51 night cruise sailing from Sydney, Australia aboard the Sea Princess
Visit Brisbane, Komodo Island, Singapore, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Mina Qabos, UAE, Dubai, Aqaba, Santorini Island, Sibenik, Venice, Malta (La Valletta), Rome (Civitavecchia), Cannes, Barcelona, Ceuta, Lisbon, Cork, Ireland and Dover, UK.
As your ship passes Harbour Heads, you are presented with the shimmering skyline of Sydney - hailed by many seafarers as "the most beautiful harbor in the world." Two prominent landmarks, Harbour Bridge and the sail-like curves of the Sydney Opera House, grace the backdrop of this picturesque harbor. There is a wealth of adventure waiting in Sydney - from its cosmopolitan city center to miles of beautiful beaches and the Blue Mountains. Australia's oldest and largest city was born in 1788 with the arrival of the "First Fleet" transporting 760 British convicts. Today, Sydney is the largest port in the South Pacific and is often voted the most popular destination in the South Pacific.
Once considered the "country cousin" among Australian cities, Brisbane is today the nation's third-largest metropolis - and one of the most desirable places to live in the country. Lying on the banks of the meandering Brisbane River, this cosmopolitan city boasts elegant 19th-century sandstone buildings, a lively cultural scene and superb parklands. Brisbane is also your gateway to uniquely Australian adventures, be it the theme parks of the Gold Coast or Queensland's dazzling beaches.
Komodo lizards quietly thrived in the harsh climate of Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands for millions of years until their existence was discovered about 100 years ago?when Dutch sailors encountered the creatures for the first time, they returned with reports of fire-breathing dragons. Reaching 10 feet in length and weighing over 300 pounds, Komodo dragons are the world's largest and heaviest lizards. The best place to view these magnificent and endangered creatures is on Komodo Island, the largest island in Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Man and Biosphere Reserve. Although Komodo National Park is famous for its most recognized inhabitant it's also noted for its diverse marine habitat. 1,000 species of fish, 260 species of reef-building coral, manta rays, sharks, dolphins, whales and sea turtles live in the park's coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds and semi-enclosed bays.
Singapore - the very name summons visions of the mysterious East. The commercial center of Southeast Asia, this island city-state of four million people is a metropolis of modern high-rise buildings, Chinese shop-houses with red-tiled roofs, sturdy Victorian buildings, Buddhist temples and Arab bazaars. Founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles of the fabled East India Company, the city is a melting pot of people and cultures. Malay, Chinese, English and Tamil are official languages. Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity are the major faiths. Singapore is an ever-fascinating island boasting colorful traditions, luxurious hotels and some of the finest duty-free shopping in the world. Lying just 85 miles north of the Equator at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, the island was a haven for Malay pirates and Chinese and Arab traders.
Sri Lanka conjures up the exotic and the mysterious. Once known as Ceylon, the island boasts a fantastic landscape that ranges from primeval rain forest to the bustling modern streets of Colombo, the capital. A visitor to Sri Lanka has a wealth of options. Relax on some of the world's finest beaches. Explore the temples, halls and palaces of the last Sinhalese kingdom at Kandy. Or take a guided tour of an elephant orphanage. Colombo also offers an array of charms, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, once a royal pleasure garden, to the Pettah Bazaar, where vendors hawk everything under the sun. Colombo and Sri Lanka were shaped by Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and European influences. Colombo also serves as a gateway for Overland Adventures to India.
Oman's capital was once a major trading centre controlled and influenced by the Portuguese. Those intrepid explores and traders are long gone. Today, visitors flock to Oman thanks to its azure air, towering desert mountains, and crystalline waters. Muscat itself is an Arabian fable sprung to life. Old 16th century forts guard the bay and the palace, while the vibrant souqs offer daggers, superb silver jewellery, and traditional crafts and costumes.
Dubai has always served as a bridge between East and West. In the past, Dubai's trade links stretched from Western Europe to Southeast Asia and China. The result was the creation of one of the most protean societies in the world. Nestled in the very heart of Islam, Dubai remains unique in its embrace of the West. Bedouin may still roam the desert, but Dubai also plays hosts to international tennis and golf tournaments. Tourists flock to its shores while the pace of development continues at a frenetic pace, from massive artificial islands to the astounding Burj Al Arab Hotel. Dubai is actually two cities in one: the Khor Dubai, an inlet of the Persian Gulf, separates Deira, the old city, from Bur Dubai.
The port of Aqaba has been an important strategic and commercial center for over three millennia. Originally called Elath, the home of the Edomites became in Roman times a trading center where goods from as far away as China found entry to Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Today Aqaba is Jordan's only seaport, and the city serves as an intriguing gateway for travelers. In the surrounding desert lies the lost city of Petra - a city that may date to 6,000 B.C. - and Wadi Rum, where an English soldier mystic named T.E. Lawrence found his destiny as "Lawrence of Arabia." Perched at the apex of the Gulf of Aqaba, Aqaba offers internationally renowned diving opportunities and the richest marine life in the entire Red Sea. The old fortress on the waterfront dates to the 14th-century. Passengers should drink only bottled water while ashore. Please respect local customs and dress accordingly, avoiding exposed shoulders and knees.
Transiting through the Suez Canal is sure to be one of the lifelong memories of your cruise. The thought of a canal linking the Mediterranean and Red Sea extends back in history as far as 2100 B.C. Napoleon Bonaparte, pursuing his dreams of conquest, entertained the notion in 1798. But it was French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps who finally proved that a canal across the Suez was practicable. Work on the canal began in 1858. Eleven years later the opening of the Suez Canal was an international event. The world had acquired a quicker route to Asia-as well as a Verdi opera called Aida. Of course the Suez Canal was a source of immediate controversy. The British wrested control of the canal from Egypt in 1882. Egypt regained control during its revolution of 1952. In 1956, the British, allied with the French and Israelis, nearly took the canal back. The Arab-Israeli Six Day War of 1967 closed the canal until 1973, when another war and intense international negotiations led to its return to Egyptian control.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Movie stars, motor yachts, the crush of paparazzi on the Croisette - such are the images of Cannes and its legendary film festival. But this gracious city with its palm-lined boulevard dividing divine beaches from chic cafés and nightclubs is also your gateway to Monaco and Monte Carlo, Nice and St. Tropez. For centuries this former Roman camp - the Castrum de Canios - was nothing more than a sleepy port. Then in 1834, the British Lord Brougham interrupted his travels to Italy to take shelter from a cholera outbreak. He fell in love with the stunning coast, built a villa and voila! Two centuries later, the town remains synonymous with glamour, luxury and a sybaritic lifestyle.
The 1992 Summer Olympics revealed to the world what Europeans and seasoned travelers already knew - Barcelona is one of the world's greatest treasures. Vibrant and earthy, commercial and cultural, this city of two million residents is the capital of Spain's autonomous region of Catalonia. Stroll along the wide, tree-lined promenades of Las Ramblas and marvel at the spires of Gaudi's Basilica La Sagrada Familia. Or visit the former Olympic Ring on the hill of Montjuic - also home to world-class parks, fountains and museums. Barcelona, which nurtured such artistic giants as Picasso, Dali, Miro and Casals, is definitely a traveler's paradise.
The Straits of Gibraltar separate Ceuta from European Spain. Ceuta is an ancient city - it has been continuously inhabited since its founding by Carthage in the 5th century B.C. Over the millennia, Ceuta has been ruled by Carthage, Rome, the Moorish Kingdom of Granada, Portugal and, since 1580, Spain. From 1912 until 1959, the city was also the capital of Spanish Morocco, a colonial protectorate created when France and Spain divided that kingdom during the "Morocco Crisis" of 1912. Generalisimo Francisco Franco launched the Spanish Civil War from Ceuta in 1936. Today, Ceuta boasts an easy-going charm and a cosmopolitan mix of cultures. The city is also a gateway for Morocco proper and the dramatic landscape of the Rif Mountains.
Draped across seven hills, Lisbon was once the center of a vast maritime empire that stretched from the west coast of Africa to the Spice Islands of the East Indies. Then, on November 1, 1755, a violent earthquake destroyed two-thirds of the city in the space of 10 minutes. Only the Alfama, the old Moorish quarter, survived. Today, Lisbon is a stately city of Neoclassical buildings and wide plazas. Eternally linked to the sea, Lisbon's magnificent harbor is spanned by the longest suspension bridge in Europe.
Founded in the 7th century by St. Fin Barre, Cork is your gateway to romantic Ireland. Stroll down narrow country lanes or see the Lakes of Killarney. The intrepid visitor may scale the narrow passages of Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. The region around Cork is also home to one of the densest concentration of prehistoric monuments in Western Europe. And, in a land where fable and fact blend to become folklore, it was near Cork that the great Tuatha De Danaan, a race with magical powers, was driven underground by the conquering Celts. Cobh was the single most important port of emigration from Ireland.