Furness Abbey Move over, Southampton: Barrow-in-Furness, the gateway to the U.K.'s Lake District, has big plans for its 2009 cruise season.

Okay, yes, we're getting a little ahead of ourselves. Barrow, a bustling Victorian town with nearby access to beaches, bird sanctuaries and nature reserves, will net -- count 'em -- two calls this year. Tahitian Princess is scheduled to visit port on 22 May (during a 12-night British Isles and Baltic cruise, departing from Stockholm) and 26 May (during a similar itinerary, departing from Dublin). The last ship to call there was Peter Deilmann's Deutschland -- back in 2007.

Still, the little-known port is pulling out all the stops for its visitors, with the Barrow Borough Council and Associated British Ports planning a warm "English" welcome for the ship's passengers. According to Ann Taylforth, the council's tourism manager (who tells us she is a keen cruiser herself), the council is arranging for a brass band, town crier and Morris dancers for the ship's arrivals and departures. St. George's Cross and Union Jack flags will fly high.

"We are the only English port on the itinerary," she says. "So we wanted to mark the special occasion. The locals will be out in the droves to see the ship."

While U.K. passengers may be used to such British traditions, these will still be a treat for them -- and even more so for Americans and other international travellers. In fact, in response to enquiries from U.S.-based cruisers, wondering just what there is to do in Barrow, the council has set up a Web page with more information.

Here's a hint of what else to expect:

A tourist information desk will be set up at the quayside to give information to arriving guests. Complimentary walking tours will depart from here at various times of the day. (Times can be found on the Web page linked above.)

During the first call, 22 May, an English craft fair will be set up so cruise travellers can purchase British souvenirs and gifts.

Free shuttle buses will be provided from the Quayside to the town centre (about a mile-and-a-half walk) and from the Quayside to the Dock Museum, which tracks Barrow's social and industrial history.

Princess Cruises has put together a menu of shore excursions, including a tour of the Lake District by steam train and a visit to Dove Cottage (home to William Wordsworth), followed by afternoon tea. Another option is a trip to Furness Abbey (pictured). The ship's approach into Barrow will also provide a scenic view of Blackpool Tower, a tourist attraction that's modeled after Paris' Eiffel Tower.

Other, less unusual stops on the itineraries include Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Copenhagen, Tallinn and Edinburgh.

--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor, and Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor

--Image of Furness Abbey appears courtesy of www.visitcumbria.com.