June 11, 2015 | By Stephanie Kunz
I just got back from a cruise with Voyages to Antiquity on their ship, the Aegean Odyssey, which holds an average of 350 passengers. This was a dream come true for me because I’ve been following this cruise line since it’s inception back in 2010, as it fits into my ancient civilizations/archaeological fascination, flows well with any religious travels, and goes along with my Destination Specialist certifications for Southern Europe, Spain, and European Culture & Heritage.
We flew from Denver to Rome and drove to Taranta Peligna to find the house that my grandparents were born in. We then drove to Bari, Italy and enjoyed an evening there as they celebrated their local saint, before flying over to Istanbul which is where our itinerary began with a group of other travel advisors.
We were put up in an amazing suite that overlooked the Bosphorus at the Intercontinental Istanbul Hotel. The following morning we had a tour of Istanbul and a special lunch before boarding the Aegean Odyssey. This cruise was split into two parts: The first 7 days (the itinerary that we chose) the ship went from Istanbul to Athens. After we disembarked, other travel agents boarded and finished the final 8 days which went from Athens to Venice.
Our segment visited the Dardanelles, Mount Athos, Thessaloniki, Volos, the island of Patmos in the Dodecanese, and ended up in Athens, Greece. At each port we were given a full guided tour to some amazing monasteries, a winery where we had the most amazing meal of the whole trip, and the highlight of Meteora with our daily guide were exceptional.
While onboard, we were treated like royalty. A formal invitation to dinner with the captain. He also joined us one night as a few of us casually ate dinner on deck, providing us a special bottle of wine as we convened with him. We also had the privilege of being joined by David Yellow, who is part owner/director of Voyages to Antiquity. This added to our enjoyment.
All in all, it was a tremendous experience, and they went overboard (not literally, thankfully) for all of us. I feel truly honored to have been offered this unique opportunity.
After we left the ship, we spent a couple days at the Astir Palace, which is a Starwood property in Athens. It was on the beach and was most impressive. I would recommend it highly and would stay there again. The private little lagoon on a sandbar was perfect for small children and adults that want the ocean experience in a calm way. Their food and morning buffet was very well done and exceptional. I was anxious about staying here as I’d heard that they were in a transition from being purchased and told that it was going to be “iffy,” but we were pleasantly surprised by all of the kind and efficient people from the time you pulled up and checked in, to the beautiful room, amenities, and view.
I’d also like to point out that all of our flights were on Delta and while the flight back from Athens to New York was 10 hours (really long) the economy seats we had were the roomiest I’ve ever been in and they must have fed us at least five times! I’ve been on flights in the states on United which were almost as long and was only offered water. I will look to fly with Delta again, as it was exceptional.