Discover new horizons with an Ocean Cruise

What would Christopher Columbus have done if he lived today? Instead of entrusting his life and that of his men to the fragile nutshells that were his caravels, he would have boarded a cruise liner and gone on an Ocean Cruise. He wouldn’t have lost his way either!

Cruise ship in St. Thomas

Cruise ship in St. Thomas

Experience the same spirit of adventure and discovery by joining an Ocean cruise, gliding from one exciting port to another in style and comfort and enjoying the shore excursions which are on offer. Not to mention the fabulous food and entertainment on board. Whether you travel on your own, as a couple or as a group of family and friends, there is a suitable voyage for every taste, need or budget.

Let’s look at some of the latest destinations to open your appetite.

Lisbon, Casablanca, CanaryIslands, Cap Verde

If you are new to cruises, this trip may be the right beginner experience. Visit Lisbon and marvel at the fabulous buildings, hop on the legendary street car and in the evening, enjoy fados, the typical melancholic ballades in candle lit bars. Next stop is Casablanca, where you can breathe the magic of Morocco, walk along the Corniche, admire the Portuguese fortress and, if you stop for a drink at the Hilton Hotel, you will be served by waiters in trilby and trench coat. Bogart is well alive. Not to forget a foray into the bazaar where you can practise your haggling skills.

Casablance Hassan II Mosque credit: Alfred Molon

Casablance Hassan II Mosque credit: Alfred Molon

Enjoy the luxury of your cruise ship and be enticed by the Canary Islands. The harsh volcanic landscape of the Teide in Tenerife and the black beaches in Lanzarote, alternate with the white sand dunes of Las Palomas in Grand Canaria or the lush vegetation of the Orotava  valley in Tenerife.

Teide National Park Tenerife

Teide National Park Tenerife

Cap Verde islands are a world of their own with Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese influences and pristine beaches.

Norway and the Northern Lights

Why not look for a winter cruise with a chance to experience the unique wonders of the Northern lights?  If this appeals to you then embark on a cruise within the Arctic Circle and enjoy a winter wonderland in Norway. Fjords and steep cliffs beckon as well as land excursions with a chance of dog sledding and a visit to an ice hotel and the Arctic Cathedral. And finally, the magic curtains of the Northern Lights in Tromso or Alta. You’ll never forget that sight.

Northen Lights Norway

Northen Lights Norway

Hawaiian Islands and San Francisco

It doesn’t get much more exotic than this trip. The Hawaiian islands, all eight of them of a volcanic nature and all different ,await your visit. Maui and Kauai beckon with tropical vegetation, stunning beaches, sky high waves and the incomparable hospitality and friendliness of the locals. Coffee lovers will be thrilled by the taste of Kona coffee and you might even try to play the ukulele.

Hawaii

Hawaii

Thrown in are two days In San Francisco. Yet another cable car experience and a crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge are a must as is a visit to America’s biggest and oldest China Town.

From Hong Kong to Singapore, discover the Orient

Talking about China town: experience the ‘real thing’ with this cruise, starting in Hong Kong. Climb the Peak for  an impressive overview of this city which has no choice but to grow vertically, visit the world famous horse races and venture into the night markets of Kowloon. Then continue on to Vietnam and Thailand and end up in Singapore. An incredible mix of cultures will assail all your senses. From Victorian to Chinese and the most breathtaking samples of futuristic architecture, Singapore , the Lion City, has it all on a surface of only 278 sq miles.

Singapore

Singapore

There are many more destinations available to the discerning modern day ‘crusader’. One cruise and I was hooked. Maybe the same will happen to you.

 

 

Top Essentials Packing Checklist for a Nile Cruise

Top Essentials Packing Checklist for a Nile cruise

When people think about booking a cruise they usually picture massive cruise ships travelling to busy ports and packed beaches, but river cruises provide an equally excellent holiday option. And there are few rivers in the world that are more famous than the Nile. Who else’s banks hold the relics of one of the world’s most important ancient cultures, the Kingdom of Egypt? All Egyptian holidays are certain to be rewarding and fun, but a cruise down the Nile is an experience unlike any other. If you’re looking to plan your adventure on the Nile, here are a few essentials to bring along. You can also get more information on what to wear at Saga blog.

nile1

Pack for Warm and Cool Weather

The summers in Egypt are extremely hot, reaching temperatures into the high thirties, but things can still cool off in the evenings, especially when you’re on the water. Be sure to pack clothing that is lightweight and will protect you from the sun, as well as warmer layers, like light cotton sweaters and long sleeve shirts for later into the night.

nile2

Bring Plenty of Sun Block and a Hat

The Egyptian sun is incredibly strong, and if you’re wandering about archaeological sites like the Great Pyramid, or the Valley of the Kings, you are bound to be exposed to the rays. The best way to avoid getting burned is to limit your exposure by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, and to coat yourself in plenty of sun block.

Purchase a Pair of Sturdy Walking Sandals

While you can get away with wearing flip-flops on the boat during your cruise of the Nile, walking over the rough terrain of many of Egypt’s ancient ruins will require sturdier footwear. The best option is walking sandals, which will provide you with both the breathability and support to comfortably explore large sites like the famous city of Luxor.

Snap Pics with Your Digital Camera

When going on any holiday you’ll want to bring a camera to document your experience, but when visiting a storied place like Egypt it will seem like every landscape is a once in a lifetime photo opportunity. Be sure to bring an extra memory card so you can save all your great pics.

Don’t Forget Insect Repellent

Hot climates and bodies of water always attract insects like mosquitos, and though you will certainly be spending time in museums like the Nubian Museum in Aswan, the majority of your time will most likely be spent at outdoor attractions, making insect repellent a must. With the high temperatures and strong sun, you may also want to bring a cooling version of insect repellent with you.

Wrap Up with a Pashmina

Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, so female travellers should be sure to keep their shoulder covered when visiting cities and towns. One of the best ways to keep cool and covered is to carry a pashmina with you that you can wrap over your shoulders when necessary.

If spectacular landscapes and historical wonders are your idea of the perfect holiday, then a cruise down the Nile is one adventure you’re certain to enjoy.

Images by used Rick Manwaring and zoloakoma under Creative Commons license

Cruise Destination Gems of the Western Med

The Western Mediterranean is one of the world’s most diverse cruise destinations. Spanning two continents (Europe and Africa) it’s an area rich in art and history, saturated by year-round sunshine and offering the opportunity to combine relaxing cafe culture with boutique shopping and mingling with the jet set.

Though the region has enough to occupy the cruise traveler indefinitely, these locations should definitely be considered when planning the itinerary of cruises to the region.

Malaga Port .. The Palm Garden of Surprises

Malaga/Spain

Less well-known than Barcelona, the birthplace of Picasso and capital of the Costa del Sol is well worth a visit. Pack a pair of sturdy shoes for a sightseeing tour — the city has a wide variety of museums and monuments, including the beautiful ancient architecture of the 11th century Alcazaba fort. It may be tempting, however, just to don your sandals and soak up the sun on one of the many golden beaches that stretch up and down the coast.

Elba/Italy

Elba really is a hidden gem. This unspoilt Tuscan island has a laidback feel that makes total relaxation a reality. Combining rugged cliffs and white pebble beaches with tiny tavernas, travelers might consider this location for a chance to recharge their batteries at the mid point of their cruise. A spot of island hopping may also be in order, as Elba is a mere 30 miles East of the beautiful French Island of Corsica.

Isola d'Elba

Ibiza Town/Ibiza

Ibiza Town, a world renowned haunt of the rich and famous, is a one stop shop for shopping and good food. After a long day spent blowing the budget in beautiful boutiques, you can indulge in a spot of people watching at one of the stylish cafes that line Ibiza Town’s pretty streets. It’s not all about the glitz and glamour (though this can be found in abundance). The old part of town features charming cobbled streets, historic ramparts and views of the harbor and dazzling coastline.

Lisbon/Portugal

Don’t overlook lovely Lisbon in favor of more popular destinations – this beautiful hillside city is steeped in history, with its Roman and Moorish ruins, white-domed cathedrals and sunny grand plazas where locals sip a Cappuccino and watch the world go by. Lisbon has it all; art, architecture, unique and quirky shops and a multitude of stylish wine bars and fantastic restaurants. Travel only a short distance outside the city itself to enjoy woodland walks, beaches and tiny seaside villages.

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These are all endearing locations in the Western Mediterranean. See any of them on the cruise itinerary and you should make a beeline for the cruise!

Images by Nick Kenrick, Salvatore Gerace and Bengt Nyman, used under Creative Commons license

Don’t Miss the Beauty of Genoa

If you are planning to visit Italy, Genoa might not be among the top 10 of your bucket list. Make sure you add Genoa, the capital of Liguria, because otherwise you will miss out on a city full of history, charm and monuments which don’t have to blush whencompared to the Renaissance splendor of Florence.

Port of Genoa

Port of Genoa

Cruise ship stop
Genoa is a stop on several Mediterranean cruises, but as is the case with all these cruise stops, you only have limited time to explore. Enough to give you a first impression, but if you can manage at all, plan to spend two days in Genoa.
The great delight of independent solo travel is, that you can change your plans and make decision at a moment’s notice without having to consult with anyone.
That’s how I came to Genoa. I was in Barcelona and fancied a trip by sea. My destination was Marseille, but I didn’t find a ferry to take me there. The next one leaving went to Genoa and without thinking twice about it, I bought my ticket and went. All I can tell you is that the travel gods guided me to a great place which I otherwise might have missed out on.

Statue of Columbus

Statue of Columbus

Birthplace of Columbus and much more
Genoa was the venue of the Expo 92 and, more recently, became to European Capital of Culture 2004. This has done wonders for the improvement and restoration of a marvelous Italian city which is full of history, Medieval and Renaissance buildings. It’s also the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and his statue greets you in front of the railway station.
narrow picturesque alleys lined with shops and trattorias, Baroque churches, a thriving sea port and much more which is a great incentive to spend a few days in a place which is often bypassed by tourists on their way to more famous places like Rome, or Florence. The advantage is, that you don’t find many umbrella touting tourist guides and I had the pleasure of visiting the fabulous Doges Palace with exactly four other people!

Shopping arcade in Genoa

Shopping arcade in Genoa

What to do and see
First I walked down Via Balbi and stopped at the Royal Palace. Built between 1643 and 1655 by two famous Genovese families, it got its name from the fact that in 1823 it was sold to the King of Savoy who used it as his private residence. Beautiful furniture, carvings, carpets, chandeliers and works of art can be admired in the palace and give you a first taste of the countless treasure to be visited in Genoa, topped by the Palace of the Doge located near Genoa’s most important square, Piazza de Ferrari. If you get a map of Genoa, you will see that there are 50 palaces alone, not to mention churches and museums as well as more modern day sights.

church

gate

palazzo

girl
From Via Balbi I turned right towards the port area. The port of Genoa is unique as it is the only major port in Europe which is practically in the city itself. Modern condo buildings and small shopping malls form a part of the port area as well as a movie prop: the vessel used in Roman Polanski’s film ‘Pirates’.

nept

Of international acclaim is the Aquarium of Genoa with an enormous collection of fish and sea life as well as a sanctuary for injured fish and a biotope in front which is brilliantly illuminated at night.

biotope
You can embark on a sightseeing boat tour around the harbor which brings you to one of Genoa’s landmarks: La Lanterna, a lighthouse of 77 m standing on a 40m high rock, built in 1543 but rumored to have had a predecessor as early as the 1100.
I also took a city tour in a 12 seater open little bus to get an overview of the city, something I normally don’t do but enjoyed very much because of the reduced number of passengers and the really good explanations you can listen to with your earphones.
If after all that history and art you fancy a spot of shopping: no better place than Via Roma and Via XX Settembre, the latter adorned with beautiful inlaid marble mosaic pavements. Both streets can easily compete with Milan as far as chic shops and boutiques are concerned.
Genoa is a university town which means that you find a plethora of inexpensive eateries where you must try the local specialty: pesto Liguria poured over any kind of pasta. Or pastries, or ice cream or paninis…the choice is endless and for as little as EUROS 7 you can fill your stomach. There is no shortage of sit down restaurants either, nobody goes hungry in Genoa.
Where to stay
I chose the Hotel Bellevue a small hotel right at the beginning of the historical center of Via Balbi. The entire street is a pedestrian area and a World Heritage Site. You can’t be any closer to the treasures of history. The hotel is also just two minutes walk from the train station Statione Piazza Principe with the great statue of Christopher Columbus in front.
My room was a bit tiny, but comfortable enough, with (working) free wifi, a bathroom, and an ample breakfast included in the price of EUROS 60 for a single.

food

Going further afield
Genoa is the capital of the province of Liguria and a fantastic daytrip is an excursion to Cinque Terre, best done by train. The route leads along the picturesque Ligurian coast with steep cliffs and crashing rocks to a collection of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore which in turn are part of the Cinque Terre National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The villages which consist of houses and fields, carefully carved in terraces out of the steep hillside, can only be reached by foot on winding paths, train or boat, but not by car from the outside which is part of the beauty and charm of the region.
With the exception of ruins, temples and statues of antiquity, Genoa has it all, but in a much more tranquil and manageable environment than other more famous Italian sites. Step out into Via Balbi and immediately you feel part of the locals, who by the way, are very friendly and helpful if you need to ask directions.

Turkey 4 Day Blue Cruise

A holiday on the Turkish coast is a splendid way to spend your summer and taking a peaceful cruise will ensure your experience will be breathtaking.

BLUE CRUISES

The most enthralling way of experiencing the Mediterranean is with Blue Cruises Turkey. Infinite options wait whether you want to walk among ancient civilizations, bask in the sun, or eat your way through delectable Turkish cuisine. Sailing the blue seas on a gulet while you gaze at the immaculate environment of the Turkish Riviera is quite possibly the most sublime holiday anyone could ask for.

Enjoy the crystal clear water

Enjoy the crystal clear water

What to Eat

Blue cruises stop in towns and villages from Fethiye to Olympos, which all have a unique flavor to encounter.

Fethiye is famous for the local fish market where you see fishmongers offering their fresh local catch. Choose from octopus, king prawns, calamari, sea bass, or cuttlefish among many other options! They will clean your seafood then send to one of the many surrounding restaurants to cook to your liking. Mezes allow you to try various flavors from smoked aubergine to yogurt with dill and mint. An excellent companion to any fish dish is the local anise-flavored liquor, Raki, which is not for the weak hearted.

A selection of Mezze

A selection of Mezze

Another stop on most blue cruises is at the historical Saint Nicholas Island. There you will see typical Turkish mothers on small boats cooking the delightful gozleme. Gozleme is a rolled out pastry dough dusted with eggs and cooked to perfection on a griddle. You can choose a sweet or savory filling from Nutella to spinach and white cheese, or feta, as most of us know it.

Small boats selling ice cream can also be seen in some secluded bays where your tour will stop for a quick dip. There’s nothing better than ice cream on a scorching hot day and even better when delivered by boat.

If you love ice cream, be sure to taste the homemade sweet treat in the sunken city of Kekova. After exploring Simena Castle, a break in the city center of Kekova with a waffle cone full of luscious ice cream will tickle your taste buds and boost your energy.

Kekova

Kekova

What to Buy

Making big purchases such as carpets and kilims should be made in larger cities like Antalya and Istanbul. The process of going through carpets to find one that attracts your eye combined with the haggling process that becomes a game ensures you will spend hours of your day in the carpet-lined shops. You will have plenty of black or apple tea with the salesman and if your energy gets low they may even order you lunch.

The small towns along the Alaturka cruise such as Kas, Demre and Kekova offer many traditional souvenirs that you should not pass by.

The most recognizable of all trinkets is the nazar boncugu or evil eye. The bright blue eye comes in many forms though the most common is the round glass wall hanging. The all seeing eye comes in many shapes and sizes and is almost always made of glass. There are also many eyes integrated into beaded and blown glass jewelry if you prefer to wear your protection.

Hand crafted ceramics are also a popular choice for classic Turkish crafts. Bowls painted with Ottoman designs in bright colors of red, cobalt blue, turquoise, yellow, green, and orange are just a few colors that will provide plenty of options for you. Iznik tiles displaying a flower or tulip motif may better suit your taste. Or find a white whirling dervish topped with a bright turquoise hat.

Mosaic lamps are also a beautiful choice to remember your time on an Alaturka Cruise. Studded with small glass tiles in all the colors of the rainbow will make a beautiful addition to anyone’s home. Some larger shops will even take care of shipping if you don’t want to carry it on the rest of your journey.

Of course natural olive oil products such as soap, cooking oil, lip balms, and lotions are a nice token of your adventures on the Turquoise Coast of Turkey.

What to Do

Watersports are popular for anyone interested in water slides, ringo rides, wake boarding and water skiing.

Kas is especially famous for diving through caves, reefs and sunken ships. The marine life will keep you entertained and you may be lucky enough to swim along huge sea turtles that call this area home.

For those brave enough, paragliding and parasailing are an excellent way to experience the lush environment and crystal blue Mediterranean.

Delve into ancient civilizations from the many churches, ruins, amphitheaters and castles from Fethiye to Olympos and everywhere in between.

A perfect choice for your holiday in southern Turkey is to join an Alaturka cruise to encounter the endless delights of this country.

Read more about the 4 best things which make a Blue Cruise so special.