0 comments on “3 Hidden Mediterranean Jewels
 

3 Hidden Mediterranean Jewels
 

While the museums of Florence, the ancient ruins of Rome, the Ramblas in Barcelona and so many other top attractions in these countries are worth visiting multiple times, culture-rich Italy and Spain are both overflowing with plenty of other authentic must-visits for those who have traveled extensively. Here are several stunning off-the-beaten-path picks for those seasoned travelers looking for that exhilarating feeling of discovering a hidden gem for the very first time.

Orvieto-ItalyOrvieto, Italy: Medieval Gem
Available from Rome
Experience Italy as it’s rarely experienced with a trip to this fortified medieval town perched atop a hillside in Umbria with vineyards, olive groves and Cypress trees blanketing the valleys below. Once a citadel of the Etruscans, Orvieto remains a medieval treasure – there has barely been any new construction since the 14th century. The Duomo di Orvieto, adorned with a dazzling mosaic façade visible from miles all around, is arguably one of the most gorgeous in Italy. This mesmerizing Gothic cathedral dates to 1290, took 30 years to plan and three centuries to complete. A visit to Orvieto isn’t complete without sampling some traditional Umbrian fare such as umbrichelli pasta and perhaps a glass of chilled Orvieto Classico, a well-rounded straw-colored DOC white wine.

Expert Tip:
This is a town of artisans and long-held craft traditions, so you’ll have plenty of mementos to choose from amidst your sightseeing. Handmade ceramics and terracotta ware are two top picks and for the quintessential Orvietano souvenir, head to the woodworking shop of Bottega Michelangeli.

Urbino-Italy.jpg


Urbino, Italy: Renaissance Riches

Available from Umbria (Ancona)
A surprisingly remote cultural epicenter set atop the rolling hills of Le Marche, Urbino is considered one of the most important towns of culture, art and historical legacy in Italy – in fact, the entire town was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998. During the 15th century, Urbino attracted some of the most preeminent scholars and artists of the Renaissance, and was the hometown of artist Raphael and architect Donato Bramante. It now represents a peak of Renaissance splendor through its remarkably preserved art and architecture. Step back in time with a visit to the princely Palazzo Ducale, a sprawling palace that now houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, one of the most important collections of Renaissance paintings in the world.

Expert Tip:
After touring Palazzo Ducale, head to Antica Osteria da la Stella, a family-run restaurant just steps away from the former home of Raphael that serves traditional cuisine inspired by the local culinary traditions of the Le Marche and Romagna regions.

Ronda-Spain

Ronda, Spain: Whitewashed Wonder
Available from Málaga
Set above the deep Tajo Gorge carved out by Río Guadalevín, this mountaintop village couldn’t be located in a more dramatic location. The gorge divides the picturesque whitewashed town into La Ciudad, the old Moorish, aristocratic quarter with narrow lanes; and El Mercadillo, the “newer” park-filled area built after the 1485 Christian Reconquest. The three bridges connecting Ronda offer exhilarating vistas and the local history is just as thrilling – the town and surrounding mountains were once bandit hideouts, which you can learn about in the local Museo del Bandolero. More than 200 years old, Ronda’s Plaza de Toros is one of Spain’s oldest bullrings and a visit here is the perfect way to learn about this tradition.

Expert Tip:
Before heading back to Málaga, pop into Entre Vinos on Calle Pozo for tapas and a glass of Andalusian wine. This locals’ spot is known for its extensive local wine list and both traditional and inventive tapas.

Wanderlust sparked? Find your perfect Italy or Spain cruise now

 

0 comments on “Top Ways to Win Big O Points
 

Top Ways to Win Big O Points
 

Whether you’ve always been driven to win or just have a fondness for contests and tournaments, here are our favorite ways to embrace your inner competitive spirit on board and score some Big O Points. Once you’re on board, check your daily Currents and look for the Big O Points logo and activities hosted by your Entertainment Team. Regardless of what you choose, you’re certain to discover a few new ways to mingle with your fellow travelers – and you just might meet your match.

  1. TEAM TRIVIA & BRAINTEASERS TRIVIA
    Check your daily issue of Currents for these rousing favorites – you’ll be up against historians, scientists, professors, engineers and the like. Join trivia during the beginning of your cruise and arrive early to form the best team. It’s time to get those Big O Points!
  2. MENSA QUIZZES
    We’re excited to be one of the very few cruise lines partnering with Mensa, the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world, to bring you this challenging daily quiz on board. Put your knowledge to the test!
  3. TABLE TENNIS
    Keep an eye out for hosted morning tournaments listed in Currents.
  4. GOLF PUTTING
    Practice your swing, mingle with other golf enthusiasts and enjoy the chance to earn Big O Points during hosted sessions.
  5. SHUFFLEBOARD & CROQUET
    Check Currents for sports deck competitions – with great views and the chance to win Big O Points, these activities can’t be beaten.
  6. NAME THAT TUNE
    Join guests in Martinis for cocktails and put your music repertoire to the test with this competitive classic.

What’s your favorite way to win Big O Points? Share below or on Facebook!

0 comments on “3 Off-the-Beaten-Path San Juan Surprises
By Guest Lecturer Sandy Cares

3 Off-the-Beaten-Path San Juan Surprises
By Guest Lecturer Sandy Cares

Just when you think you have seen it all, new secrets emerge proving you can always learn something new – even in a familiar port of call. Here are three of my favorite off-the-beaten-path surprises in Old San Juan and how to find them.

The Catacombs of St. Francis of Assisi

The Catacombs of San Juan
Starting at the Plaza Colon, with the namesake statue of Christopher Columbus in the center and the imposing fortress of San Cristobal looming over it, take Calle San Francisco until you arrive at an open plaza on your right. This plaza is in front of the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, built in 1756 and where Franciscan monks wearing brown frocks tied with rope belts still walk the grounds and greet visitors. Down the short staircase directly in front of the main door, you will discover the catacombs of San Juan where departed Franciscan monks rest.

The Old Kitchen
Enter the main door of the blue university building on Calle Cristo and take the stairs to the second floor. The first thing you’ll notice against the wall to your right is a replica of the legendary Chest of Three Keys that once held the riches of the city. It could only be opened with three different keys simultaneously, each in the possession of a different person. Continue across the breezy atrium and up a short set of tiled stairs and through the doors at the left to find yourself inside a 17th-century kitchen, transporting you to a different era. You’ll see an old wood-burning stove and the wall behind the chimney vent displays a delightful mosaic of hand-painted tiles depicting fish, game, fruit, pies, cooking utensils and other culinary morsels of the era.

Old Kitchen – Sandy at Stove
Old Prison Cells

The Old Prison Cells
Paseo de la Princesa is San Juan’s own Prado, affording a stroll along a shaded boulevard with bustling local life and beautiful views. The charming Paseo leads from the port area to the Fountain of the Races and then continues along the boardwalk, with the Caribbean Sea on one side and the old city wall on the other. Along the way to the Fountain of the Races, which showcases the robust mix of races that comprise the population of Puerto Rico, stop at the gray tourist board building (Compañía de Turismo de Puerto Rico) and enter the door, continuing through to the door directly opposite the one you entered. A few steps to your right, you’ll find several ominous looking prison cells from the Spanish colonial era – this building was actually the San Juan jail during the 19th century! The combination of high wood-beamed and iron-rung ceilings, thick walls and iron gratings over windows several feet higher than a man could reach assured that no one could have escaped from these old prison cells.

Next time you visit San Juan, seek out these off-the-beaten-path gems and keep an eye out for even more wonderful surprises along the way!

About Sandy Cares
Guest lecturer Sandy Cares has been sharing her entertaining lectures aboard Oceania Cruises since January 2014. Drawing from stories by local authors as she weaves in anecdotes from travel and life, Sandy combines meticulous research with effervescent enthusiasm and humor for a fresh and fun look at destinations throughout the Caribbean and Central America.

1 comment on “3 Fascinating Facts About the Panama Canal”

3 Fascinating Facts About the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal has long been recognized as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century. More than a century ago, the 50-mile-long passage created the ultimate shortcut for ships – eliminating the perilous journey around the southern tip of South America and changing international trade forever. Here are a few lesser known facts about the Panama Canal.

0 comments on “Curious Traveler Webisode 8: Destination Immersion Specialists”

Curious Traveler Webisode 8: Destination Immersion Specialists

Our shore excursion collections offer insight into the culture, history and cuisine of the fascinating ports of call our guests visit. In the final webisode of Emmy Award-nominated Curious Traveler, host Christine van Blokland explores Italy, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia.