Aegean Odyssey Review
- Pro: Unique itineraries visiting ancient civilisations with excellent onboard service
- Con: Less than a quarter of cabins have private balconies
- Bottom Line: Cultural cruises with like-minded passengers
Aegean Odyssey Overview
The Aegean Odyssey is the sole ship in the Voyages to Antiquity fleet and was originally launched as a ferry. This decades-old vessel was radically overhauled to upgrade cabins and public areas, though the engine is still original. The ship has a casual sophistication, via its decor which is appealing and unfussy, using predominantly a light colour palette throughout the ship. Paintings and artwork in cabins and public areas are in keeping with the antiquities theme. In the lobby and library are intricate ship models of ancient ocean going vessels on display as are several busts of Roman and Grecian warriors.
Of course, the ship's USP is not its hardware but the specialised itineraries it sails -- taking its historic-minded passengers to visit remnants of great civilisations around the Mediterranean. Aegean Odyssey entered service in 1973 and around 15 years later was converted to a cruise ship, sailing under at least two other names, both of them containing "Aegean". The vessel had been docked in Greece for about four years when veteran cruise line entrepreneur Gerry Herrod bought it in 2009 and renamed it Aegean Odyssey.
Inspired by "The Middle Sea", a book about the fabled ancient civilizations that flourished in the eastern and central Mediterranean, Herrod teamed up with its author, Lord John Julius Norwich, to put together cruise itineraries focused on the still-visible remains of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilisations.
After a significant refurbishment -- including reconstruction of everything from cabins and public rooms to the galley and funnel -- the ship now carries up to 378 passengers, down from its original 570. However, popular pricing for single passengers means the passenger list is typically around 350.
Voyages to Antiquity is focused on passengers interested in destinations, lectures and itineraries rather than razzmatazz. These passengers are a like-minded group who shun big cruise ships. Evening entertainment is lectures, concerts, piano bar music and classical trios.
Shore excursions are the raison d'etre for Voyages to Antiquity, and except for a handful of special tours (some involving air flights), all are included in the price of the voyage. For instance, on a 14-night Rome-to-Venice itinerary, the ship makes 11 port calls and offers 21 excursions.
The line offers a number of classic itineraries leaving from Venice and stopping at ports in the Aegean; and from Funchal, Madeira, and including stops in Morocco, the Canary Islands and mainland Spain. It also offers no-fly cruises from Tilbury, calling in at U.K. destinations including the Orkney Islands. And in the past few years, due to conflict in North Africa, it has had to add a number of new destinations including Iceland and Cuba. VTA is also likely to pick up passengers looking for a cerebral cruise following the demise of Voyages of Discovery in early 2017.
Aegean Odyssey Fellow Passengers
Voyages to Antiquity cruises are marketed in the U.S., the U.K. (the line maintains offices in both countries), Canada and Australia. Several cruisers are former passengers of cruise line founder Gerry Herrod's earlier ventures, Orient Lines and Pearl Cruises, so there is a high rate of returning passengers. Aegean Odyssey is marketed as a small-ship alternative for passengers used to paying for premium vessels and specialised itineraries. Because of the educational focus of Voyages to Antiquity itineraries, the passengers tend to be educated, intelligent and curious. Generally, they are well off, over 50 and speak English as their native language. English is the onboard language.
Many Voyages to Antiquity cruises are the backbone for Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) tours. The Road Scholar groups typically range from 25 to 80 passengers, with one or two Road Scholar tour leaders, depending on group size. In some instances, the Road Scholars have alternative or additional shore excursion itineraries and meals, but aside from that, they mingle with other passengers.
Aegean Odyssey Dress Code
Daytime wear is usually trousers or shorts and T-shirts and this is acceptable in the Terrace Cafe for breakfast and lunch. The more formal Marco Polo dining room requires at least long trousers and collared shirts for men (with jackets suggested but nor required) and skirts or dressy slacks for women. While jackets and ties are not required for men, and there is no formal night, due to the older age of the passengers, many prefer to wear dressier clothes in the evening. The daily bulletin does not include an evening dress code suggestion. Some shore destinations may require modest dress for both sexes, such as long trousers or dresses that cover the knee and tops that cover the shoulders.
Aegean Odyssey Gratuity
Gratuities for cabin stewards and restaurant/bar staff are included in the fare, though a 12.5 percent charge is added to all bar orders. The cruise line offers no guidelines as to amount if passengers want to tip specific crewmembers, and this is discretionary. All purchases are charged to each cabin in US dollars. The final account can be settled in U.K. sterling or U.S. dollars. Visa, MasterCard and American Express (2 percent extra for American Express) credit cards, cash and travellers cheques can be used for final settlement.