ATHENS: Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum — FRIDAY, JUNE 25   (€ 169*)

The Parthenon and its Acropolis setting are stunning, no doubt about it. They don’t require interpretation and compose the perfect DIY Athens excursion. On the other hand, visiting the new Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum with a skilled guide who’s on your wavelength adds immeasurably to the experience. We suggest you join us on a focused trip. You’ll see the Parthenon frieze, exquisite sanctuary relics and Archaic sculpture at the Acropolis Museum (picture below; as you can see, the museum sits just below the Acropolis).

Lunch, of course, is tucked away at a taverna favored by Athenian families. For dessert, we’ll visit the richest array of Greek antiquities anywhere — at the National Archaeological Museum.

NOTE: we are not going to the Acropolis itself. We are visiting the Acropolis Museum at the base of the Acropolis, where archaeological material from the Acropolis is displayed. If you would like to climb the Acropolis and see the Parthenon up close, please plan to do so on your own.

EPHESUS: Ephesus, Terrace Houses, and the Ephesus Museum — SUNDAY, JUNE 27   (€ 169*)

The New York Times edits the highlights of our ports with an optional tailored excursion in Ephesus.Many civilizations have left their mark at Ephesus (SLIDE SHOW). It has a complex and many splendored history, often oversimplified. We pull together three important aspects of understanding Ephesus which are rarely presented together. Join us! You’ll meander the Marble Road, visit the legendary latrines, check out the Library, and visit the political and commercial centers of the city.   (continued, top of next column)

A visit to the Terrace Houses (SLIDE SHOW) will enliven your picture of Roman-era Ephesus. We then visit the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk, where finds from the excavation of the city are showcased, and you get a fuller look at local history, from the Lydians to the Byzantines. We’ll end our tour with Mediterranean cuisine in Kusadasi at Port Yelken Restaurant.

ISTANBUL (DAY 1): Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar — WEDNESDAY, JULY 7   (€ 219*)

Istanbul is impossible to describe, and has mesmerized travelers for millennia. Layered, amalgamated, flowing. Ancient and modern, secular and sacred. Plunge into Istanbul’s cultural whirlwind with our expert guides, who have illuminated our guests (and us!) for many years. On your itinerary: Hagia Sophia (pictured at right), with its massive swaths of marble and glowing ochre dome; an immersion in the context and treasures of Topkapi Palace, including the Treasury, Harem, and Holy Relics sections; a lunch of royal Ottoman cuisine at Matbah Restaurant; a visit to the Blue Mosque — defined by the 20,000 blue Iznik tiles highlighting its superb interior; an outdoor stroll around the monument-studded Hippodrome. Then, risking total sensory overload, we’ll conclude our day at the Grand Bazaar.

ISTANBUL (DAY 2): Suleymaniye Mosque, Chora Church, Eyüp Sultan Mosque, and the Spice Market — THURSDAY, JULY 8   (€ 169*)

Today we will visit choice and distinguished features tucked away in Istanbul’s neighborhoods. You’ll crisscross eras, architectural styles, and secular and spiritual pursuits and take in memorable views of the city. On your itinerary:

  • Suleymaniye Mosque, built by the great Ottoman architect, Sinan and regarded as the most beautiful of all imperial mosques
  • a drive along the 5th-century City Walls of Constantinople
  • the 13th century A.D. Chora Church and its splendid Byzantine mosaics and frescos, some of the oldest and finest known
  • a lunch of Turkish food at Deraliye Restaurant
  • Eyüp Sultan Mosque (also designed by Sinan), with the Iznik-tile clad tomb of Abu Ayub al-Ansari making it a major pilgrimage site of the Islamic world, the Coffee House of Pierre Loti, a beloved local spot to sip coffee and make memories
  • the Egyptian Bazaar (Spice Market) famous for selling the best spices in Istanbul with its immense selection of spices and typical Turkish sweets

*The prices for the tours are quoted in Euros, per person. Included: all transportation to/from our ship, entrance fees, tours by licensed guides, all gratuities, and lunch.