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New! 2018 The Aegean Islands, Athens & Ephesus

Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
16 days
From: $ 6,595 $ 412 / day
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Overview

Highlights

  • Explore Delphi, including the Temple of Apollo where the oracle once prophesied
  • Visit the recently renovated Delphi Archaeological Museu
  • Enjoy the ride by coach to the towering rock formations, which are built the famous monasteries of Meteora
  • Experience the cruise to Mykonos, and explore this vacation spot
  • Enjoy short cruise to Delos. The mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis
  • Visit to the Basilica of St. John, constructed in the fifth century over the tomb

Short Description

In Greece, the cradle of Western civilization beckons to you with its proud monuments, sun-drenched isles, and friendly people. Journey to Greece on this Small Ship Adventure and discover the enduring treasures of antiquity, from the Temple of Apollo to the monasteries of Meteora. Then enjoy a Greek island cruise aboard Grand Circle’s private small ship, which holds two groups of just 25 travelers, and explore millennia-old settlements layered deeply in myth and history. Visit Delos, birthplace of Apollo … volcanic Santorini … bustling Syros … and Kusadasi, gateway to ancient Ephesus. Crown your Aegean cruise with two nights in Athens, where centuries of history mingle with modern sensibilities for an atmosphere like no other.

Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
Trip Type Small Group Tour
Off the beaten track trips will stretch your comfort zone. They don't always feature tourist highlights, but dive deeper into local life and culture.
Itinerary Focus Off the Beaten Path
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Athens
End City Athens

Trip Includes

  • International airfare, airport transfers, government taxes, fees, and airline fuel surcharges, unless you choose to make your own air arrangements
  • Accommodations for 3 nights at the Hera Hotel or similar, 2 nights at the Nafsika Palace or similar, 2 nights at the Meteora Hotel or similar, and 7 nights aboard our private small ship, the M/V Athena
  • 31 meals: All breakfasts, 6 lunches, 11 dinners—including 5 meals in local restaurants—plus all onboard house beer & wine, as well as soft drinks
  • 10 included tours with personal headsets and 4 exclusive Discovery Series events—Greek cooking class, Home-Hosted Dinner, Home-Hosted Lunch,  Carpet weaving discussion
  • Local Trip Leaders, a Grand Circle Cruise Line exclusive: These dedicated experts are with you (and no more than 25 travelers) every step of the way to provide insider’s knowledge and the perspective that will enrich your experience
  • Gratuities for local guides and motorcoach drivers
  • All port charges: a value of $250 per person
  • Baggage handling for 1 piece of luggage per person, including tips
  • 5% Frequent Traveler Credit toward your next Grand Circle trip—an average of $386

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Itinerary

Day 1: Depart U.S.

Fly from the U.S. to Athens, Greece.

Day 2: Athens, Greece

Accommodations: Hera Hotel,  St. George Lycabettus Hotel or similar

You'll be met at the Athens airport and assisted to your Athens hotel to join passengers coming from the Ancient Glories: Olympia, Nafplion & Athens pre-trip extension. This afternoon, enjoy a walk to get acquainted with the area around the hotel. Then gather for a Welcome Drink and briefing, before dinner on your own.

Day 3: Arachova, Greek Cooking Class

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: Nafsika Palace or similar

After breakfast, travel overland across the Thessaly Plain before climbing the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Enjoy lunch on your own along the way. Later, you'll reach the picturesque mountain village of Arachova where you'll stay tonight.

A healthy Mediterranean style of cooking, Greek cuisine is popular throughout the world, with its reliance on olive oil, grains, wine, fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Late this afternoon, learn how to prepare classic Greek specialties during a special cooking lesson, an exclusive Discovery Series event. Then, enjoy an authentic taste of this cuisine when you and your fellow travelers gather for dinner.

Please note: Some travelers will visit Kalambaka before Arachova. All included tours and features will remain the same.

Day 4: Arachova, Delphi

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodations: Nafsika Palace or similar VERY ACTIVE DAY

See Physical Requirements

Today, absorb the majesty of ancient Delphi, including the Temple of Apollo where the oracle once prophesied. This ancient sanctuary is beautifully set in a landscape fit for a god, at the foot of a mountain with a vista over olive groves stretching to the Bay of Itea. This guided tour includes up to two hours of walking, with several sets of stairs (up to 60 stairs, consecutively).

Those entering the sanctuary of Apollo in ancient times first purified themselves with the water of the Castalia Fountain, situated in the area. As you approach the Temple of Apollo, you'll walk the Sacred Way used by ancient Greeks such as the historian Plutarch, who was a priest of Apollo at Delphi. See treasuries built here by the Athenians, the Thebans, the Corinthians, and the Syracusans—the great powers of their day—including the theater, built to seat 5,000 people, from which it's possible to get an amazing view if you climb to the top row. You'll also see the famous Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. Located a short distance from the main ruins, the circular structure was constructed between 380 and 360 BC and once consisted of 20 Doric columns, three of which have been restored.

You'll also visit the recently renovated Delphi Archaeological Museum. The unmatched holdings here include the larger-than-life bronze Charioteer, dating to about 470 BC and one of the finest surviving bronze works of antiquity. The museum is filled with other masterpieces from the Archaic, Classical, and Roman periods, including scenes of the gods watching the Trojan War, a nine-statue family monument from the fourth century BC, and a sculpture of Roman Emperor Hadrian's beloved friend Antinoos.

Enjoy the rest of the afternoon to make your own discoveries. Dinner is on your own this evening.

Please note: Travelers do not have to participate in the up to two-hour walk in Delphi if they feel it may be too difficult.

Day 5: Arachova, Kalambaka

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: Meteora Hotel or similar

This morning, travel overland through a landscape studded with rocky pinnacles to Kalambaka. Enjoy lunch on your own en route. After your afternoon arrival, the balance of the day is yours to make your own discoveries. This evening, enjoy an included dinner at your hotel.

Day 6: Kalambaka, Meteora, Home-Hosted Dinner

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: Meteora Hotel or similar

This morning, ride by coach to the towering rock formations, on top of which are built the famous monasteries of Meteora. You'll enjoy breathtaking views from this unique setting and visit the monasteries, some of which date to the 16th century. Meteora means “suspended in the air,” and these astonishing retreats are indeed perched atop pinnacles that rise about 1,000 feet from the valley floor. For centuries, the monasteries served as Christian redoubts while the Ottoman Turks ruled Greece, and the monasteries are still in operation today.

After lunch on your own in the provincial town of Kalambaka, Thessaly, you'll discover a Byzantine tradition during a visit to a nearby icon-painting workshop.

This evening, enjoy a Home-Hosted Dinner with a local Greek family, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

Day 7: Kalambaka, Athens, Embark Ship

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: M/V Athena

After breakfast, begin your return transfer to Athens, where you will embark your small ship. You will have time for lunch on your own before you arrive.

This evening, meet your crew and enjoy a Welcome Drink followed by dinner. During the night, your ship sails toward the island of Syros.

Day 8: Syros, Mykonos

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodations: M/V Athena

This morning, explore Syros—whose main port town, Ermoupolis, is the capital of the Cyclades. This is the largest of the island ports that you'll visit. In the late 19th century, it was the main port for all of Greece, and it has a wealth of beautifully restored historic buildings including old mansions and churches. Enjoy a walking tour and discover the charms of this lively traditional Aegean port town. Here, you'll also taste one of Greece's favorite sweets, loukoumi, a gelatin candy dusted with powdered sugar.

Have lunch onboard, then cruise to Mykonos. You'll have the afternoon free to explore this vacation spot popular with international jet-setters.

Enjoy dinner together onboard and moor for the night in Mykonos.

Day 9: Delos, Kusadasi, Turkey

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodations: M/V Athena

This morning, take a short cruise to Delos. The mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, Delos has been settled for more than 5,000 years. You'll stroll among the restored remnants of markets, towers, and fountains, and see the preserved mosaics that earned this island its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While enjoying lunch onboard, your ship continues on to Kusadasi, Turkey. The afternoon is yours to relax or mingle with your fellow travelers before dinner. Your ship arrives in Kusadasi late tonight.

Day 10: Kusadasi, Ephesus, Carpet Weaving Discussion, Patmos, Greece  Foundation Visit

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodations: M/V Athena

Disembark your small ship in Kusadasi this morning and head out to probe the ruins of nearby Ephesus—one of the best-preserved and most extensive (2,000 acres) classical Greco-Roman cities in Asia. Located 60 miles from Izmir, Ephesus dates to at least 1300 BC and was home to the early philosopher Heraclitus. As the commercial center and capital city of Roman Asia Minor, it was once the fourth-largest city in the Roman Empire, boasting a population numbering more than 300,000.

One ancient legend attributes the founding of Ephesus to the Amazons of Greek mythology. Another credits the Athenian Androclus, who received advice from an oracle to establish a colony at the "place of the fish and the boar." And so, when he and his crew saw a wild pig charge out of underbrush set ablaze inadvertently by locals grilling fish, he staked his claim on the Anatolian shore. Since 1992, Grand Circle Foundation has been contributing to the preservation and ongoing excavations of this remarkable site, with its donations to the Foundation of Friends of Ephesus.

Your discoveries in Ephesus include a visit to the Basilica of St. John, constructed in the fifth century over the tomb of the evangelist St. John, and the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

After Ephesus, visit a local cooperative to learn how hand-woven Turkish carpets are produced, an exclusive Discovery Series event. You'll also enjoy an included lunch here.

Return to your ship early this afternoon to depart for the island of Patmos. Dinner will be onboard tonight.

Day 11: Patmos

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodations: M/V Athena

This morning, explore the beautiful and rugged island of Patmos, named a Sacred Island by the Greek government in 1981 and long a popular pilgrimage site. According to Roman legend, the island received its name when Poseidon stepped on it (patima being Greek for "step").

The island served as exile for an important figure from history: St. John the Evangelist, one of Jesus' twelve apostles. At the time, the island's near inaccessibility made it a perfect site for the banishment of criminals and political agitators. Exiled from Ephesus, St. John lived in a grotto beneath the Temple of Diana for 18 months, between AD 95 and 97. It was there that he was said to have received his vision of fire and brimstone and dictated the Book of Revelation. He also wrote the Fourth Gospel during this period.

During this morning's included tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you'll visit the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse, where St. John lived and worked. If you see cracks in the walls of the cave, consider that they are said to have appeared when the apostle heard the voice of the Lord. You'll also explore the eleventh-century Monastery of St. John, built by the monk Christodolous on the ruins of the Temple of Diana. Fortified over the next two centuries to protect it against marauding pirates, this imposing monastery is visible virtually everywhere on the island and has remained in continuous operation for more than 900 years.

You will see some priceless religious relics during your visit here, and be sure to listen for the remarkable acoustics inside the main chapel. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Aegean in Hora, the 17th-century town of dazzling white houses that tumbles down the hillside surrounding the citadel.

After enjoying lunch onboard, the afternoon is yours to explore more of Patmos independently. Return to your ship this evening for dinner, then relax as your ship sails on to Santorini.

Day 12: Santorini, Naxos

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: M/V Athena

Alight from your ship this morning and take in the exquisite beauty of Santorini. This remarkable island is the remnant of the rim of a volcanic caldera, much of which was blasted away by a huge eruption in 1600 BC. The bay enclosed by the crescent is nearly 1,300 feet deep, and our destination, the village of Fira, is perched on the caldera rim, about 1,000 feet above the water. You may choose your method of ascent: a funicular (cable car) or a traditional donkey ride.

In this spectacularly situated town, gleaming white houses look down hundreds of feet to the bay. You'll visit a local museum and learn about the excavations at Akrotiri—an ancient Minoan city buried by volcanic ash—during your tour here. You'll also visit the picturesque village of Oia and learn about the fascinating ancient history of this area. Please note: Should the museum be closed, your visit will be substituted by an alternate activity.

You may enjoy some free time in Santorini, then enjoy dinner aboard the ship this evening as you cruise on to Naxos.

Day 13: Naxos, Home-Hosted Lunch, Captain's Farewell Dinner

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodations: M/V Athena

Early this morning, ride across Naxos to the village of Kourounochari, then hike to Melanes—a valley hamlet rich with fruit and olive trees. You'll visit a garden where a half-finished ancient kouros sculpture lies on the ground. This kind of statue of a young man from Greece's Archaic period may have been intended to portray a guardian of Zeus, and was modeled after the formal style of ancient Egyptian sculpture.

From here, transfer to the town of Naxos, where you’ll have the chance to savor an authentic island meal when you join a local family for a Home-Hosted Lunch. Your afternoon is free to relax or to explore Naxos further on your own.

Afterward, return to your ship and toast to your discoveries during your Capitan’s Farewell Cocktail reception, followed by a Farewell Dinner. Late this evening, begin the overnight cruise to Athens.

Day 14: Athens, Disembark Ship

Meals included: Breakfast and Lunch

Accommodations: Hera Hotel,  St. George Lycabettus Hotel or similar

Disembark your ship this morning for a full day of discoveries in Greece’s capital, beginning with a visit to one of its most defining sites—the ancient Acropolis. Located atop a rocky outcrop, many of the Acropolis’ most important buildings—including the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike—were built in the fifth century BC, likely as shrines to Athens’ patron goddess. With their Doric columns and distinct decorative flourishes, these enduring structures are today considered among the most important examples of Classical Greece.

Following your tour here, descend from the hill atop which the Acropolis sits to explore the Plaka district. Nestled in the shadow of the mighty citadel, Plaka is Athens’ oldest neighborhood, and is filled with welcoming cafes, flower-lined patios, and shops specializing in hand-painted icons, jewelry, and antiques. Your stroll through Plaka concludes at Monastiraki Square, where you’ll enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant.

The remainder of the afternoon is yours to explore Athens independently, perhaps shopping in the large market in Monastiraki Square, or visiting one of Plaka’s many museums. Dinner is on your own tonight.

Day 15: Athens

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: Hera Hotel,  St. George Lycabettus Hotel or similar

After breakfast, the day is yours to do as you please. You may choose to visit the National Archaeological Museum, considered one of the greatest and most important museums in the world. Founded by Greece’s prime minister in 1829, the museum houses artifacts from archeological sites around the country, including sculptures, frescoes, and Mycenean and Cycladic art.

Or, you might explore the Benaki Museum. Located in a formerly private mansion in downtown Athens, the Benaki museum is home to an extensive collection of Greek art from prehistoric times to the modern age. A stroll through its corridors is like a panoramic tour of the evolution of Greek civilization.

Your Trip Leader will be happy to offer other suggestions, and can also recommend the best restaurants and cafes to enjoy an authentic Greek lunch. This evening, celebrate your discoveries during a Farewell Dinner with your fellow travelers at a local restaurant. Your meal this evening also includes entertainment: Greek dancers will demonstrate a traditional performance as you dine.

Day 16: Athens, Return To U.S.

Meals included: Breakfast

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flights home or begin your post-trip extension in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Availability

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Price From $ 6,595
Price Per Day: $ 412 per day
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38 Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T. Tours) Travel Reviews & Ratings

97%
4.8 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 35
Great 2
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 1
Value
4.8
Guide
4.9
Activities
4.8
Lodging
4.8
Transportation
4.8
Meals
4.8

New! 2018 The Aegean Islands, Athens & Ephesus

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Company Reviews

Fabulous scenery; fascinating people

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
LIKED the pre-trip in Copenhagen (could have been a day longer), Oslo (another day would have been nice there, too), travel from Oslo to Bergen and accommodations on the Hurtigruten ship for the fjord cruise. LOVED the scenery in the fjords, the small towns where the ship made quick stops to pick-up and drop-off cargo (very scenic), the people we encountered - especially the Sami reindeer herders - the guides and especially our Trip Leader Melissa. HATED the ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo; cabins are obnoxiously small, public spaces are limited and often uncomfortable and the food was, to be kind, ordinary. Fly instead!
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We had a wonderful time

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
We had a wonderful time and found the whole crew to be delightful. They had a way of making us feel appreciated and special. We were very impressed. My only recommendation would be to serve a free sweet white wine as one of your wine selections as not everyone is a fan of pinot or chardonnay.
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Excellent options

5.0
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Value5.0
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Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
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Meals5.0
We have been on Oat trips before and found this trip exceptionally good. Our leader, Declan, was extremely professional, knowledgeable, and able to deal with unexpected changes due to weather by providing excellent options. He had a good sense of humor and was extremely patience with everyone and diplomatic. The trip to Ireland was informative regarding history and the "troubles" and the terrain was very beautiful. The Irish people were friendly and the food was excellent and reasonable. The music presentations, home and farm visits, and national sites were all worth connecting with. Declan gave us a balanced view of the Irish "troubles" which we appreciated
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Ultimate Africa was Awesome

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Meals5.0
The accommodations were the best. It’s hard to believe we were in camps. I was amazed how good the food was, and how frequently we ate. It was one of the best experiences I have had. The game drives were exciting, and we saw so many animals, including the big five. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I may be going back in the future.
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Absolutely the most wonderful trip

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Absolutely the most wonderful trip, my 20th trip with GCT , nothing like the others. ‘‘Tis one was so special, starting with my guide Ombeni , an amazing man! He knew everything about the animals, the culture, the wonderful people,, and he took special care of us
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Best trip

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Meals5.0
Raul was the best program director I ever had. The trip Was amazing. Perfect pace. Raul paid attention to everyone and always let us know it was our choice with what we did.
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Details

Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Small Group - 24 max

Accomodations

Ships:

M/V Athena

Owned, operated, and staffed by Grand Circle Cruise Line, this ship was designed exclusively for two small groups of just 25 travelers. This award-winning vessel features spacious common areas, including a lounge/bar with inviting leather couches and soft chairs. Topside, a Sun Deck has classic wooden deck chairs for admiring the scenery. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available throughout your ship; connectivity may be limited in certain locations on your itinerary.

Hotels:

Hera Hotel

Athens, Greece

The Hera Hotel is ideally situated near the Acropolis and other archaeological sites, and is within walking distance of public transit. The hotel's 38 air-conditioned rooms include coffee- and tea-making facilities, high-speed wireless Internet access, telephone, a private bath with a hair dryer, and a safe.

St. George Lycabettus Hotel

Athens, Greece

Located at the foot of Lycabettus Hill, overlooking the city of Athens, the Superior First-Class St. George Lycabettus is also close to the exclusive shopping area of Kolonaki. Rooms are contemporary style, most have balconies, and all are air-conditioned and equipped with satellite TV, telephone, minibar, and private bath.

Hotel Meteora

Kalambaka, Greece

Situated in an idyllic natural setting on the outskirts of Kalambaka (about a 20-minute walk from its center), the Hotel Meteora offers scenic views of the surrounding mountains and is just a short distance to the famed monasteries of Meteora. Hotel amenities include a restaurant and outdoor swimming pool. There are 63 air-conditioned rooms, each with telephone, satellite TV, minibar, hair dryer, and private bath.

Nafsika Palace

Itea, Greece

Conveniently located in the heart of Itea and walking distance to the sea, Nafsika Palace features a bar and restaurant. Each air-conditioned room includes satellite TV, Internet, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

Cancellation Policy:

Cancellations:

a) If you must cancel your trip, you may do so by calling 1-800-221-0814, by selecting the “contact us” link on our website www.oattravel.com,, or by letter. Send letters of cancellation to: Overseas Adventure Travel, 347 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210. Cancellation charges will be calculated as of the date we receive your cancellation. Cancellation charges and refunds shall be calculated in accordance with the terms of this Passenger Agreement. If you are due a refund, you first must return your air tickets and, if applicable, cruise tickets to Operator. Any applicable refunds will be returned to you in the manner in which payment was made, and processed within 30 days of receipt of your cancellation.

b) Processing Fee: All cancellations made later than twenty-one days after booking are subject to a non-refundable fee of $300 and additional cancellation charges per the schedule below. Cancellations made within 21 days after booking will be subject to the same fee, unless the reason for canceling given at the time of cancellation is your rejection of these Terms and Conditions prior to acceptance. This $300 fee reflects only Operator's costs of administering a reservation.

c) Cancellation Charges Generally: Unless otherwise stated next to the program’s rate chart, you will receive a refund equal to your Trip Price (which excludes the cost of the non-refundable Travel Protection Plan) less the following per-person charges. Charges shown include the $300 administrative fee.

Additional Information:

Physical Requirements

Pacing

  • 15 days, with 7 nights aboard M/V Athena, three two-night hotel stays, and one single-night hotel stay

Physical Requirements

  • Walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 6-8 hours of physical activities each day
  • Our activities include up to two hours of walking on uneven surfaces uphill, with several sets of stairs (up to 60 stairs, consecutively) in Delphi on Day 4
  • Agility, balance, and strength are required for possible rough seas
  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them, and may not be able to participate in all activities
  • We reserve the right for Trip Leaders to restrict participation, or in some circumstances send travelers home, if their limitations impact the group’s experience

Terrain & Transportation

  • Uneven walking surfaces, unpaved paths, hills and rocky slopes, and stairs
  • Gangway incline can be steep when docked at a pier
  • Travel by 50-passenger small ship, 45-seat coach, and funicular 
  • The M/V Athena does not have elevators onboard
  • You must be cleared by a country’s local port authorities before disembarking
  • Weather conditions and tides may require adjustments to your itinerary

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 63-92°F during cruising season; June-August are warmest months

Trip ID#:

NewTheOve

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