When I say cruising in Europe, what goes through your mind? Most likely something along the lines of a traditional river cruise down the Rhine in Germany, the Seine or Rhone in France or the Danube (which flows through 10 countries) admiring castles and churches and the usual landmarks along the way. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re great cruises if you haven’t done them before. And if you have, it might be easy for you to think you’ve already ticked the European cruising box.
But that’s where we disagree. There are just so many more ports and itineraries left to explore. Let’s take a look at some of the less obvious places you might explore by sea.
The Croatian coast
Situated in the Adriatic Sea, Croatia has a 1,800km coastline full of remote, uninhabited islands, secluded bays, mostly pebbly beaches and swathes of history and heritage. Dubrovnik, a UNESCO world heritage listed city, is full of Roman remains to explore, is an absolute must see. Korcula, is a delight for the senses with its mix of cobblestone streets and beautiful sandy beaches. And Hvar, although a busy port in peak season, showcases 13th century architecture with its amazing walls – some of the most complete walls anywhere in the world offset with its inland lavender fields. The island of Hvar is said to be shaped rather like a sunbather reclining on a deckchair, but is known for changing shape depending on the winds. Make sure you get in a tour of the Franciscan Monastery.
Just south of the Croatian coastline is where you’ll find Albania. It’s somewhat off the beaten path even for experienced European travellers – situated between Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro. Hidden from view under a communist regime for most of the latter half of the 20th century with a fascinating history, Albania’s really only now opening its doors to tourism. It’s an archaeology lover’s dream with Roman (and earlier) ruins to explore. Albania’s most ancient city (and largest sea port), Durres, is filled with more than 3000 years of history. Yes, another archaeology and history buff’s dream. You can visit Roman Emperor, Hadrian’s amphitheatre – which seated 15,000 people. There’s several museums, galleries and amazing ancient mosaics to visit. Tirana, Albania’s capital, formerly known as a grim and grey city (20 mins from the port), is now buzzing and bright. You can get to the heart of Albanian history in Skanderbeg Square (think Ottoman 15th century Empire). And if you’re up for a bit more exploring, the Albanian Riviera is home to a number of picturesque fishing villages, national parks (for hiking), marine parks (for diving) and music festivals to visit.
This is one of the Mediterranean’s best kept secret destinations. Stunning beaches, flanked by rugged mountains hiding pristine wilderness. Although shaped by two centuries of French rule and Italian influences prior to that , it is fiercely independent and quite unique. Corsica’s beauty begins before you leave the ship with dramatic red cliffs of the west coastline. Ajaccio is Corsica’s capital city. One of the first things you’ll see in Ajaccio is a monument to Napoleon Bonaparte (and there are others dotted around too) – Corisca’s most infamous former resident. You might also visit Calvi the cobble-stone streeted, moon shaped bay that feels more like the French Riviera than a centuries old port – although the centuries old thing is given away by the massive 15th century citadel that rises from the water at the end of the bay (which is worth the climb). Whilst you’re there, don’t miss a trip to the abandoned medieval village of Occi – which in spite of its beauty and breathtaking views, had to be abandoned when its water supply ran out in the 1800’s. And then there’s the next port of Porto-Vecchio with its pristine white beaches, Michelin-starred restaurants, wine trails and the opportunities to do things like swim with barracuda – all in an olde-world setting without the crowds you might expect.
For help designing a cruising experience that’s perfect for you, give us a call on (02) 6041 5577, we’d be delighted to help you create something that perfectly suits you or your family. You can call us, visit the office at 601 Dean Street, Albury or book an appointment with one of our expert travel agents via the form below.
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