Traversed by sailors since ancient times, the Adriatic Sea sparkles between the Italian and Balkan Peninsulas. Today, the Adriatic welcomes cruise ships and passengers who appreciate this relaxed, scenic part of the world.
A northern arm of the Mediterranean Sea, the Adriatic has something of a split personality. The western shore – essentially, the long eastern coast of Italy – is known for gentle water and sandy beaches. The eastern shore, shared by Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania, has dramatic, with rocky islands and cliffs that rise from the water, backed by inland mountains covered with deep green forest.
Many cruises of the Adriatic begin or end in Venice, the dreamy city that occupies a series of islands in the delta of the River Po. Ornate bridges and romantic canals link the islands and the landmarks they hold, such as the famous Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) and its imposing cathedral. Venice is full of historic buildings that appear to float on the surface of the water: some are now museums, art galleries, artisan workshops, and pleasant cafes where you can sip caffè macchiato and watch life go by.
Croatia claims about half of the eastern shore of the Adriatic, and the gorgeous scenery includes more than 1,000 coastal islands. Some cruise ships drop anchor at the island of Hvar, known for its lavender fields, pretty beaches, and delicious red and white wines. On the mainland, the city of Dubrovnik, “Pearl of the Adriatic,” has become a mainstay of Adriatic cruises. Stroll among the red-roofed buildings in the walled Old City, or take the somewhat rigorous 1.5-mile walk along the top of the walls for wonderful views.
You’ll want to be awake and on deck during your ship’s approach to Kotor, Montenegro: the ship will sail up the Bay of Kotor, with stunning mountains on either side of the narrow waterway. Like Dubrovnik, Kotor has a well-preserved Old Town, dotted with lovely churches and peaceful squares. If you walk these city walls, you’ll eventually come to a long staircase up to a citadel built on the site of an ancient fortress.
Some cruises of the Adriatic also sail to the islands of Greece, or around the “boot” of the Italian Peninsula to Naples and Rome. To plan a cruise to this part of the Mediterranean, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
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