From beautiful Santorini we sailed to Katakolon, also in Greece. Katakolon is home to Ancient Olympia. This is a magnificent ancient ruin dating back almost 3,000 years and home of the original Olympic games. The marble starting blocks are still visible where 20,000 spectators once stood to watch the Olympians. Every four years the Olympic torch is lit in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera and starts its journey from this awesome ancient and historical site.
From Katakolon we sailed to Saranda, Albania. Situated in a lovely horseshoe bay between the mountains and the Ionian Sea. We wandered along the waterfront of this pretty town and relaxed on the beach. The beach has big sand (large pebbles — not the soft, white kind!) so reef shoes or similar are handy here. You can however rent a sun bed and umbrella from some locals. The water was very pleasant in temperature and the Albanian people were extremely friendly. Also food and drink etc. is quite cheap so Saranda would make for an interesting and reasonably priced family beach holiday.
Venice, Italy was our next port of call. We have been here numerous times (in fact my husband and I were engaged in Venice) and this stop had us staying one night and two days. Unfortunately it wasn’t my favourite port on this voyage and we spent only half a day in the city, preferring the tranquillity and swimming pools on the ship. Venice was hot and humid and SWARMING with people. There were six cruise ships alongside to add to the tourist numbers and general cacophony! The narrow alleys and laneways were at times impassable due to the sheer number of people and the canals were clogged with boats, ferries and gondolas. It was hot and muggy and crowded and after a couple of hours we called it quits and headed back to the relative serenity of the ship. I much prefer Venice in the cooler months. It’s more comfortable and there are far less tourists and one can see Venice, as it is — a truly beautiful and romantic city. You can wander along its cobblestoned streets in comparative peace and the see the sites without risking an elbow to the ribs or to the nose! I do recommend visiting this city in the cooler seasons, but that of course is my opinion.
Our next stop was Dubrovnik, Croatia, also known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”. Its history is rich and intriguing and it provided a fantastic first sight as we sailed into its harbour. We loved wandering around the historical Old Town, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ensure that you go up to the cable car lookout to really appreciate this city from a bird’s eye view. Dubrovnik offers some fabulous exploring and walking tours and is definitely a must see!
Pop in next week when I finish my account of our two-week cruise in Part Three.