Adriatic Odyssey: preparing to explore the Adriatic aboard AdventureSmith Exploration’s Panorama

I’m going on a mystery cruise next week.

Budva, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro

It’s not a game, and it’s not a mystery to the captain, but of the seven ports where we’ll stop, I’ve never heard of four of them.

Korcula?

Budva?

Paxos Island?

Kotor?

Saranda?

So why did I agree to hop on the three-masted sail cruiser “Panorama,” and spend eight days exploring these unheard-of cities and islands? Because this is an Adriatic cruise – and AdventureSmith Explorations, which calls the trip “Adriatic Odyssey,” and because the places we’ll go, while unfamiliar to many American tourists (myself included), are said to be lovely, well known to travelers in the Adriatic region, full of ancient history, and exceptionally popular among experienced cruising passengers.

Take Budva, for example. A coastal town in Montenegro, Serbia, on what’s called the Budvanska Riviera and the center of Montenegro’s tourism, the 3500-year-old Budva is well known for its sandy beaches, diverse nightlife and examples of Mediterranean architecture. Locally, Budva is referred to as the Montenegrin Kuwait because of the number of resident millionaires who live there compared to its relatively small population. Once a poor fisherman’s village, a real estate boom in the early oughts allowed native families to sell their properties to foreign buyers, mostly Russians, Austrians and Italians. It has become a town with the most millionaires per capita in Europe, approximately 500 of them in a town of around 22,000 people.

S/C Panorama
S/C Panorama

A sister city to West Palm Beach, Florida, Budva has a Mediterranean climate, sandy beaches, and a vast cultural heritage. The 177-foot Panorama, which has 25 cabins and holds 49 passengers, will offer excursions into Budva and all of the other cities and islands that we visit along the way, a much nicer way of traveling along this coast instead of fighting heavy summer driving traffic.

The cruise departs from Dubrovnik, Croatia, a historical gem in itself, with its medieval wall said to be among the ten best in the world, its summer festival, and its arboretum, the oldest in the world. She also makes a stop in Corfu, Greece, with its rich connection to Greek mythology and its more recent mentions in the late David Foster Wallace’s book, “The Broom of the System.”

Well before the breakup of Yugoslavia into Croatia and Serbia, this region’s history was full of turbulence with the Hapsburg Empire, the Venetian Republic, the Ottoman Empire, the Nazis and much earlier the Ostrogoths, the Bulgarian Empire, the Corinthians, the Byzantines, and the Romans, all willing to go into battle for ownership.

Sounds as if I will have to get off the Panorama each day of this eight-day cruise and head for a beach and a swim just to clear my brain of the packed history and culture that will have accumulated there so profoundly in such a short time.

And the mystery of the cruise will finally have been solved.

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