Francesco Papa, a member of staff in Voyages to Antiquity’s US office, chose Aegean Odyssey for his recent holiday. Read his blog to find out about his experience on board Aegean Odyssey.

Booking a Voyage To Antiquity trip was quick and easy. The difficult part was in choosing the itinerary – did we want to be adventurous and try somewhere new, or return to places we know and love in expert company? As a family, we decided on the exciting and new; specifically, the Moorish Odyssey cruise, taking in Spain, Morocco and the Canary Islands.

The Royal Palace in Rabat

The Royal Palace in Rabat

The ship was berthed in Malaga, Spain – a place rich in history, and birthplace of Picasso. It was very easy to walk around and become consumed in the local culture.

Then we made our we made our way to Aegean Odyssey. At first we didn’t see the beautiful trident on the top of the ship or any other passengers, but we knew were in the right place when we saw the friendly staff greeting us with a smile. It felt as if we were entering our own yacht. After such a long flight from the US, it was good to have the first day at sea, with the opportunity appreciate the ship and its amenities as we unpacked and settled in.

On board Aegean Odyssey

On board Aegean Odyssey

The route into Seville takes you along the Guadalquivir River past rice fields and quaint little towns. Mooring in the centre of Seville was amazing – giving you the feeling of being at the heart of it all. We decided on some independent sightseeing, keen to see the Alcazar and its stunning gardens. Returning to the ship for dinner, we made our way to the Marco Polo restaurant. The maitre d’ and waiting staff really make you feel at home, and the meal was outstanding. After that, we stopped in the Charleston Lounge, which would become our regular nightly spot, relaxing with a drink and enjoying the music from the duo or trio playing in the evening. Then it was time to rest up in preparation for a busy day in Cordoba tomorrow.

After a delightful breakfast at the Terrace Cafe, we headed to the meeting point for our guided tour – the Ambassador Lounge. It all went seamlessly and the drive to Cordoba was attractive and packed with information about the region and the city. Stepping off the coach, we were greeted by the breathtaking Roman bridge still in use today.

Roman bridge of Cordoba

Roman bridge of Cordoba

In each cabin is a Quiet Vox device, which the staff recommend you bring along to hear the tour guides better. On this particular excursion, we had a little time to explore for ourselves, before being guided around the old Jewish Quarter and down the famed Calle de las Flores (Street of Flowers). After lunch at an adorable local restaurant, we visited the Mezquita – Cordoba’s magnificent mosque – where our guide explained its impressive history.

Cadiz we did on our own, taking a stroll through the beautiful town on our way to the cathedral, then returning to the ship to enjoy the quiet while most passengers were out on a tour. Dinner, again, was amazing – so far, not one meal has disappointed. Just a brief stay in the Charleston Lounge tonight though…our next destination is Casablanca and we need to pack an overnight bag for a stay in Fez.

The next morning, like every morning, I went to the gym before breakfast. It’s small, but it has what you need and it really sets you up for the day. The buses to Fez were air-conditioned and clean – an extension of the cleanliness on board, where the staff are always ready with hand sanitiser. Our elegant hotel in this old imperial city was the Marriott Jnan Palace, and lunch and dinner served up there were absolutely packed with flavour. We talked a lot that evening about our tour of the Old Town and its lively souk – a real vision of the exotic.

Every day of our holiday seemed more beautiful than the last, and the journey to Rabat and Casablanca was very memorable. The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, one of the biggest in the world, was definitely on my bucket list to see, and it didn’t disappoint – stunning from any view. After dinner and overnight back on board, we packed another bag for our stay in Marrakech the following day.

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

What a wonderful city Marrakech is – so intriguing, so full of history, and so full of people! It really hustles and bustles. We walked through the souks, watched materials being dyed by hand, had lunch in a truly authentic restaurant, then headed for the main square with its snake charmers and local food stalls. Our hotel was the excellent Movenpick.

Agadir, our destination the next day, is a much smaller town but very much worth the trip. Its brightly coloured houses and long history alone make it a must-see and, as always, we found a lovely place for lunch. After a guided tour, we went shopping for souvenirs, then returned to the ship in time to set sail for the Canary Islands.

Our first stop on these sunshine islands was Lanzarote. We chose the tour of the northern part of the island which showed us views so picturesque that they inspired a local artist to help make Lanzarote an eco-preserve and, today, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The next day, La Palma, showed how completely different even neighbouring islands can be – where Lanzarote was breathtaking but barren, La Palma was covered in trees and other greenery. Our tour of part of the island made a stop at a silk workshop, where we watched intricate patterns being woven.

Beautiful landscape in La Palma

Beautiful landscape in La Palma

We disembarked, a bit tearfully, the next day at Aegean Odyssey’s last stop, Tenerife. It was hard to leave behind the staff, who had become friends, and a ship that had felt like home, but we knew that we would be back again soon.

 


Voyages to Antiquity’s 12-day Moorish Odyssey itinerary departs 10 November 2018, visiting Cadiz, Seville, Casablanca, Fez, Rabat, Marrakech, Taroudant, Agadir, Lanzarote and La Palma en route from Malaga to Tenerife. Prices start at £2,345*pp, including flights, Morocco hotel stays, full board cruise accommodation, wine with dinner on board, gratuities on board, shore excursions and the guest lecture programme.