Aegean Odyssey’s 2018 European season is just around the corner and the teams both on ship and shore are busy with final preparations. With a host of new ports, excursions and land tours, along with an superb team aboard Aegean Odyssey, Voyages to Antiquity is set to continue defining small-ship cruising at its best. Head of Land Product Zoe Bromley-Fox sets the scene for 2018.
Everyone feels better after a little pampering; whether it be a new haircut, luxury spa treatment or shiny, clean hull! Taking time to recharge and rejuvenate is essential for all of us, and ships are no different. I’m pleased to say that Aegean Odyssey, with her recently buffed bottom, is finished with her Piraeus pampering and eager to embark on her ninth summer season with Voyages to Antiquity. So, let’s look ahead…
The 2018 programme is packed with new experiences, from the very first cruise-tour of the season – The Aegean Experience I. This Greek voyage of discovery kicks off with a brand-new land tour exploring the UNESCO-listed wonders of ancient Delphi, Agamemnon’s Mycenae and Asclepius’ Epidaurus by coach, before setting sail from Piraeus. Greece and her unique story has always been at the very core of our philosophy, and Aegean Odyssey never feels more at home than when she is cruising these classical waters. As such, we like to think that nobody delivers a Hellenic product quite like us. Of course, we have help behind the scenes, and we could not deliver to such a standard without the great partnerships that we have formed over the years in Greece. It is with them that we can add the unique touches – like the shiny, blue coaches complete with VTA livery, waiting to transport VTA travellers back to classical antiquity!
Our expert, local guides elevate even the most well-trodden site, but to deliver a unique experience VTA also likes to venture off the beaten track. Ports that other ships simply do not and cannot visit feature strongly both in this year’s programme and the recently released 2019 programme. As part of our final season preparations, i was lucky enough to visit a couple of the lesser known islands of the Dodecanese group – Karpathos and Nisyros – which we call at for the first time in May. With flights to and from Karpathos very infrequent in the winter months and Nisyros without an airport at all, I appreciated just how far off the tourist trail these islands are. The popular nearby islands of Rhodes and Kos provided the connections I needed and demonstrated by contrast how untouched Karpathos and Nisyros are.
Karpathos is alive with tradition from the moment you arrive. Being a mountainous island, you wind your way back in time as you drive from the somewhat modern port town of Pigadia to the small villages that are nestled further away. Our included Karpathos Villages excursion showcases a handful of these fascinating, unspoiled villages, whilst our optional tour goes even further afield and takes in the village of Olympos. This curious village perched at the northern tip of the island at an elevation of just under 300m lives and breathes the old customs with the ladies of the village still adopting the traditional way of dress.
What struck me about Nisyros was just how green it is for a volcanic island, with terraces upon terraces of vegetation carved into the steep slopes. In contrast to the popular volcanic island of Santorini, Nisyros, home to Greece’s second most famous volcano, has a distinctly rural feel to it, and certainly isn’t frequented by the big ships. Visiting the crater of Agios Stefanos is a highlight, but Voyages to Antiquity passengers can also look forward to exploring the quaint streets of Nikia.
So, there we have it – a ship raring to go and some wonderful new destinations and experiences – but what completes it? As always, Voyages to Antiquity prides itself on the attentiveness and friendliness of the officers and crew aboard Aegean Odyssey. Being made to feel at home by everyone, from our experienced Greek Captains navigating you from place to beautiful place to your friendly cabin attendant greeting you each day, remains the priority on board. With 80% of the crew returning from our previous summer season, repeat passengers will be sure to recognise lots of familiar faces, including the very popular management duo – Gerry O’Reilly as Hotel Manager and Richard Sykes as Cruise Director.
And now, a few words from two members of the shipboard team waiting to greet you – Chanelle Quealy, who joins us this year to head up the Shore Excursions Team, and Oliver Hayes, who will be working closely alongside her as he returns for his second season.
‘As an Australian, you can feel quite isolated from the rest of the world, which is why I believe I had such an ardent desire to see more of it. At the tender age of 21 I joined the travel industry and never looked back! Over the past ten years, I have led tour groups all over the world. These have included the ancient city of Machu Picchu, searching for wildlife in Tanzania’s Serengeti and exploring the geographical wonders of Iceland, to name a few of the highlights. Last year, I experienced life at sea whilst working on Croatian gulets, leading groups around the idyllic islands of the Adriatic and their historical sites. The excitement of waking up in a new destination each morning never gets old and I can’t wait to get on-board Aegean Odyssey to share my travel knowledge and experiences with Voyages to Antiquity guests.’
‘Having developed a strong interest in the history and cultures of the world, I decided that it wasn’t enough simply to study them from the comfort of home! Although I had some truly wonderful travel opportunities and experiences throughout my classical studies, it was not until joining Aegean Odyssey as a graduate assistant in 2017 that I was truly able to scratch that travel itch. One of the most enjoyable things about working at sea is the people you meet along the way and their unique perspectives and stories. I can only hope that my passion and enthusiasm for my work will positively impact the experiences of others, and I am truly excited to begin another wonderful season’
For more information and to the view the full Voyages to Antiquity 2018 programme please visit the website.