Wales: arrive as a tourist, leave as a local

Suzanne Thomas and Elaine Thomas of Cruise Wales explain to Rebecca Gibson why the immersive cultural experiences on offer in Wales make it the ideal destination for every cruise guest

Wales: arrive as a tourist, leave as a local

Crown copyright 2018 Visit Wales

By Rebecca Gibson |

Cruise executives joined farmer Gareth Wyn Jones for an immersive experience at Ty’n Llwyfan farm in the foothills of the Carneddau mountains in North Wales as part of a familiarisation trip, organised by Cruise Wales 2023. 

“The group enjoyed the experience immensely,” says Suzanne Thomas, head of Cruise Wales. “It included llama walking, sheep herding and playing with sheepdog puppies. It’s certainly an experience they will never forget!”  

Sheep herding is just one of many activities cruise guests can try for themselves if they visit Ty’n Llwyfan farm while in Wales. Jones, who regularly appears on national television to discuss sustainable farming, the environment and Welsh produce, offers sheepdog training demonstrations and takes groups to the Bronze Age fortress set within the mountain. He also leads quad bike tours, and shows guests the world’s only remaining Carneddau ponies. In addition, Rhian (his wife) is happy to teach visitors how to make shortbread or Welsh cakes in her farmhouse kitchen.  

“The couple provide a fascinating insight into the history of their land, which has been in the family for more than 370 years, as well as the life of a farmer and Welsh culture,” says Thomas. “It’s a unique chance to meet with a local family and learn more about their lives.” 

While in North Wales, for example, they can head to the Isle of Anglesey to learn about the salt-making process and take a dip in a barrel of saltwater at Halen Môn, or they can discover the lives of historic local criminals at the 19th-century Beaumaris Gaol and Courthouse.  

“Tourists can visit the original prison cells, try on wigs and gowns, stand in the dock and reenact a trial, or take a ghost tour,” says Thomas. “Beaumaris itself is a lovely town with a castle, cafes, artisan shops, and much more for tourists to explore too.” 

Cruise guests can participate in similarly immersive excursions in destinations across Wales, whether their ship is docking at Holyhead, Fishguard, Pembroke Port, Milford Haven, Swansea, or Cardiff.  

Cruise Wales cawl

Cruise Wales is creating excursions that enable cruise guests to taste traditional Welsh dishes, such as cawl

Visitors interested in familiarising themselves with the history of Wales, can also explore one of the many museums, castles, churches or National Trust properties throughout the country. For example, they can learn about local whaling and fishing industries at Milford Haven Museum or take an immersive walk through Welsh life over the centuries at St Fagans Museum of National History, near Cardiff.  

One popular excursion is the ‘Coin, Coal & Cheers’ experience near Cardiff. This enables guests to combine three attractions by going behind the scenes to press their own coins at the Royal Mint, before joining ex-miners on a tour of a former mine and colliery in Rhondda Heritage Park and concluding their day with a guided tour and tasting session at Hensol Castle’s gin distillery.  

“We’ve created a silver and gold package for this experience and those choosing the latter benefit from special perks, such as being able to watch a performance by a Welsh male choir in the mine and make their own gin at the castle,” says Thomas. “These packages are very popular with cruise guests who want ready-made tours that give them the chance to visit multiple places, so we’re developing more experiences like this.” 

Many of the new excursions on offer will focus on showcasing the local cuisine and culture. “We organise experiences that involve trying food and watching traditional Welsh entertainment,” says Thomas. “There are also microbrewery tours, hands-on cooking classes, and more. These types of immersive experiences truly connect cruise guests with the people and the places they’re visiting.”  

Cruise Wales is also working with partners to develop excursion options for adventurous guests wanting to immerse themselves and explore the natural side of Wales.  

“Those visiting North Wales can hike in Snowdonia National Park, go to Zip World, or try surfing and paddleboarding at Adventure Parc Snowdonia,” says Elaine Thomas, Cruise Wales development executive. “Meanwhile, passengers calling at ports on the south-west coast can join expert-led adventures in Pembrokeshire, such as alpaca trekking, coasteering, foraging for wild food, stargazing, bird watching, or water sports, archery and axe throwing at the new Llys-y-Frân Lake & Country Park. These activities make Wales an ideal destination for expedition cruise brands. Wales offers something for everyone, whatever their age and personal interests.” 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

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