The Black Sea coast has been attracting travellers for millennia. Legend has it that Jason and the Argonauts passed this way on their way to Colchis, and later arrivals, such as Greek traders, Turkish settlers and Russian heretics, all left their mark. Both the food and architecture here reflect these diverse influences and help to give this part of the world a surprisingly cosmopolitan atmosphere – as a steady flow of cruise visitors has been discovering for years.

Bulgaria’s long Black Sea coastline is the country’s summertime playground, attracting not just Bulgarians but tourists from across Europe and beyond. Sparsely populated sandy beaches to the far south and north, the bird-filled lakes around Burgas, and picturesque ancient towns such as Nesebâr and Sozopol are rewarding destinations. The ‘maritime capital’ of Varna and its seaside rival, Burgas, are two of Bulgaria’smost vibrant cities. Both are famous for summer festivals and nightlife as well as many museums and galleries.