alongside lighthouses, fishing villages and dramatic landscapes. The archipelago reflects the way fishermen and farmers have, over the past 1,500 years, maintained a sustainable living from eiderdown harvesting.
Arrive in the morning at Alstahaug, in the shadow of the Seven Sisters Mountain range. Find a wonderfully preserved medieval church and some small communities scattered throughout the island.
Today walk to the Svartisen glacier, which is actually two glaciers that meet in Holandfjord. This is the second largest glacier in Norway and really reinforces how far north we are. The name "Svartisen" comes from "svartis," an old word that denotes the deep color of blue in this ice and the contrast to the white snow and newer ice on the ice plateau itself.
In the afternoon, cross the Arctic Circle and arrive at Vikingen, a tiny island with a big globe on top marking the Arctic Circle.
Your ship navigates some of Norway’s northern fjords and you can take advantage of great hiking opportunities in this unspoiled region. The waters approaching the Lofoten Islands are well known for whale sightings, so your Expedition Team is at watch on deck. You are likely to see sea eagles, cormorants and puffins. You may also visit the Refsvikhula Cave, whose cave paintings found in the 1980s date back 3,000 years. If time allows, also stop into Reine on Moskenesøy Island, one of the most beautiful villages in Norway.
Arriving at Bleiksøya in the morning, take a Zodiac cruise around one of the most prolific bird populations in Norway. Here you should find large numbers of puffins, razorbills, sea eagles, cormorants and others in thousands. In the afternoon, visit the tiny village of Nyksund which has become a colony for artists.
Arriving in Tromsø in the morning, enjoy breakfast on the ship before you embark on your flights home.