You see that brilliant blue color in all the ads for the Mediterranean. But not until you’re standing at the top of a cobblestone path in Santorini do you believe it’s real. The water is that sapphire blue!

Sailing on the beautiful Crystal Serenity from Athens to Venice last June, we enjoyed that scene and many more. With a private guide, who met us at the port of Kusadasi and took us to Ephesus, we gained an appreciation and knowledge of this ancient site.

We explored the narrow streets in Santorini (although we took the cable car and not the donkey to the top). We wandered through Patmos, Crete, Split and Kotor, Montenegro. Then we arrived in Venice for two overnight stays.

The first day in San Marco was filled with people waiting for the beginning of Festa Venezia (a religious festival). Private yachts and larger ships filled the harbor.

For that evening, Crystal planned a sumptuous Italian buffet on the pool deck. Lobster, large prawns, fresh shrimp, a myriad of salads and fresh fruit, as well as pasta with a choice of sauces decorated the white-clothed tables. At 11:30 PM, we could see the 30-minute fireworks display in San Marco from the top decks of the ship.

The second day in Venice we explored the less-traveled back streets. You can’t get lost. The signs on the crumbling buildings point to San Marco or the Rialto Bridge. It’s more fun to see these streets where the locals live and shop. The vendors showcase their fresh fruits, vegetables and fish in attractive displays and the aroma of peaches mingles with that of fish.

Crystal’s staff is hotel trained. The first day aboard, the waiters on the Lido Deck ask your name and from then on will greet you by name! The computer lab offers complimentary and wonderful courses, everything from basic emailing to digital photography. Lecturers are well informed and interesting. And the evening shows are Broadway-style professional!

There were many multi-generational families aboard our sailing. You could see the kids enjoying the programs and each other. And their parents were happy because the kids were happy!

Crystal Cruises has been voted the top large cruise ship for over 15 years in a row. They obviously are doing something right!

Article and photos by Pearl Cohn