Cloaked in sunshine, representatives from Carnival UK, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, Silversea Cruises and Swan Hellenic, among other lines, discovered layers of historic Venetian, British and French culture captured in architecture.
Sights of the 5th century Early Christian Basilica of Paleopolis, as well as of the former royal summer residence Mon Repos – the birthplace of the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh – were a precursor to views of the island’s 15th century citadel and fortress built by the Venetians on the site of a former Byzantine castle. From there, familiarisation trip participants could gaze over sea and mountains and beyond to the silhouettes of Albania and the uninhabited island of Vodo.
Passing a monument to British naturalist, writer, zookeeper, conservationist and TV presenter Gerald Durrell, the group strolled through the lush People’s Garden to behold the Corfu Museum of Asian Art, before passing battlefield-turned-cricket-ground, The Esplanade.
St Spyridon Church was a forerunner to an even deeper dive into the Old Town, through narrow winding streets filled with shops selling crafts, furniture, clothing and souvenirs, to the building of the Municipal Theater of Corfu. The main theatre and opera house in Greece from 1902 to 1943, it serves as a fine example of Italian Renaissance architecture, embellished with the statue of Francesco Morosini, Doge of Venice from 1688 to 1694.
Finding the right mix
‘I love it,’ Swan Hellenic’s manager, destinations management, Anna Maria Maestri, said of Corfu Old Town, adding the destination would be well-received by Swan customers. While the line favours off-the-beaten-track locations, Maestri described a combination of lesser-known and better-known spots as the ideal blend. ‘One of the goals for Swan Hellenic is to find a nice mix; the big challenge is finding that mix,' she said.
Davide Truscello, pricing, itinerary & revenue planning director, Costa Cruises, described Corfu as a ‘great destination’ but said it was ‘not easily accessible this season for turnarounds’ owing to lack of air connectivity.
Museum and dining
‘This is the best time to see Corfu,’ commented guide Sophia Skourti from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, who has conducted tours of the island for passengers sailing with Marella Cruises, MSC Cruises, TUI Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Viking and others. ‘The season runs from the second half of March through to November, when the temperature here is still over 20 degrees,’ she said. ‘The weather becomes changeable in mid-November.’
Passing vineyards by minibus, the group made its way to the Kapodistrias Museum, dedicated to the memory and life's work of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first head of state for modern Greece.
After the tour, the group sampled traditional local cuisine, including moussaka, pastitsada and baklava.