The Mediterranean is one of those rare and magical places you should experience at least once in your lifetime. Its epic status is ensured by storied cities and sun-swept shores. It brims with history, culture and natural beauty. It surpasses almost any other destination in its emphasis on a life well lived. That’s why I take such great pleasure in telling you about our “Mediterranean Pathways” cruise on the extravagant Oceania Riviera departing August 22, 2014.
It has all the makings of a grand European adventure—8 ports, 4 countries, 10 days. Just the thought of cruising round trip from Rome, the city of Caesar, Michelangelo, and Pope Francis prompts an aside to oneself to book a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay in the Eternal City. In addition to the usual must-see icons there is great shopping and people-watching and, of course, coins tossed into the Trevi Fountain.
A luxury cruise to Italy, France, Monaco and Spain
Cities and Coasts. The ship arrives in Florence at 8 a.m. on the first full day of the trip. The Duomo, Michelangelo’s statue of David, the Uffizi Gallery and Pisa’s famed campanile will keep many cruise guests close to Florence.
I dream of Tuscany and an intriguing Culinary Discovery Tour led by the Chef of the Riviera’s Bon Appetit Culinary Center. My mouth waters when I think of oven-fired focaccia paired with wonderful local Sangiovese wine savored in a dappled Tuscan vineyard.
For nature, I would head to Cinque Terre, a National Park protected by UNESCO and then there’s Lucca, a living testimony to past times, kingdoms and dominions—how does one choose from such an embarrassment of riches?
The first thing you should do in Portofino is get up early. The ship arrives at the dock by 8 a.m. and it’s the on-deck early birds who get the full effect of cruising into one of the most beautiful natural harbors in Europe. It’s as picturesque as it gets. Pastel houses line a crescent-shaped harbor, crystal-clear waters lap against sleek celebrity yachts and overlooking the winding, pedestrian-only streets is a timeless castle.
Nearby, the Italian Riviera shares its charms from Genoa, Santa Margherita, Rapallo and Sestri Levante—each one with its own sun-splashed beauty.
The French Riviera. You don’t go far in Monaco without James Bond images floating up into consciousness. The pink Grimaldi Palace, the shimmering Casino and the Grand Corniche have welcomed many Hollywood stars—not the least of which is Grace Kelly, the celebrated former Princess of Monaco. I plan to set aside time for a perfume-buying binge in Grasse, where my favorite scents originate; or getting off-the-beaten-track on an art tour of Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
Just speak the name Saint-Tropez and the heart flutters. This is where the beautiful people come to play and arriving in style aboard the luxurious Riviera sets the tone for an unforgettable day of independent exploration (a wide variety of organized tours are also available).
We’ll treat ourselves to a box of macaron from Ladurée as we stroll in the Brigitte Bardot-style sandals we’ll purchase at K Jacques. Then we’ll sit down to Le Sporting’s signature hamburger topped with foie gras and morel cream sauce.
To work off a few calories, we’ll explore the Place des Lices and watch the pétanque players before returning to our ship. Tonight’s repast in the Main Dining Room begins with a molten cheese soufflé and continues with Duck à l’Orange with Red Cabbage and Almond Potato Croquettes (we best hit the gym at some point during the cruise).
An avid fan of Peter Mayle’s book, “A Year in Provence”, I can’t wait to walk in the author’s footsteps and lose myself in his poetic landscapes. The storied village of Ménerbes in the Luberon will be at the top of my must-see list.
Places to go and things to see abound on this masterful itinerary. Barcelona (be sure to visit Park Güell, a phantasm created by famed architect, Antoni Gaudí ) and Palma de Mallorca (the place to shop for Majorica pearls) add the flavor of Spain and the Balearic Islands. Cruising back to Civitavecchia for Rome brings the 10-day adventure full circle.
Sterling Travel Exclusive Inclusions
We are pleased to offer this stellar itinerary as a Sterling Travel Exclusive. Join us and enjoy this value-enhanced offering aboard Oceania’s premier ship the Riviera. Learn more about her luxurious amenities by clicking on this link http://www.sterlingtravelinc.com/mediterranean-pathways/