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Part seven of our first-hand look at the Athens and 3-Day Greek Isles Cruise

When I left you last, I was about to go to the most famous (and some say the most beautiful) Greek Isle: Santorini. To pick up where I left off …

The Aquamarine set a course northward from Heraklion, Crete toward our next destination. And just a few hours later the ship was in the caldera (like cauldron). It’s the large, central lagoon from which Santorini’s 900-foot cliffs rise. The land mass is what remains of a volcanic eruption. Its crescent moon shape wraps around a large basin where the island literally collapsed in on itself.

It’s a stunning view from the caldera, looking up at the white-washed towns built into the cliffside. This is where our group had a decision to make. How would we get to the top? There were three options.

1. Take a bus to Oia (pronounced ee-a), the town with white buildings and blue domes where many well-known photographs of Santorini are taken.

2. Walk up a steep, winding path to Thira.

3. Ride a donkey up the cliff.

Obviously, I went with option three. It was a crazy experience that I won’t attempt to describe. Watch the video instead!

After saying goodbye to our donkeys, we spent some time exploring Thira, which is packed with little shops and was bustling with tourists. As it got later in the day, we looked for a place where we’d have a perfect view of the famous Santorini sunset.

The spot we chose was the deck of a cliffside cafe. We ordered our five thousandth Greek salad, a few cappuccinos, and the photo shoot began. It really was the most incredible sunset I’ve ever seen. Here are some of the shots I took.

When it was all over, we rode a gondola down the cliff to the water …

… and embarqued on the Aquamarine one last time. In the morning, we’d be back in Athens for the remaining days of our trip.

A Michigan family’s adventure on Friendly Planet Travel’s Athens and 4-Day Greek Isles Cruise

Taking your whole family to the Mediterranean can be an adventure of a lifetime, and it sounds like it was for Sarah Hirsch from West Bloomfield, Mich. She went on Friendly Planet Travel’s Athens and 4-Day Greek Isles Cruise with her husband, Kevin, and son and daughter, Jacob and Elena.

The Hirsch family recently returned from their tour of Greece and sent me an e-mail recapping their trip. I thought I would share with you all the kind things Sarah had to say and her beautiful photos. Thanks Sarah!


Our family at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

It may be a small world after all, but it sure seems big when trying to narrow down vacation options. Luckily, Friendly Planet Travel makes planning a vacation easy with a variety of specific itineraries of the best destinations around the world.

I had always wanted to go to Greece and see the beautiful islands, and visit amazing historical sites like the Acropolis, Agora, Plaka, and Panathenaic Stadium.

The Athens and 4-day Greek Islands Cruise itinerary offered by Friendly Planet provided me the opportunity to do all of this and more. With help and guidance from our Friendly Planet Travel agent, Becca, it was easy to prepare for a once in a lifetime family vacation.

Our journey began with an overnight flight to Europe, and our layover in Germany gave us a morning to explore the lovely Frankfurt. We arrived in Athens in the late afternoon, and were met by a Friendly Planet representative who brought us to our hotel.

Our family on the Greek Isles

It was so nice to eliminate the stress of handling ground transportation as that was all taken care of, since it is included on every vacation booked through Friendly Planet.

Our evening consisted of an informational meeting with Yanni, our Friendly Planet point person in Greece, who gave us all of the information we would need for our cruise and oriented us for the week.

We chose to have dinner at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, which featured a view of the Acropolis all lit up for the night like a beacon welcoming visitors to Athens.

The next morning we were taken by bus to the port, where we embarked on our cruise. The ship brought us to the ports of Mykonos, Kusadasi (Turkey), Patmos, Rhodes, Crete and Santorini in the span of four days and four nights.

We were at each destination only briefly, just long enough to taste each island’s unique flavor. These ports of call are so fantastic that even to simply walk around town and spend a few moments dipping our feet into the Aegean Sea equalled an incredible experience.

Elena and I in Ephessus, Turkey

Friendly Planet offers optional excursions for an additional fee in each of the ports. We mostly chose to explore on our own, though we did take an organized tour that we booked through Yanni to the ancient ruins in Ephessus in Turkey, which gave us a look back to the way of life experienced thousands of years ago.

Our final stop was Santorini, which is so unique a place on Earth that it kind of blows your mind a little!

After the cruise, we had two more nights in Athens. Our hotel was located just a couple of minutes walking distance to most of the best sites to see in Athens. Because we chose to go during the middle of summer, the temperature hovered around 100 degrees, so we broke up our days by spending the siesta hours at the hotel pool to keep us cool.

Kevin, Jacob, and Elena in front of Greece’s famous windmills

We began our days with the complimentary breakfasts at the hotel, and spent our mornings and evenings seeing Athens’ great sites.

From the Parthenon and Acropolis, to Syntagma Square, where we used the free wifi to check in back home. The Parliament building where we caught the changing of the guards at the tomb of the unknown soldier, the Ancient Agora, the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, the Panathenaic Stadium, home of the first modern Olympics, the new Acropolis museum, the National Gardens, and the Plaka, the main streets of Athens, where we found many great shops and restaurants to enjoy.

We left early on our final morning, with a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call, but as tired as we were, Yanni was there with a friendly smile to help us arrive in the right place at the airport.

Overall our voyage was indeed incredible. It was everything that I had always imagined my desired trip to Greece would be, without any of the stress that can come along with trying to manage all the details of traveling abroad. I will always be grateful to Friendly Planet Travel for providing my family with this wonderful experience. Thank you!

Turkey bound: Friendly Planet Travel introduces its first tour to Turkey

At the beginning of every year, I give myself a Friendly Planet Travel to-do list. One of the items on my list this year was to add new destinations to our tour offerings. I can put a check mark next to that one today! For the first time Friendly Planet Travel is going to Turkey, with our new 14-day Best of Turkey tour.

Whirling dervishes

I’m excited to offer travelers a chance to visit Turkey, a country steeped in history and touched by many civilizations. It’s where the east and west truly blend together.

But you’ll find much more than just history in Turkey. The sun-splashed Mediterranean beaches, modern cities, covered bazaars, and whirling dervishes will leave even the most experienced traveler in awe, and with a new appreciation of world history.

For 14 days, you’re transported around the country beginning in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. You start at the Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, for its tiles adorning the walls of the interior. Later, roam the Grand Bazaar built in 1461. It’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world with 1,200 stores.

From there you’ll stroll the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, Turkey’s capital. The museum holds Anatolian artifacts from excavations including Assyrian trading colonies, Hittite, Hellenistic, Roman Byzantine, and Ottoman periods.

Cappadocia rock formations

In the land of the fairy chimneys, get to know Cappadocia. It’s famous for its natural rock formations and underground cities. Afterwards, you’ll go south to the coastal cliffs of the Mediterranean Sea to Antalya. Upon arrival you can take a tour to Aspendos. It is renowned throughout the world for its magnificent ancient Roman theater, famous for its perfect acoustics.

Depart the coast for Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish. The city contains hot springs and terraces of carbonate minerals left by flowing water. After a night in the town, you’ll leave for Kusadasi, a port town on the Aegean coast.

Here you’ll take a short drive to Ephesus to see the Temple of Artemis. It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the second most well-preserved ancient site in the world. It’s also home to the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean.

In the last portion of your trip, you’ll make your way back to Istanbul stopping in Pergamon, a powerful kingdom during the Hellenistic period in the first century. Then Asklepion, a famed ancient medical center built in honor of Asklepios, the god of healing. Before you cross the Dardanelles for Istanbul, you can’t miss the ancient city of Troy, the focus of the Trojan Wars as described in the epic poem by Homer.

The best part is that you get all of this and more in the $1,599 price tag. Included in the price are roundtrip, nonstop flights from New York (JFK) via Turkish Airlines, including fuel surcharges; arrival and departure transfers with meeting, assistance, and porterage; intra-Turkey transportation; accommodations in superior hotels; 22 meals; comprehensive touring program including entrance fees; and a professional, English-speaking tour guide.

Right now we only have five departure dates available. So if you want to visit Turkey, book the 14-day Best of Turkey tour for $1,599 before Sept. 22, or as long as space lasts. If you have any questions, visit our website for the full itinerary. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

Oh my Greek god! An Athens and 3-Day Greek Isles Cruise for $1,249

The whitewashed houses that cling to the cliffs in the Greek Isles

Friendly Planet blogger Lucy has been giving you a first-hand look into our Athens and three-day Greek Isles Cruise she embarked on in March. What sparked her interest in the tour was the incredible discount we were offering in July 2009.

Take a look at your calendar. It’s almost July and we decided to bring the discount back for 2010. You can book the Athens and three-day Greek Isles cruise for $1,249 until July 30. It’s an epic eight-day journey through Greece. If you read Lucy’s posts, you’ll find out how we fit so much of Greece into just over a week.

The tour first takes you on a voyage through the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Aquamarine or Calypso, docking at the islands of Mykonos, Patmos, Crete, Santorini, and Kusadasi, Turkey. Then you return to land to explore Athens, the birthplace of western civilization.

A sea-side cafe in Mykonos

Pairing a journey to Athens with a cruise around the Greek Islands gives you the best of both land and sea. Your ship is your floating hotel, delivering you to islands full of history, myth, and vibrant towns.

But if you’ve taken a few cruises before, you’re probably accustomed to large, luxurious ships appointed with every possible amenity. Cruising the Greek Isles is different. Ships (including those of Louis Cruise Lines) are generally smaller and more agile, better suited for navigating the shallow waters and small ports of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.

These mid-sized ships are practical, comfortable, and equipped with all necessary modern conveniences. So as Lucy mentions, don’t over pack. A basic cabin has all the amenities, but it’s not overly spacious. Think of these ships as good three-star hotels, offering convenient and comfortable transport through the Greek Isles — which are the true reason for your cruise.

But there’s more to our Greek tour than the cruise ship. You’ll spend most of your days exploring the different islands. The first stop is the island of Mykonos. Here you walk its winding alleyways and whitewashed buildings, and relax by sipping ouzo in a café overlooking the Aegean Sea.

The next day you find yourself in Kusadasi, Turkey. Its close proximately to Mykonos makes it an easy detour to experience one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World: the Temple of Artemis.

Later in the afternoon, you head back to Greece to the island of Patmos, where St. John wrote the Book of Revelation. Then it’s on to Heraklion on Crete. It’s home to the ruins of Knossos, the palace with an intricate collection of over 1,000 interlocking rooms.

And we saved the most celebrated of the islands for last, Santorini. There you can catch the spectacular views of the sunken caldera and still-active volcano off the coast before you head back to Athens.

The Acropolis of Athens

Your remaining days are spent in Greece’s capital where you drop your bags in the Divani Palace Acropolis hotel. It is located in the heart of Athens, under the shadow of the sacred rock of the Acropolis where ancient Greek civilization meets modern life.

Step outside and you’re in the Plaka. It’s the historical district of Athens, known for its narrow streets, contrasting old buildings, boutiques, outdoor markets, and more. Traditional Greek music is heard from the taverns lining the streets. Walk inside and you’ll likely find locals and tourists singing, dancing on the tables, and partaking in the celebratory throwing of plates.

There is more information on Athens and the islands in Lucy’s posts, as well as our podcast with Judy Poliva, Friendly Planet’s resident expert on Greece. They’ll both teach you how to say some common phrases in Greek and give you tips on what can’t be missed when sightseeing.

We pack a lot into the tour, and the price as well. Included in the $1,249 price tag are round-trip flights from New York (other gateways available at low fares); three nights in superior hotel accommodations in Athens; three nights aboard the Louis Cruises’ Aquamarine or Calypso; daily buffet breakfast in Athens and all meals aboard the cruise; all group transfers; professional, English-speaking tour guides; and more.

There are only two departure dates available at this low price, so book the Athens and three-day Greek Isles Cruise for $1,249 by July 30 before it sells out. And if a three-day cruise isn’t long enough, why not consider Friendly Planet’s Athens and four-day Greek Isles Cruise, which includes a stop at the island of Rhodes.

After both programs you can take advantage of the already included airfare and enjoy a four-day Classical Greece extension. You’ll see more ancient cities, including Corinth, Mycenae, Olympia, and Delphi for $699. Plus you get breakfast and dinner daily, great hotels, and all touring.

We have a lot of Greek tours to choose from, so if you need any help deciding, write to me or give Friendly Planet’s reservations teams a call at 1-800-555-5765. We’ll get the right tour picked out for you.

Judy Poliva’s advice for hopping around the Greek Islands

As promised in my last post, here’s Melissa’s podcast with Judy Poliva about the Aegean Greek Island Hopper with Athens, Paros, Mykonos, and Santorini and the Cyclades Greek Island Hopper with Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete. Judy gives you a first-hand look into two of our newest tours.

They start off talking about Athens, Greece. Then they drill into each island: Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, and Crete. Judy explains how she packed a lot of value into a small price, why she included Paros on the itinerary (it’s one of the lesser known Greek Islands), what travelers should see and do on each island, what clothes to pack, how smooth it is to hop from island to island on a ferry, and more.

If you want to hear about a specific island, here are the timestamps when Judy and Melissa start talking about them:

  • Mykonos 3:20
  • Santorini 6:25
  • Paros 10:18
  • Crete 11:15

Finished listening? Want to book the Aegean or Cyclades Greek Island Hopper? Then hop to it! (Sorry I couldn’t help myself).

Why the Greek Islands are a hop, skip, and a jump away

Island hopping over the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Lounging on the white-sand beaches. Staying in cliff-side hotels with idyllic views, and sipping ouzo while the sun sets. How amazing does that sound? It’s something I would love to do, but for now I’m going to live vicariously through Judy Poliva who has done it all.

Cyclades Greek Island Hopper itineraryJudy is a Product Development Manager for Friendly Planet and is our resident expert on the Greek Islands. So naturally, I turned to her to help develop our two new Greek Island Hopper tours: the Aegean Greek Island Hopper with Athens, Paros, Mykonos, and Santorini and the Cyclades Greek Island Hopper with Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete. Unlike our cruises, you hop from island to island on a ferry.

Judy knows the ins and outs of all the islands. She handpicked the itineraries for both of these tours. But what’s more important is that she found beautiful four- and five-star hotels that really show off the individual character and majesty of every Greek Island in both tours.

Aegean Greek Island Hopper itineraryI couldn’t capture her love of the islands in a single blog post if I tried, so I’m not going to ;-) . I’ll let Judy do the talking. One of our bloggers, Melissa, chatted with her yesterday about the Greek Islands and I will be sharing their interview with you shortly on the blog.

But let me tell you about these two amazing packages we put together first. On both tours, travelers fly to Athens, Greece and spend a day exploring the city that is known as the birthplace of western civilization.

On the Aegean Greek Island Hopper, travelers set off to Paros first. It’s not as widely known to tourists as the other islands, but is famous for its glowing, white marble that was used by Praxiteles in sculptures such as the Venus de Milo. Travelers spend three nights at the gorgeous Paros Agnanti Hotel, a wonderful base for exploration of the island.

Then it’s on to Mykonos and Santorini, which Judy considers MUSTS for travelers to experience on both tours. In Mykonos, spend three nights at the five-star Myconian Ambassador Hotel and Thalasso Spa Center. It’s on the beach, but close enough to the town so that you can wander the labyrinth of winding alleyways and whitewashed buildings.

Hop over to Santorini, probably the most celebrated of all the Greek Islands. Settle in at the lovely Belvedere Hotel where you can catch the spectacular views of the sunken caldera and still-active volcano off the coast. Then, enjoy the fabulous shopping, relaxing atmosphere, gorgeous views, and so much more.

On the Cyclades Greek Island Hopper, like the Aegean tour, you’ll visit both Mykonos and Santorini. But your final stop on this tour is the island of Crete. It’s the largest of the Greek Islands and home to the ruins of Knossos, the palace with an intricate collection of over 1,000 interlocking rooms.

The ruins have been extensively excavated and much of them colorfully painted and restored. After a day of touring ruins and open-air markets, rest up at the Aquila Atlantis Hotel in Heraklion. Lastly, on both the Cyclades and Aegean tours, you head back to Athens for your final day in Greece.

I’ve told you where you’ll go and what you’ll see, so here’s what’s included in the price: round-trip flights from New York (other gateways available upon request and low through fares), 11 nights in superior hotels on the islands and in Athens, daily buffet breakfast, all transfers and ferries between the islands, a flight from Crete to Athens on the Cyclades tour, and more.

With departure dates for both tours starting in September and going through late October, they are sure to sell out quickly. It’s the prime time to visit Greece without the large crowds that August draws. So book the 13-day Aegean Greek Island Hopper for $2,399 or the 13-day Cyclades Greek Island Hopper for $2,599 by July 30.

There’s a lot more information and some personal insights from Judy in the podcast I’ll post a little later on, so listen to that as well. If you have any questions, visit our website for more details and the full itinerary for both tours. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team, who are waiting to help you with any questions or requests.

A first-hand look inside Friendly Planet’s Athens and 3-Day Greek Isles Cruise

When in Greece, eat Greek salad.

As a Friendly Planet blogger, I get sneak peeks of incredible deal announcements. There was one in particular that grabbed my attention back in July 2009. It was a discount on the Athens and 3-Day Greek Isles Cruise.

As a young professional on a budget, the first thing that caught my eye was the price: $1,199 for an eight-day adventure on the Aegean? Flights, hotels, and cruise included? I was sold. Two days later the trip was booked. And by the end of the week, I’d recruited four more friends to join me!

After months of anticipation, we departed from JFK International on March 24, and landed in Athens 12 hours later. It was an incredible trip packed with some unforgettable experiences.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my stories, photos, and videos from the cities of Athens and Kusadasi, on the islands of Mykonos, Patmos, Crete, and Santorini, and on the decks of the Aquamarine. It was all part of the Athens and 3-Day Greek Isles Cruise. Check back for my first post, Arriving in Athens and boarding the Aquamarine.

A look inside Friendly Planet’s Iberian Coasts Cruise (part 6)

After our rocky start to the day, by late morning we had finally made it to Tangier, Morocco. It’s hard to describe Tangier without using words that make every writer cringe, such as incredible, breathtaking, and at times mind-blowing. But … well … it was.

BEST PART: Careening through the kasbah

Tangier was an assault to the senses. And I do mean assault in every sense of the word. As we wound our way through the dizzying streets of the city’s kasbah, men and young boys would pop out from dark doorways and around corners, pressing leather belts, tin trinkets, and Chiclets in front of your face. Five euro, one euro, for you good price, ten euro.

It seemed that my blond hair and our white skin was a magnet for hawkers of every sort of ware, who don’t take no for an answer, hoping their insistence would finally put a few euros in their pocket. It was exciting and eye-opening and, at times, exhausting.

But I can still say without hesitancy that our time in the kasbah was one of my favorite parts of the entire Iberian Coasts Cruise.

The sites, sounds, and smells of the outdoor markets, the streets so narrow it would have been a squeeze for three people to walk down side by side, the colorful doors leading into unimaginable homes, the communal water spigots for washing dishes and clothes, the poverty, the color, the desperation, the beauty, the sweat.

We spent most of the day with our group who had hired a local guide for the day, which turned out to be an invaluable history lesson.

TANGIER MARKET: Teeming with food

With our guide, we were given the best of the streets and a sense of relative security, despite essentially walking around with a flashing neon TOURIST sign around our necks. And without him, it’s unlikely we would have even been able to find our way out of the maze of the kasbah.

In the markets, rows of stalls seemed to go on forever. Some were teeming with olives of every shape and color. Others were selling skinned chickens hanging from gruesome hooks. Still more presented barrels of oranges the size of a child’s head and so juicy that I can still taste them today.

Our guide led us to a store packed with jewelry, knives, tin boxes, and just about every imaginable Moroccan souvenir. My husband and I politely browsed through the aisles when a young man tapped me on the shoulder. “Let me show you,” he said as he led us up the stairs into a room overflowing with ceramic plates, bowls, and vases. I assumed he was showing us more of the store’s merchandise. But he walked right past them all.

“Come please,” he said as he opened a door to the store’s roof.

“My city,” he said with a sense of pride as we stepped onto the roof and the incredible old city spread before us.

Never before had I seen such poverty crammed together in such close proximity. Houses in shades of white, red, and gray, dotted with antennas and satellites literally as far as the eye could see. It was breathtaking.

FROM THE ROOF: An incredible overview of the city

With a little free time to walk around the old city ourselves, my husband and I decided to test our haggling skills and bring something home uniquely Moroccan. Should we get a vase? Maybe a handmade ceramic bowl? A candle holder? With so many beautiful, handmade wares before us, we had a hard time choosing where to even begin.

As we browsed one shop’s selections, we were once again ushered up another store’s back stairs. The shop owner wanted to show us how he made their beautiful handmade rugs. Upstairs was a giant wooden loom with a half-finished rug. Piles of rugs were stacked throughout the floor in every room. The rugs’ intricacy, color, and craftsmanship was a juxtaposition to the crude wooden room.

And that’s when we decided that we wanted to bring home a genuine Moroccan rug. Back home, we were in the process of purchasing our first home, and frankly, we couldn’t think of a more perfect housewarming gift to ourselves than a gorgeous rug from one of the most arresting countries either of us had ever visited.

And this is where the fun of shopping in Morocco began. We haggled and haggled and refused his prices, and even went so far as to walk down the steps and out of the shop when the shopkeeper chased us down and finally offered the rug for 300 euros, less than what he said he refused to go below.

So my husband and I walked back to the bus with a giant carpet under his arm and a sense of triumph clouding our heads. It was exhilarating. And we had a beautiful rug to show for it. When we finally made it back to the bus, we dropped into our seats, put our bags down, and let out a long contented sigh. Our excitement of exploring the kasbah had overshadowed the exhausting that had been building throughout the day. Now that we were on our way back to the Louis Majesty, we felt it consume us.

Our time in Tangier was absolutely incredible, and as our bus pulled away from the city walls I already couldn’t wait to experience more of Morocco the next day in Casablanca.

Large waves hit Louis Cruise Lines’ Louis Majesty

As many of you know, we work with Louis Cruise Lines and take our travelers on its Louis Majesty to cruise the Mediterranean. It saddens me to report that on March 4, abnormally large waves hit the cruise ship, damaging it severely and taking the lives of two passengers. Our hearts go out to the families involved.

We love this ship, and it is unfortunate that this unexpected force of nature disrupted, what I’m sure was, a beautiful journey for the travelers on board. Thankfully, no Friendly Planet travelers were on the ship.

The Mediterranean offers some of the best cruising values in the world, and we’ll continue to work with Louis Cruises. Friendly Planet travelers who are booked on Louis Cruise Line ships for later this year will not be impacted by the incident. If anything does change, we will update you quickly here on the blog and on our Facebook page.

Christmas in September: Mediterranean Highlights by the Sea

It might be September, but it certainly feels like Christmas here at the Friendly Planet Travel office. That’s because I’m thrilled to announce the release of two new cruises: Mediterranean Highlights by the Sea and the Iberian Coasts Cruise. Not only are the prices on these trips incredible for the outstanding quality of travel, but they both have departure dates over the upcoming holiday season.

Want to do something with your family during the holidays that no one will ever forget? Leave the details to us. Today, I’m going to tell you all about the seven-day Mediterranean Highlights cruise for only $1,299 (and stay tuned for all the details on the Iberian Coasts Cruise).

How about spending Christmas Day exploring the ancient coastal town of Trapani, Sicily? Although most of the city has been modernized, much of Trapani’s architecture still reflects its medieval past and ancient heritage. Some of Trapani’s best preserved structures include the Annunciation Sanctuary, the Pepoli Museum, the Spedaletto Palace, and the Church of Saint Augustine. In additional to its rich history, Trapani’s westward position on the Sicilian coast affords some of the most spectacular views of the beautiful Mediterranean sunsets.

FP_Spain.jpgBut that’s just one day. Our Mediterranean Highlights cruise is a fantastic celebration of the cultural riches and natural beauty of the Western Mediterranean aboard the M/V Louis Majesty cruise ship, Louis Cruise Lines’ newest, completely refurbished addition.

Our journey is an exotic living mosaic, where every port recalls another magnificent era of castles and fortresses, ancient cultures, exotic art, and architectural treasures and grandeur. We’ll visit fascinating ports of call in Spain, France, Italy, Tunisia, and Malta while enjoying superior accommodations every night aboard our cruise ship.

Travelers are free to explore themselves throughout the day in destinations such as Marseilles, France; Sicily, Italy; and Port Mahon, Spain (to name a few). Or, take advantage of some of the inexpensive tours we’ll be providing.

This is one of those Friendly Planet Travel packages that not even everyone at Friendly Planet can believe. I’ve told you about how our good relationships with our suppliers often translate into savings for us, which we of course pass on to you! Well this is the perfect example of that practice at work.

The $1,299 price includes roundtrip flights from New York, a six-night Mediterranean cruise, all meals aboard the cruise, and group transfers. Not only have we been given very special rates for Friendly Planet travelers, but we’ve gotten a free one-level upgrade in our pricing from our cruise supplier. That means when a passenger pays the lowest price (for an inside cabin), they’re getting an upgrade to the next level of inside cabin for free. This same upgrade policy applies when booking the already heavily-discounted outside cabins. If you’ve ever been on a cruise before, you know what a great deal this is!

FP_Italy.jpgAnd it’s affordable for the whole family. Children up to age 18 (maximum two children per cabin) can share with two adults for free. The only additional costs are the taxes on the cruise and their cost at the hotel in Rome.

We’ve also struck a deal for our single travelers, who often get slammed with hefty supplemental fees when cruising alone. We’ve negotiated discount rates for them, so the supplements will be lower than cruises usually charge. Stay tuned for more information about both the singles and children deals.

FP_Rome.jpgAnd finally, after the cruise docks at its final port-of-call in Genoa, we’ve included an optional, free two-night extension in Rome. The flight to Rome is, of course, also included, as well as all transfers. While in Rome, travelers will stay at the centrally located, 4-star Hotel Genova.

This year’s Mediterranean Highlights cruise takes place Dec. 19 to Dec. 28, with six additional departures throughout 2010. As I said, the perfect holiday trip for you and your family! And keep in mind that December in the southern Mediterranean is gloriously temperate; perfect for taking in the view from the ship’s deck, enjoying the full spa, and spending days touring.
 

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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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