We started our cruise in Nice and continued along the French Riviera to Barcelona. There were no activities planned on embarkation day except for the welcome meeting, so we had time to acquaint ourselves with the ship, Aegean Odyssey. As you would expect on a ship carrying only 350 passengers, there is no big show lounge or speciality restaurant, however the quality and scope of the onboard facilities exceeded my expectations. The standard cabins are a good size while the balcony staterooms are wonderfully spacious and comfortable.
The pool area was pleasant and there were plenty of sun loungers dotted around the ship for those those who simply wanted to escape with a good book. One of the highlights was that the terrace outside the buffet restaurant could accommodate a large number of people - so often on larger ships there isn't enough space for those wishing to watch the sunset while they dine! Evening entertainment began with a classical trio and was then continued by our brilliantly funny cruise director, Richard, who had everyone dancing along to the sounds of the Swinging Sixties.
On the second day our enrichment programme began in earnest with an excursion to Provence and the quaint village of St Paul de Vence, which is known for its links to artists such as Cézanne. We dutifully plugged in our Quiet Vox headsets, which meant we could amble though the pretty streets at our own pace without missing the explanations from our guide.
Back on board in the afternoon, I attended a lecture from the American historian accompanying our trip, who gave a lively overview of the Middle Ages' papal crisis in preparation for our trip the next day to Avignon. All the talks were enjoyable, with the speakers really bringing the history to life in anticipation of the more in-depth information we would receive from the local guides, who were also excellent. The other lecturer onboard was a British architect with a keen interest in Gaudí - perfect for the visits to Barcelona.
In most ports guests are given a choice of two tours and the excursion staff are always on hand to give recommendations, plus there is a briefing the previous evening to make sure everyone is aware of the schedule and the amount of walking involved. Many cruises will feature a couple of full-day excursions which include a three-course lunch at a local restaurant, as well as time for your own exploration of the town.
The Aegean Odyssey regularly hosts groups from organisations like the Smithsonian who bring their own tour director, but I was pleased to see this didn't negatively affect the atmosphere on board. The cruises attract a high number of solo travellers and most guests were keen to mingle and discuss the day's experiences with like-minded companions. I would highly recommend Voyages to Antiquity for those looking to discover some of Europe's most interesting and beautiful destinations in greater depth.
Find out more:
· Request a Voyages to Antiquity brochure