A cruise in the Adriatic - beyond Venice and Dubrovnik

The “Mein Schiff 5” leaves the port of Trieste under a night-black sky.

A cruise in the Adriatic - beyond Venice and Dubrovnik

The “Mein Schiff 5” leaves the port of Trieste under a night-black sky. The city's elegant buildings are bathed in sparkling lights, people are still strolling along the promenade, and late guests are still having a nightcap in the café on the Piazza Unità. Trieste, once part of Austria-Hungary and its gateway to the world, still exudes a strong dash of Viennese atmosphere.

The heat is on the decks and balconies of the cruise ship. It sails out almost silently after the pilot had to argue with the authorities for a long time, as Captain Ioannis Anastasiou, a Greek who grew up in North Rhine-Westphalia, cheerfully reports from the bridge.

But now nothing stands in the way of the first stage of this Adriatic trip. It will cover 2,420 kilometers, seven days and four countries. Instead of overcrowded Adriatic ports such as Venice and Dubrovnik, the cities of Kotor in Montenegro and Koper in Slovenia are on the plan, with Corfu and Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea in between.

The first destination, Kotor, is 382 nautical miles or 707 kilometers away, explains the captain. That means a day at sea to start with and time for the guests to explore the 295 meter long, 42 meter wide and with eleven passenger decks, jogging track, ball court with grandstand and 25 meter long pool quite huge ship and at the same time to relieve the stress of the journey.

A few dips in the pool, a cocktail on the sun deck, a few hours gazing at the sea on the balcony chair, and everything that had caused tension the day before loses its terror: the chaos at the airport is over, the corona test passed successfully - a daily, official rapid test must be proven upon embarkation as well as full vaccination.

With every nautical mile covered, the memory of it disappears a little deeper in the memory. This process can be designed individually by playing volleyball, visiting the spa, piano music or planning shore leave. Eleven restaurants and 16 bars also help ensure that the day at sea passes imperceptibly - and the guests disperse. 2400 passengers are on board; in total the ship has room for 2534.

Just in time for sunrise, the "Mein Schiff 5" reaches the entrance to the city of Kotor, which is hidden deep in a sea inlet between mountain ranges. "It's worth getting up early for the southernmost fjord in Europe," Anna Volkmann explained the previous evening. The 28-year-old Head of the Shore Excursion Department likes this route very much, as the ship only called at this port for the first time in June.

And in fact it does justice to Anna Volkmann's assessment. The pilot came on board during the night, and at four-thirty the ship glides slowly and almost silently into the fjord. Enthusiastic early risers take photos and films on the balconies. The last lights of the night twinkle on the shore as the sun paints the sky orange and gold over black mountains. The ship only reaches the berth two hours later.

The natural harbor was already inhabited in pre-Christian times. In the 14th century the Venetians destroyed the competing port before Kotor went under the protection of the Serenissima in 1420. A city wall four and a half kilometers long encloses the old town, which, like the entire bay, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its location and the medieval buildings.

The cathedral of St. Tryphonius, the Romanesque church of St. Luke, the clock tower, alleys and squares are soon in the scorching sun. Even the boat trip to the island of Gospa od Skrpjela, made up of rocks and shipwrecks with the little church “Mary of the Rocks”, does not bring a cool breeze. Nevertheless, the Bay of Kotor, surrounded by mountains up to 1800 meters high, is so attractive that it is difficult to say goodbye to the small Balkan country.

Captain Anastasiou is able to cushion this. It was a bit stressful for him, too, with getting up very early and the long day on the bridge, he chats into the microphone in the evening. But now the sea is calm and the wind is light, 387 kilometers south towards the green island of Corfu, towards his Greek homeland.

"I'm sorry we don't see each other that often at the moment," he concludes. "I hope I can make up for it the next day at sea." This wish is followed by his characteristic final word, which quickly became a dictum among the passengers: "Captain off."

The next day Corfu's mountains and bays and small islets lie outside the windows. With over 30 degrees, it's not exactly cool here either. Die-hards can set out on a tour of the island on the ship's own e-bikes. Others sweat in the footsteps of Empress Sisi, who loved Corfu, or drift through the island's capital.

A change of ship offers refreshment: a catamaran takes guests to two bathing spots off the coast. Diving in the clear water under the Greek sun is extremely beneficial. The singing of the cicadas can be heard out to sea. With the fortress-like capital and the green mountains, Corfu can also be seen from the water.

With Kefalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands, another major tourist attraction awaits 209 kilometers from Corfu. The view of beaches, mountains up to 1600 meters high and the underground lake Melissani drives passengers into the tender boats that take them to the port of Argostoli in the south-west of the island. Bikes and scooters are also available here, although at 37 degrees a walk along the palm-lined promenade and through the rest of the town requires regular breaks in the café.

Finally, the last longer stage: At 16.2 knots, it's 1,091 kilometers (589 nautical miles) north to the Slovenian port of Koper, reports Captain Anastasiou from the bridge in the evening and reminds us to put the clocks back: "Sleep an hour longer - you experience Your captain in a good mood!” The anchor is lifted, the Greek lightness of his explanations washed away by the brute German pathos of the opening song “Große Freiheit”, the sun offers a spectacular setting.

A different wind is blowing on the open sea: the sky is gray, sea storms are rumbling over the Adriatic Sea. Rain falls on the sun deck and noticeably cools the water in the pool. For the first time you realize that you are at sea - the ship moves noticeably.

In the morning, the captain invites you to the nautical and technical question time in the theater. To start with, he shows vacation photos and strings together jokes in the best entertainer manner. Details follow, which cruise fans are following with interest. Turning the ship around takes six minutes: "You have to take that into account when you're being chased by pirates," jokes Anastasiou. And then? "Do you zigzag course to create waves and keep the pace."

Anastasiou has been a captain since 2003 and with the Mein Schiff fleet since 2014. It's his dream job, because the cruises take him to the most beautiful countries - often on unusual routes like this one, which deliberately avoids overcrowded ports.

The next morning Koper lies in front of the ship under a cloudless sky. The only port in Slovenia is industrial, with room for only one cruise ship. Just behind the town with its beautifully restored, Venetian-style center rises wooded hills with shady hiking trails and vantage points that open up far-reaching views of the Slovenian and Italian coasts.

A landmark shows hikers where Italy begins, allowing them to stand with one foot in Slovenia and the other in Italy; otherwise the border is invisible. Signs are bilingual here, with Italian being a recognized minority language. Koper once belonged to the Republic of Venice, later to Austria, to Italy from 1919 and fell to Yugoslavia in 1954 after being part of the Free Territory of Trieste after World War II - a turbulent history that ended with Slovenia's independence in 1991.

Trieste is only 13 nautical miles away, the "Mein Schiff 5" will reach the berth opposite the magnificent Piazza Unitá d'Italia in the late evening. Before the last night on board, the passengers once again receive weather data and good wishes from the bridge. Then it says one last time: "Captain off."

Cruise: The next departures of "Mein Schiff 5" for the seven-day trip "Adriatic Sea with Corfu" are July 31, August 28 and and 25.9.2022. In an inside cabin, the trip including meals and drinks costs from 849 euros per person; with flights you pay from 1229 euros (tuicruises.com). The Italian shipping company Costa Cruises also has Kotor, Corfu and Kefalonia on its routes (costacruises.com).

Corona: A self-test before the trip and an official antigen test on the day of arrival are just as mandatory as proof of full vaccination protection for travelers aged twelve and over. Unlike the crew on board, passengers are no longer required to wear masks; wearing an FFP2 mask is only mandatory in the tender boats.

Participation in the trip was supported by TUI Cruises. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.com/de/Werte/downloads.

Stand in line again before you go on vacation. This is what it looks like at some airports in Germany. Lufthansa is now canceling another 2,000 flights. But with the right preparation, travelers can ensure a more relaxed start to their holidays themselves.

Source: WELT / Marcus Tychsen

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