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If a Mediterranean, Adriatic, or Baltic cruise is on your 2012 travel wish list, check out the $1,776 July 4th sale fares now being offered by Windstar Cruises (must be booked by July 6). Windstar, which operates three tall-masted luxury ships – 312-passenger Wind Surf and 148-passenger Wind Star (shown at left in Greece) and Wind Spirit – has lowered fares on 20 European voyages sailing from mid-July to mid-November (with some fall voyages priced as low as $1,476 and December Caribbean voyages priced from $976).
I have cruised around Europe extensively and have sailed on both Wind Star and Wind Surf. If, like me, you prefer smaller ships to the behemoths, you’ll enjoy the intimate ambiance, wonderful service, superb cuisine, and easy camaraderie that these ships offer. Here are few of my recommendations for itineraries among those on sale until July 6:
There’s nothing like 3,500-year-old frescoes and 1,000-year-old cathedrals to put 50 years of life or 30 years of marriage into perspective – both are a mere heartbeat in the history of humanity. If you’re the kind of traveler who lives your life forever looking forward, but are entranced by the past, you may want to consider a cruise with Voyages to Antiquity. This two-year-old company offers a variety of 14- to 33-day itineraries in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Aegean (through late October) and Asia (November to March and featuring nine new itineraries). What differentiates VTA from other cruise lines is its laser-like focus on ancient cultures explored via extended voyages with lyrical names like “The Light of Greece” and “Those Who Seek Paradise.”
A day trip to Oia certainly inspires oohs and ahs. But only by sleeping here, in the Greek Islands’ most iconic locale, can you really understand the true psyche of the Cycladic islands – the brilliant sunlight, the sensual sunsets, the braying donkeys, the mellifluous church bells, the hushed laughter, the tipsy footsteps, and the silence. Once the cruise ships are gone, this gravity-defying hodgepodge of whitewashed traditional houses, clinging to steep cliffs that tumble down to an ancient caldera filled with the deep blue Aegean, truly becomes one of the most mesmerizing spots on the planet. As a result, it’s chock full of luxury resorts commanding upwards of $700 per night in season. On a recent visit, I opted to think small and stay in an intimate and affordable three-room inn set on one of the town’s most enviable perches: 1864 The Sea Captain’s House.
I’ve posted before about the Greek islands, but I’m always looking to pass along new tips and advice on these ever-changing isles. A few bits of wisdom I’ve accumulated recently:
Visit Folegandros: I met locals who suggested a trip to Folegandros, an undeveloped, very beautiful island that draws in-the-know travelers. I suggest spending a few quiet days here before heading to livelier Mykonos or Santorini.
If you tend to get bored after a few days in a single destination, consider visiting Greece, where it’s easy to hop between neighboring islands. I recently spent time on Mykonos and Santorini, which are linked by regular two-hour high-speed catamaran service. Crowds thin and room rates fall in September and early October, making those six weeks a great time to visit. Here are resort options on both:
Mykonos: If you love sun, fun, and nightlife, this party-centric island is the one for you. But couples with a more low-key or romantic sensibility can find lots to love, too. You’ll enjoy its bohemian charms, especially from sunset on, and spending three or four days here – and renting a small car or one of the ubiquitous ATVs (Quads) – will let you sample its many beaches, appealing small eateries, and the maze of streets in Mykonos Town (don’t miss sunset from the patio of a small bar or café in Little Mykonos, with its view of the island’s iconic windmills – shown above at left).
The Greek Islands are among the world’s most popular tourist destinations and it’s easy to see why. Praised since the days of Homer, this legendary archipelago draws millions of visitors every summer for its fine beaches, picture-perfect whitewashed villages, and glamorous nightlife. Now you can visit four gorgeous Aegean Islands with this affordable ten-night island-hopper package. Your exciting itinerary begins with two nights in Athens, then ferries you over to three stunning ports in the Cyclades: Mykonos, Paros, and Santorini. Your adventure concludes with a stay on the fascinating Greek Island of Crete where you can explore the famous Minoan Palaces Knossos and Phaistos, and savor a glass of cold raki, a powerful Cretan sprit distilled from crushed grape skins. Starting at just $1139, the vacation includes round-trip international airfare between the US and Athens, two nights’ hotel in each destination, plus all local flights and ferries.
Celebrate spring in the Greek Islands with an affordable vacation package from EuropeanDestinations.com. This 6-night air-inclusive package provides a budget-friendly opportunity to unwind in the romantic Cyclades, and also get a taste of the glory of ancient Greece with time in Athens. Spend a few days in the capital city exploring the Parthenon and the renowned National Archeological Museum. Next, head to Mykonos for a trendy beach and nightlife scene second to none. Round out your trip with two nights on beautiful Santorini, one of the world’s most picturesque volcanic islands. Starting at just $1017, the offer includes round-trip flight from the US, ferry transportation, breakfast, your choice of hotels. While the offer is available through summer, you’ll beat summer’s crowds by traveling soon. Plus, you’ll also enjoy mild temperatures in the 60s and 70s ideal for exploring white-roofed cliffside villages, glittering black-and-red-sand beaches, and some of the world’s most picturesque ports and fishing marinas.
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