Welcome to the Ultimate World Cruise Itinerary blog series, based on the survey results of the resident owners of Storylines first residential ship, MV Narrative. We asked our residents to nominate their top wish-list travel destinations. This resulted in over 130 requests!
You read that right - our community has a say in the itinerary. This is one of the many benefits of being a resident on MV Narrative - you curate the experience. With such an extensive list of destinations to cover as part of this 'wish list itinerary', we are breaking it down by creating a series of blogs by region:
- Eastern Mediterranean
- Middle East
- Indonesia, Australia & New Zealand
- South Pacific
- North America
- South America
- UK and Ireland
- Western Europe
In each region, we are discussing the desired countries, ports, and main attractions. We highlight activities, must-see sites and travel tips so you can make the most of the port stops. Additionally, for any fans of world cruises who are interested in learning more about living on a Storylines ship, this will give you a glimpse of what’s in store, as we are hopeful that many of these featured locations will become a part of our actual itinerary.
We are starting the first blog post in the series in Croatia and covering the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Here, we will explore the requested locations, offer recommendations for arrival, and provide interesting facts about the Mediterranean islands and the general region.
About the Requested Eastern Mediterranean Destinations
As you can imagine, there were many wish list destinations for Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. As such, we have broken it down into Western Europe and Eastern Mediterranean. The Western Europe post will cover such iconic areas as the French Riviera, Balearic Islands (Palma de Mallorca) and the Italian island of Sardinia, among others. However, this post is for the Eastern Med, which includes the following requested locations:
- Greek Isles including Santorini, Mykonos and Milos
- Turkey including Istanbul
Located on the beautiful Adriatic Sea is our first destination, Croatia. With no specific port cities requested, we have taken it upon ourselves to select Split and Dubrovnik. These also happen to be the two most popular port stops, and for good reason.
Split old town lies beneath the ancient walls of Diocletian's Palace and is a must-see. Just stroll around and get lost in this UNESCO listed historical complex. Take some time to explore the area as a global citizen!
- Palace of Diocletian: This ancient Roman Palace was built between 295 and 305 by the emperor Diocletian and is the centerpiece of the UNESCO world heritage site.
- Peristyle Square: A part of the Palace of Diocletian, the square serves as a courtyard leading to the entrance.
- Cathedral of St. Duje: Another Roman architectural masterpiece, climb the steps of the most original Dalmatian Medieval bell tower for a spectacular view of Split.
- Statue of Grgur Ninski: One of the defining images of Split, rub the left big toe of the 10th-century Croatian bishop for good luck.
- Split waterfront: This 1700 year old stunning promenade runs alongside the palace and offers local delicacies, excellent restaurants and bars, as well as public spaces including parks and benches.
- Piazza: A very European central square with several cafes and wine bars to sip and people watch.
- Play Picigin Game at Bacvice Beach: If you are a “when in Rome” kind of traveler, then you must play (or attempt to play) Picigin at Bacvice Beach with the locals.
- Veli Varos: Visit the oldest suburb in Split to view the well-preserved architecture and take in the ambience of the charming village.
- Mestrovic Gallery: This art museum is dedicated to the works of the 20th century sculptor, Ivan Meštrović, who also sculpted the Statue of Grgur Ninski.
- Marjan Hill: Escape the city center into the natural beauty of Majan Hill, with several excellent hiking trails through beautiful gardens and surroundings.
You have probably heard of Dubrovnik, aka The Pearl of the Adriatic. It's a hugely popular Mediterranean destination and its fame only increased after being used as a location shoot for many scenes in Game of Thrones. It is easy to see the appeal with its beautiful ancient architecture combined with enchanting coves, lovely beaches and the sparkling turquoise water of the Adriatic Sea. Not to mention the local culture, cafés and thriving nightlife.
Dubrovnik's cruise port has recently been upgraded, which means ships of our size can now dock. Old Dubrovnik is about 2.5km from Gruz Harbor port and they provide shuttle buses into the city center. Like Split, it’s best to explore this old town on foot, get lost, and discover. Dubrovnik is also known for its great nightlife, so if you feel like trying some of the Croatian wine hitting the dance floor, there are plenty of choices.
Insider tip: If you have time, get yourself down to a little town just south of Dubrovnik called Cavtat. Much less touristy and a little known treasure trove.
Dubrovnik Croatia highlights:
- Walk around the city walls: Walking along the ancient city walls is a must when visiting Dubrovnik.
- Walking tour of Old Dubrovnik: There are guided walking tours for both the old town and city walls.
- Game of Thrones walking tour: GoT fan? Then do not miss this Game of Thrones guided walking tour.
- Dubrovnik Cathedral: More magnificent architecture and Romanesque style Cathedral in Dubrovnik dating back to the 12th-14th century.
- St. Ignatius Church: A fine example of 17th century Baroque architecture.
- Cable car up Srd Hill: Take this swift three minute cable car up Srd Hill for the best views over the entire city of Dubrovnik.
- Land tour to Cavtat: This is a hidden gem. Shh... don't tell anyone.
- Kayak to Lokrum Island: Our favourite way to see Dubrovnik is by kayak, and if the conditions are okay then you can paddle over to the small Island of Lokrum.
- Drink Croatian wine: Yes, Croatia has a wine scene, including great Clemente and Cabernet Sauvignon.
As the coastline extends south of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea, we will reach the next country's destination, Montenegro, which is part of the Balkans. It is lesser known to its neighbor due to it being a young country having only become independent from Serbia in 2006. However, the small country has a lot to offer with beautiful beaches, magnificent mountains and a rich history and culture. We will focus on the Port of Kotor and surrounds.
Cruising into the Gulf of Kotor, a submerged river canyon off the Adriatic Sea, is one of the highlights of this leg of the journey. Let’s make sure we request the captain to blow the ship's horn as the echo can be heard for up to fifteen seconds! Kotor Pier is roughly 300 feet from the UNESCO old town and the Venetian Fortress.
The city of Kotor is known as one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the Mediterranean region. With no cars; the narrow streets, squares and medieval structures dating back to ancient times earned Kotor a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Everything is within walking distance in this charming old town which is completely surrounded by high mountains. If you love a good hike, climb up to The Fort, which offers the most spectacular views of the bay and old town below. We also recommend some farther excursions if we stay a while at port to see the best of what this spectacular little country has to offer.
- Kotor walking tour: Where there are guided walking tours, you can easily create your own free self-guided walking tour of Kotor.
- The Fort Hike: A must-do for keen hikers and for those wanting incredible photo ops, but beware as there are over 1500 steps.
- Sea Gate: The grand entrance to the old town dates back to Venetian rule.
- Gurdić Gate: The gate lies on a narrow strip of land between a blue lagoon and a steep mountain. Fewer tourists here make it seem like you've traveled back centuries in time.
- River Gate: The last of the three gates of Kotor was built to resist attacks from the Ottoman Empire. Made of stones, it leads to the river Skurda.
- Pima Palace: If you take a walk through the old town then you can't miss the Pima Palace with its distinctive green windows and Baroque architecture.
- Kampana Tower and Citadel: Part of the fortifications of Kotor, the Kampana Tower and Citadel incorporate military architecture of mainly Venetian influence.
- Grgurina Palace / Maritime Museum: This 18th century Baroque style palace belonged to the noble family Grgurina of Kotor.
- Farmers Market: Shop at this charming market for fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, located near the walls of the old town and open every day.
- Durmitor National Park: Another UNESCO World Heritage site, this uniquely breathtaking national park was formed from glaciers and consists of rivers and underground streams.
- Lovcen National Park: A spectacular mountain and national park with world-class hiking trails.
- Budva Riviera: Budva is a coastal city with beautiful Mediterranean beaches.
- Sveti Stefan: Located in the Budva Riviera, Sveti Stefan is a must-see island and beach attraction.
- Whitewater rafting on the Tara River: If you are interested in extreme water sports, then you must whitewater raft in the spectacular Tara Canyon.
- Drive the Serpentine Road: If road trips are your thing then be sure to tick off the bucket list item of driving one of the most famous hair-pinned roads in the world.
- Our Lady of the Rock Church: Located on a tiny island of the same name, this church holds much cultural and historical significance to Montenegrins.
Unsurprisingly, the beautiful Greek Islands made the cut. Specifically, the islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Milos. (While Athens was not named, some may want to also venture to the mainland to see the Acropolis.) Not only do the islands have a fascinating history, with ancient sites and Roman ruins, they also boast some of the best beaches, such as the famous Mastichari Beach and Navagio Beach, and the prettiest villages, such as Kos Town and Oia, on the planet. For this reason, the Greek Islands attract visitors from around the world seeking a classic Mediterranean vacation. Hopefully we avoid the tourist season! For the sake of this blog post not turning into a novel, we will just focus on these three Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.
Milos is known as the Island of Color due to its colorful sands, rocks and waters. This stems from its volcanic origins. The port is located in the harbor town of Adamas. This is an island for beach lovers and water babies. If this sounds like you, then we recommend taking one of the many boat tours around the island to secluded beaches only accessible by sea. Here you will find some of the most crystal clear waters ideal for snorkeling.
- Stroll around Plaka: Plaka is the capital and ideal for a self-guided walking tour around pretty narrow lanes and cobblestone streets.
- Venus of Milos Site and the Ancient Theater: You must take a seat in the stands of this ancient Greek amphitheater overlooking the Aegean Sea.
- Boat tour around Milos: One of the best ways to see Milos is by boat tour.
- Firiplaka Beach: Take a dip at the pristine beaches surrounded by cliffs.
- Sarakiniko Beach: Another Greek paradise beach.
- Kalamos Beach: Yes, another of the glorious beaches of golden sands and clear blue water.
- Kleftiko Beach: Classic Mediterranean pebble beach and cove with turquoise waters surrounded by rocky outcrops and even caves that you can swim through.
- Tsigrado: You have to climb down a ladder to this super-secluded beach of turquoise waters surrounded by cliffs.
- Glaronissia: Kayak or swim and snorkel through this cave with sparling azure blue waters. Only accessible by boat tour.
As MV Narrative cruises into Santorini, it's important to remember we are approaching the huge crater of a still active volcano. However, the volcano is what makes for such a unique and beautiful landscape. For the quintessential Santorini experience you will want to explore the narrow winding streets and famous cliff top whitewashed houses of Thira and Oia overlooking the azure blue waters of the Caldera. Wear proper walking shoes and take plenty of water as it's steep terrain.
Santorini tip: for the complete Santorini experience we recommend booking one of these iconic homes on Airbnb for a night or two well before arrival.
- Cable car to Fira: Instead of walking you can catch the cable car from the old port up to Fira, the capital.
- Oia village: Another traditional settlement and cliff top village in the north of Santorini 150m above sea level.
- Kamari Beach: This beach resort has unique black sand and a huge rock called Mesa Vouno that juts out from the sea.
- Perissa Beach: This popular Perissa Beach lies at the base of Mesa Vouno Mountain. Great if you want to ‘people watch’.
- Monolithos Beach: A much quieter beach with a big rock upon which the ancient church of Agios Ioannis stands.
- Snorkel at Amoudi: Wear appropriate footwear as the beach here is very rocky but great for snorkeling. Also a popular cliff diving spot.
- Boat excursions: There are several Santorini boat tours that will take you to spots only accessible by boat with amazing marine life.
The Greek island of Mykonos is famous throughout the world for both its relaxing beach vibe and thriving nightlife. It is the most cosmopolitan of the Greek islands, attracting different people and cultures from all walks of life which creates a vibrant and exuberant atmosphere with a touch of decadence. This is the island where you might spot a celebrity on their superyacht anchored off the beach or in one of the major resorts.
The new port of Tourlos is about a 30 minute walk into town. Alternatively, there are shuttle bus and sea bus services available. We recommend taking the sea bus. Mykonos is a place to indulge in high-end boutique shopping, gourmet restaurants and trendy beach bars. Or, you can just relax, enjoy a drink and soak up the sun like a Greek God from one of the famous colorful balconies overlooking the Aegean Sea.
- Walking tour of Mykonos Town: Just take a self-guided tour and get lost in this charming old town the locals call Chora.
- Mykonos Windmills: These windmills are no longer operational but still the quintessential features of the Mykonos landscape.
- Church of Paraportiani: The most iconic of all the whitewashed churches dating back to the 1400s.
- Matogianni Street: A haven for shopaholics, especially for high-end boutique designer stores.
- Delos: A tiny island of ancient Greece and archaeological UNESCO World Heritage Site that is considered the most sacred of all the islands.
- Little Venice: The most romantic place in Mykonos; come here for some gelato and romantic vibes as the moon reflects off the Aegean Sea.
- Old Harbor: Visit the characteristic old port of Mykonos which still exudes its charm.
- Agios Sostis Beach: A remote, unspoiled and mostly uncrowded beautiful beach on the northern part of the island.
- Elia Beach: This large fine sand beach has family-friendly sections and a clothing optional beach which attracts gay and straight nudists.
- Kalafatis Beach: A great beach for families and water sports lovers on the eastern side of the island.
As we leave the beautiful Greek Isles and cross the Aegean Sea into smaller seas, we hit our next country's destination: Turkey. Both Turkey and Istanbul specifically were requested. As such, we will explore Istanbul and one smaller port. After doing some research, we have chosen the port city of Antalya...and we think you will like it. But first, the incredible city of...
Make sure you are up on deck as MV Narrative cruises through the narrow strait into Istanbul. As we approach the city you will get a prime view of all the domes, minarets and other incredible architecture that makes it one of the most awesome skylines in the entire world. What's more, Istanbul's new five-berth cruise port is complete, meaning ships can dock close to all the action.
You will want to take a tram to Sultan Ahmet, where most of the city's highlights are located. The tram stop is only a few blocks from the port and runs every five minutes. From Sultan Ahmet Square, most of the main highlights are within walking distance. Therefore, explore this incredible east meets west city on foot. Alternatively, there are hop on hop off bus tours taking you around to all of Istanbul's must-see attractions.
- Bosphorus Ferry Trip: The locals believe this is the best way to see Istanbul.
- Topkapı Palace: This 15th & 16th century residence for the Ottoman Sultans now serves as a magnificent museum not to be missed.
- Aya Sofya: Next to the Topkapı Palace, Aya Sofya is one of the world's greatest architectural works and 8th wonder of the world.
- Shop in the Grand Bazaar: Be sure to visit one of the best (and most famous) markets in the world.
- İstiklal Caddesi: Hop on & hop off the ruby red trams to see Istiklal Street.
- Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque: Arguably the most world famous architecturally-designed mosque.
- Head Underground at the Basilica Cistern: Be sure to visit this ancient underground cistern and Istanbul's most unusual tourist attraction.
- Istanbul Archaeology Museum: Come here to learn about the fascinating ancient history of the gateway between the East and the West: Turkey.
- Walk the Ramparts of Yedikule Fortress: Walk the city walls to see Yedikule Fortress Dungeons, cemeteries and churches, as well as the works of the famous Ottoman architect, Minar Sinan.
- Eat the local cuisine: Istanbul is a foodies paradise. From the street food to upmarket restaurants, it's all good.
Port Akdeniz is the most likely dock for a ship of our size with taxis into Antalya, a modern city and popular summer vacation destination on Turkey's Mediterranean Coastline facing out to the Island of Cyprus. The contrast of the stunning bay, amazing beaches and turquoise water with the dramatic snow-capped Taurus Mountains in the background make Antalya a truly unique place like no other. While Antalya has rainy winters, its summers are hot and sunny.
- Explore Old Town, Kaleici: You can do a self-guided walking tour of Old Town.
- Historical sites day tours: These include day trips to Termessos, Aspendos and Perge, Phaselis, Side, Olympos and Cirali.
- Dine at sunset in Tourist Harbor: For a romantic evening come dine at this quaint cove at sunset.
- Duden Falls: More natural beauty to explore on the island.
- City Beach: The main beach is clean but busy during peak tourism season.
- Green River Canyon Boat cruise: Head upriver into the magnificent nature and swim in the canyon.
We hope you have enjoyed this epic post exploring our resident curated destinations in the Eastern Mediterranean. Be sure to tune in for our next post cruising the Middle East and Africa, including Cyprus and the Red Sea. If you are interested in learning more residential world cruise ships including Storylines resident community of global citizens, you can do so here.
*Note, this blog post series in no way represents MV Narrative's actual itinerary. It is based entirely on requested destinations (which we hope to include in the official itinerary whenever possible)