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115 Aegean Odyssey Cruise Reviews

Pre-Cruise Tour and Hotels: This cruise started with an included land stay and tours in Cairo and Luxor before boarding the Aegean Odyssey in Safaga. The hotel used in Cairo was great (Fairmont Nile City); most rooms have beautiful ... Read More
Pre-Cruise Tour and Hotels: This cruise started with an included land stay and tours in Cairo and Luxor before boarding the Aegean Odyssey in Safaga. The hotel used in Cairo was great (Fairmont Nile City); most rooms have beautiful views over the Nile in downtown Cairo and the hotel is new and opulent. The Luxor hotel wasn't quite as stellar (Sonesta St. George) but was fine for the one night we spent there. A full day of touring in Cairo included the pyramids, sphinx, and Egyptian museum; I did not participate having done these several times already. Instead I arranged a private walking tour of al-Muizz li-din Allah street, a newly restored and pedestrianized street near the Khan el-Khalili bazaar with beautiful old Islamic mosques and other sights. I highly recommend it. We flew to Luxor very early in the morning of the next day and toured Karnak temple, had the afternoon off, then returned to Karnak for the Sound and Light Show that evening. The next morning we visited the Valley of the Kings (3 open tombs plus the tomb of Tutankhamun), then Hatshepsut's Temple and the Colossi of Memnon before checking out of the hotel and boarding buses for a 3-hour drive to Safaga for embarkation. All meals and tours in Cairo and Luxor were included in the price of the cruise. Embarkation and Cabin: Embarkation was extremely speedy. We all had to exit the bus and go through a security check at the port entrance, then we reboarded the bus for a quick drive to the pier. Check-in took all of about 5 minutes as we gave our name and handed in our passports (required) then received our room key. We were asked to head to the Information desk sometime that evening to register a credit card for purchases and then we were free to board. My cabin was on Columbus Deck (Deck 4), the same deck used for embarking/disembarking in most ports, so it was just a few steps to my room. Within about 15 minutes, my luggage also arrived. A thorough safety drill was conducted shortly after boarding. My cabin was a Category M Inside cabin. There were two twin beds, a large dresser between them (with a mirror above), and a stool/ottoman. The closet had plenty of room for hanging items (especially for one person), and another small set of drawers, plus a safe. The closet doors are mirrored also. Lifejackets were stored above the closet and suitcases fit easily under the beds for storage. There is a flat TV on the wall above one bed, and reading lights at both beds. Overall, the lighting in the cabin seemed a bit dim. The air flow is adjusted at the register, which is located on the ceiling. Not a problem for me (at 5'7"), but some shorter passengers had trouble reaching it. The bathroom was obviously newly fitted and average-to-smallish in size (about the same as I've had on Princess) with a shower and no tub. The blowdryer was new and quite adequate. Toiletries were provided and included shampoo, bath/shower gel, soap, and shower cap. I had no problems in my cabin with plumbing issues or any smells, but I did hear a few others on board were reporting problems with toilets flushing continuously (or not flushing). Public Rooms: The ship's main public rooms (on Floor 6) are generally nicely appointed. The Ambassador Lounge is primarily used for tour briefings and lectures, although it also hosted the Welcome Aboard and Farewell cocktail receptions. It seems fine for this purpose. Whatever A/V issues were noted earlier in the season by cruisers did not seem to be a problem any longer. Generally the sightlines are good with the exception of a few seats near the entrance. If people wouldn't come in late and sit there, they would have no problem seeing the lecturer and presentations. The Charleston Lounge (midship) was probably my favorite place to sit, especially during the day when you could see out the many windows. The decor is light and elegant. At the rear of Floor 6 is the Terrace Cafe where buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served. There appears to be ample seating both indoors and outdoors (where tapas are served in the evening). The Library is tucked in between the Charleston Lounge and the Terrace Cafe and had an excellent amount of books on the destinations of our cruise and the Mediterranean in general, as well as a small assortment of other nonfiction and fiction. The honor system is used for check-in/out and the Library is open 24 hours/day. I rarely utilized any of the other public areas aboard, except for the Information Reception area (Deck 5), which never seemed crowded, and the Internet room (also on Deck 5). Internet prices are a steal compared to most ships. I purchased 4 hours for $18; service was generally good but as always when at sea it was occasionally quite slow. The Internet area had 6 terminals and only once did I experience a bit of a wait to use one. I never used the salon, spa, or fitness areas, so cannot comment on them. There is one shop on board with a selection of items including jewelry, other items from various Med ports, books, limited sundries, and some apparel. Outside, the loungers were plentiful and comfortable. I preferred to sit aft, rather than around the pool (which has enclosed walls to help cut down on the wind). The often discussed smoke from the stack never seemed to be an issue on this cruise, although I could see evidence on the lounger cushions of problems in the past. Dining/Drinks: I found the Marco Polo restaurant to have better food than the Terrace Cafe. Overall, I thought the food was no better or worse than what I've been served on other mass market cruiselines. Occasionally dishes were not as hot as they should've been. This was particularly an issue in the buffet line. There were a few "misses" but the waitstaff were anxious to satisfy, and if they ever noticed anyone at our table not finishing an item, they would immediately enquire if everything was okay or if we wanted something different. The wines served with dinner were good Italian table wines (red or white) and were liberally poured. We had a great waitstaff the very first night and we were always able to get seated in their area for the remainder of the cruise. Breakfasts at the Terrace Cafe were about the same each day. On the plus side, the line never seemed long and seating was always available, even when almost the entire ship was dining at the same time due to early shore excursions. On the minus side, coffee/tea service was often slow and difficult to get a refill. Drinks prices were about average for a cruise ship; certainly no bargain. The few drinks I purchased were good. Mixed drinks tended to be made with generous pouring of alcohol. Entertainment: Entertainment is mainly limited on these cruises to lecturers and the occasional music program. The days are jam-packed with touring and at times it seemed difficult to even fit all the lectures in. I found the lecturers (there were 3 on our trip; all British) to be absolutely outstanding. I only missed one lecture and every one I attended was well done. However, I am a huge history nerd. Some did tend to fall asleep at the evening lectures. Then again, some on the cruise were quite a bit older than me! Most of the music on board was provided by a trio called Cafe Concerto Strings who were quite good. I was less fond of the piano player in the Charleston Lounge. Most nights there was dancing in this lounge after dinner. On sea days there were a few other activities scheduled, such as a Trivia Quiz, bridge, and some "Infomercials" by spa/fitness staff. The ship is not meant for those looking to party late at night. There is no casino (hurrah), and no activities for children. Shore Excursions: On our sailing, every shore excursion except for ONE optional tour were included. Unfortunately, the tours were all the "big bus" sort, with 30-40 people per guide/group. The "Quietvox" earpieces ensured that we could all hear the guide easily; however, it is still difficult to have a meaningful interaction with a guide when the group is so large. Some people just could not seem to get the hang of using the whisperers and consistently people in our group would lose either the earpiece or the battery. Guides also seemed unfamiliar with them and were forever asking us to "gather around" them, when the whisperers were supposed to enable us to wander a bit. There was not always a staff member on each tour, so at times the guide was expected to do too much. For example, at Karnak Temple in Egypt, one woman with limited mobility insisted in attempting the tour. She walked partway to the temple, then decided she couldn't go on. The rest of us had to wait while the guide helped her get back to the bus. Which brings me to this point: the tours and the itinerary of this "Odyssey" were quite strenuous. There were people on the tours that clearly were not in a condition to be able to do them. It was frustrating for those of us who were able to do the tours, and I'm sure it was frustrating for those who attempted a few tours then mostly decided to stay on board ship. I don't know what the answer is, but the cruise line and travel agents perhaps need to push a bit harder the fact that almost EVERY tour involves a lot of walking, steps, precarious footing, etc. These are not panoramic bus tours! The sites we visited on the cruise were all outstanding, and it's a shame that I can't say the same for the guides, which were of about average quality overall (although our group had a particularly bad one in Syria -- we all took to "tuning in" a different guide on our whisperers as he was so difficult to understand). If I hadn't done my reading and research in advance, I honestly think I would've gotten very little information from some of the guides. I would rate only 2 of the 8 guides we had (including those in Egypt) as above average. Many of the sites visited were quite a long bus ride away from the port. I was well aware of this in advance, but some people grumbled. I mention it just for future reference. To my mind, the sometimes 2-3 hour ride in the bus was worth it in order to see these off-the-beaten-path sites. Buses were modern and generally comfortable. In most cases there was a toilet on the bus. Free bottled water was provided by the ship: 2 bottles per person for full-day tours and 1 bottle for half-day tours. I don't want to give an overly negative impression; I very much enjoyed the sites we visited and in most cases the tours were adequate. I think with a little tweaking, though, Voyages to Antiquity could provide a better experience. And let's face it, the sites and tours are the primary reasons most people book with a line such as this one. I'm not sure the current system of organizing the buses by a color coded system is the best. I made several friends aboard ship but never got to tour with them as we were in different color groups -- which meant not seeing much of them on a very port-intensive cruise. Ports: I will not go into a long description on the ports and sites visited as that information is well covered in the Voyages to Antiquity brochures/internet information already. However, I will offer a few notes: Sharm el-Sheikh: The ship offers a tour to St. Catherine's monastery. It's a long bus ride (about 2.5 to 3 hours each way) but well worth the trip. Just do not expect to find peace and quiet, it's very crowded with visitors. Ein el-Sokhna: Again, ship offered a tour to St. Antony's monastery (Coptic). Shorter bus ride and quite interesting as one of the monks actually leads your tour. We were offered freshly baked pita bread at the bakery. Less crowded than St. Catherine's. Quite a few people skipped this tour after the long day to St. Catherine's the day before, but I thought it was well worth it. Beirut: We had an included tour to Baalbek, an ancient (mainly from Roman period) site. The scale of the ruins was definitely monumental. Again, the drive by bus was long; our lunch stop was not reached until quite late in the afternoon. We only glimpsed a little bit of modern Beirut as we drove in and out of the port -- sadly it still looks very much in recovery. Tartous, Syria: The cruise included an overnight tour to Palmyra, the fabulous ruined desert caravan city from the Roman imperial era. On the way there, we stopped to see Krak des Chevaliers, the "most outstanding and well preserved Crusader castle". It was quite a sight, perched up on a hill that required some tight twists and turns on the part of our buses to reach. After this, we arrived at Palmyra and had an afternoon visit to the site museum. Our hotel was quite close to the site itself, but didn't have much character. Some people did a camel ride that evening but it got very cold in the desert at night. Next morning, we had an extended visit to the Palmyra ruins, including visits to some of the tombs. Shopping in the little modern town was great; however, shopping time was quite limited (fine with me but others had complaints). We returned to Tartous after lunch at the hotel. Latakia, Syria: One of the few places where some optional tours were offered. I chose the full-day Aleppo tour and it was one of the best of the cruise. We again had a long drive but the countryside was pretty. In Aleppo we saw the Citadel (a Crusader-era castle but built by Arabs), the Omayyid mosque (which required us women to don burka-like coverings), and the souk. Again shopping time was quite limited. A highlight was lunch at the Sissi House restaurant, a very lovely experience in a well-known restaurant and including live music. Other half-day tours were offered and included the Castle of Salah el-Din (Saladin), and Ugarit. Limassol: Included half-day tour to Kourion, a ruined Greco-Roman site with a beautiful location on the water. Some time was given for wandering and shopping in the old Harbor area; unfortunately it is undergoing a lot of renovation at present. I'm sure it's very charming when not scaffolded! The cruiseline offered a free shuttle to and from town all day, which is a nice touch. In several other ports, shuttles were also offered and there was never a charge for them. Antalya: The included tour here was a half-day visit to Aspendos and Perge. Although I had done virtually the same tour in September, I went along anyway and enjoyed this one much more (due to the lovely weather in part; in September the temp was close to 100 F!). The one extra-charge tour was offered in the afternoon: a visit to the Antalya museum and walking tour of the old town. I did this as well. The museum deserves more time as we were marched through it very quickly. The old town is lovely, it's definitely a place I want to come back to for a longer visit. Free shuttles were offered here also. Overall Service and Value: In general, service in the dining room and from my cabin steward was quite good. The mostly Filipino crew is friendly and professional. The Shore excursions staff/Front desk staff could use some more experience. Several were recent college graduates with great Classics pedigrees but little actual practical experience. At times they appeared a bit short-handed. As a note, the ship was only about 2/3 full on our sailing, and I can imagine they would be seriously short-handed with a full complement of passengers. However, in general most things went off rather well considering the ship was visiting most of these ports for the very first time. Delays occurred in a couple of ports but were minimal, no ports or sightseeing was missed. Our cruise involved quite a bit of juggling of passports (handing them in, picking them up, turning in again, getting boarding cards, etc) and that was handled quite well. Things seemed organized and lines were never long. Sometimes the port officials would throw the staff a bit of a curve, but they dealt with it. (For example, in Syria the port officials wanted copies of all the passport info -- apparently this was never mentioned in any advance communication. Good thing there were only around 200 passengers.) We only tendered to one port, and it was not a problem. However, I do agree that the tenders seem to bob about more than most and hopefully the ship can get some newer ones during their overhaul in Piraeus now that the season has ended. I think the value for the cost of the cruise is quite high. After adding up all the included items (gratuities, wine at dinner, included tours, airfare), I found this cruise cost far less than the similar length Eastern Med cruise I took on HAL in September. Of course, the no or low single supplements really are a huge bonus in this regard. Summary: Overall, I love the premise of this cruise line. I had a wonderful experience and found nearly all of the negative things mentioned earlier this season to have been addressed (if they existed at all....). A bit more tweaking would lead to an even more positive experience, but I'm well satisfied with the value; so much so that I've already booked another cruise with this line next year. Between the great itineraries, lecturers, and included costs -- particularly the single supplement -- I found this line to be a great fit for me. Please just give us smaller tours!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
It was not without some trepidation that we went ahead with this cruise, after reading some of the earlier reviews on Cruise Critic. In fact we came very close to cancelling our booking at one point as the barrage of bad news regarding ... Read More
It was not without some trepidation that we went ahead with this cruise, after reading some of the earlier reviews on Cruise Critic. In fact we came very close to cancelling our booking at one point as the barrage of bad news regarding earlier cruises piled up. I am so glad we did decide to go ahead. Voyages to Antiquity delivered a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable adventure that will live with us forever. We have hundreds of photos, some wonderful memories and a host of new friends as a result. This is a small ship adventure to ports less visited and, though not without some issues to be addressed, represents excellent value for the intrepid traveller. The Ship The ship has only recently been fitted out, so its decor is clean and fresh, there is plenty of light in internal areas and it has the feel of a new ship. Aegean Odyssey is a smaller ship than we were used to. Our only earlier experience of a cruise ship was HAL's Zuiderdam in 2008, which is a magnificent and exceptionally comfortable ship. The Aegean Odyssey is a much smaller vessel. This smallness in size has some positives and negatives. One negative is that it seemed sensitive to ocean swells. The sensation of rocking about was quite marked in relatively minor seas (sea sick pills are available free at reception!). There is less choice of open space. The swimming pool is small and the water sloshed about, sometimes with such energy, that it was usually not possible to swim on our voyage. The positives far outweighed the negatives in my mind. We got to know other passengers fairly quickly; we soon had our favourite spots on board. The ship is able to visit and dock at ports which are just not accessible to larger vessels. (Zuiderdam would not have been able to get anywhere near the dock area at Darnah - for Cyrene). Importantly there were only 260 passengers aboard. When visiting the historic sites on shore it was much more enjoyable to do so in relatively small groups. And in addition, we all got to know each other, passengers and crew, and I enjoyed that aspect very much. The Cabins We had booked a Concierge Class cabin on Belvedere Deck, Cabin 549. The cabin was small, but clean and tidy with a very large "porthole" which provided a clear view. A fridge was installed and soft drink and water were free. We had a flat screen TV which showed CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera, with a number of non-English channels, plus a number of channels showing movies. I watched "Gladiator" and "Cleopatra" through new eyes! However this cabin turned out to be very noisy - it was next to the funnel and therefore close to the engine. There was a constant knocking noise like the sound of the engine of "The African Queen", rather like being camped next to an idling diesel truck. We spoke with the staff at Reception, who conversed with the Purser, and they were able to upgrade us to a cabin on Bridge Deck. We agreed to pay a little extra for this, which in the end turned out to be a very wise investment. The cabin we took on Bridge Deck was also close to the funnel, but much quieter, much larger - with four large portholes offering wonderful views and a great sense of spaciousness. And that bath came in handy after we got caught in the cold and the rain at Cyrene!. Some on-board friends had a "B" class cabin, a Junior Suite with a balcony, at the rear of Bridge Deck and they are very nice indeed, if a bit expensive. Some other friends had cabins on Belvedere Deck, but away from the funnel, and they reported that they were very happy with their cabin, comfortable and cosy with no noise problem. So it seems you may be ok if you stay away from the funnel. The Public Spaces and Facilities The pool area was popular but the pool was difficult or impossible to use at times due to the rocking of the ship. The lounges at the rear of the Lido Deck were pleasant if the wind was in the right direction, but the engine roar emanating from the funnel area in conjunction with sometimes heavy smoke exhaust meant this was not always pleasant. We found a nice quiet spot at the rear of the Bridge Deck which was sheltered from the wind and offered pleasant views of the wake and we were often here on the "At Sea" days, reading our guide book (or more often snoozing). I liked the eating area at the rear of the Promenade Deck, "Tapas on the Terrace", where we always ate breakfast, usually ate dinner and sometimes indulged in the afternoon tea. On the At Sea days we often got this area to ourselves outside meal times, and we enjoyed some great times out there, catching up on the diary or having a chat over coffee. The Charleston Lounge was very pleasant for pre and post dinner drinks and afternoon liaisons. The Ambassador Lounge forward on the Promenade Deck is a large cabaret style auditorium but underutilised and inclined to be stuffy. This made paying attention at the lectures, held in this room, a challenge at times. The Observation Lounge at the bow on the top deck has some of the best views on the ship, but it was often deserted. It needs a cafe, reading area or something to give it some life as this area was very underutilised. Nice place from which to watch the approach to a new port away from the wind however. The library is comfortable, cosy and with some interesting and useful books, but get in early if you want to borrow a guide book. The ship's shop is small, but has a range of very handy items, which are reasonably priced. The main dining area is the Marco Polo Restaurant in the bowels of the ship. Nicely decorated with comfortable seating, the lack of windows meant that we preferred to eat there in the evening and did not use it often for lunch. The Crew The crew are outstanding. I found their attention to passenger requests first rate. They really seemed to care that we were enjoying our experience. The attentiveness of the staff was an outstanding feature of our cruise. I'm an Australian and apparently we have a well deserved reputation for not tipping unless we receive very good service. I did tip, and I tipped quite a number of crew members on this cruise. I also intend to write to Voyages to Antiquity to let them know how much we appreciated this aspect of our experience. Outstanding! There, I've said it again. Well done V2A. The Itinerary It was the itinerary which attracted us to this cruise and it did not disappoint. The highlights for me were Syracuse, the Port of Valetta, the excitement of the first view of the North African coast, the visit to El Jem and, without a doubt, the visit to Leptis Magna. Now that made the whole trip absolutely worthwhile. The Tours and Tour Guides The tours were included in the fare, and all took in just exactly the sites we wanted to see. There were a couple of optional tours which we did not do, but they were relatively inexpensive and judging by reports from fellow passengers, equally enjoyable and stimulating. The "whisper" devices are excellent in the hands of a competent guide, especially for someone like me who tends to lag behind the group taking photos and enjoying the scene alone. The quality of the guides, however, was variable. In Libya particularly one or two were very poor. Some had poor English, or very heavy accents which made them difficult to understand. On occasion I wasn't sure whether the historical narrative being provided was truth or apocryphal. I suspected the latter. Greater attention needs to be given to better vetting the guides to ensure they are up to scratch. However, in those countries much better versed in supporting tourism, the guides were excellent, notably Sicily, Malta and most impressively for our group, Egypt. We found the lectures that we attended interesting and on each occasion came away with a new perspective on the history surrounding the sites we were visiting. I must admit that we missed a few - on occasion we were enjoying the conversation at the dinner table too much, or given the high level of activity on some days, just too tired. One lecture stood out as poor however, and that was one we attended given by a Professor from the university in Tripoli. I am sure he is a learned man well qualified in his area of expertise but really, I had no idea what he was talking about. Someone should have interviewed him first, or maybe he is Colonel Gaddafi's cousin? The other lecturers however were informative and enjoyable. I particularly liked the comparison of the Athenian expedition to Syracuse with the abortive Gallipoli campaign in WW1. Fellow Passengers We met and enjoyed the company of some very interesting, stimulating and on occasion, hysterically amusing passengers. There was definitely a bias towards the late 60's to early 80's age group, which meant the dance floor was usually available in the evenings. However on the whole they were an open minded, easy going, adventure loving, interested and interesting group of people. The Food Of variable quality and average overall. I didn't join the cruise for the culinary experience, but V2A could do more to include regional dishes for the areas visited. My favourite meal was breakfast. The omelettes were great although the cereal did taste like someone had just shredded the box. I think the food at the Tapas Cafe was better than that provided at The Marco Polo Restaurant, but we did go to the Marco Polo a few times. It was easier to meet people there and, on occasion, on board ship, I do like to dress for dinner. One or two dishes stood out as tasty, but I must say not a patch on my only other cruise experience, Holland America. Edible certainly. Imaginative? No. The food experience at the Marco Polo is a major improvement opportunity. The Entertainment There was not much in the way of organised entertainment, which largely centred on the lectures and activities at the spa and gym (the latter is very small and hardly worth the bother). There was however a very good string and piano quartet who played most evenings in the Charleston Lounge and gave a very fine farewell concert in the Ambassador Lounge. The lack of organised entertainment was not a problem however. We spent many enjoyable hours in the company of some very entertaining fellow passengers, or an occasional good book. The Problems There are still some problems with the ship which we believe are being addressed. They need to be addressed if the ship is to succeed. There was one day when the toilets did not flush for most of the day. When they did flush they seemed to flush for a long time. In fact at our first experience we thought the flusher had become stuck. The air conditioning appeared to be patchy. I wondered whether they were rationing or cycling access through the ship, as sometimes it was fine and sometimes it was very stuffy indeed. The weather was quite mild for our trip, but I would think that in the heat of summer the lack of air conditioning would be quite a problem. For us the biggest issue was the black smoke frequently belching from the funnel. This was particularly embarrassing during the departure from the beautiful port of Valletta in Malta. As we were leaving that picturesque and historical city our ship virtually blanketed the town with thick black smoke. It felt like being invited into someone's home and then walking your dirty muddy boots all over their beautiful new carpet. I did not like the black smoke belching from the funnel - it is not acceptable in these days of greater awareness of the environment. I was told that the ship is going into dock early in 2011 to address some remaining "technical issues". I hope this smoke issue is one of them. Post cruise accommodation Voyages to Antiquity arranged post cruise accommodation for all passengers at The Fairmont Nile City in Cairo. On our first day in Cairo they arranged lunch for us all at the Mena House Oberoi, maybe the top hotel in Cairo. The Fairmont Nile City was an outstandingly comfortable hotel, in fact the best accommodation we had on our extended trip abroad. V2A appeared to spare no expense to ensure our comfort and for that we are very grateful. Once again, this was evidence that they are more focused on the quality of the experience than saving the pennies, which is unusual in this age of economic rationalism and parsimonious tight-fisted business practices. Very much appreciated. The Little Extras A rose for my wife when we boarded, a free bottle of very nice Champagne, free water throughout the cruise, free soft drinks from the hospitality fridge in the cabin, all tours included in the fare, attentive, courteous and conscientious crew, chocolates on the pillow at night, free and freely flowing good quality wine with dinner and a very pleasant ambience aboard ship. Well done V2A Tipping Tipping is included with the fare, apparently, but service was so good that I did want to give a little extra to some individuals who helped make our holiday experience so enjoyable. There was no guidance on how much is appropriate, so I hope I wasn't too stingy. I left our cabin steward an extra 20 Euros for always having our cabin fresh and tidy when we returned from the day's adventures. I gave two waiters at the Tapas on the Terrace 10 Euros each for being good company and for filling my coffee cup at breakfast just exactly when it needed to be filled. I pressed the palm of one of the attendants at the servery with a 5 Euro note for making my wife laugh every evening, and I gave one of the waitresses at the Charleston Lounge 5 Euros for always having a welcoming smile, no matter what. Hope that was enough. I felt awkward offering any money to officers or hotel management staff, but I will write to V2A to thank them directly. The Value for Money This shipping line includes in the fare so much which is extra on other cruise lines. Free bottled water in the cabin and on tour, and free soft drink from the cabin fridge. Free white or red wine with dinner. Tours are included in the fare, as well as the cost of guides and lectures. Accommodation subsequent to the cruise included. Relatively cheap internet access, which was fast too I hasten to add. All this in addition to a newly decorated ship, attentive staff, acceptable food, access to the ports less travelled and an experience never to be forgotten. This trip represented real value for money and I would very much like to travel with this shipping line again. Well done and thank you "Aegean Odyssey". Ps. Clean up the funnel! Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
For someone very picky, I rather enjoyed myself on this cruise. Stateroom with balcony was spacious and well-thought-out. Our guy, Rodolfo, was charming and always available. Staff at the desk were patient and helpful (why can't the ... Read More
For someone very picky, I rather enjoyed myself on this cruise. Stateroom with balcony was spacious and well-thought-out. Our guy, Rodolfo, was charming and always available. Staff at the desk were patient and helpful (why can't the space be redesigned so they don't have to stand all day?). For the most part, the waiters in Marco Polo dining room were super-sweet and accommodating. Wine poured freely and even the champagne was delicious. The tours were exciting, if often trying. Really, the pace set in Cairo and Luxor was a Litmus test to see if one we up to snuff. I have to say that I was surprised by some of the passengers that signed up for this cruise: obese, sedentary, with serious physical disabilities (one woman had such swollen legs that she barely could shuffle along). Voyages to Antijquity were more than generous and some of their decisions were surprisingly commendable. Leaving the ship in Athens was orchestrated to the point of being coddled: we were escorted through, luggage organized with a porter, a taxi waiting to whisk us to our hotel. However, there are a few areas that could be improved. The lecturers were boring, monotoned and worst of all simplistic. For the most part, a subject was covered after, not before we visited a site. I thought that I would learn something but didn't. Doesn't queen Zenobia deserve her own half-hour talk, rather than the topic being dumbed down to include a slew of women? The lecturer on St. Catherine's Monastery had never been there and knew as much or as little as everyone else. Since the televisions barely worked -- lots of excuses about satellite reception in port or out of port -- it would have been nice to reprint the lead news stories of the day for the Library instead of useless and frustrating headlines only. Also the daily bulletin could have been used better to dispense real information. Or even better, more details could be included in the packet before the cruise. Such as the need to bring scads of little monies,especially dollars for tips everywhere. Also such need-to-know things as not to throw toilet paper down into most of these country's fragile waste systems. And maybe a local currency converter. The only tour that I wasn't pleased with was Palmyra. Hotel Dedeman was difficult. Everywhere else put water on our tables -- they tried to charge half the people. Wakeup calls ordered for all at 6:30 were ridiculous for an 8:30 departure, as there was no packing to speak of. Also, the site didn't open until 9, so we were told to sit on the bus -- and had a 4-hour morning trek in the desert without any water. Why have all six buses follow the same route? Wouldn't it be a better experience to rotate the timetable, so that one would start at the Temple of Baal while another would visit a different ruin? Also, I wish that the route to Baalbek had taken us through the center of Beirut so we could have seen it. I understand that next season remedies that with an overnight in Beirut and a trip along the coast to Byblos. Another wish would be to spend more time in the local museums, such as in Aleppo. The one in Palmyra luckily stayed open for us, as we arrived late. And we went alone to the fantastic one in Antalya, thank goodness, as we understood that the group who signed up for the optional tour including a stop at that museum found it to be too rushed. One really thoughtful gesture on the V2A part was the availability of shuttle buses with lively local guides, especially one named Huzur who informed us that the museum only accepted Turkish lira and changed a Euro note for us out of his own pocket. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
An interesting itinerary, combining cruising with some hotel stays. We flew to Cairo and due to a delayed flight spent a short night in the Fairmont Nile Hotel before beginning our tour of the Museum, Pyramids and Sphinx. Our guide for ... Read More
An interesting itinerary, combining cruising with some hotel stays. We flew to Cairo and due to a delayed flight spent a short night in the Fairmont Nile Hotel before beginning our tour of the Museum, Pyramids and Sphinx. Our guide for these visits and the following day was excellent but unfortunately this was the highlight and the subsequent guides varied from average to poor. This hotel was good apart from the dining arrangements for dinner which took place on an open veranda with a strong wind blowing. Not a place to linger over one's meal. The following day we flew to Luxor and a further overnight stay visiting the Temples and Valley of the Kings before travelling to Safaga to embark. A further overnight was spent in Palmyra whilst visiting the large site. At many of the ports we were late leaving for our tours, clearance seemed to take longer than planned and as a result we arrived at St Catherine's Monastery just 30 minutes before it was due to close. We had tendered at Sharm El Sheikh which added to the time to get ashore, although a similar sized ship was berthed alongside the quay and there appeared room for our own ship. Organization for the tours was not good, our cabin level (concierge class)gave us priority for disembarkation but in reality this didn't happen all the time. The size of the groups were large but the whisper devices were good. At St Anthony's Monastery the local monk acted as guide which was good except that the size of the party meant that those at the rear of the group seldom knew to what he was referring. Food on board was reasonable but not to the standard I have experienced on other ships. The cabin was fine and the beds comfortable. The air conditioning seemed to work well but the temperatures were never too high to test it. Speakers on board were good but it would have been nice if they had been introduced by the cruise staff and facilities made to catch up on the On board TV for any missed. TV facilities were very limited throughout the cruise and only came back as we approached Athens at the end of the cruise. I believe the idea is good but the organisation must be improved. The young staff who acted as assistants to the cruise director were very willing but one felt they lacked direction and were not sure what their responsibilities were. The cruise director was lacking in personality and failed to make announcements interesting. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
This was our first cruise of this duration, and our first visit to the Eastern Mediterranean area. We were very pleased with all aspects of the cruise - the ship was as nice as it looked online, the food and service were excellent, and the ... Read More
This was our first cruise of this duration, and our first visit to the Eastern Mediterranean area. We were very pleased with all aspects of the cruise - the ship was as nice as it looked online, the food and service were excellent, and the itinerary was extremely interesting and enjoyable. Our package included flights from the US, and it would have been nice to not have had to make a connection, but we were not able to obtain direct flights, even though they were available from and to our home airport. Our transfer from the Athens airport to the ship was smooth, and we were taken to a hospitality room at a hotel until we could board the ship. Luggage handling was very good, and our luggage was delivered to our cabin promptly. Our cabin was Standard Outside, with only a porthole, located quite forward in the ship. It was not very large, but it was comfortable. We were on the Columbus deck (4), and could hear the sound of the water quite a bit. If we were to travel on the Aegean Odyssey again, we would probably prefer a cabin on a higher deck. Our steward service was excellent, and the service in the two restaurants was always friendly and prompt. We preferred the Marco Polo restaurant on deck 3 for dinner, and thought that the food was very good. We also used the Fitness Center, and found it to be nicely equipped. All of the public areas of the ship are attractive. The internet service was reliable and reasonable in cost, and the internet room included 6 computers available 24 hours/day. Our cruise included a series of lectures concerning the history, geology, and culture of the areas which we were visiting, and all of the lecturers were very good. There was also a music program which included concerts, dance music, and cocktail music, and the musicians were all of excellent quality. The shore excursions were all very good, and kept us very busy throughout the course of the cruise. The local guides were all very informative and spoke excellent English. The excursion experience was enhanced by the use of QuietVox transmitters and receivers which enabled us to hear the guides in the course of the tour through earpieces. The boxes worked well and were a big improvement over having to keep so close to the guide or asking him or her to speak louder. All of the excursions had ratings indicating the difficulty or amount of walking, and the ratings were reasonable. Some of the tours involved a considerable amount of walking, but anyone wishing not to do so was always able to sit and wait in an area for the group to return. Disembarkation went very smoothly, although our ride from Piraeus to the airport took quite a while, perhaps due to detours caused by concern over truck demonstrations. I would recommend this ship and the Light of Greece itinerary to anyone who is interested in seeing some beautiful and historic sights in Greece and Turkey. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Ports which we visited for excursions which do not appear on the list below included the following. Nauplia - we went to the Tomb of Atreus and the Citadel of Mycenae in the morning, and then went to the Sanctuary of Aesclepius at Epidaurus. The latter included a 15000-seat theater. All of the sights were excellent. Monemvasia - this is a delightful walled city, with narrow winding streets, nice shops and restaurants, and beautiful views of the sea and the surrounding cliffs. We enjoyed the visit there very much. Samos - we visited the Archaeological Museum, a winery, and the ruins of the Temple of Thera. The views of the island were very pretty to and from these sights. Kusadasi - we had a half-day excursion to Ephesus and a full-day excursion to Aphrodisias. Both of these were spectacular, especially the ruins of the Roman condominium at Ephesus. The scenery en route and returning from Aphrodisias was very interesting - mountains and fields of citrus, cotton, olive groves, and other crops. Turkey looked very nice. Cannakale - we had excursions to Troy and to Gallipoli, and both were very good. The ferry ride over to the Gallipoli peninsula was an interesting experience - avoid using the WC under any circumstance, if at all possible! It was awful! Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Flights and Embarkation: We were pleased with our requested Lufthansa flights, timely transfers and speedy delivery of bags. Cabin: We were in the smallest class which was adequate for two. The bathroom was spacious with the shelf below. ... Read More
Flights and Embarkation: We were pleased with our requested Lufthansa flights, timely transfers and speedy delivery of bags. Cabin: We were in the smallest class which was adequate for two. The bathroom was spacious with the shelf below. Recommend you bring some washing soap and clothespins as I think everyone did some hand washing. Cabins were very quiet and stable. We were on the gangway deck #4, but didn't notice any problem with offloading noise. If you are on deck #5 you might not want to be near the internet room which is open 24hrs.Room Steward was great. Telephone directories were being redesigned so we never got one. Dining Rooms: We found the Marco Polo had more gourmet food, but we preferred the views and atmosphere of the open deck of the Terrace Buffet. The sunsets were incredible and our new friends all ate there. Our waiters, Henry and Harun were anticipating our preferences by the third night. Food was mostly good, slightly repetitive by second week. Liked wines. Excursions: Well organized, good local guides, wish we could have had some more time. Some were abbreviated because of delayed arrival in port. Delos missed because of rough seas. Only took included tours as we wanted time for local atmosphere and the Beach! Managed to get to Pireaus beach near harbor. Monemvasia beach across from harbor. Rhodes Elli Beach. Agia Nicolias, Crete along Promenade. Kusadasi Ladies Beach and Skithios on edge of harbor. Must admit I skipped one whole day trip in Kusadasi. Ship Amenities: Found the ship spotless and easy to navigate. Plenty of room to be with friends or find quiet area. Library was well stocked. We enjoyed band and concerts. Spa and gym popular. Internet rates very reasonable, sometimes a wait for terminal. Office staff helpful and especially liked exchanging money on board. Lecturers were outstanding and mixed easily with passengers. Passengers were all interested in history, literature and archaeology of area. Summary: I would recommend "Voyages to Antiquity" to any lover of history and literature. The itineraries are well planned and we wish them success in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We had taken a previous "Voyage to Antiquity" in June when the ship and itinerary were still quite new. There were several complaints from passengers on that cruise. Since then, however, the quality of the food,logistics in ... Read More
We had taken a previous "Voyage to Antiquity" in June when the ship and itinerary were still quite new. There were several complaints from passengers on that cruise. Since then, however, the quality of the food,logistics in getting on and off the boat, power problems, plumbing and air conditioning all seem to have improved a great deal. Embarkation was quick and easy with the luggage arriving promptly. The ship was very clean with no musty odors as had occurred in June. The ship's dining facilities were adequately staffed with extremely friendly waitstaff who kept our wine glasses full during dinner with very good quality wines (included in the price of the voyage). We preferred the casual Terrace Cafe to the Marco Polo dining room and ate all but 2 of our meals there. The weather was absolutely beautiful the whole time (until the last day when it rained), so we preferred to eat outside on the Terrace Cafe deck. The food, while better than last trip, was still inconsistent in quality. We had several soups and fish dishes that were excellent, however. The Marco Polo dining room is on the lower deck and has no windows, so seems dark and closed in to me. Plus, I didn't feel the quality of the food was any better than the Terrace Cafe the few times we ate there. The ship's library is outstanding with great selection of books appropriate to the theme of the voyage...history and archaeology of classical civilizations. There were several lectures geared to the sites we were visiting as well as general history and geography of the area. Most of the lectures were quite informative and interesting. The shore excursions (also included in the price), included (mostly) excellent local English-speaking guides. A couple included lunch at local restaurants, which were very nice. Our accommodations were spacious and included a balcony, great for viewing a smoking volcano (Stromboli) as we sailed on our way to the Amalfi Coast from Sicily. A mini fridge included water and soft drinks, plus a bottle of Epernay champagne (very good!). There is no clock in the staterooms, so be sure to bring your own or turn on the TV where the ship's channel has the time. In the bathroom, the shower seemed to leak as puddles of water soaked the bath mat just about every time a shower was taken. High quality, but not a luxury ship, we felt overall, this is great value for the experience gained. Though it does not have big show-style entertainment, casinos,children's facilities or big spa/gym facilities that other larger cruise lines have, it is a great trip for those who appreciate what it does offer: a caring crew, clean facilities and accommodations, and really great educational, interesting itineraries with lectures and shore excursions to match. We would definitely consider another "Voyage to Antiquity". Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Finally home at last and have time to let you all know how my cruise from Venice to Anthens was that departed Venice on 24 August. To summarize the whole experience: Simply fantastic! From the 'horror' stories that had been ... Read More
Finally home at last and have time to let you all know how my cruise from Venice to Anthens was that departed Venice on 24 August. To summarize the whole experience: Simply fantastic! From the 'horror' stories that had been submitted to this and other forums we expected the worst but were delighted by the charm and treatment given in the refurb of this old ship and the fantastic organisation of the staff and crew who all made our cruise on the Aegean Odyssey simply the best we have done. We travelled with many other well seasoned cruisers who all agreed this cruise to be one of their best trips ever also. Yes there are a few small issues on board that need to be sorted out particularly the soot emitted from the ship which is surely an environmental hazard but which we were told would be addressed and corrected when the ship goes in for maintenance at the end of the cruise season. None of these issues spoilt our experience and our odyssey continued with all of the great tours on our itinerary which all went to plan and organised with military precision. The only disappointment was that the ship was unable to traverse the Corinth Canal as planned due to debris still to be cleared from the rock falls in July but we were all treated to an alternative tour to Olympia which was extremely interesting to all. Our favorite ports of call were Zadar, Split, Korcula and Dubrovnik but our private viewing of St Mark's Basilica in Venice under lights was simply breathtaking and certainly a highlight. The food onboard was of a good standard and selections available were also very good. Service from all waiting and drinks staff was exceptional and we are missing being greeted by our name at every meal time now we are home. The room stewards also did a wonderful job and are worth their weight in gold! The cabins were on the smaller side compared to other industry standards but were exceptionally comfortable and if possible book on Deck 7 which was just so close to everything. The lectures were interesting to many of us who went on this cruise and our thirst for knowledge has been awoken particularly due to the often entertaining lectures by Thomas Mannack. Prices of drinks onboard also was very reasonable and the free house wines at dinner were all extremely nice and came from each of the countries we visited- Italy, Croatia and Greece! As we had late night departures out of Athens the company organises those travelling later in the day access to lounges at the Hotel Grand Bretagne which gave us a good base to continue our quest for more history by visiting the New Acropolis Museum and some more last minute shopping and some comfortable rest before our flights back to Oz. As stated above our experience was fantastic making many new friends from all over the world and enjoying simply the best cruise ever. To say we would recommend the Voyages to Antiquity cruises would be an understatement but we suggest you do book early as the secret is now out. Yes all fledgling company's in the cruise industry have had problems in the early stages and this includes some of the biggest cruise operators but it is obvious that this company has acted quickly to ensure your experience will be a positive one and one that you will remember with great fondness forever. Simply a fantastic experience! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
The MV Aegean odyssey is a small ship that recently entered service after a major refitting. because it's small it doesn't have some of the amenities of larger ships (casino, shows, etc.). I would characterize it as a 3 star ... Read More
The MV Aegean odyssey is a small ship that recently entered service after a major refitting. because it's small it doesn't have some of the amenities of larger ships (casino, shows, etc.). I would characterize it as a 3 star (bordering on 4 star) cruise. The ship supports the "voyages to Antiquity" program whereby a pleasant cruise is made marvellous by the inclusion of top-notch excursion and wonderful lecturers. We sailed from Rome to Sorrento, to Paestum, all around Sicily (6 nights), up the Dalmatian coast of Croatia (Split and Dubrovnik) and disembarked in Venice. The ship was very comfortable and the entertainers (piano, chamber music) were first rate. the lecturers were superb. The food on-board was OK. Wine (as much as you wanted) was included with dinner. Prices on-board the ship (drinks, laundry, Internet) were very reasonable. A substantial number of rooms had two single beds (that couldn't be pushed together). That was less than perfect for couples. The staff could not have been any better. They took every opportunity to make our trip pleasant and our days enjoyable. The excursions were included as part of the cruise. They were very good (while, as good as a tour with, say, 30 people can be). The cruise was an incredible value. I don't know how they were able to provide everything that the cruise included (airfare from Naorth AMerica, meals, accomodation, wine, excursions) for the price they charged. It was great value for the money. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
SAILING: AUG 10- 27, 2010, POMPEII IS SOMETHING SO WONDERFUL SHIP: The ship and the experience were lovely! Great dEcor throughout the ship. Really beautiful, well -appointed public areas. CABINS: My verandah cabin was lovely, spacious, ... Read More
SAILING: AUG 10- 27, 2010, POMPEII IS SOMETHING SO WONDERFUL SHIP: The ship and the experience were lovely! Great dEcor throughout the ship. Really beautiful, well -appointed public areas. CABINS: My verandah cabin was lovely, spacious, great beds, beautiful marble bathrooms, and great closet space. A tour of all the other category cabins revealed equally well-laid out, attractive, sunny cabins. Even the smallest cabins were attractive. The pictures in the brochure don't do them justice. Hope new photos in next brochure will address that. Spoke with numerous singles on the ship who loved their cabins! CREW: the Filipino crew were most friendly with all the passengers. Cabin stewards, dining room and bar staffs were delightfully attentive to guests. OFFICERS: Very approachable to one and all. DINING: The Marco Polo was 5 star in ambiance, service and above all -food. Not one mediocre meal and some simply spectacular ones. The Terrace Grill where we choose to eat most breakfasts and lunches had good food, well-prepared but could have used a little more variety. I understand that next year there is a plan to install more hot food stations, which will be welcome. The wine, while liberally poured, did not represent the area we were sailing through, i.e. Italian wines. Again, hotel manager, Matthew, commented that a new 2011 wine contract for some excellent local wines has been negotiated and these wines will be available next season. This will be a great improvement. ENTERTAINMENT: The trio and the pianist were simply superb...very low-key but very good. Bonus was having the cello player's brilliant young son come on to play the piano! Awesome! The entire ambiance on board is very relaxed and self-directed. No cruise director enticing one to get involved. Not for those seeking organized activities on board! POOL AREA: Loved the rattan furniture, the umbrellas, the arrangement of the lounges, the back rolls, big fluffy towels all made this really attractive. Some additional steps to get in and out of pool would be helpful. LIBRARY: Gorgeous room with lots of itinerary-related historical, archeological, cultural materials. World newspapers are available to read. Guests are encouraged to take a paperback and leave a paperback. Check the lower cabinets to find lots of reading material. EXCURSIONS: Very well planned and very satisfying. Some guides were better than others when it came to speaking English clearly, but this was not a big concern to guests since many guides were very good. STOPS: excellent, historic, photogenic -not a bad word to say about these! GUEST LECTURERS: All presented excellent information and insights about the area through which we were traveling . On a ship this size it was easy to strike up conversations with the lecturers throughout the day and at meals and ask particular questions of interest on a one-to-one basis. SOME PREVIOUS ISSUES FROM EARLIER VOYAGES: Soot was definitely not as bad as reported earlier. A few days were worse than others but most days were not bad. Crew worked tirelessly to keep furniture clean. Air conditioning was working quite well for most of the cruise. The last two days on board however, the air seemed to falter and the ship and cabins got quite warm. This issue is understood and will be addressed when the ship goes into dry dock at the end of the season. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
August 10 - 24, 2010 Rome to Venice - Pompeii is Something So Wonderful Flights: We were booked on a direct flight to Rome with seats together. Immigration in Rome was interesting, they not only hardly glanced at our passports, but they ... Read More
August 10 - 24, 2010 Rome to Venice - Pompeii is Something So Wonderful Flights: We were booked on a direct flight to Rome with seats together. Immigration in Rome was interesting, they not only hardly glanced at our passports, but they didn't stamp them. Interesting when we arrived in Munich on the way home and they wondered how we got to Europe in the first place!! On the return, we only had 1 hr. 20 minutes to change planes in Munich from the Venice flight, but did the run through the terminal, and made it. The Venice flight had been delayed. All went well though, and our suitcases were at our destination when we arrived. Demographics: The trip was in August, so perhaps the make-up of the passengers was a little younger than usual since there were many teachers aboard and several teenaged or near teenage children. Also, August is hot, and the towns, archeological sites, museums and churches are understandably crowded. But the use of the wonderful Vox technology, and the small tour groups, made it easy to hear our guides while having the option to wander away to take that perfect picture. We had 200 passengers and around 50 of those had taken advantage of the waived single supplement, including me. Everyone we encountered was friendly, open to having new people sit with them at lunch or dinner. Full sized buses were used, so there was no crowding, and even when they combined two groups (once or twice), just to get us to the tour site, I always had my own seat. Most, if not all, passengers were from the U.S., Australia, the U.K and Canada. Organization: Before I left I had mailed my choices of optional tours to the Fort Lauderdale office. Onboard, at the orientation, we were asked to reconfirm the tours we wished to take by filling out the same form, signing and noting our cabin number. Sometime during late day or evening, you would find your excursion ticket under your door for the next day's tour(s), with the appropriate color group noted. While they never made a mistake in my case, there was certainly time to rectify the situation if the ticket for something you intended to take didn't show up. A friend and I asked to be in the same color group, and they were happy to comply. Once your color was called you disembarked either near the Marco Polo restaurant if tendering, or on Deck 4 if in port. Those on the concierge level were called first, and then they varied the order in which the other groups were called. In the case of walking off the ship, there was only a few minutes difference, if tendering that could stretch to ½ hour although since free time at the end of tours was built in, I really doubt any tours were cut short because of your place in "line". An exception in our case was when an expected stop wasn't made on the way back to the ship, because the tour guide had spent all the time on the tour! The first day we were given both the earpiece and the Vox unit with instructions to keep the earpiece until the end of the trip, but to turn in the receiver to be recharged each night, or between tours. You had your boarding pass swiped when leaving the ship, and again when returning, so they could be sure all were onboard before sailing away. We were handed one or more bottles of ice-cold water either when getting off the tender or at the bottom of the gangway for walking or bus tours. A really nice and appreciated touch and no charge. Also under the door, usually by the time we returned from dinner, was the Journal for the next day with all the information you would need for the next day, the order and time when you could be called, briefing, concert and lecture times, restaurant and bar times, and importantly, the name of the ship's agent in each port and how to reach them in an emergency. On my way up to breakfast each morning I would stop for the map for that day's port, at the excursion side of the reception desk. On the opposite end of the desk you could help yourself to the day's crossword and Sudoku puzzles. Changes to Schedule: We had three changes to the schedule. The stop to take optional tours in Ravello or Positano and Amalfi was changed to cruising along the Amalfi coast. This area was determined to be too rough to tender and so the decision was made to skip it. We had the reason and the decision in hand before we left for the trip. The second change was a tender stop in Syracuse rather than being in port - two explanations - either the other "big ship" got there first, or they had reserved the spot two years ago before Aegean Odyssey even got started. Either way, it was okay except it meant four trips in the tender since we had both am and pm tours. I will say though that they run two tenders to bring you back to the ship, so about every 15 minutes you had the opportunity to return after free time. While these are not brand new tenders, we did hear they were better than those used on the earlier trips, and there were so many crew to help you on and off and help get you to your seat, that I never heard of any injuries - it's just very awkward to stumble around while the 'boat' is rocking trying to get to a seat. The third change was, again, rough seas, which resulted in a port stop in Messina for our stop at Taormina instead of tendering to Naxos. They arranged for the local agents to move all the coaches to Messina for the day's tour and put together a short synopsis of the area which was under our doors when we woke up. They also printed maps of Messina available at reception. The downside was that you had to take the bus back rather than being able to cable car down and wander around Naxos, perhaps go to the beach, and then take the tender back to the ship. But, since we were in port there was the opportunity to visit Messina's churches, stores, etc. You just have to go with the flow when you are cruising, and sometimes it's a very pleasant surprise! Cabin: We were allowed to board early with a few others who had arrived in Rome on early flights. We got the cruise terminal before it opened at 9 am and were told the embarkation wouldn't take place until 2 pm. As you can imagine, that was very upsetting. The ship was called though, and an exception was made. One of the staff came and after we went through security at the terminal, walked us to the ship where we checked in. Some of our cabins were even ready, and we were told they would provide lunch between 12-1 in the Marco Polo Dining room. My friend and I toured the ship, and then stretched out on the lounges by the pool for a rest until lunch. The other thing you can do if you get there early is to take a shuttle into Civitavecchia and walk around there until it is time to board. They do take your luggage to the ship, and it's up to you whether to keep your carry-on bag. Since we didn't realize there was the potential of a five-hour wait, we had held on to ours, so the walking around option wasn't very enticing, and especially not for others who had been traveling for 12 - 15 hours. Luggage came by 1:15, I was able to set up my charge account and buy internet time by 2:20 - I chose 4 hours for $18 and I never went to the internet room when a terminal wasn't available. Cabins: Since we were onboard early and got to see some doors open while the staff cleaned, I saw the owner's suite (wow) and some balcony rooms on concierge level - they made two cabins from the old three and looked quite roomy. My friend had a single on deck 5 - Belvedere - with a maybe ¾ sized bed. Her only complaint was no lip on the shower, and occasional issues with the water draining too slowly and getting the bathroom wet, and at one point required a technician from the ship - by the way, the cabin steward accompanied him to her room and introduced them. There is a built in line for drying clothes in the shower. I was on deck 4 - Columbus Deck - and had two twin beds with a chest of drawers between with three good sized drawers, and a "desk" that pulled out from over the top drawer. The closet had 20 hangers and another cabinet with four smaller drawers, and the safe. Plenty of room for one, and not bad for two people. There was a shelf under the sink in the bathroom and a fair-sized counter (for a ship). The rooms were kept immaculately clean and it was lovely having my bed made, the chocolates, a rose in the bud vase, and some other nice touches. A large bottle of water was delivered to each cabin the first day. I had a smallish window, but it was wonderful while we were sailing or in a port that wasn't eye level to the room. Then I had to close the curtains, so that's the downside of a port-side room on a low deck! The cabin was "J" class. The upside is that I never felt the motion others felt when we were rocking and rolling. Gentle rocking and slight vibration from the ship combined to give me a great night sleep! I never heard of any air conditioning problems on this trip - although I did hear someone complain his cabin was too cool. He might not have learned how to close it - you had to adjust the opening by reaching up to the unit on the ceiling. Food: Marco Polo, Terrace Cafe, Tapas on Terrace: I found the food overall to be quite good, but I am not a gourmet either for food or wine. After a few days we took to scanning the menus displayed at reception to decide whether to do formal dining in Marco Polo (no shorts or t-shirts), or the buffet at the Terrace Cafe - we usually ate outside when at the Terrace, and true the chairs have faint black streaks from the former problem of soot from the funnel, but it seems a temporary adaptation was made that has helped quite a bit. If I didn't feel comfortable sitting, or spotted a speck, I asked for napkins to be put on the seat. Once when I forgot and did get a spot, it came out easily with a travel detergent stick. There were always fish, meat, fowl, and vegetarian choices. Some nights we did tapas and had a glass of wine, then went to the buffet for dinner, more wine, and then the dessert bar for sweets - decadent. The wines were from Sicily or Croatia, so it seems they are listening to complaints and serving local wine. An interesting statistic from the debarkation Journal: we consumed 4000 bottles of water and 8000 bottles of wine - that seems about right! And if you hadn't had enough to eat, at 10:30 pm they served after dinner snacks in the Charleston Lounge. Two other complaints have been addressed - there is now an early-bird breakfast from 6:00 - 6:30 of coffee and pastries on Lido Deck, then breakfast 6:30 - 8:30, and then late-risers coffee and pastries again on the Lido Deck until 11 am. Also 24-hour tea, coffee and ice water on the Lido Deck. Fruit trays were passed around while sunning at the pool. And - afternoon tea most days from 4:00 to 4:45 with Tim at the piano. Pool: Complaints from earlier cruises have been responded to and there are safety bars all around the pool and a longer ladder for ease in climbing out. The pool is filled from the sea well before getting to a port, so the water was fresh and clean, and is salt water of course - made for lovely floating around. When the sea was too rough, however, they drained the pool or if it was already empty, didn't fill it for safety reasons. It was full most days when there was an opportunity to use it. It is small, but for the number of people who actually used it, quite adequate. There is also a hot tub, and showers, and they were often used if someone wanted to get wet and sunbathe and the pool was empty. Lectures, Briefings and Ambassador Lounge: We had superb lecturers on board - since it was August, perhaps we were lucky to have several professors during their summer break. We also had a former career diplomat, two authors including Mary Beard who has written extensively on Pompeii! Lecturers mingled with passengers, and were always available for questions. The Ambassador lounge was usually comfortable, and I never needed a sweater or shawl. The sound system was good, and someone worked controls at the back of the room to ensure that. A large screen came down from the ceiling if the talks included a slide presentation. We were treated to three concerts by the in-house Romanian trio, and a special treat when the son of one of the players, a 19 year old pianist who has been named Romania's top pianist two years running, gave a concert. Another night his father and he performed, and the final concert, he performed one more piano solo. Just wonderful. In the Charleston Lounge there was Tim at the keyboard with all the bells and whistles. On a sea day they tried music trivia to see how it would be received, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. Itinerary: This itinerary "Pompeii is Something So Wonderful" WAS wonderful. With a total of 11 ports, we saw unbelievable things, had excellent, knowledgeable local tour guides, and some amazing extras for example the option to visit the Palazzo Gangi in Palermo and see the ballroom featured in the movie "The Leopard". It's a magnificent place. After a tour we were given sweets and juices. The downside is it was hot inside - it was August - and also, for me at least, a little expensive at 55 Euro. Still, it was a once in a lifetime experience. The included early evening visit to St. Mark's in Venice was awesome as the lights came on all over the Basilica - a private showing just for our ship. During the trip we were immersed in temples, museums, famous paintings and mosaics in churches, wonderful towns with cobblestone streets and little alleys full of surprises, Dubrovnik with its wall, and the Palace of Diocletian at Split, and finally Venice - I rest my case! And the unexpected, like in Trapani where we docked overnight and managed to catch up with the parade of worshippers, carrying a heavy statue of the Virgin Mary, chanting a prayer, for the Feast of the Assumption. The parade wound throughout the streets for hours, and the night finished with fireworks that we watched from lounge chairs on the aft Lido deck, as if it was our own private display. Hundreds and hundreds of people crowded the streets - just a magical night. Dress: Hot and sunny every day - not a drop of rain. Good advice from the boards to have an umbrella for shade, hats of course, water (ship provided), fans, spritz bottle. Shoes with good ridged soles were very important on slippery streets, and climbing rock and sand covered hills to get to temples. This is not a trip for someone with serious walking difficulties. Also, because the churches required shoulders covered and most required pants or skirts be below the knees, you couldn't really dress as minimally as you may have wanted. One tour guide had a strapless short dress on though, and with a scarf managed to get past the "shoulders covered" rule. To wear sleeveless and then have to put on a jacket or shawl in those hot churches was unbearable, so I tended to wear short-sleeved tops and Capri length pants. Because of the heat, we did wind up changing every day after the tours, and wore dresses or dressy tops with slacks for dinner. Conclusion: I've cruised on the mega-ships and on riverboats, and I loved this size ship. I think it was a great value for the price, and I wish them much success in the future. Many I talked to fully intend to book a tour for next year. I feel confident they will continue responding to passenger issues. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
My eldest daughter, Sarah Saunders, a chef and lecturer on historical and contemporary food subjects, surprised me with her invitation to join her on the Aegean Odyssey cruise around the coast of Italy, Sicily and Croatia this August. I ... Read More
My eldest daughter, Sarah Saunders, a chef and lecturer on historical and contemporary food subjects, surprised me with her invitation to join her on the Aegean Odyssey cruise around the coast of Italy, Sicily and Croatia this August. I discovered the special pleasure of listening to Sarah and the other terrific lecturers which stretched both my brain and imagination. We visited classical sites early in the morning to beat the crowds led by well informed local guides and I met many interesting passengers from around the world. Delicious meals were both informal and formal, local wine was always plentiful and all the staff were incredibly attentive and charming. We even discovered mutual friends of Felice, the Italian chef on board, who ran the hotel we stayed in for many years near his home-town in Italy. As a result of his on-deck fish demonstration with Sarah, I can now prepare and cook a huge sea bass with complete confidence! Sunbathing with a book by the pool, daily swims in fresh sea water and a surprise birthday dinner on board with new friends all made this the best possible mother and daughter holiday. I will cherish late night chats in our cabin about our experiences at sea and my maiden voyage in the cruise world and I congratulate all those who worked so hard to make our trip such a total success! This small 21st century cruise ship which offers every creature comfort plus entertaining talks about the history and culture of classical sites, with occasional trips to food markets and practical demonstrations of local culinary arts, is in my view a most refreshing and important contribution to intelligent 21st century tourism! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
We travelled on the Aegean Odyssey in June, and what follows is a detailed review of our experience and a deconstruction of their brochure to demonstrate how they simply failed to deliver on their marketing hype. We were spending our own ... Read More
We travelled on the Aegean Odyssey in June, and what follows is a detailed review of our experience and a deconstruction of their brochure to demonstrate how they simply failed to deliver on their marketing hype. We were spending our own money (I have no connection with the travel industry) which explains this webpage. We're avid readers of Tripadvisor, and we first read the bad reviews, screening out those that are from people that clearly chose a hotel based on little or no research. If there are a sufficient number of genuinely bad reviews, there seems little point reading the good ones. This review is the one I wished we'd seen before we booked. "Choosing a holiday is a big decision" And sadly it's one we got wrong. In April 2010, three of us booked their third ever cruise (the maiden voyage was May 4, 2010) and our excuses are that there were no reviews at the time, and that we were seduced by the itinerary, the included package of excursions, and the fact that "house wines from countries we will visit" were included with dinner. That the ship had been "entirely rebuilt" immediately prior to our holiday seemed a bonus, since the ship would be, in many respects, brand new. Now nobody likes to admit they have mucked up, but we feel we owe it to our fellow cruisers (especially those that have cruised before on a 'proper' cruise line) to warn them. OK, the holiday was cheap, but if you see their brochure, it seems fairly upscale, thus the company is not positioning itself at the cheap end of the market and you might therefore assume that these early cheap prices are to gain market share, rather than because the ship is old and deficient and because the catering, admin etc were all below par. Now you could argue that much of this is subjective, but what is not subjective are the Paris MOU Inspection Reports the ship received first on 10 May 2010, six days after it set sail on its inaugural cruise, which revealed 27 'deficiencies', then 11 weeks later on 27 July 2010 which revealed 'only' 8. (NB you might not wish to read these reports if you're booked to travel and are of a nervous disposition.) Three questions: 1. Why was it not held in port in May until these things were put right? 2. Was this first inspection triggered by the fact that ownership of the ship changed on 30 April 2010? 3. Why was its registration switched from Greece to Malta on 1 April 2010? Inside the brochure "you will find all you need to know about our ship, the Aegean Odyssey" I think not. There are two problems with the brochure: first, much of what it does contain is hyperbole written many months before the first cruise ["your waiter will remember whether you take coffee or tea, and the barman whether you like your martini shaken or stirred" which reads like some trainee copywriter's wet dream] and second is what it does not contain. We knew the ship was old and remodelled before we booked, but the assertion that "The Aegean Odyssey is a premium class ship" is laughable, it is basically a clapped-out wreck. It may have some premium class cabins, but the ship itself belched black smoke virtually 24/7, even when stationary (see above and top left). Everything aft of the funnel got covered in soot the whole time, including in your breakfast coffee, juice and milk jug. And since they also left the seats and lounger cushions out 24/7, the combination of dew and soot meant that the seats you got to sit on for breakfast or lay on round the pool would therefore be damp and dirty (see left). You could obviously forget wearing any light-coloured shorts or skirt around the ship. "A good night's sleep" But as well as the muck from the funnel there was the incessant din and vibration throughout the ship — particularly if you were aft and on deck 4 and below. The brochure heading above then bangs on about fine bedlinen, however the highest threadcount in the world is useless if your cabin is so noisy that you can't get the aforementioned good night's sleep. I reckon that you can gauge the quality of a cruise ship by whether its cheaper cabins are nevertheless tolerably quiet and comfortable, in which case I reckon these guys will struggle to fill the ship. Web poster Boronia on the 27 July cruise said that "there were only 161 guests and a total of 179 crew" - a load factor of not much over 40%. That doesn't of course stop them trying to get forward bookings, but I doubt many people who follow the web will hand over their balance until the current torrent of bad publicity dries up. The Aegean Odyssey "provides the best features of a mid-size ship such as passenger space" Now one of the things you learn when you discover cruising is that not all cruise ships are created equal, not even those with same number of passengers. The passenger : space ratio** is an indication of how spacious a cruise ship is, and is derived by dividing the number of passengers into a ship's tonnage. So with a PSR of only 30.6 (well below that of any premium class ship) any suggestion that the Aegean Odyssey is particularly spacious is not credible. ** This has nothing to do with cabin size; that's largely a case of you get what you pay for. However if they were talking about the cabins then I need to point out that neither of the mock-ups of the Inside and Outside cabins shown on p69 of the brochure matches the cabins we had, nor do they match the floor plans on p67. There is no room for the stool shown and we had to ask for it to be removed; basically there is insufficient room to swing a kitten, let alone a cat. Incidentally, the reason we had two cabins is that while we were at dinner one night the bathroom leaked water (at least we hope it was just water) onto the carpet under the bed and in front of the bathroom door (moral: don't leave any clothes on the floor). Housekeeping came and took a look, and promised to fix the problem, dry out the carpet etc in the morning. However, come the dawn, the leak was all the way out into the corridor, hence we got moved. The good news was that the new cabin was merely noisy, rather than deafening. Time for a soak in the pool Apart from the black smoke and soot, you have to wonder what the people who commissioned the refit were thinking of. I don't know about you, but when relaxing on the sundeck at sea I like to lower myself down the steps into a nice pool, and luxuriate up to my chest, ideally hanging off the rail chatting to my fellow passengers. Well you can't do that here: first the pool is over six feet deep, there's no rail around it to hang on to, and there are only three steps in. But surely keen swimmers can cope with this? Er, No. When at sea, the pool resembles a tidal wave, making entering the pool a mortal hazard (see right). At least one review says the pool was drained while at sea, but this was not the case for most of our voyage. Ironically the ship was docked in Venice overnight at the end of our cruise and the pool was drained while we were in port. Makes you wonder why they bothered having a pool, especially since many people that could have coped with the depth were put off by the fact that the water was freezing cold. Talking of mortal hazards... By the end of the cruise, the ship was beginning to resemble a hospital A&E, many of the injuries due to dysfunctional elements of the ship (eg. the lifts). But the most dysfunctional element of all was the ship's tendering, which was shambolic for the whole cruise, even when the sea was like a millpond. Clearly these guys have never done this before, and haven't the faintest idea of how to lash a tender to the side platform; thus it a) took forever, and b) was frankly dangerous. It tells you something when the captain and two other officers have to supervise the process (see left). The antiquated and therefore slow and inefficient tenders themselves had a range of problems, including dangerous metal beams that you could easily bang your head on (should have been padded), an exposed drive shaft (just waiting for someone to dangle some clothing in), to nothing to hang onto inside the tender. trip going down and you'll know about itAnd check out the 2" lip at the top of every external staircase, with no downward warning notice. An accident waiting to happen if ever there was one. "Wonderful food, good wine" is a boast of the brochure, which then refers to the Mediterranean's "gastronomic culture of using the very best fresh local ingredients cooked in a simple but delicious and healthy style [being] the inspiration for the restaurants on the Aegean Odyssey" Web poster Seebaer says that "...Gerry Herrod is on top, meaning he dictates pretty much to the Caterer what he likes and dislikes". Hello? GH was not on board, but was shadowing the cruise on his yacht for some of the time, and I seriously doubt that he joined his customers for what was frankly works canteen food, much of it tasting frozen and anything but fresh. To make matters worse, the food put in front of you often bore little resemblance to the courses described on the utterly pretentious menus (check out the brochure for an example, which sounds as if the aforementioned copywriter popped out and borrowed one from some swanky Soho restaurant). But think of the Italian/Sicilian/Croatian house wine... "As we are in the Mediterranean, we do not think it is appropriate to serve dinner without wine. House wines are from countries we will visit and are included. Other vintages are available at reasonable prices." This is obviously aimed at people who enjoy decent wine with their meals at home (eg, me), and who wish to continue to do so onboard. The (chargeable) winelist was pathetic, with a nondescript rosE at nearly $30, including the 12.5% automatically-added service charge, while a Chianti (and presumably the rest of their wines) was supplied by a merchant in Piraeus. The house wines were supposed to have been "carefully sourced from Italy, Croatia, Sicily and Greece" but this care clearly had more to do with cost and availability than with quality and topicality; the house wine was 90% Greek [Kretikos, from Crete]; drinkable, but basically plonk. Not one wine from Sicily or Croatia was available on a cruise that circumnavigated Sicily and travelled the length of the Croatian coast. "Meticulous planning" The brochure trumpets this but it became obvious within 24 hours of embarkation that the catering and excursion teams were not 'joined-up' (it turns out the Cruise Director had legged it a week or so previously and would not be replaced during our cruise). Meals were served at ludicrous times, although they probably seem normal to anyone living in a care home for the elderly. For example, dinner was often served 18:00-20:00 (they are obviously not planning on attracting any Spanish customers!) Meal times were emphatically not "arranged to suit the shore excursion programme" or other events. For example: an excursion did't get back on the ship until 18:30 whereas the Captain's cocktail party started at 17:45 (but at least they had the good sense to re-run this a week or so later). Chaotic administration This was exacerbated by the hectic schedule, however much of this chaos was made worse by an almost pathological inability of the staff to communicate effectively with passengers. As a tiny example, in Palermo we took advantage of the "frequent nighttime stays in port [with] the opportunity of going ashore to enjoy an after-dinner stroll". We therefore sauntered out of the gates of the port to enjoy some espresso and grappa [at $3.50 for an espresso on the ship we weren't prepared to risk this being as rubbish as the ordinary coffee, and we seriously doubt the bar stocked any grappa]. An hour later, at 21:30, we are confronted by locked gates. Luckily a member of the crew with some bottled water on his shoulder** happened by who knew that the gate was shut at 21:00 and he escorted us to the alternative entrance a hundred or so metres away. So why weren't we told about this when they swiped our card as we left the ship? **apparently the crew can't stomach the desalinated water on board, and we have to say it often tasted pretty disgusting. Paul Motter has put up a photo of the brown water that came out of the tap, but here's one I took of what got left behind in the sink. "The Aegean Odyssey has been designed to offer the sophisticated traveller every comfort at sea" Oh, really? According to Chambers, one definition of sophisticated is 'someone accustomed to an elegant lifestyle'. Well on our cruise such people were either thin on the ground or were seething with frustration, like us. If you've travelled extensively throughout Europe, and stayed in some pretty sophisticated hotels, enjoying gourmet food, fine local wines, real coffee etc then this ship is as far removed from that type of sophistication as you can get. The food is mediocre, the wines cheap, the coffee tasteless and the breakfasts typical of a cheap motel. As for comfort, I feel sure that the travel press guys in the Owners Suite may have been reasonably comfortable but down in steerage (Deck 4) in your 2'6"-wide bed the situation is a tad different. However, even they can't avoid the sometimes stifling conditions in the main dining room or the lounge (for a lecture or cocktail party) when the air conditioning goes on the blink. But the lectures will be good, won't they? Regarding the lectures and how these were organised, the Ambassador Lounge had poor acoustics yet faulty mikes, a small screen, and an old music stand as a lectern. It was badly laid out, since you entered the room near where the speaker was located (rather than as usual, at the back), and it was often flooded with light (making visual aids a nightmare). Leaving part way through a lecture therefore tended to disrupt the proceedings somewhat. The scheduling of the lectures, as with so many other things, was poor. NB there is no cinema. In a nutshell There are a whole load of things about Voyages to Antiquity that are flawed, too many to outweigh the positives of the itinerary and the excursions. On the one hand, some of the problems could be fixed with a) better training (or more experienced crew), b) a whole new approach to food and wine, and c) more joined-up and enlightened thinking on the general management side; on the other hand are problems that can't be fixed easily, such as the engine/soot/noise/vibration, stair lips, pool layout/depth. But costs would undoubtedly have to rise (if only to pay for a higher standard of cuisine and better quality table wines) if they implemented the former, and this would make the offering even less attractive, given the difficulties of implementing the latter. Basically Mr Herrod should have stayed retired if this is the best he can do. He bought an 'antiquated' ship (somewhat ironic really), knocked a few pairs of cabins into one, messed about with funnel (and apparently made the soot problem worse!), gave it a lick of paint, bought some nice sunloungers and orange cushions, and then (according to what we were hearing on the ship) ran out of money. And probably also time, since it was still being refurbished during our cruise (among other things we gained a shelf under our sink about a week in). Reports on the web and other sources since we disembarked have detailed a steady stream of things that are being worked on. So did we complain while we were on board? Well, when we (like many other people on the cruise) expressed our dissatisfaction at numerous issues to reception, we were mostly fobbed off and/or told that there was nothing they could do. But let's imagine some hypothetical questions and answers: Q. When we arrived on the ship from the flight that your company arranged for us, we discovered that the safety drill** had taken place hours before while we were waiting for our bags to arrive on the luggage carousel. To add insult to injury you put a letter under our door telling us that our names were called but that we failed to respond, despite the fact that you knew we could not possibly be aboard, as you had not processed us for embarkation. What do you intend to do about appraising us of the safety drill? A. Late arrivals will have their own drill tomorrow [as if that was ever likely to happen with the hectic excursion schedule, and it was never mentioned again] ** this cavalier attitude to safety, plus the unbelievably inept way they carried out tendering, left us with no confidence whatever that people would all have been fine had there been a real evacuation of the ship. Q. I'm not happy that the funnel belches black smuts all the time over the dining chairs and sunlounger cushions, which are always left out overnight and thus get damp. I now have dirty shorts. A. There's nothing we can do about the smoke. Do you want your shorts laundering?** [as if that is going to make any long-term difference, and you'll be without them for 24 hours] ** I did in fact send a pair of white shorts to be laundered, at my expense, but when they returned they were still grubby and I asked not be charged. They said they would launder them again but I said No, I wished to wear them the following day. They laundered them again anyway, and it was only when I came to wear them that I discovered they had written my cabin number on the pocket in indelible ink. What would possess anyone to do this; have they never heard of safety pins? Q. Our cabin is so noisy with the throbbing engine and deafening A/C that we can barely get a wink of sleep, and the beds are far too narrow, at about 2'6" wide. A. You chose one of our cheap cabins, which are noisier, and there's no room for bigger beds. Q. The pool is too deep to stand in, being over six feet deep at its shallowest, plus there are only 3 tiny steps to climb down, no rail, and I should have expected to see a lifebelt [of which there are very few around the ship] A. That's the way it was originally built and it wasn't changed as a result of the refit. Q. Your brochure says that "meal times will be arranged to suit the shore excursion programme", so can you explain how we are supposed to eat breakfast, return to our cabin to clean our teeth and be ready to disembark by 07:30, when a) you don't start serving breakfast until 07:00 and b) the serving queues are a mile long? A. The wait staff don't come on duty until 07:00 [some not until 07:30 like the 2nd 'egg man'], staff rotas were planned before we knew the excursion times and it is difficult to change them...blah blah blah Q. Why do you serve iced water to people around the pool in glass, surely this is dangerous? If someone sitting on the very edge of the pool dropped theirs, you would have to drain the pool and ensure every last shard was gone. Someone has in fact just knocked over and broken their beer glass on the sun deck, and I saw housekeeping sweep the debris into the gutter.** A. We have no plastic 'glasses'. ** These gutters have soot in them each morning, presumably as a result of hosing down the decks at dawn; see right. By the end of the day the decks are filthy again, as I found out when I walked along the deck barefoot, not to mention moving a piece of furniture to reveal a build-up of sooty debris — so you wouldn't want to accidentally drop your light-coloured top. Q. We're not happy with being served almost exclusively Greek wine on a cruise that is almost exclusively in Italy, and does not feature Greece. A. The ship is provisioned in Piraeus and we have loads of this stuff to use up before we can buy any more. Q. The dishes we have just been served either do not match their description on the menu and/or were of poor quality. For example the bruschetta with beef, came with beetroot (not beef) and the Key Lime pie tasted like rubber. A. The bruschetta got lost in translation between Indonesian and Greek (or whatever) and the chef has never been to the Keys and thinks that Key Lime pie should taste like that. A disregard for safety Self-evident from the above is that there was a dangerous disregard for safety. I have to mention here the lift doors. Normally, when you enter a lift as the doors are closing they spring back (using a magic eye). Not here, they feel like a power press. Apparently some elderly gentleman was quite badly hurt as a result, and he probably wasn't alone. Then there's the stair lips, the absence of sufficient lifebelts, the glass round the pool, before you get to the substandard tender safety, which has the potential to lead to serious injury. Customer service This is also dysfunctional, both at HQ and on the ship. As a specific example, our flights (out of Heathrow) were relayed to us via our cruise consolidator, as a result of which we agreed to proceed and paid the full balance, due to the late date. Almost immediately the company came back saying that there were no seats left out of Heathrow, we'd therefore have to fly out of Gatwick. We refused to accept this, saying that we had just been offered and had accepted a firm itinerary, and if they couldn't resolve this we wished to cancel, whereupon seats out of Heathrow were miraculously obtained. In common with many other people's experience, there was never any hint of an apology, merely a 'take-it-or-leave-it' attitude. Complaints on the ship were batted away and mostly not addressed, and we filled in a final questionnaire but unsurprisingly we have not been contacted by them as a result. By now, most readers will imagine me to be a regular Victor Meldrew and will be wondering whether there was any good news. I can only reply that we wanted very much to like this cruise. The retro lines of the Aegean Odyssey are splendid and when its engines were new it may well have been a pleasure to travel on; but those days are long in the past. So we'd recommend this itinerary and these excursions to anyone, just not on this ship. Also, giving praise where it's due, it was good to see bottled water issued on all excursions, on which the QuietVox systems worked brilliantly. But don't just take our word for it There is now a lot of comment on Voyages to Antiquity on the web and some fairly hair-raising stuff appears on a number of web forums. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
The mid-size 550-passenger MV Aegean Odyssey's exterior is pleasingly sleek, white with a navy stripe with Neptune's trident in gold as her symbol. Completely rebuilt in Piraeus Greece she once plied the Aegean as a ferry before ... Read More
The mid-size 550-passenger MV Aegean Odyssey's exterior is pleasingly sleek, white with a navy stripe with Neptune's trident in gold as her symbol. Completely rebuilt in Piraeus Greece she once plied the Aegean as a ferry before being reinvented in 2010 as a tonic for those fascinated with the art, archeology and culture of classical civilizations. What she proves to be with her personal service and just right size is an antidote to the large ship experience with their endless queues, cafeteria type noshing, noisy children and forced onboard activities. The brain and chairman behind this exciting venture is, not surprisingly, Gerry Herrod well-loved by independent travelers for his adventurous seafaring spirit embodied in the Marco Polo, the ship that pioneered explorations in Antarctica and the Ocean Pearl, which exclusively plied the exotic Far East. He consistently brings to cruisers a valuable and novel travel experience. Registered in Valetta Malta (after some red tape with the previous Greek registration) the reinvented Aegean Odyssey sailed from Piraeus for its inaugural cruise THE LIGHT OF GREECE on May 4, 2010. Summer voyages will see the Mediterranean, Aegean and Adriatic. Beginning this autumn she sails to North Africa the Red Sea and in the Eastern Mediterranean. The ports of call chosen by Herrod and vetted by Lord Norwich are a fascination as are some of the included tours. This review is written from my experience on the SICILY IS THE KEY TO EVERYTHING itinerary, the second in a series of voyages aptly titled VOYAGES TO ANTIQUITY. Although my husband and myself are rank novices where ancient history is concerned we admire the concept and fascination that it holds and here is where the Aegean Odyssey stands tall. The Aegean Odyssey takes 'firsts' in this hallowed department with her line up of lectures by renowned archeologists, writers and professors such as the celebrated Lord John Julius Norwich. Norwich is author of the fascinating tome The Middle Sea about the Eastern and Central Mediterranean. Her library should be the envy of all ships including the luxury vessels that have more space. The Aegean Odyssey's library faultlessly imparts a compelling sense of place, an integral ingredient to the enjoyment of foreign travel. There are archaeology, history and art books galore with a raft of titles (travelogue and fiction) set in the ports of call. This includes modern detective fiction (Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbane among others) for those in a lighter frame of mind. Hard to find fiction such as the scandalous South Island by Norman Douglas first published in 1917 with an introduction by Jan Morris winks from the shelves. So do travelogues from famous names throughout the century such as Jan Morris, Norman Lewis, Evelyn Waugh and Charles Dickens. All in all the collection of books will thrill all whose eyes rove her shelves. But is a cultural cruise enough to make a memorable and stress relieving holiday? To let you know, I have been a travel writer for thirty years but took this cruise as a paying passenger as I wanted to sample the cruise as a guest. I was lured by that peripatetic occupation as a child of ten when my family sailed the Med on the MS Europa. There, swinging my feet and losing one shoe overboard, I filled my leisure time in a deck chair while chronicling my experiences in my school notebook. Since then I have professionally penned stories for books, magazines and the Internet. So, for one as spoiled for travel as I am: the answer is an emphatic No. Just culture is not quite enough. My mandate: Sleep well, eat well, be comfortable and bring home memories of experiences as unlike home as possible. The choosing of a cruise (for me) encompasses the following: A small to mid size ship with outstanding and unusual ports of call paired with onboard creature comforts. Our cruise complies. The spacious stateroom with balcony (we chose to pay the price) is quiet. We sleep like babies in our gentle sea cradle (two stabilizers) on quality Linea Strom mattress with high thread count bed linen. A bath tub in our stateroom (only with some balcony staterooms) is a definite plus. Dining and lounge chairs in public rooms with good back support ensure leisurely meals and pre and postprandial drinks. The two comfortable bars with live music are well stocked with premium liquors. To cap all this, the cuisine is excellent and like the books in that wonderful library suits the ports of call. At meals there is fresh produce and often meat and fish purveyed locally by the fussy for quality hotel manager and chef. The decks boast a decent sized outdoor pool, Jacuzzi, shady areas with comfortable loungers for quiet time and an outdoor dining area. The Aegean Odyssey has lovely wooden decking making it an aesthetically pleasing whole. Did I forget personal service? MS Aegean Odyssey doesn't. Concession Cruise Solutions provides all staff except for officers. Unusual though this may seem everything and everyman and woman is up to the mark including an Italian Master Chef whose cuisine beats five star Regent(except specialty restaurants) hands down. Italian hotel manager Maurie's deft hand runs the show. Reception takes care of guests' bidding with a smile. Her colorful brochure boasts a semi-inclusive cruise with tips, tours and wine with dinner. All good things. Regarding the total cruise experience (if you ask my opinion), I'd change the one seating dinner hour from an old persons' 6 to 8 pm to a more sophisticated 7 to 9 pm. I would have breakfast served until 10 am rather than rush to be seated with food by an early bird 8:30. I would insist on more than one choice of the inclusive red or white wine at dinner. As is any new product there are some new ship type glitches and these problems will be overcome. Tomorrow we disembark in lovely and classical Rome. And, as the old adage says "Rome wasn't built in a day." Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We have just completed a cruise with Voyage to Antiquity from Istanbul to Venice called " The Holly City of Byzantium". Having done two Orient Line, and one Voyage of Discovery cruises over the last 4 years we were excited to try ... Read More
We have just completed a cruise with Voyage to Antiquity from Istanbul to Venice called " The Holly City of Byzantium". Having done two Orient Line, and one Voyage of Discovery cruises over the last 4 years we were excited to try this new venture by Gerry Harrod. As this was a new product being marketed as a "premium" ship which provided at least the same standard as past ships as mentioned. The Ship, Aegean Odyssey, had completed 4 cruises following a total strip down and refit in Greece. The interior was very Spartan and hospital in decoration. Although there has been a reduction in the number of passengers to 380 the cabin we had was one of the smallest we have ever had. Clean but very basic as was the whole ship. There was a strong sewerage smell throughout the whole cruise and the air conditioning failed early in the cruise which made it uncomfortable. There was a choice of two restaurants ,one the formal Marco Polo and the Bistro. The standard of food was poor to start with but improved in the Marco Polo but remained poor in the Bistro which offered little choice and variety. The service although friendly was slow and disorganised. Average sitting in the Marco Polo would last an average of 1 1/2 to 2 hours. There was now 24 hour coffee or ice water available outside of dining hours. There was coffee available at the bar for a price. Wine was provided as included in the cruise price although no choice apart from white or red wine. Entertainment was mainly around lecture based on the cruise theme which was popular and well attended. There was a female piano player and vocalist as well as a musical trio. Tours provided as part of the cruise was first class in standard and focused on the theme of the cruise. Overall it was not a happy ship for passengers or crew as many problems seemed to occur regularly. We were disappointed overall with this product and would not rate this ship near what we had experienced in past cruises, at best 2 star if that. It failed in most areas and we would not recommend it even with the inclusions provided in the price. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Aegean Odyssey Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 3.6
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 2.0 3.2
Public Rooms 3.0 3.8
Fitness Recreation 2.0 3.0
Family 1.0 3.0
Shore Excursion 4.5 4.1
Enrichment 4.0 4.3
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.3

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