Greece & the Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast Cruise   2 comments

Greece & the Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast Cruise

Nov. 8 – 24, 2016

Athens, Corinth Canal, Itea, Delphi and Corfu Greece; Saranda and Butrint Albania; Kotor and Perast Montenegro; Dubrovnik, Gromaca, Korcula, Hvar, Vrboska, Split, Plitvice Lakes and Zagreb Croatia. 


Jim & I booked “The Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast & Greece ” with Grand Circle Travel.  We had also decided to stay behind after the trip and spend the Thanksgiving holiday with our daughter Kellee, and son-in-law Jim at their home in Vienna, Austria.  At the time Jim & I booked this trip were happily going about our lives with never a thought but what we would just grow old together.  Jim went to his heavenly home on May 9, 2016 when he was killed in an accident on our farm.  He was the love of my life and we had 51 years wonderful years together.  {On a previous blog you will find a memorial tribute to him.}  I cannot say enough good comments about the Grand Circle Travel Company.  They so kindly changed everything over to my daughter, Karree so she could join me on this trip.  Please note:  The continuation of this travel blog will be posted on my next blog entitled “Thanksgiving Holiday with Family in Vienna & Prague.” 


    This is our tour director Visja, she was a joy, very knowledgeable and loved sharing learning and discovery experiences!  The map is copied from  We cruised 728 miles and enjoyed a four-country journey.  This is my 37th trip with this company, and by being in the country of Albania made the 75th country/territory I have visited.  Jim & I were very fortunate and we both loved to travel.

Winking smileSave MoneyMoney:  If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Grand Circle Travel or Overseas Adventure trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 per person off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer number #561413.  New travelers instantly receive $100 each off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip.

Athens, Greece:  It’s one of the world’s oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years.  The city has many ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western Civilization.  Athens is the capital and largest city in Greece.

Changing of the Guard:  Located at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the House of Parliament.


Syntagma Metro Station:  This interesting museum is located in an the Athens Metro Station.  It features a variety of historical items unearthed during the process of building the metro.


The famous Acropolis of Athens and the Parthenon:  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Acropolis contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon.  The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power.  The Parthenon is regarded as one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments.  (This photo was taken from our hotel in Athens.)


The Erechtheion:   Another ancient Greek temple located on the Acropolis.  It was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.  It was built between 421 and 406 B.C. (The two photos are different views of the same building.)


Boarding our ship the M/V Athena:  Owned, operated, and staffed by Grand Circle Cruise Line, this ship was designed exclusively for two small groups of just 25 Grand Circle travelers, each with its own Program Director.  Sailing out from the harbor we spotted a U.S.A. ship.  See that beautiful American flag flying proudly? 


Beginning our 728 mile cruise journey from Athens, Greece and along the Dalmatian Coast of Albania, Montenegro and ending in Split, Croatia.  At the end of the trip we disembarked our ship and went by coach to Plitvice Lakes & Zagreb, Croatia. 


Corinth Canal:   This canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland.  It was completed in 1893 and is 4 miles in length and 70 ft. wide at its base, making it impassable for most modern ships.  This was a huge reason Jim wanted to book this trip.  On a previous trip he had looked down into the canal and by golly he was going to sail through it now.  Well, Karree & I did that for him. 


Itea:  The little town where we docked and then took a coach to Delphi.  And…..Jim’s rainbow.


 Delphi Archaeological Museum:  It is one of the principal museums of Greece and one of the most visited.  We were told that one of the most impressive exhibits is the Sphinx, which was produced between 575 & 560 B.C.  The Kouroi of Delphi, archaic male statues known also as Cleobis and Biton, were produced at Argos between 610 and 580 BC.


My favorite in the museum was the Charioteer.  The statue is said to be one of the finest specimens of 5th century bronze sculpture, it belonged to a larger complex including the chariot, the horses and possibly a stable boy.  I tell you, it seemed that his eyes literally followed me. 


Archaeological Site of Delphi: A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In the 6th century B.C., Delphi was the religious center and symbol of unity of the ancient Greek world.  It is famous as the ancient sanctuary that grew rich as the seat of the oracle that was consulted on important decisions throughout the ancient classical world.  The Pythia commonly known as the Oracle of Delphi, was the name given to the High Priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi who also served as the oracle.  These pictures show the remaining columns of the Temple of Apollo.

We had an outstanding local guide.  She explained in great detail about the Oracle of Delphi.  I came away with this:  “Life is what you make it.”  At this point & time, with the recent loss of Jim, this most definitely touched my heart. I must remember…..”life is what you make it.” 


The reconstructed Treasury of Athens, built to commemorate their victory at the Battle of Marathon in 380 B.C.


The theater at Delphi is build further up the hill from the Temple of Apollo and it presented the seated audience with a spectacular view of the entire sanctuary below and the valley beyond. It was built in the 4th century B.C.

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 Monastery of Hosios Loukas, Greece:  We received a bonus on this sunny day.   The seas were too high to sail so it was arranged for us to go by coach to this beautiful, historic walled monastery situated near the town of Distomo, Greece.  It is one of the most important monuments of Middle Byzantine architecture and art, and has been listed on  UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. 


Distomo, Greece:  We stopped at this pretty town on the way back to the ship.  And we had beautiful scenery as we drove.


And then the seas calmed and we sailed away into the sunset.


  The Achilleion Palace, Corfu Greece:   This palace was built in 1890 for Elizabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.  In her day Elisabeth was known as “Sisi.”   Uncomfortable with the constraints of court life in Vienna, Sisi retreated to Corfu in her later years and immersed herself in the world of the ancient Greeks.  The central theme of the palace is the mythical hero Achilles (that’s his statue in the garden). The Imperial gardens on top of the hill provide a majestic view of the Ionian sea.  At this lovely location we decided we needed a picture of our happy little travel group. 


Corfu, Greece:   Corfu, an island off Greece’s northwest coast in the Ionian Sea, is defined by rugged mountains and a resort-studded shoreline. Its cultural heritage reflects years spent under Venetian, French and British rule before it was united with Greece in 1864. Corfu Town, flanked by 2 imposing Venetian fortresses, features winding medieval lanes, a French-style arcade and the grand Palace of St. Michael and St. George.


Oh no, I should have got my life vest out!


Sailing out of Corfu, Greece.  Arriving in Saranda, Albania.  Albania marks my 75th country/territory that I have visited. 


Butrint, Albania:  We docked in Saranda and went overland by coach to Butrint, Albania.  We visited the ruins of Butrint, A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Butrint has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and it was at various times the site of a Greek colony, a Roman city, and a part of the Byzantine Empire.  After a brief occupation by the Venetians, the city was abandoned in the late Middle Ages after marshes formed in the area.  I thought this archaeological site was very interesting. 


Pilot Boats:  This is how the pilot boats escort ships in and out of their harbors.  The sailor from that harbor gets off the pilot boat and into our ship and brings our ship into port.  It’s the rules of the water.  Our cabin was located right above the ship entrance so had nice opportunity to watch and get some photos.


After Romania we set sail for Kotor, Montenegro.  Cruising in the Bay of Kotor was absolutely beautiful.


Arriving at Kotor, Montenegro:  It is a perfectly preserved historic town.  In the Middle Ages, this natural harbor on the Adriatic coast was a walled city and an important artistic and commercial center.  Note the ancient fortified city walls above the town.  Karree hiked to the very top.  More about that later.


Kotor, Montenegro:  I love, love this awesome little town!  A UNESCO World Heritage site, the old city was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and is filled with medieval architecture and historic monuments. Extending over 2.5 miles, the city walls that have protected Kotor for centuries lead up to the fortress of Saint Ivan.

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Fun evening entertainment on the ship for a youthful Montenegrin group.


The Hike:   In Feb. 2010, Jim & I were in Kotor and Jim hiked up the city walls clear to the Fortress of Saint Ivan.  Not to be outdone by her Dad & in memory of her Dad, Karree did the same hike.  Jim was 70 years old at the time and Karree came back saying that she was amazed at his fortitude and accomplishment at his age.  Love & miss you Jim!


Then & Now Memories:  Jimmy Otho 2010 & Karree Ardith 2016

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Perast, Montenegro:  Near the little town of Perast on the Bay of Kotor  are two islands, one is called St. George and the other Our Lady of the Rocks.  We took a boat to Our Lady of the Rocks.  This church was raised in 1630 on an artificial island, which was built by fishermen from Perast. According to a legend, after a shipwreck these fishermen found on a sea rock an icon of Holy Mother of God with Christ.  They vowed that right on that spot where the icon was found they will build a church, which would be dedicated to this icon of the Holy Mother of God, protector of sailors and fishermen.


 Dubrovnik, Croatia:   A UNESCO World Heritage Site & another of my favorite cities in the world.   Dubrovnik is considered the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, situated on the Dalmatian coast, and it has been an important Mediterranean sea power from the 13th century onwards.  Although severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. Damaged again in the 1990s by armed conflict, it is now the focus of a major restoration program co-ordinated by UNESCO.


 Medieval City Walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia:  This series of defensive stone walls have surrounded and protected Dubrovnik since the city’s founding prior to the 7th century.  The city walls contain an intricate and complex system of forts, bastions, casemates, towers and detached forts.  Karree & I walked the city walls.  It was the highlight of our visit to the ancient city.  It’s about 1 1/4 miles and took over two hours as we marveled in the beauty of the scenes that unfolded in front of us. 


Gromaca, Croatia:  We drove to the village of Gromaca, near Dubrovnik and visited a family and enjoyed a home-hosted dinner with them.  But first we went to their smoke-house & then to the wine cellar.  We were served homemade spirits, that would knock your socks off.  Oh, and that’s me modeling my new coat that I had just purchased in Kotor that afternoon.


Korcula, Croatia:   It’s a small island on the Adriatic & lies just off the Dalmatian Coast.  We docked a stone’s throw away and enjoyed the unique old town.  The old town is believed to have been the birthplace of Marco Polo. 


Hvar, Croatia:  It’s an island in the Adriatic Sea, located off the Dalmatian coast.  Hvar town is the largest of four towns on the island with a little more than 4,000 population.  It had some little shops & Karree bought a cute skirt. 


  Island of Hvar:  The island of Hvar is unusual in the area for having a large fertile coastal plain, and fresh water springs. Its hillsides are covered in pine forests, with vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and lavender fields in the agricultural areas. The climate is characterized by mild winters, and warm summers with many hours of sunshine (not the day we were there). We drove by coach across the scenic island. 

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Vrboska, Croatia:   We drove to the other side of the island Hvar to Vrboska for a fun wine & cheese tasting with friends.


Enjoyable evening entertainment by a Croatian group.


The M/V Athena and our last day of sailing.


Split, Croatia:  It’s the second-largest city of Croatia and the largest city of the region of Dalmatia. It lies on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, centered on the Roman Palace of the Emperor Diocletian.  The Palace Is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the greatest Roman ruin in Southeastern Europe.  Built like a fortress, the palace was occupied by the Emperor Diocletian from 300-313 AD.  The ancient city is all around and within Diocletian’s Palace.


Karree hiked up the hill above Spit.


 Plitvice Lakes, Croatia:  We disembarked our ship and traveled overland to the Plitvice Lake Region.  It’s a 114-square-mile national park with 16 lakes linked by a series of waterfalls and cascades.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


 Zagreb, Croatia:  It’s been Croatia’s capital since 1557.  There is a lower town whose well-designed street grid was laid out in the 19th century.  The old Upper Town has the city’s medieval landmarks. 


Train Ride:  Our fantastic trip of “Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast & Greece” came to a conclusion on Thanksgiving morning.  Karree & I were on the early morning train to join my daughter and son-in-law for Thanksgiving.  It was a direct train from Zagreb, Croatia to Vienna, Austria.  It took about seven hours and only costs the equivalent of $60 US dollars for the two of us.  It was actually a delightful ride. 


 To be continued:  My next blog “Thanksgiving Holiday with Family in Vienna & Prague” will be the continuation of this adventure. 


Posted January 17, 2017 by marilynfarmer in Travel

2 responses to “Greece & the Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast Cruise

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  1. Thank you for all of the wonderful information. I just booked this trip for October 24 2018. I was concerned about the weather but it looks like it was nice enough when you went 2 weeks later. I am so sorry about your husband. I am sure he would have wanted you to keep his spirit alive in doing what you both loved! Thanks again. I’m now sure we have chosen an amazing trip. Jackie

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