The Royal Clipper – A Mediterranean Odyssey
|The Royal Clipper - A Mediterranean Odyssey
|Croatia, Europe, Greece, Italy, Montenegro
DAY 1 ARRIVAL IN VENICE
ARRIVAL IN VENICE
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Venice where we stay one night with breakfast. Your hotel is the four-star Plaza Mestre, or the four-star Hotel Splendid.
DAY 2 BOARD THE ROYAL CLIPPER
BOARD THE ROYAL CLIPPER
Venice is quite unique in the truest sense of the word and this mornings included tour will reveal the citys most famous sights, including the glorious Doges Palace, St. Marks with its magnificently decorated Basilica and grandiose square, the legendary Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto plus a host of other fascinating gems. After this you will have some free time to explore as you wish, perhaps starting with a peaceful gondola ride on Venices backwaters, or a trip on the iconic vaporetto water bus along the Grand Canal which teems with vessels of all sorts, just as it has for centuries. For art lovers, the Accademia houses a world-class collection of incredible masterpieces, whilst the markets near the Rialto are as traditional as you can get and the view from the Campanile bell tower is unrivalled possibly anywhere in the world. Away from the bustle though, is another equally fascinating Venice – endless quiet corners waiting to be discovered, washing stretched high across narrow canals between picturesque yet crumbling buildings, curious little shops dotted here and there and locals, putting the world to rights in tiny tucked-away bars.
This afternoon the adventure begins. We board the SPV Royal Clipper and the crew, ready to welcome you, ensure you settle in and familiarise yourself with the ship, your first-class floating hotel.
As the sun dips below the rooftops of Venice, the Royal Clipper slips its moorings and glides majestically through the city. All of the citys grand palaces and churches as well as the incredible Doges Palace are bathed in the golden light of the sunset – there is no better way to start our journey!
DAY 3 ROVINJ
The first morning on board is always a thrill: the unique sound of the hull powerfully cutting through the clear waters below is quite electrifying.
As the morning unfurls we approach the stunning Croatian coast and dramatic Istrian peninsula. Part of the Roman Empire, Croatia was then ruled in medieval times by the Venetians. Subsequently, it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and finally Italian. Latterly it was incorporated into Yugoslavia before eventually becoming independent. Totally unspoilt, Croatia today is how the Mediterranean was perhaps a generation ago: the towns still very traditional with little unsightly development spoiling the wonderful natural coastline.
You disembark at the pretty fishing port of Rovinj where a maze of Italianate waterside buildings perches above the crystal blue of the Adriatic. The most satisfying activity here is to simply lose oneself in the web of medieval alleyways and lanes spreading out from the waterfront. From the splendid baroque church enjoy the views across the 22 small islands that form a natural park, or stroll along the steps of Grisia Street lined with art galleries, before resting for a quiet drink in one of the charming harbour side cafs. You set sail once again heading south to the undeniably beautiful island of Hvar.
DAY 4 DALMATIAN COAST
A stunning island in the Dalmatian archipelago, Hvar is one of the most enchanting spots in the entire Mediterranean. You disembark into this delightful and bewitching little town where wandering is a joy! Compact and cosy, even the streets have no names. Should you wish to explore the island itself, there is a jeep safari that you can purchase locally which visits the legacies left by the Romans and Greeks and drives through abandoned medieval villages. As you enjoy another excellent dinner we continue our southward journey sailing along one of the most beautiful stretches of water in the world the amazing Dalmatian coast. This archipelago has to be seen to be believed: a series of islands, some small, some large, some with tiny fishing villages clinging to the seashore, all covered by a green carpet of lush Mediterranean forest that exudes its typical pine scent in the warm night air.
This evening nothing will beat the exhilaration of a sundowner on deck, as the sun sets in the west and the stars twinkle above in the clear night sky.
DAY 5 DUBROVNIK
As you wake this morning you will again be treated to the continuing delight of the Dalmatian coast before we gently round the headland when the unique city of Dubrovnik, Pearl of the Adriatic, makes its astonishing debut.
An independent city-state for much of its history, Dubrovnik has evolved differently to the rest of Croatia. The city threw off its Venetian masters in medieval times and founded a commercial empire trading with the eastern Mediterranean, France, Spain and later the Ottoman Empire. As so often happened, the city began to reflect its resultant wealth and today this wonderfully baroque city proudly nestles behind its huge imposing ramparts in a situation of outstanding natural beauty. The main avenue, lined with charming cafs, is completely paved with marble, which dazzles in the sunlight and gives credence to its description as the Pearl of the Adriatic.
Throughout the city you will find a wonderful array of monasteries, beautifully decorated churches and civic buildings dating from the 14th century, reflecting Dubrovniks outstanding artistic heritage. We have an included guided walking tour seeing all this and more, after which you are free to explore at your leisure before re-joining the Royal Clipper for dinner.
DAY 6 MONTENEGRO
By morning you will have crossed into outstandingly beautiful Montenegro with its sapphire-blue coastline. Prepare to be truly amazed by the views! We sail into a huge inland sea, almost a lake, with the topography rather reminiscent of Switzerland. Reflections of the surrounding mountains dance on the water whilst sleepy, timeless fishing villages hug the shoreline.
We anchor and visit the walled town of Kotor, nestling below a mountainside in probably Montenegros most dramatic setting. With a labyrinth of cobbled streets surrounding its Orthodox Cathedral that radiate to quiet intimate squares, Kotor is a delight to explore. Its bustling market really is from yesteryear, selling homemade cheese, cured hams, honey and Mediterranean vegetables of every colour, shape and size in a refreshingly chaotic manner! You can try some of the local wine too, which despite its lack of international exposure, is rather good and exceptional value. We weigh anchor late afternoon and continue our southward voyage.
DAY 7 CORFU
You arrive in Corfu around lunchtime, at the mouth of the Adriatic. Between Italy and mainland Greece, with just a narrow channel of sea separating it from Albania, this is Greeces emerald isle, cloaked in olive, pine and cypress trees and well renowned for the beauty of its spectacular coastline. The island has a chequered past: colonised by the ancient Corinthians, then the Romans and the Byzantines, it fell to the Venetians, was captured by the French, and finally the British, before joining modern Greece in 1864. All have influenced picturesque Corfu Town, one of the most attractive and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe, which owes much of its charm to the disparate architectural elements it contains: its two massive Venetian fortresses and the grand palaces and public buildings from the French and British eras.
We have a choice of two included tours. Our Achilleion & Corfu Town trip visits the splendid palace built by the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, also used by the Greek royal family. We return to Corfu Town, for a walking tour amongst the maze of charming narrow lanes, ending with some free time around the Spianada, the towns main square, lined with cafs where you can relax with some traditional meze.
Our second option is a drive towards the famous bays of Paleokastritsa, known as the Amalfi coast of Greece. As you cross the countryside, youll see how little things have changed: in the villages black-robed women carrying firewood still ride along side-saddle on their mules! We visit the Byzantine Monastery of the Virgin still inhabited by a community of monks – and its small museum, housing a unique collection of Byzantine icons. From the gardens you can admire breath-taking views over the beautiful bays of Paleokastritsa below, with their crystal-clear waters and rocky promontories. Opposite is the 13th century fort of Angelokastro, perched high on a rocky pillar, rising a thousand feet from the sea. We return to the Old Town of Corfu for a walking tour and some free time.
The Royal Clipper sets sail from Corfu after dinner.
DAY 8 AT SEA
As the wind fills the sails today you head west across the Adriatic to the southernmost point of Italy and the enchanting island of Sicily. You are at sea today, so what is it to be? Top up your tan on the sun deck or have a dip in one of the pools.
You are most welcome to visit the bridge too, but for the most outstanding view of all why not ascend up to the crows nest with harness!) or perhaps just catch up on some reading. Let your mind wander and reflect on who, in the same manner, has crossed these seas before you: Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, the Crusaders, the Venetians, Napoleon and countless others.
DAY 9 TAORMINA
This morning you will awake on the eastern shore of Sicily in the bay of Taormina, and you would find it difficult to find a more agreeable spot in which to spend the day. It is one of the smartest and most exclusive small towns in Italy! Retaining much of its medieval charm, wonderfully situated on a high balcony, facing Etna and overlooking the sea, it is renowned for its beautiful gardens and peaceful atmosphere. Today its short main street is lined by smart, designer boutiques and exclusive jewellers. Tiny side streets, some of which are so narrow you can touch both sides at once, lead to intimate piazzas lined with atmospheric family run restaurants. As you would expect in a country so famous for its cuisine, speciality food shops selling fresh pasta, olives, Sicilian wine and the local Marsala abound. Splashes of vibrant colour from the smart window boxes and stylish locals deep in animated conversation complete the picture.
Taorminas greatest claim to fame though is its amazing theatre, a legacy of the ancient Greeks. Wonderfully preserved and still in us today, it has a panoramic view of Etna, Europes highest volcano, as its awesome natural backdrop! Early evening, you sail northwards past the volcanicAeolian Islands and Stromboli enjoying another magnificent sunset to port.
DAY 10 AMALFI COAST & CAPRI
AMALFI COAST & CAPRI
This morning feast your eyes on the legendary Amalfi coast! Cited by most guidebooks as Europes most beautiful, a claim, once seen, it is difficult to refute. Deep ochre-coloured mountains, covered with thick forest plunge dramatically into the calm blue Mediterranean. You sail along the coast, past headlands diving almost sheer into the beautiful sea, with birds soaring on the many thermals and the air full of the scent of pine forests and wild flowers. You soon pass exclusive Positano with its tangle of white houses tumbling down the steep cliffs to the picturesque harbour below, eventually arriving at todays destination, the isle of Capri.
Renowned for its outstanding natural beauty, it has long been sought after: three Roman Emperors were attracted here; both D.H. Lawrence and George Bernard Shaw sought inspiration, whilst Graham Greene and Gracie Fields made it their home. It is easy to see why it is so adored: as we approach the island, you can see fishing boats at anchor rising and falling with the waves and pretty shops lining the quaint quayside. The picturesque main town is perched high above and you may wish to visit the Blue Grotto whilst you are here, a large cavern reachable only by boat, and which by a freak of nature is bathed in an iridescent blue light. Early evening you return to the Royal Clipper.
DAY 11 SORRENTO & POMPEII
SORRENTO & POMPEII
This morning you wake up moored below the multi-hued villas and houses of Sorrento, which came to fame during the late 18th century when it became part of the Grand Tour for Europes aristocracy. Today its everything you imagine an Italian town to be: cobbled streets and quaint squares, bright flowers decorating every pastel-coloured, crumbling building, the stylish young astride their vespas and the wondrous aroma of fresh coffee drifting from the pavement cafs which grace almost every street corner.
Or you can visit nearby Pompeii where we have an included guided tour of this amazing site. The story is well known, but this is more than a series of ruins; the state of preservation is remarkable and even if you are not so interested in the history, you cannot fail to be moved by the scale of the city, the construction of which puts many of our modern structures to shame.
Much of our knowledge of the life of the ordinary Roman, their habits, social structure, class systems and domestic arrangements comes from the excavations at Pompeii. Some of the baths are virtually complete as are various murals and mosaics, with some buildings displaying graffiti describing political events of the period, romantic entanglements and some just plain gossip! You can even see the traffic-calming measures and how the one-way system operated and appreciate the high standard of living of the Roman elite. You will be moved by the simultaneously fascinating yet eerie, pained expressions of the victims of Vesuvius, preserved as a monument for all time.
This afternoon the Royal Clipper sets sail on the final leg of our odyssey northwards, towards Rome. This is the final opportunity to relax on board so take a dip in the pool and watch the sun setting for the final time in a blaze of colour before enjoying your last dinner on board this spectacular ship.
DAY 12 ROME
This morning you disembark at Civitavecchia near Rome and there is still plenty to enjoy. Rome was, is and always will be, one of the worlds most compelling cities with probably more to see here than in any other capital on earth.
Boasting an uninterrupted recorded history for upwards of 2,500 years, nowhere else seems to have managed to combine, and with such finesse, a heritage of classical antiquities and medieval buildings from Renaissance palaces to intricate baroque piazzas. The grandeur of the Colosseum, scene of some of the most cruel acts ever committed, the Appian Way where Spartacus was crucified, the magnificence of St. Peters, the grandeur of the Vatican, the sheer brilliance of the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain and flamboyant Baroque buildings are all here and the list is endless. But Rome is much more than monuments alone, incredible though they are!
A city is nothing without people and Romes citizens have been amongst the most colourful in history with probably nowhere having been visited by so many of the worlds famous for so long: Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Nero, Atilla the Hun, St Peter, the Medici, Michelangelo, Napoleon, Byron, Garibaldi and Pope Jean-Paul II – all captivated by its magnificence. There is a host of other things to experience too. Take a coffee in the famous Caff Greco, once the haunt of Keats, Byron and Wagner. You could shop along the Via Condotti for some of the finest clothes you will find anywhere fashion straight from the catwalk. Perhaps the most satisfying activity though, is simply to wander where your feet take you and explore this wonderful city at your leisure stopping off where you wish. Rome will not fail to captivate you.
You have a tour of the city before checking into our hotel, the four-star Crowne Plaza RomeSt Peters, staying one night with breakfast.
DAY 13 RETURN FLIGHT
Today at the appropriate time you will be taken to the airport for your flight home. Whilst the holiday may be over, reminiscences of the sights you have seen, experiences you have had and people you have met on this unique and special voyage of discovery will remain with you for a very long time to come.