In a move that will surprise few after recent events, Costa Cruises has cancelled all of it’s remaining scheduled calls to Turkey this year. And it seems only a matter of time before other cruise lines follow suit.

The cancellation will cover the major ports of Izmir, Kusadasi, Bodrum and Instanbul, and represents a huge loss of tourist revenue for the Turkish economy.

Many Aegean bound passengers actually book their cruises with these Turkish destinations as a must see centre point, with sites such as Ephesus, and the great mosque at Haghia Sofia as definite highlights. The knock on effect from actually taking such sites out of the equation remains to be seen, but Costa is quite rightly putting the emphasis on the safety of their booked passengers.

Turkey’s loss is a definite gain for nearby ports in the Greek Islands, which are being added as late season substitutes for the cancelled Turkish calls. The port of Heraklion alone has added at least an extra eighteen new calls from different ships since the news of the Costa cancellations became public.

Tense times continue to plague the usually popular eastern Mediterranean circuit as a whole; it can only be hoped that the political situation settles down in short order before continued uncertainty begins to bite into potential 2016 cruises in the region.

As always, stay tuned for updates.

Sites such as Gallipoli are off the menu for Costa in 2015

Sites such as Gallipoli are off the menu for Costa in 2015


Lido pool on the Louis Cristal

Lido deck on the Louis Cristal

Greek specialist operator Louis Cruises has introduced an alternative, quite appealing itinerary in the shape of a new, four day cruise for summer 2014.

Sailing from Athens’ port of Lavrion, these four night voyages will be operated by the 24,000 ton Louis Cristal after her return from a winter charter offering Cuba cruises.

Departing at 1430 in the afternoon- a complete change to the normal 1100 departures- the Louis Cristal arrives in Syros at 1900 for a four hour run ashore. Next day, the ship arrives at the Turkish resort of Cesme at 0700 for a six hour stay, before sailing on to the popular resort of Bodrum that same evening for an overnight stay, departing at five the following morning.

An 0700 arrival in Kos gives a full day on the island, with departure at 1800. Next day features a morning call on Ios, and a final afternoon call at Santorini before arriving back in Athens the next morning.

All things considered, this is a great little run to some of the lesser known gems of the Greek Islands, combined with an opportunity to sample the overnight nightlife ashore in the party capital of the summertime Turkish riviera.  And, with Santorini as a stunning finale, it packs in a huge amount into a short space of time indeed.

Santorini is a fabulous finale

Santorini is a fabulous finale

The Louis Cristal is a good choice for a short cruise; compact enough to get into the smaller, more appealing yacht harbours in the islands, she offers an intimate, comfortable ambience with good sized cabins- a handful of them have small balconies- and the warm hospitality that typifies the Louis product.

The ship has a small central pool, covered by a sliding glass roof, that also showcases a bar and buffet area. There are several other bars featuring live entertainment, and a forward facing show lounge for evening entertainment. The ship also features a casino, internet centre, and a shop for souvenirs and essential sundries.

A series of terraced aft decks offer fantastic views out over the wake, as well as a sublime, aft facing hot tub ideal for lounging in and watching the horizon.

Most impressive of all the facilities on board the Louis Cristal is a spectacular, glass walled disco cantilevered around the funnel. inward sloping, floor to ceiling glass affords spellbinding views out over the sea in three directions. It works just as well as a cool, shady observation lounge during the day, and as a vibrant, late night focal point for partying late into the night.

Combining several small, enchanting little islands with the style, warmth and intimacy of the Louis Cristal makes for an invigorating little break. It neatly side steps the often overcrowded ‘greatest hits’ ports of the Greek Islands, and offers an appealing new take on what has always been a classic, affordable mini cruise. Definitely recommended.


The Aegean Odyssey

The Aegean Odyssey

There’s a reassuring mix of the familiar and the fascinating in the newly announced Voyages to Antiquity programme for 2014, aboard the line’s small, highly styled Aegean Odyssey.

Familiar in the sense that all the creature comforts that have made the ship such an outstanding and appealing travel option are still there; things such as all shore excursions included, as well as beer and wine at dinner, plus a series of intriguing pre and post hotel stays in landmark cities such as Istanbul and Athens.

The new? That comes in the shape of new ports of call at Bodrum, and gorgeous Greek gems such as Syros and Kos. Owing to demand, the company is stepping up the number of its popular Black Sea itineraries to four in the 2014 season. One of these will also encompass the best of the Greek islands at the same time.

All told, the Aegean Odyssey will offer something like seventeen cruises from March through November, beginning with a sweeping, twenty eight day progress from Athens through to Istanbul, by way of the history and highlights of ancient Egypt. This should provide one of the most comprehensive exposes of both the Greek and Roman empires ever offered on such an inclusive basis.

These tie in with a pair of diverse itineraries that will put the focus firmly on both Athens and Istanbul. Like many options in the itinerary, these can be combined to make one outstanding long voyage.

Voyages to Antiquity is also offering some very attractive, low priced single supplements for the season. All cruises will feature the line’s usual high standard of in depth, on board lectures with experts in the fields of the history of the visited region. Coupled with the largely inclusive nature of the experience, and the sheer quality of the on board product, these cruises represent an outstanding return on the cost.

The entire Voyages to Antiquity operation is the brainchild of Gerry Herrod, fondly remembered in the cruise and leisure industry as the creator of both Ocean Cruise Lines and the legendary Orient Lines.

Aegean Odyssey is a low key, extremely comfortable ship, more than a bit akin to a floating country club. With a smart casual dress code and open seating dining either indoors or outside, she can access a great many smaller, more intriguing ports that bigger ships cannot enter. With a capacity of just 330 passengers, this is intimate, informed cruising for people more interested in feeding their minds than partying until daybreak.