Optional One Day Prelude In
SUNDAY, JULY 4
DEPART USA FOR ATHENS
ARRIVING MONDAY, JULY 5
Depart home cities in the USA for overnight flights to Athens, Greece (ATH), arriving Monday, July 5. Rest and relax at Athens’ Grande Bretagne Hotel.
TUESDAY, JULY 6
Following an included breakfast at our hotel, we’ll travel overland to Ancient Corinth. The Apostle Paul used this city as his missionary base in Greece. Teaming up with Aquila and Priscilla, he spent about eighteen months of his second missionary journey planting a church here. Unearthed in the Corinthian excavation is the actual “bema” (judgment seat) where Paul was brought to trial and acquitted by the Roman proconsul, Gallio. (Acts 18)
We'll make a short photo stop at the Corinth Canal, an engineering marvel consisting of a single channel at sea level, thus requiring no locks. Cutting through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth, the canal connects the Saronic Gulf with the Aegean Sea. An attempt was made to dig the canal in the first century when Nero threw the first pickaxe and excavated a bucket of earth. But the project was never completed until eighteen centuries later in 1893. Lunch at a countryside taverna is included. Be sure to enjoy a late afternoon swim in the rooftop pool of our hotel with views of the Acropolis before heading out to dinner at a restaurant of your choice.
Pricing details will be available in summer 2021.
Eleven Day Core Itinerary
Monday, July 5
Depart United States
Depart the United States for overnight transatlantic flights to the ancient city of Athens (airport code ATH).
Tuesday, July 6
Arrive in Athens
From the Athens airport, hop in a waiting taxi for transfer to the city’s historic crown jewel, the Hotel Grande Bretagne. Depending on your flight schedule, you may have some free time this afternoon to explore Syntagma Square (just outside our hotel’s entrance), catch the Changing of the Guard in front of the Greek Parliament, or enjoy the cafés and shops of the Plaka District. The Grande Bretagne’s spa and rooftop pool are relaxing places to recoup from jet lag. Be sure to catch a view of the sun setting behind the Acropolis—the ambience is magical.
Wednesday, July 7
Athens & Embarkation
Athens' famed Acropolis beckons us this morning. On the way to the Parthenon, we can climb Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul addressed the “men of Athens…a very religious people.” The ruins testify to an incredible first-century grandeur, but Paul had an even greater glory to proclaim: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” (Acts 17:24)
After a visit to the Acropolis Museum, there will be free time for lunch and souvenir shopping on your own. At 3:15 p.m., we transfer to the port of Piraeus where the elegant SEA CLOUD II awaits. Even with mega-cruiseliners and multiple Greek ferries cheek-to-jowl around the bustling port, our lovely yacht steals the show…her majestic masts and gilded figurehead gleaming in the afternoon sun. Soon, the deckhands start their work…a tug arrives…lines are loosed. The world’s most beautiful sailing yacht is underway!
Another Aegean First Century Voyage begins.
Thursday, July 8
Spend the morning relaxing on deck under full sails. If weather permits, we may get a chance to take a dip off the gangway into the warm waters of the Aegean.
We tender this afternoon to the bucolic island sanctuary of Patmos for visits to the Convent of the Apocalypse and the Cave of St. Anne Shrine. Tradition holds sacred this spot where John is believed to have had his apocalyptic vision, recorded for us in Revelation, the final book in our New Testament.
Then enjoy panoramic views from the island’s highest point, the Monastery of St. John, whose foreboding towers, battlements and ramparts have protected religious treasures preserved inside since 1088. Don’t miss their 6th-century copy of the Gospel of Mark! Today, whitewashed houses and pretty villas covered with bougainvillea nestle up against ancient sites so important in Christian history. Our local guides here are superb!
We return to the SEA CLOUD II for dinner and late-night Greek dancing on the Lido Deck while looking toward the same horizon John the Apostle gazed at during his banishment in the first century.
Friday, July 9
Perhaps the premier archaeological wonder of the world, ancient Ephesus is dominated by the great 24,000-seat theater cited in Acts as the setting where pagan trinket vendors fomented a riot in response to the Apostle Paul's courageous witness. Although harassed by local merchants, it was from Ephesus that Paul wrote First Corinthians, teaching the true meaning of love to believers of all generations.
Excavations at Ephesus are ongoing. Each season reveals more of the city where Paul spent two years of his third missionary journey. Because of our long-term association with the Director of the Ephesus Museum, we have privileged access to the more-recently-excavated “houses of the wealthy.” Most visitors to Ephesus (the giant cruise ship masses) are not afforded this opportunity.
We'll take refuge from the midday heat by lunching in a shady garden and having a relaxed look at Turkey's most famous art form—carpet weaving. Ever since nomadic Seljuks introduced woven carpets in the 12th century A.D., rugs have been an essential piece of tent furnishings. Here we can see the traditional production of wool and silk yarns, dyed with colors produced from roots, leaves, berries, bark, and minerals. Young women will be weaving as we tour the looms. If your "tent" needs a new rug, there will be hundreds from which to choose. (Should you be in the market for an authentic Turkish carpet as a special trip memory, be sure to take some room measurements before you leave home.)
Saturday, July 10
Following breakfast, join the ship’s Chief Mate on the aft deck for an as-it-happens explanation of setting sails. If the winds are what we hope, experienced crew members will climb aloft, setting 32,000 square feet of canvas above our heads. With masts nineteen stories tall, fair winds are all the power our ship needs to ply the blue Aegean. After lunch, find a perch along SEA CLOUD II’s teak railings as she glides into a spectacular sea-filled caldera formed when the Mediterranean’s greatest volcano blew its top around 1500 B.C. Welcome to Santorini, the most awe inspiring of the Greek Islands.
Choose to ascend the volcanic island’s steep sides by either cable car or, the more traditional way, donkeys! Design today’s activities to suit your fancy—shopping for local crafts and jewelry bargains, sun and fun on a black sand beach, or an examination of Minoan art from 1500 B.C. in the Archaeological Museum of Thira.
Dinner tonight is an al fresco barbeque on deck as we circumnavigate the collapsed crater of the volcano. What a view! As the sun sets behind the western rim of the island ring, lights from the cliffside houses twinkle atop the sheer interior walls of hollowed-out Santorini.
Sunday, July 11
Day at Sea
A full day at sea is a respite to be savored. With no port calls today, sleep in! Then join the mid-morning brunch on the Lido Deck: SEA CLOUD II chefs (and the baker who has been up since 5 a.m.) pull out all the stops to provide us with a delight-filled selection. Relax with old and new friends as the SEA CLOUD II graces the blue waters of the Aegean. Or just select a title from ships’ library to read while enjoying the scenery and sunshine from a deckchair. Officers on the open bridge are always delighted to discuss the operations of our vessel—including an explanation of sail maneuvers.
After teatime, we will gather for a teaching moment from Steve Eason, one of the many opportunities to learn and deepen our appreciation of our time stepping in the path of Paul and the apostles.
Although weather-dependent, throughout the trip we will offer opportunities to our guests to engage in swim time, snorkeling, and other water sports.
Monday, July 12
This morning we arrive at the modern city of Kavala, once the ancient seaport of Neapolis where Paul landed on his way to the Roman colony of Philippi. Responding to a vision of a man from Macedonia, we recall from Acts 16 that the apostle and his companions “put out to sea” for their two-day sail around the island of Samothrace. After coming ashore we make our way inland, just as Paul and Silas did, to the nearby namesake city of Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father.
The first recorded conversion to Christ outside of Asia occurred here at Philippi—remember Lydia, a seller of purple cloth? Acts also recounts that a Philippian jailer and his family became believers when an earthquake set the brave evangelists free from prison in A.D. 49. Two millennia later, we can still stroll the worn stones of the historic Via Egnatia. Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke walked this same road.
It has become a FIRST CENTURY VOYAGE tradition for us to assemble in the shade by Lydia's stream for a brief communion service...it will be a morning you will never forget. This afternoon we hope for favorable winds from the northwest. With a good speed of advance, we should be positioned next to Mt. Athos in time for a casual seafood barbeque on deck. Whatever is on the grill will have been caught by Kavala fishermen that same morning!
Tuesday, July 13
Island of Skiathos
This morning we arrive at the charming island of Skiathos. This remote island boasts countless beaches, forested pine and cyprus forests, and a plethora of shopping opportunities. We've allowed a full day on this verdant Aegean island. Enjoy a long meander through the well-kept winding stone walkways. Sandy beaches await your visit and all kinds of water sport will be available, weather permitting.
As the sun sets in Skiathos Town, the harborside tavernas populate. If the mood for genuine Greek food strikes you, choose to lunch ashore at one of the cafés dotting the harborside where our tender delivers all passengers. Expect the menu standards—calamari and unpretentious fresh fish, dolmades, tzatziki, souvlaki, spanakopita, crisp fried zucchini. Local oregano makes it into most dishes. Hopefully there's a grandmother in the kitchen who makes galaktoboureko—our favorite sweet ending.
Back aboard our beloved private yacht, we will spiff up one last time for the Captain's Farewell Reception and Gala Dinner.
Wednesday, July 14
Disembarkation & Thessaloniki
Depart for USA
Thursday, July 15
Our FIRST CENTURY VOYAGE comes to an end with heartfelt farewells with the crew at the gangway. Since our morning disembarkation will not allow for early morning flights from the smaller airport of Thessaloniki, we will take advantage of an extended visit to Greece’s second largest city.
Our shore excursion this morning takes us to Vergina, which became internationally famous in 1977 when archaeologists unearthed the fully intact burial sites of the kings of Macedonia. Most spectacular was the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. Since 1993, all Vergina's 2,300-year-old gold treasure has been on display in the purpose-built underground museum next to the site. On our ride back to the city, we will make a short stop in Berea where Paul preached the gospel after leaving Thessalonica.
For lunch we will enjoy the authentically Greek and gastronomically pleasing fare at Ελιά, Elia, the Olive Tree of Veria. This afternoon we will check in to the newly renovated and modern Makedonia Palace Hotelwith enough time to enjoy the outdoor pool and breathtaking views of the sea and the city. Enjoy the walkway along the Aegean outside our hotel or take the opportunity to explore the multiple options to dine near the sea.
THURSDAY, JULY 15
Following the last sunrise on the Aegean, our core itinerary comes to an end. Travelers returning home today will be transported early in the morning to the airport in Thessaloniki (airport code SKG). Either a substantial take-away breakfast or cooked breakfast at the hotel is included, depending on flight departure times.
Istanbul & Cappadocia
After a short flight from Thessaloniki to Istanbul, we will begin our exploration of this ancient city where the historic treasures of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires await. Many impressive sites will be on our sightseeing itinerary, including the dramatic, multi-domedHagia Sophia. Nearby is the ancient sports Hippodrome – five times the size of an American football field. Remove your shoes as we mix with the worshippers in the Blue Mosque, haggle in the famous Covered Bazaar, a medieval labyrinth of 3,000 tiny shops, and tour the world-famous Topkapi Palace, home to Ottoman rulers for over four hundred years.
Among the breathtaking sites of the ancient biblical city of Cappadocia, the Goreme Open Air Museum resembles a vast monastic complex composed of scores of refectory monasteries placed side-by-side, each with its own fantastic church. Here you will examine frescos from the 10thcentury that still retain their colors. Beneath the magical “fairy chimneys” of the region, we will visit one of the dozens of underground cities which housed communities replete with living quarters, chapels, storage areas, a communal kitchen, and burial chambers. Float over Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys, valleys and rock-cut churches and experience the sunrise from a unique aerial viewpoint from an optional hot air balloon ride. Return to the USA on July 19 or extend your European adventure!
*Complete pricing details and extension inclusions will be available by summer 2020. Just save the dates for a complete First Century experience!