Cruising is probably the best way to get the most out of your vacation dollars. Along with enjoying the benefits of an all-inclusive luxury retreat, you can tour a variety of port cities and their important attractions, without the bother of having to pack and unpack.
The best part is that you can often discover a place you didn’t even know you wanted to see. Sometimes it requires a gamble of time and money, but it’s almost always worth it.
One such hidden gem can be found on a Regent Seven Seas cruise. Regent Seven Seas Cruises was voted World’s Best Small Cruise Line by the readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine. Conde Nast TravelerWorld Ocean & Cruise Liner Society has awarded the “Best Cruise Value” in the ultra-deluxe category to Regent Seven Seas for 11 years in a row.
Several Mediterranean or European itineraries on Regent include stops in Corfu. An island on the western coast of Greece, Corfu boasts mild weather and surprisingly green panoramas. Frequent winter rains keep millions of olive, lemon orange and cypress trees well watered and lushly growing throughout the island.
Corfu may be better known for heavenly beaches and secluded coves, but a day at the beach isn’t always an option on shore excursions. But rather than stay on the ship, my fellow travelers and I opted to visit Corfu Town and the Achilleion Palace. After leaving the gorgeous Seven Seas Voyager, our bus took us on a lovely ride through the countryside before arriving in Gastouri, home of the Achilleion Palace.
Because of its name, one might suppose that Achilleion Palace is some sort of ruin on the order of the Acropolis. In fact, it is much more “modern.” It was built in the 1890s as a summer palace for Empress Elizabeth (Sissy) of Austria, niece of Greece’s King Otto. Any visitor can see why she chose this site. The view from the gardens, overlooking the Ionian Sea, is nothing short of spectacular.
Empress Sissy imported exotic flora from her own world travels. But clearly her love was ancient Greek history and mythology. This is evidenced by the Greek-inspired sculptures in the gardens, featuring several statues of Achilles – namesake of the palace — as well as statues of the nine Greek Muses. Inside, you’ll see a blend of classical-style architecture, Romantic period-style décor, Rococo-style painted cherubs on the ceiling, and heavy and ornate furnishings throughout. It sounds disordered, but it honestly works.
After poor Sissy was assassinated, the palace was purchased by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, and in the decades that followed it was used, by turns, as a military hospital, an art museum and… a casino! One of the coolest facts I learned about the place is that the casino scene of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981) was filmed there.
Leaving the Achilleion Palace, our bus took us into Corfu Town for a delightful afternoon with our knowledgeable Regent tour guide in this charming Greek village, visiting other places of interest and enjoying magnificent vistas.
Corfu Town and particularly Achilleion Palace was a happy discovery indeed on our Regent Seven Seas cruise, and one of the loveliest places in my personal travel catalogue. It was a gamble I’m glad I took!