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Setting sail from Barcelona
Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia, is one of our favourite ports of call. From the warren-like medieval streets of the Barri Gòtic to the fantastical modernist architecture of Antoni Gaudí, from the dizzy heights of Mount Tibidabo to the golden sands of Barceloneta, there's never a dull moment in this most beguiling of cities. Take a stroll along the Ramblas, soak up the wonderful art of Picasso and Miró, or watch Lionel Messi work his mesmerising magic at the Camp Nou. Barcelona is truly a city with something for everyone.
Gaudí’s crowning masterpiece, the church of La Sagrada Familia, is an utterly unique building, a soaring structure that’s rich in bizarre little details. It’s also still not finished; despite the fact that construction began in 1882, the current completion date is scheduled for 2026!
The down-to-earth port of Sète, sandwiched between the Mediterranean and the Etang de Thau lagoon, is a working town rather than a tourist hotspot, though the canals and colourful buildings have a certain charm. It’s also a great spot for a seafood lunch, and a visit to the nearby citadel of Carcassonne is a popular excursion.
Toulon is not the sort of place you would expect to find on the Côte d’Azur, a gritty port city that’s home to France’s most important naval base. It’s not completely without charm, however, and for some travellers it may come as a breath of fresh air after the glitz of the Riviera. For the best view, take the cable car to the top of Le Faron mountain.
Italy: San Remo
During the 19th century San Remo was a popular destination for European royals in exile, and the town retains plenty of glitz and glamour. Try your luck with the high rollers at the most famous casino on the Italian Riviera, take a stroll along the promenade or lose yourself in the labyrinthine streets of the old town.
Italy: Rome (Civitavecchia)
One of the world’s great cities, Rome continues to dazzle and delight visitors with a potent mix of architectural marvels, continent-defining history and buzzing nightlife. The Colosseum, the Vatican and the Forum are among the big ticket items, with the crowds to match, though in truth you will find history around almost every corner.
The picturesque little town of Amalfi was once a major Mediterranean naval power, but a devastating earthquake in 1343 cut the city down in its prime and destroyed most of its historic buildings. These days, of course, Amalfi is best known for the eponymous stretch of stunning coastline on which it sits.
We never fail to be moved when we see the terracotta roofs and honey-golden walls of Dubrovnik, and a stroll around the perfectly preserved old town is a highlight of any visit to the Dalmatian coast. Make sure you take the time to walk around the walls and soak up the marvellous sea views.
Hvar is the most popular of Croatia’s islands, a ruggedly beautiful place carpeted with lavender fields and dotted with little villages. The island’s capital, Hvar Town, is a charming collection of marble streets arranged around a harbour, and it gets very busy in the summer months.
The gritty port city of Rijeka isn’t a huge tourist draw, with most visitors passing through en route to the islands or the neighbouring seaside resort of Opatija, although the city centre is home to some handsome Austro-Hungarian architecture.
The largest town on Slovenia’s sliver of Adriatic coastline, Koper has an attractive medieval centre and some impressive Venetian architecture. There is also a sizeable Italian community here, reflected in the bilingual road signs.
Arriving in Venice
Venice is a city like no other, a marble maze of turquoise canals criss-crossed by beautiful bridges, overflowing with palaces, churches and charming little piazzas. No matter how many times you've seen it in photographs, that first glimpse of the Grand Canal will simply take your breath away; it hardly seems credible that such a eye-popping scene could exist outside of a Canaletto painting. Of course Venice is a city that draws big crowds, especially in summer, but don't let this put you off; even the busiest areas are never more than a few steps from a quiet courtyard or a secluded square.
The long, long queues for St Marks might put you off, but just book online in advance for timed entrance and bypass the exhausted tourists.
Your home from home
Once again Seabourn leaps ahead, expanding the most modern luxury fleet with the innovative Seabourn Encore and Ovation.
What we love
When Seabourn introduced the three sisters, they changed the face of luxury cruising. Seabourn Encore (and her sister Seabourn Ovation, due to be completed in 2018), with 604 guests on board, will take things a step further, with lots of new thinking and special additions, continuing Seabourn's magical ability to surprise and delight.
The contemporary décor appeals to a sophisticated and cosmopolitan crowd. With lots of outside space, you can enjoy an al fresco experience if you choose.
|Year launched||2016 (Seabourn Encore) / 2018 (Seabourn Ovation)|
Tailor-make your trip
Where to stay in Barcelona
The lovely Hotel Arts on the sea front is perfectly located for a pre- or post-cruise stay, and has great restaurants too.
Take a day trip to the attractive city of Girona, with its fascinating mix of Gothic, Moorish and Modernist architecture, as well as an exceptionally well preserved Jewish Quarter.
Our favourite hotel in Venice
The Metropole is an old favourite for its quieter location and lovely lagoon views.
See more of the Veneto
If you’ve time, take the train to Padova and visit the Scrovegni Chapel.