My husband loves visiting Greece and often wants to revisit places we’ve been to before. I prefer to seek out new places. I feel there is too much out there to tread where we explored in our youth. I also feel that I will be very aware of the young me and how much I have changed. This cruise was a compromise in that we started out in Istanbul,called in at Gythion (to see Mistras), Meteora, went to Athens, Corfu and Ravenna in Italy, all of which we had visited before but we had not been to Dubrovnik, Patmos ,Preveza or Vergina from Thessaloniki which balanced things out. As the cruise ended in Venice I would have liked to stay on for a week and revisit Venice but we had other commitments for our return so we left that in abeyance. The ship was the Aegean Odyssey ,a pleasant size which most places reachable although we had to use the tender at Dubrovnik and at Gythion.
On board the food was excellent, the staff charming and thoughtful and the cabins comfortable although our first cabin had our wash hand basin water coming back on the floor and was changed rapidly.
The lecturers were excellent and most of the tour guides were easy to understand although one guide ,as we went through Sparta mentioned the history which she assured us we would know if we had seen the film with Brad Pitt. We oldies didn’t like to mention we had read the book,some having read it in the original language.
The chance to visit Vergina was not to be missed and to see Alexander the Great’s vision of a funeral to befit his father gave a unique insight into the man himself. I was anxious about returning to Meteora as I had had very good memories of our welcome there by a solitary priest in his eyrie and being almost alone with some beautiful places. It was overrun by coaches and school children but I made the decision that I was visiting an entirely different place and that worked for me. Among other high lights were the mosaics at Ravenna ,as exquisite and moving as ever and the museum at the Acropolis where being so close to so many wonderful statues was unbelievable pleasure. The cafe at the museum had an incredible view of the Acropolis which must make it one of the best museum cafes in the world. Our lunch was in a cafe in the Plaka opposite a very Greek coffee house called Melina with tiles underneath written (in English) they belong to us. Our very erudite lecturer gave an extra talk the following day on whether or not the Elgin marbles should stay in the UK or be returned.
I can’t comment on the cruise without mentioning the fellow passengers. As usual a mixed bunch,everyone very keen to see and learn as much as possible. There were Road Scholars from the US who had their own tour leader and didn’t mix an awful lot and there was a strong Australian contingent who were on the cruise for much longer. There were the usual types who felt that being back at the coach for x o’clock didn’t apply to them and those to whom the constantly refilling of the wine glass at dinner meant that they couldn’t say no. But that was a minority.
This is a cruise for those who like travelling with a purpose using a ship to get where you want,definitely not for people who just want to lie on a sunbed and gross out on all day eating. It was well worth braving the horrors of Heathrow to get there and back.