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Setting sail from Athens (Piraeus)
Athens is a city awash with historical and cultural significance. Towering over the city are the gleaming columns of the Parthenon, surely one of the most iconic sights in the whole of Europe. And yet Athens is much more than an open air museum; this is a dynamic, bustling metropolis, and a place where history is still very much unfolding. For all its faults, the Greek capital possesses an energy and an optimism that are manifest in everything from the burgeoning art scene to the restaurants and bars that continue to pop up on a regular basis.
Obviously don’t miss the Acropolis, nor the new adjacent museum, where space has pointedly been left for the frieze we call the Elgin Marbles – it is really excellent. Then take time to stroll on the hills and slopes around the outcrop.
Hydra is unique amongst the Greek islands, blissfully free of motorised traffic; transport here is by donkey, water taxi or on foot. The island has attracted many artists, musicians and actors over the years, but retains a rustic and tranquil atmosphere.
Greece: Agios Nikolaos
The charming port of Agios Nikolaos, on the north east coast of Crete, offers a beguiling blend of characterful tavernas, lively bars and designer boutiques. The town is centred around little Lake Voulismeni, and nearby attractions include some lovely beaches and the Minoan ruins at Gournia.
Gozo is Malta’s laid back little sister, a sleepy island characterised by ruggedly beautiful coastline, medieval citadels and prehistoric temples. It’s also a popular destination for divers, with some of the most spectacular underwater scenery anywhere in the Mediterranean.
Malta’s tiny capital, established by the Knights of St John, packs in an awful lot of history considering its diminutive size. The atmospheric old streets, bathed in Mediterranean sunshine, are full of attractive honey-golden buildings, along with an impressive selection of bars and restaurants.
Italy: Florence / Pisa (Livorno)
The faded port town of Livorno serves as a gateway to Tuscany’s star attractions. Wonderful Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, is resplendent with beautiful architecture and unrivalled artistic treasures, while nearby Pisa is of course famous for its precarious Leaning Tower.
The colourful facades along Portovenere’s UNESCO-listed harbourfront make this one of the most picturesque villages on the Ligurian coast, and it has often been described as the ‘sixth town’ of the Cinque Terre. Wandering the narrow alleyways is a delight, and it’s worth the climb to the impressive hilltop Castle Doria.
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 Barcelona.
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
Extend your stay in Athens
At Mundy, we have long been hunting for the perfect Athenian hotel - our favourite so far is the Electra Palace in Plaka.
Excursions from Athens
Delphi is an absolute must – you’ll need a full day though, it’s quite a drive.
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.