That’s right, they’ve all used the magical, medieval walled city of Dubrovnik as a backdrop. So, put yourself behind an imaginary lens as you discover the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. From Dubrovnik’s dreamy spires and architectural acts of faith like the Cathedral of the Assumption and the Franciscan Monastery this is a fairy tale location that’s well worth a long, leisurely stroll that invites you to fortify yourself en route with local specialities like green stew, fresh oysters – those pearls again! - and black risotto. Wash it down with an excellent local wine like Pošip.
To see the whole spectacle in style, try the City Walls and Cable Car tour for the ultimate bird’s eye view. Or you could see things from sea level on a Snorkelling Adventure taking in the Dubrovnik Caves and excellent local beaches?
The Eastern Med’s Best Kept Secret? Sarande – Gateway to Albania
Known to the locals as ‘The Land of the Eagles’ Albania is that rare thing: an unspoilt land full of ancient remains and fabulous scenery that slips slap bang in the middle of the ‘First World’. Brits are assured of an especially warm welcome as the country still dotes on Norman Wisdom who was an enormous star here!
Albania’s isolation was engineered by the inscrutable regime of Enver Hoxha – his unique brand of communism saw the country aligned at different times with Tito’s Yugoslavia, Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. However, in 1992 almost 50 years of communist rule finally came to end and these days the seaside town of Sarande is fast becoming a popular modern resort. We recommend an Eastern Mediterranean cruise to Albania sooner rather than later!
If you’d like to explore inland and see some of the countryside – keep an eye out for the fascinating if slightly barmy Hoxha bunkers - try an excursion to the beautiful Blue Eye, an idyllic lake fed by an underground spring over 50 metres below the surface. To call it a beauty spot doesn’t begin to do it justice, hence it was reserved for the party elite for decades! Alternatively, head south for Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Greeks and Romans have left their mark, most notably in the stunning Acropolis that overlooks the entire site.
Where Western Civilisation Begins? Discover Athens from Piraeus
If you decide not to linger over some of the excellent local seafood at one of the harbour-side bars in Piraeus, then a trip to Athens is a must and offers the chance to stroll the vibrant Plaka market district. If you’re in need of a bargain bouzouki, authentic ouzo or boutique cold- pressed olive oil, then you won’t be disappointed. You’ll also find hand-made sandals, trinkets to ward off the evil eye and exquisite little golden owls that celebrate Athena, goddess of wisdom.
Despite venerating Athena, ancient Athenian ‘democracy’ did not include a say for women and it was prominent statesmen like Pericles - whose name, aptly enough, means ‘Surrounded by Glory’ –who ushered in the Athenian Golden Age, beginning the Parthenon around 447 BC.
Amazingly much of the Periclean legacy lives on today in politics and philosophy as well as in Athens’ ‘must see’ sites - and although the Parthenon’s columns were originally brightly painted and adorned with the finest classical sculpture, it’s exciting to know that you can now take an augmented reality excursion that will show you just how the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike or the Erechtheion would have looked in their heyday. Alternatively, why not combine a trip to the peerless Parthenon with a boat trip along the Corinth Canal?
Santorini – A Clue To Atlantis, Or Just The Eastern Med’s Most Beautiful Island?
The legend of the Lost City of Atlantis has certainly endured, yet most people agree that Plato’s story of a spiritual, almost god-like people who created a brilliant utopia only to sink into moral decay and finally endure the wrath of the gods, is almost certainly just that, a story. And yet, Santorini’s geological origins and ancient history certainly help fuel the myth. The island’s stunning location, perched around a collapsed volcanic chamber – or caldera – fit with the notion of the city that sank into the sea.
Cruising along this spectacular coastline is a highlight on many an Eastern Mediterranean cruise and you should also go ashore to drink in the view – and perhaps a glass or two of Santorini’s excellent wine? Or, if you’re still pondering the Atlantis legend, maybe take an MSC excursion via ship’s tender to Akrotiri where you’ll discover an ancient Minoan settlement buried, rather like Pompeii (and Atlantis!), in a colossal volcanic eruption some 4,000 year ago.
Venice - A City Like No Other
You can easily book an Eastern Mediterranean cruise with stops in Venice and there are few cities in the world that are as straightforwardly stunning as ‘La Serenissima’ especially when viewed from the decks of an MSC cruise ship!
Food and drink? Try a Bellini at Harry's Bar or discover Venice's backstreet (backwater?!) bacari bars where delicious cicheto (think tapas with a Venetian twist) are accompanied with a small glass of local wine known as an ombra.
Must see, must do? A simple stroll across the Bridge of Sighs or in St Mark’s Square is hard to beat unless it’s a boat trip excursion that includes St Mark’s and a trip to island of Murano to watch the glass blowers ply their ancient trade. Or you could round off your cruise with a gondola ride through the city and a fast-track ticket to the museum of your choice - perhaps the Doge’s Palace? - prior to your transfer to the airport?
If you’re ready to be amazed by all that the Eastern Med’ has to offer, then why not join us and book an Eastern Mediterranean Cruise today?