Following Rome, we took a train via Trenitalia transport to Venice. (This is a good way to see the Italian countryside and is much less stressful than flying.) From Venice, we were taking a Mediterranean cruise with family. It was planned for five stops, but we were unable to make our fifth and final stop (Dubrovnik, Croatia) due to weather. We were looking forward to a Game of Thrones excursion here so were disappointed and now have to return! However, the places we did see were gorgeous and, like other parts of Europe, very historical. Throughout the journey, I found it quite difficult to comprehend just how extensive these towns’ and villages’ pasts are.

Tidbit: Cruises are a great way to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, especially if it is your first time visiting. However, if you are looking to spend more time in certain areas, cruises may not be the way to go. They do allow you to explore many places and perhaps help you find ones you wish to return to for a longer trip in the future.

Venice, Italy:

  • Our ship docked in Venice, so we were able to spend a night here.
  • It is a walking-only city with only canals, no roads. This was a relief, as we had just finished our Rome visit and frighteningly traversing their “lively” streets. 
  • We recommend doing a wine and tapas walking tour. You can do a private or small group tour. This is a great way to explore the town, learn some history, and have special drinks and tapas already picked out and ready for you at each stop.
  • Grand Hotel Dei Dogi – Boscolo Venezia, Autograph Collection. A great place to stay overlooking the lagoon with good amenities. It is close to the center of Venice while far enough away from the noise and crowds.

Kotor, Montenegro:

  • Our favorite stop of the cruise, happened to be our first. Montenegro is a Balkan country with many beach towns and medieval buildings. Certain towns are only accessible by boat or plane. 
  • We took a short boat trip from our cruise to the town of Kotor. We saw some beautiful landscape and learned a lot of history from our amazing tour guide. Our main stop was at a beach and beach bar, where we relaxed by the water with wine and Mediterranean pizza. 
  • I would love to come back and explore more of this ancient country. 

Corfu, Greece:

  • An island off the coast of Greece full of both mountains and beaches. 
  • We took a bus tour to get a feel for the whole town. First, we explored the colonial-style Mon Repose Palace, where Prince Phillip was born. 
  • We also visited both the Old Fortress and New Fortress of Corfu. It was quite an unique experience seeing this history up close. You are able to go inside, but sadly on our tour, we did not have enough time.
  • We were treated to a delicious Greek lunch accompanied with a song and dance by the locals. We were also able to try their local Ouzo.
  • Finally, we were able to explore the town on our own and do some shopping along the cobblestone streets.

Santorini, Greece

  • This picturesque town is a volcanic island that has devastated the area in the past and continues to be an active volcano.
  • Everywhere you look, there is a photo opportunity amongst the white and blue buildings. For our excursion, we took a historical tour around the island, beginning with a drive around the lovely Caldera.
  • We learned that not many solely reside in Santorini, but rather it primarily houses tourists and temporary workers who are employed during the tourist season.
  • We first visited the Akrotiri archaeology site, a town that was buried by lava in the 16th century. It is extremely well-preserved and we were able to step back in history walking along the former streets of this once-thriving village. 
  • We finished with an authentic pasta and wine meal overlooking a gorgeous sunset. 

Tip: Santorini is extremely crowded during the peak tourist season (June-September). If you’re schedule is flexible, we recommend going between April-early June or late September to early November as the weather is still nice, but the crowds are not so high.

Mykonos, Greece

  • This is another beautiful Greek Island with many beaches and a lively atmosphere. It is also known for its windmills.
  • We loved the winding streets, although one could easily get lost without the help of a guide or GPS. It was revealed to us that these streets were originally designed to have pirates lose their way when invading the coastal towns.
  • We took a tour around this town before having a Greek tapas snack to end our journey. One highlight on this tour was the Aegean Maritime Museum
  • We visited the Paraportiani Orthodox Church, finished in the 17th century, but were unable to go inside.
  • Mykonos is known for its numerous, gorgeous beaches. We ventured on our own by bus to one called Paradise Beach. This is a very popular beach for locals and tourists alike. It is quite “hopping” throughout the day and night with its bar and beach activities. Be aware, it is a clothing optional beach, so you may see a little more than you might expect at this beach.

Tip: We recommend on cruises to do some laid back excursions, perhaps beach-style tours, in addition to some more active excursions where you can explore the area. If you try to pack too much into your short cruise, you may feel rushed and in need of another vacation. On the other hand, if you only do the more relaxing excursions, you may miss out on opportunities to really experience the country you are visiting. So, it is good to mix it up! 

Along this topic, you may want to skip an excursion day altogether. You can usually choose to explore the town on your own (although having the ship plan it for you tends to make life easier) or even remain on the ship. The ship is extremely less crowded on these days, so you can enjoy some peaceful time by the pool or eat at the less chaotic dining areas.

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