Last month I had the good fortune to host a group on Regent Seven Seas Cruises from Athens to Istanbul. There were many parts to the trip that made it special.
I flew to Europe on the newly configured American 763. It now offers 2 class service with an ALMOST flat bed business seat. The service was very nice.
My pre-cruise land arrangements included a stay in Athens at the perfectly located 4-star Athens Gate. It is a 99-room property at the base of the Acropolis. It has a wrap-around restaurant on the top floor which serves a great buffet breakfast and light fare during the day. It has amazing views of the Acropolis or the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The bedrooms have hardwood floors and are spacious with 27" flat screen TV's with several English speaking stations! I think they have done a good job on the refurbishing of the bathrooms, too. The desirable rooms have views of the Acropolis. It is a killer view! Our transfer company, as usual, was always on time, knowledgeable of the area with lots of history to share and very courteous. The cars are Mercedes Benz.
As many times as I have been to Greece, I still get goose bumps when I walk through the Plaka. To realize the history that has taken place on the very ground you are walking is a very spiritual experience.
On the fourth day of my travels, we were taken by one of driver guides to Regent’s Navigator. This was my first experience on a small ship. It was so nice to walk right onto the ship and be one of only about 10 people being checked in at the same time, a task that took about 5 minutes to accomplish, all while sipping on a Mimosa.
I was expecting to find the Navigator in desperate need of refurbishment, knowing she is going out of service in November for a major face lift. Her décor does need a bit of updating, but we found the cabins well maintained and very spacious. With separate tub and shower in the bathrooms and walk-in closets, it was better than the "big suites" I have had on other cruise lines. Our cabin stewardess was wonderful and made this cruise very special. I would say the food was quite good, but not over-the-top special. I think sometimes chefs try so hard to put out gourmet' meals, that they miss the mark.
I really liked the "all inclusive" nature of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. It was nice to not be dinged for every glass of wine. On my cruise, there were only two excursion options that were not included in the price of the cruise and they were all-day sailing trips on a yacht. Everyone I spoke with said they felt the all inclusive excursion feature from Regent was the best thing about the cruise and a feature that would cause them to book again. The ship was full, but I never felt a crowd. I never had more than two people in front of me in any line the whole week! All our excursion guides were very knowledgeable and all spoke very good English.
The Greek islands were lovely as always, but my favorite ports were Kusadasi and Istanbul. I just have a thing for ancient history and both destinations were heaven in my book. The only negative, if there was one, was the heat. The “cool” days were 98 in Athens and 98 in Istanbul.
In Istanbul, I had a private tour with our preferred operator there, and I wanted a shopping day. This woman not only took us into the Grand Bazaar a different way than the usual tourist would go, but in three hours, we never saw another tourist that we could recognize as such. I was amazed at her knowledge of history, religious history for all three of the great religions and current events. I never asked a question she couldn't answer, or mentioned an event that she could not embellish. She was amazing and their pricing is very affordable.
I flew home on an American 777 in a wonderful flat bed. I had a glass of wine, started a movie and woke up in time to brush my teeth and walk off the plane. I am totally spoiled! This trip was a fabulous experience from start to finish.