Port Spotlight: Cadíz, Spain

[caption id="attachment_16789" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Cadiz is one of the oldest continually settled cities in Europe. (Photo by Jose Ra)

Situated on a narrow strip of land surrounded by the glittering sea, Cadíz is one of the oldest and well-preserved cities in southwestern Europe. Cadíz also boasts a unique experience, categorized by the distinct cultures of each historical old barrio, (village) a sharp contrast from more urbanized areas.

A visit to the Cathedral in the Old Town provides a spectacular panoramic view of the entire city.

Christopher Columbus is said to have brought over many of the trees that line Cadíz’s picture-perfect parks, perfect for a romantic stroll set behind a backdrop of colorful flowers.

You will discover narrow streets filled with charming cafés that arguably serve the world’s freshest fish. Europe’s oldest covered market, El Mercado Central, is a must-do if you’re looking for fresh groceries and an authentic Andalusian experience.

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Port of the Week: Piran, Slovenia

Royal Clipper calls at the port of Piran, Slovenia, this season, which is one of our special, off-the-beaten-path calls. Located on the tip of a long, tapering peninsula that projects like a lizard's tail into the Adriatic, Piran – the most Italianate of the coastal towns – is simply delightful. Having retained its compact medieval shape and character, the town is a tangle of arched alleys and tightly packed ranks of houses, fantastic Venetian-inspired architecture and exquisite little churches.

Tartini Square is the gem found in the very center of Piran. It was named after the famous violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini, who made the town world-famous. His statue is located in the center of the square. Piran is surrounded by a circular wall and is a member of the European Walled Cities Association. The city of Piran is a national historical monument.

The Church of. St. George, the patron saint of Piran, rises above the town. From its lookout tower you have a wonderful view of Piran and its surroundings and all the way across the sea to the Croatian and Italian Coast.

Thanks to Yahoo! Travel and www.slovenia.info for their insight into Piran.

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Port of the Week: Isla Coiba, Panama

Isla Coiba, Panama.

Sailing into Coiba Island, Panama, guests on board Star Flyer will find themselves in a UNESCO World Heritage site. The largest of a group of 38 islands off Panama's southwestern coast, Coiba features an unusual marine environment in largely intact condition similar to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador or Costa Rica's Coco Islands.

The region's rich biodiversity was noted in 1991 when the Panamanian government granted the islands and their surrounding waters national park status. The park now covers more than 430,000 acres, making it one of the largest marine parks in the world.

A water temperature that varies little from 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round has allowed a great number of marine species, especially corals, to flourish. This is the perfect port of call to take advantage of Star Clippers' wide variety of water sports. Divers on board will be delighted to discover that the waters around Coiba Island harbor no fewer than 760 species of marine fish, 33 species of shark and 20 species of cetaceans.

Nature enthusiasts also will marvel at the variety of birds, animals and marine species found nowhere else in the world. Endemic species include the Coiba Island howler monkey, the Coiba agouti (a small rodent) and the Coiba spinetail bird. The island also is home to many plant and animal species that have largely vanished from the mainland, such as crested eagles, scarlet macaws, spider monkeys and the yellow-billed cotinga.

Through the years, Coiba has seen many changes, from its early rulers the Cacique Indians to Spanish rule, which arrived in the 1500s and included tales of Vasco de Nunez Balbao, the famed Spanish explorer. In the early 20th century the island also served as a penal colony to some of the country's hardest criminals.

Guests can explore what little remains of the former penal colony, but its existence proved to be beneficial to the island — its population's fearsome reputation helped to preserve the island's pristine condition, which remains almost completely undeveloped outside the bounds of the prison camp.

Star Flyer will call at Isla Coiba on a seven-night Panama to Costa Rica cruise Nov. 14, 2010 and on seven-night Costa Rica and Panama sailings from Nov. 28, 2010 through March, 6, 2011.

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