We’re off to the Mediterranean for an inspirational getaway! What better place for enriching experiences than the countries along this legendary Sea.
Rich culture, stunning scenery, and a leisurely paced lifestyle combine to create the magic of the Mediterranean. This is one special place for your next vacation! Whether it’s time for a land based getaway or a romantic cruise, the Mediterranean is sure to please.
Tuscany, Provence, the Greek Islands; these three regions alone capture our imagination with their remarkable beauty and way of life. Across the Med, legendary cities, peaceful villages, stunning scenery and idyllic islands invite us to discover the sights and treasures of this incomparable region.
From Barcelona to Athens you are met with a rich collection of historic and archeological sights as well as art and architecture that will enthrall you. There is so much to discover!
Experiential explorations enrich your vacation and put you in touch with the authentic Mediterranean. Be active and participate to become a part of Mediterranean life. Get in touch with nature for the feel of the Med, meet the locals at the market and the beach, take a language or dance class. Getting involved is very rewarding.
The region’s unique culinary scene draws visitors from around the world for cooking classes, market visits, wine tasting and to learn the many secrets of the Med’s delectable cuisine. Traveling through the various regions you’ll experience a never-ending selection of fine food from Spanish paella to charcoaled grilled lamb in Greece and Italian pastas and sauces inspired by the slow food movement. There are plenty of opportunities to participate in culinary events for a few hours or many days in the countries along the Med.
See this month’s Cruising article and Top Ten List for more exciting experiential explorations and shore excursion suggestions you won’t want to miss.
Cruising the Mediterranean lets you visit many different cities and islands while only having to unpack once. Awake at a new destination each day and explore right from your ship. Then return to your home away from home for a spectacular sail away on deck. There’s no view like it! Those spectacular Med sunrise and sunsets are also stunning and easily viewed from your ship. Enjoy fine dining and entertainment on board before you retire after a fun filled day, ready to visit a new destination in the Mediterranean when you awake. This is definitely one unforgettable vacation experience.
There’s certainly something magical about the Mediterranean. This birthplace of Western Civilization is impressive in so many ways. It creates a rewarding and enriching travel experience like no other.
TFL Tours, our On Location Partner of the Year for 2016, provides a wonderful array of opportunities for travelers. We caught up with Managing Director, Federica Tucci, to find out the latest on travel to Italy.
Q: Tell us about the travel services you offer for visitors to Italy.
At TFL Tours we offer all possible travel services in Italy (ground and accommodation).
Our specialty is creating tailor made packages for the individual travelers (families and friends) or for groups.
We focus on the quality of our services by selecting
Q: What are the highlights of each season to consider when planning a visit?
Without doubt Spring (April, May, June) and Fall (September and October) are the best seasons of the year to visit Italy. The weather is usually warm and nice and it is pleasant to be outside in the open air. Sights can be particularly crowded when there are many people visiting museums and churches. This is also why I suggest visiting Italy in the off season.
August is usually very hot and the cities of art are not so crowded (most of the locals are on holiday to beach destinations). Therefore, if you don't mind high temperatures and humidity August can be a good month to come too.
Winter months can be cold but never too cold for a visit of the cities of art (temperatures in Venice, Florence or Rome rarely go below zero centigrade). We can have pleasant sunny days and not so many tourists around. Therefore, you will enjoy the quietness of our museums in November, December or January.
At Christmas, our cities are adorned with lights and decorations and the atmosphere is very pleasant and lively.
Q: Italy has so much to offer. What do you consider the top sights not to be missed?
Venice, Florence, Rome and the Amalfi Coast
These places are on the bucket list of most of the first-time visitors to Italy and we agree that all these areas should be seen at least once in a lifetime.
Other top sights are for sure:
Tuscany with its stunning countryside and top wines and extra virgin olive oil is a must for foreigners.
Sicily for the beauty of its archaeological sites, its delicious food, charming towns, and villages.
Q: What about hidden gems? What places off the beaten track do you highly recommend?
Umbria for its many historical towns and hills with vineyards and olive trees. The local products are as good as Tuscan ones (wines, extra virgin olive oil, cold cuts) but the prices of the accommodations are much lower than Tuscany.
Puglia has always been a summer destination for Italians who flock to the beaches in August, but foreigners have only begun visiting in recent years. Don't go in July and August but in Spring and Fall the region is fantastic and very quiet. Food is amazing and people are very warm. Puglia has plenty of beautiful towns ideal for wandering around including the trulli of Alberobello (bunches of hobbit-like, whitewashed, dome-roofed houses, whose origins are anyone's guess), the whitewashed streets of Locorotondo and Ostuni, the sophisticated seaside towns of Otranto and Gallipolli, and Lecce, one of Italy's most Baroque beautiful towns.
Q: What are your favorite regions of Italy and things to do there?
I'm Tuscan, so, with no doubts, I would say Tuscany. It is such a various and charming region where you can find extraordinary museums (Accademia in Florence to see David is just one example) and cities of art (Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra, Lucca, Pisa, Cortona, Montepulciano and Pienza), excellent cuisine and wine and stunning landscapes (Chianti hills are famous all over the world).
I also love Sicily. The island offers the perfect mix of history, archaeological sites (The Valley of the Temples, Segesta, Selinunte, the Greek Theater in Taormina) culture, and many beautiful towns (Taormina, Palermo, Syracuse, Ragusa).
The Campania region with the Amalfi Coast is undoubtedly one of the most charming areas in the world. Positano, Capri, Amalfi and Ravello will leave you speechless.
Q: Tell us about your most popular culinary vacations and events for visitors?
At TFL Tours we specialize in culinary vacations which will be organized according to the wishes and taste of our clients.
Each region of Italy offers its unique food and wine experiences:
Q: What special events can you arrange tickets for?
In Siena: we have a great selection of seats on bleachers, private balconies, or windows to watch the Palio Race (it's perhaps Italy's most famous annual sporting event. But Siena's Palio is as much about pageantry, civic identity and Sienese pride as it is about a bareback horse race that lasts, on average, just 75 seconds).
In Milano: we have access to private fashion shows all year around and special events and shows during the Fashion week in September and February.
Q: Are there any aspects of the services you offer through Ensemble Travel Agents you would like visitors to be aware of?
What we do to secure hotels, transfers, and guide services:
Q: Shore Excursions:
At TFL Tours we have decided not to apply any fee if you have booked a shore excursion with us and this has to be cancelled last minute due to bad weather conditions. This means that if the ship skips the port we will refund you and your client. This is a policy that we apply only to Ensemble agents as an incentive to do more private shore excursions with us.
The Mediterranean is a region where authentic experiences, enriching excursions and unforgettable travel experiences make your vacation something unique and extra special. Take a look at 10 of the best experiential explorations for Mediterranean immersion.
Go back in time as you roam the streets of once vibrant towns and explore ancient ruins. Watching archaeologists at work uncovering the past is an amazing experience. Pompeii and Herculaneum, Perge, Ephesus, the Acropolis, the Palace of Knossos and Neolithic Khirokitia are just a few of the best.
Across the Med, vineyards date back centuries and wine making is a tradition so not surprising some fabulous vintages are found here. Enjoy everything from Spanish Cava to the wines of Tuscany; French reds to Greek whites made in the first wine region in Europe. Tours and tastings put in touch with this traditional wine scene.
Mediterranean markets feature a wonderful variety of fresh produce and artists’ creations. Get in touch with local life as you explore some amazing stalls. In Palermo take a market tour that ties in Sicily’s history with the market fare. Barcelona’s La Boqueria on La Rambla is one colorful market not to be missed!
With stunning islands and dramatic coastlines, the Med is famous for its beaches, from long stretches of sand to secluded coves near sleepy villages. Locals relax here as well as visitors and enjoy beachside dining. So head for the beach to swim or beachcomb and don’t be surprised to find topless sunbathing in this region.
What better place for foodies than the Med! Culinary excursions include market strolls to select fresh produce before learning the secrets of Mediterranean cuisine at a cooking class. Half day excursions, extended culinary focused vacations and Med cruises with a food and wine theme; there’s a lot for foodies to choose from!
Again you are in the right place to explore some of the world’s top galleries and iconic buildings. From the Prada in Madrid to the Vatican and the Parthenon, this is one enriching destination for artistic inspiration! The mesmerizing selection of art and architecture will astound you every day of your Med vacation.
Cultural experiences put you in touch with the heart of a nation. In Spain, don’t miss a riveting Flamenco show to be intoxicated with rhythm and dance. Flamenco classes are also available for visitors who really want to understand this legendary art form. A must see that creates an exciting lunch or dinner show.
Relaxation is a major ingredient of la dolce vita and Siesta gives you time to savor life on a midday break. In many places shops will close and a peaceful silence prevails in the early afternoon. Take time off to relax. You’ll find the laid back Mediterranean lifestyle refreshing and therapeutic.
The stunning sunsets are just one of the many wonderful features of the Greek Islands. White washed buildings glint as the sun sets in a blaze of color. While Santorini and Mykonos get a lot of attention for their sunset views, you can enjoy this natural wonder on other islands too. Also, don’t miss the incredible sunrise.
Cuisine is a major draw to the Mediterranean. Sampling local delicacies and wine is a huge part of an enjoyable vacation in this region. Take time to find restaurants that are the favorites of the locals for a truly authentic experience. This is an immersive experience you’ll want to take time to savor!
Experiential explorations abound on a Med cruise! Ashore and on board you’ll have a range of enticing excursions and activities to choose from every day. Get to know the culture, history and way of life as you participate in some incredible opportunities to experience the real Mediterranean.
Cuisine is top of the list of "must do" cultural experiences. With programs like Oceania’s Culinary Discovery Tours™ you can immerse yourself in the cuisine of your Med destinations, some of the finest culinary hot spots around! Excursions like these are certainly not to be missed:
On board your ship, food and wine tastings of local specialities enhance the culinary experience across the Med. Dinner and wine menus will feature some local dishes. Participate in cooking classes and tastings of food and wine from the regions you call at during your cruise.
From Barcelona to Athens you are met with a rich collection of historic and archeological sights as well as art and architecture that will enthrall you. There is so much to absorb and learn about and your ship’s excursions will make sure you do. Led by experienced and superbly educated local guides, you’ll gain insight into your destination and its way of life without having to worry about any of the logistics of getting around. Excursions depart right from the ship and return you to the ship on time making exploration easy.
But it’s not just about seeing the sights. With experiential explorations, you are more in touch and better informed:
If you can’t find what you want to do in the cruise line excursions, our On Location partners are on hand to arrange any special requests you might have. Private touring, event tickets, and behind the scenes experiences are their specialty and they’ll pick you up right at the ship, or from your hotel on your pre or post-cruise stay.
Cruising the Mediterranean brings you a range of unforgettable and inspiring experiences. This is a destination that is perfect for cruising with its combination of island hopping, scenic spots, ancient cities and myriad of things to see and do. It’s definitely a vacation you should enjoy at least once.
The Conservatorium’s location means Amsterdam’s treasures aren’t across town. They’re across the street.
Standing on the famous site of Amsterdam’s former Sweelinck Conservatory of Music, the Conservatorium hotel in Amsterdam opened at the end of 2011. This magnificent Neo-Gothic building was originally built at the end of the 19th Century and in its new incarnation; it has been transformed into a contemporary luxury five-star hotel.
Following the success of last year’s organised Art Months, Conservatorium will once again invite international artists to showcase their work in the Lounge of the hotel in early 2017. Art is up to each viewer’s own interpretation, it is a conversation that can be struck with a stranger. With this thought in mind Conservatorium showcases art pieces by varying artists every year and invites guests to experience the lobby with a new perspective during the Art Months. This year internationally acclaimed artists Jasper Krabbé, Scholten & Baijings, Schelten & Abbenes and Studio Drift will showcase their work.
In honour of Conservatorium’s fifth year anniversary, Amsterdam’s grand luxury lifestyle palace introduces ‘The Big Five’ Package and takes you on a tour to the five most thrilling must-do’s in the city. Enjoy a three-night stay in the I ♥ Amsterdam Suite – a beautiful 155 m2 triplex with a wonderful 360˚ view over the rooftops of the Dutch capital – including private butler service throughout your stay, a bottle of Champagne upon arrival, a copy of #59 Magazine Conservatorium anniversary edition, a private transfer by Bentley to and from the airport, the big five activities in Amsterdam, a private lunch with the Conservatorium’s General Manager, Roy Tomassen, the five steps to perfection treatment in Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre for two persons, an 8-course Omakase menu in Taiko restaurant including wine or sake pairing and a late check-out at 4pm.
In addition to the activities in Conservatorium, three of the world’s most renowned museums are just across the street. The Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum each season present varying exhibitions, including classical paintings to modern art. Conservatorium is a hotspot for artists and art lovers. Bernadette Murphy, the well-acclaimed author of 'Van Gogh's Ear' is the first artist in residence, who wrote a large part of her book during her stay in the Conservatorium hotel. Throughout the year, bedtime stories of artists in residence will be placed in all rooms and suites for all art loving guests to enjoy.
Designed by Piero Lissoni - leading Italian architect and interior designer - the Conservatorium hotel is a Modern Grand Hotel and combines historical architecture with modern design. The hotel features 129 rooms and suites, a holistic wellbeing centre, an array of restaurants and a bar, as well as a selection of cutting-edge events and banqueting spaces. Whether you would like to go on a culinary journey with Executive Chef Schilo van Coevorden at the Asian-inspired restaurant Taiko, kick back and enjoy one of their many varieties of Gin & Tonic in Tunes Bar or pamper yourself with an anti-jetlag treatment at the Akasha spa, the Conservatorium hotel in Amsterdam truly is your home away from home.
Conservatorium, Amsterdam along with Hotel Café Royal, London and Lutetia, Paris (currently under renovation), is a member of the Set Hotels, a collection which reinvents Grand Dame properties at the heart of some of Europe’s great cities – transforming them into diverse, dynamic places where artists, patrons and lovers of the arts meet.
Van Baerlestraat 27, 1071AN Amsterdam
Bruschetta is an antipasto from Italy consisting of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt.
Place all ingredients in robot coupe and pulse until slightly smooth.
Start with pre toasted and grill-marked crostini, 2 slices. Spread herb cheese (Boursin) on toast. Put tapenade on top of cheese in “Z” pattern covering most of the bread On top of tapenade place red peppers and pepperoncini in an assorted pattern, enough to still show tapenade and cheese. Plate, and garnish with flat leaf parsley and extra virgin olive oil.
The first moment you step onboard any Windstar yacht you realize, “This is like nothing I’ve ever done before.” And then it dawns on you – “This feels like my own private yacht, easy-going and unregimented.” Everything about Windstar’s style of small ship cruising – smaller ports, pampering without pretense, freedom to do what you want, when you want – is all about you.
The service is welcoming and intuitive, with the same casual elegance you feel throughout the yacht. The destinations? Windstar doesn’t just take you to a place, Windstar puts you in a place, brings you closer to the world. That’s something only a small ship can do – and Windstar does it better than anyone on earth. Every moment is filled with magic – give it a try.
On any day, our 310-gues flagship, Wind Surf, draws admiring glances as she glides majestically into port with her tall sails billowing. And her beauty is far more than skin deep. Her gleaming decks and sparkling sails invite you to discover a world of gracious indulgence. From sumptuous staterooms and suites to the cozy sophistication of the Yacht Club living room and Library, every detail exudes contemporary luxury.
There’s no place like home – especially when it feels like your own private yacht. Each stateroom or suite is ocean facing, and designed for ultimate comfort. From the plush leather headboard to the fine Egyptian linens and marble bathroom. Enjoy the thoughtfully designed spaces, with every modern convenience and the luxurious touches just for their pleasure. Everything is made to order for your enjoyment. Soft Lighting. Beautiful artwork. Airy, sophisticated colors in a palette of marine tones and warm woods, or the inviting, contemporary furnishings. Go ahead and enjoy an invigorating shower, then wrap up in your waffle-weave robe and slippers, savor a treat from the fresh fruit bowl, or simply stretch out and enjoy the fresh flowers. So you know, all suite accommodations feature:
With a choice of a comfortable stateroom to a spacious suite, you will be sure to find a space to call your own.
Every meal is just what you’d expect on your own private yacht – perfect. You’re free to eat when, where, and with whomever you please. And, please, don’t bother to pack the tux, the formal wear, or even a sport coat. Casually elegant is the rule of the day – where you stay casually comfortable and we’ll provide every elegant touch. The cuisine is exquisite ... a unique creation of light and savory entrees using fresh native foods and tropical accents, prepared exactly to your liking, and served in your favorite setting.
AmphorA: Our signature fine-dining restaurant, AmphorA, has been completely redesigned with inviting circular booths and plus banquette seating. It features a world-class menu – from local market derived specialties to celebrated culinary favorites – accompanied by an extensive wine list and served on elegant Rosenthal china and Riedel stemware. The setting is elegant, yet relaxed. No jacket or ties required. Open for continental breakfast and dinner.
Veranda: Epicurean displays, an inviting buffet, plentiful outdoor seating, and beautiful lighting underscore Veranda’s new look – the restaurant’s open-air terrace creates the perfect spot for guests to enjoy breakfast and lunch al fresco. And the cooking station provides guests with made-to-order dishes.
Candles: The outdoor seating area of Veranda transforms into Candles in the evening, where on-deck dining by candlelight highlights every voyage. This poolside grill accommodates 30 guests for dinner, offers al fresco dining on favorite seafood and steak-house grilled specialties and a romantic ambiance unmatched in any venue on sea or shore. Reservations are required.
Stella Bistro: Treat your palate to the French-inspired café cuisine of Stella Bistro, Wind Surf’s alternative restaurant. You’ll find delightfully indulgent desserts and a wonderful array of wines specifically paired to the meal. This alternative restaurant is only found on the Wind Surf.
A Day on board your Windstar yacht is a day of choices, all of them good. Perhaps you’ll begin with a relaxing massage in WindSpa. Or maybe an invigorating workout in the Fitness Center. Even better, why not both? After a sumptuous lunch in Veranda, make a splash from the Watersports Platform off the yachts stern. Everything you can think of for fun in the water is there – swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, sail-boarding, even water skiing. And it’s all complimentary, of course. Sun yourself on deck, take a dip in the whirlpool, then catch up on email or grab a DVD for your suite in the Library. After dinner, try your luck in the Casino and dance to live music in the lounge. This is your yacht, so of course you’re welcome on the Bridge, where the Captain and officers are delighted to share charts, routes, and vistas with you. As you prepare for another amazing Windstar day, enjoy a nightcap anywhere you like – on deck, ion the lounge, or why not let us bring it directly to your suite.
Each day is filled with larger-than-life memories. They can be as special as our deck barbecues, elaborate sunset celebrations followed by music and dancing under the stars. Every Windstar voyage includes an exclusive private event, where you will be our guest for an experience designed just for you, to take you closer to the people and places of the world. From a champagne and dessert reception in Monte Carlo’s legendary Grand Casino, or a private beach party on Prickly Pear Island, the magic is waiting.
Make your cruise as inclusive as you like. One call. It’s that simple. A single call to your travel professional can take care of every aspect of your vacation – air travel, ground transportation, shore excursions, pre- or post-cruise experiences and extensions, the right insurance to secure your peace of mind. It’s all as easy as a phone call.
Personal Onboard Laundry Service: Pack light when you add our convenient 24-hour onboard professional laundry service. Simply leave your laundry outside your suite before you retire and it will be waiting for you, crisp and clean, when you return from your day’s explorations. It adds the easy to our easy-going style.
Spa Services: As you enter the hushed atmosphere of our Windspas, you’ll feel every last care gently melt away. Maybe you’ll try a hydralift facial or a new color on your toes. Maybe you’ll surrender to the transformative power of a relaxing massage. With one of the highest crew-to-passenger rations at sea, you will find yourself in the enviable position of never having to lift a finger. Please book spa appointments with the hotel manager once you’ve boarded your yacht.
Shore Excursions: Get closer to the history, culture and cruises of every destination in Windstar Style. From artfully crafted and amazing authentic shore excursions to a variety of hotel and land package options to extend your pre- or post-cruise experience, relax and enjoy Windstar’s exception service on cruise.
Land Tour: Add a Windstar Land Excursion Package before or after your cruise, including hotels and fascinating tours that enrich your vacation experience. You can try the famous ports in Portugal, relax in the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, or wonder at the myths of Loch Ness … the world is yours to explore.