24 night cruise sailing from Rome (Civitavecchia) aboard the Pacific Princess
Visit Portofino, Monte Carlo, Malta (La Valletta), Taormina, Kotor, Split, Ljubljana, Slovenia (Koper), Rijeka, Venice, Dubrovnik, Athens (Piraeus), Santorini, Ephesus, Aghios Nikolaos, Crete, Mykonos, Sicily, Sorrento and Rome (Civitavecchia).
Your gateway to the Eternal City, Civitavecchia has served as Rome's seaport since the 13th century. The port has a long and venerable history. The emperor Trajan built a pleasure villa near the modern city, while Bernini and Michelangelo designed the harbor fortifications. Yet the Eternal City eternally beckons. The ancient capital of the Western World and the center of Christianity for nearly 2,000 years, Rome provides an inexhaustible feast. Visit the ruins of the Forum, view the splendors of the Sistine Chapel, or climb the Spanish Steps, once the heart of Rome's Bohemian Quarter. Rome has been a magnet luring the world's greatest artists, architects, and philosophers since the days of the Caesars.
Portofino and the small fishing ports of the Ligurian Coast are worthy rivals to St. Tropez and the French Riviera. Stroll seaside promenades lined with palm trees or climb narrow alleys lined with towering, pastel-painted houses. Secluded coves, promontories crowned with medieval churches, fine beaches - Portofino and the Ligurian Riviera offer some of the finest scenery in all Italy. Portofino has been a popular winter resort since the 19th century, when the railway first connected the small fishing ports of the Italian Riviera with Genoa. Note: Portofino is an anchorage port - guests transfer to shore via ship's tender.
Monte Carlo is the playground of the rich and famous. Sleek yachts grace the harbor. Boutiques offer the latest fashions from the most prestigious couturiers in Europe. Cafés, cabarets and the elegant Casino throb with nightlife. Monte Carlo is also the modern district of the principality of Monaco. This Xanadu sits on a promontory above the old port of Monaco and its dazzling harbor. Monte Carlo sprang to life with the opening of the Casino, designed by Charles Garnier, whose credits include the Paris Opera. Monte Carlo lies at the heart of the Riviera. Stunning scenery and charming seaside resorts are to be found in either direction along the Golden Corniche.
Malta is the largest in a group of seven islands that occupy a strategic position between Europe and Africa. The island's history is long and turbulent. Everyone from the Normans to the Nazis have vied for control of this small, honey-colored rock. For centuries the island was the possession of the knightly Order of St. John - the Knights Hospitaller. Valletta, Malta's current capital, was planned by the Order's Grandmaster Jean de la Valette to secure the island's eastern coast from Turk incursions. Founded in 1566, Valletta's bustling streets are lined with superb Baroque buildings and churches. Malta has a long history: the megalithic stone temples at Gozo may be the oldest freestanding structures on Earth. Malta has two official languages, Maltese (constitutionally the national language) and English. Malta was admitted to the European Union in 2004 and in 2008 became part of the eurozone.
Sailing into the wide, horseshoe-shaped Bay of Naxos, one is drawn to the sight of Mt. Etna looming over the landscape. It's the same sight that greeted Greek adventurers over 2,700 years ago as they established their first colony in Sicily on the Bay's shore and named it Naxos. Today Giardini Naxos serves as your gateway to Southern Sicily, from the city of Messina and the charming resort of Taormina to those sheer volcanic slopes first spied by travelers arriving from sea. Note: Giardini Naxos is an anchorage port. Transportation from the ship to shore will be via the ship's tender service.
Kotor lies at the head of Boka Bay. Bordered by towering limestone cliffs, the winding bay is actually Southern Europe's longest and most dramatic fjord. The port itself is a medieval gem: its narrow, asymmetrical streets are lined with ancient stone houses, old palaces, and churches dating from the 12th century. Kotor is also your gateway to the cultural and scenic wonders of Montenegro, from the old royal capital at Cetinje to the marshes and wildlife of Lake Skadar National Park. Kotor is renowned for its nightlife: the streets of the old port are lined with pubs, taverns and cafés. The city is also host to a renowned summer carnival. Kotor is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore via ship's tender.
Pine-clad hills, secluded coves, beaches - Split and the Dalmatian Riviera have been premier destinations on the Adriatic since the days of the Roman emperors. In fact, medieval Split was built within and around the palace complex built for the emperor Diocletian in his retirement. (The complex included both a villa and a castrum - a Roman camp capable of garrisoning three legions!) The charms that soothed an emperor are still evident today. The Dalmatian Riviera offers the traveler a heady blend of natural beauty and fascinating cultural sites.
Slovenia's largest port possesses a long and colorful history. Over the course of two millennia, the city has been ruled by the Roman Empire, the Republic of Venice, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Italy and Yugoslavia. Koper's history has been well-preserved in its city center, which boasts well-preserved medieval squares, a 15th century Venetian palace and Slovenia's largest cathedral. Koper is also your gateway to Slovenia proper. Ljubljana, the nation's capital, is a mere 90-minute drive away. The political and cultural heart of Slovenia, Ljubljana is a graceful city of Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture and bridges. The region surrounding Koper is also home to Slovenia's largest cave and the Lipica Stud Farm, home of the legendary Lipizzaner horses. Slovenia is a seismically active country. In 1511 and 1895, Ljubljana was devastated by massive earthquakes. Rebuilding resulted in the city's distinctive architecture.
Croatia's third-largest city is an ancient port town with a turbulent past. The Liburnians, Celts, Romans, Ostrogoths, and Byzantines, just to name a few, attacked and occupied Rijeka until the Habsburgs' reign began in the 15th century and ended 450 years later. Often considered the gateway to other Croatian cities, Rijeka makes for an intriguing visit. Much of the city's splendor is contained within the old town, replete with ornate Austro-Hungarian buildings. With its Roman walls, medieval churches, and the hilltop Trsat Castle, a 13th-century fortress offering 360-degree views of the city, there is much to see and enjoy. A stroll down the pedestrian promenade, the "Korzo," is the perfect opportunity to window shop in its charming boutiques or people-watch at a café. You'll also find a treasure trove of heritage sites, including the City Tower, which boasts four clocks. The beautiful and octagonal Church of St. Vitus and the Venetian-inspired National Theater can also be seen on a walking tour. Rijeka is also a thoroughly modern city with landscaped gardens, museums, and a burgeoning restaurant scene.
Rising from the waters of the Laguna Veneta, Venice has long - and rightly - been regarded as one of the world's most beautiful cities. Napoleon, who had an eye for acquisitions, once described St. Mark's Square as the finest drawing room in Europe. Certainly, no other site can quite match its superb campanile, Doge's Palace and recumbent lions. Just over two miles in length, the Grand Canal is lined with stunning buildings that reflect the city's unique heritage. Cruise through its winding canals on a gondola or watch the bronze Moors on the clock tower strike the passing hours as they have for 500 years - Venice is an unparalleled experience. The city began life as a refuge from barbarian invasions. By the Crusades, Venice's dominion extended throughout the Adriatic and Mediterranean. The winged lion - symbol of St. Mark - flew over palaces and fortresses from Gibraltar to the Black Sea.
Dubrovnik is a beautiful stone jewel hugging the Adriatic Sea. This picture-perfect medieval walled city offers ancient stone buildings, narrow cobbled streets and fortified ramparts rising above red-tiled rooftops. Stradun is the city's focal point and main artery while Dubrovnik's streets are blessedly free of vehicular traffic. Despite the heavy damage inflicted by shelling in the early '90s, Dubrovnik has been restored to its pre-war beauty. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old city remains the pride of the Republic of Croatia. For six centuries Dubrovnik was an independent republic - an oligarchy ruled by patrician families. The Republic was overthrown by Napoleon in 1808.
The past maintains a vibrant presence in the cradle of Western civilization. Atop the Acropolis, the serene Parthenon sails above the commotion of the modern city. The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were performed in the Theater of Dionysus at the foot of the Acropolis. On Pnyx Hill, citizens of a fledgling democracy gathered to cast their votes on Athens' destiny. Then there is the hustle and bustle of the modern city, a metropolis of 4.5 million that spreads out from the foot of Mt. Lycabettus and across the plain. Packed with busy shops and lively tavernas, modern Athens is a colorful counterpoint to classical Greece. Piraeus is the port city for Athens and has been Athens' port of entry for over two millennia.
Did the catastrophic volcanic eruption that ravaged Santorini circa 1600 B.C. destroy Crete's ancient Minoan civilization - and give birth to the myth of Atlantis? In 1967, archaeologists on Santorini unearthed the remains of a Bronze Age city that may have been home to as many as 30,000 people. Whether the Lost Continent of Atlantis is rooted in myth or reality, an undisputed fact remains. The eruption created a caldera - and one of the most dramatic land and seascapes in the entire Mediterranean. On Santorini, whitewashed buildings cling to vertiginous cliffs that plunge to a turquoise sea. Part of the Cyclades Archipelago, the three-island group of Santorini, Thirasia and uninhabited Aspronisi present the traveler with unforgettable vistas. The island has had a number of names throughout history - from Strongyle or "Round" to Thera in honor of an ancient hero. Santorini is more recent and stems from the island church dedicated to St. Irene - Santa Rini to foreign sailors.
From the port of Kusadasi on Turkey's Anatolian Coast, one travels into the past. Nearby stand the ruins of ancient Ephesus, a major site of archeological excavation. The city was once a Roman provincial capital and trading center. Ephesus is also home to several of Christendom's holiest sites. St. Paul preached at the Great Theater and the ruins of Ephesus' Basilica cover the tomb of Christ's most beloved disciple, St. John the Apostle. In Kusadasi, whitewashed stone houses rise in tiers behind the market district. The palm-lined esplanade is the center of town life, with thousands of merchants offering wares to rival the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.
The nearby Lassithi Plateau is the highest inhabited plateau in all Greece. Nearby Mt. Dikti rises some 7,218 feet (2,200m) above sea level. White-washed houses climb the slopes of this charming port on the Gulf of Mirabello. The small harbor is surrounded by restaurants, cafés, and shops prepared to dispense everything under the sun - from necessities to souvenirs. Aghios Nikolaos is also your gateway to the Minoan ruins at Knossos and to the famous windmills of the Lassithi Plateau.
Thanks to its proximity to the mainland, Mykonos was one of the first Greek islands to become an international travel destination. During the late '60s and early '70s, Mykonos was famed as a haunt for the rich. The island's nightlife - then and now - was a glittering whirl of colored lights, music, and parties. But there's another side to Mykonos - the neighboring island of Delos. In classical mythology, Delos was the birthplace of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. Travelers to Delos can stroll among the island's vast ruins, which include three temples consecrated to the Sun God and the famed Lions Walk. Mykonos town features hip boutiques, restaurants, jewelry stores, souvenirs, taverns and cafés. The island's famed windmills are found just south of the waterfront.
Catania is your gateway to the majestic Mount Etna and the enchanting villages that live in its imposing 10,902-foot shadow. The towns of Taormina and Castelmola may date back to antiquity but their medieval structures are postcard perfect. For a look at Greek and Roman life be sure to visit Siracusa, home to stunning amphitheaters and Piazza Armerina, site of the spectacular Villa del Casale. But there's much to discover in Catania, as well. Following a catastrophic eruption and earthquake in the 17th century the city was rebuilt to reflect the times. The result is a treasure trove of Baroque architecture, acclaimed as the best in all of Sicily. From its exalted history to its scenic environs Catania will never fail to delight, inspire and surprise.
Sorrento - Naples
Perched above the blue Tyrrhenian Sea, Sorrento has been a destination for travelers and pleasure seekers since the days of the Roman Empire. To the north stand the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii, buried in 79 A.D. by an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. To the south lies the fabled Amalfi Coast and the fishing village of Positano. Offshore, the romantic island of Capri awaits. And then there is Sorrento itself. Stroll through village streets lined with flowers or visit the imposing Duomo and its 13th-century cloister. Cafés and boutiques abound to charm the most experienced traveler. In addition to its considerable charms, Sorrento is a gateway to the wonders of Capri, the ruins of Pompeii and the beauties of the Amalfi Coast. Note: Sorrento is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore via ship's tender.