Tonight marks the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. As you’ll probably agree, unless you’re travelling on a cruise ship with an ice rink, such as Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seasor perhaps enjoying a cocktail in the literally cool Ice Bar on Norwegian Getaway, there’s little you can do on-board to get into the Winter Olympics spirit. In its 90-year history though, the Winter Olympics has been held in a variety of places across the globe and you may be surprised to learn that you can visit some of them on a cruise. On top of that, there are a number of popular and well-respected ski resorts where you can try your hand at such Winter Olympics favourites as skiing and snowboarding for yourself which are within reach of some popular cruise ports.
Vancouver, Canada – 2010 Winter Olympics
The venue for the previous Winter Olympics is always a popular destination for both cruisers and city break afficionados alike. The 1,000 acre Stanley Park and the towering sea wall are popular natural attractions, while the city delivers culturally with the fascinating Museum of Anthropology and the Vancouver Public Library.
You won’t have to look too far outside of Vancouver for some desirable places to hit the slopes, located as it is in peak-heavy British Columbia. Whistler is one of the most popular areas and was used to host a number of 2010 Olympic events. Grouse Mountain is great for beginners, Mount Seymour with those with a little more experience and Cypress Mountain a favourite with the experts.
Sapporo, Japan –1972 Winter Olympics
Such was its suitability that Sapporo almost held the Winter Olympics way back in 1940 too, though the outbreak of the Second World led to the games’ cancellation that year. The capital of Japan’s Hokkaido Island features on a number of Japanese cruises and keeps the spirit of the games alive through its annual snow festival and popular ski areas. Don’t miss the beautiful Moerenuma Park and the renowned Kitara concert hall.
Mount Okura is a go-to destination for skiers visiting the city, thanks in part to the presence of an enormous ski jump. There’s also an observatory there, which offers some amazing views. For beginners, nearby Mount Moiwa is small, a little more laid back and suitable for beginners. For the serious snow-lovers, Niseko is the place to be, thanks to its reputation of having some of the lightest powder on the planet and almost 50 feet of snow a year.
Oslo, Norway – 1952 Winter Olympics
Norway’s capital is of course a favourite on many a Norwegian Fjords cruise and also hosted the sixth Winter Olympics. The country’s ever-present Viking heritage is best explored with a visit to the Viking Ship Museum and its more recent maritime history at the Fram Polar Ship Museum. The eye-catching Oslo Opera House is one of its most popular landmarks and an excursion to Oslo fjord is a must-do also.
Skiing enjoys a prestigious heritage and Norway and the most visual evidence of this is imposing Holmenkollen Ski Jump Tower. There’s an observation deck there and it’s also home to the oldest skiing museum in the world. The Nordmarka area meanwhile, is a pine and spruce paradise and popular with cross-country skiers.
With its thoroughly icy reputation, you’d expect that Alaska would’ve hosted a Winter Olympics in the past, but in fact, that honour went to fellow American states of New York in 1932 and 1980 (both times in in Lake Placid) California in 1960 (Squaw Valley) and Utah (Salt Lake City) in 2002. Many Alaskan cruises call at Anchorage, which is all about exploring beautiful scenic areas such as Prince William Sound and Chugach National Forest.
In winter, Anchorage comes alive as a skiing destination attracting both traditional enthusiasts and those fond of skijoring – that’s cross-country skiing while being towed by dog. Honest. Probably the most popular ski area is Girdwood which lies around 36 miles from the city itself. There, you’ll find Mount Alyeska and its accompanying resort, popular with snowboarders and skiers alike.
Canada’s held the Winter Olympics twice but as yet, they’ve never yet been held in Quebec. Quebec City is a popular destination on cruises which explore New England and Canada’s beautiful East Coast. Highlights are Old Quebec, with its distinctly European ramparts, the citadel and architecturally impressive Parliament Building.
If you’re serious about your skiing, a stay in Quebec before your cruise could be just the thing because just an hour from the city lies the popular family resort of Le Massif. Indeed, Quebec province is home to some of Canada’s finest slopes including Mount Blanc and Mont Tremblant, which, though a few hours’ drive from the city, is well worth the trip, with a European look completely in-keeping with the Old Quebec.
By Simon Brotherton