With a history reaching back over seven millennia, Sofia is one of Europe’s youngest capitals but oldest cities. Modern Sofia is full of cobblestone boulevards, domed churches, and vast parks, but behind this eclectic city is a history as rich as any capital. The city’s full heritage was only recently brought to light; when bulldozers broke ground to dig a path for the city’s new metro only a decade ago, they unearthed an ancient world, complete with intact Roman streets, houses, churches, and baths dating over 2,000 years back. Add in the fact that the city is also home to some of Bulgaria’s finest museums and restaurants, and you’ll find that Sofia is the perfect balance of history and culture. Your explorations include two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Boyana Church and Rila Monastery.
Fly overnight to Athens
Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Athens, Greece.
Arrive in Athens, Greece, the “cradle of civilization”
Welcome to Athens! If you purchased your airfare or transfers from Vantage, a representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your hotel transfer. Settle into your room, with views of Greece's energetic capital. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Briefing and Welcome Dinner at the hotel and get to know your fellow passengers.
Behold the classical wonders of Athens
This morning, enjoy a panoramic tour of Athens, the sophisticated capital of Greece. Mythology and ancient history come alive here, as you’ll see at the iconic Acropolis. It was here that Poseidon and Athena were said to have fought to determine who would be patron of the city. This was the architectural pinnacle of Athens, crowned by its breathtaking Parthenon. You’ll also visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Parliament House on Constitution Square, the Pan Athenian Stadium, and the Presidential Palace. Along the famed Panepistimiou Avenue, pass the Catholic Cathedral, Academy of Athens, the University of Athens, and the National Library.
You'll have lunch on your own, perhaps dining in the charming Plaka district, nestled at the foot of Acropolis Hill. Enjoy your afternoon at leisure in Athens, with so much to discover — from extensive shopping options to open-air markets to museums and beyond. Dinner is on your own tonight, and you're in luck — Athens restaurants are world-class, but so is its street food — at a fraction of the cost. Don't miss souvlaki, fava purée, pita, a classic Greek salad, or anything with feta cheese. Your conveniently-located hotel is just a stone’s throw from abundance of local restaurants and food stands.
Uncover ancient wonders before embarking the Variety Voyager
Kick off the day by brushing up on your ancient history at the New Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum, where a knowledgeable tour leader will enhance your discoveries. Lunch is on your own today, so grab one more indulgent Athenian snack at one of the local restaurants or food stands near your hotel before embarking the Variety Voyager, your home for the duration of your cruise.
Later, you’ll join fellow travelers for the first of your daily port talks to learn about tomorrow’s exciting destination. Tonight, your ship sets sail for Hydra.
Explore the car-free island of Hydra on foot
This morning, arrive in Hydra. The charm of this island town lies in its rich history, beautiful waterfront, and car-free lanes. In fact, the primary mode of transport here is donkey!
Your tour starts with a visit to the church of the Assumption of Mary — a structure lauded for its stunning architecture and various memorials related to Hydra’s interesting history and heritage. These tell the story of Hydra’s contribution to the Battle for Independence in 1821 as battleship captains and chieftains met here to plan the liberation of Greece. As your tour continues, you will see the aforementioned donkeys as you travel. You’ll breifly stop in front of the flag of the island, where your guide will explain its significance to the locals, before crossing a picturesque square where scenes from a James Bond film were shot. Continuing on, you’ll see statues of Prime Ministers of Greece who came from Hydra. Your tour continues at Rafalia, one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, housed in a renovated neoclassical building of the 19th century.
From here, you’ll pay a visit to the Historical Archive Museum of Hydra, which features one man’s collection of important documents and manuscripts. Your last stop in this charming town will be to the antique cannons, perched in an area that offers panoramic views of Peloponnese across the Aegean. This afternoon, begin sailing to Nafplion and enjoy an informative lecture. Upon arrival, have dinner and be regaled by onboard entertainers.
Tour Nafplion’s gems and visit ancient Epidaurus
This morning you’ll disembark in Nafplion, a charming city with a fascinating past. First, you'll travel inland to the ruins of Mycenae, the Bronze Age capital of one of the first great empires of the ancient Mediterranean, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Look for the massive archway with the carved lions, the symbol of the ancient city-state. After lunch in a local restaurant, you'll visit the ancient city of Epidaurus and behold its iconic, well-preserved amphitheater. Next, head back to Nafplion and enjoy a short orientation walk through the town before some free time to explore on your own. Finally, return to your ship and enjoy an informative onboard lecture before dinner. Tonight, your ship sets sail for Milos.
The underrated shores of Milos
Perhaps one of the most undiscovered of the Greek isles, Milos offers stunning beaches (more than any other Greek isle, in fact) and a fascinating landscape molded by volcanic activity. This is also the discovery site of Venus de Milo, one of the world’s most famous sculptures currently on display at the Louvre. You’ll discover this island on a sightseeing tour, which includes photo stops along the famous volcanic coastlines. You can also use your free time here to explore the Old Town. Later, hear a lecture on Alexander the Great.
A walking tour of stylish Santorini
Cruise to the popular island retreat of Santorini, where typical whitewashed homes scaffold up cliffs overlooking the crystalline sea. As we near the island, you’ll have views of the caldera and the cliffs of Santorini and its two main towns — Fira and Oia, home of the famous white houses with blue windows. Set off to the archaeological site of Akrotiri before visiting Santorini's underground Wine Museum, which exists within a cave and focuses on regional winemaking history. Enjoy a tour and tasting. After, settle in for lunch at a local restaurant before setting off to Santorini's iconic villages of Oia and Fira to see the iconic white and blue homes. Enjoy some free time before returning to your ship via local tenders.
Cruising the Cyclades: sacred Delos and hedonistic Mykonos
Despite its status as one of the smallest of the Cyclades, Delos was once the most sacred of the islands, a place steeped in mythology as the birthplace of the Apollo the Sun God, and his twin sister, Artemis, Goddess of the Moon. As you’ll discover on your visit, the entire island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with ongoing work to excavate, measure, and preserve the countless treasures, including temples, monuments, and mosaics.
Then, from the serene and timeless precincts of Delos, it’s on to an island of very different character. Beneath the glitz and glitter of fashionable Mykonos — possibly the most popular of the Greek isles — you’ll find a charming place filled with traditional homes and churches, shop-lined streets, and a picturesque harbor. Head out on a walking tour that includes a stop in a traditional taverna for Greek meze (small plates of food), accompanied by ouzo, Greece’s eponymous anise-flavored liqueur; then enjoy some time for swimming and exploring Mykonos on your own. Back on board, hear an enlightening lecture on Byzantium.
Touring historical hot spots on the up-and-coming isles of Paros and Syros
This morning we call at Paros, an island renowned for its beauty, laid-back fishing port, and traditional hill villages connected by ancient footpaths. A walking tour in the unpretentious but charming capital of Parikia reveals the traditional bleached architecture so typical in this part of the Aegean.
Next, enjoy scenic sailing as you depart Paros for Syros, this once-thriving 19th-century trading port. During your walking tour, you’ll discover the island’s rich layers of history, from ancient ruins to religious monuments to the capital Ermoupoli’s medieval quarter. You'll also have a chance to enjoy a tasting of flavorful Loukoumi candy. Then, learn more about the religious traditions in Greece with a fascinating lecture. Tonight, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant with Syros complete with strolling musicians playing traditional tunes!
Disembark and discover the breathtaking beauty of Cape Sounion
Today, you’ll disembark your ship in Piraeus and set out on a half-day tour of Cape Sounion. This cape is one of the most famous and picturesque places in Attica, bordered by the sea on three sides, with a sharply indented coastline that’s fringed with beautiful beaches. Today, you will see some of the marvelous vistas Attica offers overlooking the sea. Departing from the port, you will drive along the scenic west coast of the Attica Peninsula affording you fine views of the Saronic Gulf, and the fertile countryside inland. The island of Aegina will be on your right as you pass Voula, Lagonissi, and other resorts on your way to the southeastern most tip of the land mass of Europe — Cape Sounion. Here on top of the cliff, from where King Aegeus threw himself into the sea that even now bears his name, stand the 17 remaining Doric columns of the 5th-century B.C. Temple of Poseidon. Built in Pentelic marble, the columns have retained much of their original gleaming white appearance. Many visitors, both illustrious and ordinary, have carved their names on the pillars since the 18th century. Lord Byron proudly carved his signature, but you are discouraged from leaving your mark! The breathtaking panorama from this lofty spot is superb with the deep blue Aegean Sea studded with the islands before you. Lunch and a tasting of regional wines will take place at a local restaurant today.
Check into your hotel this afternoon and settle in. Your evening is at leisure, with dinner on your own.
Spend a day at leisure in Athens
Spend a day at leisure to enjoy more time in the Greek capital city. Your hotel is conveniently located near the upscale Kolonaki district in the center of Athens. Or perhaps you'll visit the charming Plaka district, nestled at the foot of Acropolis Hill. There's so much to discover — from extensive shopping options to open-air markets to museums and beyond.
Tonight, meet up with your fellow passengers one more time for a Farewell Dinner at the hotel.
Return home or begin your extension to Istanbul
Transfer to the airport for your flight home or begin your post-trip extension in Istanbul, Turkey.
Immerse yourself in the exoticism, fascinating history, and resplendent architecture of Istanbul, where Europe meets Asia along the bustling Bosphorus Strait. You’ll step into the world of Ottoman sultans at the Topkapi Palace, marvel at the towering domes and minarets of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, and roam the endless passageways of the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market, teeming with colorful carpets, leather goods, jewelry, and lanterns. Your three nights in this intoxicating cultural capital is the perfect way to round out your ocean expedition.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Cruise Director or regional expert.