ITINERARY AEGEAN 2025

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Sail the Aegean
"Travels of Paul"
with
Vince & Patti Elliott & Friends
July 6 - 15, 2025

From Istanbul to Athens
Aboard the Legendary
SEA CLOUD II

Ten Day Core Itinerary

Sunday, July 6, 2025

Depart United States

Depart the United States for overnight transatlantic flights to the ancient city of Istanbul (airport code IST).

Monday, July 7, 2025

Arrive in Istanbul

The Çırağan Palace Kempinski

Upon your arrival in Istanbul on July 7, taxis await to whisk you away to our five-star accommodations at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski (overlooking the breath-taking Bosphorus on the city's European side). Depending on your flight schedule, you may have some free time this afternoon to explore Taksim Square. Your hotel's location affords ample opportunity to explore quaint shops, delightful eateries, or nearby parks. Çırağan Palace Kempinski also offers a waterfront resort atmosphere amid the bustling city; the perfect place to recoup following a day of travel. Toast to fair winds during a welcome reception this evening at your hotel with fellow travelers, trip hosts and the FIRST CENTURY VOYAGES team.

Tuesday, July 8

Istanbul & Embarkation

Our full-day tour of Istanbul begins after breakfast at our hotel. We will start this morning with a visit to the the famed Blue Mosque. Remove your shoes at our next stop as we mix with the few worshippers who still come to pray at this architectural marvel. Our next stop is the ancient sports Hippodrome—five times the size of an American football field. After an included Turkish luncheon at a fine restaurant in the Old City, you will visit the most impressive building of Old Constantinople, the dramatic, multidomed basilica Hagia Sophia. Commissioned in the sixth century by Emperor Justinian, this was the capital of Christendom for nearly 1,000 years. Your tour will include a visit to the breathtaking Underground Cistern built in 532. In the cool, subterranean air, take a stroll in the forest of hundreds of marble columns arranged in symmetrical precision.

To conclude the day, we'll prepare to haggle in the famous Covered Bazaar: a medieval labyrinth of 3,000 tiny shops. Custom demands that you sit down for sweet apple tea as a profusion of Turkish goods are presented for your inspection. By mid-afternoon, the regal Sea Cloud II ship's captain and crew will warmly welcome you aboard with smiles and enthusiasm. Within an hour, lines are loosed; the anchor is hoisted. We are underway for eight exciting days of adventure in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. Be prepared for a faith-building experience!

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Wednesday, July 9

Day at Sea

Sea Cloud II in Full Sail

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 Sea of Marmara's blue waters. Or just select a title from our 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.

While our ship plies the sea, we will gather for a teaching moment with Peter Williams and Matt Chandler, 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.

Thursday, July 10

Philippi, Greece

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 VOYAGES 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 to speed us steadily towards our next port of call. All are welcome to partake in a casual seafood barbeque on deck this evening. Whatever is on the grill was caught by Kavala fishermen earlier in the day!

The Forum, Philippi

Friday, July 11

Pergamum

Pergamon, Turkey

Partake in either your early-risers' breakfast on the lido deck or a full-spread of choices in the dining room. Today we arrive in Pergamum, site of the northernmost of the Seven Churches. Amongst these ruins once stood a 200,000-volume library, the second or third largest literary collection known in antiquity. Many of the city's prized archaeological treasures have long ago been hauled off to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, but archaeologists have reconstructed several impressive buildings on the site.

Still, Pergamum remains one of the most well-excavated cities of the Roman world. It boasts an outdoor amphitheater with a capacity of 10,000 attendees and was the steepest theater of the ancient world.

The scene in ancient Pergamum was one of multiple temples to a plethora of Greek gods, and here you will see why the letter to the Church at Pergamum begins, "‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is." May your visit also encourage you to "hold fast" to the name of Christ, as written to the Church here.

Saturday, July 12

Ephesus

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!

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Library of Celsus, Ephesus

Sunday, July 13

Patmos

Take your morning coffee on deck and relax under the rustle of 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 under the stars; we'll be looking toward the same horizon John the Apostle gazed upon during his banishment in the first century.

Patmos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Monday, July 14

Agia Ana, Isle of Naxos

Agia Ana, Naxos

Morning finds us at the Isle of Naxos, an idyllic fishing village that quietly boasts a charming Old Town, turquoise waters, and pristine beaches. Sunbathe the day away or partake in some watersports (as weather allows). Just grab your sunscreen and swimsuit for the day; the ever-attentive SEA CLOUD II staff will handle the rest. They remain at your service with fresh towels, cold water, and zodiac boat service to and from the island.

Fair winds in the afternoon will bring a final opportunity to unfurl the sails. Tall ship deckhands-in-training will want to attend the sail session on deck to try their hand at the lines. Afternoon tea is served as we gather in the ship lounge. Our distinguished guest speakers will share their gathered biblical insights and inspiration taken from our journey.

This evening, we'll spiff up one last time on our private sailing yacht for the Captain's Farewell Reception and Gala Dinner.

Tuesday, July 15

Disembarkation in Athens

Depart for USA or Athens & Corinth Extension

Our FIRST CENTURY VOYAGE comes to an end with heartfelt farewells with the crew at the gangway.  For those who need to return to the USA, a coach will deliver you to the airport in Athens for your flight. Please make your return reservation for after 11:00am.

For those who are taking the optional Athens and Corinth extension, 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, set off with your own agenda in one of the oldest (and most historically influential) cities in the world.

Plan to reunite with our group later this afternoon at the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture, featuring a broad variety of curations spanning 5,000 years of Greek history, from the Bronze Age to the 20th century.

Our day will culminate with five-star accommodations at Athens' historic crown jewel, the Hotel Grande Bretagne. Choose to explore Syntagma Square (just outside our hotel’s entrance), peruse the cafés and shops of the nearby Plaka District, or find a chaise at the breathtaking rooftop pool. The expert staff at the Grande Bretagne are at the ready to help you make reservations for dinner in the city this evening. Or, simply hop off of the hotel elevator for a spectacular meal at the rooftop restaurant. Time it just right to take in a spectacular sunset behind the Acropolis—the ambience is magical.

Acropolis Erechtheion, Athens

Grande Bretagne, Rooftop Pool, Athens

Wednesday, July 16

Corinth Extension

Corinth Canal

Enjoy a rooftop breakfast with a full view of the Acropolis before traveling overland to Ancient Corinth, Paul's 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. We'll luncheon together at a traditional taverna before returning to the Grande Bretagne.

Schedule a spa treatment or cool off with a swim before the sun sets; a late afternoon and evening in Athens brims with opportunity to relax, recharge, and relish all the city has to offer after dark. Athens has a lively evening scene and dinners are typically taken late. Long, leisurely meals are standard practice. Wherever you choose to dine tonight, don't forget to ask your server what's fresh! Please make plans to fly home any time on Thursday, July 16.

Athens & Corinth Extension
$1,725/person/double occupancy
$2,295/person/single occupancy
Grande Bretagne Classic Room*
(prices based on 25 travelers)

*Accommodation Upgrades Available

Thursday, July 17

Depart for the United States

Even the most wonderfully inspiring trips must come to an end. Return home with new friendships, a deeper understanding of Scripture, and sailing memories. Please plan to fly home at any time today.

Map of Our Journey

Elliot Map