Explore ancient cultures and experience the finest custom of all: “La Bella Vita.” Linger in cafes over cappuccino, tapas or vino.
Four cruises we like
Travel Dynamics International’s Islands of the Gods
On this 11-day program, the 17-stateroom yacht Callisto shepherds you to seven Greek isles, where you’ll marvel at the antiquities and soak in the culture. Explore shrines, visit a village priest on Karpathos and watch an onboard performance of local dance while in Simi. Departs on Oct. 25, 2007, from Athens. From $6,995; traveldynamicsinternational.com
Princess Cruises’ Mediterranean Collection
This 12-day route sweeps across the Mediterranean’s palette of islands, pulling into smaller ports like Malta, France’s Corsica and Greece’s Corfu, and offering creative onshore options. Departures are from Venice on Nov. 16, 2007, on Royal Princess; or on Pacific Princess June 13, 2008 and July 31, 2008. From $1,899 in 2007; price increases to $2,690 in 2008.princess.com
Odysseus Cruising’s Turkish Coast
The Odysseus, a timber-built 75-foot Turkish gullet, truly gives you “freedom of the seas” (not to knock Carnival), accessing intimate sites along the Turkish coast. Charter the yacht (10 passengers), craft your own route, or choose a set itinerary, such as the seven-night “Sailing the Ceramic Gulf.” Departs May to October 2008 from Bodrum. From $1,978; odysseuscruising.com
P&O Cruises’ Iberia & the Canaries
A little bit of the Mediterranean can be found in the Atlantic, namely in Spain’s Canary Islands and on Madeira, a Portuguese island. They are key stops on this 12-night circuit on the Oceana. Expect pretty harbors, mosaic-tiled promenades, stretches of bright sand and forests of pine, juniper and laurel. Departs Sept. 22, 2008, from Southampton, England. From $3,540; pocruises.com
Ports not to miss
Santorini, Greece (Travel Dynamics)
Enjoy the view as your ship approaches the island: Daunting reddish-brown slabs of rock capped by whitewashed villages jut upward from the sea.
Get ready for a concentrated dose of history. The capital of Valletta, a UNESCO site, was ruled by the Knights of St. John from 1530 to 1798 and beautified by artists such as Caravaggio, Mattia Preti and Favray.
La Palma, Canary Islands (P&O)
Here you’ll find nature at its finest: rumpled green mountains, black-sand beaches and an immense six-mile-wide volcanic crater, La Caldera de Taburiente.
With botanical gardens; forested hiking trails that follow old levadas, or mini water canals; and Funchal, a capital city packed with discoveries, the island behind the wine tastes just as nice.
Here’s an offer you can’t refuse: Trail "The Godfather" landmarks around Sicily to Bar Vitelli, a home in Savoca which appeared in "The Godfather, Part II". There you’ll have a snack of lemon-flavored granita, a dessert ice, before moving on to Forza d'Agro, a village whose piazza and Baroque church, Chiesa Madre, were captured in the original "Godfather" and in "Part III".
Sedir Island (Odysseus)
Laze upon sands said to have been imported from Egypt on Cleopatra’s Beach on this Turkish island in the Gulf of Gokova. As the story goes, Cleo refused to stand upon any land that wasn’t Egypt, so Marc Anthony shipped sand from her homeland. The beach, with a shallow shore and clear waters, is gorgeous.
A day on Odysseus
- Relax on the sun bed on deck as you cruise around Turkey’s offshore islands.
- Snack on börek (filo pastry stuffed with feta cheese, minced meat or vegetables), first created during the time of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.
- Charter the entire yacht. Ask the captain if he’ll anchor in a cove so you can dive in and cool off.
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