DAY 1: France – ISTANBUL (Turkey)
Flight to Istanbul. Transfer by coach from the airport to the Port of Istanbul (depending on your arrival time, the coach will provide a panoramic glimpse of the city). After comfortably settling into your cabins, we’ll introduce our crew at a welcome cocktail and provide a detailed explanation of the cruise schedule. Dinner on board. Tonight we’ll enjoy a show of Whirling Dervishes. The Sufi fraternities, which perform this form of active meditation, were founded in the 12th century. Their customary dances are seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun. This will be a moment not to be missed. We'll remain in port overnight.
DAY 2: ISTANBUL
All meals served on board. Today we’ll have a guided visit of Istanbul. We’ll discover the historical center where the city’s most famous monuments and the ruins of several great civilizations are located. We’ll begin at the Hippodrome of Constantinople containing two impressive obelisks and the Serpent Column. We’ll then tour Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years, see its Imperial Treasury and visit the Harem. It contains large collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armor, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts and murals, as well as a display of Ottoman treasures and jewelry. The 7,535,000 sq. ft. palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only the most important are accessible to the public today. We’ll then visit the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque. After the unfavorable result of the war with Persia, Sultan Ahmet I, decided to build an enormous mosque in Istanbul to reassert Ottoman power. The mosque has one main dome, six minarets, and eight secondary domes.
We’ll then head to the Hagia Sophia. First a Greek Orthodox basilica, later an imperial mosque, it is now a museum.
We'll also give you the possibility of visiting the Basilica Cistern, known as the Underground Palace. It once stored up to 80,000 cubic meters of water for Constantinople, and is composed of 336 columns arranged in 12 rows. Subdued lighting, soft music and cool temperatures make the walk truly pleasurable. Or join us on an optional guided tour of the Galata Tower. One of the city's most striking landmarks, it is a high, cone-capped cylinder that dominates the skyline and offers a panoramic vista of Istanbul's historic peninsula and its environs.
After our visits, we’ll return to our ship. Turkish-themed evening and Turkish folk show on board. We’ll remain in port overnight.
DAY 3: ISTANBUL – DIKILI (Turkey)
All meals served on board. We’ll then leave for an optional visit to the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, or an optional visit to the Spice Market, which has a total of 85 shops selling spices, jewelry, souvenir, dried fruits and candy. After our visits, we’ll return to our ship. Cruising along the Bosphorus will give you nice views of the palaces, yalis, and wealthy Ottoman summer homes that line each side of the strait. We’ll spend the afternoon cruising. Onboard lecture: Following the Footsteps of Suleiman the Magnificent. After lunch, we’ll have a fitness class on the sun deck and a table shuffleboard contest as we cruise the Sea of Marmara, an inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea. During the night, we’ll pass through the Dardanelles, the straight connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea. The strait has often played a strategic role in history. In particular, Alexander the Great crossed the Dardanelles in 334 B.C. to invade the Achaemenid Empire, rule Asia Minor, and begin a series of campaigns that lasted ten years. We’ll cruise through the night.
DAY 4: DIKILI – Pergamon (Turkey)
All meals served on board. We’ll spend the morning cruising the Aegean Sea. Onboard lecture: The Splendors of the Ottoman Empire. Join us for cocktails and games right before lunch in the lounge. Once we arrive in Dikili, we’ll leave for on optional guided visit of Pergamon, capital of the Attalid Dynasty, which rose to prominence during the years of the Greek empire’s division following the death of Alexander the Great. The city enjoyed centuries of prosperity that continued when it passed peacefully to Rome’s control in 133 B.C. Parchment was developed in Pergamon. We’ll arrive on the site by aerial tram and start our tour with the Acropolis and the podium where the Pergamon Alter once stood but is now sitting in the Berlin Museum. Cascading sharply down the precipitous slope towards the sea, the theater is one of the steepest of its kind. We’ll also discover the Temple of Trajan and the remains of the Temple of Athena. We’ll then tour the Asclepion, perhaps the world's most famous ancient medical center. Galen, arguably the most accomplished of all medical researchers after Hippocrates, lived here. He was also a well-read scholar who combined extensive erudition with ‘cutting edge’ observational practices that completely changed the understanding and teaching of medicine. We still feel the effects of his medical theories today. We’ll also visit the Hellenistic and Roman fortifications, the Red Basilica, and the Sacred Way. You’ll have some free time after our visit and then we’ll return on board. We’ll spend the end of the afternoon cruising towards Kusadasi. This evening’s entertainment will be presented by the crew.
DAY 5: KUSADASI – EPHASUS (Turkey)
All meals served on board. We’ll leave for the optional guided excursion to Ephasus, one of the oldest and most important Greco-Roman cities. The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Even if rocks and ruins don't impress you or you aren't fascinated by ancient history, you'll be mesmerized by this unique and exceptionally well-preserved site. There is a tradition that St. John settled here with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and possibly also wrote his gospel here. It’s also thought that Cleopatra first met Mark Anthony here when she accompanied her father. Come stroll these legendary marble streets and discover the Temple of Hadrian, the Trajan and Pollio Fountains, The Baths of Scholastikia, the magnificent Celsus Library, and the superb stadium. Ephesus’ “terrace houses” are located on the hill, opposite the Hadrian Temple. Two houses can be visited that are so well-preserved we can easily imagine the comfort, lifestyles, and customs of the era. The floors are covered with fantastic mosaics and the walls are decorated with frescos. We'll visit the House of the Virgin Mary, believed by some to be where the Virgin Mary lived out the last years of her life. The house was discovered in the 19th century by following the descriptions in the reported visions of a Roman Catholic nun. Although the Roman Catholic Church has never pronounced on the authenticity of the house, it was elevated to the status of a Holy Place in 1950. The site is visited and venerated by Muslims as well as Christians. Pilgrims drink from a spring under the house which is believed to have healing properties. A liturgical ceremony is held here every year on August 15 to commemorate the Assumption of Mary. Return on board and in the afternoon, spend some free time shopping and browsing in the small streets and markets of Kusadasi. We’ll then return to the ship and begin to cruise to Patmos. CroisiEurope Quiz Night. We’ll cruise through the night.
DAY 6: PATMOS (Greece)
All meals served on board. The morning will be spent cruising to Patmos. Take advantage of the free time by catching some rays on the sun deck. Onboard lecture: We’ll arrive in Patmos in early afternoon. One of the northernmost islands of the Dodecanese, it is thought by some Biblical scholars be where St. John wrote the Book of Revelations. Join us for an optional excursion of this magnificent island. We’ll begin with a visit to the Cave of the Apocalypse (shorts and low-cut shirts are prohibited), where St. John is said to have made his home on the island. According to Christian tradition, it was here that God came to him in a vision. He dictated his revelations to a scribe and this became the last book of the New Testament. Most modern scholars believe it was written around AD 95. We’ll then visit the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Monastery is built on top of the mountain and dominates not only the Chora which is built around it, but also the entire island. In 1088, a monk named Christodoulos was granted possession of the island to establish a monastery in honor of St. John. Today, this magnificent complex is place of pilgrimage and Greek Orthodox learning. The monastery also has a museum displaying its precious collection. Following our tour, we’ll return to the boat. Gala evening. The ship will cruise to Athens during the night.
DAY 7: ATHENS (Greece)
All meals served on board. We’ll spend the morning on the Aegean Sea. Onboard lecture: Athens: Mythology and History. We’ll arrive in Athens in early afternoon. We’ll set out on our excursion to Athens and the Acropolis where you will discover the site of the legendary Acropolis, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheion with its graceful caryatids in place of columns. We’ll round out the visit of the ancient Greek ruins with a tour of the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to Athena. We’ll then take a panoramic tour of the modern city so you can take in the Greek capital as it is today. For passengers who have already visited the Acropolis, we’ll offer an excursion to the Apollo Coast and Cape Sounion. The route follows the coast around the Gulf of Saronica all the way to Cape Sounion. Jutting from the Attic Peninsula, Homer referred to it as a "sacred cape" with a remarkable view of the Aegean Sea and the Cyclades. You’ll also discover the temple ruins dedicated to the god of the sea, Poseidon, dating back to the 5th century BC. (Please choose your excursion when reserving your cruise). After our visits, we’ll return to our ship. Greek-themed evening and Greek folk show on board. We’ll remain in port overnight.
DAY 8: ATHENS - France
Enjoy one last breakfast on board before disembarking at 9:00 a.m. You’ll be transferred to the airport in Athens by coach (according to departure time). Return to France.