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Odyssey at Sea: The Greek Isles, Ephesus & Istanbul

Program No. 23587RJ
Join us for an adventure of grand proportions aboard the Aegean Odyssey as you learn about iconic locales and hidden gems from Greece to Istanbul.
12 days
Rating (4.53)
Activity Level
Starts at

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At a Glance

Join us for an adventure of grand proportions! Step aboard the Aegean Odyssey and learn about iconic locales and hidden gems from Greece to Istanbul. Beginning in legendary Athens, you’ll discover countless treasures across the Aegean — both ancient and modern — from the energetic local life of Mykonos to the romantic vistas of Santorini, ending in the historic Byzantine capital of Istanbul. Unlike most cruise ships that are briefly in port, you’ll have overnight stays in many locations, giving you plenty of opportunity for deeper exploration. We’ve taken care of every detail — and can’t wait for you to join us!

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Experience two of the most popular Greek Isles, Mykonos and Santorini.
  • Visit Istanbul’s legendary Hagia Sophia Mosque.
  • Discover the storied past behind the ruins of Ephesus, the jewel of Greek-Roman cities, during your time in Turkey.

General Notes

We’ll have up to 350 Road Scholar participants on the ship, divided into groups of 35 for shore excursions.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey
by Anastasia M. Ashman, Jennifer Eaton Gokmen
As the Western world struggles to comprehend the paradoxes of modern Turkey, Tales from the Expat Harem reveals its most personal nuances. This illuminating anthology provides a window into the country from the perspective of thirty-two expatriates from seven different nations—artists, entrepreneurs, Peace Corps volunteers, archaeologists, missionaries, and others—who established lives in Turkey for work, love, or adventure. Through narrative essays covering the last four decades, these diverse women unveil the mystique of the “Orient,” describe religious conflict, embrace cultural discovery, and maneuver familial traditions, customs, and responsibilities. Poignant, humorous, and transcendent, the essays take readers to weddings and workplaces, down cobbled Byzantine streets, into boisterous bazaars along the Silk Road, and deep into the feminine stronghold of steamy Ottoman bathhouses. The outcome is a stunning collection of voices from women suspended between two homes as they redefine their identities and reshape their world views.
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, Why the Greeks Matter
by Thomas Cahill
Cahill brings to life ancient Greek society and civilization through the lives and words of politicians, playwrights, a poet, a philosopher and an artist in this eloquent and absorbing tribute.
The Greeks, An Illustrated History
by Diane Harris Cline
This accessible photographic history of ancient Greece pays special attention to Greek innovations: great literature and architecture, war tactics, democracy, the Olympics, Socrates and much more. Cline laces the gripping story of the Greek empire with archaeological discoveries.
The World of the Ancient Greeks
by John Camp, Elizabeth Fisher
Featuring hundreds of illustrations and invitingly short chapters on topics from the first Greeks to the Heroic Age and classical Athens. With modern color photographs of great Greek cities from Athens and Delphi to Knossos, Ephesus, Pergamum and Priene.
Harem - The World Behind the Veil
by Alev Lytle Croutier
The author left Turkey at age 18 for the US, returning 15 years later to visit her birthplace and family. Intrigued upon learning that her grandmother had lived in a harem, she interviewed aunts and other family members about their recollections. About that same time (mid 1970’s) the Harem of Topkapi Palace was opened to visitors. With thoughtful research and richly illustrated, Croutier pieces together a realistic description of daily life in the Sultan’s Harem. Her fascinating insights into customs, food and ceremony of the Palace through 450 hundred years, make this an enjoyable read. The addition of family photographs and an amusing chapter about Western misconceptions of the term “harem” sets this work apart from all other books of its kind.
Turkey: A Modern History
by Erik J. Zürcher
A revised edition looks at Turkey's modern day changes and continuations into a capitalist and modern world. Focuses on the 1950s and forward, Zürcher focuses on politics, military, human rights issues, Turkey's relationships with Europe and the West and their ambivalent relationship with the Middle East.
The Greek Myths, Complete Edition
by Robert Graves
A new edition of Graves' classic collection with a cover by comic book artist Ross MacDonald. This expert retelling by Graves, a poet, memoirist and the author of I, Claudius (ITL429), still remains the seminal modern translation of the mythologies of Ancient Greece.
A Traveller's History of Athens
by Richard Stoneman
A brief history of Athens through the 1990's -- wide-ranging, accessible and effectively condensed. With a useful chronology and historical gazetteer, this book marches confidently through the centuries.
Greece, Land of Light
by Nicholas Gage, Barry Brukoff
Brukoff's dramatic color photographs are paired with incisive commentary by award-winning author Nicholas Gage for this striking portrait of the people, land and history of Greece and the islands
Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds
by Stephen Kinzer
A passionate love for the Turkish people and an optimism that its ruling class can complete Turkey's transformation into a Western-style democracy mark Kinzer's reflections on a country that sits geographically and culturally at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Kinzer, the former New York Times Istanbul bureau chief, gives a concise introduction to Turkey: Kemal Ataterk's post-WWI establishment of the modern secular Turkish state; the odd makeup of contemporary society, in which the military enforces Ataterk's reforms. In stylized but substantive prose, he devotes chapters to the problems he sees plaguing Turkish society: Islamic fundamentalism, frictions regarding the large Kurdish minority and the lack of democratic freedoms. Kinzer's commonsense, if naeve, solution: the ruling military elite, which takes power when it feels Turkey is threatened, must follow the modernizing path of Ataterk whom Kinzer obviously admires a step further and increase human rights and press freedoms. Kinzer's journalistic eye serves him well as he goes beyond the political, vividly describing, for instance, the importance and allure of the narghile salon, where Turks smoke water pipes. Here, as elsewhere, Kinzer drops his journalist veneer and gets personal, explaining that he enjoys the salons in part "because the sensation of smoking a water pipe is so seductive and satisfying." Readers who want a one-volume guide to this fascinating country need look no further.
Travels With Epicurus
by Daniel Klein
Daniel Klein's witty meditation on the ancients, life in the Greek Islands, his favorite philosophers -- and growing old gracefully -- is also a delightful romp through the Aegean, primarily set on Hydra.
Istanbul: The Imperial City
by John Freely
Whether you call it Byzantium, Constantinople, or Istanbul, the “old Turkish hand” John Freely tells the story of each creation and decline up to today’s Istanbul under the Turkish Republic. Spirited and colorful, Freely gives his readers a lively account of the turmoil each incarnation brought. In addition to “page turning history”, Freely gives a complete listing of monuments & museums in the city - he has lived there for decades. This is the one to read on Istanbul if you have a short list of books and limited time to get into its history.
Ataturk: A biography of Mustafa Kemal - Father of Modern Turkey
by Lord Kinross
Kinross tells the story of Ataturk in such an engaging way that you stay glued to the page. Beginning with his birth in 1881 in Salonika, Greece, during the usual Balkan struggles, the book traces his youth through his early education and military service. Along the way Kinross reveals the experiences that formed Ataturk’s rebel spirit, leads you through the evolution of his hatred for the rich, the corrupt, and the abusive religious and political classes. He takes you onto the battlefield where Ataturk’s leadership and inspiration routs the Greeks who invaded Turkey in the aftermath of W.W.I. Kinross takes you step by step through the formation of a new, secular Republic, free of domination by Sultans, Moslem Caliphs or foreign countries, and describes how Turkey secured a place among nations. You’ll learn of Ataturk’s commitment to equality for all people, men and women alike, and how he lead the new Turkish nation westward by adopting the western alphabet overnight, creating a new Turkish language, and provided free education for all. A “must read” in order to understand present-day Turkey’s struggle to maintain the secular principles Ataturk established.
A Traveller's History of Greece
by Timothy Boatswain, Colin Nicolson
A nicely written survey from prehistory through the 1990s: wide-ranging, accessible and necessarily condensed.
Greece, A Traveler's Literary Companion
by Artemis Leontis (Editor)
In this terrific anthology, 24 modern Greek writers offer a flavor of their nation, its culture and people, beautiful landscapes and rich history.
Ancient Greece: Art, Architecture, and History
by Marina Belozerskaya, Kenneth Lapatin
This informative handbook traces Greek art and architecture from the third millennium to the first century B.C.
It's All Greek to Me
by Charlotte Higgins
With timelines, a who's who, charts and maps, this handy little primer is a thoroughly entertaining introduction to everything Greek, from poetry and drama to philosophy, history and culture.
Eyewitness Guide Turkey
by Eyewitness Guides
Gorgeously illustrated and filled with excellent maps, this compact book is a thorough overview of Turkey, its history, traditions, cultures and sights. With hundreds of color photographs and illustrations.
16 Reviews
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4.53 Average
(5) Review left 12/03/2022

Great trip. Well planned. Only suggestion is a little more time in Istanbul....one day too rushed. Guides exceptional everywhere. Aegean Odyssey staff wonderful, gracious.

(2) Review left 11/21/2022

As lovely as the Aegean Odyssey was, cruise ships, by their nature, are confining.There was too much wasted time with daily debarkation schedules, and with errant transportation. Due to Road Scholar's disappointingly poor planning, we were unable to see two of Istanbul's most iconic sights, the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque. The remainder of the field trips were memorable, especially Ephesus and the House of Mary. Food on board was adequate but offered very little taste of Turkish and Greek cuisines, although the wait staff was attentive and very accommodating. If you are looking for more time on the islands, try another tour, but if cruising is your thing, anchors aweigh. Three stars

(4) Review left 11/11/2022

The Road Scholar tour of Turkey/Greece on the Aegean Odyssey was a wonderful "quick look" at the highlights of Turkey and Greece in an 11-day journey. The boat was superb and the excursions well done. I would highly recommend this trip!

(5) Review left 11/09/2022

I love how the program is designed to limit participant concerns about details and logistics. It allows you to concentrate on what you are experiencing and seeing.

(5) Review left 11/09/2022

Thrilling. Well informed guides and a variety of paces so you could customize your day.

(2) Review left 11/05/2022

The Greek Isles sites and Ephesus were very good. Istanbul was a disappointment. The food on board the ship and lunches on shore need inspiration and improvement. Transportation, communication and logistics are areas that need a lot of attention. I give this trip 3 stars.

(5) Review left 11/02/2022

Outstanding Program I would recommend highly!!

(5) Review left 10/31/2022

One of the best programs I have ever attended with Road Scholar. This program was beyond all my expectations. This was my first time to travel on an exclusive Road Scholar cruise ship. It was truly a lovely experience.

(5) Review left 10/20/2022

This is the first trip with Road Scholar and we look forward to traveling with them again.

(5) Review left 10/18/2022

Great trip. The Aegean Odyssey was first class as was the staff and food. Sami, our group leader was informative and entertaining. Left the trip feeling I experienced Greece and Turkey rather then just passing through. Highly recommend.

(5) Review left 10/15/2022

Amazing learning experience! Well beyond my expectations.

(5) Review left 10/14/2022

Our voyage on Aegean Odyssey was a different kind of adventure. It was the kind of adventure we hope to have more of in the future.

(5) Review left 10/14/2022

Be aware that the ships internet service is expensive and offers only a tiny bit of internet access. Buy a SIM card before you arrive, be aware that internet service changes in turkey or buy an international package from your phone provider.

This reviewer did not give a star rating. Review left 10/12/2022

This was our first trip and loved it. The staff was wonderful. They were very helpful, especially with seniors that needed that extra help. I want to personally commend, Chanelle who made the daily schedules, Andrew Kadillac, the Odyssey Trio for fantastic music and our small group guide Yasemin.

(5) Review left 10/11/2022

A wonderful/amazing introduction to Greek, Turkish, and related history, culture, arts, etc., with great planning, service, and people — both staff and fellow passengers!

(5) Review left 10/11/2022

This program was wonderful--the ship was the right size, the field trips were excellent and informative, and the desserts were outstanding!

Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.