Mumbai to Athens (Piraeus)
27 days with Silversea Rating:
Day 1 Mumbai
Departure 6:00 pm
Delhi may be the capital city, but it's Mumbai that encapsulates all the dynamic, chaotic parts that make up modern India. This is where you'll find everything from succulent street food to haute cuisine, bargain-basement bazaars to the finest haute couture, humbling poverty to staggering wealth, sacred temples to hedonist nightclubs. Mumbai is India—vibrant, hectic, frustrating, enervating, and exhilarating, warts and all. Mumbai is a city of extremes, where slum-dwelling strivers making dollars a day serve Bollywood stars and industrial billionaires. It's a 24-hour city stocked with some of the best late-night street food in the world, as well as fine-dining restaurants of renowned chefs. It's a cosmopolitan city of people from all over India that's nonetheless home to strident parochialism. It's a city of dreams for millions of Indians that, at the same time, affords so few any measure of comfort. And it's a beautiful city of silver towers when viewed by twilight from the new Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge over the Arabian Sea that connects the Western suburbs to the city, but which quickly descends into a maze of winding—often dirty—streets and alleys when viewed up close. Sensory overload is the name of the game on the island formerly known as Bombay (and yes, many locals still call it by its previous moniker). The first thing that hits you when you arrive at the airport is the smell—spicy, fishy, and, to be honest, often not altogether pleasant. Next comes a crazed cab ride through the seemingly lawless streets (should your driver run a red light or, just as likely, drive on the wrong side of the road, remain calm). Then a traffic jam in the midst of a veritable symphony of honking, in which barefoot children, often holding infants, and tragically disfigured men and women knock at your window, begging for change. Persevere through, though; embrace and try to understand the natural hazards of the Third World, and you'll find yourself in the middle of a vibrant, often beautiful city. There's plenty to see in Mumbai, but it's not generally in the form of stationary monuments like those in London, Paris, or Delhi. The art of experiencing Mumbai lies in eating, shopping, and wandering through the strikingly different neighborhoods and the various markets. Think of Mumbai as a 50-km (30-mile) -long open-air bazaar. Colaba, headed by Gateway of India, is the tourist district and main drag for visitors, and from the Gateway of India to Colaba Market, along the main road, is a walkable stretch of hotels, pubs, restaurants, and interesting shops. Churchgate and Nariman Point are the business and hotel centers, and major bank and airline headquarters are clustered in skyscrapers on Nariman Point. The district referred to as Fort—which includes Mumbai's hub, Flora Fountain—is filled with narrow, bustling streets lined with small shops and office buildings, as well as colleges and other educational facilities. Another upscale residential neighborhood, Malabar Hill, north of Churchgate on Marine Drive, is leafy and breezy, with fine, old stone mansions housing wealthy industrialists and government ministers. Shopping and people-watching are most colorfully combined in Mumbai's chaotic bazaar areas, such as Chor Bazaar, Zaveri (jewelry) Bazaar, and Crawford Market (aka Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market). Many of the city's newest and trendiest shops and restaurants are now out in the suburbs—where more and more people have been moving due to soaring real-estate prices and a lack of space—but South Mumbai still retains some of the very best. Some travelers opt to stay in the suburbs, either in Bandra, at the end of the new Bandra-Worli Sea Link, or in Juhu, a popular coastal suburb between Mumbai and the airports (about 20 km [12 miles] north of the city center). Juhu's beaches aren't clean enough for swimming, and the place can be scruffy, but staying out here is a good way to observe everyday Indian life beyond the shadow of Mumbai's skyline. Sunday nights bring families down to the beach for an old-fashioned carnival, complete with small, hand-powered Ferris wheels, and lantern-lit snack stalls hawking sugarcane.
Days 2-3 Days at Sea
Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with what you’ve been meaning to do. So whether that is going to the gym, visiting the spa, whale watching, catching up on your reading or simply topping up your tan, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.
Days 4-5 Muscat
Oman's capital city is hemmed in on one side by spectacular jagged-peaked mountains and on the other by royal blue sea. The architecture is a traditional, sophisticated arabesque blend of white-washed, low-rise buildings surrounded by manicured palms, intricately designed domes set atop the minarets of the mosques, sand-colored villas, a surprising blend of modern art installations, like a giant incense burner that towers over the Corniche, and ancient forts set in the rocky hills. Though tradition abounds, from distinct, local cuisine to the widely worn national dress, the dishdasha, Muscat is a completely modern city, featuring opulent luxury hotels, international restaurants, excellent cellular and data service, sprawling shopping malls, pristine beaches, lively nightlife, world-class performing arts, and a highly educated population, most of whom speak English, Arabic, and often Hindi. Muscat is the ideal base for exploring other areas of the country since many of the most desirable destinations are within a few hours' drive.
Day 6 Fujairah
A visit to the Emirate of Fujairah is a chance to see a different side to the United Arab Emirates, swapping the flashy mega-towers for heritage-rich mosques and crumbling forts. While elements of Dubai’s and Abu Dhabi's skyward dash are present in Fujairah city, on the whole, you can expect to enjoy a much more down to earth version of the UAE than you might be used to, as you explore this intriguing destination of history and heritage. The Al Bidya Mosque is a true link to the past, and this incredible building is the UAE's oldest mosque. With a history dating back to 1446, the builders of the mosque remain unknown. It's still in use, and is even kitted out with air conditioning, behind its walls of rusty red bricks. Having the oldest mosque isn’t the Emirate of Fujairah’s only claim to fame - it also has the UAE’s second largest. Pay a respectful visit to the sprawling Sheikh Zayed Mosque – which features huge prayer towers that reach up and puncture the deep blue sky.
Days 7-8 Abu Dhabi
Just a few decades ago, Abu Dhabi, the island capital of the United Arab Emirates, was a small fishing village with houses made of mud-brick and palm fronds. Today, as a result of revenue from oil, Abu Dhabi is one of the world's richest cities, with wide, tree-lined okulevards, lush green parks, gushing fountains and imposing skyscrapers. Somewhat of a dichotomy, Abu Dhabi is a combination of ultra-modern sophistication and Arab mystique, with friendly and hospitable people offering a warm welcome to visitors. Abu Dhabi's history originated in the 18th century, when, according to legend, a group of tribesmen pursuing a gazelle came upon a freshwater well which they named Abu Dhabi, or "Father of the Gazelle". In the 19th century, the first fort was built over this well by a sheikh of the Al-Nahyan dynasty. The fort's name is Al Husn Palace, also known as Old or White Fort, and it is one of the few buildings in Abu Dhabi that is more than 25 years old. Its whitewashed walls are eye-catching amid the backdrop of today's skyscrapers. Presently, it is home to the Cultural Foundation and serves as a documents centre. Abu Dhabi had little significance until the discovery of vast oil reserves in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the years following, the city's economy and infrastructure developed rapidly and changed Abu Dhabi beyond recognition.
Day 9 Al Manamah
Rising like an oasis in the Persian Gulf, Manamah is no mirage. The capital of Bahrain (with a population of around 150, 000), the city houses almost a quarter of all Bahranis. At times resembling something from 1001 nights and at others like something from the set of a sci-fi futuristic drama Al Manamah is just beginning to get seen on the savvy traveller’s map. Mentioned in Islamic chronicles since 1345 and conquered by the Portuguese in 1521, Manamah is anything except typical. Expect to feast both your eyes and your stomachs here with the quintessence of Muslim hospitality – from delicious bowls laden with love and eons of history to the plethora of genuine, warm invitations to share tea with the locals, hospitality is taken very seriously here. For culture vultures, the Al Fateh Mosque (one of the world’s largest and by far the largest in Bahrain), this is a sight – and site – to see. First and foremost a place of worship that offers tours on the side, it is important to remember that this is a sacred place and traditions and cultures must be respected. Dress modestly, remove your shoes and women should cover their heads – note that garmets will be provided if necessary. However, as one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East, visitors should expect an enthusiastic welcome, inquisitive guides and a huge library to get lost in. Moving on, seven nominated UNESCO World Heritage sites prove the extent of Bahrain’s dedication to conservation of the past. Although only two so far have been approved – the Ancient Harbour and the Pearling Trail that is said to date back to 2,000 BC, one really does get a feeling in Manamah that the past is all around.
Day 10 Doha
Doha (population 700,000) is the capital of the State of Qatar, an emirate occupying the small Qatar Peninsula bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and otherwise surrounded by the Persian Gulf. Qatar was ruled by many different powers through the centuries, in fact historians have traced human habitation dating back 5000 years. From its earliest history, Qatar was a very important trade route connecting Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. Among its occupiers were the Portuguese, the Ottomans and finally the British during the turbulent years of the 20th century. Qatar gained independence in 1971, and with resources from oil exportation, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad made improvements in social programmes including education, health and housing. In 1995, his son, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani assumed the throne and brought with him a modern and progressive approach that quickly transformed the country. Doha, home to 80 percent of the country’s population, was founded under the name of Al-Bida in 1850. It became the capital of the British protectorate of Qatar in 1916. When the nation gained its independence, Doha remained the capital. During the early 20th century, much of Qatar’s economy depended on fishing and pearling. But after the introduction of Japanese cultured pearls, Doha and the whole region suffered a decline. Only when oil was discovered, prosperity returned following World War II. Today, the country produces over 800,000 barrels of oil daily. Doha is situated halfway down the east coast of the peninsula. It is an intriguing mixture of old and new, with ultra modern architecture next to traditional souqs and historic forts. It boasts a university and the Qatar National Museum (currently closed for renovation), which opened 1975 in what was originally the ruler’s palace. As the country’s cultural and commercial centre, Doha enjoys excellent communications with the outside world through its modern seaport, airport and telephone links. The Al Jazeera Arabic satellite television news channel began broadcasting in 1996 with its headquarters in Doha. While Arabic is the official language, English is widely spoken. Please Note: Conservative dress is required when going ashore. As a rule, women should not wear miniskirts, shorts or sleeveless tops and men should always wear a shirt in public. Please do not photograph people without their permission, especially women. You may not take pictures of government buildings, embassies or anything military in nature, including airports.
Day 11 Dubai
Dubai sits on a golden sandy coastline in the Arabian Gulf, where the warm azure waves of the sea meet the desert. A high-rise oasis, this city is a pleasure-dome surrounded by dunes; one of the most fashionable on the planet thanks to its ability to satisfy the needs of legions of demanding vacationers. Dubai is about having fun—and it's one big adult playground. Nature plays her part here, with year-round sunshine, gorgeous beaches, dramatic arid landscapes, and warm waters, but it's the man-made attractions that make Dubai so alluring. You can launch yourself into high-adrenaline desert adventures, diving and water sports, and some of the world's best golf courses. The 5-, 6-, and 7-star hotels offer the ultimate in luxury, and the party scene is hot. Shopping malls are the biggest in the world and are packed full of high-class merchandise. And with hundreds of restaurants with cuisine from around the world, you can munch your way from Mexico to Malaysia. Dubai is an Arab country with a long history as a trading port. Traces of its traditional life, customs, and architecture can still be seen and explored, but today and tomorrow are much more important than yesterday. Almost every building in this metropolis is less than 20 years old and the most dramatic developments—groundbreaking megaprojects—have just been completed or are still under construction. The city is certainly unique. Islam is its anchor, but it has opened its doors to the rest of the world and has invited them in to work, rest, and play, which creates a truly international atmosphere. Unashamedly modern and materialistic, life here takes place at breakneck speed. The landscape is stark, the confidence is sky high, the can-do spirit is palpable, and the blingis in your face. Dubai produces strong reactions in people, but one thing is certain—love it or loathe it—you will not forget it. It is without a doubt, one of the world's true must-see destinations. Shisha: Smoke Without Fire. Emirati men love socializing, but as they don't drink alcohol they get together over coffee and shisha instead of a drink at the bar after work. The shisha, or hookah, is a smoking device, usually made of glass, that filters smoke through water before it reaches the smoker's mouth. Shisha tobaccos are aromatic and are often mixed with apple, cinnamon, or cherry, so their taste isn't as strong as other tobaccos. Smoking shisha is said to induce relaxation—but you'll have to decide if it's for you! Several distinct zones and quarters, each with its own purpose and atmosphere, make up the city of Dubai. The older districts around the mouth of Dubai Creek—Deira, Al-Rigga, and Bur Dubai—have developed over the last 150 years into a maze of narrow streets and alleyways that are often choked with traffic. However, the museums and attractions here are clustered close together, making this area the most walkable in the city. You'll need to cross the creek on the abra (boat) service, about seven or eight minutes long, to get from one bank to the other. To venture beyond this downtown core you'll need to take transportation. If you have time, buses are very cheap, new, and air-conditioned, and their routes pass by many major attractions. However, taxis are efficient, inexpensive, and metered, making them a more flexible option if you're only in Dubai for a short time and every minute counts. Sheikh Zayed Road is the multilane road that links old Dubai with the newer Dubai districts to the south—about 15 mi to the southernmost communities. It runs 3 mi inland from the ocean and parallel with the coastline. Every well-marked intersection off Sheikh Zayed Road leads to a different district—including Dubai Marina, Emirates Hills, and Knowledge City—as well as that area's major attractions. This road is the thoroughfare for most of the traffic traveling north and south, so it's always busy. By taxi, the trip from Deira to Dubai Marina takes about 45 minutes. Dubai doesn't use building numbers in its street addresses. People navigate by referencing major hotels, roads, intersections, or other well-known landmarks. Taxi drivers know how to reach all the main attractions, but if you're looking for something off the beaten path—say, a particular specialty store—find out which hotel, mall, or other geographical marker is close to your destination. Direct your driver to that location, so he knows the general area to which you want to go.
Day 12 Khasab
See Khasab’s jutting fjords, and the dolphins playing in the emerald waters, and it’s forgivable to think you’ve stumbled across a surreal Norway. The burning sun and scorched earth, serve as a constant reminder that you're a long way from Europe, however - although the Portuguese roots mean there's a colonial tint to the city. Sitting on the Northern coast of Oman, reaching across towards Iran, this is an isolated and fascinating destination to explore. The remote location, and limited infrastructure here, until recent times, means Khasab has been left to live life at its own pace, and the city sings to its own song sheet. Even now you can see a blind eye being turned to the smugglers who whisk electronics across the Gulf to Iran, in small speed boats.
Day 13 Muscat
Day 14 Day at Sea
Day 15 Salalah
The lush landscape around Salalah is the intriguing result of a quirk of nature. Since it is uniquely situated in the path of the Khareef, or South Western Monsoon, this stretch of the Dhofar Coast is covered in fine mist and frequent rain from mid-June through mid-September. By the time the monsoons cease, the entire coastline is a verdant stretch. Waterfalls, rolling grasslands, and thickly wooded wadis (riverbeds) thrive alongside rapid mountain streams. Unique in this desert region, Salalah attracts many visitors from the surrounding Arabian Gulf countries who are anxious to experience a rare lushness in a region where rain and greenery are in short supply. Once a stop on the ancient trading routes that connected the Levant to India and China, Salalah has a rich history that goes back centuries. Traders from Mesopotamia, the Persian Empire, and beyond passed through Salalah in their search for frankincense, making it a major center for trade in the coveted exotic ingredient. Pre-Islamic tombs and grave sites, some believed to be up to 2,000 years old, are scattered all over the nearby mountainsides and the present-day city, which has an estimated 195,000 inhabitants.
Days 16-19 Days at Sea
Day 20 Aqaba (Petra)
The resort town of Aqaba, on the Red Sea at the southern end of Jordan, is a popular spot for divers with some of the best coral reefs in the world. Snorkeling and other water sports are popular, and it's easy to hire a boat for a day or half-day, including lunch.Aqaba has become quite a bustling destination, with several large luxury hotels and a large shopping area. There are many jewelry stores selling pearls, gem stones, and gold and silver jewelry. It's worth noting that although it's an international beach resort, Aqaba is quite conservative—certainly much more so than Amman—and North Americans tend to be more comfortable at the private hotel beaches.
Day 21 Day at Sea
Day 22 Suez Canal Transit
After several debates over its building, the Suez Canal opened under French Control on 17 November 1869, paving a gateway from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. This history-bound canal enhanced the colonisation of Africa throughout the next 50 years and facilitated World Commerce. Today, it still plays a pivotal role in trading and tourism, offering a fast access to Asia from the Mediterranean and vice versa.
Day 23 Ashdod (Jerusalem)
Busy Ashdod is not only one of Israel's fastest-growing cities, it's also the country's largest port. Perched on the Mediterranean, it processes more than 60% of the goods imported into Israel. Home to many ancient peoples over the centuries, Ashdod today is a modern, planned city. It's also a convenient jumping-off point for exploring several of Israel's most interesting cities, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Bethlehem.
Days 24-25 Tel Aviv (Haifa)
Spilling down from the pine-covered heights of Mt. Carmel, Haifa is a city with a vertiginous setting that has led to comparisons with San Francisco. The most striking landmark on the mountainside is the gleaming golden dome of the Baha'i Shrine, set amid utterly beautiful garden terraces. The city is the world center for the Baha'i faith, and its members provide informative walking tours of the flower-edged 100-acre spot, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the top of the hill you'll find some small but interesting museums, the larger hotels, and two major universities. At the bottom is the lovingly restored German Colony, a perfect area for strolling. Israel's largest port and third-largest city, Haifa was ruled for four centuries by the Ottomans and gradually spread its tendrils up the mountainside into a cosmopolitan city whose port served the entire Middle East. The climate is gentle, the beaches beautiful, and the locals friendly. You won't see the religious garb of Jerusalem or the tattoos and piercings of Tel Aviv in this diverse but fairly conservative city. In fact, you can't always tell at a glance who is part of an Arab or Jewish Israeli family, or if someone is a more recent immigrant from the former Soviet Union. Israel’s "city on the hill" is divided into three main levels, each crisscrossed by parks and gardens: the port down below; Hadar, a commercial area in the middle; and Merkaz Carmel (known as "the Merkaz"), with the posher hotels and many restaurants, on the crest of Mt. Carmel. Thanks to the beneficence of the Baha'is, you can enjoy a walking tour that takes you through the stunning terraces that lie like multicolored jewels from the crest of the city at Mt. Carmel to the German Colony below.
Day 26 Day at Sea
Day 27 Athens (Piraeus)
Arrive 8:00 am
It's no wonder that all roads lead to the fascinating and maddening metropolis of Athens. Lift your eyes 200 feet above the city to the Parthenon, its honey-color marble columns rising from a massive limestone base, and you behold architectural perfection that has not been surpassed in 2,500 years. But, today, this shrine of classical form dominates a 21st-century boomtown. To experience Athens—Athína in Greek—fully is to understand the essence of Greece: ancient monuments surviving in a sea of cement, startling beauty amid the squalor, tradition juxtaposed with modernity. Locals depend on humor and flexibility to deal with the chaos; you should do the same. The rewards are immense. Although Athens covers a huge area, the major landmarks of the ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods are close to the modern city center. You can easily walk from the Acropolis to many other key sites, taking time to browse in shops and relax in cafés and tavernas along the way. From many quarters of the city you can glimpse "the glory that was Greece" in the form of the Acropolis looming above the horizon, but only by actually climbing that rocky precipice can you feel the impact of the ancient settlement. The Acropolis and Filopappou, two craggy hills sitting side by side; the ancient Agora (marketplace); and Kerameikos, the first cemetery, form the core of ancient and Roman Athens. Along the Unification of Archaeological Sites promenade, you can follow stone-paved, tree-lined walkways from site to site, undisturbed by traffic. Cars have also been banned or reduced in other streets in the historical center. In the National Archaeological Museum, vast numbers of artifacts illustrate the many millennia of Greek civilization; smaller museums such as the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum illuminate the history of particular regions or periods. Athens may seem like one huge city, but it is really a conglomeration of neighborhoods with distinctive characters. The Eastern influences that prevailed during the 400-year rule of the Ottoman Empire are still evident in Monastiraki, the bazaar area near the foot of the Acropolis. On the northern slope of the Acropolis, stroll through Plaka (if possible by moonlight), an area of tranquil streets lined with renovated mansions, to get the flavor of the 19th-century's gracious lifestyle. The narrow lanes of Anafiotika, a section of Plaka, thread past tiny churches and small, color-washed houses with wooden upper stories, recalling a Cycladic island village. In this maze of winding streets, vestiges of the older city are everywhere: crumbling stairways lined with festive tavernas; dank cellars filled with wine vats; occasionally a court or diminutive garden, enclosed within high walls and filled with magnolia trees and the flaming trumpet-shaped flowers of hibiscus bushes. Formerly run-down old quarters, such as Thission, Gazi and Psirri, popular nightlife areas filled with bars and mezedopoleia (similar to tapas bars), are now in the process of gentrification, although they still retain much of their original charm, as does the colorful produce and meat market on Athinas. The area around Syntagma Square, the tourist hub, and Omonia Square, the commercial heart of the city about 1 km (½ mi) northwest, is distinctly European, having been designed by the court architects of King Otho, a Bavarian, in the 19th century. The chic shops and bistros of ritzy Kolonaki nestle at the foot of Mt. Lycabettus, Athens's highest hill (909 feet). Each of Athens's outlying suburbs has a distinctive character: in the north is wealthy, tree-lined Kifissia, once a summer resort for aristocratic Athenians, and in the south and southeast lie Glyfada, Voula, and Vouliagmeni, with their sandy beaches, seaside bars, and lively summer nightlife. Just beyond the city's southern fringes is Piraeus, a bustling port city of waterside fish tavernas and Saronic Gulf views.
All This Included
From the chanting of mantras to the calls of the muezzin, embark on a voyage that embraces the present and the Rajasthani past. Muscat, or the jewel of the Oman beckons with her bright skies and mind-boggling souks, while Fujairah offers a much more down to earth side to the UAE than you might have imagined. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are sure to astound in all their unapologetic flashy splendour.
Cruising: Cabin onboard Silver Spirit
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