Three ships, seven seas. Ship I. The MV Aegean Odyssey
After a long morning excursion, taking in a viewpoint over the Bosphorus, the Sultan Suleyman Mosque, the Chora Museum and a final stop at Topkapi, we finally got to the port of Istanbul to board the MV Aegean Odyssey. Once we arrived at the terminal the check in was really quick and in no time at all I found my cabin, complete with bottle of champagne cooling in an ice bucket, and a plate of sweet delicacies including chocolate covered strawberries. After settling in we set off to explore the ship. Of primary interest to us was the dance floors, of which there are two.
This part of the deck plan shows the two lounges; the Ambassador Lounge and the Charleston Lounge.
This section of the Lido deck plan shows the location of my cabin. I noted that it was right next to the Lido Bar and hoped that this would not be too noisy. In fact it was actually a perfect location.
It is a different experience being on a ship with only 350 passengers. The closest I have come to that on cruises so far is the small Princess ships – where passenger count is around 700. On a small ship, very quickly one can get to know the staff as well as other passengers. As well because we are traveling with a specific group, the UBC and many other Alumni Associations from Canada and the US, it is different from an ordinary cruise, in that people within the group are more ready to interact and be friendly because of the commonality.
On this ship they have several cabins that are designated as single cabins. They are quite a bit smaller than the regular cabins but one is also not charged a full single supplement. I love the location of my cabin. It is tucked away at the end of a short corridor, about 1 minutes walk out to the Lido deck bar where a “healthy breakfast” is served every morning from 6 am to 10 am. My cabin is oblong with a long narrow balcony on which I already enjoyed some fresh air on the first morning. The air is mild and the sea calm so after breakfast I spent some time writing out on the balcony.
Once all were embarked, the MV Aegean Odyssey sailed around 7 PM. Back in Istanbul we had discussed doing a Bosphorus dinner cruise. Dining on deck in the Terrace Café buffet as we cruised through the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea was actually a better version of a dinner cruise. For one thing the food, as we discovered early on was excellent – far better than the quality commonly served on dinner cruises (see later post on dining aboard the Aegean Odyssey).
After dinner on our first night aboard we met for dancing in the Charleston lounge, which could also be called the Fred Astaire lounge, as there is a big picture of Astaire on the wall just outside. There Karen, one of the three entertainers was playing. From Louisiana originally, she now makes her home in Athens but will be on this ship for another 8 weeks.
Dance shoes were soon put on and for the next 45 minutes we enjoyed lots of swing and foxtrots, as Karen’s segment was called The Great American Songbook. I love that type of music, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin etc.
The next 45 minute set was played by the Odyssey trio, consisting of Petrica Pana on violin, Elvis Condrea on piano and Petru Rastrashanu on double bass. The first two musicians are from Rumania, and Petru is originally from Moldova but they played some great Latin rhythms.
By the time we were ready to call it a night, we had danced a real mix of smooth and rhythm. It seems like there will be three really interesting groups playing – the third is a duo called Blue Velvet so from the dance perspective this should be a really great cruise.
The next day was a sea day, cruising along the Black Sea coast of Northern Turkey to Georgia. It was a busy day, settling in and getting to find my way around the ship as well as attending lectures from the guest speakers on board. The lectures I attended focused on the historical and contemporary political situations in the countries in and around the Black Sea. One talk that I had really looked forward to, specially as it was being presented the day before we visited Batumi, Georgia (ancient Colchis), was about the Medea and Iphigenia myths. I don’t know a lot about Iphigenia but having read and discussed so much about the Medea myth over the past few years, I think I could have given a far more informative and provocative talk about Medea.
But back to my description of the ship, as seen from a dancer’s perspective. There are two dance floors on this ship. The smaller oval floor that I mentioned above is in the Charleston Lounge and the larger round floor in the Ambassador Lounge.
The latter however has the seating for the lectures, and is also where the cocktail functions are held, so rather disappointingly as the cruise progressed there was no opportunity to dance on that floor. On the other hand, after dinner there was non-stop dance music in the Charleston Lounge and we made the most of it.
The third group,Blue Velvet, is a young couple from Istanbul. He plays the keyboard, and she sings, and plays the violin and accordion. They were very talented and excellent musicians. We enjoyed the variety of music that they played.
We danced each night in the Charleston Lounge and except towards the end there was no one else on the floor, so though small , the space was fine, specially for a lot of the Latin music. It would have been nice to get to use the Ambassador Lounge but as this was an educational and cultural cruise, it was mainly used for lectures.
Overall the ambience of this ship was relaxing with emphasis on academic and cultural pursuits, and the passengers reflected this aspect.