Travel writer Pat Richardson recalls magical sights and balmy nights on an Aegean Odyssey cruise.
The Mediterranean’s shores are awash with a wealth of history and culture, and cruises with Voyages to Antiquity offer itineraries that celebrate this. As well, they feature destination-themed lectures from knowledgeable on-board speakers, who bring ancient civilisations and sites to vibrant life. They also ensure that on-shore tours are led by expert local guides. These factors greatly enriched my French Riviera & Moorish Spain cruise, and ensured that every excursion I took was an exceptional experience.
Yet, for all the delights that this richly rewarding recipe produced when I went ashore, sailing on their one and only ship, Aegean Odyssey, was just as enjoyable. She’s small, which means she can access areas larger vessels can’t get into, and can sail rivers as well as oceans and seas. Because of this, we arrived at the final port-of-call for me, Seville – a city that lies some 50 miles inland – by sailing up the Guadalquivir. It was a remarkable flourish with which to complete a cruise that began in Nice!
Small-ship cruising also means fewer passengers: on average, Aegean Odyssey sails with just 350 – so there were no long queues to contend with, on-board or when getting on or off. And with such a small number of fellow-passengers – all of whom, having chosen to cruise with this line, shared my interest in the ancient world – I soon felt that I was among good friends, even though I was actually travelling on my own. This is a very friendly ship for solo travellers; and conversations over drinks or dinners soon revealed that it also attracts a large number of repeaters. As well, some having come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, had booked two or even three back-to-back cruises.
My best moments on-board included:
- Starting each day by stepping out onto my balcony for a breath of fresh sea air, or a close up view of a new port-of-call – or both.
- Heading for the ship’s excellent Library to pick up a morning paper to read over breakfast, to find another fascinating book or to make a further contribution to the challenging jigsaw-in- progress.
- Enjoying a proper afternoon tea in the Terrace Cafe, plus dainty sandwiches, or a freshly baked scone with clotted cream and jam or a cake – but never all three!
- Opting to dine, if the evening was fine, on the outdoor Terrace -the perfect choice if it coincided with sailaway time.
- Watching a superb flamenco show, performed on-board Aegean Odyssey in Seville by professional local dancers.
As for the moments I wouldn’t have missed ashore, the highlights were:
- Choosing my favourite perfume from the factory shop at Fragonard in Grasse, the perfume capital of the world (on an excursion from Cannes).
- Seeing, from afar, medieval Carcassone’s walls and turrets, which look like an illustration from a fairy tale (on an excursion from Sete). Within its walls, this tiny city is packed with souvenir shops, bars and restaurants plus some intriguing historic sights; but from outside it appears untouched by time.
- Viewing Europe’s oldest and largest collection of medieval murals in Barcelona’s Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, housed in a neo-Baroque palace.
- Admiring the gloriously vivid floral tapestry in the gardens of the Generalife at the Alhambra in Granada (on an excursion from Malaga).
- Marvelling at Seville’s many splendours, including the magnificent Alcázar Palace and the impressive Plaza de España, with elaborately tiled alcoves representing each of Spain’s 48 provinces, as well as canals, bridges and fountains.
> Find out more about our Voyages to Antiquity cruises on our website.