We’re excited to announce that we’re hosting an epic journey through the Greek Isles in June and July, 2020. Our sailing departs Rome on June 27, and visits Naples before heading to Santorini. We then visit Ephesus in Turkey, before returning to Athens, making additional ports-of-call in Greece, a visit to Kotor, Montenegro, and ending in Venice—one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
We’re sailing on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam—a gorgeous ship with classic cruise styling. There’s only one day at sea on this Greek odyssey, but you’ll still be able to enjoy the spa, the onboard music venues, and enrichment programs while onboard the ship. Plus, when you sail with Huckleberry Travel, you’ll have access to exclusive amenities on our sailing, including an exclusive hosted cocktail party for our group, and an Ensemble Exclusive shore event in Iraklion, Crete. And we’ll be hosting your cruise, to help make sure that it’s truly the voyage-of-a-lifetime.
These amenities are exclusive to Huckleberry Travel, because we’re part of the Ensemble Travel Group—no one else on board the ship will have access to these amenities, and there’s no additional charge to our clients for all of this added value!
Want to hear more? Well, let’s take a look at this incredible itinerary!
Day 1: Rome
We start in Rome!
Rome is both a modern bustling city and an ancient open-air museum. You can walk in the footsteps of emperors, have coffee in Renaissance piazzas and see contemporary art all in one afternoon. You can certainly arrive early to spend additional days exploring Rome, if you like. In the Eternal City you can fill your day with museums, churches, archaeological sites, traditional trattorias, artisan shops and, of course, gelato. The Colosseum and the Vatican Museums are Rome's superstar attractions, but there are plenty of quieter gems to explore. For food lovers there are the markets in Campo de' Fiori or the slightly farther flung Testaccio. The hip neighborhood of Monti, next to the Colosseum, has a vibrant piazza scene and boutique shopping, while the Villa Borghese offers a green oasis with a view towards Saint Peter’s Basilica and the masterpiece-filled Galleria Borghese. Although Rome might not have been built in one day, you'll certainly be able to see the highlights and top things to do in Rome before your cruise.
Or, if you’ve done exploring Rome, itself, your sightseeing time in Rome could begin at the nearby port of Civitavecchia, a seaside town with roots that stretch back to the Etruscan era. Take note of the Forte Michelangelo (both Bramante and Michelangelo had a hand in its design), and the lungomare, a lively stretch along the sea with beach clubs, bars and restaurants. You’ll embark in Civitavecchia for our journey, and the excitement is just beginning!
Day 2: Naples
Rising behind the wide curve of its bay with brooding Mount Vesuvius and the deep blue sea as a backdrop, Naples, Italy enjoys a magnificent natural setting. It is the third-largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan, and arguably the most colorful and seductive of them all: Splendor and squalor live side by side in 21st-century Naples, and the mix is intoxicating.
Home to world-class museums and attractions, superb restaurants, eclectic shopping, a thriving contemporary art scene and an edgy, vibrant street life, Naples has something for everyone. But once you’ve had enough of the pounding traffic and jostling crowds while sightseeing in Naples, there are endless opportunities for exploration further afield. The celebrated Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, both victims of Vesuvius’ devastating 79 C.E. eruption, lie just south of the city. The delightful town of Sorrento and the magnificent scenery of the Amalfi Coast are within easy reach, and the dolce vita glamour of Capri—not to mention the healing thermal waters of Ischia—are a short hydrofoil hop from the mainland. Naples and its surrounding area offer a perfect mix of cultural and natural attractions.
Day 3: At Sea
Next, we have a day at sea, where you can indulge in spa treatments, lounge on the sun deck, or enjoy the lectures and presentations as part of the onboard enrichment programs.
Day 4: Santorini
Santorini, the jewel in the crown of Greece's Cyclades, is best known as the island with the giant volcanic caldera at its heart. All but the largest ships can anchor here in this stunningly scenic bay. Cruise visitors who come for an afternoon or a day can immerse themselves in the art, food and legendary wines of this island that some believe may have been the site of the lost civilization of Atlantis. On Santorini you can do as Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, would do and sample the island's wonderful wines or play Indiana Jones and explore the archaeological treasures of ancient Thera. Santorini's pleasures will likely leave you with a taste for more and planning your return.
Day 5: Ephesus
Kusadasi in Turkey is the gateway to one of the most legendary cities of the ancient world: Ephesus. St. Paul preached in its Great Theater, while the facade of the Celsus Library survives as a testament to the city’s role as a center of learning and culture.
Not far from Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis (also known as the Temple of Diana), one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, once stood, drawing pilgrims from around the Mediterranean. While it no longer stands, it is possible to walk amongst its foundations and the remains of its towering columns.
Other historic sites can also be found nearby: The House of Mary is believed to be the home of Jesus’s mother at the end of her life, and the Basilica of St. John, constructed in the 6th century, marks the location of his tomb. (Like Mary, he spent his final years in Ephesus.) Nearby, the Selcuk fortress reflects the period of Byzantine and Ottoman control of the region.
From ancient wonders to holy sites, there are few ports in the Mediterranean as magical as Kusadasi, and a day here is a day spent in the company of some of antiquity's greatest figures.
Day 6: Crete
Iraklion (or Heraklion) is the regional capital and the biggest city on Crete (Greece’s largest island), and a favorite of travelers for hundreds of years. Members of the first great European civilization, the Minoans, were building palace complexes near here 5,000 years ago; these were only rediscovered in the 20th century. The city was founded in 824 B.C.E. by the Saracens, and in the modern era the island and city saw some of the fiercest resistance to invaders: first against the Turks in the 18th and 19th centuries, and then against the Germans in World War II. Even today Crete and its capital maintain a character distinct from that of the rest of Greece. It is a mixture of a certain wildness and traditional hospitality, blended with its history and a harsh but beautiful landscape of hidden plateaus and mountains that tower to almost 2,500 meters (8,200 feet). The people, peaks, ancient sites and stunning coast make it an altogether unforgettable place.
Iraklion is also the site of our Ensemble Exclusive Experience—a hosted event, only available through Huckleberry Travel, that will connect you to the destination in an incredibly special way. We’ll have more details about this exclusive shore event as the sailing date approaches, but we’ll urge you not to book a shore excursion in Crete on your own. This exclusive event is complimentary to you, because you’ve booked an Ensemble Hosted Cruise with Huckleberry Travel!
Day 7: Athens
No modern metropolis is more steeped in myth than Athens, Greece. From the gritty port of Piraeus—gateway to Greece’s fabled isles—to the Parthenon—eternal symbol of Western civilization—Athens has attracted adventurers and classicists for centuries. This heritage is still very much alive for modern visitors sightseeing in Athens: ancient stadiums and temples dwell alongside apartment blocks, modern performances are staged in the marble amphitheaters where Greek drama was born and millennia-old monuments are scattered in the archaeological park that circles the Acropolis.
One of the world’s oldest maritime powers, Athens is blessed with a balmy climate and stunning coastline. The seaside suburbs of Athens are scalloped with sandy beaches, fancy yacht clubs and glamorous beach bars. While the Athenian lifestyle is known for late-night dinners and dancing until dawn, the city shines brightly by day in the bustling markets, lively cafés and fascinating museums that illuminate Greece's past and present. Contemplate the magnitude of all that culture and ancient tourist attractions while marveling at the sun setting into the Aegean or rising over the Acropolis.
Day 8: Nafplion
Nafplion is one of the most beautiful towns in the eastern Peloponnese. It sits on the Argolic Gulf with the formidable Palamidi fortress standing over it, keeping a watchful eye out towards the sea. According to mythology, Nafplios, the son of Poseidon, founded Nafplion. The legends continue—the area reputedly played a hand in the Trojan War as well as the Argonaut expedition. Over the years, Nafplion was taken over by Frankish, Venetian and Turkish forces, and these influences are evident everywhere—in the medieval castles, the Ottoman fountains and especially in the neoclassical architecture.
Much of the life in Nafplion centers on the medieval Old Town, with its cobblestone alleyways and Venetian homes. Numerous cafés and tavernas sprawl along the waterfront, facing a port that dates back to the Bronze Age. Turkish mosques sit alongside modern museums, bridging the gaps in culture and time. At sunset, there’s no better place to be than strolling along the promenade. From the right vantage point you can see the Venetian fortress (Bourtzi) sitting all alone on a rocky island known as Agioi Theodoroi.
Day 9: Olympia
The port of Katakolon is the gateway to the Peloponnese, one of Greece’s most intriguing and least well-known areas. Beyond the region’s famous site of ancient Olympia—one of the most treasured remnants of the classical world—the Peloponnese gets little of the glory given the Greek islands and Athens. And it deserves much more, as you’re about to discover.
A distinctly Greek welcome can be experienced here like nowhere else. The region reveals what it means to be Greek: traditions that go back thousands of years, simple but delicious and healthy cuisine, towering mountains, crystal blue seas and, above all, the true hospitality of the people. In Greek, xenos means "stranger," but the word also means "guest," and a respectful traveler will be treated like a favored friend.
In addition to Olympia, which is unmissable, the Peloponnese offers lesser-known but majestic and ancient sites, natural wonders and an insight into the traditional rural life that still endures in this country. Take the time to explore and see as much as possible—your efforts will be more than rewarded.
Day 10: Corfu
Corfu is the pearl of the Ionian Sea, attracting royalty from across Europe in the 19th century, and modern celebrities from all over the world ever since. The island reflects a triple heritage. As well as being undeniably Greek, the culture and food also show a clear nod towards nearby Italy, particularly Venice, whose fortresses dot the island. The British influence may be unexpected, but as they ruled the island for many years, they have left such surprises in the Mediterranean as cricket and ginger beer.The bustling atmosphere of Corfu Town remains elegant, infused with culture and history. Parts of the rest of the island have been overdeveloped, but there are still great swaths that epitomize why the Greek islands are still regarded as the most beautiful in the world, with white-sand beaches backed by verdant mountains hiding traditional old villages. It is easy to see how Corfu has inspired generations of writers: from Shakespeare, through Edward Lear, to Gerald Durrell. A true gem.
Day 11: Kotor
Cruising into the Bay of Kotor, in Montenegro you'll be wowed by the dramatic beauty of this coastal town. Dreamy seafront villages are set to a backdrop of mountains plummeting into the Adriatic Sea, while the stone labyrinth of the Old Town is filled with medieval architecture and historic monuments—as well as the narrowest street in the world..
The area only became part of Montenegro after WWII, and as such has a very different history to the rest of the country. Kotor escaped Ottoman rule and developed as an important Venetian trading post, before being conquered by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, France and Russia. The city pays tribute to this dynamic history with Venetian gates, Napoleon's theater and Austrian prisons all waiting to be discovered. There's a reason it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The cruise ship dock is across the street from the Sea Gate, the main entrance to the Old Town, while a conveniently located taxi stand by the harbor gates allows for easy exploration of the region.
Days 12 and 13: Venice
"When I went to Venice, my dream became my address," wrote Lord Byron, just one of many famous figures who found a haven in this fantasy city. This enchanted land was built on stilts, set into the water by ancient Venetians seeking refuge from the harsh realities of landlocked life. And Venice, Italy still offers a palpable feeling of escape from the real world today. When you cruise into the lagoon and step onto what passes for solid ground, you'll still be very much on the water. Venice is a floating labyrinth of reflections, with mirror and glass sights everywhere, from glorious Venetian architecture echoed in the canal waters to the marble palaces that shimmer in the sky. And although Carnivale is only held once a year, being in Venice on any day is like going to a festival with plenty of vibrant things to do and attractions to see. Locals seem to love the many sightseeing visitors who arrive each year, and Venice will openly reveal her charms even to those who are only here for a few hours, an afternoon or a magical evening.
Ready for an epic journey?
Let’s take a look at everything that’s included in this exclusive Ensemble Hosted Cruise:
Twelve nights, including an overnight in Venice, Italy.
Eleven ports-of-call in four countries (Italy, Greece, Turkey and Montenegro).
One day at sea, with all of the classic cruise amenities of Holland America’s gorgeous ship.
Complimentary Ensemble Experience Shore Event in Iraklion (Crete)
Ensemble Traveler Host to help ensure that your journey is truly exceptional. (That’s us!)
Complimentary Ensemble Traveler Cocktail Party.
If you’ve always wanted a Greek-island-hopping adventure, that’s loaded with exclusive amenities, we’ve gota great sailing for you! Let us know when you’re ready to reserve your space!