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The past maintains a vibrant presence in the cradle of Western civilization. Atop the Acropolis, the serene Parthenon sails above the commotion of the modern city. The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were performed in the Theater of Dionysus at the foot of the Acropolis. On Pnyx Hill, citizens of a fledgling democracy gathered to cast their votes on Athens’ destiny. Then there is the hustle and bustle of the modern city, a metropolis of 4.5 million that spreads out from the foot of Mt. Lycabettus and across the plain. Packed with busy shops and lively tavernas, modern Athens is a colorful counterpoint to classical Greece.
Piraeus is the port city for Athens and has been Athens’ port of entry for over two millennia.
Did the catastrophic volcanic eruption that ravaged Santorini circa 1600 B.C. destroy Crete’s ancient Minoan civilization – and give birth to the myth of Atlantis? In 1967, archaeologists on Santorini unearthed the remains of a Bronze Age city that may have been home to as many as 30,000 people. Whether the Lost Continent of Atlantis is rooted in myth or reality, an undisputed fact remains. The eruption created a caldera – and one of the most dramatic land and seascapes in the entire Mediterranean. On Santorini, whitewashed buildings cling to vertiginous cliffs that plunge to a turquoise sea. Part of the Cyclades Archipelago, the three-island group of Santorini, Thirasia and uninhabited Aspronisi present the traveler with unforgettable vistas.
The island has had a number of names throughout history – from Strongyle or “Round” to Thera in honor of an ancient hero. Santorini is more recent and stems from the island church dedicated to St. Irene – Santa Rini to foreign sailors.
Kotor lies at the head of Boka Bay. Bordered by towering limestone cliffs, the winding bay is actually Southern Europe’s longest and most dramatic fjord. The port itself is a medieval gem: its narrow, asymmetrical streets are lined with ancient stone houses, old palaces, and churches dating from the 12th century. Kotor is also your gateway to the cultural and scenic wonders of Montenegro, from the old royal capital at Cetinje to the marshes and wildlife of Lake Skadar National Park.
Kotor is renowned for its nightlife: the streets of the old port are lined with pubs, taverns and cafés. The city is also host to a renowned summer carnival.
Kotor is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore via ship’s tender.
Messina has played a major role in European history since its founding as a Greek colony in the 8th century B.C. During the Roman Empire, the city was a major port and commercial center, during the Middle Ages, Messina was the major port of departure for Crusaders. History has also left its scars: a massive earthquake leveled much of the city in 1908 and the World War II campaign for Sicily devastated Messina. Yet Messina emerged from that devastation with some of its historic treasures intact, including the 12th-century Annunziata dei Catalani Church. Messina is also your gateway to the rugged beauty of southeast Sicily, from the seaside resort of Taormina to Mt. Etna.
Between the fall of Rome and the 1861 unification of Italy, the Arabs, the Normans, the Germans, the Spanish and the French ruled Sicily.
Italy’s third-largest city, Naples is a bustling metropolis famed for it stately buildings, crowded streets, pizza – and notoriously bad traffic. However, this beautiful city is rich in centuries-old culture and customs. Naples is also your gateway to the Isle of Capri, the fabled Amalfi Coast and the ruins of Pompeii, buried in ash by the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
Naples boasts an ideal location, with both the ruins of Roman cities and the stunning Amalfi Coast in easy reach.
The 1992 Summer Olympics revealed to the world what Europeans and seasoned travelers already knew – Barcelona is one of the world’s greatest treasures. Vibrant and earthy, commercial and cultural, this city of two million residents is the capital of Spain’s autonomous region of Catalonia. Stroll along the wide, tree-lined promenades of Las Ramblas and marvel at the spires of Gaudi’s Basilica La Sagrada Familia. Or visit the former Olympic Ring on the hill of Montjuic – also home to world-class parks, fountains and museums. Barcelona, which nurtured such artistic giants as Picasso, Dali, Miro and Casals, is definitely a traveler’s paradise.
The Rock crouches over the sea like an ancient stone beast, looking Sphinx-like to Africa. Beneath the white cliffs of this natural fortress grows a profusion of palm, pine, and cypress. No fewer than 600 varieties of flowers thrive here, some not found anywhere else on Earth. Gibraltar’s stunning setting is matched by its history – five countries have battled for 13 centuries to control the passage between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The result made for a cultural melting pot. Veiled Moroccan women in caftans and vacationing Englishmen and Spaniards stroll along the narrow, steep lanes. The locals revert to a liquid Spanish when talking among themselves. And visitors to a 15th-century cathedral pass through a blue-tiled courtyard, once part of a 13th-century mosque.
The largest port on the Mediterranean, Marseille is France’s second largest city and a virtual melting pot of peoples and cultures. It is also a place of striking contrasts, from the fishing boats and pleasure craft of the picturesque Vieux Port to the modern Canebiere. Dominating the harbor is the infamous Chateau d’If, the rocky prison from which Alexandre Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo escaped. Marseille is also your gateway to Provence. Explore the countryside around Arles and Avignon, immortalized in the canvases of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso.
Genoa is the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria. Many regard Genoa as having the largest historic city center in Europe as a result of having been, for centuries, a powerful commercial center seaport and city-state. It was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and its maritime roots have fostered a dialect that has, absorbed elements of Neapolitan, Calabrese and Portuguese over the centuries.
Genoa’s harbor is a bustling swarm of activity, which makes it a great launching point for the sprawling metropolis of Milan.
Livorno is the gateway to glorious Tuscany. Visit Florence – the cradle of the Renaissance – home to the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. Here the Medici fostered a city-state whose cultural legacy is as great as classical Athens. Giants like Dante, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Galileo infused the West with a new creative spirit. Then there is Pisa, Florence’s rival for political power. Pisa, a brash, commercial seafaring town rivaled the great maritime powers of Venice and Genoa. The city was a leader in art and architecture second only to Florence.
Your gateway to the Eternal City, Civitavecchia has served as Rome’s seaport since the 13th century. The port has a long and venerable history. The emperor Trajan built a pleasure villa near the modern city, while Bernini and Michelangelo designed the harbor fortifications.
Yet the Eternal City eternally beckons. The ancient capital of the Western World and the center of Christianity for nearly 2,000 years, Rome provides an inexhaustible feast. Visit the ruins of the Forum, view the splendors of the Sistine Chapel, or climb the Spanish Steps, once the heart of Rome’s Bohemian Quarter.
Rome has been a magnet luring the world’s greatest artists, architects, and philosophers since the days of the Caesars.
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