AEGEAN ODYSSEY 17th June 2018
Way back in 1973, a shipyard in Romania built a ro-ro cargo ship for Zim Israel Navigation of Haifa that was named NARCIS. In 1985 she was acquired by Dolphin Hellas Shipping and was renamed ALKYON. (I am reliably informed that this translates as 'seagull'.) She was refitted at Perama in Greece and in 1988 was back with Dolphin Hellas and renamed AEGEAN DOLPHIN. In 1989 she was renamed DOLPHIN , and then in 1990 she was again named AEGEAN DOLPHIN. In 1991 she was renamed AEGEAN 1 for one cruise with Discovery Cruises, was then chartered for Renaissance Cruises, and in 1998 she commenced cruising for Golden Star Ferries. Still with me? We're nearly up to date.
William Mayes' "Cruise Ships Fourth Edition" also tells me that following a dispute with Louis Cruise Lines, the ship was then laid up in 2006. In 2008 she was acquired by Gerry Herrod and given a major refurbishment in Greece before entering service as the AEGEAN ODYSSEY. She sails for Voyages to Antiquity.
I have wanted to sail on this little ship for some time, but she usually offers a minimum of fourteen- night trips; these are usually from ports outside the UK. Earlier this year though I noticed that she was offering a six-night holiday which would include five nights on the ship. I booked with Voyages to Antiquity for the holiday and then had to be patient. I would join the ship in Bordeaux, France, have a couple of included excursions, and then embark on AEGEAN ODYSSSEY the next day. All went to plan, and was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Sunday 17th June 2018
My alarm woke me early and at 6.15 a.m. I was checking in my small suitcase with an airline bag drop machine at London Gatwick airport. The holiday had started, with an included flight from Gatwick to Bordeaux in France. I am so used to booking my own flights to join ferries or cruise ships with just a rucksack, that it was quite a novelty to receive a flight ticket, which included a suitcase to go in the hold. I realise I had paid for it as part of the holiday cost, but still...
I had time for breakfast with a friend who was joining the cruise and soon it was time to head for the boarding gate and the flight. It seems that the French air traffic controllers are on strike today and many flights from Gatwick have had to be cancelled. We were lucky. The flight eventually left at 8.45 and we flew south over the English Channel, with just a few ships to be seen before the cloud cover became dense below us.
Bordeaux on the map
We landed in Bordeaux, put our watches forward one hour, and were greeted by our Guide Caroline. A coach took us to a city centre hotel very near the River Garonne to check in for the night, unpack and get lunch before meeting for an afternoon tour. The central city area is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. This week 14th/18th June, the city was celebrating the Bordeaux Wine Festival, devoted to wines from Bordeaux and the Nouvelle Aquitaine region; the Tall Ships were in port as guests of honour, and the sun was shining down on probably thousands of people enjoying the festivities on this Left Bank, with many opportunities for wine tasting.
In the far distance downstream we could see the famous Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge, opened in March 2013, whose middle span can be raised when necessary to allow tall vessels to enter or leave the Bordeaux city centre riverside here on the River Garonne.
Our tour took us over the famous bridge to the Right Bank where we could look across the river at the tall ships and the city skyline, and then back over an ancient bridge to the Left Bank of the city.
The coach then dropped us off for a walk to the cathedral.
There was a Service taking place to celebrate the appointment of new Deacons so we were not allowed far inside, but it was a beautiful building with good acoustics inside. The bell tower was a separate building, and we enjoyed walking around the whole public area.
Other group passengers wanted to return to the hotel but a few of us chose to stay in the city near the Opera House for an hour's break and would be collected later on; we could then sit outside a cafe and enjoy a drink in this delightful city square.
Back at the hotel we changed and walked along the quayside to Le Brasserie Bordelais restaurant for an excellent dinner. Tomorrow morning we have a rather special tour to the wine village of St. Emilion before being taken to the good ship AEGEAN ODYSSEY to embark for our trip.
Ships seen: many of the Tall Ships and other vessels in port for the Regatta, including Belem, and a Russian Tall Ship that I think I visited with other OLS (Ocean Liner Society) members way back in June 2004 in Liverpool, for a maritime festival.
To be continued...