Circumnavigation of the Black Sea

Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania & Bulgaria Aboard the Island Sky

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $12,980  
Length: 15 days
Arrive: Istanbul, Turkey
Depart: Istanbul, Turkey
Lodging: 12 nights aboard a 100-passenger expedition vessel, 1 night hotel, 1 travel day
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: 13-day cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours
1

Highlights

  • Archaeological sites, including a cliffside monastery in Turkey and the fabled site of Histria in Romania
  • Turkey tour, including Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the 17th-century Blue Mosque
  • Sochi, Russia, a mineral-spring resort community with a subtropical climate and site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games
  • The largest Roman ruins in Bulgaria, the 2nd-century Roman thermae, or public baths


All the lecturers were well prepared and interesting, and the topics were relevant and informative.Jan A.—Bethesda, MD

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.

Pre-Departure Information

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

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, you embark aboard the Island Sky, a 100-guest luxury expedition vessel, to explore these fabled lands of minarets and monasteries. You discover four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Romania’s winding Danube Delta and several archaeological masterpieces. Enjoy a local Georgian dining tradition, visit busy bazaars, and sample regional wines. In the land where Jason and his Argonauts searched for the Golden Fleece, you’ll find much treasure of your own.

Itinerary

Days 1-2, October 4-5, 2016
USA / Istanbul, Turkey

Depart on your overnight flight to Istanbul, Turkey. Upon arrival, transfer to the Pera Palace Hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure before our welcome dinner and briefing.

Day 3, October 6, 2016
Istanbul / Embark the Island Sky

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 Island Sky 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, October 7, 2016
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, October 8, 2016
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, October 9, 2016
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, October 10, 2016
Batumi, Georgia

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, October 11, 2016
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.

Day 9, October 12, 2016
At Sea

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

Day 10, October 13, 2016
Odessa

Odessa’s European-Russian heritage is evident as we ascend the Potemkin Steps to explore cobblestone streets lined with shady plane trees. 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. You 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, October 14-15, 2016
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, October 16, 2016
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. You'll We walk through fascinating seaside ruins, tour the new museum, and spot birds in this wetland environment. In Constanta, visit the archaeological and folkloric museum and one of the largest Roman mosaic floors in Europe. In the late afternoon, enjoy wine tasting and a cultural performance on board.

Day 14, October 17, 2016
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, October 18, 2016
Istanbul, Turkey / Disembark / USA

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

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

Pre-Voyage Extension: Cappadocia & Istanbul
September 27 – October 5, 2016

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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016, USA / Istanbul, Turkey

Depart on your independent overnight flight to Istanbul.

Wednesday, September 28, Istanbul

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

Thursday, September 29, 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.

Friday - Sunday, September 30 – October 2, 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.

Monday, October 3, 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.

Tuesday - Wednesday, October 4-5, 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: $5,960 single occupancy, $4,980 double occupancy

2016 Cruise Collection

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

2016
Oct 4-18, 2016  Aboard the Island Sky

Trip Cost

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 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.

Deck Plan

Cabin Descriptions

  • All cabins feature ocean views and have two twin beds that can be reconfigured into one queen, a sitting area, en suite bathroom, large wardrobes, vanity table, small refrigerator, television, personal safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, individually controlled air-conditioning and heating, and American-style outlets (two flat prongs) at 110 volts
  • Magellan Deck cabins are 230 square feet and have two to four portholes
  • Columbus Deck cabins are 240 square feet with large picture windows
  • Marco Polo Deck cabins range between 225 to 240 square feet and feature large picture windows
  • Erikson Deck cabins are 270 square feet including private balconies
  • Explorer Deck cabins are 325 square feet including private balconies

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.

Arrival & Departure Information

Arrival & Meeting Place

Istanbul, Turkey
Pera Palace Hotel

Date: Day 2
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.  If you arrive Istanbul on Day 2, 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.

Departure

Istanbul, Turkey
Date: Day 15
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.

Expedition Details

PASSPORT
A valid passport is required for participation in this program. It must be valid for at least three (3) months after you return home. If you do not have a passport, or if it is not valid for the correct length of time, you should apply for one as soon as possible. Please be sure you have at least one page for each country visited available in your passport for entry/exit stamps, and secure additional pages if necessary. We suggest that you carry a photocopy of your passport’s information page when you travel.

VISA
U.S. and Canadian nationals require a visa for entry into Turkey. You will need to purchase your entry visa via the Turkish Government website, www.evisa.gov.tr, prior to travel. To obtain your e-visa, you must have a valid passport, proof of a flight reservation, and a Visa or MasterCard credit card. Each traveler must apply for their visa individually.

The ship has arranged a group visa for entry into Russia. This group visa will include all passengers of American, Canadian, or European nationalities.

At this time, no visas are required for U.S. and Canadian nationals for entry into Georgia, Ukraine, Romania, or Bulgaria if traveling per the group arrangements of this expedition.

PLEASE NOTE: Nationals of countries other than the U.S. and Canada should check with the nearest consulates for specific visa and entry requirements for their entire itinerary, including both the group arrangements and any travel prior to or after the program.

MEDICAL
We recommend checking the Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov should you have any international heatlh concerns.

INOCULATIONS
Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before your trip.  However, no inoculations are currently required for entry into any of the countries visited on this trip.

PACKING SUGGESTIONS

It is essential to maximize the versatility of your travel wardrobe by packing clothing that can be layered. Wash-and-wear, lightweight, natural fabrics are recommended. As you pack, consider your own internal thermostat and personal tastes and adjust accordingly. Laundry service is available, and by using it, you can limit yourself to just four or five outfits and not be inconvenienced by an overabundance of clothing.

CLOTHING ON BOARD

The ship is air-conditioned and heated throughout, with individual controls in each cabin. Comfortable and casual clothing, in the expedition spirit, is recommended.

Typically there are two occasions on board when you may wish to wear slightly more formal attire: the captain’s welcome aboard and farewell cocktail parties followed by dinner. On these two occasions, women may choose to wear a dress or other appropriate, dressy attire, and men, possibly a jacket and tie. The degree of dress is in accordance with one’s personal preference.


CLOTHING ON SHORE

Sporty summer-weight clothing is a good basis for your wardrobe. Loose, lightweight, wash-and-wear slacks, skirts, blouses, shirts, and T-shirts are recommended. The sun can be strong, so bring adequate sun-protective clothing and gear, wear hats, and use sun block, as we will be out in the sun for extended periods of time. Also, keep in mind that we may encounter a rain shower or two on our excursions.

Shore excursions will involve a fair amount of walking and hiking over uneven trails. Sturdy walking shoes with thick soles or light hiking boots are recommended for walking on the often-rough terrain. If you have weak ankles, high-top hiking boots will provide better support than shoes. Make sure your shoes or boots are well broken-in before your trip.

Conservative clothing should be worn when visiting and entering any religious venue. Women should not expose their shoulders and all guests are asked to make sure shorts are at least knee length.

You will receive a complete Packing List with your Pre-Departure Packet, approximately five months prior to departure.

INTERNET AND PHONE

Contact information will be included in your final document package.

Wi-Fi is available in the Riviera Lounge on the Variety Voyager; Internet cards are available for a cost of 20 Euro for 240 minutes.  There are four computers available in the ship library however, while access to Wi-Fi has improved, connection cannot always be guaranteed.

Island Sky

The beautiful Island Sky features 53 spacious, outside-facing suites with marble-appointed bathrooms. Each suite includes a flat-screen TV with DVD player, hairdryer, individually controlled air conditioning, and mini-fridge. With an onboard atmosphere closer to a yacht than a cruise ship, she is very comfortable. Having undergone significant refurbishment in 2010, the ship features a large lounge, a library and bar, and an elegant dining room as well as spacious outside decks. The ship’s relatively small size lets her drop anchor in remote areas and in small ports where larger ships can’t go, and the fleet of inflatable Zodiacs offers access to wonderfully remote places. Island Sky has a staff and crew of 75.

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.