Mediterranean – Windstar Cruises – A Luxury Cruise Blog http://blog.windstarcruises.com Tue, 20 Jun 2017 22:12:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Why is Croatia the New Cruise Hot Spot? http://blog.windstarcruises.com/2017/06/croatia-new-cruise-hot-spot/ http://blog.windstarcruises.com/2017/06/croatia-new-cruise-hot-spot/#respond Fri, 02 Jun 2017 22:57:12 +0000 http://blog.windstarcruises.com/?p=7275 By Everett Potter   There’s a remarkable country on everyone’s short list these days, a place where visitors return with tales of a spectacular sapphire sea and a coastline dotted with islands, outstanding Mediterranean food and a pantheon of historic cities and villages. In the past few years, Croatia has been wowing everyone who arrives […]

The post Why is Croatia the New Cruise Hot Spot? appeared first on Windstar Cruises - A Luxury Cruise Blog.

]]>
By Everett Potter

 

There’s a remarkable country on everyone’s short list these days, a place where visitors return with tales of a spectacular sapphire sea and a coastline dotted with islands, outstanding Mediterranean food and a pantheon of historic cities and villages.Cruise_to_Dubrovnik In the past few years, Croatia has been wowing everyone who arrives on its Adriatic shores. Its sights and cuisine compare to those of Italy. No surprise, since many Croatian seafaring towns, such as Rovinj, were built and inhabited by the Venetians.

The best way to arrive is by sea. On a Windstar luxury cruise, you follow the course set by thousands of years of adventurers who plied the waters of this fabled Dalmatian Coast. And discover why this gem of the Adriatic has vaulted to the top of every traveler’s wish list.

 

The Historic Cities

The rich heritage of past civilizations is a hallmark of Croatia, a part of the former Yugoslavia whose history also encompasses the glories of Roman civilization. Historic_DubrovnikWindstar yachts anchor close to the famous walled city of Dubrovnik so you can admire its beauty from the ship. Take a quick tender ashore and literally step into Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where no cars are allowed. At leisure, you can explore such historical sites as the 14th century Franciscan Monastery, Onofrio’s Fountain (dating to 1438), and the 16th century Sponza Palace.

The highlight of visiting the city of Split is Diocletian’s Palace, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating back to 295 A.D., and more recently a film location for Game of Thrones, as is Dubrovnik, too.

Croatia has plenty of other standouts, such as Motovun, a walled hilltop town that has preserved the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance buildings that line its medieval streets. There’s also coastal Pula, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, best known for its many surviving ancient Roman buildings, including a revered 1st century amphitheater. Korcula, an island settled by the Venetians, harbors what many believe to be the birthplace of Marco Polo.

 

Gastronomy

Wine_Tasting_cruiseWhy does everyone rave about the food and wine of Croatia? In part, it’s because it shares so much with Italian cuisine and is familiar to visitors’ palates. But Croatia also produces distinctive olives oils, cheeses, and wine. Not far from the city of Split, Windstar brings you to Stella Croatica Ethno Village, a family-run producer of traditional Dalmatian delicacies such as arancini (stuffed rice balls), sugared almonds, prune cake, fig cake, and prune jam.

In Livade, a village on the Istra Peninsula known for its truffles, you can enjoy a truffle lunch and sample Istrian wine. Outside of Dubrovnik, you can visit the village of Komaji and taste the wines of the legendary Crvik family. All along the coast, fresh seafood rules, with such local specialties such as Dalmatian octopus salad or black risotto made with squid.

 

Adriatic AdventuresHike_Rovinj

Croatia is about much more than history, with vigorous adventure offerings. You can go rafting outside of Split on the Cetina River, past cliffs and waterfalls, on Class I and II rapids. Kayak the Dalmatian Coast and explore Lokrum Island and its 12th century Benedictine monastery. Or take to two wheels and discover the Parenzana Biking Trail through the Istrian landscape.

 

The Essence of Croatia

The entire Croatian coastline is memorable, from the beaches on the island of Korcula to the glitzy party scene in the 13th century island town of Hvar to the elegant seaside resort towns such as Opatija, which has been welcoming visitors since 1844.

Overlooking_Dubrovnik

It has a nearly 8-mile-long promenade known as Lungomare, which is Old Europe personified, a place of fountains, Belle Époque villas, and manicured beaches.

There are also towns like Rovinj, a romantic place renowned for its leather goods. On Pag Island, you can learn about the so-called “white gold,“ or traditional lace, that’s made there and celebrated in the Pag Lace Museum. Simply lingering in the late afternoon at Buza Café, a cliffside bar in Dubrovnik overlooking the shimmering Adriatic Sea, is a good way to experience the essence of Croatia.

 

If You Go:

Windstar has three carefully curated itineraries that explore Croatia. On the Classic Italy & Dalmatian Coast voyage, Windstar offers a chance to explore Italian-flavored Rovinj, which was ruled by Venetians for more than 500 years. It’s the Roman amphitheater, the Byzantine artwork and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Plitvice Lakes that makes a stop in the city of Zadar so memorable on Marvels of the Croatian Coast & Greece. Exploring the Diocletian Palace in Split, walking through Dubrovnik’s Old Town and visiting the island of Mljet, where Odysseus met the nymph Calypso on Quintessential Croatia is a chance to experience your own Adriatic odyssey. For more information contact your travel professional or Windstar Cruises.

 

Everett Potter is the editor-in-chief and publisher of Everett Potter’s Travel Report, a weekly news blog for smart travelers in search of value. He is also a travel columnist for USA TODAY and contributes to ForbesLife, Robb Report, and many other publications.

 

The post Why is Croatia the New Cruise Hot Spot? appeared first on Windstar Cruises - A Luxury Cruise Blog.

]]>
http://blog.windstarcruises.com/2017/06/croatia-new-cruise-hot-spot/feed/ 0
Windstar Voices: Passengers Speak Out http://blog.windstarcruises.com/2017/05/windstar-voices-passengers-speak-out/ http://blog.windstarcruises.com/2017/05/windstar-voices-passengers-speak-out/#respond Thu, 25 May 2017 00:48:19 +0000 http://blog.windstarcruises.com/?p=6912 By Veronica Stoddart   Janet and Tim Elliott, retirees from Wilmington, N.C., were drawn to their first Windstar cruise, in the South Pacific, by the small size of Windstar’s yachts. “The smaller number of people appealed to me,” says Janet. “The size is perfect.”   What they didn’t expect, however, was that five years later […]

The post Windstar Voices: Passengers Speak Out appeared first on Windstar Cruises - A Luxury Cruise Blog.

]]>
By Veronica Stoddart

 

Janet and Tim Elliott, retirees from Wilmington, N.C., were drawn to their first Windstar cruise, in the South Pacific, by the small size of Windstar’s yachts. “The smaller number of people appealed to me,” says Janet. “The size is perfect.”

 

What they didn’t expect, however, was that five years later on a cruise of the French and Italian Rivieras, Janet would be greeted by name by a waiter who actually remembered her from that South Pacific cruise!

Such is the extraordinarily personalized service and attention that are the hallmarks of Windstar Cruises. “I’m so impressed with the staff,” says Janet over lunch in St. Tropez, France, during a recent sailing of the 212-passenger Star Breeze.

 

The Personal Touch

Indeed, many of the passengers on this Mediterranean sailing of the Star Breeze agree. With one of the highest crew-to-passenger ratios at sea, Windstar yachts provide the kind of meticulous service few competitors do.Cruise_Guest

 

Sue and Richard Luothi, retirees from Gainesville, Texas, who have been on a whopping 46 cruises with many lines, agree. “They make it a point to ask one’s names. They knew our names on the second day,” says Sue during a stop in Monte Carlo. “That’s special.”

 

“One of the cool things about a smaller cruise is that the staff knows everyone,” says Jason Johnson, 35, a commercial real estate broker from Indianapolis, who’s on his first cruise, with his wife, Lindsay, 33.

 

“The minute you step aboard they know your name,” says Manana Reccoppa, 43, from Fort Lee, N.J., while lounging in the small pool. She’s on her second Windstar cruise with her husband, Joseph, 55. “They greet me by name all the time.”

 

“They even remember your drink,” says pharmacist Nancy Hahn, who’s on board with her attorney husband, Blair. He adds: “Mel at the bar says, ‘Blair,’ and hands me my drink. They make you feel like you’re taken care of and protected.” The 50-something couple is from Charleston, S.C.

luxury_cruising

“The service is superb. And we understand what hard work it is,” says Galen Barnes. “We lived in Indonesia, so we can banter with the staff [many of whom are Indonesian].” She and her husband, Nyle, retirees from Boise, Idaho, are on their fourth Windstar cruise.

 

“But it’s the food and the small ships that keep us coming back,” says Nyle. “It’s nice that the small ships can get into ports that the others can’t.”

 

Small and Intimate

Cruise_Port-VendresIndeed, size matters. With its fleet of six sailing and motor yachts, none with more than 300 passengers, Windstar offers an intimate cruise experience with vessels that can access small ports and hidden harbors unavailable to the larger ships. In addition to the sexy Riviera and Polynesia, destinations range from hidden Caribbean coves and stunning Norwegian fjords to Costa Rican hideaways and unspoiled islands of Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, among other itineraries.

 

“The nice thing about Windstar is it’s small enough where you can meet new people,” says Tim Elliott. “But if there are some you don’t want to be with, you can stay away, too.”

 

Jason Johnson echoes that sentiment. “It’s like being on a private yacht with some other people,” he says during dinner at Candles, Windstar’s signature outdoor restaurant. “You can be as social or as private as you want.” His wife, Lindsay, who does PR for a real estate developer in Indianapolis, points to a practical issue: “I wasn’t interested in cruising on a large ship because I didn’t want to spend a long time tendering ashore.”

 

“The ports enticed me the most. A lot of bigger ships can’t go to some of those ports,” adds Jason, who would like to cruise again on a small ship. “I’m impressed by the fact that we stayed at harbor in Cannes for the barbecue dinner with a view of the city and the twinkling lights.”

 

“It’s like being on your own super-yacht,” says Dennis Parrington, 37, an IT executive from New Jersey, who’s on his first Windstar cruise with his girlfriend from Hong Kong. “For one day we had the biggest yacht in Monaco. You have to share it with a few hundred other people, but that’s OK.”

small_cruiseLike on a private yacht, a Windstar cruise has the flexibility to spontaneously accommodate special events on shore, such as a dazzling fireworks competition in Cannes. “I was impressed when the Captain delayed our departure time in Cannes so we could stay to experience the fireworks,” says David Le Noble, 54, a stock trader from Broomfield, Colo., who’s cruising with wife, Rebecca, 53, a retired nurse.

 

“The people on the cruise have been a lot of fun,” he adds. “It’s really nice making connections. A man we met from Perth, Australia, invited us to stay with him if we ever go there.” The Le Nobles are experienced cruisers, but this is their first Windstar cruise.

 

“There haven’t been other ships at port, which has been special,” notes Rebecca. “There aren’t a lot of other cruises overwhelming the port.” Plus, “boarding is easy. You don’t have to wait for hours. And I like that you stay longer in port, too.”

 

Windstar cruises allow more time in port including late-night visits so you can sample the local cuisine and lively nightlife.

 

During an evening visit to the glittering Monte Carlo Casino, for example, Sue Luothi, who sailed previously with Windstar in the South Pacific, shared that she “loves the small villages. On large ships you won’t get that experience.”

 

Dennis Parrington also highlighted the itinerary as a big draw. “It’s a great itinerary with really interesting ports. That’s worth the price of admission.”

 

Exclusive Excursions and Private Events

BoraBora_fire-dancersTo get the most out of the itineraries, Windstar offers an array of fun excursions that immerse guests in the local culture and way of life, as well as one exclusive private event on select sailings. These complimentary Destination Discovery Events are designed to give guests a signature experience that’s both in-depth and authentically local.

 

“Excursions are small and very well organized,” says Manana Reccoppa. “You never feel crowded. It’s like your own private boat on the tender.”

 

And Janet Elliott notes that “the tour guides are really good.”

 

Nancy Hahn concurs. “Every excursion has been great,” she says. “The private event was a true event that compares to those you pay for,” referring to an afternoon sampling of pesto, olive oil and Italian specialties at a historic villa on the Italian Riviera, accompanied by live guitar music.

 

Celsus-Library_KusadasiGuests rave about these Destination Discovery Events, which can feature a private recital of Edvard Grieg’s music in Bergen, Norway, or a local feast with traditional fire dancers on Bora Bora, or the moonlit dinner and concert at Ephesus, near Kusadasi.

 

“The special event makes the experience more authentic. You can’t get this on your own,” says Galen Barnes.

 

Rebecca Le Noble finds “the private event was really special and not something you get on other cruises.”

 

Food, Glorious Food

cruise_menuOften the private on-shore events feature food. But what’s served on board makes for stiff competition. In addition to the classics, cruise chefs typically prepare regional dishes made with local, sustainable ingredients that reflect the itinerary — Italian or French on this Mediterranean cruise, for example. Avid foodies can often join chefs as they shop for fresh ingredients at local markets, too.

 

“The food is excellent and we’re used to eating well,” says Manana Reccoppa. “Food is consistently good in all the dining rooms.”

 

Even “the quality of the room service has been good with freshly made food,” observes Rebecca LeNoble. “It wasn’t sitting around.” Her husband, David, adds: “There’s a good selection of room service items. And they include specialty coffees, which not a lot of other cruise lines do.”

 

Unique Features

Open_Bridge_cruiseGuests gush about Windstar’s unique features — namely, the Watersports Platform and the Open Bridge Policy. On Windstar yachts you can swim, snorkel, sail, water ski, windsurf, paddle board and kayak from a platform that opens right onto the sea from the vessel’s aft. Plus, you can watch the Captain and crew navigate the open seas or dock in a small port by visiting the Bridge anytime you want. Windstar’s Open Bridge Policy is a rarity in the cruise industry.

 

“Another cool thing is the Watersports Platform,” says Dennis Parrington. “It was fun to swim off a yacht.”

 

Cruise_Watersports-Platform“Their watersports activities are very unique,” says Rebecca LeNoble. “One of the staffers even gave me paddle board lessons… And being able to go on the Bridge and hang out was so cool.” Husband David adds. “It was pretty amazing to go out in a kayak [right from the yacht].”

All in all, Manana Reccoppa may well speak for many others when she sums up the Windstar experience: “It feels like family,” she says. “It’s the best. We’ll never cruise with any other line.”

 

 

IF YOU GO

Europe 2018 cruises will have something for everyone, from shorter week-long sailings to epic multi-week voyages. As we have just recently announced eight new itineraries in Northern Europe and 12 new Mediterranean itineraries, bringing Windstar’s total unique itineraries in Europe for 2018 to an impressive 40.

The sailings, running April through October, include a bevy of unique “small ship-only” experiences, like cruising the impossibly narrow Trollfjord in the Lofoten Islands; docking in downtown London near the Tower of London, where guests can marvel at Tower Bridge as they sail underneath the iconic structure; or tucking into exclusive San Remo on the Riviera of Flowers, known as Italy’s own Monte Carlo.

About the Author

Award-winning travel editor and writer Veronica Stoddart is the former editor-in-chief of the Travel Media Group at USA TODAY and is currently a content marketing consultant. She has written for nearly two-dozen publications and websites, visited 100 countries and counting and loves travel as a force for good in the world. Ms. Stoddart sailed on a Windstar cruise in Europe in 2016 for this story. Follow her on Twitter: @wanderlust13.

The post Windstar Voices: Passengers Speak Out appeared first on Windstar Cruises - A Luxury Cruise Blog.

]]>
http://blog.windstarcruises.com/2017/05/windstar-voices-passengers-speak-out/feed/ 0
Small Cruise Ships Offer Exclusive Entry to Europe’s Hidden Harbors in Italy, Croatia, Montenegro & Beyond http://blog.windstarcruises.com/2016/04/small-cruise-ships-offer-exclusive-entry-to-europes-hidden-harbors-in-italy-croatia-montenegro-beyond/ http://blog.windstarcruises.com/2016/04/small-cruise-ships-offer-exclusive-entry-to-europes-hidden-harbors-in-italy-croatia-montenegro-beyond/#respond Fri, 08 Apr 2016 00:06:23 +0000 http://blog.windstarcruises.com/?p=5929 The Adriatic is having a moment. In recent years, Croatia and lesser-known Montenegro have blossomed into “must go now” destinations in Europe, thanks to their stunning beauty, glimmering beaches, and old world charm. Pair those elements with the value, flexibility and many conveniences of a cruise vacation. It’s no wonder Windstar yacht guests love sailing […]

The post Small Cruise Ships Offer Exclusive Entry to Europe’s Hidden Harbors in Italy, Croatia, Montenegro & Beyond appeared first on Windstar Cruises - A Luxury Cruise Blog.

]]>
The Adriatic is having a moment. In recent years, Croatia and lesser-known Montenegro have blossomed into “must go now” destinations in Europe, thanks to their stunning beauty, glimmering beaches, and old world charm. Pair those elements with the value, flexibility and many conveniences of a cruise vacation. It’s no wonder Windstar yacht guests love sailing the sun-kissed Dalmatian Coast and Italy’s legendary Amalfi on board a chic small ship – blissfully free from crowds but in the heart of the action in quaint Old World towns, off the charted course.

luxury-cruising

Our Classic Italy and Dalmatian Coast itinerary brings guests to the best of Croatia: walk the ancient walls surrounding the center of Dubrovnik, stroll the polished marble streets of Split, and imbibe the freshest seafood and a dizzying array of Croatian wines in Rovinj. Next door, neighboring Kotor, Montenegro shows off the glory bestowed only upon UNESCO World Heritage sites, filled with medieval architecture, historic monuments, you’ll  delight in photo opportunities at every turn.

It’s the Mediterranean’s most charming and historic destinations, all in one incomparable voyage… not to mention also spending precious time in absolutely classic Italian ports of call including Capri, Sicily, Rome, and Venice.

 

So how do you spend your days in this fantastically diverse conglomeration of ports? Here are a few of our favorite highlights for a rich, varied, and, yes, Classic experience.

Rome-cruise

 

 

Rome, Italy

Where do you even begin in Rome? The Vatican? The Pantheon? There’s so much history to soak up in this vibrant city, and even if you’ve seen it all before, there are many reasons to return in 2016. The Colosseum was recently cleaned and given a $35 million “face lift”; the Trevi Fountain has also had a clean-up; and the Circus Maximus, along with other historic Roman sites, will glitter on the big screen in the remake of Ben Hur, opening in theaters this summer.

 

Capri-cruiseCapri, Italy

This little island off the coast of Italy is one of those places you feel sexy just thinking about. Cool cafes, Hollywood lore, and rugged seascapes… it’s all here. Our favorite shore excursion A Taste of Capri and Blue Grotto gives you a little of everything, including seeing the sunlight passing through an underwater cave at the aptly named Blue Grotto. Mix in some other panoramic views (including Mount Vesuvius in the distance), local wine and cheese, and strolls through the narrow streets or the Augustus Gardens, and you have the perfect Capri day.

 

 

Private-EventGiardini Naxos, Italy

By now you may have heard of our Private Event program (or we hope you have! Each Windstar cruise includes a complimentary one). On the Classic Italy and Dalmatian Coast sailing, it’s the Tastes of Sicily experience in Giardini Naxos. The Private Event begins with a trip to a family-run winery, where guests get a tastes-on education in what to expect from world-class Sicilian wines, enjoying delicate extra-virgin olive oil made in the region as well. After the tour, lunch is served with a selection of traditional Sicilian food and, of course, more wine.

 

Kotor, MontenegroKotor-cruise

If getting there is half the fun, the experience of sailing into Kotor is three quarters the fun. It’s just that breathtaking. Sailing through the winding Bay of Kotor, called Europe’s southernmost fjord, on a small ship is a magical moment. Guests on board get their fill of blues and greens as the sea gives way to perhaps the most beautiful waterside settlement in the world. When the bright red rooftops of the medieval town of Kotor come into view, you’ve only just begun. Kotor is why we love cruising.

 

I do so love the Dalmatian coast — the Croatian coast line and ports are beautiful, you must experience the run up to Kotor in Montenegro.”
~ Captain Belinda Bennett, MSY Wind Star Master

 

Dubrovnik-cruiseDubrovnik, Croatia

Not to be outdone by Kotor, one of our OTHER favorite moments on this sailing is getting to dock in the heart of Old Town Dubrovnik. It’s what makes sailing on Windstar and small ships so special since the larger ships have to dock in a port farther away and bus their guests into the walled city. Because you’re closer to the destination, you get to make the most of your day at a more leisurely pace. We like to cozy up on the terrace at Proto, an old-fashioned restaurant specializing in the freshest Dalmatian seafood, and enjoy a glass of wine with a platter of oysters. If being active is more your style, we love the option of kayaking around the historic city walls on our Kayaking the City Walls & Lokrum Island half-day excursion.

 

Split, CroatiaSplit-cruise

Yes, Split is known for its beaches and the impressive Diocletian’s Palace, but we like to hit the road to the Krka River Waterfalls in Krka National Park. The falls cascade over 17 natural barriers, and the park is teeming with wildlife and nearly 1,000 varieties of plants. But if the beaches are calling your name, Bacvice is one of the most popular swimming spots in Split. Don’t miss the street food from local vendors, like Croatian jelly doughnuts, yum!

 

 

Rovinj-cruiseRovinj, Croatia

You might want to work off the Croatian donuts, so in Rovinj, we like to stretch our legs on the Parenzana Biking Trail. Previously a narrow-gauge railway line, it follows a meandering course across the Istrian countryside. This super scenic adventure of course includes refreshments. And if refreshments as an activity itself sounds more fitting, Windstar offers a shore excursion to the seaside resort of Prorec with wine tasting… cheers to that.

 

Venice, Italy

Windstar visits more ports in Italy than any other country.  Venice is arguably the Queen of the Adriatic, so of course we visit this mesmerizing floating city on several cruise itineraries. Serenades on a gondola ride, shopping for Venetian glassware, lingering over an espresso in Piazza San Marco, or digging into a plate of Baccala’ Mantecata (salted codfish with polenta)… Venice NEVER disappoints. Never.Venice-cruise

 

Considering putting your own spin on this sailing experience? Don’t miss Windstar’s “Pick Your Perk” in Europe promotion, which is available on 14 Classic Italy and Dalmatian Coast sailings and on dozens of other itineraries including iconic Greek Isles.  The promotion includes the choice between The Yacht VIP Package, an all-inclusive onboard savings package of up to $1,700 per stateroom including free wi-fi, complimentary gratuities and beverage package, or two free hotel nights, pre or post cruise.

 

Have you ever visited these ports in Italy and the Dalmatian Coast? What was your favorite highlight? Tell us in the comments below!

 

 

The post Small Cruise Ships Offer Exclusive Entry to Europe’s Hidden Harbors in Italy, Croatia, Montenegro & Beyond appeared first on Windstar Cruises - A Luxury Cruise Blog.

]]>
http://blog.windstarcruises.com/2016/04/small-cruise-ships-offer-exclusive-entry-to-europes-hidden-harbors-in-italy-croatia-montenegro-beyond/feed/ 0