Voyages to Antiquity
VOYAGES to ANTIQUITY
Don’t Know Much About History …
… until she cruises back in time with Voyages to Antiquity.
By Judi Cuervo
This morning I am perched on a wicker chair aboard Aegean Odyssey, sipping the coffee I got at the breakfast buffet a deck above, and having a cigarette in the ship’s only smoking area, an industrial-looking afterthought that lacks even a name on the deck plan. At the next table is a woman from Washington, D.C., a Smithsonian member who, when I ask why she selected this Voyages to Antiquity cruise, gazes at the ocean dreamily and replies, “I’ve been looking for this itinerary for years.”
It’s a statement I’m hearing frequently from passengers who have signed up for this 13-day trip, a 7-day sailing sandwiched between a two-night pre-cruise stay in Athens and a three-night post-cruise stay in Istanbul. With calls at Nauplia, Rethymnon, Delos, Mykonos, Samos, Kusadasi, and Canakkale, the journey couldn’t be more appealing.
With an almost religious fervor, those I am sharing Aegean Odyssey with this week — many of them first-time cruisers — are anticipating the ruins of Delos, Ephesus, Aphrodisias, and Troy; I, on the other hand, am looking forward to getting a great tan. I am an anomaly aboard Aegean Odyssey but I’m curious about this education-driven cruise concept and board the ship with an open mind.
In a world where alternative dining venues, flashy production shows, Vegas-style casinos, and full-service spas often play the leading role in our ship selection, the 11,563-ton Aegean Odyssey stands alone, luring the more cultured traveler with a program of exotic itineraries that are drenched in history. The brainchild of cruise entrepreneur Gerry Herrod, Voyages to Antiquity was launched when Herrod read Lord John Julius Norwich’s The Middle Sea, an account of the fabled civilizations of the Eastern and Central Mediterranean. With assistance from the book’s author, Herrod set out to acquire Aegean Odyssey and establish itineraries that would immerse guests in the historical and cultural highlights of the areas.
While cultural pursuits might be the biggest draw, VTA hasn’t ignored the cruise experience itself, adding a myriad of extras that make its journeys one of the best values at sea. Most shore excursions are included in the price of fare, as are gratuities and wine/beer/soft drinks with dinner. Free or low-cost air from selected cities is also covered, as are deluxe hotel accommodations for pre- and post-cruise land stays. On many sailings, solo travelers will find low — or no — single supplement.
Originally built in 1973 as a ferry, Aegean Odyssey was converted to a cruise ship 15 years later, and sailed as Aegean Dolphin and Aegean 1. In 2009, the ship was acquired by Voyages to Antiquity and underwent an ambitious refit that reconfigured passenger cabins, slashing their number and increasing the size of the remaining ones, bringing passenger capacity from close to 600 guests to a comfortable maximum of 380.