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Wouldn’t it be nice to spend Easter on a beautiful Mediterranean island – while spending less to do it? While sunny Cyprus is known as the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, it is also richly associated with early Christian history and many of its sights are fascinating for travelers of any faith. It was actually in Cyprus that St. Paul, traveling with St. Barnabas, succeeded in converting an ancient Roman proconsul to the Christian faith, in effect making him the first official in the Roman Empire to adopt Christianity.
Several eastern Mediterranean cruises use the exotic wonders of Egypt and Libya as major selling points on voyages. Unfortunately, recent violence and political turmoil in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya have caused many cruise lines to change ports of call or to cancel voyages entirely.
Cruise lines had recently jumped on the opportunity to add Libya as an exotic port of call on Mediterranean itineraries after the country began issuing visas to American tourists in 2010. Now, with the political uprising and subsequent US State Department travel warning, the same cruise lines are scrambling to reroute these trips. Small cruise company Voyages to Antiquity announced this month that it has canceled its first cruise of 2011, which was to sail via Libya from Athens to Rome. It was a stroke of bad luck for the company, as this voyage had originally been scheduled to stop in Egypt and Tunisia, but was rerouted to Libya due to Egypt’s political instability.
With travel warnings to Egypt remaining in effect, many cruise lines are scrambling to change routes rather than wait and see how the situation plays out. The majority of cruise lines have canceled stops in the region through the end of March, for fear of ending up like Viking River Cruises, who had to charter a plane to airlift 91 passengers out of Egypt when the unrest began. Costa, however, is staying the course by restoring cruising to Egypt after some tourist site warnings were lifted.
Considering the cost of last-minute changes and cancellations to itineraries, it will be interesting to see if the impact that these events have on the cruise industry are reflected in “safer” picks for the next season.
In just a few days, the New Year will dawn – and we all know what that means: Many a resolution will be made. I am writing this now in hopes of urging all couples to make their number-one resolution for 2011 to get the most from their romantic travels in year ahead. Here’s how:
1. Be spontaneous. Sometimes the best trips are planned on very short notice. And at ShermansTravel.com, great last-minute travel deals are just a few clicks away.
2. Try a new Caribbean island. Far too many couples get caught in a vacation rut – revisiting the same spot year after year. Repeat getaways are safe and familiar, but it’s fun to head somewhere entirely new: If you like the Bahamas, consider Turks & Caicos or the British Virgin Islands (shown above at left). If you like St. Thomas, try Barbados or St. Lucia. If you’re a fan of Aruba, try Grand Cayman or Anguilla. If Puerto Rico is your usual spot, give Jamaica or Curacao a try.
Two cruise ships couldn’t possibly be more different than Seabourn Sojourn (www.seabourn.com; shown at left; courtesy of the Yachts of Seabourn) and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas (www.royalcaribbean.com). I was recently onboard preview sailings of both as they arrived in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and I can tell you they only have two things in common: They are the newest vessels in their fleets (both debuted in 2010) and they are truly fantastic ships. Come to think of it, comparing them is kind of like comparing a Yorkshire Terrier and a Great Dane. Both are best in show, but for very different reasons!
Here’s a rundown of what to expect, beginning with an aft-to-stern comparison:
I happen to believe that every couple should experience the unique wonder of Venice, Italy at least once – and, ideally, at least once every few years. This amazingly ancient city never gets old for me, perhaps because I always avoid visiting during summer tourist season, when both the heat and the crowds are unbearable. There’s no reason not to plan a trip here in winter, spring, or fall – okay, so the weather can sometimes be unpredictable (it’s typically very cold and damp in December and January, yet I have seen it hit the high 70s in early March), but that’s part of the fun. In fact, here are 10 reasons why Venice beckons now through April.
The Luxury Built into a hillside overlooking the Douro River in one of Europe’s most scenic wine regions, Aquapura Douro Valley clinched a Smart Luxury Award from the magazine in 2008. It has an outstanding 23,600-square-foot holistic spa, but the revamped 18th-century mansion’s strongest asset may be Almapura, its Mediterranean cuisine restaurant, where diners can choose from more than 200 wines, including some from neighboring vines. Aquapura’s River rooms offer a Zen ambience, while private villas come with plunge pools and vineyard views.
There was a time in the not so distant past when the food served onboard most cruise ships – carbohydrate-laden buffets, rubbery pizzas, and greasy burgers and fries – added greatly to the passengers’ gross tonnage by cruise’s end. My boyfriend and I just spent the past week aboard Silversea’s newest luxury ship, Silver Spirit, sailing from Barcelona to Lisbon while sampling cruise cuisine’s much more refined and appetizing present. And while we did gain a few pounds, it was a result of dining on what is, hands down, the best food we’ve ever tasted at sea.
The deliciosa dining scene aboard the 540-passenger Silver Spirit spans six restaurants and is pretty much guaranteed to satisfy epicurean couples. One night, as we sailed along the southern coast of Spain, we savored delicate carpaccio of sea scallops and crispy golden shrimp tempura in the sensational Seishin (“Spirit”) Japanese restaurant. On another evening, we lingered for two hours over a six-course French tasting menu at the romantic Le Champagne. Here’s a rundown of the ship’s culinary treats:
Stroll down the cobblestone streets and sunset-glazed alleys of two blockbuster Mediterranean cities. Central Holidays’ Super Bargain packages start from just $721 with a six-night stay in arty Madrid or spell-binding Barcelona (a savings of up to $700 or more), including round-trip airfare from New York City, a four-night stay at a first-class hotel (with hotel taxes and service charges), daily breakfast, and airport transfers. At the cost of a round-trip flight, you can visit these historic, Spanish stomping grounds, taking in striking architecture, romantic beaches, exotic palates, and so much more.
THE VALUE: Travel during off-peak season is perfect for avoiding tourist mobs and witnessing some of the most authentic and significant cultural celebrations, like Three Kings Day (Jan. 6).
THE CATCH: Leave some spare cash in your budget – each person is charged air taxes and fees of approximately $69.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Check out other European Vacation deals.
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest fares to far-flung cities.
I am possibly the only woman in America who has not read Eat Pray Love, which hits theaters this Friday, August 13th, as a movie starring Julia Roberts, but I have traveled to all the inspiring places author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in her memoir: Italy, my absolute favorite place on the planet; India, one of the most fascinating countries I’ve ever visited; and Bali (shown above), which I adore for it being as equally serene as it is chaotic.
To be honest, the Eat Pray Love trailers have made me curious to see the movie (but not when I’m hungry, given all the pizza Julia seems to devour!). In the meantime, here’s my take on these three fabulously romantic travel destinations, which every woman (and her man) should see in their lifetime. And wouldn’t you know it –autumn is a wonderful time to visit them all. Read more
Sailing the storied waters of the Mediterranean offers a sense of romance and adventure on the high seas that is virtually unsurpassed, with its shimmering, cerulean sea providing access to a staggering array of diversified ports, ranging from sleepy old-world fishing villages nestled by coastal cliffs to bustling and exotic metropolises that span Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. While many Americans first acquire their sea legs hopping between the island paradises of the Caribbean (see our Caribbean Cruises 101), the siren call of the Mediterranean sounds out strong, enticing U.S. travelers to traverse the Atlantic in search of the region’s treasure trove of ports steeped in rich histories and captivating cultures.
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