Set sail for shooting stars and stunning islands

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Fred. Olsen’s summertime cruise to the unique Azores islands is timed so that you can watch the Perseids meteor shower in perfect conditions — and with an expert at hand

“The exhalations whizzing in the air,” declares an dazzled Brutus in Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, “give so much light that I may read by them.”

Brutus is describing meteor showers — thrilling celestial events wherein a storm of shooting stars appear en masse in the night sky. And, later this year, you can watch the Perseids, one of the best annual displays, from an optimal vantage point by cruising to Portugal’s far-flung Azores islands with Fred. Olsen aboard its ship, Balmoral.

Poetry in motion

Shooting star

Meteor showers occur when the Earth’s orbit crosses that of a comet, and we encounter many meteorites as a result. These become extremely hot upon entering Earth’s atmosphere, As they enter Earth’s atmosphere, these cause a spree of electricity-like streaks, all appearing to emanate from the same location, to rapidly whizz across our skies before disappearing as they burn up. 

It’s a magical, moving thing to watch. Come the evening of 12 August, when the Perseid Meteor Shower should be at its peak, Balmoral will be sailing the remote Atlantic waters of the Azores archipelago — a place of minimal light pollution, which means perfect viewing conditions. A fellow from the Royal Astronomical Society will be on board the ship.  

Alone in the Atlantic

Acores Faial Horta

Observing the Perseids is one of Fred. Olsen’s Signature Experiences on this voyage, with others awaiting on land in the oh-so-spectacular Azores. An autonomous archipelago, 950 miles west of its parent land, Portugal, and nowhere near anywhere else, these nine islands formed millions of years ago from a volcanic rift. They’re a place of black-sand beaches and glinting green mountain slopes; of cute fishing villages, terraced vineyards, big blue hydrangeas and bubbling mud pots. They’re a place that repeatedly takes your breath away.

You’ll have the opportunity to discover the culture and nature of three of the islands: Terceira, where great explorers like Vasco da Gama once stopped while navigating the Atlantic; Faial, whose main, painting-lined marina is only accessible to small ships like Balmoral; and São Miguel, the main island with its colourful, cobblestone capital Ponta Delgada.

Natural wonders and wildlife

Algar do Carvao caves

Numerous shore tours are available. You might explore the caves and lake along Algar do Carvão, a lava tube which descends almost 100 metres underground. You could cycle around the Sete Cidades lagoon, a twin lake in the crater of a dormant volcano, learning about the local folklore this forest-hugged cauldron inspires, or explore its scenic crater by Jeep. Or you can join experts from the wildlife charity ORCA and search for whales and dolphins from the ship’s deck. The Azores ranks among the world’s hotspots for cetacean sightings, with migrating humpback, minke, blue and sei whales all regularly encountered.

Explore Lisbon and Porto

Fred Olsen Azores cruise

Having sailed directly to the Azores from Rosyth, just north of Edinburgh in Scotland, Balmoral will leave via an inspection of the uninhabited islet Vila Franca do Campo, a nature reserve known for its slender sea stack, bird life and enclosed, perfectly circular crater lake. Then comes two stops in mainland Portugal, beginning with the capital. Accessed via the Tagus River estuary past a huge figure inspired by Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer statue, intoxicating Lisbon is full of ornately tiled lanes and bakeries selling pastel de nata custard tarts.

Before returning to Rosyth, the last stop is Leixões for visits to Portugal’s seductive second city. Porto’s many temptations include a fortress-like cathedral, longstanding port cellars and a library that inspired Harry Potter.

Balance relaxation with activity

Fred Olsen cruise ship bar

Typifying Fred. Olsen’s fleet of ships that are smaller in size than most ocean-going cruise vessels, Balmoral promises a spacious, friendly and elegant experience enhanced by unusually personalised service; above all, this is a ship on which it’s easy to relax, aided by a beautiful spa — its floor-to-ceiling windows providing dreamy views during treatments — swimming pools, broad decks, seven bars and stylish dining venues serving everything from Asian fusion (for a small supplement), to afternoon tea.

That said, there’s plenty to do whenever you fancy. You could try your hand at deck games like quoits and shuffleboard, or play bridge in the card room. Guest comedians and singers will perform, bookended by the Captain’s Welcome and Farewell parties. Informative talks by guest lecturers provide a tantalising flavour of each Portuguese destination ahead of your visit, and guided, on-deck stargazing means it’s not only that thrilling meteor shower you can admire after dark.

Find out more

Fred. Olsen’s ‘Portugal's Islands in Search of the Meteor Shower’ departs from Rosyth on August 7, 2024 for 15 nights, and costs from £2,099pp for two sharing, including meals and entertainment.

To find out more or book, visit the Fred. Olsen website

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