Gerry Herrod’s latest small ship creation is something of a finely polished jewel. At only 12,000 tons, the Aegean Odyssey is the perfect ship for summer cruises in the Mediterranean, as well as an excellent winter season spent out in the Far East.
A big, big advantage for history lovers is that all tours are included in the price. Each passenger has their own ‘quiet box’ that lets them hear their tour guide quite clearly, no matter how far away he or she may actually be. It’s a smart bit of thinking; indicative of the thought and effort that has gone into the whole project.
Most cruises encapsulate one or more overnight stays in port; perfect for a little late night people watching in Mykonos, Sorrento or Kusadasi. This allows you to get a little more ‘under the skin’ of a destination, rather than just seeing the fabled sights and relics. It’s also a definite plus when compared to the conventional, seven day ‘Meddy-go-rounds’ of the usual mega ships. These usually only stay in port until tea time and, often as not, can’t get into the kind of small, sweet places that the nimble little Aegean Odyssey can snuggle up to.
This was shown to stunning effect when we docked in Yangon, formerly Rangoon, for a three day stay last December. Sailing a full sixty miles up the meandering Irrawaddy, the Aegean Odyssey pirouetted as neatly as a swan to dock right on the front street of the capital. The ease of access was incredible; no big ship could ever have made that same berth.
Better still, each cruise includes a two night pre or post cruise hotel stay. Our Mediterranean cruise finished with two nights at the fabulous Ritz Carlton in Istanbul, and this really rounded out a super journey. With two full days to peruse one of the most fabulous cities in the world, this is a real winner and, indeed, could be a true deal breaker for some. I could have spent the entire time in the hotel spa. Maybe next time…
To top it all, the Aegean Odyssey herself is exquisite. There is free wine, beer and soft drinks included at dinner each night. The cabins were greatly expanded by deleting every third one of the originals, and then knocking down the walls to create much larger, more commodious spaces.
My cabin on both trips had excellent quality bedding, and a gorgeous little cove balcony worked into the hull, complete with canvas chairs and a small table. It was a sweet little spot to return to after a day’s touring the stunted magnificence of Ephesus, or the soaring limestone escarpments that litter the waters off the coast of Phuket. Sunsets were mellow viewed from here, and sometimes the opportunity to enjoy a late night cap under a blanket of stars was just too good to resist.
Food on both cruises was very good to excellent. The Aegean Odyssey offers open seating, with many passengers opting for the stunning, outdoor ‘Tapas on The Terrace’ with its side orders of warm sea breezes and mellow moonlight. Quality and presentation was of a very high standard and, as on all of Herrod’s previous ships, great emphasis is placed on the style and the quality of service. No complaints at all in that department.
That service was always deft, gracious and heartwarming. A superb Filipino staff combines with a low number of passengers- usually a maximum of three hundred and seventy- to provide a consummate, quite personalised experience. Other lines could learn a lot from this approach.
Physically, the ship is muted and tasteful; shorn of screaming colours and the trappings of the modern mega ships. Aegean Odyssey is a quiet ship at night- you’re unlikely to find anybody up and around after midnight- but that’s so obviously not the kind of market that they aim for here.
In short, the Aegean Odyssey is a small diamond. Beautifully styled and handsomely served, she wafts passengers effortlessly from one jaw dropping vista to another without fuss, but always with considerable style and charm.
As an in depth cruise experience goes, I can’t recommend this charming little lady highly enough.