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Travel future: Cruising the Mediterranean

Celebrity Cruises ship the Equinox

Over the years, I’ve travelled using everything from a plane to a rickshaw. But there’s one type of trip I’ve never tried, and that’s a cruise. My previous sailing experience is limited to cross-Channel ferries on childhood holidays to France and a few choppy boat rides that had me reaching for the sea-sickness pills – it’d be true to say I’m not a natural sailor! I’m also guilty of believing the stereotypes of cruising as being for OAPs and honeymooners, and definitely not for independent travellers like me. But how can you know if you’ve never tried it? So when Celebrity Cruises offered me the chance to report from one of their trips, I decided it was time to try it out for myself. So I’m setting sail this week on the plush Celebrity Equinox – a world away from those cross-Channel ferries. I’m taking my mum along with me too, and as two total cruise virgins we’ll be getting our head around ship (not boat, that’s lesson number one!) etiquette as well as tackling our cruise preconceptions, all while visiting some fantastic destinations around the Eastern Mediterranean.

Celebrity Cruises Venice To Istanbul Cruise

The route of our Celebrity Cruises Venice To Istanbul Cruise

We’ll be sailing on Celebrity’s Venice to Istanbul cruise, which visits Italy, Croatia, Greece and Turkey. I picked this route because it starts and finishes in cities I already know and love, but all the stops in between are new to me. The cruise leaves from Venice, which I’ve only visited once – about 15 years ago in the depths of misty midwinter – so I hope to get chance for a quick prosecco stop in Piazza San Marco before we set off. From Venice we follow the Adriatic coast south past Croatia’s islands on the way to our first stop in Dubrovnik. I briefly dipped into Croatia last year on my way to Montenegro, so look forward to getting a closer look at the city and some great views from Mount Srd and the city walls.

Old city of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Looking over Dubrovik’s old town from up on high – photo credit Mike McHolm on Flickr

From Croatia we carry on south along the coast of Montenegro and Albania and on to Greece. My last and only previous trip to Greece was a girls’ holiday in Faliraki after leaving university (very classy I know!) so I’m more than overdue another visit. We have three different destinations to explore, starting off with the island of Corfu before moving on to Katakolon – gateway to Olympia, where the first Olympic Games took place. From there it’s on to our final Greek stop, the island of Santorini. This is probably the stop I’m looking forward to most, I’ve seen so many fantastic photos of the white caldera-side villages and blue domed churches that I suspect I’ll need to pack an extra memory card for just this day.

Whitewashed buildings in Santorini, Greece

Pastel colours and blue skies in Santorini – photo credit David Spender on Flickr

Leaving Greece behind we head cross over to the Aegean coast of Turkey, where our first stop is at Kusadasi. As well as being as a beach resort, it’s also the gateway to the ruins of the ancient Roman city at Ephesus. Our final day’s sail takes us north along the Turkish coast and through the narrow straits of the Dardanelles to the city of Istanbul. I made a quick visit here for the Turkish Grand Prix a few years ago so look forward to revisiting some of the sights, like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, as well as doing some shopping in the Grand Bazaar. Then it’s back home – to plan my next cruise if I’m as much of a convert as most cruisers seem to be. Though I’ll still be packing those seasickness pills just in case!

The Galata Bridge and Blue Mosque, Istanbul

The Galata Bridge and the New Mosque, Istanbul

Have you ever been on a cruise? If so do you have any tips and tricks this cruise virgin should know about? And if not is it something you’d like to do? Or have you visited any of the destinations and have suggestions for what I should see and do while I’m there?

Many thanks to Celebrity Cruises who will be hosting us on this trip. All views, opinions and complete cruise ignorance will be, as always, my own.

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61 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on VIVIMETALIUN.

    June 9, 2014
  2. We cruised the west Mediterranean and really want to do the eastern tour next. Cruising is the way to go for sure. It’s wonderful!

    June 9, 2014
    • There are some great routes around the Western Mediterranean too, it was tough to choose!

      June 9, 2014
  3. We cruised the Caribbean and we concluded cruising is not for us. Maybe it was the region that we were in… or maybe it was the concept of cruising, we don’t really know. We find it a little limiting and “claustrophobic” but in saying that we can see how there are aspects that we were convenient such as the inclusiveness of food, accommodation and transport in the total cost. It is possible if we were visiting exotic places, we may have had a different experience.
    When we were in Ephesus visiting the ruins it was flooded with people from the cruise ships – regardless, it was a very worthwhile visit.
    All we can say about Santorini is enjoy the amazing sunsets. If you can get to Oia, you will be able to witness gorgeous views of those glowing white buildings with blue tops…..ahhhhh
    Have a great time!! Look forward to your thoughts on cruises!

    June 9, 2014
    • I’m so looking forward to seeing Santorini, it’s one of those places that I have seen so many fantastic photos of I knew I had to go and see it myself. Cruising is definitely a bit unusual compared to my normal travel style as I’m used to being very independent so it’s going to be interesting to see how I get on!

      June 9, 2014
  4. your destinations are enviable- istanbul has been on my bucket list for the longest time. my other half is not keen on cruising but we did do the alaskan inside passage leaving vancouver several years ago and that was AMAZING! we also did the baltic and it gave us a taster for the cities we wanted to spend more time in, and did later return to stockholm and helsinki. i suspect that’s what you’ll find with istanbul and dubrovnik. look forward to reading your updates.

    June 9, 2014
    • Yes I’m definitely thinking of it as a taster of some new destinations, so I can pick out the ones I like the best and go back to see more of them. The Alaskan Inside Passage cruise sounds fantastic – I have always wanted to go to Alaska. If I get the cruise bug then that might have to be next!

      June 9, 2014
    • It’s hard though not impossible to ‘do’ Alaska by other means, so I’d recommend the cruise.

      June 9, 2014
  5. A cruise is not high on my list, but your route is enticing. Will now re – think my list. Thanks!

    June 9, 2014
    • It wasn’t something I had really thought about doing before, but it does seem a good way to get a taste of lots of destinations and the ships do look very luxurious – will report back on how I get on!

      June 9, 2014
  6. I’m so excited to follow your cruise! I really can’t wait to hear your thoughts. And that itinerary looks amazing!

    June 9, 2014
    • Thanks Clare, yes this route really jumped out at me, liked the combination of cities, historic sites and beaches. Will definitely do a cruise FAQ afterwards as it’s been a bit of a learning curve for me and we haven’t even left yet!

      June 9, 2014
  7. So envious 😊

    June 9, 2014
    • Thanks – should have lots of posts and photos to come!

      June 9, 2014
  8. I’ve never been on a cruise either and also have the same pre-concieved ideas as you Lucy, so I’ll be interested to see what you make of it! The destinations all look beautiful – and that would be my main worry – that I would want to stay longer in each! Bon voyage 🙂

    June 9, 2014
    • Yes I already suspect that one day won’t be enough, but I’m thinking of it as a taster so I can try out some new destinations and go back to the favourites! It’s going to be quite different to my regular travel style but I’m looking forward to trying it out.

      June 9, 2014
  9. We did the West Med a few years ago on the Noordam with Holland America. The best investment we made on the cruise was to pay for daily access to the spa, hot pool and chairs where you can lay down on heated stones watching the med go by. The biggest plus no one under 18 allowed. It was an oasis of peace and quiet. If your cruise has a similar package go for it you will not regret it. Hope you have a lovely cruise.

    June 9, 2014
    • Thanks for the tips, I will look into that – it’s all a totally new world to me so I am just finding my feet!

      June 9, 2014
  10. I’m not too fussed about the actual cruise, but the destinations sound great. If you’ve got time in Dubrovnik, have a drink at Buza bar on the rocks – I’m still missing this place a year after my visit.

    June 9, 2014
    • I remember reading your post about Buza so will see what we can do! I already want to spend more time in Dubrovnik so I suspect I’m going to come back with an even bigger wishlist and a load of new destinations!

      June 9, 2014
  11. Enjoy! I’m a little tempted by a cruise after reading other bloggers reviews so I’m curious to hear about your experience! And Santorini is just beautiful! You’ll definitely need that extra memory card!

    June 9, 2014
    • Thanks Rachel, I’ve read some great posts about cruising too so thought it was time I tried it out! It’s a bit of a different world to get my head around though – there will be a lot of posts to come (and even more photos!).

      June 9, 2014
  12. On our recent cruise we had a mixture of pre-booked cruise excursions and stops where we just did our own thing. It’s worth deciding what you’d like to do in advance, there are pros and cons with each approach and the cost of cruise excursions can add up. If there are places you’d like to see on your own, then I would do some research or pack a guide book as the time will be pretty limited and the cruise line won’t give you much info on things to do (apart from related to their excursions) I’d also pack a 4 plug extension as you’ll probably only have a couple of power points in your stateroom and no doubt like me you’ll have a fair amount of electronics.

    June 9, 2014
    • Great tips Heather, thanks – I’ve been following all your cruise posts and they’ve been really interesting to find out what I should expect. I will make sure to do a bit of research on the destinations and print off some maps in advance and will definitely be packing an extension plug!

      June 9, 2014
  13. I’ve been cruising since I was 9 years old – because my mum doesn’t like flying, cruises became our annual summer holiday. Although I would say now that I’ve found my own travel style, cruising’s not my favourite, but waking up in a new place every day/almost every day is unique and amazing for cruising.

    Ship life is great because of all the food that’s around – I don’t know what Celebrity are like as I’ve always been a P&O girl, but if it’s similar, it’ll have buffets as well as sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and afternoon tea. If you have formal nights, it’s so much fun to get properly dressed up. And make the most of every port stop and head out really early!

    I hope you have an amazing time! There are limitations to travelling via cruise, but if that’s in mind and you accept it for what it is, then you’ll have a lot of fun! 🙂

    June 9, 2014
    • Thanks Kirsten – yes one of the things I’m really looking forward to is waking up in a new destination each morning and not having to pack and unpack at all. I’ve heard that the food is great too and I never get enough excuses to dress up so will be taking full advantage of that!

      June 9, 2014
  14. Looks amazing! I’ve been wanting to go on a cruise for a little while now, looks like you’ll have an amazing time!

    June 9, 2014
    • Thanks, I’m excited to see what it’s like – it’s so different from how I travel usually, but it’s good to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something new sometimes!

      June 9, 2014
  15. Im really jealous of you!! That is such an amazing route! Ive never been on a cruise before but I would love to! The tip I can give you is to go snorkeling of you have the opportunity!! 😃😃😃 so excite for you!!

    June 9, 2014
    • Thanks, yes I liked the mix of destinations and how there was a bit of everything – there should be a couple of good beaches in the mix so will see if I can get any snorkelling in!

      June 9, 2014
    • Then I wish you an amazing trip and lost of fun 🙂

      June 10, 2014
  16. I’ve only been on cruises in the Gulf of Mexico and I don’t think I will ever go on one again to that area or with Carnival cruise lines. One too many problems with that cruise liner. The only ones I would consider would be one like yours in the Mediterranean, Alaska, or Baltic Sea cruise.

    I can’t wait for the report back! This trip sounds amazing. So many places on my bucket list in one trip – eek!!!
    -Gillian

    June 9, 2014
    • I was really tempted by a Baltic trip but the sunny destinations won out this time! I’ve hardly seen anything of Greece and Turkey before and Ephesus and Santorini have both been on the bucket list for so long it’ll be great to finally get out there!

      June 9, 2014
  17. I have done cruises around the med and the caribbean – I would suggest choose excursions wisely – really looking forward to your thoughts – I am off to Istanbul and Dubrovnik next year

    June 9, 2014
    • Thanks, I will definitely have posts on Istanbul and Dubrovnik to come, both seem to be great cities and a lot to see but I hope to at least get a taster!

      June 9, 2014
  18. Looks like a perfect cruise! You land on all my favorite places..

    June 9, 2014
    • Thanks – there were a lot of great routes but this one really jumped out at me as having some fantastic stops!

      June 9, 2014
  19. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) #

    I’d be really interested to hear how you find it – a cruise is always something that hasn’t instantly jumped out to be but so many people seem to be recommending it that I’m definitely opening my mind up to the idea and certainly think it is worth me giving it a try! Sounds like this is a great liner with some lovely routes!

    June 9, 2014
    • I felt very much the same way – it hadn’t really occurred to me to try cruising but so many people love it that I thought it’d be worth trying out for myself!

      June 10, 2014
  20. I felt like I was reading my words when you were speaking about cruises. I have never been on one either and mostly because I’m afraid of spending the entire time being sea sick. Everyone has told me not to worry, but it still scares me! So I’ll be looking forward to hearing about your experience as we seem to have the same “sea legs” (or lack of them, in this case!). But I wanted to tell you that you will absolutely LOVE Santorini. It is so unique and beautiful!! Here are a couple of things that we did which made great memories. Firstly, we were fortunate to get invited aboard a catamaran for an all day tour around the island. We got to swim in the caldera and have lunch aboard the boat while seeing the island from the water. Another thing we did was take the donkey ride up the hill from the water – a little scary as they like to hug the cliff but fun, nonetheless. Then just walking around and window shopping in Fira and Oia was lots of fun, too. The gold shops are amazing, but beware! They are good at selling – but everything is so beautiful that it’s difficult to resist! The best thing about Santorini, though, was the people! They are so friendly and gracious – we loved just hanging out and talking to them. Even the shop keepers gave us home made Vin Santa from their private cellars – everyone wants to share something with you 🙂 Have a wonderful time and enjoy all those gorgeous ports.

    June 10, 2014
    • Glad I’m not the only one! Everyone assures me that you can hardly feel you are at sea but I’ll still be packing the seasickness pills and the acupressure wristbands, plus I purposefully chose a route where there were no full days at sea!

      Santorini sounds fabulous, I already suspect I’ll want to go back and spend some more time there but at least I can get a bit of a taster of it this time.

      June 10, 2014
  21. charlotte1and1 #

    This looks amazing! I am living in China and in the last several years I haven’t been very excited to go travelling around Europe is it felt too much like my back yard and wanted more exotic destinations. This summer however I am going to Italy and already was thinking of other destinations to go to as well… This post is great inspiration… makes me want to go back to Greece in a heartbeat and oh my! Istanbul is amazing!! If you have time there for a quick lunch and love fish then I would recommend a tiny little restaurant that looks more like a outdoor whole in the wall place but with DELICIOUS food! when you cross the bridge by foot over the bosporus towards the newer part of Istanbul where Taksim is then just at the end of the bridge you should go left and there is like a grass area along the river side just continue a little bit and you’ll find a great bbq place that serves grilled fish with turkish bread and salad. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s so good and away from all the craziness! Hope it’s still there cause it’s been quite a few years.

    June 10, 2014
    • Thanks for the tip – I will see if I can find it! Istanbul is our last stop so we have a bit more time to explore which is good as even having spent a few days there before I hardly scratched the surface. Hope you enjoy your trip to Italy too, it’s one of my favourite countries – so much amazing food!

      June 10, 2014
  22. Somehow we’ve never gotten around to cruising either, but it’s definitely on our list of things to try one day. You’ve picked a fantastic route. We’ve been through most of those places, and not only is the water stunningly beautiful, but the cities are simply wonderful too. I think you might need an extra memory card for each stop!! 😉

    June 10, 2014
    • I think I will! I would happily spend a week in any of the destinations but at least I get to try them all out this time. Cruising is such a different travel style for me but I’m looking forward to trying it out.

      June 11, 2014
  23. Sounds like the perfect trip! Your really visiting some awesome places. In Venice, if you have time, just get lost in the winding streets. Santorini, try and catch a sunset over the caldera, wander the cobbled lanes and if you have time check out the black sand Perisa beach. I’ve been on a cruise one when I was a teenage and was seasick the whole time. My memories are not fond ones but I do hope to try it again someday, probably on the Med as it is supposed to be reasonable calm waters for most of the year. Have a blast!

    June 10, 2014
    • Thanks Jen, fingers crossed there’ll be calm seas (though I’ll be packing by pills and acupressure wristbands just in case). Santorini looks so great, I can’t wait to see it!

      June 11, 2014
  24. Cruising has never really appealed to me before but it looks like you’ll be visiting some great destinations on this one! Can’t wait to see how you find it 🙂

    June 10, 2014
    • Thanks, I’m looking forward to trying it out – will report back on how I get on, so many people seem to love it who knows I might become a convert!

      June 11, 2014
  25. I was 34 before I went on my first cruise and that was the Panama Canal. My Grandfather always said, Ted, there are two places in your life if you ever get a chance to go, you should go. One was Ephesus and the other was the Panama Canal, and he had been to a lot of places.

    I was fortunate to go to both. I’d studied about ancient Thera (Santorini) in Art class in college, but haven’t made it there yet. It’s someplace I’ve always wanted to go with my son and Syracuse on Sicily. btw My Grandpa got to Santorini, he loved it, my grandmother, not so much.

    As for cruising. Relax, enjoy it, let someone else do the work for a change. But my biggest advise watch out for the food. It so good it’s really easy to over eat on those cruises. The best part about cruising is you get to go to a bunch of different places without repacking all the time. The downside is you just get to spend a short time in each port, just the highlights without doing much in depth. You can also make very good friends while cruising. or if your go with friends or family spend quality time and get better acquainted with them.

    June 11, 2014
    • Thanks so much Ted, I think that’s really the key – I love to plan my trips but it can get a bit stressful at times so this time it’ll be interesting to just go with it and let someone else organise things for me. Ephesus is one of the stops I’m really looking forward to, that and Santorini.

      June 12, 2014
  26. I’ve always thought cruises are great, but they never felt like they would be my kind of thing, since I love exploring a city all day long. But I wouldn’t say no if an opportunity arose, Have a great time, can’t wait to read all about it, you’re visiting some destinations I’ve always wanted to go to. 🙂

    June 12, 2014
    • I’m usually a bit of a slow traveller so this is going to be a bit of a change of style for me, but it’ll be good to get a taste of a few new destinations within the same trip without having to pack and repack!

      June 12, 2014
  27. I’ve done a couple of cruises (including one with Celebrity in the Caribbean) and I’m a bit of a convert now – the first one was a similar route to yours, although sadly not stopping at Ephesus, which is somewhere I’d love to see, and it completely changed my opinion. As people have said, like any holiday there are limitations which is why I wouldn’t want to cruise for every holiday, but the chance to pack half a dozen stops into one trip without the constant travel and packing is fantastic.

    We only did one organised trip on that cruise (to the ruins at Troy, as they were trickier to get to otherwise) so you can very easily explore on your own, especially Istanbul/Santorini/Dubrovnik. For Istanbul, you could hop over to the Asian shore if you didn’t do that last time, though Topkapi/Hagia Sophia/Blue Mosque/Grand Bazaar are great. Did you see the Basilica Cistern last time too? And my main memory of Dubrovnik from 10 years + ago was the incredible views from the walls, just wandering round drinking it all in.

    One cruise tip – if you want to eat in the specialty restaurants on board, book as soon as you get on the ship (although Celebrity might be sorting you out anyway?)

    June 12, 2014
    • Thanks Cathy, I think cruising is one of those things people tend to think they are either the type for or not, but you never know til you try! I think we are going to do a couple of excursions (including Ephesus as it’s a way away from the port) and then just explore on our own the rest of time. Walking the walls in Dubrovnik is definitely our plan and it’ll be my mum’s first trip to Istanbul so we will no doubt do the classic sights in Sultanahmet. Thanks for the restaurant tip too – we have one night in the specialty restaurants included so will book in early!

      June 12, 2014
  28. I have to confess that I’ve always had the same opinion of cruises – I imagine lots of old people shuffling from one attraction to the next. So… it will be fantastic to see how you get on and get a report from someone my own age. I do think it’s amazing how you can be in one country, head to your nice comfy bed and wake up in another 🙂 The itinerary looks fantastic, can’t wait to read about it!

    June 15, 2014
    • I will have loads of posts about it to come – will say that it was far different to what I expected though!

      June 22, 2014
    • Thanks so much for the nomination Bea, much appreciated!

      June 23, 2014
    • Thanks a lot Lucy, all your posts are really interesting. I keep on reading them hoping one day to be able to do one of your wonderfull travels. Ciaoo Bea

      June 23, 2014

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