Arrive in Istanbul and transfer to the spectacular Pera Palace Hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at your leisure before attending a welcome dinner and briefing at the hotel.
Spend the morning exploring Istanbul and board the Variety Voyager in the late afternoon. Settle in to your cabin as the ship sets sail towards the Black Sea. Cross the scenic Bosporus, a strait which runs through the center of Istanbul and forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia.
Dock in Bartin and drive to the harbor town of Amasra. Admire the panoramic views of the coastline and rugged nearby islands as you walk the cobblestone streets. Visit the local market or museum, or enjoy a scenic hike around the area.
Arrive in the port of Samsun and drive inland to Amasya, the former capital of the kingdom of Pontus. The town, which features red-roofed dwellings and 19th-century Ottoman-era wooden houses, is set along the dramatic Yesilirmak River Gorge. Explore photogenic winding alleyways, the ethnographic museum, and a medrese, or Islamic seminary. Enjoy a feast of regional Turkish cuisine for lunch.
Ancient Greeks settled in Trabzon along a branch of the Silk Road from Asia. Take a morning drive into the country-side to see the 13th and 14th century Byzantine Sumela Monastery, which is 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. In the 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.
Dock in the charming port of Batumi and visit the colorful farmers market or take a walk through the lovely Botanical Gardens. Savor regional delicacies and Georgian wines during lunch before enjoying a folk performance of traditional music and energetic dances. In the afternoon, board a coach and take a short drive to the ruins of Gonio Fortress, which dates back to the first century A.D.
This Russian mineral-spring resort community is sometimes called the Russian Riviera. In the morning, explore the town and visit Stalin's dacha. Well-hidden among trees on the outskirts of town, this house was a favorite summer retreat for the infamous leader.
Yalta is a seaside resort on the Crimean Peninsula, long a favored spot for Russian and Ukrainian elite who constructed palatial homes here. Visit the magnificent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, with its intricate Byzantine adornment, and take a scenic coastal drive to the elegant Renaissance-style Livadia Palace, which served as the summer home of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.
Disembark in the military port of Sevastopol for a tour of the submarine tunnels at Balaklava and the Panorama Museum, which depicts scenes from the Crimean War. After lunch, visit the nearby World Heritage Site of ancient Chersonesus, once a splendid Greek seaside colony.
Odessa's European-Russian heritage is evident in its cobblestone streets and shady plane trees. Explore the compact central district's spectacular architecture, which includes 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, which houses an extensive collection of Ukrainian artifacts , and enjoy free time in the afternoon.
Board a local boat and explore the wetland habitat of the Danube, looking for over 200 species of birds including pygmy cormorants, purple herons, white-tailed eagles, and Dalmatian pelicans. Back on board, sample local vodka and Romanian snacks.
Histria was Romania's earliest-founded city and originally flourished as an extraordinary trading center, but was later abandoned and swallowed by alluvial deposits and sand. The site has been under excavation since its rediscovery in 1914. Walk through fascinating seaside ruins and tour the museum before exploring Constanta. In the late afternoon, enjoy wine tasting and a cultural performance on board.
The modern port city of Varna was once the Greek colony known as Odessos. Disembark in the morning and visit Varna's archaeological museum, which chronologically traces the progress of human society in the region over the course of millennia. The museum also includes some of the oldest worked gold in the world. Explore the extensive remains of the 2nd-century Roman thermae, or public baths, which make up the largest Roman ruins in Bulgaria.
Arrive in Istanbul and disembark. Transfer to the airport for your continued journeys.