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Setting sail from 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.
Piran’s walled old town is the highlight of Slovenia’s short stretch of coastline, a compact collection of sun-dappled streets and medieval Venetian architecture on a small peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic. Highlights include the Romanesque cathedral and some great seafood restaurants.
Rovinj is undoubtedly the highlight of the Istrian coast, a picturesque medieval fishing port with a strong Italian influence discernible in everything from the elegant architecture to the bilingual street signs. A day trip to one of the nearby islands also makes for an enjoyable excursion.
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.
Corfu, known as Kerkyra in Greek, is a beautiful island of verdant hills and rocky coves, and away from the more crowded resorts it remains a sleepy and idyllic place. Don’t miss the picturesque Venetian architecture of Corfu Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Zakynthos (also known by its Italian name, Zante) remains one of the most beautiful Ionian islands, in spite of rampant overdevelopment along the southern and eastern coasts. Head off the beaten track and you’ll find forest-darkened mountains, sheltered white sand beaches and caves half-flooded with dazzlingly blue water.
Taormina enjoys a truly spectacular setting on Sicily’s east coast, perched on a mountainside looking out towards the smouldering Mount Etna. The medieval streets are pleasant but often crowded in high season, so we’d recommend getting out and exploring the surrounding countryside.
The lovely town of Sorrento, draped across rugged cliffs overlooking the Bay of Naples, has been charming visitors since the days of the Grand Tour. The Renaissance palaces and many craft shops make Sorrento an attractive destination in its own right, and it’s also a jumping off point for Capri, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.
Little known outside of Italy, Gaeta is something of a hidden gem, set on the coast between Rome and Naples. Seven lovely beaches and a friendly atmosphere make this a popular destination for local sun-seekers, and points of interest include an imposing castle and a Roman mauseoleum dating back to the first century BC.
Arriving in 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. As the saying goes, the city wasn't built in a day, and if you want to make the most of Rome you'll need to spend at least a couple of nights here. 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 Via Appia - this ancient Roman road is now part of a national park, and closed to car traffic on Sundays. Take a picnic, stroll, and visit the extraordinary catacombs.
Your home from home
Crystal have repeatedly been voted the World’s Best and Serenity is arguably one of the finest ships at sea.
What we love
Crystal Serenity is Symphony's big sister and, like her, is not a new ship; but you wouldn't know it since she is subject to an ongoing refurbishment programme, with constant innovations such as the Outdoor Fitness Garden, which ensures that the environment is always perfect and the style contemporary. This is, in short, a ship constantly honed to perfection. But ultimately it's all about the unmatchable food and service.
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Luxury with a difference: the resort style - with excellent entertainment and facilities, wide range of dining and highly developed on board programme - distinguishes glamorous Crystal from its competitors in the sector.
Tailor-make your trip
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.
Extend your stay in Rome
There are so many great hotels but we particularly love the Campo de’ Fiori, for its great location in the centre of everything.
Beat the queues
Get a private guide to help you jump the queues into the Vatican who can whizz you through the galleries to see the essentials and ensure your best view of the Sistine Chapel.