Imagine the excitement of arriving in the only city in the world to straddle two continents – Istanbul. Exploring Byzantine and Ottoman treasures in a series of short walks through a maze of narrow streets and scents of spices that engulf you. Enjoy the wonders of the Hippodrome Square, St. Sophia Church – the largest Christian church of its era and the Royal Topkapi Palace or relax with a tea and massage at one of many traditional Turkish baths (or Hamman). If bargain shopping is your thing, you must stop by the historical Grand Bazaar, which offers everything from exotic spices to exquisite rugs.
Bound for the Greek Islands, you can take either the Wind Spirit or Wind Star (pictured above) and set sail for Kusadasi port. Here you have a chose between a self-guided tour of the bustling city or ramble among the Greco Roman ruins of Ephesus, which are believed to have been the place where the Virgin Mary spent her last days. This is also home to The Temple of Artemis one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Your next destination is the island of Patmos where you can either lounge on the beach or take part in a guided tour to the sacred place where John The Apostle is believed to have received his Revelation. By the next day, your cruise moves from a small island settlement to mainland Greece – the prestigious city of Athens.
Once at the Piraeus port, the trip to the hotel by taxi carries you through the oldest section of Athens in the shadow of the Acropolis. Athens, a center for the arts, architecture, learning, philosophy, politics, and it widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization – the birthplace of democracy. The city also offers a bustling nightlife, which would not be complete without live music performed the most casual dining situations imaginable, an area of the city known simply as “ Plaka.” This area is also well known for some of the richest archaeological sites and museums in the world. You will have two go easy on the retsina because it’s back to sea in the morning.
Cruising from Athens to one of many Greek Islands will be chalk filled with memorable events. For me, the island of Hydra is one of my favorites. I discovered it on a weekend trip there with my first love. We arrived and were pleasantly surprised that there are no motorized vehicles on the entire island. Our bags were taken from the dock to our hotel by donkey. We immediately set out to discover why Jacqueline Onassis wanted to own a home here but was denied. It only took a few minutes to see why.
The first night of sleep on Hydra was something special and things only seemed to get better. I’ll never forget the experience of watching a movie projected against a building near Hotel Hydra under a star-lit night; and munching on pizza which was topped with feta cheese and olives. After dinner we hiked over what seemed like forever, landing on the other side of the island. While gazing at the stars and into each other eyes the whole world stood still.
You can book a cruise on the Mediterranean at the last minute thanks to travel sites like www.cruisecritic.com and www.directlinecruises.com. My personal favorite resource is the ever so indulgent people at Windstar Cruises, which offer a variety of deals at less than $2,000 per person www.windstarcruises.com/mediterranean.