Now that we have put the finishing touches to our 2017 shore excursion programme, Zoe Bromley-Fox, Land Operations Manager, looks ahead to next year…
Last night I dreamt of the Aegean Odyssey again.
Let me be more specific. Last night, prompted no doubt by a 2010 Palmyra photograph which Facebook unnervingly reminded me about at the same time as my BBC news app informed me that East Aleppo evacuations were under way, I dreamt of a time when the Aegean Odyssey visited Syria.
Looking back at our 2010 cruise brochure, we quote historian Ross Burns ‘The exploration of Syria is one of the most satisfying pleasures that remain in the field of travel.’ Well unfortunately, this quote is now very misplaced in today’s world and although Jeremy Bowen and John Simpson might still be going there in 2016, Voyages to Antiquity passengers are certainly not. As I have said to many passengers throughout our 2016 season, it has been a hard task for a cruise line which launched with the vision of specialising in antiquities on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean to redefine its product with a more western twist.
However, as the 2016 British Travel awards prove, we seem to have managed it and our 2017 cruise programme is set to be one of our most exciting yet.
Our season starts with a ‘Voyage through the Middle Sea’ to Funchal, Madeira, where the Aegean Odyssey spends a few days. Although many ships call in at Funchal, a convenient stopover en route to the Caribbean and South Atlantic, Voyages to Antiquity travellers on our 3rd May sailing will see more of this botanical paradise than the regular cruise passenger. We have learnt that our passengers have an adventurous flair, resulting in us now including the famous ‘Toboggan’ ride which was tried and tested this year by passengers and excursion staff alike! While some may find whizzing down the steep slopes a true highlight, others will appreciate another less-daring dimension. This voyage coincides with the start of the Madeira Flower Festival and to recognise this, we are including an exclusive tour (with folkloric dances!) to the gardens of Quinto do Palheiro which date back to the 18th century.
Towards the height of summer, when the Aegean Odyssey migrates to cooler regions, the new itineraries lend themselves to a different focus when it comes to shore excursions. Our Iceland voyages on the 29th June and 8th August have proved incredibly popular, especially with our past passengers. During a voyage in November this year, whilst talking about the volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote and La Palma in the Canary Islands, Professor Brian Williams also excited everyone about places such as Heimaey, the only inhabited island of the Westman Islands. In 2017, the excursion programme takes in the 5000-year-old volcano Mt. Helgafell and the younger Mt. Eldfell where passengers can walk over the 1973 lava.
But it’s not just waterfalls, volcanoes and geysers during these summer months. The Aegean Odyssey’s thorough exploration of the British Isles with many inaugural ports of call allows for an in-depth appreciation of the history of this part of world. The excursion programme on these voyages has been designed to give passengers a choice in each port. As one passenger remarked to me recently, this avoids it becoming an ‘ABC tour’ – a colloquialism in Europe referring to ‘another b***** church/castle’! Whilst you can see numerous castles should you wish to, there are plenty of other significant sites and scenic highlights to choose from.
With all these exciting new ports, it is important not to forget our roots. The Aegean Odyssey will always feel at home in the Mediterranean and in the autumn of 2017 she will return to these familiar waters. Our cruises in the fall are much-loved favourites, taking in the key sites of artistic, historical and cultural importance throughout the ancient world. Although many of the ports that feature have been regularly visited by us since 2010, we have made new additions and improvements. In the Greek ports of Corfu and Thessalonica, new excursions include a visit to the Achilleion Palace and Paleokastritsa for those who may have already explored Corfu’s old town, and a tour to Ancient Dion at the foot of Mount Olympus for those who have visited the sprawling metropolis of Thessalonica before.
We have not forgotten what Goethe said about Sicily. Our 2017 programme includes voyages which are reminiscent of our popular ‘Sicily is the Key to Everything’ itineraries from 2010. Calls into the ports of Trapani, Syracuse, Taormina and Palermo feature in our Odyssey Club Reunion Cruise in May, allowing us to develop some unique and special experiences for those who have been so loyal to our product. We have even included a new port of call in Sicily, with our first voyage of the season featuring an inaugural stop in Catania, giving the choice of visiting Syracuse or Taormina.
Be it an old destination or a new destination, we hope to have something for all of you. 2017 is exciting!
Full image credit to Zoe Bromley-Fox