Trip Details at-a-Glance
|Lodging:||12 nights aboard lsland Sky, 1 night hotel|
|Meals:||All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore|
|Activity:||Walking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures, Small Ship Cruising|
12-day cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours
- Istanbul’s famed monuments, including the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace
- Lovely seaside town of Amasra, Amasya’s Ottomon-era wooden houses
- Sochi on the Russian Riviera, Yalta on the Crimean Peninsula
- 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.
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 RequirementsUS 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 Island Sky, a 114-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, Georgia’s illustrious Gelati Monastery, founded in the 12th century, Sevastopol, crucible of the Crimean War, 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.
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.
Istanbul / Embark Island Sky
After breakfast we explore the opulent Topkapi Palace, which served as the chief residence of Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years. After lunch, we set out to explore the heart of Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visit the 17th century Blue Mosque and continue to the beautiful Aya Sofya. Alternatively, we visit the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior of Chora, the beautiful Rustem Pasha Mosque, and the colorful Spice Bazaar. In the late afternoon we board the Island Sky and cruise toward the Black Sea up the scenic Bosphorus, a straight that runs through the center of Istanbul and forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia.
Bartin / Amasra
Today we dock in Bartin and drive to the harbor town of Amasra. Our tour on foot reveals panoramic views of the coastline and nearby rugged islands. We walk the cobblestone streets, where local houses are interspersed with remnants of Byzantine churches and Genoese castles, visit the local market or museum, or enjoy a scenic hike.
Samsun / Amasya
From the port of Samsun we drive inland to Amasya, former capital of the kingdom of Pontus during the third century BC. This town of red-roofed dwellings and 19th century Ottoman-era wooden houses is set along the dramatic Yesilirmak River Gorge. We explore photogenic winding alleyways, the ethnographic museum, and a medrese, or Islamic seminary. For lunch we enjoy a feast of regional Turkish cuisine in a local restaurant with commanding views of the town and the Pontic Tombs.
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 Aya Sofya, a Byzantine church with exquisite frescoes, and spend some free time wandering through the modern city of Trabzon.
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. We also savor regional delicacies and Georgian wines during lunch at a local restaurant, and enjoy a fantastic folk performance of traditional music accompanied by dances. In the afternoon, we board coaches for the short drive to the ruins of ancient Gonio Fortress, which dates back to the first century AD. Return to Batumi, where you will have free time to explore on your own.
This Russian mineral-spring resort community with a subtropical climate is sometimes called the Russian Riviera. This morning 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.
Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine
Yalta is a seaside resort on the Crimean Peninsula, long a favored spot for Russian and Ukrainian elite who constructed palatial homes here. Our excursions include a visit of the magnificent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, with its intricate Byzantine adornment, and a scenic coastal drive to the elegant Renaissance-style Livadia Palace, summer home of Tsar Nicholas II and location of the 1945 Yalta Conference.
This morning we disembark in the military port of Sevastopol for a tour of the submarine tunnels at Balaklava and to visit the Panorama Museum depicting scenes from the Crimean War. After lunch we visit the nearby World Heritage Site of ancient Chersonesus, once a splendid Greek seaside colony.
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. Among the exhibits are antiquities fashioned of precious metals, including Scythian jewelry and ancient coins.
Danube River Delta, Romania
The Danube is Europe’s second longest river as well as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. We board a local boat to explore this waterway, a wetland habitat for over 200 species of birds, including pygmy cormorants, purple herons, white-tailed eagles, and Dalmatian pelicans. On board, we sample local vodka and snacks prepared by our Romanian chef. Later, we rejoin the Island Sky and sail downriver on the main Sulina channel.
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. We walk through fascinating seaside ruins, tour the new museum, and spot birds in this wetland environment. Next we explore Constanta where we tour the archaeological museum and view one of the largest Roman mosaic floors in Europe. In the late afternoon, we enjoy wine tasting and a cultural performance on board.
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. This afternoon we reboard the ship and sail toward Turkey to complete our circumnavigation.
Istanbul, Turkey / Disembark / USA
We disembarkafter breakfast and transfer to the airport.
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.
What the Trip is Like
The trip is rated Level 1, Easiest, and is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active. Some excursions involve a fair amount of standing and walking—often over rough ground and sometimes uphill. Mobility is essential, as small boats and tenders are occasionally used for disembarkation and re-embarkation.
Departures & Leaders
May 20-Jun 3, 2015
Aboard the Island Sky
Prices are for 2014
Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy
Sole occupancy Category 3: $18,270
Aboard the Variety Voyager
Prices are for 2015
Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy
|Owner's Suite (call for availability)||$19,980|
Sole occupancy Category 2: $19,980
Trip Cost Includes:
- 12-night cruise aboard the Island Sky or Variety Voyager
- Accommodations in hotel and on board the Island Sky or Variety Voyager
- All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore
- 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.
Arrival & Departure Information
Arrival & Meeting Place
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
No inoculations are currently required for entry into any of the countries visited on this trip.
Days 1 to 14 (14 nights)
One of the finest small ships in the world, the Island Sky features 53 spacious, outside-facing suites with marble-appointed bathrooms. ...
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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.
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 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.
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 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.