Named Constantinople by Emperor Constantine the Great in a.d. 330, Istanbul has been the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. Here the traditions of East and West commingle, evident in the diverse architecture of the city. Board Corinthian and overnight.
Istanbul, set on the Bosphorus, is a city that blends the cultures and traditions of East and West. Tour the city’s principal landmarks, including the majestic Hagia Sophia basilica, built by the emperor Justinian I in A.D. 537; the Topkapi Palace, once the principal residence of the Ottoman sultans and, from the mid-15th to 19th centuries, the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire; the Blue Mosque; and the Grand Bazaar, where you may enjoy time at leisure.
Arrive in Amasra, a town situated atop a headland sheltering two bays. Known as Sesamus in ancient times, Amasra is one of the most beautiful towns on the coast. Founded by Milesians in the 6th century b.c., the city later became an important possession of both Byzantium and Genoa. On a tour of this pleasant and idyllic town, visit the Genoese citadel, which crowns one of the promontories with a formidable constellation of towers, battlements, and gates.
From Samsun, drive to Amasya, which (legend has it) was founded by the Amazon queen Amasis. Admire its setting amid a narrow gorge on the Iris River, flanked by cliffs. Ascend to the cliff-top fortress for panoramic views and probe the rock tombs of the Pontic kings, which were carved into the cliff. Also visit the 15th-century Sultan Beyazit Mosque, whose buttressed domes and columns commend it as an architectural hallmark, before savoring lunch at a hilltop restaurant with postcard-perfect views. Visit the Archaeological Museum in Samsun before returning to the ship.
In the mid-19th century, the Russian imperial family chose Yalta for its summer residence, and almost overnight the town mushroomed into an elegant and popular resort. Tour the Alupka Palace, a stunning 19th-century edifice with both English Tudor and Byzantine embellishments, and Anton Chekhov’s House. After lunch, visit the Livadia Palace, famed site of the 1945 Yalta Conference among Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin.
Arrive in Sevastopol, a beautiful port city and the former base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet from the days of Catherine II until the fall of the Soviet Union. Drive to nearby Chersonesos, an ancient city founded by Greeks in the 5th century B.C. that became a prosperous trading post. Return to Sevastopol to visit the Panorama Museum, featuring a circular, three-dimensional work of art depicting the defense of the city during the Crimean War. In the afternoon, enjoy time at leisure in Sevastopol, or alternatively, drive to the Crimean interior to explore Bakhchysaray, the seat of the Tatar state from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Visit the imperial Khan’s Palace, built in 1519.
Stroll through Odessa’s elegant leafy streets, lined with stately mansions. Discover its prime landmarks, including the grand, Viennese Baroque-style Opera House; the historic Potemkin Steps, site of the 1905 uprising of workers and sailors from the battleship Potemkin; and the Archaeological Museum. In the afternoon, you will have the chance to meet with local families in their homes, or enjoy time at leisure in the city.
Arrive in Constanta, Romania’s main port. A tour of the city will include the Ruins of Tomis Danubius, the Archaeological and National History Museum, the Archaeology Park, the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, and Piata Ovidiu, the central square of the old quarter where you will have time at leisure.
Arrive in charming Nessebur, known in ancient times as Messembria. Enjoy a walking tour of the town and its old timbered houses. Visit the Byzantine churches of St. Stephen and Christ of the Pantocrator and the Archaeological Museum.
Disembark and transfer to the airport for your independent return flights home.