Explore the hidden treasures of Greece, from the bohemian-chic cool of Hydra and the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, to the sapphire bay of Parga and the turquoise blue waters of Corfu on a journey highlighted by the beauty of the Dalmatian Coast. Travel is aboard the Crystal Esprit, a luxurious all-inclusive boutique yacht designed to host just 62 discerning travelers who wish to discover exotic destinations in a more intimate way. Privileged guests will relish the legendary Crystal Experience in a new and unique setting. Designed with adventurous travelers in mind, the Crystal Esprit offers a brand-new cruise alternative.
Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.
Athens, Greece / Piraeus
Piraeus is Greece's largest port and has been a gateway to the Mediterranean since 482 BC. It lies on the innermost point of the Saronic Gulf and is a short drive from Athens, the cradle of Western democracy and culture. Throughout the ages, Athens' lofty Acropolis has been a source of inspiration. The ancient ruins scattered throughout this legendary city are reminders of Greece's great cultural heritage. Board your luxurious yacht, the Crystal Esprit, for evening departure to Navplion.
When in Greece, do as the Grecians do: Go to the Peloponnese. Connected by a narrow isthmus (it's less than four miles across at its narrowest) off the southern end of central Greece, the Peloponnese is a large peninsula with many things going for it. Not only are there fewer crowds than on the Aegean islands, it has just as many—if not more—ancient sites, including the temples at Nemea and Olympia. On the sunny east coast of the Peloponnese, tucked away in a deep bay, is the city of Navplion. As Greece's first capital after the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, Návplion has its share of history, including two Venetian fortresses and many neoclassical buildings. But in fact, Navplion is the more modern side of Greece—a relaxed and appealing place with leafy parks, small museums, picturesque streets, and lively outdoor cafes.
Hydra, Greece / Corinth Canal
If there is a holiday retreat where rustic meets chic, it is Hydra, one of Greece’s Saronic Islands. Put on the map in the 1950s and ‘60s by artists, celebrities, and musicians and a perennial favorite for locals, the island is a place to see and be seen, with the harbor putting on a veritable show of taste and fashion with each catamaran’s arrival from Piraeus. People-watching has become an unofficial pastime, along with sipping cappuccino at the cafes centered on the crescent-shaped port. Energized by your brew and ready to explore, head out by foot—in fact, by foot is the only way to conduct your discovery. Other than a few city-operated vehicles, no cars, scooters, or motorcycles are allowed on the island. Walking along the steep, stone streets, some of the best-preserved anywhere, you will surely appreciate a sense of stepping back in time and an intimate look at the 18th- and 19th-century mansions, or archontika. Be sure to yield to the primary mode of transportation, the donkey, and any temptation you may have to wander into a gallery or quiet back lane.
As history tells it, rulers of ancient times wanted to construct a canal connecting the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf, but lack of engineering expertise coupled with a fear of Poseidon’s wrath kept the project stalled. It wasn’t until 1893 that a deep cut through the narrow isthmus was finally completed. Today, the four-mile-long canal ignites nothing but wonder, with steep rock walls rising 300 feet above sea level at a near-vertical, 80-degree angle, and a width of a mere 70 feet allowing ships of only a limited size to pass through. There is another way to see the canal: from above. A bridge over the waterway offers a jawdropping view and is a popular base for bungee jumping.
A small port town on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth with some of the loveliest beaches in Greece, Itea serves as the gateway to Delphi, one of the most famous of the world’s classical sites. One can’t help but be inspired at the foot of Mount Parnassus, home of the nine Muses. Delphi, once thought to be the center of the universe, still draws a pilgrimage of visitors looking for the answers to life’s biggest questions. Here, those queries are likely to be as simple as whether to take a dip in the sea before or after lunch and whether to explore the picturesque mountain town of Arachova or browse the collections at the Delphi Archaeological Museum—or how to squeeze in both.
The sight of Parga as you sail into its sapphire bay will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a picture postcard or a travelogue from the 1960s. Colorful, terracotta-roofed houses sitting along the sloping hillside look frozen in time. But indeed, time moves on during your visit, and you surely will want to set aside an hour or so for a stroll through Parga’s tiny avenues that yield simple discoveries like family-run stores and cafes, old churches, and ancient ruins. When it comes time for the sun to set, the locals welcome you to pull up a chair at the waterfront tavernas and kafenios, or coffeehouses, to toast your happy travels.
Shaped like a scythe, the island of Corfu is considered one of the Mediterranean's best-kept secrets. Its lush interior is covered in cypress and olive trees while the main downtown area has elegant Venetian architecture and a serene atmosphere. Strategically important due to its location, this island has managed to maintain its uniqueness despite numerous invasions by outside forces. Today, the culture of Corfu reflects its turbulent past as well as its origins.
Rising above the Adriatic Sea, the town of Kotor is splendid for both its ocean views and medieval Old Town. To walk through its streets is to take a stroll through history. You'll see fortifications dating from the 9th century; the Church of Saint Ana dating from the 12th century; the Church of Saint Luke from the 13th century; the Church of the Healing Mother of God from the 15th century; the Prince's Palace from the 17th century; and Napoleon's Theatre from the 19th century. Stylish gates, enticing flights of stairs and inviting squares, all accessed via a maze of narrow lanes, make Kotor's Old Town a true delight. With your visit, you will understand why Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Early morning arrival in Dubrovnik and disembarkation. Though it has only recently re-emerged as an independent nation, Croatia is by no means a new country. There were settlements along the Dalmatian Coast before recorded time. When Slavic people migrated here in the 6th century, they converted to Catholicism and adopted the local Latin alphabet. The region eventually became part of the powerful Kingdom of Croatia. Medieval Dubrovnik, formerly the Republic of Ragusa, was one of several walled cities established in the 7th century to guard the coastal approaches. Its fortification was completed in the 13th century and has remained relatively unchanged. The city walls are in excellent condition and today prevent invasion by automobiles. Within the walls, the lovely sleek lines of Venetian-style buildings complement a wealth of ancient stone architecture. Nearby islands feature beautiful beaches as well as intriguing ancient ruins.
Reverse Itinerary for May 14-21 and Aug 6-13 Departures
Day 1: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Day 2: Kotor, Montenegro
Day 3: Corfu, Greece
Day 4: Parga, Greece
Day 5: Itea, Greece
Day 6: Corinth Canal / Hydra, Greece
Day 7: Navplion, Greece
Day 8: Athens