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EXPLORING THE MEDITERRANEAN BY CRUISE SHIP

November 8, 2018

Ahoy, from Venice! It had been almost 15 years since I was last onboard a cruise ship, and I was long overdue for another sailing. I admit, I felt a bit rusty as I delved into planning this trip. I'm an avid world traveler, but definitely not a part of the cruising culture. My biggest struggle as I started to make plans was deciding on a destination. I was lucky enough to partner Norwegian Cruise Line with for this trip, and there were so many amazing destinations to choose from. How to decide between the the islands of the South Pacific, paradise in the Caribbean, historical Europe and exotic Asia? Everywhere sounded amazing! So my strategy was to select a cruise with ports of call that I'd already been to - that way I wouldn't feel cheated having just a day in each destination. The Mediterranean has always been my favorite part of Europe, and there was a seven night cruise that started in Venice with stops in Kotor, Dubrovnik, Santorini, Corfu and Mykonos. I'd been to five of the six stops (loved them all!), and I knew this was the one. 

 

 It's all about the views when walking the Dubrovnik city walls.

 

VENICE

embark

 

Venice couldn't have been a more lovely place to embark on my Mediterranean cruise with Norwegian. I'd visited once a few years ago, but it was a quick 24 hour stopover enroute Montenegro, and I left wishing I'd had more time in the Venetian wonderland. I knew this was my chance to get a good dose of Venice, and decided to fly in early and take a few days to explore the city. This time, I wanted a proper visit and the chance to see everything I missed the first time around.

 

I spent three full days exploring Venezia -  enough time to cover my list of "must-sees" without feeling rushed. Hotel prices were ridiculously expensive, but I was able to find a charming boutique property (Hotel Antico Doge) perfectly located five minutes walking from the Rialto Bridge. Just as I remembered, Venice was the perfect place to get lost, and let the tiny alleys serve as a guide to the dozens of hidden piazzas surrounded by Gothic palaces and Renaissance architecture. Highlights from my three day adventure included views of the city from the Scala Contarini del Bovolo; handmade pasta at Dal Moro; the bright colors of Burano; St. Mark's Square; the whimsical Aqua Alta Bookshop; and a visit to the top of the iconic Campanile.

 

  Took a daytrip from Venice over to Burano for an overdose of color.

 

I arrived in Venice three days before the cruise to spend extra time exploring the beautiful city.
 

My favorite views in Venice, from the Scala Contarini del Bovolo.

 

Cactus + Color = The Cutest.

 

Soaking in the October sunshine in one of the city's many piazzas.

 

 Burano's facades were bursting with bright colors.

 

Views of the city from the iconic Campanile.

 

KOTOR, MONTENEGRO 

port 1

 

Some of my favorite moments abroad are when I return to places I love. This cruise was all about revisiting old favorites, and my first port of call was a city I'd visited on a roadtrip through Montenegro three years ago. The trip was an Adriatic whirlwind that took me down the country's dreamy coastline where I saw everything from fairytale villages to sparkling bay waters. I visited Herceg Novi, Perast, Rose, Budva, Bar and Sveti Stefan, but it was the walled city of Kotor that really swept me off my feet. It's a place I didn't think I'd get to visit again, so I was overjoyed to find it on the list of ports from Norwegian.

 

As we docked in Kotor, I was one of the first passengers to disembark and scurry off to Old Town, an easy five minute walk from the ship. Kotor was actually the quietest port on this trip, which took me by complete surprise. My last visit coincided with summer, and I had memories of Montenegro being  overcrowded with travelers on summer holiday. In late August, Kotor's maze of streets and alleys were packed shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists, but this early October visit was perfectly lovely. The pedestrian boulevards were quiet, restaurants relatively empty and there was a general peacefulness about Kotor. For a second time, I hiked the city walls up to St. John's fortress, determined to reach my favorite viewpoint in Montenegro. The trek took a couple of hours, and I spent the rest of the day exploring Old Town's charming alleys; visiting the historic churches; and feasting on gelato.

 

 Hiking the city walls of Kotor up to St. John's fortress.

 

 Church of St. Luke

 

My last visit to Montenegro was during the summer, a time when the crowds were almost suffocating. You can imagine my surprise to find Kotor quiet, and relatively empty during early October. 

 

 Charming views of Old Town with the Norwegian Star in the distance.

 

CORFU

port 2


Ah, Corfu! I've missed you. This was another place I didn't think I'd ever visit again. I spent almost a week on Corfu last summer, and it's one of Greece's best kept secrets. Yes, there are tourists, but hardly the numbers that flock to Santorini. This second visit to Corfu was bittersweet. I was overjoyed to be back, but half a day on the island just wasn't enough time. Last summer, I had several days to soak in the island. Plenty of time to explore by motor scooter; sunbathe at La Grotta; rent a boat to explore the island's Greek waters; and visit hidden beaches and sea caves on the picturesque west coast. This visit, I'd only have time to visit Corfu Town, but it was still such a special feeling to be back,

 

From the the cruise port, I grabbed a 10-minute taxi ride to Corfu Town, a place riddled with Venetian influence and Byzantine beauty. I made the most of my one afternoon in town - I sunbathed along the spectacular city walls; visited historical sights; and feasted on ice cream at Spathis Cafe. And similar to Venice, I loved losing myself in Corfu's maze of streets, a dreamland of colorful shopfronts, bright shutters, bougainvilleas and beautiful churches.

 

Beach time at the base of Corfu's towering city walls.

 

My favorite Stracciatella ice cream at Spathis Cafe.

 

The cutest fruit stands in the heart of Corfu Town.

 

I spent three days on Corfu last summer, so this visit was a return to so many fond memories.

 

SANTORINI

port 3

 

One of the highlights of exploring the Mediterranean by cruise ship was waking up to a completely new destination every morning. Our third port of call was Santorini, the crown jewel of the the Greek islands located in the southern Cyclades. I'd spent four sun-kissed days on the island last summer climbing rooftops; feasting on the freshest seafood and gyros; discovering remote beaches and wandering the island's white-washed wonderland.

 

Our ship docked in Fira where I caught a fast boat from the port over to darling Amoudi Bay. Pulling into the bay, I had such happy memories of the rocks covered with sunbathers and cliff jumpers on summer holiday. October weather was a bit cooler with only a handful of people scattered along the rocks this visit. From the bay, I caught a bus up to Oia, wanting to start my day in Santorini's Instagram darling. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea. I arrived to find the village completely overrun with tourists - even more people than I remembered. After about an hour, I finally gave up and decided to ditch the crowds and head to Fira. The capital was a 15 minute bus ride away, and it was a perfectly timed escape. I spent the afternoon wandering the town's serene white washed streets, climbing rooftops and watching the sunset over the most picturesque views at dinner. 

 

Possibly the most iconic viewpoint on Santorini.

 

Left the crowds of Oia behind to explore the streets of Fira.

 

I grabbed a water taxi from the Fira port and made my way to the base of Oia by boat.

 

 The October weather in Santorini was perfect.

 

I was obsessed with all the blue trinkets on Santorini.

 

Lost in the maze of white-washed buildings, the best way to see Oia.

 

My gelato fix.

 

One of the village's many stunning viewpoints.

 

Waiting for the sun to set over Fira.

  

Magical at night.

 

MYKONOS

port 4

 

Of the six ports I visited with Norwegian, Mykonos was the only place that was completely new to me. I couldn't fit it into our itinerary last summer (so many islands, so little time!), and I left Greece a little bummed that I didn't get to experience the Cyclades darling.

 

Our ship pulled into Mykonos a bit earlier than expected, affording me almost a full day on the charming island. It was perfect! I was in Little Venice by 7:30 AM, and the dreamy streets were quiet and completely free of tourists. A 180 from Santorini! Mykonos was an absolute dream with its white washed buildings, cobble paved streets and fairytale churches. I was able to fill my day, making the most of every moment on the island. Highlights included shopping in Mykonos Town; a visit to the Kato Mili windmills; gyro feast at Saki's; crepes from Crepaland; lunch at Nice n Easy; and I even met the town's iconic pink pelican. 

 

 Paraportiani Church.

 

Little Venice.

 

The wind was absolutely crazy out at the Windmills of Kato Mili.

 

Meet the iconic pink pelican of Mykonos Town. He looked like a giant cartoon character waddling through the streets.

 

The alley pathways - so iconic Greece.

 

The most charming storefront in town.

 

#happiness in Mykonos.

 

I loved losing myself in the town's alleyways and discovering little spots like this staircase.

 

Classic greek dishes for lunch.

 

The town was pretty quiet in the mornings - perfect time for photos.

 

I did a lot of my shopping in Mykonos Town.

 

Crepes for breakfast at Crepeland.

 

DUBROVNIK

port 5

 

My final port of call with Norwegian was a place I've visited more than anywhere else in Europe - Dubrovnik. The Dalmatian darling was just as I'd left it two years ago, a medieval wonder surrounded by spectacular city walls that oozed with King's Landing vibes. This was one of the shortest stops of the trip (only five hours!), but with two visits under my belt I was able to perfectly plan out my morning to squeeze in as much as possible. I wanted to hit all my favorite old haunts, as well as visit a couple of new spots that I'd discovered since my last visit. Surprisingly, I was able to check everything off my list. In just one morning I explored the labyrinth of alleyways, churches and plazas; sunbathed on Banje Beach; feasted on gelato at the city gate; walked the Dubrovnik city walls; visited Sulic Beach; and clumbed up to Lovrijenac Fortress for views of the walled city. It was a bit rushed, but I loved that I was able to see so much in such a short period of time!

 

 Banje Beach is one of my favorites for its sparkling blue waters and sweeping views of the city walls.

 

Magical mornings over Dubrovnik.

 

Beach club bliss.

 

The charm of Dubrovnik's Old Town.

 

One of my favorite beaches in Croatia.

 

My favorite hidden gem - Sulic Beach. Hardly any people here, and one of the loveliest spots in Dubrovnik!

 

I walked the city walls right when it opened to avoid the crowds of tourists.

 

Hello, King's Landing!

 

This was my third visit to Dubrovnik, and by far the most crowds I'd ever seen here!

 

The city's Old Town resembled a medieval kingdom.

 

A new viewpoint I discovered at the base of Lovrijenac Fortress.

 

Until next time, Dubrovnik!

 

 NORWEGIAN STAR

 

I spent seven nights onboard the Norwegian Star, my home away from home on this Mediterranean sailing. It had been years since I was last onboard a cruise ship, and I'd forgotten the major draw of traveling by boat: I visited five destinations after leaving Venice, but only had to unpack once. Such a treat, as typically I'm packing and unpacking every couple of days when I travel.

 

The ship had been recently refurbished, and it felt like I was staying at a glistening new resort that offered every amenity I could think of - loungers for sunbathing, a pool deck, jacuzzis overlooking the ocean, spa with a view, spacious gym and an array of bars and restaurants. I'm completely new to cruising, but I loved Norwegian's Freestyle Cruising Concept that essentially eliminates the tradition of meals on a set schedule. I was able to dine where I wanted, and when I wanted every evening.

 

When I hear people talk about cruising, food always seems to be the draw. Now, I understand the allure. There were more than 10 dining options onboard the ship, and I made an effort to dine at as many as possible. For breakfast and lunch I had special access to the ship's Le Bistro restaurant, offered only to passengers staying in the ship's top tier suites or those that purchased VIP packages. And for dinner I feasted at a variety of restaurants - highlights included the Asian cuisine at Ginza, seafood at Cagney's Steakhouse and the amazing gold dining room at Versailles.

 

My favorite moments onboard the ship were at sunrise. The morning calm over the Mediterranean was absolute magic. I had a private balcony with rockin' views, but the best spot for sunrise was outside on the upper deck of the ship. The sky and water would glow a kaleidoscope of pinks and purple sjust after sun up, and most mornings I had the view to myself. Absolutely magic!

 

All aboard the Norwegian Star, my home for a week while exploring the Mediterranean. 

 

The prettiest sunrise over the Mediterranean from the top deck of the ship.

 

  Ocean views from the spa.

 

Pink sunsets from my stateroom's private balcony.

 

Working from the ship's internet cafe overlooking the bustling Atrium.

 

Thank you for an amazing trip, Norwegian. Bon voyage!

 

Special thanks to Norwegian Cruise Line for sponsoring this post! xx

 

All honest opinions are my own.

 

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