It’s hard to believe it is the last day of our magical cruise along the Dalmatian Coast. A visit to the beautiful island of Hvar, the “lavender capital” of Croatia, was the perfect way to end our voyage. Sea Cloud slipped through the narrow channel between the Pakleni Islands and dropped anchor just in front of the old Venetian harbor of the town of Hvar. We tendered into the pier for an early morning walking tour of this delightful town full of Venetian-inspired Renaissance palaces with pointed trefoil windows and ground-floor loggias. Cafes, bars, and lavender stands lined one side of the quay, while yachts and catamaran ferries from the Split jostled for position on the other. Our guides took us along the seawall and out to the Franciscan Monastery to see their little physic garden with its 500-year-old cypress tree and the impressive 16th century painting of the “Last Supper” that dominates the monk’s refectory. This magnificent work was done by a Venetian artist of the school of Paolo Veronese. The artist was shipwrecked on the island and nursed back to health in the monastery. We wound our way back to the main square, then climbed up through the narrow Porta Maestra that was once the main entrance to the fortified section of the town. We stopped in front of the small Benedictine convent, where five cloistered nuns still make lace from the fibers of the agave plant. After a visit to the basilica of St. Stephens on the main square, some of us fanned out on our own to explore the alleyways leading up to the Venetian fortress that protects the city, while others chose to buy a few lavender products or just sit and enjoy a cool drink in one of the many bars along the quay. All too soon, the tenders arrived to shuttle us back to the ship so we could partake in the famous “parmesan wheel” pasta feast on the Lido Deck. As we moved away from Hvar, the captain had the sailors go aloft for one last afternoon under sail.
We enjoyed a leisurely morning on our final day aboard Sea Cloud , slowly cruising along the coast of Greece as we savored our morning coffee and delectable pastries. Mid-morning, Captain John gave a fascinating talk on the repair and upkeep of this elegant ship. Thanks to the ship’s dedicated owners and committed partners like Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic, this historic vessel, now more than 90 years old, is in superb condition and is prepared for many more years of active service. Our last day of the journey held a special, unexpected treat: an afternoon visit to the magical town of Monemvasia, Greece. Although the stop was not part of our planned itinerary, it became a fantastic final visit on this diverse and exciting voyage. The massive rock on which the town is perched has been termed the “Gibraltar of the East.” There is just one small entrance for visitors — a trait that has given the town its name, as Monemvasia means “single entrance.” The city is a charming, automobile-free tangle of cobblestone walkways, stone stairways, and tree-lined courtyards. It was founded in the 6th century, and its colorful history includes Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans before the town became part of the independent Greek state in the 1800s. With wonderful shops and endless opportunities for photography, this was a truly splendid final stop that brought together many of the historic eras we discussed throughout the journey. The weather shifted yet again, and a brief thunderstorm accompanied our return to the ship. Our last evening was spent enjoying the company of our fellow shipmates. We shared memories of our unforgettable trip during cocktail hour with Captain John, accompanied by our own images of the trip compiled by our photographic instructor, Sue. One last delightful dinner in the ship’s stately dining room made the perfect end to this wonderful voyage.