I was lucky to sail part of a voyage aboard the Aegean Odyssey when she sailed from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Istanbul in early July. I joined the ship in Rome and debarked in Palermo, after a wonderful few days on board.
Voyages to Antiquity aim to open a window into the origins and wonder of Western civilisation and the itineraries are destination focused allowing passengers to experience the history and art of times gone by. Their ship - the Aegean Odyssey is small, accommodating just 350 guests when full. On this voyage we were just 190 passengers and were able to benefit from the attentive service and space on board. I have sailed on many ships, large and small, and the service from every member of the crew was excellent, nothing was too much trouble and I was made to feel very welcome from the moment I stepped on board.
I stayed on Deck 7 in a Deluxe Outside stateroom, which offered plenty of space (approx. 200 square feet) and a large walk-in-shower. There are two restaurants with open seating dining, so you can choose at what time you wish to dine and with whom. After experiencing both restaurants my preference was to dine al fresco at the Terrace. The Terrace offers a plentiful buffet, with hot or cold choices, fresh pasta made to order, and fish and meat dishes. A particular highlight for many guests was the fresh pizza that was always available every lunchtime, which smelt and tasted delicious. Every evening wine and soft drinks are included with your meal and are readily available throughout. A nice touch is the waiter service that you still receive, once you have selected your meal, a waiter is on hand to deliver your food to your table, no matter how many times you attend the buffet!
The ship is far from stuffy or formal but offers a sophisticated ambience and there is a smart/casual dress code for meals. We did have one evening where we were introduced to the Captain and Senior Officers and some passengers chose to wear suits and formal wear but this was not compulsory.
My days on board were busy with port lectures, discussions and of course many included shore excursions. There was an included excursion each day and they were well organised and ran to plan. It was generally an early start in order to arrive at sites before the temperature rose too much. A highlight for me was Pompeii, which we visited from Sorrento. It was approximately an hours drive from Sorrento along the Bay of Naples, in an air-conditioned coach and with complimentary water from the ship. It was also our first chance to use our Quietvox headsets, which are also complimentary and in each stateroom. These devices are a brilliant way of uncovering a destination as they allow you to be in the group but also to break away a little or spend more time somewhere without losing the commentary. When we visited Pompeii it was a very busy day but we were still able to clearly hear our expert guide as we took in the sights of the temples, theatres and markets. The Expert Guides on each tour were excellent and really brought our visit alive with their information and all spoke very good English.
Our remaining time onboard included shore excursions to Herculaneum from Sorrento and then the Palatine Chapel and Cathedral and Segesta from Palermo. One tip to remember is to charge your Quietvox overnight – I did forget one day so had to borrow one of the spare headsets. You could also choose other excursions aside from the included ones, but these did carry a charge payable on board. In addition to the included excursions and drinks, gratuities are also included throughout your sailing. I did actually choose to still tip my cabin steward as his service on board was excellent and I felt he really did go the extra mile and looked after me well. Everything on board is priced in US$ but I found where so much is included it was quite difficult to spend very much.
When not on the excursions I enjoyed time to relax around the pool, on some very comfortable loungers. There was a full drinks service offered plus complimentary cold towels, fresh fruit and iced water throughout the afternoon. There is also a well-stocked library, gym and beauty salon to fill your days.
If you are looking for West End shows, casinos or glitzy nightlife, then this is not the ship for you. There is a Trio that play in the evenings in the Charleston Lounge, some Jazz music and on one evening we were treated to a Classical Concert but other than that the ship is pretty quiet. It is a very friendly ship and I met many new people from different areas of the world. The ship hosted ten nationalities whilst I was onboard, predominantly British, but also Canadian, American and South African but English was spoken by everyone. One thing I did note was the amount of single passengers on board, which was mainly down to a special offer of no or reduced single supplements.
I was sad to say farewell in Palermo on our last day and could have happily continued with the full voyage to Istanbul, but hope to return again in the future. There are a number of special offers available for the remainder of this year including no single supplements for single travellers and reduced fares, plus some great offers for Summer 2014 have just been released with early booking savings.
*Scheduled economy flights from London
*All meals on board the Aegean Odyssey
*Selected shore excursions as detailed in each itinerary
*All on-board gratuities for restaurant and cabin staff
*Selected wine with dinner (or beer and soft drinks if preferred)
*In-depth lecture programme featuring expert guest speakers
*Transfers between airports, hotels and Aegean Odyssey
*Porterage of luggage to/from your cabin
Written by Alison Waterfield-Jones, Sussex Cruise Club
Contact Alison on 01243 871663
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