|Seabourn Odyssey passing by Venice.|
The best part about an Eastern Mediterranean cruise is the mixture of history, culture and beaches, a combination that satisfies many tastes. This is an aspect not to be overlooked, particularly for groups or families, whose members, assuredly, have divergent likes.
The Eastern Mediterranean actually covers a large area and comprises the Adriatic Coast of Italy and Croatia, the Greek Isles, the Black Sea, which features ports in Turkey, including Istanbul, and even Ukraine and Russia.
Because of its distinction, it has quickly gained a reputation for being one of the most sought-after regions in the world to cruise. Step off any cruise ship in Venice in high season and you will witness it yourself: the city is overrun with tourists.
On an Eastern Mediterranean itinerary, the main ports of embarkation and debarkation are Athens (Piraeus), Istanbul and Venice. The beauty of a luxury cruise is that, in addition to these ports, they mix many exotic, less-traveled-to ports of call such as Split, Trogir and Sibenik in Croatia, Kotor in Montenegro and Fiscardo and Gythion in Greece. Of course, the customary ports of call are no slouches: Santorini and Corfu in Greece or Dubrovnik in Croatia to name just a few.
Note: For the most part, Eastern Mediterranean cruises operate between spring and fall, though some cruise lines even push further into autumn and even winter, depending on demand, which has been fairly high and stable in the region. Hint: If you are weary of crowds, best to book closer to fall than in the summertime. It’ll be more like the actual city you are visiting and less like a line at Disney World.
|Santorini is frequented by Silversea, along with the other luxury lines.|
With two ships capable of carrying a scant 112 guests, SeaDream Yacht Club is an ideal line for Eastern Mediterranean cruises. In 2010, SeaDream will operate voyages from seven to 12 days, beginning in May and ending its season in mid-October. A seven-day cruise departing September 18, for example, from Athens is perfect if you want a heavy taste of the Greek isles and a small helping of Turkey, too. The cruise, aboard SeaDream I, visits Santorini; Naousa, Paros; Mykonos; Patmos; and Mytilene, Lesvos in Greece. In Turkey, guests will stop in Kusadasi before ending their cruise in Istanbul. Meanwhile, on sister ship SeaDream II, a July 3 seven-day cruise departs Venice, ends in Dubrovnik before calling at these ports in between: Rab, Split, Hvar and Korcula in Croatia, and Kotor, Montenegro. Note: Split and Hvar are visited on the same day with an overnight in the latter.
Looking for a mix of Turkey, Greece, Croatia and Italy? Check out Silversea’s nine-day voyage from Istanbul departing April 7, 2010, aboard Silver Wind. Its breadth of ports is the draw: Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini in Greece; Kusadasi and the aforementioned Istanbul in Turkey; Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia; and the cruise ends in Venice.
|Hagia Sophia, famous for its massive dome, is a much-visited site in Istanbul.|
Part of Crystal Cruises’ 2010 world cruise is an April 3-17 segment called Black Sea Intrigue. It’s titillating for sure.
Departing from Athens, the draw here are overnights in Odessa, Ukraine and Istanbul. Other interesting ports of call are Yalta and Sochi, Russia and Naples and Sicily.
Get a look at Seabourn’s newest ship, Seabourn Odyssey, on its May 6, 2010 cruise, which offers a heaping of Greece: Athens, Mylos, Rhodes, Patmos and Khylos. Note: Airfare is free.
|The walls of Dubrovnik once protected citizens from attack.|
Ever think you could visit Romania on a luxury cruise? How about Bulgaria? You can with Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Its 10-night, June 11, 2010 cruise aboard Seven Seas Mariner makes calls in Nessebur, Bulgaria and Romania’s capital, Bucharest.
Tom Baker of CruiseCenter in Houston says the Eastern Mediterranean is now a coveted destination for affluent travelers.
“They have conquered most of Italy and Southern France (The Côte d’Azur) and are looking for smaller luxury ships to take them to unique destinations,” he says.
“Venice is the starting-off point for many of these cruises. Its historic past, world-class glass and unique art makes it a hot place for the affluent. Croatia and Montenegro are the new spots for North America travelers to visit. These ports offer a low-key atmosphere, gorgeous aesthetic beauty, friendly people, great beaches and Old World sightseeing.
“Clients who have traveled to the Western Mediterranean and are so familiar with the Riviera ports of France, Italy, and Spain are now looking to Croatia. The big ships can’t go to many of these smaller ports, which are yacht havens and frankly don’t have the infrastructure to host mega-ships. This is a good thing; hopefully it will keep these unique Adriatic destinations protected from overgrowth and turning them into mass-market destinations.
“Travel advisors need to watch out for what is hot for international travelers,” says Baker. “The British, French and even Germans seem to discover the really hot affluent destinations before Americans. Subscribe to international travel magazines like Conde Nast UK to see what the trends are. Americans will surely follow. The other hot new spot is the Turquoise Coast of Turkey. Heading south of Kusadasi are some of the greatest Roman ruins and most of them are in the crystal clear seas off Bodrum, Mamaris and Antalya.”
|Seadream 1 in Mykonos.|