Saturday, 30 December 2017

What to expect on an Eastern Mediterranean Cruise

Highlights from an Eastern Mediterranean featuring Travel Blogger 'Explore With Ed', Sail away in Greece onboard MSC Musica

From the majestic mountains of The Balkans to the gorgeous Greek Islands, an Eastern Mediterranean cruise is a spectacular experience that you have to try at least once. In this post I share my highlights from a 11 day fly-cruise onboard MSC Musica as a follow up to my Western Mediterranean cruise in May.

MSC Musica Eastern Mediterranean Cruise
MSC Cruise anchored in Santorini Greece

WHAT'S ON A TYPICAL ITINERARY?
Cruises around the Eastern Mediterranean often start in Venice, Rome or Athens - so if you're travelling from afar it's worthwhile extending your holiday before and/or after your cruise in these major port cities.

Islands of Venice with the famous red brick Bell Towers

Eastern Mediterranean cruises are usually 7 nights with up to 6 stops, an ideal itinerary for nervous first timers. You can expect to see some of the Greek Islands and stop off in Croatia (for Dubrovnik or Split) or Montenegro for Kotor. There are many cruise lines operating in these waters such as Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian and MSC.

Historical sightseeing in Brindisi
Shops and Cafes in Brindisi

DAYS 1 - 3: BRINDISI, ITALY
I joined MSC Musica in Brindisi (the previous stop was Venice) and flew directly from London Gatwick to the port city in Apulia. The local bus to the city centre was quick and easy, I purchased my ticket inside the airport for €1. On my 2nd day in Brindisi I took the train to Lecce which I highly recommend, read my guide here.

MSC shore excursion from Katakolon to Olympia Statue of Nike in Olympia's Museum

DAY 4: KATAKOLON (OLYMPIA), GREECE
My first port of call was Katakolon and I booked the ships shore excursion to Olympia for a guided tour. It was an interesting few hours with some free time in the old stadium grounds, museum and gift shops.

The volcanic bay of Santorini
Overlooking the main town of Fira on Santorini

DAY 5: SANTORINI, GREECE
A tender boat was required to get ashore in Santorini and you have the option of a cable car, hillside walk or donkey ride. I recommend the cable car to Fira, it's €6 but quick and easy. Take a look at my 15 photos of Santorini if you'd like to see more of this stunning island.

MSC shore excursion to the Acropolis and Plaka in Athens

DAY 6: ATHENS (PIRAEUS), GREECE
The capital of Greece is an enormous city, in fact almost half of Greece's population live in the Metropolitan area so I felt a shore excursion was necessary. Our tour took us to the site of the first modern Olympics, archaeological museum, Acropolis and historical district of Plaka.

Corfu Old Town
Corfu bars and restaurants

DAY 7: CORFU, GREECE
Corfu's Old Town proved to be a real surprise, an abundance of colour and character like towns on the French and Italian Riviera. The local bus is the cheapest option from just outside the port entrance dropping you right in the commercial centre.

Cruising to Kotor Montenegro

DAY 8: KOTOR, MONTENEGRO
The sail in and out of Kotor was my highlight of the whole cruise, it's incredibly beautiful and is often referred to as Europe's most southern Fjord. Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in an earlier blog post I shared 20 photos of my day here.

Sunset in Venice, the view from St Mark's Bell Tower
Support by Lorenzo Quinn on Venice's Grand Canal

DAYS 9 - 11: VENICE, ITALY
My final stop was in Venice, a city that needs no introduction for its iconic canals, gondolas and red brick bell towers. It was wonderful to spend a few days here before flying home, you can read all about my experience and 'secret food tour' by clicking here.

MSC Musica docked in Corfu

WHAT'S CRUISING WITH MSC LIKE? 
Before this cruise my only experience with MSC was a quick ship tour on Preziosa in Southampton. Musica is an older and smaller ship but still had all the glitz and glamour the Italian cruise line is known for. For me, this cruise was more about the destinations than the ship - the cabins were comfortable and clean, the theatre performers were really talented and the food was adequate for the price we paid. Perhaps my most memorable moment was the Halloween party the staff went all out for.

MSC Cruise Halloween Party
Pool and bar area on MSC Musica

If you're a seasoned cruiser but haven't sailed with MSC, you should definitely look up their Status Match Programme (a tip I picked up from fellow cruise blogger Emma). I'm diamond with Royal Caribbean which put me in the top bracket with MSC, giving me a bunch of freebies, discounts and extras like priority boarding and a speciality restaurant dinner. 

Four berth outside cabin on MSC Musica

WHAT DOES IT COST? 
The price of an Eastern Mediterranean cruise depends on when you go and who you cruise with. If you're looking for a budget cruise for under £100 per person per night, check out deals with MSC and Costa in the early spring or autumn. For luxury seekers, Celebrity or Azamara may appeal.
The price I paid for all this excluding excursions? Approximately £450 (or $600/€500) per person for 3 adults! That's bed and breakfast in Brindisi and Venice, full board on MSC Musica and return flights, a real bargain from Cruise Nation (this isn't sponsored, it's just one of my go-to sites for the deals).

What appeals to you most about an Eastern Mediterranean Cruise? Let me know!
Further reading: Highlights from a Western Mediterranean Cruise 
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© Explore With Ed | Wales based Food, Travel and Cruise Blog

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