ADRIATIC ODYSSEY – THE PRELUDE
We’ve sent our favourite travel blogger to cruise the Adriatic and all this week we’ll be sharing his journal with you.
We decided not to rush things so we flew out a day early and landed in Dubrovnik just before 9.00 on Saturday evening. Disembarking the aircraft we walked into a wall of heat – wonderful after the overcast of Gatwick. We’d booked a room for the night and they had arranged a driver to pick us up and drive us back up the coastline, all lit up like a Christmas tree, to the city.
The apartment was charming and just a few hundred metres from the famous Pile Gate – the entry to the old town. We had dinner overlooking the water and imposing city walls just outside the gates, then walked in through the gate to the Stradum – the main drag – to people watch over a nightcap.
Not too much about Dubrovnik now as we’ll be spending two days there when we return and I’ll file a full report. Suffice, for now, to say its super-lively after dark and as we walked back the young and beautiful were queuing at the nightclub doors.
Sunday morning breakfast was back overlooking the water at the same restaurant who had kindly given us a 10% discount card for all future visits! A stroll around town and a couple of cold ones in one of the myriad of side-street bars. Then a taxi to the port – we were early but there’s a small restaurant across the road serving silver-skin anchovies, salted sardines and cold white wine.
The crew were so welcoming when we boarded Panorama – our home for the next 7 days and nights. There are 20 crew and 39 guests on board, good ratio for attentive service. Very happy with the four-course dinner, in particular the traditional Greek Avgolemono soup. Choice of prawns so big you wouldn’t want to meet them in open water, or lamb. Drinking red so the lamb edged it.
Only been on board a few hours but already know 12 people by name. It’s just like a big family party. First impressions? Ship and ship’s company smallish but perfectly formed. It’s going to be a blast…
FULL DETAILS ON THE CRUISE CAN BE FOUND HERE.
Jewels of the Cyclades
Ports of call: Athens – Poros – Poliegos/Kimolos – Folegandros – Santorini – Antiparos – Paros – Delos – Mykonos – Syros – Kythnos – Marina Zea (Athens)
The Culture of the Canary Islands – forget the package image and enjoy the quality with our Boutique Cruise
The Canary Islands, put on the ocean-going traveller’s map by a certain C. Columbus in 1492, have sadly become somewhat besmirched by the image of package tourism. But the fact is that this group of volcanic islands, situated in the warm waters of the Atlantic off the coast of Africa, is every bit as rewarding to cruise as Greece or the Caribbean.
So the first thing is we promise we’ll give a big swerve to any of the ‘bucket and spade’ resorts beloved by the young crowd. Actually most of them don’t have much of a harbour even for the small luxury Mega Yachts like the stunning 25 cabin Harmony G.
There really is a lot to learn and enjoy about this Spanish archipelago 100kms off from Morocco with a wonderful sub-tropical climate that makes it the ideal choice for short-haul winter cruising – winter temperatures average the low 20s centigrade.
Little known facts include the geological anomaly that Mount Teide, the volcano that dominates Tenerife, is the world’s third largest volcano when measured from its base on the ocean floor. And that on the almost unknown and little visited island of La Gomera the locals still communicate using a bizarre whistling language.
There’s a heap of history here since the Portuguese tried to colonise the islands in 1336. The famous Prince ‘Henry the Navigator’ became Lord of Lanzarote in 1448. Later the islands became part of the Kingdom of Castile. It’s a chequered history – the Dutch laid a claim, the Ottomans had a go, Algerian pirates took slaves, and even Nelson was here attacking Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797.
For many years the islands were huge suppliers of sugar cane. At the beginning of the 20th century bananas were introduced as a cash crop by, amongst others, Fyffes. In 1936 Francisco Franco (later to become Generalissimo Franco) was appointed General Commandant, joining the military revolt of July 17th which began the Spanish Civil War.
So there is no small amount of history in these warm waters. More to the point there is some incredible beauty and most of it, certainly out of the main resorts, is still totally unspoiled.
We’d love to show you Mount Teide and one of the biggest volcanic craters in the world at Ucanca Valley on Tenerife. We’ll also show you Taburiente National Park on La Palma, the Garajonay National Park on La Gomera and Timanfaya National Park amongst the volcanos on Lanzarote where the visit inckudes the salt mines and the lava coast.
La Laguna on Tenerife is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a town hall dating back to 1546. Betacuna on Fuerteventura is the ancient capital of the Aboriginal Kingdom of the Canaries where we’ll share with you the islanders’ passion for goats and the secrets of their Majorero cheeses. We’ll then visit the Aloe Vera farm and talk about its health benefits.
We currently have an early bookimg offer saving you 10% on the cruise proce for Winter 2017-18 cruises. What’s more, early bookers always receive the b est cabins, so don’t hang about – it you’re looking for a winter cruise this is a real delight.
Has it ever occurred to you that we tend to take the Mediterranean for granted? We all know it’s there, we all love its waters, coastlines, islands, hidden coves and beautiful beaches. We wine and dine in its harbour-side cafes, tavernas and lokantas. By turns, as we cruise it in our luxury mega yachts, we find it seductive and sophisticated or wild and beautiful. But how well do we really know it?
So a few basic facts to start with. The name Mediterranean is derived from the Latin word mediterraneus, meaning ‘inland’ or ‘in the middle of the land’ – from medius for middle and terra for land. It covers an approximate area of 2.5 million km² (965,000 sq mi). It has an average depth of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) and the deepest recorded point is 5,267 m (17,280 ft) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea.
Where it connects to the Atlantic at what Homer knew as ‘The Pillars of Hercules’, but which we now call the Straits of Gibraltar, it is a mere 14kms wide. It is significantly more salty than the Atlantic and other oceans and gets saltier still as you go eastwards and the climate gets hotter. It has virtually no tides.
Those who delight in cruising these beautiful waters should never forget they are following in an ancient seafaring tradition. The Med has been a major highway since time immemorial. Certainly there are records of the Egyptians trading during 3,000 years before the birth of Christ although the Phoenicians were arguably the first great navigators sailing its length and breadth. By the time the legendary ‘Helen’ causes 1,000 ships to be launched in aid of her rescue, people had been cruising Homer’s ‘wine dark sea’ for well over 2,000 years.
The Roman’s, in true possessive fashion called the sea ‘Mare Nostrum’ or ‘Our Sea’. Whether or not Roman General Mark Anthony started the great romantic tradition of cruising when he took to the sea to tryst with Cleopatra it would at least seem quite appropriate. Some claim their meetings took place just off Paleocastritsa in Corfu – where the translucent waters remain drop dead romantic to this very day.
For us the amazing thing is that the appeal of the Med not only endures it keeps on growing. The diversity from West to East is quite remarkable and it would be almost impossible in one holiday lifetime to claim you’d ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ – although if you could you’d need a very large shed for your t-shirt collection.
So never take the Med for granted. We don’t and especially over the coming months which to our minds are the perfect time for cruising as the beach-hungry crowds start to thin out, the waters are at their warmest, and the welcome is warmer than ever. There is still chance to book for 2015 – give us a call.
The wind blows softly through the verdant green palm trees that crop the edge of Cape Verde’s capital Praia, carrying a strong scent of salt and the sea over the beautiful town. Passing the whitewashed walls of the lighthouse, it softly whistles through the rigging of the fishing vessels and yachts bobbing up and down in the picturesque harbour. The sound of fishermen calling out to one another can be heard. A bustling place indeed to commence your explorations of the Cape Verde islands, a stunning archipelago that will give you a real sense of discovery and exploration off the beaten track.
Cruising on the 25-cabin Harmony V, you’ll be able to discover it all – gorgeous natural scenery, fascinating timeless coastal communities, a unique culture and unending sunshine. Here are our reasons as to why the Cape Verde islands are a worthy choice for your small ship cruise.
You can gain a true sense of Cape Verde by cruising from island to island
From Praia, you will sail to the stunning island of San Tiago, widely considered the most African of Cape Verde’s islands. Next, you will experience in turn the delights of Sao Filipe with its 3,000-metre volcano, Tarrafal, noted for its coffee plantations, Porto Novo on San Antao, the greenest of the islands, then on to Mideloo on the island of Sao Vincente, a lively and well-preserved colonial city known as the cultural heart of this island group. Each of these offers a unique character and distinctive culture for visitors to experience.
With Seafarer, it’s all about the destination. While our mega yachts are more than comfortable enough for sunbathing, dining and socialising, you won’t want to spend much time on board as our knowledgeable and experienced cruise director and local guides direct you to the highlights that each island has to offer. For example, you will have the opportunity to embark on an excursion exploring Fogo, the island of fire, which earns its name from the enormous volcano that dominates the landscape here. Lunch is taken at the crater’s village – something that would be impossible with a large scale cruise. It’s experiences like this that allow you to get close to the island’s culture without disturbing it.
There is plenty of natural beauty to discover
As the name suggests, there is a wealth of flora on Cape Verde – an abundance of natural beauty that you’ll get to experience first-hand. From the coffee plantations of Tarrafal in San Nikolau to the charismatic coastline of San Antao – cropped as it is with seemingly endless fields of sugarcane. There are plenty of photo opportunities here, and not just above the water. Get kitted out with some snorkelling equipment aboard the Harmony V yacht and go snorkelling to discover a fascinating and rich underwater world.
You’ll have an unforgettable – and above all, relaxing – time
Cape Verde’s incredible culture is likely to leave a lasting impression, but if there’s one thing you want to do while on holiday, it’s relax. This is precisely what you’ll be able to do as we offer a friendly, completely informal and casual experience on all our cruises. Cape Verde is no different – there is no need to dress up for dinner and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to kick back on the beach or on deck with a good book if you so desire. Opportunities to swim in beautiful picturesque coves allow for a spot of light exercise, which we all know is supposed to be very good for relaxing the muscles. And the atmosphere – whether on board or exploring one of the local communities – is always friendly and relaxed – all in all the perfect combination of discovery and relaxation that our yacht cruises are known for.
Three fascinating itineraries handpicked for their natural beauty, historical and cultural wealth combined with the high quality of service aboard our boutique mega yachts offer the unique Yacht Cruise experience that Variety Cruises are famous for.
If you’re after a cruise with cabaret, disco, casino and 16 meals a day don’t read on. With no disrespect to our ‘floating resort’ style cruising cousins that’s simply not what we’re about. For sure cruising should be about a little bit of luxury, good food and excellent company – but for us it’s also about a cultural journey and the opportunity to experience some of the world’s great places in relative peace and quiet. If that sounds like you then these five top tips might help you find the cultured cruising you’re looking for:
- Big ship cruising means big crowds. If you’ve ever been in a port ‘when the boat comes in’ you’ll know just what we mean – loads of coaches on the quayside full of loads of people off to see the local sights. We have no problem with that – but we’d rather be there when the sights are a little more empty, take our time and go by taxi.
- Big ships can’t get into small harbours. If you truly want to see the unspoilt sights and sites small ships get you close up and personal to the sort of cultural places big boats only dream of.
- Big ships can’t get to hidden beaches. For sure they may have 4 or 5 swimming pools on board but for us that simply can’t compare with the experience of mooring up in a shallow cove and jumping off the swimming platform into the warm waters.
- The company on small ships is more cultured – you get to know the crew and other passengers by name and vice versa. It’s like a wonderful grown up country house party that lasts 7 nights but where you wake up every morning to find they’ve changed the scenery – such a clever idea!
- Small ship cruising is kinder to the environment. One of the greatest conundrums in travel is that the more beautiful the place the more people want to go there, but the more people the go there the more quickly the true culture gets swamped by commerce. Small is beautiful.
The fact is there are still so many brilliant cultural places in antiquity and so many sites of natural beauty are hidden away not far from a coast and can best be reached and seen by boat. It’s up to you how you want to see them but we would argue small ship cruising is a much more cultured experience.
Nowhere is hotter this winter than Cuba. What’s more there is no better way to see it than on a cruise. The roads there are not great, the cars not reliable and most of the interesting cultural stuff is most accessible from harbours around the coast.
Take our Sights and Sounds of Cuba 7 night cruise and immediately we’re talking colonial Spanish sugar settlements like Trinidad and Sugar Mills Valley – both now UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a brilliant day out. Next day we visit the Sea Turtle Breeding Centre at Cayo Largo and the 140 aboriginal archaeological sites at Guanahacabibes National Park.
Naturally you’ll want to see Havana, founded by the Spanish in 1519 and another UNESCO heritage site. Alternatively you have the option of the old coffee plantation at the UNESCO designated Biosphere at Las Terrazzas. Then we’ll end the holiday with one final excursion to yet another UNESCO site – the Valley of Vinales, full of dramatic rock formations that surround the ancient 18th century city.
All this takes place on the stunning 25 cabin motor-sailor Panorama II – a truly luxurious vessel that has 17 crew for only 50 passengers. Alternatively, if you think small is beautiful, we can show you the culture of Cuba on a 12 berth luxury Dream Yachts catamaran. Then again if you prefer to ‘large it’ you have the option of seeing the island from the decks of the Star Flyer, an old fashioned tall ship.
All in all if you want to cruise Cuba (and you’d be mad not to) and see the culture you’ll need to see our website. This is a good place to start
But remember the Americans are on their way and the culture of the island will quickly change. Anchors aweigh!
Fair play to President Obama, and the spirit of Caribbean glasnost, in re-opening the US Embassy in Cuba. We’re not in the least political but, in many respects, we reckon it’s about time they reconnected. After all, back in the day Havana was a playground for Americans, and it seems unfair to deny US citizens the opportunity to go somewhere so stunning, different, and virtually on their doorstep.
Increasingly Cuba has been growing in stature as a holiday destination for Europeans. If you’ve been lucky enough to go, or even know somebody who has, you know at first (or second) hand it many and varied delights – in particular its unspoiled charms.
However the fact is , with all due respect to Uncle Sam, that there is a risk that over the coming years the island might just turn into a bit of a theme park. Now a jolly good theme park it would be, and well worth a visit. But in reality you can’t help but think it might be better to go and see it in its natural state first.
That means there is no better time to go than this winter. In which case the great news is that Seafarer are able to offer you a New Year multiplicity of absolutely wonderful cruising there.
Top of the agenda is a host of departures on the stunning Panorama – a state of the art sail cruiser that has sailed from the Seychelles to Monte Carlo, from the Black Sea to Tunis, has logged several Atlantic Ocean crossings, and offers the highest standard of accommodation. You have a choice of 16 cruises of 7 nights’ duration. She is a truly magnificent craft and this is gobsmackingly wonderful sailing.
Panorama isn’t a big ship – she only has 25 cabins and takes a maximum of 54 passengers. However if you want to get really close-up and personal with Cuba we have a round the year programme of catamaran cruises on offer from Dream Yachts. It’s a different style of off-the-beaten-track cruising and equally wonderful.
Alternatively, if you really want to ramp it up a couple of notches and go Tall Ship cruising, we have a December, Christmas and New Year programme on the Star Flyer – a four-master that rigs up to 21 sails before the wind. Jack Sparrow eat your heart out, this is as good as it gets and it’s impressive all round with up to 170 passengers looked after by 72 crew and all mod cons.
Of course it’s not just the cruising. Whichever cruise you choose there are daily stops to see the living and breathing history of this fabulous island. So fabulous that it will start to attract much more attention now American tourists can travel again. We’re not saying that they’ll spoil it – all we’re suggesting is that you should go now!
We’re aware that not everybody will be on an Aegean cruise this week. But fret not – follow the following simple instructions and you can creat your very own Aegean Cruising Experience.
First you need the right music. You may not have any Bouzouki CD’s – in fact many people have done away with the CD player all together. But Spotify is at hand. All you have to do is go to the Spotify website and you can create a Greek music playlist. If you want to be authentic best avoid Nana Mouskouri and Demis Roussos. A better starting point is a musician named Theodorakis.
Turn the music up to an acceptable volume and uncork a bottle of chilled Retsina. Most good super-markets stock Retsina these days. It is something of a ‘Marmite’ wine – you love it or you hate it. Bear in mind that if you’re trying it for the fist time the more chilled it is the more likely you are to love it.
Have decent swig of Retsina then take the shoulder of lamb you have been marinading in some olive oil, lemon juice and oregano out of the fridge, bone it, dice it into small cubes and put it on some bamboo skewers. This is called Souvlaki – best not to put anything else on or people might think you’ve got a carry-out from the local kebab shop. Top tip here is to soak the skewers first for an hour so they don’t catch fire.
Light the barbecue – personally we prefer a mixture of real wood and lump-wood charcoal. That will need to burn down until it is nicely glowing so whilst you’re waiting make the Greek salad.
Basic ingredients for the salad are tomatoes, cucumber and Feta cheese – again readily available at your supermarket, or at a push you can use ‘home-brand Greek style cheese’. The important thing is that it’s crumbly. Dice the tomatoes and cut the cucumber into 8cms sticks. The addition of a few black olives adds colour and sophistication. Dress the salad with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic and a smattering of oregano, thyme and other Mediterranean style herbs.
You’ll also need to make some Tztasiki – for which you need to cut some more cucumber into fine cubes, or go ‘spaghetti’ style, and stir into a good Greek yoghurt along with some crushed garlic and lemon juice.
If you have guests round (shame if you don’t as this is really worth sharing) you will hopefully by now be on the second bottle of wine and, whilst the charcoal is still burning through, it’s time for the Greek dancing. If you’ve been on a Greek cruise, or for that matter any sort of Greek holiday, you’re bound to have been to a Greek evening and know what it’s all about. If not don’t worry – simply go to YouTube and type ‘Greek Dancing’ in the search box. You’ll be amazed – gobsmacked even – at what you find!
Dancing will almost certainly work up a thirst – so lucky you put that spare bottle of Retsina to chill. Your guests might also like an Ouzo and ice (no lemonade – that’s so awfully Essex!). Let them chat away because it’s time to get the Souvlaki on the barbie.
This is no time to loose attention. Give the Souvlaki 3 minutes then turn it a quarter turn then repeat until you have done the whole kebab. The outside should be slightly crisp, the inside still succulent and just pink. If you’ve gone for bigger meat cubes it might take longer.
Call your guests to the table and serve with the Tzatsiki with plenty of lemon to squeeze. For a true Aegean cruise experience try and find a few seagull sound effects. Perfect!