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THE BLACK SEA River & Music


culture SHOCK


Done the Med and you’re still hungry for culture and adventure but you don’t want to fly long-haul? The answer could well lie in the Black Sea Words Sue Bryant


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ucked away between the eastern fringes of Europe and the western shores of Asia, the Black Sea has amazing architecture, gorgeous scenery, lashings of literary culture and an incredible


military and political history. So it’s no wonder everybody’s sailing there now, from cultural specialists like Voyages to Antiquity and Swan Hellenic to mainstream lines like Cunard, P&O Cruises, MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises and Holland America Line.


All these cruises are culture-intensive and to make the most of the destination, you need to be ashore, on tour, every day; a good reason to consider lines that include some or all excursions in the price, such as Saga’s Quest for Adventure, Swan Hellenic, Voyages to Antiquity and Noble Caledonia. Before my visit, on Saga’s Spirit of Adventure (re-launching this year as Quest for Adventure), I had no preconceptions of how one port would differ from the next. So the sheer physical and architectural exuberance of the region came as a real surprise – from the elegant, Baroque architecture and chic cafes of Odessa to the craggy, pine-forested coast around Yalta where Chekhov came to take the sea air when he was suffering from consumption. His light, airy villa and its lush garden are now a museum. And the Black Sea is full of dolphins, something else I’d never expected. We saw them most days, in huge pods, leaping alongside the ship. It can be a real culture shock: in all the ports, there are still strong reminders of the Communist era and some places are run down, but overall it’s a stunning sea to cruise. Turn over for a round-up of the highlights.


8 CRUISE-INTERNATIONAL.COM FEBRUAAPRIL/ R AY 2 RY/MAMCH 2012 | 49


PHOTO: ISTOCK


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