Voyages of Heat and Humidity

The Crimean War forms a central part of knowledge of the history of the Black Sea: Tennyson's famous poem commemorating the ill-fated charge of the British cavalry on October 25th, 1854 and the heroic exploits of Florence Nightingale helped focus our attention on this conflict. A tour exploring the battlefields and military history of this period is a highlight. There is more to the story of the Black Sea and this itinerary brings to life the history of the region: a journey that takes us from the birth of civilization to the end of the Cold War. Visit Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria.

I wish I had scheduled the "Eastern Discovery" trip ending in Istanbul at the same time this one starts. There is a "Discovery" trip with its last full day on July 9 matched well to this one and I could have saved a long trans-Atlantic flight. But that trip was booked earlier than this which is only offered once each year. The company was VERY SLOW to post the shore excursions information. The final travel documents were finally delivered EXTREMELY LATE (only 8 days before departure). I'll have no internet access except days 2 and 3 - maybe, if it is not TOO expensive. As it turns out, this ship with only 300 passengers, and the facilities onboard, is very nice. I would cruise with them again.

Day 1, Friday, July 8 Departure
I again have another awful early departure and StuporShuttle hassle. The pickup is at 3:20 AM but he actually shows up about 3. Other than that, it seems like an unusually good air schedule.

Delta DL 810Houston - Atlanta7:00 A - 10:05 A2:051:46
Delta DL 072Atlanta - JFK11:52 A - 1:55 P2:033:10 +++

I have a very close connection (1:47) in Atlanta so no junk-food lunch. At JFK, after a "crash landing" (several very hard bounces) I have to change planes even though we keep the same DL 072 flight number. The first flight was on a regional jet; the second is of course a larger ER jet. With the same flight number, there should be no problem with "connections." There is enough time to get something to eat. We got "refreshments" on the 2nd flight (to JFK) and eventually have a very nice dinner much later on the very long flight to Istanbul. It is delayed in New York, first because someone didn't fill the potable (drinking) water tanks, then also because rain started about an hour before the flight totally scrambling flight schedules. We pushed back from the gate about 35 minutes late (the water problem) then had to hold for a long time on the taxi-way waiting for our turn to take off,

Day 2, Saturday, July 9 Istanbul

For the long flights between JFK and Istanbul, I upgraded my seat class to "Economy Comfort" for more leg room. It only cost $80 each for the 2 segments to do so. Bargain!

Delta DL 072JFK - Istanbul5:05 P - 10:15 A
6:35 P - 10:40 A

Thanks to a good tail-wind and a shorter routing we aren't too much delayed in arriving in Istanbul. After being awake for 46 hours (as of 11AM local) finally arrive in Istanbul. I already have the visa from the Eastern Discovery trip. The wait for luggage was VERY long, then even after I had my luggage, we had to wait for the rest of the 15 tour victims on this flight Transfer eventually to the hotel via a 45 minute drive. The late arriving travel documents show that I'm to be penned in the "Conrad Istanbul" which isn't even shown on the Voyages website. Are they ashamed to show it? Then what happens? Is there anything scheduled for this afternoon? Again there is NO information provided. Do we get anything to eat tonight? McDonkeyBurgers? Meet our tour director? Duh!!! The answer to all of this is 'nothing.' No meals, no tour director, no meeting, nothing.

It xis very hot (90s) and humid. The temperature is running about 10 degrees above normal so it's in the upper 90s rather than in the 80s. It's not nice weather to get out and do anything. Hotel: Motel 6 Istanbul???? Actually, with over 300 (actual count, 312) victims (er, passengers), we're at the (3*) "Conrad (Hilton) Istanbul, supposedly with a view of the Bosporus (NOT)." Nice room, at least Motel 7 level, and it's air conditioned, but particularly with the outside temperature and humidity, there is nothing to do except start on trying to catch up on sleep. (2 nights)

Actually, because this is my third visit to Istanbul and the 2nd was just 2 months ago, my preference would have been to arrive at 11AM as I did, then transfer directly to the ship skipping the two nights in Istanbul. With the weather (it's the wrong time of year to be here but the only time offered) and no other activities except those (repeat) local tours, it really is a waste of time for me in Istanbul. Note: 8 hours later than in Houston.

Day 3, Sunday, July 10 Istanbul
(All repeat - even the weather) The weather here feels just like Houston - very hot, humid (and boring). Byzantium, Constaninople, Istanbul - in this city we find some of the greatest buildings and works of art in the world. This morning's sightseeing will take in the Byzantine 6th century cathedral of Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, and the Sultan Ahmet Camii (Blue Mosque). Besides breakfast, are any meals provided anytime? I skip the morning tour since I just did the same local tour less than two months ago. I also did the Bosphorus Cruise two months ago, so I'll stay in the hotel and catch up on sleep. That's much better than getting out in the heat. This is a (another) totally wasted day for me.

Morning sightseeing: Istanbul Highlights #1 Visit the Byzantine cathedral of the 6th century Hagia Sophia with its immense dome and magnificent frescoes, the Hippodrome of Constantine where chariot races were held in antiquity, and also the fabulous Blue Mosque with over 20,000 brilliantly-colored Iznik tiles. Also visit famous Topkapi Palace, seat of the Ottoman Empire for almost 400 years. Situated above the Bosphorus, the 143-acre complex features courts, fountains, gardens and, as is natural for a Palace, a harem.

Afternoon Sightseeing OPTIONAL $45 Bosphorus Cruise (NO - did this 2 months ago) Enjoy an afternoon sail in the Bosphorus, the winding waterway that separates two continents, Asia and Europe. Take in the scenery that most visitors never explore.

Day 4, Monday, July 11 Istanbul - Embark
We have to have our luggage out by 7:30, then meet in the lobby by 8:45 for the 6 busloads of cattle to go on the morning tour which (all repeat, including the very hot weather) includes the Suleymaniye Mosque, built for Suleyman the Magnificent, and a late Byzantine Church of St. Saviour in Chora. There's even a very wasted time stop for the "Grand Bazaar." As on my previous visits, the tour guide tells us that all the junk for sale here is just that - junk for the tourists to waste money on. The locals won't go here - unless it's their job. Several of the people on my bus spent too much time in the Bazaar buying junk "made in Hong-Kong" so we are delayed for the next step. Without going back to the hotel (which is why I had to take this tour) we transfer directly to the port to board the Aegean Odyssey (it is supposed to be at 1PM, but isn't until 1:45 that we get on board) and have a nice surprise - a late (2PM) lunch. The "shipping container" turns out to be better than expected - somewhat cramped, but very nice and the air conditioning works. Later in the cruise I went aft and discovered another reason that I'm lucky to be in the bow: the noise and vibration level on "my" deck and the one above is VERY bad. I certainly wouldn't want to be caged back there. It's awful.

After the mandatory safety drill at 5:15, we depart at 6PM. Later we have an informal "Welcome Meeting" at 9PM. See the end of the notes for more on "Le Barge."

Since I like this mid-size-ship cruise but could see massive problems taking a huge-ship cruise, I decided that a huge-ship Inside Passage cruise for a later year is "dead." I did go ahead and book a (huge-ship) Caribbean cruise next March. As it turns out, this ship with only 300 passengers, and the facilities onboard, is very nice. I would cruise with them again - and during the cruise I did decide to sign up for another cruise with them next year, the "Crusades; the West Must March" next October 28 - November 9. If I could persuade the cabin stewards to leave things alone and not rearrange them the way they think is best …. It's just the main office service that is awful.

Morning Sightseeing: Istanbul Highlights #2 (I did this back in 2008 on the Turkey/Egypt trip) Visit two city landmarks, the Byzantine Chora Church, now a museum, and the grand Suleymaniye Mosque, built between 1550 to 1557 during the Classical period of Ottoman architure.

Day 5, Tuesday, July 12 At Boring Sea
Overnight there was, and continues to be, some noticeable bouncing (pitching) of the ship, but it's not bad, just noisy since I'm near the bow on a lower deck. While taking a bouncing, boring cruise along the southern coast of the Black Sea, we waste our day while the ship makes her way to Trabzon. At least they have a couple of interesting lectures, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning lecture is Deep Submergence Archaeology and the Black Sea. The Black Sea is special in being anoxic in its lower regions, thus the wood of shipwrecks survives in the water column there.

The afternoon lecture is the origins of the plague, disease in the ancient world, the plague of Justinian and the contribution of disease to the subsequent history of Constantinople / Istanbul. So at least it does get better. TThe meals are very good but breakfast at 7:30 is very late (to me) though later they move breakfast to 6:45 so as to get us ready for our morning excursions. The lectures turn out to be a disappointment; many of the lecturers are not good speakers, and the microphone/PA system in the lounge distorts their words. This ruins almost everything that happens in the lounge.

Each day on the cruise, we have a pre-excursions meeting talking about plans for the next day. At our meeting this afternoon, we find out that the weather forecast for Trabzon is still the same as it was for several days before I started on the trip: Rain probable! We are cautioned that the final walk up to the Monastery is steep, rough, and in some cases doesn't have handrails. So I may cancel out of the morning excursion and just walk around in town some - if the rain isn't too bad.

Day 6, Wednesday, July 13 Trabzon, Turkey 7AM - 8PM
We finally arrive in the port about 7AM - assuming this is the port through all the fog. Our dock area is in the middle of the freight section and all there is to see is more ships, freight loading/unloading equipment, and storage warehouses. There is almost nothing to see of the town from where we are docked. Any possible view is blocked. This is quite disappointing as it is "impossible" to see or photograph anything of interest.

The scheduled morning tour takes us to the Sumela Monastery: built high in the mountains in the 4th century, the monastery is a place of natural beauty. However, the weather guessperts were right - heavy overcast, fog and light to medium rain in town; very heavy rain is reported up at the Monastery. We were to start out from the ship on larger coaches; at a park site part way up the mountain, transfer to small busses and take them as far as they can go to a smaller park area and then walk the rest of the way. . Because of the rain and the last part of the way up to the Monastery is on a steep, rough, irregular climb of at least 70 steps often with no hand-rail, many of us decide to forego taking the first tour and a very large number who started out decided to stop at one of the bus stops. Very few made it all the way to the top and the Monastery. In the morning announcement of the weather, etc, although the excursions director doesn't specifically say so, she seems to be issuing a major warning about taking the tour today. If the rain lets up, we can walk into town later.

Return to the ship for lunch and in the afternoon, we can (optionally) explore the sites of Trabzon, including the 13th century Church of Hagia Sophia, or, after lunch those of us not taking the afternoon tour try to walk into town through the cluttered port area. After a brief period of sunshine about noon, it has started a misting rain and it looks like something heavier is coming. Because of that and the fact that we find that the area isn't "promising," we give up and go back to the ship. At least I did get ashore briefly. We have a couple of afternoon and evening lectures: Tao-Klarjeti: the Cradle of the Kingdom of Georgia, and later Jason and the Argonauts. In the evening we depart for Batumi.

Morning Sightseeing: Sumela Monastery With its eerie mist and forested background the mountainside monastery of Sumela is one of Turkey's most magical destinations and is being considered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This spectacular monastery is perched on a mountain ledge. Construction began in 385AD when Barnabas, a monk from Athens, and his nephew Sophronios carved the first two rooms into sheer rock to house a miraculous icon of the Blessed Virgin they found in a mountain cave.

Byzantine Emperor Justinian ordered an enlargement in the 6th century. The monastery was looted and burned in the 7th century, later restored by the Comnenids. Today, it remains a wonder how this huge monastery was built into the rock cliffs of a mountain with the primitive technology of the time. Legend holds that this ethereal structure was built to house an icon of the Blessed Virgin painted by St Luke. By the 14th century the monastery had grown to a 72-room maze of courtyards, chapels and a library. From the bottom, looking up, we think it would be impossible to reach the site, and from the top, see breathtaking panoramas. Note: Caution - the last part of the assent to the Monastery is over a steep irregular path of at least 70 steps and there is no handrail for part of that way. This can be very treacherous.

Afternoon Sightseeing: OPTIONAL $ 68 Trabzon City Tour (NO) A short, scenic drive takes us inland to the densely wooded hills surrounding Trabzon, once capital of the medieval Empire of Trebizond founded in 1204 by Alexius Comnene, grandson of the emperor of Byzantium. This city was a major trading center and home to Venetian and Genoese colonies, attracting such visitors as Marco Polo. Visit the 13th century St Sophia Museum, the ruins of a church originally built by the Commenos family, expanded by Emperor Manuel Paleologos VII, then converted into a mosque in the 16th century. The building is now a museum. See traces of Byzantine frescoes depicting the Wedding at Cana, Christ in the Temple and the Annunciation. Visit the Gulbahar Hatun Mosque, built by Selim I Yavuz in 1507 for his mother, who is buried on the site. This mosque is the oldest building in town to have always functioned as a mosque, as many of the others are converted churches. Following our visit, continue to the country house of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic.

Day 7, Thursday, July 14 Batumi, Georgia 6AM - 8PM
It is nice weather when we arrive but is forecast to be quite warm later today. At least from where we are docked, we have some nice views of the town including a park and some very nice "waterfront" buildings. Founded as a Greek trading colony in the 2nd century BC, Batumi is situated in a charming natural harbor. In the morning, after a 30 minute bus ride, we visit the Botanic Gardens that cover 113 hectares (280 acres) and contain over 1000 varieties of roses. This is about a 1 1/2 hour visit and we walk about 2 miles. The busses meet us on the other side. At least it is almost all downhill. I wouldn't have wanted to do that 2 miles uphill, even at a slow walk. We (our bus group) was very lucky to have a fantastic guide, Markika, who is a 19-year-old university student.

In the afternoon, either before or after the Georgian Folk Performance(8 different Georgian folk dances) - which turns out to be one of the highlights of the cruise - we're free to visit the vibrant market or Ethnographic Museum. I wish there had been better light in the Lounge so I could have gotten some decent pictures. In the evening, depart for Sochi.

Morning Sightseeing: Batumi Gardens Visit the Batumi Botanical Gardens, home to a variety of unique plants. The vast garden is nestled above the shores of the Black Sea in an area called Mtsvane Kontski or Green Cape. In antiquity, this region was known as Colchis, a wealthy kingdom where Jason came seeking the Golden Fleece and found Medea. The Greeks established a colony, Bathus, on the site.

The botanical gardens are characterized by the variety and are among the largest in the former Soviet Union. Enjoy a short drive through the Batumi city center and into the lush local countryside. The beautiful gardens and opened in 1912. Krasnov's love of travel is reflected in the gardens diversity: more than 5,000 species of plants from all over the world represent various climatic and geographical zones. Nine sections represent various floral zones: East Asia, North America, New Zealand, the Himalayas, Mexico, Australia, the Mediterranean and the Caucasian humid subtropics. While it may seem strange to see a date palm, Japanese Sakura and Himalayan fir tree all in the same place, the mixture is part of the charm. When in bloom, the scent of thousands of roses combines with white magnolia for a rare experience.

Afternoon Performance: Georgian Folk Performance (on ship) Though small in size, Georgia is home to a wealth of musical styles. The country's polyphonic folk songs are designated by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

This afternoon on board you can enjoy the superb harmonies of the Adjarian Song and Dance State Company. This acclaimed ensemble performs works that reveal the spirit, the vigor and the folklore of Adjara. Since its founding in 1921, the company has appeared before audiences worldwide. They are devoted to preserving the integrity of traditional Georgian dance, song and choreography. The outstanding repertoire features folkloric samples from all regions of Georgia. Songs celebrate love, work, all the events of daily life, as well as feasts. Traditional stringed instruments, such as the phanduri, provide accompaniment to the rich harmonies. Dances range from the romantic kartoli to the warlike khorumi.

Of special note are the marvelous sets created by the company's highly skilled designers and artists. Enjoy an intriguing introduction to the culture of a country isolated from the rest of the world until the past few years.

Tonight's lecture is Rich Finds of Gold in Georgia, Ukraine, & Bulgaria. Not too many people attended this one.

Day 8, Friday, July 15 Sochi, Russia 8AM - 2:30PM
We had to turn our watches forward one hour last night, then turn them back an hour tonight. Just the Russian stop is in another time znoe. After quite a bit of overnight rain, this morning it is not only hot, but *very* humid. It feels just like "home." The lousy documentation sent by the cruise company said that we have to TENDER in to the port, but they lied - and not the only time. We do a "hard docking" then we have to have our passports with us to be stamped by Passport Control both leaving and returning to the ship. We can go ashore ONLY on one of the scheduled sightseeing tours. No individual exploration is allowed. After all, this is Russia.

This morning, we (don't) stroll through the Riviera Park and discover the "charms" of this subtropical port at leisure due to the Russian restrictions. We have a very late lunchtime departure for Kerch leaving a bit after 2PM so there is no afternoon excursion. Due to a traffic accident on the road up to Akhum Mount, that highway is closed. Since it was part of two of the original three options offered, those two have been combined. So we have to select ONE of the now two morning options offered.

I chose to go on the Botanical Gardens excursion which turned out to be 4 hours long, and I'm now all "botanicaled out". We had another university student as our guide - and she had to look at her guide badge to see what her name was for the day. Apparently they just pick up a badge at random. Today her name was "Diana." She never told us her real name. The excursion was nice except for the extremely extended tour of the "Tree of Friendship" Museum where the Russian guide (not Diana) had to tell us about every little piece / gift / etc in all the display cases. We did that first, then went to the Botanical Gardens. The heat and humidity is exhausting. As an extra, both before and after those tours, we had quite a bit of a city tour. Sochi is much larger, nicer, and more modern than Batumi.

After the late departure, delayed because of the change in excursions, our two lectures for the day are (afternoon): He Died Old! Mithradates of Pontius, and (evening) The Black Sea in the Context of Greek Colonization.

Morning Sightseeing - Stalin's Summer Home, plus, Sochi, Seaside and Spa: (NO) A short drive through the tree-lined streets of Sochi brings us to the heart of this fashionable resort city. We pass the St Archangel Michael church. Begin a walking tour along the popular seaside promenade along the upper part of the seafront to the center of Sochi, the Theater Square to see the magnificent building of the Winter Theater. Then visit the dacha of Joseph Stalin, absolute leader of the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. While Stalin had several such summer retreats, one of his favorites was in Sochi.

With its sub-tropical climate, beautiful parks and curative sanatori, Sochi was a favorite vacation spot for Russian aristocrats, later Politburo elite, and, most recently, Vladimir V. Putin. Get an up-close look at the healing techniques for which the region is famous during a visit to one of the spa towns that dot the foothills of the Caucasus. Many towns were established by Lenin as part of a "workers' paradise." Take a short drive southeast to the main spa town of Matsesta. The name means "water of flame" in Circassian and refers to how skin turns bright red after bathing in the hydrogen sulphide waters, which are said to help treat joint ailments, systemic disorders, and skin diseases. Visit the spa and tour Sochi, preparing to step on the world stage as site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. (Several people said that the visit to Stalin's Dacha was very boring.)

Botanical Gardens (yes) Near the main thoroughfare of Sochi is a 30-acre park of stunning natural beauty known as Park Dendrarium. The name comes from the Greek word for tree, Dendron, and means a collection of trees. In the park are more than 2,500 species of trees from all four continents, including the candy tree, a strawberry tree and an iron tree. The park is a monument of landscape art. Visit the upper park, where the founder's residence, an Italianate villa, is set amid formal gardens. There is an aquarium with a Black Sea shark. Following our visit, stop at the Tree of Friendship, Sochi's symbol of peace. The centerpiece of this garden museum is a single tree to which different citrus fruits have been grafted by visiting heads of state, astronauts and scientists, to mention a few. Today representatives of 167 countries have made more than 635 graftings that include the Italian lemon, American grapefruit, and Japanese tangerine. Imagine a single tree offering so many different fruit. In 1981 a museum was opened to educate visitors about grafting, relating the tradition to man's desire to live in peace and friendship.

Day 9, Saturday, July 16 Kerch, Ukraine 8AM - 6PM
After yesterday's schedule foul-up delayed our departure from Sochi, the arrival time here was changed from 6AM to 8AM with the first excursion going out at 8:15. So much for plans! We didn't even dock until a bit after 8:30 and Immigration officials (lots of them and also Police officers) were late, and very slow to clear our papers. It is an industrial port and there are many piles of coal on the docks, and coal dust is blowing everywhere so everything is coated with coal dust. The first coach (I was on it) didn't leave until about 9:50 - over an hour and a half late. While we were boarding the coaches, a small band played various musical selections. That 1 ˝ hour delay of course blew the rest of the schedule for all the tours and set us up for getting back for a *very late* lunch. Those going on the afternoon tour barely had time to get anything to eat. Situated at the entrance to the Sea of Azov on the Crimean Peninsula, Kerch was founded in the 6th century BC and is one of Ukraine's oldest cities. In the morning, we first visit Lenin Square (the main square) and the 8th century Byazantine church of St. John the Baptist (717AD), the oldest church in the Ukraine. Next visit the area known as Mithridates Hill. Here we find the majority of Kerch's ancient remains including the Acropolis of Pantikapaion with its temple of Apollo. We also do a quick visit to both the archaeology museum and a local picture gallery. I had wanted to do the Kerch Fortress optional tour but it was overbooked. Because of some kind of harbor rules, we have to make an early evening departure (get out of port, anyway by 6PM) but as usual everything is delayed and we don't sail until about 7PM to head for Feodosiya. Our evening lecture is The Crimean War; Disease and the Contributions of Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, and William Russell.

Morning Sightseeing Kerchi City Tour Kerch is one of the most ancient cities in the Ukraine with ruins of an ancient acropolis and the country's oldest Byzantine church. Archaeological evidence indicates the area has been inhabited since the 17th century BC. Drive to Mithridates Hill, site of Pantikapaion, the remains of a 5th-century Greek colony. On the slopes were a marketplace, temples, public buildings and statues. From this vantage point see the 19th-century Constantine Staircase that ascends to the top of the mount (all 428 steps!) for a grand view. An Obelisk of Glory crowns the Mount and at its foot burns an Eternal Flame, memorials to the World War II soldiers who liberated Kerch. Visit the Church of St John the Baptist, dating to 717. One of the most ancient churches still in use in Eastern Europe, the church survived turbulence of the middle ages, nomad invasions and natural disasters.

Next visit Kerch Picture Gallery housing pictures devoted to the heroism of WWII soldiers and exposition of Civil War 1917-1922. Also visit to the city's Archaeology Museum which boasts a fine collection of Scythian tools, statuettes, Greek black varnished plates and other household goods. Visit the Tsar's Burial Mound. The entrance, artful construction and fine workmanship suggest that it was erected for a Bospor ruler of the 4th century, when the kingdom reached its apex of power and wealth. Note: Photography and video are not allowed in the church.

Afternoon Sightseeing OPTIONAL $75 Fortress of Kerch (yes) There are many historic fortresses in the Ukraine, but Kerch Fortress, with its intricate underground passages and 22-foot thick limestone walls is one of the most fascinating. The citadel is strategically located on Kerch Strait, where the Black Sea first meets the Sea of Azov. The structure was built between 1857 and 1877 by the Russian military architect, Totleben, who was also responsible for the fortifications at Sevastopol during the Crimean War. Kerch Fortress is part of the Kerch historic and cultural reserve with a lovely setting amid rolling green hills. During 20 years of building, more than 300 buildings were erected of which 150 remain. These include housing, magazines, defensive moats and laboratories, all connected by an intricate network of underground tunnels designed to confound the uninitiated. The fortress could accommodate over 6,000 soldiers and enormous supplies of gunpowder.

In Soviet times this last point of defense on the Black Sea was restricted to the public, but today visitors can navigate its Byzantine passageways, admire the lovely setting and explore a masterpiece of 19th-century fortification art.

Day 10, Sunday, July 17 Feodosiya, Ukraine 7AM - 10PM
After some early morning rain, we dock (on time, even) in another industrial port that is much nicer and cleaner than the others. The view from one side of the ship is industrial and naval; from the other side we can see some of the city off in the distance. The company's early info was wrong again - we *don't* have to tender in. That's twice, and I'm just as glad they were wrong. We have the usual 9 busses waiting for us.

The weather forecast is for temperatures above 90F. It's going to be another miserable weather day. The first groups are scheduled to leave at 8AM (supposedly) for a 1 ˝ hour drive (how are we going to do a 3-hour round trip on a morning half-day tour?) from Feodosiya to the remarkable Genoese fortress at Sudak. Built in the 14th and 15th centuries and perched high on a cliff top, the massive citadel is a truly remarkable monument. It's pretty much in ruins; only two larger parts of the walls are still standing, and a few of the towers. Being in the last group (of 9) to depart the ship about 9AM, we barely get back in time for leftovers lunch since I first have to take time to "recover" from the heat.

The afternoon is free for those not going on the optional tour to go back and explore the city (with temps about 95F??). The evening lecture is a repeat of the Mithradates lecture. Then we make a late evening departure for Yalta.

Morning Sightseeing Genoese Fortress We don't need to be a military architect to appreciate the Ukraine's most impressive surviving fortress, perched on a massive cliff above the town of Sudak. In the 13th century the Genoese set up large trading posts in the eastern Crimea which thrived on commerce along the Silk Route to China and central Asia. One of the defenses remaining from this time of Italian colonization in the Black Sea overlooks the town of Sudak. This fortress is hailed by UNESCO as a unique complex of monuments of medieval archaeology and architecture of the 6th to 16th centuries. The magnificent sandstone structure was built during the 14th and 15th centuries by Tatar craftsmen with massive 6˝-foot-thick walls that blend into the natural landscape of sheer cliffs and sea.

This example of Genoese fortification architecture resembles pieces of a mini Great Wall of China. Of the 18 original towers, 10 remain, many with their original Italian names. These include the Tower of Torsello, the Consul's Tower and the mysterious Virgin's Tower. Walk the cobblestone courtyard. After our visit there are more panoramas to enjoy (but not photograph due to window reflections) on the long hot drive back to the port.

Afternoon Sightseeing OPTIONAL $58 Sights of Feodosiya (no) View the shimmering seas and burnished skies of Hovhannes (Ivan) Aivazovsky (1817-1900), the renowned seascape artist and native of Feodosiya. A visit to the painter's home and gallery are the centerpiece of this tour that also calls at the ruins of a Genoese trading settlement on the Silk Route and the town's Archaeology Museum. Tour his home and gallery, built in 1854, where 150 paintings are on display. The tour stops at the Tomb of Aivazovsky and the beautiful Armenian Church where he was baptized. Also visit to the Archaeology Museum. Feodosiya was originally founded by a colony of Greeks from Miletos. Visit the ruins of Kaffa, a Genoese settlement established in the 13th century; later the site of a major slave trading center on the Black Sea.

Day 11, Monday, July 18 Yalta, Ukraine 6AM - Midnight
This paragraph, as originally supplied by the company, was just more junk. We arrive right on time at the very nice port of Yalta. It's the nicest / prettiest one so far and is a cruise / yacht port with some mega-million $$ yachts - but again it is a very hot day.

There is much to enjoy in this elegant town, once the summer residence of the Russian royal family. The buildings in the city are much nicer than the other stops, but the streets (such as they aren't) are an extremely narrow twisting nightmare maze. In the morning, view the "Swallow's Nest" (just a very short photo stop, not a visit since it is 1200 steps down and back up), and then we drive on lots of very narrow, twisting roads (2-way plus parking on a 1˝ lane road) to our next stop. We make a long visit to Vorontsov's Palace. It is about a half mile walk from the bus park to the Palace with our 300 plus another 500-600 other visitors. Apparently our local guide, Elena, missed our group call so instead of a 5-7 minute wait that we were told, we wait and wait for 45 minutes in the hot sun until the palace staff finally lets us in. Then the inside (very boring - just another d*** gilded palace) is extremely hot. At least the walk back to the bus is shorter and downhill. Then as the bus tries to leave, we find an absolutely horrible traffic mess; there are a huge number of vehicles (cars, large and small busses, trucks) creating two-way traffic on a 1 ˝ lane road with people parking along the side to further block things. It is a massive traffic jam and it is all stop and (short) go with lots of backing up to make room. Traffic is an absolute (daytime) nightmare. It is bad enough trying to get our bus through with a car parked on one side and another car trying to go the other way. But it is not only cars, but large busses trying to pass. We are over an hour late getting back to the ship. The *only* good part of the morning was the 10 minute photo stop to get 2 or 3 pictures of the "Swallow's Nest." Growl, grumble, etc.

After lunch on board for those who even have time for it after all the delays, in the afternoon we can either go into town; but be careful about the awful heat, or take a long excursion to the Livadia Palace (yes, yet another d*** gilded palace so no thanks). Built as a summer residence for Tsar Nicholas II in 1911, the Livadia Palace was the site of the 1945 conference between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. We also visit the Anton Chekov Memorial House - Museum. After a long excursion, we finally get back to the ship for a late dinner. I'm glad I decided to skip the afternoon excursion.

The evening lecture is Iberia, Colchis, and Rome. Later, we make a midnight departure cruising to Sevastopol which isn't very far away.

Morning sightseeing: Vorontsov's Palace & Swallow's Nest Step into a world of unimaginable wealth on this tour featuring exotic Alupka Palace. We begin with a photo stop at a viewpoint above the famed Swallow's Nest Castle where we have a superb view of this Gothic fairytale castle jutting out over a sheer cliff. Since its construction in 1912, the castle has been the symbol of Yalta and the Crimea. Drive next to Vorontsov Palace in Alupka, enjoying views of the coast and Ai-Petri Mountain, the palace's stunning backdrop. Alupka Palace is also known as Vorontsov Palace because it was built for Count Mikhail Vorontsov, one of the richest men in 19th century Russia. The building was designed by English architect, Edward Blore, who designed parts of Buckingham Palace.

The Count imported serfs from his estates throughout Russia to complete the palace and park. The result is a bold-but-harmonious blend of styles in a building that resembles a Scottish castle from one angle and the Moorish Alhambra from another. Tour the interior into which Vorontsov poured his wealth. Admire the Winter Garden behind the palace where six marble lions by Italian sculptor Bonani flank an ornate staircase. When Winston Churchill stayed here during the 1945 Yalta Conference, he remarked that one of the lions resembled him. Since then, it's been known as the Churchill Lion.

Afternoon Sightseeing Livadia Palace & Chekhov House (included / skip) Combine a visit to the home of writer Anton Chekhov with a visit to Livadia Palace, the last summer residence of Tsar Nicholas II and site of the Yalta Conference in 1945. Drive to the Anton Chekhov Memorial House which sits amid gardens laced with a winding footpath.

Drive next to Livadia Palace. Built in 1911 for the last tsar, this neo-Renaissance palace was site of the February 1945 Yalta Conference when Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met to divide post-World War II Europe. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and members of the American delegation stayed at this palace. Enjoy a tour of the palace's rooms which evoke a tsarist past. Later, there is time for souvenir shopping, and see an exhibit about the conference.

Day 12, Tuesday, July 19 Sevastapol, Ukraine 7AM - Overnight
We would have had two very nice excursions today except that the forecast temperature is 102F and "my group" is stuck with late disembarkations on both, then have to survive the afternoon horrible heat. On this first morning (we are in Sevastapol tomorrow also), we start with a drive out of the city to Balaklava visiting the "Valley of Death" site of the Charge of the Light Brigade. After that we make a quick stop at the Monument Stone of Reconciliation where we lay a wreath. On the way back to the ship, our last stop is at the Panorama Museum where the circular painting is augmented by displays that tell the story of the 349 day siege of the city. It was a nice tour, just swelteringly *hot.*

After lunch on board (we barely made it back in time), head back to Balaklava where we make a short time-wasting stop on the "Promenade" (particularly with the horrible heat and humidity) then visit the Naval Museum which was once a Soviet nuclear submarine base. Known as the "fish's nest" this is housed in a natural (with much expansion) underwater cave and harbor protected by massive nuclear-blast proof doors. This part of the excursion turns out to be very nice. (More information below.)

There is no excursion briefing tonight (they did all the Sevastapol intro last night) and no evening lecture. It's just as well; I'm really "beat" after all the heat. We do have a special Concert onboard by The Black Sea Navy Fleet Ensemble in the late evening.

Morning Sightseeing Panorama Hall & Balaklava Battlefield "Into the valley of death rode the six hundred." Visit Balaklava Battlefield, the setting for the doomed Charge of the Light Brigade described in Tennyson's famous poem. Start with a drive to Sevastopol's vast 377-foot panorama hall, where valor in both the Crimean War and World War II is commemorated in monuments and paintings. The museum's showpiece is an enormous canvas by Russian artist F. Roubaud depicting the assault on Sevastopol on June 18, 1844. From atop the observation platform in the center of the hall, we feel as if we are on Malakhov Hill during one of the fiercest battles of the Crimean War. Also visit the 4th bastion, which was the main fortification of the city during the siege of Sevastopol.

Continue to Sapoune Ridge and observation platform over the Balaklava Battlefield, site of the ill-fated British cavalry charge on October 25, 1854. Stand where the British Commander-in-Chief Lord Raglan watched the disaster unfold and imagine his horror as he saw his men ride into a cul-de-sac controlled on three sides by the enemy. Sapoune Ridge is also site of a memorial to World War II and with an outdoor display of weapons used during battles in Sevastopol. Our guide relates the history then we continue to Balaklava Valley, where vineyards now grow, to lay wreaths at the Monument Stone of Reconciliation. *** Note: Uneven surfaces. Hats, sun block and walking shoes recommended.

Afternoon Sightseeing Secrets of Balaklava Harbor ) Visit the Naval Museum, formerly an underground plant for submarines carrying nuclear weapons. This made Balaklava one of the most restricted towns in Russia until the Soviet Union collapse. The base is hidden deep inside the hillside and accessed by canals running through an underground cave to a secret inner harbor. It is complete with dry dock and room for up to 10 submarines. At one time most of Balaklava worked at this top-secret base.

Ancient Greek and Byzantine historians spoke of this inlet as Symbolon-Limne, the Harbor of Omens. Homer deemed it a pirate's lair. During the Crimean War of 1853-56 and the siege of Sevastopol, Britain used this harbor as an army supply base, building the first Crimean railway from the docks to the frontline near Sevastopol. The harbor's unique S-shape made it an ideal shelter for ships, but not enough to protect them from the severe winter of 1854, which destroyed much of the fleet and threatened to do the same to the sailors. Back home, women knitted wool caps and sent them to Balaklava.

Then continue to Balaklava's seafront for a refreshing stroll during which we learn more about this harbor and the town's Genoese heritage, which includes majestic Cembalo Fortress on the Eastern Cape.

Day 13, Wednesday, July 20 Sevastapol, Ukraine depart 6PM
It is another *extremely* hot day today. We again explore Sevastopol's ancient heritage. In the morning we drive to Chersonesos, a city founded by the Greeks in 422 BC and later the site of the birth of the Russian Orthodox Church - but the excursion was overbooked. In the afternoon, we may take an optional trip to Bakhchysaray, the Tartar stronghold from the 16th to 18th century, including a visit to The Khan's Palace (Gads, yet another d*** gilded palace so in this heat, I skip this option!).

Since I missed out on the overbooked morning excursion and chose not to take the optional afternoon tour, I spend most of the "Birthday" on board the ship but do go ashore on my own in the morning for a while (about 7AM - 9AM) before it gets just too hot. But I give myself a "birthday present": an onboard booking of the "Crusades, the West Must March" cruise for next year with an 18.8% early booking discount. The trip starts October 29 in Athens (28th in Houston) and ends November 9 in Cyprus (10th in Houston). I get the same cabin, 415. This is my special "souvenir" of this trip. The $$ balance is due by Tuesday, July 31, 2012.

We depart at 6PM - even before dinner. There is our usual excursion briefing and the evening lecture is "The Black Sea and Its Role in History." Sevastapol is a very attractive city and the most interesting city on the trip. Too bad the temperatures were so very hot and I "couldn't" get out to explore more today.

Morning Sightseeing Ancient Chersonesos Trace the roots of Russian Orthodox Christianity and earlier civilizations on a tour of Chersonesos, a Greek colony founded in 422BC. Visit the Archaeological Museum and St Vladimir Cathedral. Chersonesos played an important role in Crimean and Russian history. It is called the cradle of Russian Orthodox Christianity, for it is here that the Kievan Prince Vladimir was baptized in 988AD and introduced the faith to his country. Visit the magnificent ruins whose name means "peninsula". Begin our tour which includes a Greek theater, Roman temples and fortifications. View marble columns from an early Christian church. Visit the site's Archaeological Museum, where thousands of years of history are chronicled in pottery, mosaics, coins and ornaments excavated at the site. Also tour St Vladimir Cathedral, built in the 19th century on a small hill overlooking the site. This Byzantine style church has recently been restored and the effect is impressive. Note: There is over a mile of walking and some uneven surfaces, with 70 steps. Photos and video are not allowed inside the Cathedral.

Afternoon Sightseeing OPTIONAL $58 Khan's Palace (No) Journey to romantic Bakhchysaray Palace, seat of the Tatar Khanate. Begin with a drive to Bakhchysaray which means "The Palace of Gardens." Following the Genoese, the Tatars controlled the Crimean coast in the 15th and 16th centuries. This was the capital of their Khanate. Located on the bank of the Churuk-Sou River, the palace is a spectacular example of the Middle Ages of Tatar culture. Today it is a History and Architecture Museum which we visit Later enjoy a scenic drive through the countryside back to the port.

Day 14, Thursday, July 21 Odessa, Ukraine 7AM - 6PM
Horrors! It is the hottest day yet. The forecast is for 104F. Despite being the 4th largest city in the Ukraine, Odessa is basically a Russian city. "Everybody" speaks Russian on the streets and the pedestrian areas are swarming with "Russian Mosquitoes", either in the tourist-rip-off trinket stands or "attacking" us with "bargains."

The morning excursion takes in "all the great sites" of the city including the Opera House, designed in the 1880s by the same architects responsible for the Vienna State Opera, the Potemken Steps, and the Archaeological Museum. The actual tour - we see the Potemken steps in passing as we drive to the art museum, a very run-down and drastically in need of refurbishing inside and looking like a decrepit derelict building from the outside. This was a very boring stop. Next we go to the Transfiguration Chapel, newly reconstructed so recently that it almost seems that we can still smell paint and wet plaster; beautiful inside, but too new to be interesting. The last stop, after a brief walk on a pedestrian way (with those "mosquitoes") is the archaeology museum. With no air conditioning in this heat, what could have been interesting was merely more misery. Most of the sights listed in the excursion information were just "drive-by-shootings." We're even 45 minutes late getting back to the ship for lunch. By the time the excursion was over, I was almost "dead" due to the excessive heat. Although a nicer city than some we visited, it was the most boring and we can't see anything of the city from the port.

In the afternoon, (don't) continue exploring this historic place due to a major change in the weather: a rain front moved in about noon as we were getting back to the ship and it was raining heavily all afternoon. At least it cooled of the temperatures significantly. There was nothing that I cared to photograph so no photos from Odessa. About the only thing I found of interest was watching dolphins play around our bow-wave as we left. There is no evening presentation, so we depart early heading for Nessebur, arriving after noon.

Morning Sightseeing Odessa Highlights Discover historic and cultural landmarks of Odessa, starting with a walking tour along Prymorsky Boulevard, lined with 19th-century gas lamps, majestic trees and palaces. Drive to the new monument to Catherine the Great. See the statue of Odessa's first governor, the Duke de Richelieu, above the Potemkin Staircase, welcoming visitors arriving by sea. At City Hall, view the statue of the poet Pushkin and a British cannon captured during the Crimean War. Tour the Archaeology Museum's artifacts from Greek, Scythian and Slav cultures, as well as its Golden Room of ancient jewelry. See the Opera and Ballet Theater where Anna Pavlova once danced. Visit the recently restored Transfiguration Cathedral, Odessa's largest church. *** Note: Photos are not allowed inside the Cathedral.

View the monument to Count Mikhail Vorontsov (1781-1856), a former governor who built the first steamship to navigate the Dnieper and established steamship service for Black Sea ports. Continue to the Palace of Count Potosky. This classical palace is now the Odessa Fine Arts Museum. The maze of rooms feature parquet floors, ornamental ceilings and collections that range from 15th-century icons to masterpieces by Ukrainian and Russian artists.

Afternoon Sightseeing OPTIONAL $38 Catacombs & Monument to Unknown Soldier (No) Enter the labyrinthine underground of Odessa's catacombs which have figured in the city's history. There are over 600 miles of these tunnels carved into the limestone beneath and around Odessa, a network so intricate some visitors have entered and never returned. First drive through countryside scenery to the village of Nerubaiskoe, originally a fortress of Ukrainian Cossacks, our entrance to the catacombs, which stretch an impressive 1,640 feet underground. The tunnels were first used in quarrying limestone and later to hide smuggled goods.

During World War II, they served as an underground fort for partisans waging war against fascist invaders. Learn about the defense mounted from them at the local Museum of Partisan Glory. Return to Odessa and visit Shevchenko Park, named after the Ukraine's national poet, Taras Shevchenko. Walk along the Alley of Glory to see the Unknown Sailor Memorial and the eternal flame, dedicated to those who fell defending Odessa during World War II. Note: This tour is not recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia.

Day 15, Friday, July 22 Nessebur, Bulgaria: 2PM - 7PM
The forecast for overnight was correct - heavy rain followed by rough seas which persist well into the mid-morning. It wasn't too bad but we could definitely feel the "rock and roll" and take care walking. I imagine that people on the upper decks felt it more than I did on the lowest cabin deck. At least it did clear as promised. Since the cruise is almost over and there is no morning excursion, we have our disembarkation meeting mid-morning rather than try to cram it in after we get back this afternoon or after dinner.

An afternoon arrival in Nessebur allows us only half an afternoon, and being 35 minutes late makes it worse, for a very rushed exploration (all walking, no busses) and we have to have our passports stamped both going ashore and coming back. We see some of the sites of this beautiful old town including the Byzantine style Church of Christ Pantokerator, the 5th century Old Metropolitan Church, and yet another Archaeological Museum. The churches were interesting (no photos allowed inside) but with all the groups going to the Museum, we really wasted lots of time there. Still, it was one of the best excursions on the trip and we had an excellent local guide.

Afternoon Sightseeing Walking tour of Nessebur No busses on this excursion. It is all walking. We step back in time on a walk through the heart of Old Nessebur, one of Bulgaria's most endearing towns and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over 3,000 years ago Thracians came to this rocky peninsula and founded a settlement called Menabria. Greeks followed in 6BC. In the middle ages, this was one of the most important Byzantine towns on the Black Sea's west coast. Each layer of history enriches Nessebur.. There are walls of the original Thracian fort, and over 40 churches from the Byzantine Empire. Stroll along quiet cobblestone lanes winding down to the sea lined with 19th-century wood houses.

Our guide tells of Nessebur's history on our visit to the magnificent ruins of the Old Metropolitan Church, a basilica that dates to the 6th century. Visit the Archaeological Museum to see the display of local icon paintings that illuminate the city's Byzantine past. On this tour, view Nessebur's abundant churches, which include Christ Pantokrator, St John Aliturgetos, Blessed Saviour, St Paraskeva and Holy Archangels. We visit inside the 11th century Church of St Stefan, noted for its beautiful 16th-century frescos. Note: Extensive walking, some uneven terrain and 70 steps.

Day 16, Saturday, July 23 Istanbul, Turkey: Disembark
After a cruise of 1697nm, we dock back in Istanbul about 5AM and Customs etc have to come onboard to clear our papers. The first group to depart gets herded off the barge at 5:45, but as usual, nothing is done on time so it is 6:10 before they get away with no breakfast. My group leaves at 8:45 so I actually get breakfast on the last day - for once. While watching port activity, three more large ships (all larger than ours) arrive, as well as several cargo vessels. One of the large / huge ones is a Celebrity ship. It docks right in front of us, and as we head out for the airport, we can look across at both ships side-by-side. Our 300+ passenger ship looks more like an oversize lifeboat for the huge Celebrity monster. Everyone has to be out of their cabins by 9AM and off the boat no later than 10AM. We transfer directly to the airport for our flights home. Again I have a slightly upgraded seat (more room) on the flight from Istanbul to JFK. The noon flight departure here is so much better than the 1:15 AM departure that I'll have coming back from the Desert trip. Even so, it is going to be a very long day. Unfortunately it turns out to be way longer than expected.

Delta DL 073Istanbul - JFK12:15 P - 4:49 P11:3413:31

We get "Lunch" and some snacks on the long flight. Then when I get to JFK airport, there is a major problem. Although my next flight shows "on time" on the departures list while I was going through Passport Control and Customs, by the time I get to the gate the flight has been CANCELLED.

Delta DL 6293JFK - Houston7:30 P - 10:50 PCANCELLED18:35

After spending over 1 ˝ hours in line for rebooking - it is now after 9PM - the only option was horrible. On such short notice, there just aren't enough seats on other flights, even roundabout, to get us all new convenient schedules. I can't even leave this miserable airport until tomorrow morning and not get into Houston until late afternoon. Delta wouldn't even give me a "pass" into their Sky Club and even if I got to a hotel, I would have to get up so early in order to get back to the airport and check in for a 6:20 AM flight, it just wasn't worth the hassle for a very short night.

Day 17, Sunday, July 24 Finally Home
Coming from JFK airport, at least all the US entry formalities have been done. After spending all night sitting around cursing Delta Airlines, I finally get off on the first flight - at 6:20 AM. Then I have ANOTHER horrible layover again sitting around cursing Delta.

Delta DL 1743JFK - Atlanta6:20 A - 8:30 A2:107:47
Delta DL 1267Atlanta - Houston4:17 P - 5:09 P1:5236:54

After just short of 48 hours, I'm finally back to Houston - but not home.I won't have to worry about Customs/Immigration here, but getting my luggage and then the StuporShuttle will take a while. Thanks to Delta canceling my flight, this a 17 day trip instead of "only" 16 days. My next trip - Colorado's Historic Railroads, from my high priority list - already has three strikes against it..

This trip - overall a nice trip except for d*** Delta, or I wouldn't have signed up for another one with them.

Quick overall comments:

Good ***
a) Very nice ship with much better than expected cabin
b) Excellent meals and service
c) Mostly very nice local tours with mostly very good local guides
d) Comfortable cruising with minimal noise or pitch/roll
e) Courteous, friendly staff
f) Only 300+ passengers giving a sense of not just "being a cabin number"; I would be glad when I sail on this ship again - and do sign up for another cruise.

Bad ***
a) Horrible heat and humidity (well above average) and one stop "rained out
b) Bad/poor/incoherent lectures due to an awful microphone/speaker system
c) Excursion booking problems - no notice given that we had to sign up "immediately" or the tour might well be "closed" so I missed a couple I would like to have done; however, considering the weather … maybe that's not so bad
d) Poor and very late documentation from the company (only 8 days before the trip)
e) Trying to "break" the cabin steward of rearranging all my things "his way" every time he makes up my cabin

Delta DL 810Houston - Atlanta7:00 A - 10:05 A2:051:46
Delta DL 072Atlanta - JFK11:52 A - 1:55 P2:033:10 +++
Delta DL 072JFK - Istanbul5:05 P - 10:15 A
6:35 P - 10:40 A
Delta DL 073Istanbul - JFK12:15 P - 4:49 P11:3413:31
Delta DL 1743JFK - Atlanta6:20 A - 8:30 A2:107:47
Delta DL 1267Atlanta - Houston4:17 P - 5:09 P1:5236:54


Day 3IstanbulBosphorus Cruise$45no
Day 6TrabzonTrabzon City Tour$68no
Day 9KerchiFortress of Kerch$75overbooked
Day 10FeodosiyaSights of Feodosiya$58no
Day 13SevastapolKhan's Palace$58no
Day 14Odessa Catacombs$38no

Selected pictures
Click to enlarge


"Le Barge"

MV AEGEAN ODYSSEY is a premium class ship that was rebuilt to cater for cruising in the coastal waters of the central and eastern Mediterranean. The vessel provides the best features of a mid-size ship such as passenger space, a choice of restaurants and stability in inclement weather.

Originally a vessel carrying up to 570 passengers, Aegean Odyssey's new configuration includes generously-sized suites, junior suites and staterooms with and without balconies. She now carries an average of 350 passengers. By creating these new staterooms we have added a dimension of luxury to the vessel and this has enabled us to create a special level of accommodation entitled "Concierge Class". Classically elegant, but far from stuffy and formal, Aegean Odyssey has been designed to offer the sophisticated traveller every comfort at sea. She offers the personal service and intimate surroundings of a small vessel, has the ability to pass through the Corinth Canal, visit ports that are too small for larger vessels, and navigate around the scenic islands of the Adriatic and Mediterranean. 378 passengers makes it very similar to the 350 passenger Nordnorge that I took on the Antarctica cruise.


Aegean Odyssey
- Multi
Caribbean Cruise
Panama Canal
Vikings Passage
Queen Mary 2
& D-Day
Cattle capacity
18 knots
24 knots
22 knots
22 knots
30 knots
Cattle decks

Side view of the ship with the deck my cabin is on highlighted:

Deck plan of the deck, Deck 4, Columbus. My cabin is 415, furtherest aft dark blue on the port/left side.

As well as being one of the world's most historically interesting and naturally beautiful destinations, the Mediterranean is also home to an unsurpassed culinary tradition. This gastronomic culture of using the very best fresh local ingredients cooked in a simple but delicious and healthy style is the inspiration for the three restaurants on Aegean Odyssey.

THE MARCO POLO (lunch* and dinner):
The most formal of the ship's restaurants, the Marco Polo, has a full waiter service, casual country-club elegance (a jacket is suggested at dinner) and Mediterranean influenced food. At lunchtime, you can choose from a variety of starters such as Parma ham and melon or tricolore salad, three dishes of the day including grilled fish, a pasta special and a choice of desserts, fruit and cheese. In the evening, dinner will include appetizers, soup, salads, a choice of three or four main courses and desserts (see menu). * Lunch in The Marco Polo is available on days at sea, but not when we operate a full-day excursion. [Deck 3]

*** THE TERRACE CAFÉ *** (my choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner)
With a combination of indoor and outdoor seating, and cooking on the open grill, the Terrace Café replicates the charm and ambiance of a seaside trattoria.

The day starts in the Terrace Café with breakfast when you can either enjoy a healthy combination of yoghurt, fruit and muesli or indulge in eggs, bacon or omelette. For lunch, freshly grilled selections are available and there is a large buffet with hot dishes of the day, a selection of salads, Italian antipasti such as bruschetta, beef carpaccio or fresh mozzarella drizzled with virgin olive oil. Pasta is served with a choice of homemade Italian sauces and for dessert there is a large selection including ice creams. [Deck 6]

In the evenings, Tapas on the Terrace recreates the informal yet sophisticated atmosphere of a Mediterranean bistro. Here you can choose from a selection of mouthwatering appetizers, try our delicious seafood paella or pick from the wide range of authentic Italian pizzas. [Promenade Deck 6]

AFTERNOON TEA - one of England's greatest contributions to Civilization. There is something magical about the tradition of taking tea at sea. On afternoons when you are not ashore, a selection of freshly-prepared sandwiches, cakes and scones will be served in the Observation Lounge. Accompanying these is, of course, a selection of refreshing teas and a choice of coffees. A cup of Darjeeling, a slice of freshly baked cake and the panoramic views of the Mediterranean: the perfect combination. [Deck 9]

LATE-NIGHT SNACKS - For those passengers enjoying a late night discussing the excitements of the day's sightseeing, a selection of light snacks, freshly prepared by our chefs, will be available in the Lido and Rendezvous bars.

RECEPTION - The Reception Desk on Belvedere Deck midship will be open 24 hours a day for all general enquiries.

HOUSEKEEPING - Housekeeping services are available 24 hours a day for requirements such as room service, extra blankets and wake-up calls, etc.

DAILY PROGRAM - A Daily Program giving details of the following day's activities will be delivered to your cabin each evening. Spare copies are available from Reception.

ONBOARD GRATUITIES - Your cruise fare includes gratuities to your cabin steward and the dining room staff. A service charge of 12.5% is automatically added to your account for any bar service.

For a web page with full DECK PLANS click here..