One of the most vibrant cities in the north of England, Newcastle gained a whole new lease on life in the mid-1990s following the rebirth of the derelict downtown Quayside area. Spiffed up along the river banks with a host of trendy bars, restaurants and nightclubs, all set against a spectacular backdrop of several different, very eclectic bridges, the city has an unmistakable stance that renders it almost unique on mainland Britain.
It retains a mixture of ancient and modern that brings visitors back time and again. The old castle keep, dating from the 11th century, still looms over a cityscape of classical Georgian architecture and vast thoroughfares such as Grey Street, topped by the soaring monument of the same name.
Yet the same city offers up such cutting-edge buildings as the mesmerising, shell-backed Sage Gateshead theater, with its echoes of Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum, and the famous BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, acclaimed as the finest in the north of the country. Nearby, the country's first bio-technology "village" can be seen at the astounding Centre for Life.
At the heart of it all is the extraordinary "Geordie" passion for football (Geordie being the famous nickname for people from this region). Premiership team Newcastle United plays out their home fixtures at St. James' Park, venerated almost as a cathedral by the soccer mad locals. The local Newcastle Brown Ale is world famous but, alas, no longer brewed here.
The main cruise season for Newcastle departures tends to be between May and September, with companies such as Fred. Olsen and Cruise & Maritime Voyages using the port on a regular basis.