Italy, Croatia and Greece. Three often sought-after European destinations. So, what if you could visit all three of them, plus more, in one effortless vacation? I’m happy to say I just did – on board a Windstar small-ship ocean cruise on the Adriatic Sea.
We started our journey in Venice, Italy. We arrived a day before sailing so we could spend the evening in the city, which included a stop at Harry’s Bar – home of the Bellini. Venice is beautiful at night and can be far less crowded (just be sure to get acquainted with the water taxi schedule).
The voyage itinerary (Venice to Athens) began the next day. Within minutes of boarding it became obvious this was going to be a casual country club atmosphere without the worries of what to wear, yet inclusive of the amenities and service you’d hope to expect. Truly laid back luxury.
As with many cruises, the staff was critical to the overall experience. Kristi from the Destination Team kept us pointed in the right direction, while James (her partner) brought his cheeky British humor to his briefing of the next day’s port review. Just to name a couple of our favorite staff members aboard the 212-passenger yacht.
Once we left Venice, we sailed south along the Dalmatian Coast. Highlights from each port include:
Hvar, Croatia – Hvar Town, a pretty resort area on the island, is known for its mild climate, lavender and olive oil. It’s a pedestrian town and very easy to navigate from the harbor. The walk up to the fortress is absolutely worth it for the beautiful views.
Dubrovnik, Croatia – The Old Town is a must see. Be sure to walk the walls (1.2 miles) and bring some water on a warm day. The Old Town is pedestrian only and is full of pretty alley ways, excellent restaurants, shops and a long history. For Game of Thrones fans, they have specific tours to shooting locations. Another popular spot was Buza II, a cliff-face bar with great views.
Kotor, Montenegro – This was one of my favorite port stops. It’s another walled city where you can walk and not worry about cars. It had quaint old shops, more wonderful restaurants and a maritime museum. There is also a cat museum! For great views of the city, there is a walk up a narrow flight of steps to a church or all the way up to the fortress. They charge 3 Euros/person to access the route. A recommended excursion option here is to visit Perast, a laid-back fishing village and home to the church “Our Lady of the Rocks.” Its story stems from 1452 when a few local seamen claimed to have found a small painting of the Madonna and Child on some rocks. They pledged to lay a rock in the bay every time they safely came back from a voyage. Over time, a small island was created and upon it was built the church that now stands there.
Corfu, Greece – This is a beautiful and less crowded island in Greece. Be sure to visit Achillion Palace with its Austrian Royal history and beautiful gardens with views of the port. It’s also home to several scenes from James Bond’s “For Your Eyes Only.”
Katakalon, Greece – At this port, you can take an excursion to Olympia, the site of the first Olympics. Be sure to wear your running shoes as you can run it yourself or with a friend. Stop at the museum where the statues have been partially restored and are protected from the weather. Know that this is one of the most visited sites in Greece and was crowded. We were fortunate to have had a special destination event just for the guests on our ship. We visited a beautiful vineyard and working farm, had lunch and were entertained by Greek dancers.
Corinth Canal, Greece – Windstar yachts are the largest ships that can fit through the canal. An amazing experience to watch the ship pass through this narrow passageway and the people who come out to watch the ships from land. Our day ended with a sunset barbecue on deck.
Itea, Greece – You can visit the ruins of Delphi from Itea. This historic site was where the world’s leaders once came for advice on making major decisions. The area was definitely less busy than Olympia.
Nafplio, Greece – An easy port to navigate on your own, this pretty little town has quiet streets of shops, cafes and a lovely little art museum. Some of the streets are paved in marble – an abundant building material in the region. Be sure to walk to the Primidi Fortress for amazing views (999 steps!).
The repeating theme throughout the cruise was “easy and relaxed.” From breakfast in the morning with its plethora of choices to the well run excursions, gym time, access to the bridge and delicious dinners each night, we always truly felt like we were on vacation. For those who love to experience their destinations more deeply, Windstar provides longer port times on some voyages.
Interested in learning more about this Windstar Adriatic sailing, or another voyage geared to your liking? Email Liz at LizM@PiqueTravel.com.