#HilaryRowland

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

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If you caught my last article, you know all about the Viking Cruise that I’m currently on. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

Venice

On our first night, shortly after getting settled in our stateroom (that’s what they call the rooms on a cruise ship) and having a room service meal on our balcony, we walked into town and explored the streets of Venice. The city has a lovely feel in the evening, particularly when you gaze upward through the quaint narrow walkways and see the stars twinkling above you.

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

Our stateroom, on our first night (before we cluttered it up)

After our two-hour stroll, we arrived back on the boat to find some of our fellow shipmates partying to a great band in the Torshavn lounge, while others were relaxing by the bar in the Explorer’s Lounge, listening to a wonderful pianist.

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

The following morning, we got shuttled into town with about 50 other passengers, and our tour took us through some of the more touristy areas of Venice. We used our wireless headsets to hear the guide, which was convenient, since we opted to duck into the shade as often as possible.

During the tour, I learned that Venice was built on top of 117 small, marsh-like islands. So every time you cross a bridge in Venice, you’re stepping onto another island. Amazingly, the building of Venice are held up using wood. Because there wasn’t any oxygen in the thick muck that Venice is built on, when they stuck trees into it they petrified and became very strong. The buildings are mostly built using clay bricks and timber, and were designed to be flexible as the ground shifted. So while the buildings may lean, they will never fall. Venice was the first republic in Europe (France was the second, after the French Revolution).

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

Lunch at Do Leoni, in Venice

After the tour, we treated ourselves to lunch at a Relais & Chateaux restaurant right on the water, called Do Leoni. Finding the Viking water taxi after lunch was simple, as there were Viking reps in red all over the place. When we got back to the Viking Sea ship, we went to the Explorer’s Lounge on the front upper deck (one of the many lounges, with live classical music, to choose from) and ordered a Bergen’s Kaffe.

In the following days we visited Split and Dubrovnik, in Croatia. I had no idea what to expect when we arrived in Croatia. When we woke and pulled back the drapes to our private balcony, I was shocked by the incredible beauty of the town and surrounding mountains. The towns are filled with history and, although crowded with tourists, were super charming.

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

Swimming in Croatia

We ducked away from the crowds and found a few off-path nooks (usually through a small tunnel in the side of a stone city wall) where we could hang out on the side of a rocky cliff and get a drink, lunch, and swim in the crystal-blue waters.

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

The view from a very cool bar and restaurant in Dubrovnik called 360

There are a lot of great restaurants to try out in Split and Dubrovnik. We especially loved one in Split called O’Zlata (which means “of gold” in Croatian), which is housed in what was the 15thC royal residence of Roman emperor Diocletian. We sat in the courtyard, but the interior is equally as charming and they had lots of healthy vegan options made from fresh local ingredients, including smoothies and fresh squeezed juices. If you’re staying overnight in Dubrovnik, make sure to have dinner at 360 Restaurant, which is super romantic and has incredible –you guessed it– 360-degree views.

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

Getting some fresh juice at a stand in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Yesterday we stopped in Corfu, Greece. I was expecting the white buildings I’ve seen in photos of islands like Mykonos, but the architecture in Corfu reminded me of the Caribbean and wasn’t at all what I expected. All of the main streets in the downtown area were packed with tourist stalls selling cheap jewelry, sun hats and trinkets. It felt like a shopping maze reminiscent of Marrakesh’s souks.

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

Me, in the middle of Corfu’s shopping maze…

I also wasn’t expecting to see so many sick, stray cats wandering around and hiding in the many abandoned buildings. Litter was everywhere and I ended up crying after spotting a dead cat in a pile of broken glass.

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

One of the many stray cats that nobody seems to be looking out for. This skinny little guy curled up under our chair.

It was really sad to see the toll that Greece’s economic situation has taken on Corfu, its inhabitants, animals and buildings. It’s clear that it was once a utopia of sorts, with its beautiful and hilly island landscape, impressive stone fort, built-out harbor and clear blue waters. Hopefully their economy will recover soon and they will put in place a spay-and-neuter program to help the cats. Until then, I’m not sure I could bear the emotional burden of another visit to Corfu.

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

The reality of Corfu, Greece, post-financial crisis.

We stopped at a bar called Imabari, by the sea. Mike got into his swim trunks and took a swim while I video chatted with my parents on my phone. There were a few cute restaurants nearby with absolutely stunning views, but we opted to go back to the ship for dinner. After all, it’s uber-comfortable, the food is delicious and free (included in the cruise price), and we know what we’re getting onboard is clean and fresh.

My Viking Cruise: Hanging in the Mediterranean

Women tanning in Corfu

Each day, before heading back to the shuttle bus, we stop at a local tourist shop and pick up a cute magnet with the city or country name on it. While onboard, we’ve made friends with another journalist couple our age (one of the five or so couples under 50 years old), and they collect magnets from every country they travel to together. We thought that was a charming idea.

Maybe later we’ll try afternoon tea at the Wintergarden, hit the gym, check out their Snow Grotto, and take a dip in their glass-backed infinity pool. I can’t wait!

A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

47 Comments

  1. Geraldina Lee

    Venice is my one of the favorite plays where I visited last week. I got there a heaven peace.

  2. Francis Walton

    Wow! Venice does look beautiful as ever!All the beauty you just framed in your camera with Such lovely pictures. I love all photos with your post. <3

  3. Cody Pierce

    Hi!
    It is well known to everybody that Greeks are famous for their generous hospitality. Souvlaki, dolmades, moussaka, olives, feta, baklava. Greek cuisine will always call us to visit, and those fresh, light, Mediterranean flavours taste best when the weather’s hot and sunny. I love these.

  4. Linda Collie

    Always enjoy reading your posts and this adventure colors the favor of your experience well. You express yourself clearly and it is so great that you take the time to share….I am forwarding your link to friends that are looking into which cruise line to use and with your recommendation I expect they too will be happy with Viking Sea.

  5. Thanks Hilary, for this great article. It sure put a smile on my face stuck here in my office on a boring wednesday… and Croatia of all places! Ever since I was a child I dreamt of goinig there and I finally did in 2010. I’ll never forget it, it was magical. Some of your pictures are almost identical to the ones I took. Enjoy the rest of your cruise.

  6. Shelley Donalds

    I have to admit I am one of the few Americans who is not remotely interested in Venice. I apologize for that. I do have to say I enjoyed reading your post, but, it still did not convince me to put Venice on my bucket list. I suppose I have a greater desire to see other parts of Italy more than Venice. I am glad you had a memorable time though and shared it with us. I’ll be sure to tell others about your experience if anyone asks. 🙂

  7. Pamela Sanabria

    No NO NOO!!!!

    Sorry to start like this but I just couldn’t help it! I’ll explain though, don’t get the wrong idea…

    I found your blog almost a year ago, by pure chance (or should I say by pure luck?) and fell in love with it immediately (I love travelling and I love the way you write). Seriously, I admire you and all I could think the first time that I read one of your articles was “She’s really funny, she’s exactly the kind of person that I would like to travel with, it would be great to meet her, …”

    Then in February I moved country and at first I really didn’t have the time to check your blog, and after a while I just forgot, until now…

    You see, not only I’m from Greece, I’m from Corfu!!! And damn! you came to Corfu, just right when I wasn’t there!!! I just wish I had been there, I would have loved to meet you. But I’m glad you liked Corfu!

    Well, maybe one day… In the meantime good luck with everything, I wish you the best!

  8. Shannon Bradley

    I never had Croatia on my radar, but with you (great photos by the way) and other travel bloggers writing about it, I am going to try and check it out next year! It looks beautiful. Safe Travels !!!

  9. I want to go to Dubrovnik! Didn’t make it down there on my trip to Croatia, it was too far! I can’t wait to go back just to visit Dubrovnik! 🙂

  10. Loraine Aguilar

    I’ve never been to Italy, though it is certainly on my list. But after seeing this post it’s definitely bumped up a few spots closer to my “next destination”. I can’t get over how incredible the first picture looks…

  11. Lana Urie

    Hey there! I love this post- this trip looks like an absolute dream! My mom and I have been trying to plan a girls cruise to Italy for a while now so your destinations gave me some new ideas! Lovely pictures 🙂

  12. Irene Morales

    I’m dying to go back to Croatia! I was there in 2006 and it also wasn’t touristy at all… but then again it was the off season. I was in Split, Dubrovnik, and some National Park whose name I can’t remember. One of the best travel experiences yet though… we had an absolute blast! Next time I’ll definitely have to make it to Hvar, Zagreb, and the lakes! Your pictures are beautiful 🙂

  13. Julia MacLean

    Hi!

    I was in Italy for the first time this past May. For my first trip we explored Tuscany, Venice, and Rome. Unfortunately it can be so hard on a tight budget. It seems like you go back to italy again and again, which is great! Thanks for the photos!

  14. Melissa Princeton

    I visited Venice last year, and if I had to sum it up in one word, I would choose “overwhelming.” It’s such a sprawling, imposing city, and somewhat surprising in it’s no-nonsense hustle-and-bustle if you’ve discovered other parts of Italy first.

    While I prefer quieter parts of Northern Italy (esp. Trentino-Alto Adige!), there are beautiful sections of Venice and your photos highlight that.

  15. Roberta Bennett

    Croatia was my first solo trip. Such, such good memories!! I loved Croatia. I would go back in a heartbeat!!

  16. Jae Medina

    I was in Greece last year on a ten-day college trip. We visited all the major sites and spent three full days hiking on Crete, but never been to Corfu. It was also the first time I ever travelled anywhere by plane and it will always be very special to me. I would love to go back some day. Who knows, maybe after I graduate. 🙂

  17. Celine Carter

    Cool views! All of your pictures are so colorful! Never been to Greece before but as a lover of ancient history and hiking it’s a definite “must see” on my list.

  18. Daisy Clarke

    Beautiful pictures! My favorite thing to do in a new city is to get a view of the city from high up. For some reason, once I’m looking down on the city/new place I can finally feel like I’m actually there… something about not being on level ground always makes me contemplate the new place in a different way. 🙂

    • Amelia Beckons

      I feel exactly the same way, usually I try to climb up high somewhere when I’m in a new city for a different perspective. Love it

      • Amelia Beckons

        I feel exactly the same way, usually I try to climb up high somewhere when I’m in a new city for a different perspective. Love it

  19. Ingrid Winston

    Your visit to Mediterranean looks amazing! I went with a huge group of friends when we graduated from high school, and I’ll admit we were those tourist groups, milling around and only visiting islands. Even though it was super touristy, I loved every second of it and would go back in a heartbeat. 🙂

  20. Delilah Peyton

    Great post and stunning views! I’ve never been to Greece but I’ve heard so much about this country during my Latin and landscape architecture lessons 🙂 definitely need to visit Greece soon!

  21. Gwen Keaton

    Ah, I love this post! My first trip to Europe was spent in Greece for a short-term study abroad. It is the most picturesque, scenic country I’ve ever been to. Croatia was a personal favorite for me, as well. Thanks for rekindling those memories!

  22. Diana Hewitt

    You’ve taken beautiful photos of all three places! They are really mind-blowing! I’m sure there are lots of travelers out there who had put Greece in their priority travel list.

  23. Reading this is taking me back to Croatia — one of my all time favorite vacations I’ve ever had! I loved the way you wrote this and obviously the pictures, too. 🙂

  24. Hey, Hilary! Thanks for sharing this great post. I was in Greece for 10 days in July and absolutely loved it, although I have to admit that it wasn’t quite as stunning as I expected. Mostly, I didn’t expect the islands to be so desert-like, and I found Santorini totally overhyped, as it was dry and touristy. I still had a blast there, though, mostly because we rented ATVs to drive around the island, and there’s no doubt we found our fair share of photogenic spots in Santorini as well. But I preferred the other islands we went to, Ios and Naxos.
    Meteora was absolutely breathtaking and peaceful, Athens was vibrant and fascinating, and Thessaloniki was a bit dull but still had its moments. Overall, I fell in love with Greece’s food, people, and prices.

  25. I really like Croatia – it is some very interesting mix of cultures. Food is also very good and I remember this cool place with shishas. It is for sure one of my favourite places in the mediterranean region.

  26. Janienke Brander

    You are a great storyteller. This article truly fueled my wanderlust. I can’t wait for the next to be published!

    By the way, I like the idea with magnets. :] I will consider buying something like that when I manage to travel to some awesome place, too! :]

  27. Nice read, happy smiles, and Venice does look beautiful as ever! Such pretty pictures too 😀

  28. Ziri Digne

    There seem to be very few tourists in your photos, yet, you write about very touristy areas… Really enjoyed this article, regardless. Where are you heading next? 🙂

  29. Alexandrea Valdez

    I’m actually leaving next week for Europe, so this post was super informative and helpful to me! and wow! Your room is so luxurious! I love learning about all your adventures and getting some travel tips. I’ve just started my own travel blog, it’s definitely not as big as yours, but maybe one day! Safe travels!

  30. Daniel Goldman

    For some reasons I landed on your article. I can’t help but comment and share my experience, I’m glad that it seems you’re enjoying your trip. Wife and I recently chose Viking Cruise’s services. Our primary reason is the itinerary. Ship was terrific, public spaces are spacious and provide wide variety of experiences.

    But the itinerary (which we were excited about) disappointed us. There were last-minute changes and cancellations that made it difficult to plan effective shore time, and the excursions staff was mostly indifferent. But I don’t want to spoil your fun and excitement, my experience might be one of those “rare disappointing” cases.

    Just sharing…

  31. Phillippe Salvatore

    Bellissima!! No city in the world is as unique and magical as Venice. My tips are, go there and go out at night, after midnight, just lose yourself in the city and enjoy the history without the hassle of the tourists. Maybe download some Vivaldi on your iPod too and listen to it while walking around. Also, before going, read a good history book about the Republic of Venice, la Serenissima, it will all make more sense and definitely add to the magic. 🙂

  32. Emily Foulkes

    All of these articles from your cruise make me want to book myself one! — Venice is one of my favorite places except for the hot days of summer it gets smelly! LOL

  33. “Maybe later we’ll try afternoon tea at the Wintergarden, hit the gym, check out their Snow Grotto, and take a dip in their glass-backed infinity pool. I can’t wait!”

    — Does this mean you’re writing this as it happen??? That’s awesome! Enjoy your tour!

  34. You look great as well as Dubrovnik which I considered the most beautiful place in the world. I have been there few times already and cannot wait for my next visit! I would prefer visiting it out of the season!

  35. Loved Venice! I think it’s the city of love! 🙂 Your pics are beautiful! Which camera do you use?

    • Thanks! I’m using a Sony RX 100 right now.. it’s an older model but is compact and takes good photos 🙂

  36. What a splendid post! I was in Greece last month but I’m definitely long overdue for another trip to Venice…

  37. Marissa Baker

    WOW! Fantastic! I’m jealous and I hope to have the same opportunity as yours. Wishing and hoping and thinking of my very first cruise trip!

  38. People warned me about Corfu, said that we were going to hate it. But we love, love, loved it and wish we had booked more time there. Luckily we ignored the haters and went anyway, but we did let them influence how long we stayed. Each person has to experience it for themselves. Great article!

  39. Bethany Miles

    Ahh! So jealous! I visited several mediterranean countries when I was a kid and have always wanted to go back but have been put off by the idea that it would be so expensive and overrun with people! Hoping to visit next year as we go through Europe! 🙂

  40. To be honest, I was disappointed when I visited Greece on a cruise with my boyfriend. But I’m glad that you seemed like you enjoyed it! Each to their own I guess. 🙂

  41. I love Venice. Truly romantic, isn’t it? I rarely repeat cites but I’ve been there twice. Adding Croatia and Corfu to my to-visit list too! Never been to either of them yet. 🙂

  42. Mishale Brighton

    I love your review!! I wish I had come across this before I’ve been to Croatia. Fell in love with the Croatian sea and wanted to move there. The pictures you shared brought back some lovely memories from late may. Thank you!

  43. Awesome article! Thanks for sharing. I was in Venice not long ago, and loved it! Lots of great food, interacting with the locals and no touristy places. Very authentic! 🙂

  44. Trish

    Your article brings back memories – I spent a few days in Venice about 7 years ago and was completely captivated by its unique setting. It’s especially magical at night. I’ve travelled in Greece and a few Greek Islands (Santorini and Crete) but not Corfu, so it was interesting to read your experience with Corfu. BTW, love the photos with your post!

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