With that nice Carol Kirkwood forecasting temperatures in the mid-20s later this week there’s every chance that the sunshine has been switched on at the end of the inexorable tunnel called winter. Clement weather is the order of the day, you’ll be dusting the cobwebs off your sunscreen and this weekend might even be time to get your legs out into the sun.
Talk of sun worshippers and the mind immediately flips to Ra – great Sun God of the Egyptians. Once there it’s only a short cognitive leap to dial the mind back to 3,000BC or so and start imagining Luxor, Cairo, the Sphinx and all things Pharaohic. And, just in case you think we’re Pyramid selling – you’re absolutely right because this coming winter we’re back cruising the Red Sea and Suez area, gateway to wonders so indescribable that we simply can’t describe them. You need to come and see them for yourself.
The itinerary takes in all the best bits of Egyptian legends but perhaps the most mind-boggling place of all is Petra, Jordan. Also known as the ‘Rose City’ this absolutely world class delight is not to be confused by the eponymous Blue Peter dog – who was actually a ringer drafted into the show after the original mutt shuffled off to doggy heaven from distemper after only 2 days on set. However, in typical Fertile Crescent dynastic fashion, Petra begat Shep and the rest is history.
- Gubal Islands
- Jordan [for Petra, Wadi Rum & Amman]
- Ashdod, Israel
- Port Said [for Cairo]
- Suez Canal
- St Anthony’s Monastery
- Aqaba, Jordan [for Petra, Wadi Rum & Amman]
There is so much culture in this area that we’ve actually put together 2 slightly different itineraries (one includes the Suez Canal), so you get to choose. We can’t possibly put it all into one email so if you want the full sarcophagus you’ll need to click here.
CRUISE ALL THE WAY TO THE FOOTY FINALS WITHOUT SEEING A SINGLE GAME!
It’s all kicking-off in June
Surreptitious sort of thing the FIFA World Cup. Lots of fuss last year when the qualifiers were being played – then the sort of silence that can induce a very dodgy false sense of security, as if it was all a dream. Do not be fooled, from the start of June when England assemble in Primark or Next to don their three-piece suits, until the final-final whistle goes on July 15th, the bits of the UK that don’t include Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland will be in a media-driven football frenzy.
Football frenzy for the fans, football fatigue for the rest of us
By the time England take the field somewhere in the back-woods of Russia at 7.00 pm on Monday 18th June we will already have had 13 matches played and over-analysed. Football fatigue will be in full force and you know what, you won’t even be able to escape down the wine bar for a refreshing Pinot Grigio (hold-up Italian target man) because sure as referees are blind some pundit will be waxing more lyrical than a team of full Brazilians – who have never been the same since Socrates died – on a specially imported TV.
The Socratic wisdom of football-free Greek island cruising
Socrates claimed he could only know that which he knew – and he knew damn fine well there was no satellite TV on any of Variety’s Mega Yachts, ergo a Greek island cruise, or any Variety cruise for that matter, was a football free zone.
Seriously, we wish England the very best of luck in Russia, and hope they at least get to cruise through the group stages.
Of course, if you live in Cardiff, Glasgow or Belfast you might not share the sentiment. Fancy a cruise in June?
Would you rather disagree with the fourth official or have a cocktail with the Captain?
On Friday 15th June you could be watching what is sure to be a feisty match between Morocco and Iran – or you could be boarding ship in Athens for a cocktail with the Captain prior to embarking on a cruise to see Classical Greece.
Teatime with Peru and the Socceroos or a swim off Antiparos?
So it’s the 26th of June – how would you rather spend the afternoon? If you fancy a swim, join our Jewels of the Cyclades team.
See England surrender or visit Saranda?
Being brutally honest the day is almost certainly going to come when the English flag is lowered. Love football or hate it that day of surrender will be tearful and torrid. Yet there’s a big BUT and it starts the name of beautiful Butrint – a sight more remarkable than a Harry Kane hat-trick. You can see it on our Adriatic Odyssey cruise.
You can’t watch Wales, but you could watch whales
Sadly, Wales might not have scored highly enough to get into the final fixtures but something that will score in spades with your bridge club buddies will be a little whale watching off the Atlantic coast of Iceland. Iceland itself will be quiet at this time because most of the 334,250 inhabitants will be in Russia watching their team play.
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!