One of the most spectacular on-board views during our 12 day Mediterranean cruise on the Norwegian Spirit was the sunrise over the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro. Before we visited Montenegro, it is embarrassing to say, but I didn’t really have much of an interest. A friend of mine recently visited this country and he loved it so much. He said it was possibly one of the best destinations he’s been to in a long time. With this being said, he loved it that much that he even considered registering a company in Montenegro! He would love to work there for sure. This just made me think that there was more to this country than I gave it credit for. Steep mountainsides meet the Adriatic Sea to create fjord-like structures that become even more magnificent when greeted by the rising sun. I rolled myself out of bed at 4:30am still suffering from jet-lag and fueled solely on caffeine and adrenaline, and made my way to the upper-most forward deck. There were a handful of other passengers that were also awaiting the highly touted view. When the sun started to rise, you could see more prominent details such as the jutting structures of the limestone cliffs or the juxtapose of modern and medieval buildings. The word breathtaking is often unjustifiably used to describe people, places or things, but it’s the only adjective that adequately describes this natural wonder. Once you check out the sunrise go grab some breakfast and enjoy ride into Kotor before you dock or tender.
The NCL Spirit was scheduled to tender into Kotor, Montenegro. The tender ride took about 30 minutes, but if you grab a good seat you can enjoy the view on the way to shore. There was another slightly larger cruise ship already sitting in the sole cruise ship dock and the quaint town was bustling with tourists. I had booked one of the early afternoon boat rides over to Our Lady of the Rocks and to Perast, so we could have the morning to tour Kotor.
The city of Kotor is small and can easily be navigated by foot. A small highway running along the coastline connects other cities in Montenegro, but our limited time in port would restrict how far we could travel.
City Walls- Kotor, Montenegro
If you’re very brave and in good physical shape you can climb the City Walls up the mountainside. Our ship concierge told us that she had done it several weeks ago, and the soreness lasted for days. I knew that we didn’t have the time or the will to attempt such a feat, so we walked around the lower level. I heard the views from the top were fantastic, and I think I would have enjoyed touring the Castle of San Giovanni.
You check check out this gallery of our day in Kotor, Montenegro
St. Tryphon Cathedral
Pay the minuscule admission fee I a donation to the church) and explore all of the relics upstairs. St. Tryphon Cathedral houses several centuries of various religious artifacts. The Roman Catholic Church was originally built there around 800 AD. Several priceless tapestries hang in the church, numerous gold, silver and jeweled icons, and random body parts of various saints including the head of Saint Tryphon.
Our Lady of the Rocks
A short boat ride from Kotor lies a tiny man-made island with an equally tiny church. The story of how and why Our Lady of the Rocks Church was built is like a fairytale. For the last several centuries the local economy relied on fishing. A portrait of Mary washed upon some rocks and was found by a pair of fishermen. They took it as a sign that they should build a church in her honor, in hopes that she would protect their safety. There was no island to build a church, so with the help of other local fishermen they created a man-made island. It took decades to build, and they used everything from rocks to sunken ships to create the foundation. The church is very small and it’s filled with “treasures” from fisherman who hoped Mary would protect them at sea. One of the most interesting pieces in the chapel is a tapestry that has it’s own story. You can see a photo of the tapestry in the gallery above, but you should visit the chapel and hear that story from one of the guides. I think cost for the guide was a Euro, and the tour is brief.
The island is easily reachable by a local boat service, several operate from the harbor area. I purchased our tickets through Shore Fox, but you can purchase tickets directly from the boat operators. If you take one of the afternoon trips, ask about the return time. You don’t want to be left behind.
The small town across the bay from Our Lady of the Rocks church is called Perast. It’s much smaller than Kotor, but offers a few activities for visitors. You can climb the bell tower of the church to get an aerial view of Our Lady of the Rocks. There are several water front restaurants and ice cream stands. You can browse artisanal items available for purchase from vendors in the town square. A short walk down the shoreline there was a small beach and a few places to rent kayaks to paddle the bay. Jeremy and I had ice cream from a cart and took in the views.
Sunrise heading into the Bay of Kotor
I discussed this at length during the introductory paragraph. The sunrise heading into the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro was one of the most beautiful sunrises that I’ve ever seen.
We had friends who took a kayak and snorkeling tour that didn’t enjoy their excursion at all. They said the water was rough and murky, and the beaches were rocky. I had considered a similar excursion, but I’m thankful we didn’t go after they shared their experience with us.
If your cruise ship will be tendering into port always allow your adequate time to catch the tender back to the ship. The line to catch the tenders back to our ship was very long with very little shade.
Are you planning a Mediterranean cruise? What tools are you using to plan your day in port? I highly recommend picking Rick Steves’ Mediterranean Ports Guide. It really helped us plan several ports without paying extra for shore excursions.