Atlantic Alliance - Experience Nature!

MARCH 03, 2014

The member ports of the Atlantic Alliance celebrate this year’s theme ”Experience Nature” and invites cruise lines and their guests to explore, be inspired and dive into the lush green landscapes around Europe’s stunning west coast.

Catch the “Atlantic Alliance gardener” at Cruise Shipping Miami 2014 and sow the seeds of YOUR nature experience.

Europe has a concentrated network of natural beauty, offering a high number of natural areas – more than 300 national parks and around 600 nature parks. The member ports of the ATLANTIC ALLIANCE, an association of 18 cruise ports and destinations located along Europe’s West Coast from Hamburg to Lisbon as well as a number of British and Irish ports. The region is blessed with stunning natural landscapes spanning a myriad of parks, gardens, rivers, forests, lakes and dunes, we are proud to present this years themed cruises, designed to take in the majestic natural beauty of the region.

The harbors of the Atlantic Alliance are first and foremost characterized by the sea, but, there are many other surprises awaiting intrepid passenger only a few kilometers inland. All astonishingly diverse, sometimes ancient, but always ambitiously designed and passionately maintained. Impressions and pictures are visible at the Atlantic Alliance Facebook Gallery “Experience Nature”.

Hamburg exhibits more conservation areas than any other federal state in Germany and is also called the green city of the North, surrounded by beautiful lakes and rivers and fruit growing areas, including for example the Alte Land (Old Land). The largest fruit growing area in Germany (10.700 ha) known for its t eight million fruit trees (apple, cherry, pear) in between dikes, ditches, canals and lovely villages with astonishing timbered houses. Millions of visitors make their way to the Old Land during the blooming period in spring and harvesting in autumn and marvel at the wonderful trees in the area. Bremens’ Bürgerpark close to Bremerhaven is a wonderful illustration of how nature can be 'designed' by man. This park paradise covers 202 hectares in the heart of the city. Last but not least and important to mention is the Wadden Sea, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site: 90% of which is untouched and brimming with wildlife, with the other 10% of the region providing tourists a clear, uninterrupted view of the beautiful landscape.

Officially there is about 30 parks in Amsterdam, ranging from Wertheimpark which covers one hectare, to the fabulous Vondelpark which covers 48 hectares. The sheer number of parks makes Amsterdam a peaceful oasis even on a busy day. Rotterdam is in the top 3 of the greenest cities in the Netherlands, covering 75 km² of parks and gardens with 540.000 trees (almost 1 tree per 2 inhabitants in the region). Yearly you have the “open garden” weekend where one can visit certain private gardens throughout the city. The largest dune region in Northwest Europe can be found near IJmuiden, an endless row of sandy hills between the green polder landscape and the North Sea. This unique nature area is the perfect place to enjoy cycling and hiking, nature, peace and calm.

In the center of Antwerp, you can find the Botanical Gardens, the Beguines Estate and the city park. Anyone wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of the city can take an excursion to the “Nachtegalenpark” in Wilrijk where historical and modern-themed gardens such as the “Dodoens- and Rubenstuin” are located within the “Hortiflora”, or likewise visit the “Rivierenhof” in Deurne.

The coast between Poole and Exmouth, with its rock formations, documents approximately 190 million years of the Earth’s history and is known, above all, as being a place where a lot of fossils have been found. The so-called “Jurassic Coast” has been declared a protected World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO. Upon the small island of Portland, there are diverse limestones quarries in which you can also find notable fossils. For bird lovers there are a number internationally recognised reserves within minutes of the port whilst inland Dorset in blessed with rolling green hills and hedgerows interspersed with stunning stately homes with their formal gardens. To the east lies the vast National Park of the New Forest. Kent County, in the surroundings of Dover, is characterized by fruit and hops plantations with hedgerows that appear to be endless and is not only famous for its stunning White Cliffs, its myriad of castles and stunning rugged coastline is also well known for its gardens, many refer to the region as the Garden of England: Sissinghurst Garden, designed in the 1930’s by the author Vita Sackville-West and her husband, has often been called the most beautiful garden in England. We encourage passengers to Discover Dover at your own pace, whether that be adrenaline fueled or relaxed, it’s all done seamlessly and with flair.

Ireland isn’t known as the Emerald Isle for nothing with the different seasons really showcasing the beauty and splendor of Irish gardens. Magnificent formal designs, sweeping terraces, walled gardens and rambling walks all showcase the variety of Irish gardens, even in winter. With a huge range of flora and fauna, from naturally native to tropical, every garden has its own treasures and charms for you to explore. Why not discover the many delights of Irish gardens in Cork County and Cork coastline, where you can find wonderful selection of some of the most beautiful gardens in the country.

Enjoy an escapade and discover small paradises in Le Havre and Normandy, no matter what season! The sea, cliffs, majestic rivers, valleys and wonderful colors, therese planty to see and do to immerse yourself in nature.The cliffs, as a white great wall with a winding line, unveil their wonders to everyone. In Etretat, their pinnacles and needles break through the sea. At the Cape of Antifer, its preserved natural environment is the refuge of about sixty different species of birds. Typical “valleuses” (small valleys or vales) are also original panoramas with unobstructed views of natural wonders. For guests interested in parks and gardens, Cherbourg and its surroundings offer some amazing green jewels. Take a walk in the Emmanuel Liais Park and its greenhouse, composed of more than 400 botanical species. In the peaceful Cherbourg,Public Gardens holding water features, an animals corner and a children’s playground. The Park of La Saline,five hectares in total, where jogging, cycling or walking can be enjoyed along a dedicated path by the seafront. Walk along the coastal path near Cancalein Saint Malo to the Pointe de Grouin where youyou have magnificent panoramic views of Cape Frehel towards Mont Saint-Michel. In front of the peak 40 metres in height, there lies the isle of the piece of land, a bird reserve. Cape Frehel, with its lighthouse and Fort La Latte, is likewise worth a visit. In Nantes take the time to discover the world of Guérande salt, a tradition with taste. Discover its history, how it is produced and how it is used. Visit the salt marshes with “Terre de Sel”. North of La Rochelle along the Gulf of Biscaya, there extends a swamp and wooded region that was once the notorious home of Le Marais Poitevin. Today, the region serves less as the hideout for convicts, but rather as the La Venise Verte National Park. The name “Green Venice” makes reference to the many canals and drainage ditches located in the area. You can rent a canoe or enjoy a ride through the canals in wooden boats. In addition to the Jakobsweg, a section of which leads to Paris via Bordeaux into the Pyrenees, hikes in the vineyards in the surrounding areas and south of Bordeaux, a walk in Les Landes, the largest forested area in France, it is worthwhile to take a side trip to the Dune du Pilat which, at up to 115 m, is the highest sand dune in Europe. Or remain in the city and explore the Jardin Public which was designed at the end of the 18th century and is modeled after English gardens. The Musée d´Histoire Naturell provides a good overview of the fauna of southwestern France.

Enjoy the natural and cultural heritage in Vigo and its surrounds with its wild and protected spaces, its ethnographic parks, cared urban parks, recreation areas, viewpoints, beaches and the Ría, the Vigo estuary. Vigo is a city with many parks and green areas. There are several public and private gardens and you will find an amazing natural locale, the Cies Islands, Maritime National Park which will be presented very soon as a solid candidature to UNESCO for the declaration of World Heritage. One of the largest dune areas along the Cantabrian coast, close to Santander, with rich types of fauna and flora is the Parque Natural de las Dunas de Liencres. It lies along the left side of the mouth of the Pas River upon a type of peninsula.

Here, you can visit the westernmost point in Europe at the Cabo da Roca near Sintra. 144 m deep, the cliffs plunge more or less straight down into the sea. Near Portinho da Arrabida south of Lisbon, there is the Serra da Arrabida Nature Park with its wooded heights. A foot path leads to the 500-m-high Monte Formosinho which presents an unbelievably beautiful view.

Latest facts and figures on the ATLANTIC ALLIANCE
2013 proved to be a record year for the member ports of the Atlantic Alliance. During the 2013 cruise season a total passenger volume of 2,5 million was recorded, an increase of 12 percent over the previous year (2012: 2,2 million passengers).

The overall development of the Atlantic Alliance founding members over the past five years is very positive. Only three out of 18 ports lost passenger volume over the past five years, however was still able to operate on a high level, by hosting, on average 100,000+ passengers a year. The big winners are not only the large ports with increased figures due to new home ported ships, such as Hamburg with a quadruplicating in the past five years and Le Havre, but also smaller ports, such as IJmuiden and Portland have developed themselves as well-known transit ports.

The “Atlantic Alliance” cruise region developed itself from what has previously been known as a transit route to a stand-alone destination, representing “must-see” destinations and marquee ports, reflecting a well-balanced variety between port of calls, homeports, small, medium and big ports. These are all crucial factors when it comes to formulating interesting and desirable cruise destinations for all kind of operators. Interestingly, many new niche operators will call into Atlantic Alliance member ports in 2014.