A Greek port among the 6 best of the Mediterranean
Eastern Mediterranean cruises also include ports in Israel and northern Africa, and most will start or finish at classic cruise cities such as Venice, Dubrovnik, Istanbul and Piraeus, the port of Athens.Every season more ports join the itinerary lists, so Express presents the six of the best more unusual cruise destinations. Among them we find a Greek port situated in an island of the Ionian sea.
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Croatia is proving a treasure house for cruise passengers interested in history and culture. Like Dubrovnik along the coast, Zadar has white marble traffic-free streets, fortified harbour walls and elegant Venetian architecture. The picturesque and compact town also has Roman ruins including a forum. One must-see is the world’s only Musical Sea Organ, which has 35 underwater organ pipes that make music when the sea forces air through them. You’ll also find colourful fishing boats are moored around the harbour, streets of small shops and several markets.
This Italian Riviera port has a pretty harbour and plenty of pastel-painted buildings, shops and cafes in the historic old town. Probably its most unusual attraction is the tiny castle perched on a small island in the sea nearby. If you’re keen on walking you can take a funicular up the Montallegro hill and follow signposted trails. And Rapello is a good place to catch a ferry or scenic boat ride to the Riviera’s famous Cinque Ports towns – picturesque old fishing villages hanging from steep valleys leading down to the sea. Alternatively, have a swim at one of the small neighbourhood beaches or lidos.
The busy capital on the Greek island of Kefalonia is just a 10-minute walk from the new cruise ship pier. Pedestrianised streets full of small shops surround the central square, which has several cafes, and there’s a floating fish market where fresh-caught fish are sold from boats. Kefalonia was the setting for Louis de Bernieres’ novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and you can still get a feel for the Second World War story – although an earthquake in 1953 means many of the buildings are quite modern. The island’s best beach is Myrtos, just north of the town.
Most cruise passengers who visit Ancona will probably take an excursion to Urbina, birthplace of the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. The 15th century walled city of Urbina is UNESCO-listed thanks to its Renaissance architecture. This includes Italy’s most impressive Renaissance palace – the Palazzo Ducale – which is full of superb art. Back in Ancona, though, you can spend your day visiting the 12th century cathedral, thought to be on the site of the Temple of Venus. There is an art gallery and archaeological museum in the historic Palazzo, and you can take a bus from the railway station to the beaches outside town.
This medieval walled city in Montenegro became a UNESCO World Heritage site when it was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1979. The historic section of town is small but beautiful; a series of piazzas linked by narrow streets that are more like alleyways. There are many churches, both Catholic and Orthodox Christian, and several old palaces – although only Grgurina Palace, now the Maritime Museum, retains its 18th century layout. For a small fee you can walk up a steep path beside the city wall, which take you up the hill that towers above the city.
Albania’s first cruise destination is an unusual mix of a Soviet-style “old town” and a modern tourist resort full of hotels and new apartment blocks. The two sections are separated by an ancient but hardly noticeable old town wall. Most cruise passengers who visit here will be on cultural tours heading for UNESCO-listed Butrint. Once a Greek settlement, then Roman city and small Bishopric, Butrint has a 2,500-year-old Greek amphitheatre, the remains of a Roman palace with its mosaic floors still intact and an early Christian church and baptistery. There is also a largely complete Venetian tower and the romantic ruins of an Ottoman castle in what is now an important wildlife haven and Albania’s first national park.