This year we have traveled more miles and seen more places than any other to bring readers the information they need to choose the right cruise line, one that will be a good fit and bring a good quality experience. That has added up to a total of 41 different events including sailings, chats, magazine articles and more. We have one more sailing left to go before the year comes to a close and we can’t think of a better way to close out the year than with one of our favorite travel companies, Viking Cruises.
Lisa and I will be on board new Viking Star in November for a 10-day sailing themed Empires Of The Mediterranean sailing from Venice to Istanbul. Stopping along the way at the Croatian ports of Pula and Dubrovnik, we continue on to Kotor, Montenegro. After a day sailing the Ionian Sea, we continue on to Santorini then Athens, Greece before stopping in Ephesus then ending in Istanbul.
Come along as we explore these interesting ports of call, many of which we have visited before and some we see for the first time. Let’s take a detailed look at each port of call and the expectation set by Viking Cruises, in their words.
DAY 1 | VENICE, ITALY
Step aboard in Venice, the magical city renowned for its art, architecture and culture. It is the ultimate city in which to begin your epic voyage. Once you are settled in on board, you may transfer to the fabled island via water taxi or public vaporetto on your own, watching the sunlight dapple on the water as you ease your way through the archipelago. Upon arrival, you can wander the magnificent and magical byways. In the evening, enjoy a fine restaurant and the vibrant nightlife. We remain in port until midnight, so if time permits, you’re free to join an optional nighttime gondola ride along the Grand Canal, the epitome of romance, or attend an opera performance at the ornate Palazzo Zeno.
DAY 2 | PULA, CROATIA
We will have an entire day to explore this incredible destination and have curated a walking tour that will highlight its rich past, starting with a visit to the world’s most complete Roman amphitheater in existence. You will also venture past the well-preserved Arch of Sergii and the Temple of Augustus. Or, consider an olive oil tasting at a family-owned farm in the town of Vodnjan or take a scenic drive to the hill town of Istria to savor their famous truffles.
DAY 3 | DUBROVNIK, CROATIA
Where city meets coastline, Viking Star will sail to this beautiful 12th-century walled city in Croatia. And as it happens, George Bernard Shaw declared, “Those who seek paradise on earth should come to Dubrovnik.” We think he has a point. Enjoy an entire day to take an inclusive tour with a drive high up to catch the magnificent views of the city and countryside. Or descend to the coast and enter the city on foot through the historic Pile Gate, passing by the Sponza Palace, the 15th-century Onofrio’s Fountain and stop inside the Dominican Monastery to see Renaissance paintings. You may also wish to consider exploring the famed Dubrovnik Riviera with a cruise along the Lapad Peninsula.
SHORE EXCURSIONS *
- Dubrovnik Walking Tour (Included)
- Dubrovnik by Cable Car
- Dubrovnik by Land & Sea
- Dubrovnik & the Konavoski Dvori Restaurant
- Vineyards & Vistas
- Dalmatian Coast Wine & Food Tasting
- Mostar & the Old Bridge
- Folkloric Performance at Sponza Palace
- Croatian Delight: Wine Tasting
- Preserving Old Dubrovnik
- Flavors & Traditions of Old Croatia
DAY 4 | KOTOR, MONTENEGRO
Spend the day traversing the medieval streets of this historic Montenegro town with a walking tour. Pass by Venetian walls constructed in 1420, en route to the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, built in 1166. Notice its mismatched towers, the result of an earthquake and a budget too small to rebuild properly. Included on this tour is a visit to the Maritime Museum, which documents Kotor’s heritage. As an option, venture to the small towns of Budva and Sveti Stefan, the latter once a hideaway for the rich and famous.
DAY 5 | CRUISE THE IONIAN SEA
On this day at sea, indulge in the endless comforts of Viking Star. Relax on board with a swim in our breathtaking infinity pool, treat yourself to a beauty treatment at the Nordic-inspired spa or be inspired by one of your next destinations and take a cooking class at The Kitchen Table. Tonight, watch the sun dip into the sea from a comfortable chair in the Explorers’ Lounge, in the company of newfound friends, with a cocktail in hand.
DAY 6 | SANTORINI (THÍRA), GREECE
Gliding toward a full day in Santorini, prepare for its spectacular caldera and looming cliffs. Once anchored, embark a local boat for the island’s main port of Athinios. On your included excursion, drive with a local guide to the top of Mount Profitis, where you’ll have spectacular views of the island, the Aegean Sea and the summit’s monastery. En route to clifftop Oia take in the beauty and charm of the countryside and traditional villages. Then enjoy free time in the capital of Fira. Alternatively, visit the hot thermal springs of Palea Kameni island, and enjoy the most remarkable swim of your life. Or, choose to visit a Greek vineyard for a tour and tasting.
DAY 7 | ATHENS (PIRAEUS), GREECE
Today, you will have the whole day to journey into ancient Athens via a panoramic drive, passing the promenade at Mikrolimano as you enter the city’s heart. There, you will see the Hellenic Parliament, Constitution Square, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Temple of Zeus and the iconic Acropolis. Explore the bustling Plaka District at the base of the Acropolis. Or as an option, explore the interior of this UNESCO Site; climb 80 steps to the entrance and glimpse an unforgettable view of the Parthenon at its peak.
SHORE EXCURSIONS *
- Panoramic Athens (Included)
- The Elegance & Style of the Ancients
- Inside the Acropolis
- A Walk Backwards in Time
- Myth and History at the Headland of Cape Sounion
- Delphi and the Oracle
- Beautiful Coastline & Ancient Wonders
- Ancient & Modern Treasures of Athens
- The Kokotos Estate & Panoramic Athens
- Sweeping Acropolis Vistas & Dinner in the Plaka
DAY 8 | EPHESUS (KUŞADASI), TURKEY
Spend some time exploring one of the best-preserved cities of antiquity, Ephesus. On an included tour, you will walk among the extensive ruins, including the Temple of Hadrian, the 25,000-seat Greek theater, and the impressive Roman Library of Celsus. You will also have free time to shop the craft stalls at the city’s Lower Gate. Or, consider a sojourn to the beach at Pamucak; there, revel in an exhilarating horseback ride along the beach, discovering Turkey’s natural beauty. You will also have time for a relaxing swim.
DAY 9 | ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Spend the afternoon soaking up the wonderful vistas of Istanbul. You will tour the magnificent Hagia Sophia – this former church and mosque’s exquisite mosaics and frescoes glimmer under its dome. Explore the world’s largest covered market amid the labyrinthine lanes of the Grand Bazaar. In the evening, you might choose to go below ground to the immense and mesmerizing Basilica Cistern or indulge in a proper Turkish bath, or hammam.
DAY 10 | ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Awake in Istanbul, where you will be disembarking your ship. From here, you can easily spend a few extra days to further explore this historic city or other parts of Turkey, such as Gallipoli, the revered site of one of World War I’s most harrowing and pivotal battles.