Empires of the Mediterranean Viking Cruise
Here’s our recap of the amazing, 10-day Viking Cruise from Athens to Venice (also called The Empires of the Mediterranean), where we explored the medieval warrens of Zadar, Dubrovnik and Kotor, and soaked in the beauty of Corfu, Santorini, and picturesque Slovenia.
We recently sailed with Viking Cruises from Athens (Piraeus) to Venice (Chioggia) on the Viking Sky cruise ship. We sailed the “Empires of the Mediterranean,” and today’s post will tell you about the itinerary, ship, excursions, food, and more!
Empires of the Mediterranean Viking Cruise
This is our second cruise with Viking to the Mediterranean, and just let me say upfront: Viking does everything right, and they are the classiest cruise line. I loved this Empires of the Mediterranean Viking Cruise, and it was lovely to go mid-March through April, for cooler (gorgeous) weather.
The Viking Sky
Wanting to sail the Adriatic Sea? On this Viking Cruise, you can indulge in the endless comforts of Viking Sky. Relax on board, swim in their soothing infinity pool, treat yourself to the Nordic-inspired spa, enjoy the most delicious gourmet meals, and take in the beautiful entertainment and live music on the ship. Paul and I love to sit in the evenings in the beautiful Explorers’ Lounge, watch the sunset, and listen to great music. Magic.
Having a decade birthday this year, I have quite the following of friends (hello Boomers!) who are ready to travel, too. It’s been fun seeing and interacting with my followers on Instagram (and in case I didn’t answer your questions, you can always email me, or read this post, for all the things that we loved about this cruise. You can also read my post on the cruise we did 6 months earlier on the Mediterranean Odyssey).
This March, we sailed from Athens to Venice. The cruise was 10 days (9 nights), and you can see the map above.
- Athens, Greece
- Santorini, Greece
- Katakolon, Greece
- Corfu, Greece
- Kortor, Montenegro
- Dubronvik, Croatia
- Zadar, Croatia
- Koper, Slovenia
- Venice, Italy
The smaller size of the Viking ships are perfect, which they still manage to pack in so many amenities. Sky hosts only 930 guests, a number that provides a lot of interaction (if that’s your thing), and also plenty of space for quaint gatherings and alone time. The award-winning, all-veranda ship can dock where larger ships have to sail on by. You don’t get lost in the crowd, and you’re not “just a number.”
Viking cruise extensions
Viking offers cruise extensions now on either side of most cruises. This is a fantastic way to stretch your vacation, and enjoy more time being away. They take care of all transfers and accommodations, so you can concentrate on why you came—exploring the world in comfort and in great style. For this trip, we added an extension to the end of our trip, staying in Venice for an extra 3 GREAT days (be watching for my “What to do in Venice for 3 Days” post coming up soon).
Deluxe Veranda rooms
Because we stayed in a Deluxe Veranda room 6 months ago, I will refer you to this post so you can see what the ship is like, and what comes with the Deluxe Veranda room. We love coming back from a full day of excursions to our cozy room—so nice and clean—where everything has a place it can be stored. The balcony is wonderful, for waking up in the morning and enjoying coffee (and room service), or in the evening for sitting and watching the sunset.
Did you know?
Your Viking Cruise includes one free shore excursion in each port of call (excluding embarkation and disembarkation ports), and there are many optional excursions in most ports that will allow you to customize your journey. A full list of available shore excursions is provided to each guest well in advance of each cruise.
Did you know, if you book a Deluxe Veranda, that you can log into My Viking Journey to book shore excursions, dinner reservations and spa appointments? Just sign into your existing account and add this journey to access your trip online.
The ocean cruise ships have a spa and a fitness center! (Where the river cruises do not.)
Athens (Piraeus), Greece
Piraeus is where our ship docked for Athens, which is about 6.5 miles from the city center.
There is so much to see in ancient Athens. At the Mikrolimano (heart of the city) is the Hellenic Parliament, Constitution Square, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Temple of Zeus and the iconic Acropolis.
We explored the Plaka District at the base of the Acropolis on our excursion, stopping at the Kanellopoulos Museum and the Acropolis Museum, where more than 4,000 objects from the ancient city are preserved. From the second floor of the museum, we spied the Acropolis on the nearby hilltop.
Santorini (Thíra), Greece
We spent an amazing day in Santorini, one of the most beautiful places in the world. We took in the stunning island and sea views from a ridge of red rock in Oia, the most serene place on Santorini, and explored narrow warrens and charming shops, and lingered in the cobblestone squares of Thíra.
En route to clifftop Oia, we saw the beauty and charm of the countryside and traditional villages. After a day in Santorini, we visited a Greek vineyard for a tour and tasting and a lunch of sumptuous mezedes, and Greek tapas.
Then we descended to the pier by cable car on our way back to the ship.
Olympia (Katakolon), Greece
The quaint Greek port of Katakolon is huddled around a quaint harbor, dotted with colorful fishing boats, and the legendary city of Olympia is the classical birthplace of the modern-day Olympic Games, on the slopes of Mt. Kronos. You walk among the ancient city’s ruins with an expert guide and historian, admiring the remains of temples, the Palaestra (or wrestling school), and the Gymnasium.
The original games were played in 776 BC. We walked among the remains of the first Olympic park and took in the Temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which once housed the gold-and-ivory statue of the Greek god. Paul and I actually ran in the stadium, the largest of its day, with a capacity of 45,000 spectators, and viewed many other of the earliest Olympic venues. Later, we visited Magna Grecia estate, where the owner welcomed us with a small glass of ouzo, local wine and olive oil and delicious homemade snacks.
Corfu (Kérkyra), Greece
Corfu has a rich history shaped by conquerors and by royalty. Corfu’s Old Town and Fortress comprises a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its narrow warrens lead to one of Europe’s largest public squares, with magnificent coastal views and scenic byways as highlights, and a walk through Old Town. Here, Paul and I asked a local for the best lunch place, where we sat for a couple hours, enjoying the most amazing Greek lunch.
We enjoyed a stroll down the famous Esplanade, one of Europe’s largest public squares; elegant Liston promenade, once reserved for aristocracy; the Old Fortress; Durrell Gardens; and the Palace of St. Michael and St. George.
We enjoyed walking the medieval streets of this historic Montenegro town, and passed by Venetian walls constructed in 1420 en route to the Cathedral of St. Tryphon, built in 1166. Here you can visit the Maritime Museum, which documents Kotor’s heritage. As an option, venture to the small towns of Budva and Sveti Stefan, the latter once a hideaway for the rich and famous.
Dubrovnik is a historic jewel, with its spectacular Adriatic setting, 12th-century medieval streets and incredibly preserved structures. It’s another “Old Town,” spectacularly surrounded by a towering medieval wall. Inside, the ancient city’s Stradun is lined with authentic stone houses. The peaceful 14th-century Franciscan Monastery and Apothecary, housing the world’s oldest working pharmacy and fine collection of Renaissance paintings, provide insight into the ages.
We bought tickets for a self-guided tour along the 1½ miles of medieval stone walls encircling the city. A mile and a half may not sound that far, but with all you are able to explore, it is! Parts of the walls date from the 13th century. We saw the gorgeous Minčeta Tower, St. John Fortress and Fort Bokar, with the most breathtaking views.
Zadar was once an island separated from the mainland by a deep moat. We walked along a maze of cobblestone streets through the magnificent Old Town, a remarkable repository of red-roofed, medieval stone houses. We also walked along the picturesque seafront promenade, where acoustical tubes embedded beneath large marble steps would sing amongst the waves. We sat on the steps, and the sound was truly so beautiful. Our ship was docked right next to the tubes.
We visited one of the country’s most picturesque old towns of Piran, an open air museum of red-roofed buildings and medieval charms in stunning Adriatic waters. Here we did a walking tour among its striking architecture and winding streets. We stopped at Tartini Square, named for native son and Renaissance composer Giuseppe Tartini, and admired the bronze statue honoring his accomplishments.
Next we continued to the heart of Slovenian Istria, renowned for its wine and truffles, and visited a privately owned organic winery. We took a short stroll into the woods to see a master and her dog, Lisa, hunt for truffles, which we sampled as part of a beautiful pasta lunch, which featured vintages from the winery’s cellar.
Venice (Chioggia), Italy
Chioggia is a charming fishing community steeped in its age-old seafaring traditions. It is also the gateway to Venice, famed for its wondrous patchwork of graceful piazzas, tranquil canals, artful footbridges and Gothic splendor.
All things Venetian begin in St. Mark’s Square, where its elegant campanile, or bell tower, rings over the rooftops, and the Byzantine-Gothic St. Mark’s Basilica seems to preside over all. Beyond St. Mark’s and away from the crowds, Venice is a hushed and intriguing city to explore on foot, with medieval echoes marking every step.
Paul and I disembarked the ship, and our next adventure was the “Viking extension” in Venice.
Food & Ambience:
Dining: “The Restaurant” is the main dining room with tuxedoed, attentive staff, with a menu of fine dining selections. As with all Viking cruises, the complimentary wine flowed freely during lunch and dinner. Each meal was exquisite.
Manfredi’s and The Chef’s Table are the two specialty restaurants that require reservations. Manfredi’s is high end Italian, and The Chef’s Table has specialty nights. We ate there on Asian Night and the entree was delicious Peking Duck. The meal also included complimentary wine pairing with each course. Unlike other cruise ships, there is no extra charge for dining at a specialty restaurant.
Ambience: The ship is spacious and uncrowded with plenty of dens and alcoves, with sofas and comfy chairs and well-stocked bookshelves. The entertainment in the Atrium (three decks high) included a classical trio of flute, violin and viola, and a guitarist and a pianist who took turns playing throughout the evening. You could just relax, listen to the music and have a cocktail or after dinner drink. There is no casino, but there is a comfortable theatre where each night there were shows with very energetic and talented performers.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay on the Viking Sky. The ship itself was beautifully appointed, the entire staff was superb, the restaurant choices were delightful, and the off shore adventures were full of history and local lore. Viking took good care of us from the get go. (Great entertainment was offered, but we stayed busy with our friends, touring, dining and drinking:)
What is the dress code?
DAYTIME ATTIRE: Casual. Shorts, skorts, or dresses for excursions. Swimsuits, shorts, cover-ups, workout clothing for fitness center, pool area, and sports deck.
EVENING ATTIRE: Elegant casual for all dining venues. There are no formal nights in the evening. Dresses, skirts, or slacks for the ladies and pants and collared shirts for the men. No jeans.
WORLD CAFE: You don’t have to follow the rules above for the buffet. This is very casual.
Why we love Viking Cruises
Paul and I have been on quite a few Viking cruises, and here’s why we think Viking is the best:
Inquisitive person’s cruise: The focus is always centered on enrichment and education, with selected experts and resident historians teaching and sharing. The library is packed with books, there is a great variety of music (from classic to the Viking Band), entertainment, and there are no casinos or children under age 18 on board.
Destination experts: Viking excursions are designed to help you explore and engage with your destination in mind, with food, culture, countryside, customs, and–depending on your activity level–a lot of walking.
Classy all the way: From the food, to the people you meet … the entertainment, excursions, beauty of the ship, and the amazing staff—Viking is by far our favorite cruise line.
Viking is for the young-at-heart: I am 60 this year, and my hubby and I fit in quite well with all the guests on the cruise. We meet so many new friends, and we truly enjoy not only the people, but the staff, entertainment, and all the activities. We cannot recommend Viking enough!
The weather was stunning mid-April through May, and we couldn’t have asked for a better experience with travel, our luggage, flights, and the smooth transportation that Viking includes.
Disclosure: Many thanks to Viking Cruises for making our Empires of the Mediterranean Viking Cruise possible!
For more Viking Cruise posts, you can check out my travel page, or some of my favorite cruises:
Hello and welcome to my home and table!
I’m Sandy—lover of food, family, cooking, THE BIG BOARD, travel, and bringing people together. Through great recipes and connection around the table, we become better, stronger, and more courageous people. Feasting on Life is real, and every time we do it, we grow a little more. Read more...