Adriatic Explorer Cruise and Corfu 2003
The recent passing of Prince Philip reminded me that he was born in Corfu, on the dining room table of a villa called Mon Repos. Peggy and I got to see Mon Repos during a week-long stay on that beautiful island in the summer of 2003. It followed a 7-day cruise in the Adriatic Sea including Corfu-Kefalonia – Trieste – Venice – Split – Dubrovnik – Corfu. I have many happy memories of that trip: the friends we made, the gorgeous scenery, the music, the food and the craic we had.
Day 1 – Friday 6 June 2003
So, on Friday 6th June 2003, we took our early morning chartered flight from Dublin for the 3 and a half hours journey to Kerkyra (Corfu International Airport). We were travelling with Thomson Cruises. Transfer was by bus to the port and we were soon on-board our home for the week, The Emerald. (She was small by today’s standards with about 1,200 passengers and 410 staff). This would be our 5th cruise together and we were looking forward to it.
We settled in to our outside cabin and got ready for dinner. We had the 1st seating for dinner and shared a table and great conversations for the whole week with an English couple from Worcester, Daphne and Gordon, and an Irish couple from Dublin, Robert and Esther. The weather was glorious as we sailed out of Corfu as we headed for our overnight jaunt to Kefalonia.
Day 2 – Saturday 7 June 2003 – Kefalonia, Greece
Now, Kefalonia is not that well known in Ireland. Its sapphire waters are steeped with history. The large Greek island was home to Odysseus, the legendary king hailed in Homer’s The Odyssey. Fortunately, it didn’t take us ten years to get there!! We arrived in the early morning and were soon enjoying coffee on the quayside at Argostoli. It is stunningly beautiful.
The biggest of the Greek Ionian Islands, Kefalonia shot to fame in the Hollywood blockbuster, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Take one look at the place and you’ll see why its scenery was deserving of the big screen. Tree-studded hills stand guard over sprawling vineyards, and honey-hued sands are kissed by turquoise waters. We had a beautiful, relaxing day there strolling around and buying souvenirs. All too soon we had to board our tender back to The Emerald.
Day 3 – Sunday 8 June 2003 – At Sea in the Adriatic
The day started with our fire drill. Nowadays, it is normal practice to carry this out BEFORE the ship sails but back in the day things were more lax. We had a great laugh getting ready for our muster drill.
Today was spent at sea sailing the calm, blue waters of the Adriatic heading north. We had a great day enjoying all the ship had to offer. Peggy and I had a tour of the ship bridge.
Then it was time to get ready for the Formal Night dinner. We treated ourselves to hairdos in the on-board salon and donned the glad-rags before meeting the Captain.
We enjoyed the dancing and a few drinks in the bar before we headed off to our cabin to sleep while The Emerald took us to Trieste in Italy.
Day 4 – Monday 9 June 2003 – Trieste, Italy
We arrived early morning to a glorious day in Trieste. This eastern Italian city probably isn’t on many people’s travel itinerary though. It definitely lacks the kind of recognition you’d find with Florence and Milan. And yet, you won’t be disappointed with the various sights to see in Trieste.
Wedged right by the Slovenian border across the end of the Adriatic Sea from Venice, it’s not really in a prime location for many Italy trips. Not that it’s hard to get to by any stretch; just that it works best as a stop on a cruise. Very much a port city, there are still a nice selection of things to do in Trieste. Whether you explore its ancient roots, the city’s love for coffee or its Austrian architecture, it’s an easy city to admire. Plus, there are plenty more sights to see than what I’m sharing here. Even with just one day in Trieste, you’ll be glad you got to see this markedly different Italian city.
A great place to start your visit to Trieste is with the city’s easily found main square, the Piazza Unità d’Italia. This is a massive main square bordered on three sides by grand buildings that act as reminders for when the city was part of the Austrian Empire. The last side of the square faces out to the Adriatic Sea, because of which it’s said to be Europe’s largest seaside square. We soaked up the atmosphere here while sitting at the Fountain of the Four Continents.
We took a break from sight-seeing to have cake and coffee at Bar Rex. One of our favourite things to do for Peggy and I was to people-watch…and no better place to do that than in an Italian city. We sailed away from Trieste at around 9pm that Night bound for the magical city of Venice.
Day 5- Tuesday 10 June 2003 – Venice, Italy
We were ready to go ashore at 8am that morning for a visit to one of my favourite cities, Venice. Myself and Peggy had been here once before at that stage having taken a day trip from Lake Garda where we were staying a few years earlier. (I’ll cover that and our gondola trip in a later blog post sometime 😊). Because we were there early on a weekday morning we didn’t have to battle the usual crowds which was a bonus. As we had enjoyed a gondola trip in the previous visit, we had plenty of time on our hands to revisit favourite places.
We headed first to see the famous Bridge of Sighs, the enclosed bridge made of white limestone. It has windows with stone bars, and passes over the Rio di Palazzo, connecting the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. It was designed by Antonio Contino, whose uncle Antonio da Ponte designed the Rialto Bridge, and it was built in 1600.
The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge's English name was bequeathed by Lord Byron in the 19th century as a translation from the Italian "Ponte dei sospiri", from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.
We then headed for a well-known Venetian institution for morning coffee and ice-cream at the Caffé Florian in St. Mark’s Square. From prime real estate on Piazza San Marco, in the shadow of the basilica and campanile (bell tower), Caffé Florian has been serving pricey drinks since 1720. Still, that’s no reason not to go there, as sipping a cappuccino or prosecco, either at one of the tables on the square is right up there with a gondola ride on the list of overpriced things you simply “must” do in Venice. Plus, the food and drinks are actually quite good.
So resign yourself to the shock of the bill and enjoy this only-in-Venice spectacle of white-jacketed waiters, silver tea trays and unabashed poshness. We paid €27 for two cappuccinos and one ice-cream. But you know, we made a great memory that day together. We never felt rushed. And I’d have paid double that for the magnificent uninterrupted view of the campanile we had that morning.
Feeling revived we headed over to the Rialto Bridge a short walk away passing over bridges with gondolas travelling underneath. The present day stone Rialto Bridge, a single span designed by Antonio da Ponte, began to be constructed in 1588 and was completed in 1591. It is similar to the wooden bridge it succeeded. Two ramps lead up to a central portico. On either side of the portico, the covered ramps carry rows of shops. I bought a small red leather handbag that I still have. Today, the bridge is one of the top tourist attractions in Venice.
We had a relaxing lunch at Al Teatro Goldini which had prices similar to home. Soon our day in Venice came to an end and we sailed out late that evening as the sun was setting on the red tiled roofs. Truly magical. But we were excited to be heading to Croatia for the first time.
Day 6- Wednesday 11 June 2003 – Split, Croatia
We arrived early morning in Split, Croatia, to beautiful blue skies. The largest city on the Adriatic Coast, Split has been under Roman, Venetian, Austrian, French, Italian, and Yugoslav rule. The Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and must-see historic attractions include Diocletian's Palace, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, the bell tower of St. Arnir and the striking Grgur Ninski Statue.
We did a walking tour along with Daphne and Gordon, our table-mates from the ship, and took to stroll along the Riva Harbour, stopping to have refreshments in Bobis. There’s obviously more to explore farther afield in the way of natural beauty, including wineries, beaches, the Blue Cave and Hvar, and Plitvice Lakes National Park, where scenes from "Game of Thrones" were filmed. We only got a small taste of Split that day.
We headed back to The Emerald for another dressy evening dinner. There we were serenaded by our waiters and treated to a flaming Baked Alaska parade. There was also time for a table group photo (already shown above).
Day 6- Thursday 12 June 2003 – Dubrovnik, Croatia
We were tendered in from The Emerald so approached this spectacular city from the sea. No better way to see the magnificent walls. On our walking tour we strolled beneath a blanket of terracotta rooftops to discover why Dubrovnik has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We stepped into the walled city through Pile Gate, where we were transported back in time on a guided walk through the cobbled streets. Afterwards, the time is ours to spend as we liked.
We then took a panoramic coach tour beginning with a scenic drive to a viewpoint high above the old city of Dubrovnik. Our on-board guide told us what it was like for them as citizens during the Balkan war of the early 1990s. A very though-provoking day.
Day 7-14 – Friday 13th – Friday 20th June 2003
Our cruise came to an end and after swapping contact details with our new friends, Daphne, Gordon, Robert and Esther, instead of heading to the airport for our journey home as we would normally do, we headed for another week in Corfu staying at the picturesque Dassia Chandris Hotel.
We had a memorable time every day strolling in the streets and the main Square, having coffee or lunch in the nearby restaurants during the day. We shopped 'til we dropped in the craft shops and especially loved the lace shops where I gifted Peggy a table cloth as a souvenir of our trip.
One day we went on a complete tour of the island which took over 8 hours. We saw a lot of Corfu Old Town before our first stop at Kanoni where we had a view point to Pontikonosi and the Vlacherna church:
We then saw Mon Repos where the late Prince Philip was born:
We visited Paleokastritsa beach:
We did a tour of Achilleion Palace:
All along that road we had spectacular views of Paleokastritsa Bay especially from Bella Vista:
We could even see Albania across the stretch of sea:
At night back at the hotel, we had in-house Greek entertainment in our hotel which was really good.
And we had a memorable night at the Luna D’Argento at an authentic Greek folklore night with traditional Greek Cuisine (we ate tzatziki, octopus and moussaka and drank frappe, retsina and ouzo), live entertainment and dancing:
At the end of this holiday we returned home to Ireland for a rest 🤣. All joking aside, we had a ball and I would highly recommend Corfu for a holiday whenever the world opens up again. ❤
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog 51
Number 34 - Eat/ Drink Regional Food and Drink
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 27 - Scotland
Blog 28 - Barbados
Blog 29 - Canada
Blog 30 - Alaska
Blog 31 - Everglades, Florida
Have you ever visited these places? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!