My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean
Join me as I travel to Venice, Croatia and Corfu on a Viking Cruise of the Mediterranean Sea.
If you caught my last article, you know all about the Viking Cruise that I’m currently on. If you missed it, you can check it out here.
On our first night, shortly after getting settled in our stateroom (that’s what they call the rooms on a cruise ship) and having a room service meal on our balcony, we walked into town and explored the streets of Venice. The city has a lovely feel in the evening, particularly when you gaze upward through the quaint narrow walkways and see the stars twinkling above you.
After our two-hour stroll, we arrived back on the boat to find some of our fellow shipmates partying to a great band in the Torshavn lounge, while others were relaxing by the bar in the Explorer’s Lounge, listening to a wonderful pianist.
The following morning, we got shuttled into town with about 50 other passengers, and our tour took us through some of the more touristy areas of Venice. We used our wireless headsets to hear the guide, which was convenient, since we opted to duck into the shade as often as possible.
During the tour, I learned that Venice was built on top of 117 small, marsh-like islands. So every time you cross a bridge in Venice, you’re stepping onto another island. Amazingly, the building of Venice are held up using wood. Because there wasn’t any oxygen in the thick muck that Venice is built on, when they stuck trees into it they petrified and became very strong. The buildings are mostly built using clay bricks and timber, and were designed to be flexible as the ground shifted. So while the buildings may lean, they will never fall. Venice was the first republic in Europe (France was the second, after the French Revolution).
After the tour, we treated ourselves to lunch at a Relais & Chateaux restaurant right on the water, called Do Leoni. Finding the Viking water taxi after lunch was simple, as there were Viking reps in red all over the place. When we got back to the Viking Sea ship, we went to the Explorer’s Lounge on the front upper deck (one of the many lounges, with live classical music, to choose from) and ordered a Bergen’s Kaffe.
In the following days we visited Split and Dubrovnik, in Croatia. I had no idea what to expect when we arrived in Croatia. When we woke and pulled back the drapes to our private balcony, I was shocked by the incredible beauty of the town and surrounding mountains. The towns are filled with history and, although crowded with tourists, were super charming.
We ducked away from the crowds and found a few off-path nooks (usually through a small tunnel in the side of a stone city wall) where we could hang out on the side of a rocky cliff and get a drink, lunch, and swim in the crystal-blue waters.
There are a lot of great restaurants to try out in Split and Dubrovnik. We especially loved one in Split called O’Zlata (which means “of gold” in Croatian), which is housed in what was the 15thC royal residence of Roman emperor Diocletian. We sat in the courtyard, but the interior is equally as charming and they had lots of healthy vegan options made from fresh local ingredients, including smoothies and fresh squeezed juices. If you’re staying overnight in Dubrovnik, make sure to have dinner at 360 Restaurant, which is super romantic and has incredible –you guessed it– 360-degree views.
Yesterday we stopped in Corfu, Greece. I was expecting the white buildings I’ve seen in photos of islands like Mykonos, but the architecture in Corfu reminded me of the Caribbean and wasn’t at all what I expected. All of the main streets in the downtown area were packed with tourist stalls selling cheap jewelry, sun hats and trinkets. It felt like a shopping maze reminiscent of Marrakesh’s souks.
I also wasn’t expecting to see so many sick, stray cats wandering around and hiding in the many abandoned buildings. Litter was everywhere and I ended up crying after spotting a dead cat in a pile of broken glass.
It was really sad to see the toll that Greece’s economic situation has taken on Corfu, its inhabitants, animals and buildings. It’s clear that it was once a utopia of sorts, with its beautiful and hilly island landscape, impressive stone fort, built-out harbor and clear blue waters. Hopefully their economy will recover soon and they will put in place a spay-and-neuter program to help the cats. Until then, I’m not sure I could bear the emotional burden of another visit to Corfu.
We stopped at a bar called Imabari, by the sea. Mike got into his swim trunks and took a swim while I video chatted with my parents on my phone. There were a few cute restaurants nearby with absolutely stunning views, but we opted to go back to the ship for dinner. After all, it’s uber-comfortable, the food is delicious and free (included in the cruise price), and we know what we’re getting onboard is clean and fresh.
Each day, before heading back to the shuttle bus, we stop at a local tourist shop and pick up a cute magnet with the city or country name on it. While onboard, we’ve made friends with another journalist couple our age (one of the five or so couples under 50 years old), and they collect magnets from every country they travel to together. We thought that was a charming idea.
Maybe later we’ll try afternoon tea at the Wintergarden, hit the gym, check out their Snow Grotto, and take a dip in their glass-backed infinity pool. I can’t wait!
It must be nice traveling and at the same time working. Wish I could also do that.
Croatia is an incredibly safe place. I even have Canadian friends that say Croatia feels safer than Canada. As an American, I thought that was impossible. But looking at your picture now Its feels like the place is safe and so damn beautiful!!
When you are in Venice you will definitely get lost. So when you’re going to Venice don’t set an agenda. You’ll need to have as much unstructured time as possible because you’ll get lost even when you’re already lost. And getting frustrated that you’re getting lost doesn’t help you enjoy your vacation or think kindly of the city in which you’re fumbling. The key is to enjoy the getting lost part – which is infinitely easier to do if you aren’t trying to get somewhere or keep to a schedule.
That was a great read, I’m deciding now whether or not to make Venice a stop during my family’s 3-week vacation and you have might just have convinced me!
Venice..I love the architecture, the Grand Canal, the beautiful Rialto bridge. I love to walk into St. Marks square, entering from a narrow called at the back of the square and there it is opening in front of you.Awesome. I love all the bridges especially when you are crossing over one and you can look down a small canal and see other bridges in the distance. I love the Bridge of Sighs. Love to watch all the boat traffic on the grand canal. Love to visit Burano on a sunny day and have lunch at an outdoor cafe. Love to set out in the morning with no particular destination in mind. Love to watch the gondoliers on the canals. Most of all I just love being in Venice, soaking up all the atmosphere.
Venice is my one of the favorite plays where I visited last week. I got there a heaven peace.
Wow! Venice does look beautiful as ever!All the beauty you just framed in your camera with Such lovely pictures. I love all photos with your post. <3
It is well known to everybody that Greeks are famous for their generous hospitality. Souvlaki, dolmades, moussaka, olives, feta, baklava. Greek cuisine will always call us to visit, and those fresh, light, Mediterranean flavours taste best when the weather’s hot and sunny. I love these.
Always enjoy reading your posts and this adventure colors the favor of your experience well. You express yourself clearly and it is so great that you take the time to share….I am forwarding your link to friends that are looking into which cruise line to use and with your recommendation I expect they too will be happy with Viking Sea.
Thanks Hilary, for this great article. It sure put a smile on my face stuck here in my office on a boring wednesday… and Croatia of all places! Ever since I was a child I dreamt of goinig there and I finally did in 2010. I’ll never forget it, it was magical. Some of your pictures are almost identical to the ones I took. Enjoy the rest of your cruise.