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This past September I had the pleasure of embarking on the second annual Crystal Wine Cruise, which lasted for 12 exciting and culture-filled days. The wine cruise featured the world-renowned, Barrington wine expert, Jim Bryant, and traveled from Istanbul to Venice, stopping along the way at some of the Mediterranean’s most celebrated regions.

Below are some journal snippets I wrote during my trip to give you a brief insight into this remarkable experience:

September 22

I am writing to you from Kuşadasi, Turkey, which is the second leg on our tour after Istanbul.

Istanbul is the most exotic, history-filled, and enchanting city that was voted the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2010—and with good reason. It separates the European and Asian continents and is a city of about 18 million people that works in harmony between its Muslim, Christian, and Jewish brethren. It is a secular country based on pure capitalism—in fact, many of the Forbes’ top 100 billionaires are from Turkey.

Trip to turkey

Beach vacation

We are now in Kuşadasi, which is the gateway to Ephesus and the Virgin Mary’s burial plot. In its zenith, Ephesus was the capital of the Roman Empire for Asia Minor and the concentration of wealth was overwhelming in comparison to even today’s standards of wealth. St. Paul preached and wrote much of the New Testament books of the Bible while traveling on his missionary journeys, which went through Ephesus. St. John wrote the gospel of John here, as well. This place reeks of history—secular-Roman, Christian, and Jewish.

The next stop will be Mykonos, Greece followed by Santorini, and I will have more to share along the way. Oh, by the way, we love the opportunity of pairing very good food with great wine while visiting the top destinations in the world. It doesn’t get any better than this unique travel experience.

Wine tastingImage above of me, Greg Pearson, sipping wine over the water!

September 23

Today, we are in Mykonos, Greece, which is a part of the Cyclades Islands in Greek Mythology. The city and island inhabitants have everything white-washed with cobalt-blue accents on their buildings. Perhaps small by many Grecian island standards, the island is a paradise for the GLHB community and a tourist mecca for travelers from almost every continent. Tourism and fishing are the main industries on this volcanic plot of soil. Beaches are the name of the game in Mykonos—there are 18 beaches in total but not the pristine white sand that signifies Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean. Oh, did I say it was about 80 degrees Fahrenheit? All fall days should be spent like this—people watching and going to the beach.

We are off tonight to Santorini, an island south of Mykonos, and will visit the Estate Argyros tomorrow afternoon. This winery produces some of the very best in Greek white wines. I will report on this experience a little bit later. Thank you.

Small group travel

Crystal cruises

September 24

I am writing to you from Santorini, which is a volcanic island about 95 miles south from Mykonos inhabited by 15,000 people. We arrived into “port” at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 24—by port I mean we anchored and tendered to the actual port. From here we had one of three (3) options: hire a donkey and go up 300 meters, walk the entire way in 30 – 40 minutes up hill, or pay €4.00 each and take the Tram. The Tram won!

Santorini is situated 1,000 feet above sea level, and is made up of white-washed buildings with cobalt blue accents. If you are interested in shopping you can knock your socks off with endless possibilities. What a charming place with narrow streets and wonderful vistas from the town to the harbor. It was a photo opportunity extraordinaire. The high point of our brief visit was a wine tasting and brief tour of the Estate Argyros winery that produces the best Grecian white wine, based on recent competitions with other wines.

We are off to Fethiye, Turkey, which is the gateway to the Turquoise Coast and amazing Byzantine and Roman antiquity. I will have more to follow at a later time.

Crystal cruises

Trip to the mediterranean

September 25

Today is Sunday, September 25 and we are in Fethiye, Turkey, which is the heart of the Turkish Riviera—WOW! This location has it all—beautiful beaches, turquoise waters (that is why it is called the Turquoise Coast), a town of 100,000 population with good shopping and nice open-air restaurants, very warm temperatures, and SUN, SUN, SUN. We rented a Gullet, which is a boat that was built for the shallow harbors and sailed up the coastline. The area is full of history and antiquity from the Byzantine and Roman periods and should not be missed. In fact, many from England have purchased homes in the area of Fethiye because of its year-round warm climate and lower cost of living. Turkey is my new best location that I wish to properly explore in the future.

Tomorrow we sail for the west coast of Greece and the harbor town of Kefalonia. I will have more information to follow throughout the week. So, stay tuned!

Mediterranean cruise

September 27

We are now in the town of Argostoli on the western coast of Greece and the island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea. This is a beautiful, rustic tourist destination for many Europeans and their annual vacations during July and August. The area is made up of several volcanic islands that have been inactive for hundreds of years. The weather could not be more idyllic—warm trade winds, 75 degrees, and the water temperature is a balmy 75, as well.

This vacation mecca has many beautiful beaches and the water is crystal clear—what more do you want? We are off to Kotor, Montenegro this evening and will dock about 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 28. We are working our way up the Adriatic coast and the next two stops are Dubrovnik, Croatia and Venice, Italy, which is the end of our Crystal Wine Cruise. Though I will let reality set in next week, I am reminded how much fun it has been to pair very good food with great wine while we are visiting some of the best destinations in the old and modern world.

This has been truly a very unique travel experience.

Wine tasting expertHost of the 2011 Crystal Wine Cruise and Barrington’s leading wine expert, Jim Bryant

Wine tasting cruisePreparing for dinner and wine tasting on the cruise.

Crystal wine cruiseReceiving a wine tasting demonstration!

We have departed Dubrovnik, Croatia and are steaming toward Venice, Italy—we will arrive midday on Friday, September 30, 2011. Dubrovnik is a World Heritage Site and is an amazing medieval, fortified city situated on the Adriatic Coast. The history of the city, both ancient and modern, has many different chapters that leave you mesmerized. The mountainous scenery is stunning and the water is crystal clear. Remnants of the Serb-Croat war of 1991 – 1992 are everywhere, yet it was the fortified city that protected the citizens of Dubrovnik during the bombardment and siege. This is a MUST stop for your European travels.

See below for a video on Crystal Cruises to give you an even deeper insight into the types of journeys they provide:

I’d also like to point out some of the perks that travelers received when booking the Crystal Wine Cruise through Travelex International:

  • 2 for 1 Cruise Fares Enjoy 50% savings in ALL stateroom categories
  • FREE AIR Fly free from Chicago in Business or Economy Class (depending upon stateroom selected)
  • $1,000 per person “As You Wish” onboard spending credits
  • Special “Vintage Room” Wine Dinner & Two Private Wine Tastings
  • Price Guarantee Book Early and pay the lowest applicable fare – Guaranteed!
  • Up to $500 per stateroom ($250 per person) off all categories if you book by 2/6/11 or if you book after 2/6/11, $100 per person discount and $100 per person onboard spending credit
  • Past Cruise Guest on Crystal? – Additional discount of $160-$1030 per person
  • Pay in Full by March 23, 2011 and receive an additional 2.5% discount

To learn more about the benefits of booking a cruise through a Virtuoso advisor, click here. Or click here to contact us today.