I was recently invited onboard Voyages to Antiquity’s MV Aegean Odyssey for a short cruise around several of the Greek Isles. We visited Samothraki, Chios and Patmos (which to mind, is the new Mykonos) and found the ship’s size perfect for exploring the ‘original Greece’ and discovering these lesser-known islands.
Boarding Aegean Odyssey in Athens was a surprising experience. I was expecting the ship, which was built in 1972, to be showing all of her 40 years, but low and behold; she has been completely modernised. Indeed, Aegean Odyssey’s owner, Gerry Herrod, has almost completely rebuilt the ship, spending a mere (!) $26 million in the process.
Despite this dramatic overhaul, Aegean Odyssey has retained many of her original features, and it is immediately clear why she is such an attractive proposition for cruisers looking for a slightly more ‘classic’ experience. You can sense the ‘golden age of travel’ as soon as you step onboard, but these thoughts are pleasantly combined with an interior décor and use of lighting that gives an open and airy ambience.
At full capacity, Aegean Odyssey offers accommodation for 380 guests, but I found travelling on her to be a very intimate experience. The cabins and suites (of which there are some 12 different categories) are incredibly comfortable, and the pleasing blend of cream furnishings, chrome hardware and light wood panelling means that while the accommodation feels bright, it’s quite cosy. It’s also important to mention that there are 50 single cabins onboard – making Aegean Odyssey an attractive proposition for solo travellers.
The bathrooms continue this theme and the little touches – such as the complimentary Molten Brown products – are consistent with the level of thought that has been given throughout.
Aegean Odyssey’s public areas are all excellent and provide enough space for mingling with other guests or spending some quiet time alone. In particular, The Charleston Lounge is a beautiful venue. Boasting a large dancefloor, a bandstand and more than enough seats/tables for the majority of guests onboard, the lounge is the hub of the ship during the evenings with musical performances most nights.
Personally speaking, one of the most stunning features on Aegean Odyssey is the amount of open deck space. These areas are ideal for sunbathing and exercise classes and are resplendent with beautiful teak decking.
The main restaurant on the Aegean Odyssey is the Marco Polo. Remarkably, when I arrived for dinner I was greeted by a familiar face. Danny, the maître d who greeted me, was previously among the staff on the old Orient Lines’ ship Marco Polo back in mid-nineties. It speaks volumes that Gerry Herrod has employed him since 1985 (having also served on Ocean Pearl, Ocean Princess and Islander).
The food served in Marco Polo, and in the ship’s more informal Terrace restaurant, was surprisingly good, with house wines included during lunch and dinner. Indeed, the Terrace’s location at the aft of the ship is another Gerry Herrod feature, and very familiar from the Marco Polo.
There is also a small gym, a spa and a sauna onboard Aegean Odyssey. The treatments were excellent and Angelique, the ship’s spa manager, is one of the most knowledgeable I have met.
This leads me nicely onto my next point: The crew on Aegean Odyssey is exemplary. The mostly- Filipino crew are welcoming and extremely friendly. They make an effort to get to know the guests and this, coupled with the like-minded nature of the guests, gives a real family feeling to life onboard.
Aegean Odyssey’s unique feature is, of course, the enrichment and learning programmes offered on every cruise. On our voyage, we were inspired by talks from the very knowledgeable Robin Cormack, a British classicist and art historian who specialises in Byzantine art. This element of the Voyages to Antiquity experience truly sets the line apart from other lines offering similar itineraries.
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed my time aboard Aegean Odyssey. She is not a ship that would appeal to everyone, however, if you love the ambience of traditional small-ship cruising and a passion for new experiences, then I guarantee you will love everything she has to offer. On reflection, it’s easy to see Aegean Odyssey as a one-of-a-kind, and it’s somewhat sad to think, that unless someone builds a similar ship aimed at the same type of audience, then there will probably never be another quite like her.