IstanbulArrive in Istanbul and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure before attending a welcome dinner and briefing.
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 which runs through the center of Istanbul and forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia.
Bartin / SafranboluFrom the port at Bartin, travel inland to Safranbolu, a World Heritage Site. Once an important center of saffron production and 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.
SinopSinop has been continuously occupied since the 7th century BCE. 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.
Trabzon / SumelaAncient Greeks settled in Trabzon along a branch of the Silk Road from Asia. A highlight of your visit is a morning drive in the countryside to see the 13th- and 14th-century Byzantine Sumela Monastery, perched dramatically 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 explore the 13th-century Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine church with exquisite frescoes, and spend some free time wandering through the modern city of Trabzon.
Batumi, GeorgiaDock in the charming port of Batumi and visit the colorful farmers market. 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 CE. 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.
Sochi, RussiaThis Russian mineral-spring resort community with a subtropical climate is sometimes called the Russian Riviera. This morning 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 for the infamous leader.
At SeaAttend lectures today and enjoy the passing scenery during a relaxing day at sea.
Odessa, UkraineOdessa's European-Russian heritage is evident as you 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. Visit one of the country's oldest archaeological museums, housing 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.
Danube River Delta, RomaniaThe Danube is Europe's second longest river, as well as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. During two full days, discover 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.
Histria / Constanta, RomaniaHistria 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. Walk through fascinating seaside ruins, tour the new museum, and spot birds in this wetland environment. Next explore Constanta where you tour the archaeological museum and view one of the largest Roman mosaic floors in Europe. In the late afternoon, enjoy wine tasting and a cultural performance on board.
Varna, BulgariaThe modern port city of Varna was once the Greek colony known as Odessos. 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. 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 you sail toward Turkey.
Disembark in Istanbul, TurkeyDisembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport for homeward flights.