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It’s hard to imagine a better cruising playground than the island spangled, bright blue waters stretching from the Adriatic, through the Aegean and on to the Southern Turkish coast. Greece alone has over 4,500 islands to visit, and Turkey an almost endless string of white sand beaches, some with Roman ruins as a backdrop. Or explore the inlets and islands of the Adriatic with historical towns to visit.
It’s the amazing diversity and accessibility of these generally calm, sunny waters that makes them a standout cruising destination. Whether you long for the adventure of a wooden boat under sail, anchoring in deserted coves or the splendid luxury of a gleaming liner, there’s a cruise to suit you.
Starting with a smaller, more intimate option, how about a Turkish Gulet? These nimble but well-appointed traditional craft follow a centuries old design and are particularly at home along the south coast of Turkey. A voyage here will introduce you to quiet towns where ancient tombs are waiting to be explored, as well as vibrant resorts where crews and passengers from a dozen nations dance the night away.
Moving up a couple of boat sizes, but maintaining a link with the age of sail could get you aboard a small ship plying the enchanting Adriatic Coast. These vessels offer superb facilities, but in a relaxed cruising style that requires minimal packing. Call into medieval towns and villages, explore the remnants of vanished cultures and relax on a shady deck as the sea slips past. It’s a slower voyage than big ships, but you’ll get to know the crew and gain a rich appreciation of the geography and culture of a varied region. The larger cruising liners do have advantages over smaller craft. For a start there’s lots more to do on board with cinemas, bars, restaurants and spas. Plus you’ll cover a much greater distance in the same time frame, without necessarily diminishing the ‘local’ experience when you arrive at a destination. Ships visiting Santorini for instance sail right into the imposing caldera. You actually anchor in the mouth of the volcano that split the island asunder, and then teams of donkeys will transport you up to the town perched high above on the cliff edge.
While you're in a region that's so full of cultural experiences it makes sense to open or close your cruise with a visit to one or two of the cities that have captured the imaginations of travellers for centuries. If you are considering a cruise through the Adriatic there's a good chance that either Dubrovnik or Split are included in your itinerary. If they aren't, make sure that you at least schedule a couple of days in Dubrovnik. The origins of this enchanting town are lost in the mists of time, but it was certainly a thriving Byzantine port and since then has absorbed Venetian, Ottoman and Napoleonic influences. Dubrovnik's old town is renowned for the wealth of architectural treasures; it almost feels like it's been transported out of a long ago era with virtually no modern impact. The whole town was granted World Heritage listing in the ‘90s and the town and historic port are definitely considered the 'Pearl of the Adriatic'.
Further north from Dubrovnik is Split which is the largest city on the Adriatic Coast. There's plenty of nightlife here, and as the city traces its origins to a palace built for the Roman emperor Diocletian there's also lot of history to absorb as well.
Istanbul and Athens are another two destinations that shouldn't be missed. Both have earned the right to be considered cities of significant cultural and historical importance. A visit to either is a rewarding experience that any traveller will remember for a lifetime.
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