(11:35 a.m. EDT) -- At a swanky Champagne reception yesterday evening at the up-market Travellers Club in London's Pall Mall, new British line Voyages to Antiquity officially celebrated the launch of its one-ship cruise operation. As we reported in August, Aegean Odyssey is currently being refitted in Piraeus, Athens, and will be ready for launch in May 2010.
Last night, travel agents, members of the media -- including Cruise Critic -- and other distinguished guests gathered in the Club's library room, which seemed a rather appropriate place for historian and writer Lord John Julius Norwich to talk up this new venture, in which he plays a vital role.
Lord Norwich was approached by Voyages to Antiquity founder, Gerry Herrod, after he read his book on the history of the Mediterranean, “The Middle Sea,” and decided to enlist his help in creating itineraries and enrichment programming. Indeed, there will be a large focus on learning about ancient civilizations through visits to intriguing ports and talks by guest lecturers such as history graduates. Norwich himself will be speaking on two cruises next year.
And if his lectures are anything like his talk this evening, passengers are in for some laughs. Between snacking on canapés, including spring rolls and chicken satay, Norwich humoured the audience by poking a bit of good-natured fun at the mega-ships of today -- not at all like the 11,563-ton, 380-passenger Aegean Odyssey -- calling them "large blocks of flats, 15 decks high with 2,000 to 3,000 people on them. Obviously they are now full so they are even building one for 5,000."
He continued: "We are the opposite -- we have one small ship and we have no desire to expand. Most of the ships cruising now you wouldn't want to be seen dead on -- you wouldn't want to be seen dead on ours either, but you would want to be seen alive on it!”
From May to November 2010, Aegean Odyssey will sail from various departure points -- such as Athens, Rome, Venice, Istanbul, Cairo, Safaga and Oman -- on destination- and enrichment-focused cruises, aimed at English-speaking passengers. The line's managing director, David Yellow, told Cruise Critic that bookings for 2010 cruises began this week, with 100 bookings already in the U.K.
Prices start at £2,295 per person for a 14-night Mediterranean cruise.
--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor
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New Brit Line Celebrates Launch in London
September 25, 2009