Circumnavigation of the Black Sea

Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania & Bulgaria Aboard the Variety Voyager

Circumnavigation of the Black Sea route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $12,980  
Length: 15 days
Arrive: Istanbul, Turkey
Depart: Istanbul, Turkey
Lodging: 12 nights aboard a 72-passenger expedition vessel, 1 night hotel
Meals: All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore, including house wine, beer or soft drinks with lunch and dinner
Activity: Walking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level: 12-day cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours
1

Highlights

  • Istanbul’s famed monuments, including the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace
  • Dramatically-situated Byzantine Sumela Monastery, graced with intricate frescoes of brilliant blues, reds, and golds
  • The grand city of Odessa, with splendid examples of elegant 18th- and 19th-century architecture, including a tour of the magnificent Opera House
  • Romania’s tranquil Danube River Delta, a wildlife refuge and Biosphere Reserve

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Visa Requirements

US citizens need a visa for Turkey. Visas can easily be obtained upon arrival at the airport in Istanbul for approximately $20.

The fascinating lands ringing the legendary Black Sea—Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria—are the ancient crossroads of history, filled with the remnants of vanished civilizations, vibrant contemporary cultures, and a wealth of beautiful landscapes. Accompanied by an expert team of archaeologists and historians, we embark aboard the Variety Voyager, a 72-guest luxury expedition vessel, to explore these fabled lands of minarets and monasteries. Our journey includes the famed monuments of Istanbul including the Topkapi Palace, ancient Trabzon, one of antiquity’s greatest cities, Odessa’s spectacular 18th and 19th century architecture, a cruise on the Danube River Delta, a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, and Bulgaria’s vast Roman ruins.

Itinerary

Days 1-2
USA / Istanbul, Turkey

Fly to Istanbul, Turkey. Upon arrival, transfer to the Pera Palace Hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure before our welcome dinner and briefing.

Day 3
Istanbul / Embark the Variety Voyager

After breakfast, set out to explore the heart of Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the 17th-century Blue Mosque and continue to the beautiful Hagia Sophia. Alternatively, visit the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior of Chora, the beautiful Rustem Pasha Mosque, and the colorful Spice Bazaar. After lunch, explore opulent Topkapi Palace, which served as the chief residence of Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years.

In the late afternoon, board the Variety Voyager and cruise toward the Black Sea up the scenic Bosporus, a strait that runs through the center of Istanbul and forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia.

Day 4
Bartin / Safranbolu

From the port at Bartin, travel inland to Safranbolu, a World Heritage Site. Once an important center of saffron production and a stopover for Silk Road caravans, Safranbolu boasts a wealth of well-preserved Ottoman architecture. A walking tour visits the marketplace as well as a mosque, traditional house, and Turkish hammam that date back to the 16th century. Enjoy lunch in a converted Ottoman caravanserai, with free time to explore on your own before returning to the ship in Bartin.

Day 5
Sinop

The charming port of Sinop has been continuously occupied since the 7th century BC. Tour the ancient fortress walls; the small archaeological museum, with fascinating artifacts spanning the centuries; and the 11th-century Alaaddin Mosque. After lunch there is free time to explore on your own.

Day 6
Trabzon / Sumela Monastery

Ancient Greeks settled Trabzon along a branch of the Silk Road from Asia. A highlight of our visit is a morning drive in the countryside to see the 13th and 14th century Byzantine Sumela Monastery, perched precariously on a cliff face in the monastic tradition of Greek Orthodox architecture. Detailed frescoes, etched in brilliant blues, reds, and golds, cover the interior. This stunning alpine setting is also a national park. This afternoon we explore the 13th century Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine church with exquisite frescoes, and spend some free time wandering through the modern city of Trabzon.

Day 7
Batumi, Georgia / Kutaisi

Today the ship docks at the charming port of Batumi, where we visit the colorful farmers' market and take a relaxing walk through the lovely Botanical Gardens. After lunch on board, take a short drive to the ruins of ancient Gonio Fortress, which dates back to the first century AD. Return to Batumi for a dinner of regional delicacies and Georgian wines at a local restaurant, accompanied by a fantastic folk performance of traditional music and energetic dances.

Day 8
Sochi, Russia

This Russian mineral-spring resort community with a subtropical climate is sometimes called the Russian Riviera. Today we explore the town with a special visit to Stalin’s dacha. Well hidden among trees on the outskirts of town, this house was a favorite summer retreat of the infamous leader. Or, join a tour to Krasnaya Polyana for stunning views of the Caucasus Mountains and the 2014 Olympic Village.

Day 9
At Sea

Attend lectures today and enjoy the passing scenery during a relaxing day at sea.

Day 10
Odessa

Odessa’s European-Russian heritage is evident as we ascend the Potemkin Steps to explore cobblestone streets lined with shady plane trees. We explore the compact central district’s spectacular architecture, including monuments, statuary, parks, and ornate 19th century gems such as the Opera House and Gagarin’s Palace. We also visit one of the country’s oldest archaeological museums, which houses an extensive collection of Ukrainian artifacts ranging from the Paleolithic age to the medieval period. Enjoy free time this afternoon to stroll the graceful boulevards, with the option to dine ashore on your own.

Days 11-12
Danube River Delta, Romania

The Danube is Europe’s second longest river as well as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. During two full days, discover the a wealth of natural and cultural wonders. Take a walking tour of the small port of Tulcea and visit the Danube Canal Museum and Danube Ecologic Museum. The next day, board a local boat to explore this wetland habitat looking for over 200 species of birds, including pygmy cormorants, purple herons, white-tailed eagles, and Dalmatian pelicans. On board, sample local vodka and Romanian snacks.

Day 13
Histria / Constanta

Histria was Romania’s earliest-founded city and flourished as an extraordinary trading center, later to be abandoned and swallowed by alluvial deposits and sand. The site has been under excavation since its rediscovery in 1914. In Constanta, visit the archaeological and folkloric museum and one of the largest Roman mosaic floors in Europe. After lunch at a local restaurant, return to the ship for a wine tasting and cultural performance.

Day 14
Varna, Bulgaria

The modern port city of Varna was once the Greek colony known as Odessos. We disembark in the morning and visit Varna’s archaeological museum that chronologically traces the progress of human society in the region over the course of millennia and includes the oldest worked gold in the world. We also explore the extensive remains of the 2nd century Roman thermae, or public baths, which make up the largest Roman ruins in Bulgaria. Reboard the ship for lunch as we sail toward Turkey.

Day 15
Istanbul, Turkey / Disembark / USA

We disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport for homeward-bound flights.

Note: This cruise is not an exclusive Wilderness Travel departure. The itinerary, lecturers, and other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the ship operator.

Pre-Voyage Extension: Cappadocia & Istanbul
Friday, September 12 – Saturday, September 20

Turkey’s Cappadocia region is a land of striking volcanic terrain marked by thousands of pyramid-shaped rock spires. Throughout the centuries, Cappadocia’s inhabitants have carved their homes and churches in these columns and in caves, creating tunnels and chambers in the rock. This pre-voyage extension highlights the region’s cultural treasures, beautiful vistas, and fascinating history, and also explores Istanbul, Turkey’s magnificent cultural, political, and commercial center.

Friday, September 12, 2014, USA / Istanbul, Turkey

Depart on your independent overnight flight to Istanbul.

Saturday, September 13, Istanbul

Arrive in Istanbul this evening and transfer to the Renaissance Polat Hotel for dinner and overnight.

Sunday, September 14, Istanbul / Ankara

This morning, fly from Istanbul to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, for a tour of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which houses a rich collection of Turkish artifacts from prehistoric peoples and Hittite, Phyrgian, Lydian, and Urartian cultures; as well as the Mausoleum of Atatürk, a national shrine dedicated to the founder of modern Turkey. Dinner and overnight at the Swiss Hotel Ankara.

Monday - Wednesday, September 15 – 17, Cappadocia

During your time in magical Cappadocia, explore the extraordinary underground city of Kaymakli, where early Christians carved stables, kitchens, tunnels, and churches from the volcanic rock. Other examples of Cappadocian rock architecture include Pigeon Valley, where hundreds of small caves were used to house birds, and Uchisar Castle, a solid rock used as a watchtower. The peaceful, attractive valley of Pashabagi is famous for its three-headed fairy chimneys. At Zelve, view the traditional rock village and cave homes that were inhabited until the 1960s. You will also visit Mustafapasa with its impressive Greek and Ottoman architecture. Tour the open-air museum of Goreme and attend a whirling dervish performance during dinner at a local restaurant. Overnights at Cappadocia Cave Resort in Nevşehir.

Thursday, September 18, Cappadocia / Istanbul

This morning transfer to the airport for our flight to Istanbul. After lunch at a local restaurant, take a walking tour of the historic Galata and Beyoglu districts. This evening, check in to the elegant Pera Palace Hotel for dinner and overnight.

Friday - Saturday, September 19-20, Istanbul

Spend two days touring the many cultural treasures of Istanbul. Take a cruise to Buyukada Island, and board horse-drawn carriages for a tour through narrow, traffic-free streets lined with charming summer homes and magnificent Ottoman-era villas. The next day visit the Byzantine Chora Church, noted for its beautiful interior covered with magnificent frescoes and mosaics. Continue to the Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul’s largest, constructed in the 1550s. After lunch there is leisure time to explore on your own. Return to the Pera Palace Hotel this evening where you will join the main group for dinner.

Price: $6,550 single occupancy, $5,370 double occupancy

2015 Cruise Collection Brochure

We’ve searched the world to find the finest small ships and most active adventures, from Greenland to New Zealand to the great rivers of Europe.

Download our online digital brochure to view on your computer or mobile device, or as a PDF! Or request a printed copy to be sent by mail, or by calling 800-368-2794.

What the Trip is Like

The trip is rated Level 1, Easiest, and is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active. For most activities, a relatively moderate level of exertion is required. You must be able to walk distances of one to three miles, unaided, over sometimes uneven surfaces, such as cobblestones, and climb stone steps that at times may not have handrails. Opportunities will also be available for optional hikes requiring more exertion.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures & Leaders

2015
May 20-Jun 3, 2015  Aboard the Variety Voyager

Jun 1-15, 2015  Aboard the Variety Voyager
2016
Oct 4-18, 2016  Aboard the Island Sky

Trip Cost

Aboard the Variety Voyager
Prices are for 2015

Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy

CategoriesCruise Price
Category 1 $12,980
Category 2 $14,280
Category 3 $15,980
Category 4 $18,380
Owner's Suite (call for availability) $19,980
Sole occupancy Category 1: $17,880
Sole occupancy Category 2: $19,980

Aboard the Island Sky
Prices are for 2016

Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy

CategoriesCruise Price
Category 1 $12,980
Category 2 $13,980
Category 3 $14,980
Category 4 $15,680
Category 5 $16,780
Category 6 $18,880
Sole occupancy Category 2: $17,580
Sole occupancy Category 3: $18,780

Trip Cost Includes:

  • 12-night cruise aboard the Variety Voyager
  • Accommodations in hotel and on board the Variety Voyager
  • All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore, including house wine, beer or soft drinks with lunch and dinner
  • Complete program of tours and excursions
  • Educational program of lectures and discussions by accompanying guest lecturers
  • Arrival and departure transfers on group dates
  • Complete pre-departure materials
  • $50,000 of medical expenses and $75,000 in emergency evacuation insurance
  • Landing and port fees, entrance fees
  • All gratuities to porters, guides, and ship's crew
  • Gift certificates for recommended expedition gear and reading materials

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; accident/baggage/cancellation insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar charges, alcoholic beverages, email/internet/phone/fax charges.

Trip Payment Schedule*

At time of reservation: 25% of trip cost
130 days prior to departure: Balance

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $750 per person
180-120 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
119-60 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
59 days or less: 100% of trip cost

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Arrival & Departure Information

Arrival & Meeting Place

Istanbul, Turkey
Pera Palace Hotel

Date: September 20
Suggested arrival time: anytime

Suggested Arrival Airport

Istanbul (airport city code IST)

For this program, Day 1 is a day of travel, assuming you are flying from the United States.  The trip actually begins on Day 2 (September 20, 2014).  If you arrive Istanbul on September 20, a transfer from the airport to the hotel is provided.  If you require extra hotel nights in Istanbul, please let us know and we will request these extra services for you.  Embarkation aboard the ship is the late afternoon of Day 3 (September 21).

Departure

Istanbul, Turkey
Date: October 3, 2014
Time: After 11:00 am

Suggested Airport for Departure

Istanbul (airport city code IST)

Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your return flights.  You can schedule your return flight anytime after 11:00am.

 

International Air Travel

You are responsible for making your own arrangements for flights to and from Turkey. Airlines with the most convenient schedules for this trip include:

Turkish Airlines
Phone: 800-874-8875
www.turkishairlines.com

Delta Airlines
Phone: 800-221-1212 
www.delta.com

Lufthansa
Phone: 800-399-5838
www.lufthansa.com

British Airways
Phone: 800-247-9297
www.ba.com

British Air has a more spacious economy class (“World Traveler Plus”) that is an inexpensive alternative to business class.

 

The name on your airline ticket must match the name on your passport exactly, and your passport must be valid for at least six months after your date of return to the U.S.

Please do not purchase your tickets until you are confirmed on the trip. Once your tickets have been purchased, please send us a copy of your airline schedule so we can reserve your airport transfers. It is your responsibility to ensure your flight times coordinate with the arrival and departure logistics for this trip.

We recommend at least a two-hour connection time at the gateway city for the international flight. Although shorter connecting times are legal, you want to allow some time in case your domestic flight is delayed.

Flight Reconfirmations

Reconfirm your international flights 72 hours prior to departure to verify check-in and departure times and to learn of any last minute changes. We suggest you check your luggage all the way through from your hometown to your final destination.

Late Arrival

If you miss your flight or are otherwise delayed, contact the airlines immediately to rearrange your flight schedule. Once rescheduled, please contact our office at (800) 368-2794 or (510) 558-2488 (Monday-Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm Pacific Time, or leave a message after hours). Detailed information with local contacts will be included in your Final Documents.

 

Emergency Contact

Should you wish to give family and friends an emergency contact number, please have them call our office. As it may be difficult, expensive, or even impossible to contact you for short periods (especially when you are traveling in remote regions), this should only be used in cases requiring your early return or an immediate phone call.

Wilderness Travel: (800) 368-2794 or (510) 558-2488.

Expedition Details

PASSPORT
A valid passport is required for your trip. Be sure to check the expiration date.  Your passport must be valid for three months after the conclusion of your trip.  In addition, we recommend your passport has at least two completely blank visa pages for every country you will be visiting. It is very important that the blank pages say “Visas” at the top. The last few pages of your passport, which say “Amendments and Endorsements,” and the final page of your passport, which may not have a page number, are not considered to be legitimate visa pages. You can request a new passport or have extra pages inserted in your current passport through a visa service agency or the US Passport Services Office (http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html). Be sure to allow sufficient time to acquire this before your trip.  It is a good idea to carry photocopies of your passport’s photo page and any acquired visa pages for your trip (if applicable) in case your passport is lost or as an additional piece of identification, as well as two extra passport photos.

MEDICAL
Traveler's health information is available from the Centers for Disease Control. (http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm) Medical travel products are available from Travel Health Medicine ( http://www.travmed.com) and from Magellan's Travel Supplies. ( http://www.magellans.com)

INOCULATIONS
No inoculations are currently required for entry into any of the countries visited on this trip.

<em>Variety Voyager</em>

Variety Voyager (2015 Itinerary)

Days 3 to 14 (12 nights)

The Variety Voyager, built in 2012, is a state-of-the art private yacht accommodating up to 72 guests in 36 cabins. All ocean-view cabins ...
Click here for full description and more photos

<em>Island Sky</em>

Island Sky (2016 Itinerary)

Days 3 to 14 (12 nights)

One of the finest small ships in the world, the Island Sky features 53 spacious, outside-facing suites with marble-appointed bathrooms. ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Expedition Leaders

The team of expert leaders and lecturers serves to bring a comprehensive educational component to your adventure through lectures, guided excursions, and daily recaps. (Please note that expert leader and lecturer assignments are subject to change).

Lia Oprea (Expedition Leader)

Part Romanian, Lia credits her Gypsy heritage for her peripatetic nature and love of exploration. This love led her to travel widely around the globe and, quite naturally, to a career in adventure travel, a trade she has plied for more than a dozen years.

Kevin Clement

Although his specialty is subarctic ecology, Kevin’s work as a naturalist and adventure travel guide has taken him from his home in Alaska to all seven continents. He has worked in several national parks and has guided groups in whitewater rafts, sea kayaks, and on foot. Kevin holds a certification in scuba diving, swiftwater rescue, and wilderness medicine, as well as a Coast Guard Master’s license.

Dorothy Drummond

Dorothy is an author and popular educator, now retired from teaching geography. A lifetime world traveler, former president of the National Council for Geographic Education, and member of the Society of Woman Geographers, Dorothy with her husband once spent a year in Burma as a Fullbright scholar. In addition to several textbooks on world cultures and numerous encyclopedia articles, Dorothy is the author of Holy Land, Whose Land? Modern Dilemma, Ancient Roots. Dorothy is also a Fellow of the American Geographical Society.

James Higginbotham

Jim is Associate Professor of Classical Archaeology at Bowdoin College, holds a PhD in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan, and is a lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America. His scholarly interests focus on ancient Greek and Roman colonies and the social history of the late Roman Republic. In addition to teaching courses in archaeology and the classical languages, he has excavated classical sites in Greece, Israel, and Italy.

Allan Langdale

Allan earned a doctorate degree in art history from the University of California at Santa Barbara and has taught in the University of California system for more than 12 years. His specialties include Italian Renaissance art and architecture, medieval art, and Byzantine art. He has published a number of works of travel photography and is currently completing a picture book, illustrated with his photographs, of the historical architecture of northern Cyprus.