Cruising the Mediterranean aboard the luxury-ship line Silversea’s Silver Spirit is like spending a week firmly ensconced in the good life at the most well-appointed of well-appointed hotels. Only this “hotel” offers up Europe on a platter.
Day 1 — Athens: Living History
Spend the morning exploring Plaka, Athens’ oldest neighbourhood, walking up the winding (and steep!) pathway that leads to the Acropolis and standing slackjawed in wonder at the ruins of the Parthenon and the old temple of Athena. But if the morning is a reminder of how old civilization is, the afternoon, when you board the Silver Spirit, is evidence of how far we’ve come: You only stand in line for a few minutes at a time; your luggage is hand-delivered to your cabin; and, speaking of that cabin, with its plush styling, it’s hard to believe you’re on a ship at all. Forget living out of a suitcase; everything gets hung on sturdy oak hangers or folded neatly in the dresser. The cozy beds beg to be climbed into and the TVs beg to be watched, or you could order room service from your very own butler—do what you please, because that’s what this trip is all about.
Wow factor: The Parthenon. It’s almost a mind-blowing 2,500 years old!
Nota bene: Even if you go in the off-season, the whole Acropolis will be crawling with other tourists. For the lightest crowds, arrive as the gates open at 8 a.m.
Day 2 — Taormina, Sicily: European Charm
After a day at sea, you’ll arrive in Taormina, on the east coast of Sicily. The town is sandwiched between the water on one side (long stretches of sand bleed into the warm, salty waters of the Ionian Sea) and Mount Etna on the other (imposing and beautiful at the same time). The streets are full of Euro charm, with cobblestones, wrought-iron accents and window boxes overflowing with brightly coloured blooms.
Wow factor: The tiny town is set into the cliffs and has spectacular views of the sea.
Nota bene: Aside from shopping, there’s not much to do in Taormina. But you can explore the hiking paths, which wind through the hills surrounding the town, or wander around the Teatro Greco, the ruins of a huge marble amphitheatre.
DAY 3 — Capri: Celebrity Getaway
The ship docks in Sorrento, but Capri is just a 20-minute hydrofoil ride across the Gulf of Naples. The island is tiny and stunningly beautiful. At the port, there are “convertible-taxis” waiting to be hired, but Silversea also arranges a pocket-sized coach to navigate the winding roads to Anacapri, a township set high above the rest of the island. Take the chairlift, which scales Monte Solaro (the highest point on Capri). It’s slightly terrifying on the way up but breathtaking once you arrive. Feet back on solid ground, have lunch at the Al Grottino restaurant in the town of Capri. The island is known for its lemons, so make sure you sample some Limoncello before leaving.
Wow factor: Capri has been a celeb mecca for decades: It was a fave vacation spot for Jackie O, Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren and, more recently, for A-listers like Tom Cruise, JLo, Jay-Z and Beyoncé.
Nota bene: You don’t have to opt for a taxi. There are public buses; one ride costs €1.30, or buy a day pass for €6.70.
Day 4 — Rome: A Religious Experience
Consider a group tour; it’s the only way you’ll be able to check off all the must-see sights. Walk through the ruins of the Colosseum? Check. Marvel at the gorgeous mosaics that grace the walls of St. Peter’s Basilica? Yup. Explore the Vatican Museums and unashamedly gape at the Sistine Chapel? Uh-huh. That way, you’ll even manage to have lunch on Via Veneto, the street made famous by Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.
Wow factor: Everything. It’s impossible to resist being smitten by the city’s buildings, art and seriously tasty food.
Nota bene: They’re not kidding about the dress code at the Vatican—you’ll be denied entry if your shoulders or knees show.
Day 5 — Monte Carlo: Luxe Life
Maybe you made a mental note of the location of the ship’s gym earlier in the week, but faced with a two-desserts-a-day diet, anyone’s best intentions would fall by the wayside. A tip? Go look for it after Monaco. You’ll sip café au lait and nibble at chocolate croissants at tiny cafés and enjoy gelato as you wander around Monaco-Ville—one of the city’s original quartiers, it’s home to the Prince’s Palace and a beautiful maritime museum. It will only get more indulgent back on the ship: High tea means tiny finger sandwiches and tinier cakes, while dinner is a four-course Italian feast at La Terrazza, one of the ship’s six onboard restaurants.
Wow factor: The casino looks more like a palace than a place to play craps.
Day 6 — Barcelona: An Urbanite’s Dream
It’s hot in Barcelona, and shockingly modern. Elsewhere, you’re seduced by cobblestones and ruins, but here past and present coexist naturally: Hundred-year-old casas by renowned designers share the sidewalk with Burberry boutiques. Spend an afternoon searching out the work of legendary architect Antonio Gaudí. Stroll through Park Güell, the proposed playground for the city’s rich and famous (it didn’t work out—the rich and famous thought his designs were kind of weird). Later, wander the ceramic-tiled rooms of Casa Batlló and marvel at the Sagrada Família, a gorgeous, intricate church that’s still being slowly completed, decades after his death. This is the only port where the ship docks overnight, so do as the Spanish do and have a midnight tapas and sangria dinner.
Wow factor: Stroll down Las Ramblas for the perfect intro to Barcelona.
Nota bene: It’s notorious for pickpockets, so stash your bling onboard the ship.
Budget-friendly tip: Get luxe for less—Silversea voyages are sometimes discounted by up to 60 percent.
Luxe Mediterranean Cruise
From $5,101 per person (seven days), all-inclusive, 1-877-276-6816, Silversea.