Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer are taking us along on another amazing journey. We hope this series shows you what you can expect on a Holland America Grand Voyage. First was the kick off, then Costa Rica,Panama Canal, Chile, Patagonia, Antarctica, Argentina, Brazil, The Amazon, the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, Spain and they’ve now begun the first leg of the 2017 Grand Mediterranean Voyage.
We’re in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea and our first few stops are islands.
It boasts the second largest natural deep water harbor in the world, with Pearl Harbor being first. Yachts of all sizes are lined up in the port as we pull in and the center of the city is at the top of the steep hill in front of us, where the majority of cafes and shops are located.
There are small fishing villages all over the island, as well as hidden coves with beaches, old fortresses, beach resorts, and miles of waterfront promenades. The homes are often built right on top of sheer cliffs, with great views.
The island of Menorca is well known for several products that visitors search for.
- Ayuntas, a type of sandal made on the island in endless colors.
As a Spanish town, they still adhere to a few hours of siesta time in the middle of the afternoon. So by 2:00PM most of the shops were closed and most passengers were back on the ship, although we weren’t leaving until almost 5:00PM.
Our next stop takes us to Italy. We’re in the port of Alghero on the island of Sardinia. A fairly long tender ride brought us to the old town. Sometimes called Little Barcelona, it does have a similar pedestrian walk also called Las Ramblas.
The old city is walled, with very narrow streets lined with shops and cafes. In the center of town is the Church of St Francis with its 16th century bell tower. There are many stone towers that probably had some defensive purpose but are now just part of the scenery.
Day 3 of our marathon 7 ports days in a row took us to L’ile Rousse on the island of Corsica, which is part of France. We saw snow covered peaks in the distance as we approached the port.
L’ile Rousse is a relatively small resort town, so we headed out with a mission to get to the nearby town of Calvi, well-known as a former home of Christopher Columbus. It was a comfortable 40-minute train ride through the countryside and it deposited us right in the center of town.
The dominant feature of the town is the Calvi Citadel, perched high on the hillside. We made our way up, up and up and wandered through the narrow lanes as we took in the spectacular views of the harbor. On our way down, we walked the main shopping street lined with boutiques and cafes.
We can see why this is a popular resort island. The water here is so clear and such a wonderful shade of blue, it makes you want to jump in. The geography is unique and provided some great pictures. Our train ride through the countryside gave us a sense of all the small villages along the coast with their own beautiful coves, cozy hotels, and seaside restaurants. And then there are the abundant hiking trails, mountain top villages, and hidden beaches. Lots to explore for another time.
That’s it for our pretty island stops for now. It’s on to the big cities. First is Monte Carlo, Monaco.
It’s a foggy morning as we arrive but the city is clearly visible on the hillside in front of us. From a distance it looks like a giant lego construction – row after row of tall high-rises lined up. They’ve made use of every inch of space and they’re still building. And then there are the yachts – 50, 60, 100 feet in length, lining the harbor.
The city just oozes money. On the streets are Ferraris, Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Maseratis – and not just one or two. The shops, hotels and restaurants – also catering to the rich and famous. The center piece of the city is the Grand Casino perched up on the hill – a beautiful traditional building that stands out among the more modern structures that surround it.
They have done a great job with green spaces – lots of parks and plazas to break up the expanses of high rise. As was the case on our last visit, they are once again preparing the city for the famous Grand Prix race held here in May.
Our sail away from Monaco was marked by a complimentary cocktail party out on deck for the entire ship. As you would imagine, it was very well attended. Everyone behaved and no one jumped or was pushed into the pool, as we have seen on other voyages.
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Cruise consultant Gillian Clark can help answer your questions about cruising Antarctica or a Grand Voyage!