Our Antiquity to Byzantium small ship cruise is a voyage through history dedicated to the Golden Age of Greek civilization and beyond. This cruise comes complete with a guest lecturer, Eugenia Alexiou. Eugenia has a Master’s degree in Byzantine Art, is an expert historian and, as a graduate of the Athens’ Tour Guide Academy, is the perfect tutor through all the classical sites and sights we visit. This journey to off-the-beaten track locales in the Peloponnese peninsula is a masterclass on the journey through classical antiquity and the Roman conquest, ending with the transition to the Christian empire of Byzantium. Transit the amazing engineering feat that is the Corinth Canal, cut though solid rock in the 1880’s to join the Gulf of Corinth with the Aegean Sea.
Day 1: Marina Zea
Embarkation between 2-3 pm. Enjoy a welcome drink and meet your crew and fellow passengers. Sail for Palaia (old) Epidaurus. Evening arrival and dinner on board.
Day 2: Palaia Epidaurus (optional excursion)
We leave our ship early in the morning to drive to Ancient Epidaurus for our optional excursion. Epidaurus was known throughout the Greek world as a healing sanctuary. It was reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son Asclepius - and for its theater, which is once again in use today. The sanctuary was looted by the Roman general Sulla by pirates and later by Goths in 395 A.D. and very little remains of it today. The prosperity brought by the Asclepieion enabled the residents of Epidaurus to construct civic monuments, including a huge theater (approximately 300 B.C.) renowned for its symmetry and beauty. Lunch on ship and afternoon sailing to Nafplion. Overnight at port.
Day 3: Nafplion/Mycenae (optional excursion)
After a short walking tour of Nafplion, drive through the colorful city and the beautiful countryside of Argolis towards Mycenae for an optional excursion. The importance of the city, which Homer calls “rich in gold” begins in 1650 B.C and ceases around 1100 B.C with the fall of the civilization to which it gives name. Visit the remains of the ancient glorious city including the Lion’s Gate, the Palace, the so called Agamemnon Tomb and the museum. Lunch on ship and afternoon sailing to Monemvassia. Overnight sailing to Gythion.
Day 4: Gythion (optional excursion)
Early morning arrival to Gythion. Optional Excursion to Mani peninsula and Cape Tenaro plus the spectacular Dirou Caves with their stalactites and stalagmites. Ancient Gythion was inhabited during prehistoric times and later the Spartans used as a port, enlarging the natural harbor they made Gythion their naval base. Leaving Gythion we will cross the scenic Mani Peninsula to reach Diros and visit the spectacular caves, discovered around the 60s, which are perhaps among the most important natural sites of Greece. After visiting the cave we will drive to nearby Areopolis for a short stroll through the town. Mani is at the tip of the Peloponnese, a distinctive area unlike any other area in Greece. A desolate region of underground lakes and rivers, windswept landscapes and towers who is strangely beautiful. Overnight at sea to Pylos.
Day 5: Pylos (optional excursion)
Pylos is a picture-perfect seaside town on the southwest corner of the Peloponnese. In 1827 a fleet of Venetians and other city states defeated an Ottoman fleet in one of the most important naval battles in history. This defeat led to the independence of Greece, which occurred in 1829. During our optional excursion and after stopping to admire the scenery, we will continue up the road to Nestor’s Palace. The remains of the prehistoric Palace occupy a scenic hilltop setting north of Pylos. The palace at Pylos belonged to Nestor and was discovered in 1939 by the American archaeologist Carl Blegen.
Highlights include the well-preserved royal apartments and a bathtub that archaeologists have speculated belonged to the old king himself. The palace, with its central courtyard, was originally two stories high and richly decorated with frescoes. Following our visit to the remains of the palace, we will make the short trip to the town of Hora where a superb archaeological museum holds thousands of artifacts recovered from the site. Overnight sailing to Katakolon.
Day 6: Katakolon/Olympia (optional excursion)
Early morning arrival in Katakolon. We will disembark the ship around 7:00 a.m. in the port town of Katakolo and an optional excursion takes us by bus to Olympia, one of the most famous and important sites in the ancient world. Olympia is revered as the birthplace of the Olympic Games. In the ancient Greek world, it was also the greatest Pan-Hellenic sanctuary for the worship of Zeus. Olympia persisted well into Roman times until its demise in the 3rd century A.D. when fires, earthquakes and invading tribes from the north left the ancient site in ruins. From 1875 onward excavation work, spearheaded primarily by the German government, revealed the fantastic treasures from antiquity that sit today in the marvelous archaeological museum. The most thrilling site at Olympia is the stadium, which looks much like it did more than 2,000 years ago. You will also explore the Temple of Hera, the magnificent temple of Zeus the Philippeion – lodging place for the athletes who participated in the games. We later visit the Olympia Museum, one of the most beautiful museums in the world. Following lunch in the town of Olympia, we’ll visit the museum of the History of the Olympic Games of Antiquity. Unlike the main archaeological museum, this building houses statuary and a host of artifacts specifically related to the ancient Olympic Games. After having time at leisure we will travel overland to Patras on the north coast of the peninsula, where we will re-board our ship and depart for Itea in the Gulf of Corinth. Overnight at Itea.
Day 7: Itea/Delphi (optional excursion)
Morning optional excursion to Delphi, one of the most revered sites from the ancient world. We will disembark the ship early this morning and proceed to the ruins complex. Unlike other archaeological sites in Greece, Delphi is built on the side of a mountain. First time visitors are awed as much for the stunning natural beauty that surround the ruins as for the ancient buildings themselves. In its prime, Delphi was revered for its wealth and reputation, attributes which grew from the site’s location as hosting the most important oracle in the classical world. Indeed, because everything in Greece is connected to mythology, Delphi became the premier site for the worship of the god Apollo. The oracle had the ability to prophecy the future and give advice. Visitors from across the Greek world traveled here to consult with the oracle, and responded by offering thanks to Apollo in the form of treasure. We will have a half day to walk around the ruins complex and visit the adjoining museum. Return to the ship and cross the Corinth Canal. Later in the evening we sail to Marina Zea. Overnight in Marina Zea
Day 8: Marina Zea
Disembarkation after breakfast.
Please note itineraries can be changed at the discretion of the Vessel's Captain in case of adverse weather conditions - winds of 6/7 beaufort or more depending on the vessel - on port authorities not allowing a vessel to leave port or in case of other extraordinary conditions. Such itinerary changes do not entitle automatically passengers to any refunds however Diamond Star guarantees that passengers are disembarked at the advertised port of disembarkation on time for their flights.
Highlights of the cruise
Corinth Canal Crossing
A crossroads in time and space. Transit the amazing engineering feat that is the Corinth Canal, cut though solid rock in the 1880’s to join the Gulf of Corinth with the Aegean Sea. Under Periander in the 6th century BC, the ancients cut out a slipway that allowed ships to be dragged overland, but it took a lot of muscle power.
4 UNESCO Heritage Sites Await
Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, Epidaurus.. Enjoy guest lectures aboard and be part of small-group excursions to crowd-free sites, whilst in the company of like-minded travelers. Spring and Fall in Greece is the perfect time to unravel the wonders of Antiquity and the Byzantine Empire around the fascinating Peloponnese coast.