DAY 11 — NAUPLIA, GREECE
ABOARD THE MV AEGEAN ODYSSEY — The view from my balcony this morning is the harbor of Nauplia, Greece, and a splendid view of Bourtzi, a beautiful Venetian castle in the middle of the harbor.
We anchored out and used tenders to get into Nauplia this morning, disembarking from the Marco Polo deck. The crew handled the tenders expertly, and we were ashore in about 15 minutes. After a 45-minute drive from Nauplia we arrived at the famous citadel of Agamemnon’s Mycenae, high above two boulder-strewn ravines. We entered by the Lions Gate, Europe’s oldest piece of monumental statuary. Inside we explored the Royal Palace, the shaft graves, and the remains of the city walls. We also had a briefing within the Treasury of Atreus (also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon).
This afternoon I had lunch al fresco in the Tapas on the Terrace restaurant ordering grilled trout fillet with tomato-shallot citrus coulis, served with snow peas and chive potatos, a good Greek wine and offerings from the dessert station.
Later in the day we had the opportunity of an optional half day tour of Epidaurus (reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son Asclepius) or time to explore the town. I chose the latter.
I spent the afternoon walking around Nauplia, a seaport town in the Peloponnese that has expanded up the hillsides near the north end of the Argolic Gulf. The town was the first capital of modern Greece, from the start of the Greek Revolution in 1821 until 1834. Nauplia is now the capital of the regional unit of Argolis.Today Nauplia is a very attractive town of 12,000 residents. Its narrow streets are lined with Venetian, neo-classical and Ottoman buildings, overlooked by the looming Palamidi Fortress perched on a high outcrop to the northwest.
This evening I had dinner in the Marco Polo again. My appetizer was grilled eggplant filled with ricotta cheese and sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomato tartar with olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Umbria. I skipped the salad (starting my diet) and moved on to the tagliatelle in four cheese cream sauce, followed by a napoleon. The napoleon was delicious, my diet is on hiatus.
Many passengers went on deck this evening to watch the sunset, knowing this was our last night on the Aegean Odyssey.
Now, a brief word about past complaints.
Prior to going on the cruise I reviewed past passenger comments from various websites, some of which were not complimentary. I kept these in mind during my experience and paid personal attention to them while on board. I also had many opportunities to ask fellow passengers in what areas the ship could improve. There were few. The vast majority of passengers were happy with the cruise and expressed only a few concerns. They were: Poor quality coffee, lack of truly hot tea, cold cabins on lower decks, warm cabins on the upper decks, and a need to better identify food offerings on the Terrace Café buffet line.
As for past cruise concerns, I found the following and comment on each as follows:
• “The Aegean Odyssey is basically a clapped-out wreck.” Not even close. While it is a refurbished older ship, I found maintenance and furniture, fixtures and equipment to be in good repair.• “The ship itself belched black smoke virtually 24/7. Everything aft of the funnel got covered in soot the whole time, including in your breakfast coffee, juice and milk jug.” I did not notice any such thing during my two weeks on board.
• “The most dysfunctional element of all was the ship’s tendering.” I had ample opportunity to observe this procedure and it was always accomplished professionally.
• “Canteen food.” Hardly. Although it was certainly not gourmet (nor was it held out to be so) the food was good, well prepared, nicely presented and well served. The sample menu on page 19 of the line’s brochure is accurate.
• “The (chargeable) wine list was pathetic.” The lines brochure (Pg.6) says that “House wines are from countries we will visit. Other vintages are available at reasonable prices”. All true, and I found the house wines fine. As for the “other vintages” they were not exceptional, but neither were the prices.
• “Meals were served at ludicrous times.” Meals were served as follows: 6-10 Breakfast, 12-2 Lunch, and 7-9 Dinner.
• “Pathological inability of the staff to communicate effectively with passengers.” I found no evidence of this at any time. I found the staff to be unfailingly polite and helpful.
• “The breakfasts typical of a cheap motel.” Breakfasts on board were very good with a wide assortment of offerings, including fresh pastries.
While I found these complaints of earlier sailings unfounded now, it’s possible that they were accurate during the ship’s initial voyages. It often takes a while to get the kinks out.
I do, however, take issue with the company brochure that states the Aegean Odyssey is a premium class ship. As good as it is, “premium” overstates the ship’s quality. As well, its claim to offer “generous size staterooms” is oversell in my opinion.
The passengers that I had an opportunity to speak with, and that was quite a few over two weeks, were thoroughly enjoying the cruise. What I heard most mentioned was the friendliness and courtesy of the staff, the nice size of the ship, the well organized and professional shore excursions and the expertise of the onboard lecturers.
So here’s my take on the ship…
In summary, the Aegean Odyssey is a somewhat modest, acceptable ship with attractive public spaces and adequate cabins. The food and wine are good, but not gourmet. The staff is consistently friendly and helpful, and the lectures were interesting and informative. The itinerary was rewarding, and the observed shore excursions were well organized and expertly led by local guides.
The Voyages to Antiquity’s brochure states that this cruise is for: “…people who simply want to understand the history, art, myths and architecture of the ancient word” and to “open a window into the origins and genius of western civilization”. And that’s exactly what is accomplished.
Unlike the gigantic ships that sail the word today, on board the Aegean Odyssey it’s not the ship that’s the destination; it’s the destinations that are the destination.
If these features are what you are looking for, the Aegean Odyssey delivers.
A word of caution about bringing children on board: The Voyages to Antiquity brochure suggests that their cruises are “unsuitable for children under the age of 12.” I would suggest extending the age range upward. There are no facilities, menus, or programs targeted for families or children on board, and most cabins are intended for two. So, unless you have a precocious child or teenager that loves lectures on history and tours of ancient sites, leave them behind.