On a ship's excursion, we visited the octagonal Basilica di San Vitale, completed in 547 and renowned for its fine Byzantine mosaics, and continued to the Tomb of Galla Placidia, a jewel in Ravenna's crown. At Dante's Tomb, we learned the history of Italy's greatest poet and at Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, we walked in the 6th century footsteps of the Ostrogoth King Theodoric. We returned to the pier using the ship's shuttle service.
Experience the villages and vineyards of Santorini on this guided walking tour, which includes time for independent sightseeing. Sample local wines at a neighboring vineyard and learn about the effects of Santorini's rich, volcanic soil and microclimate on the rare Assyrtiko grapes. Visit the quaint village of Oia and stroll through the narrow, cobblestone lanes, viewing the brilliantly whitewashed buildings, shops, cafés and blue-domed churches. Explore Fira, the capital of Santorini, and spend time browsing the lovely marketplace on your own. At the conclusion of your day, ride the town's aerial cable cars (ticket provided) back down to port to meet your tender.
Formally called Constantinople, Istanbul was the capital of the Roman Empire and Europe's wealthiest metropolis, and is now the largest city in Turkey.
Blue Mosque: One of the most famous monuments in both the Turkish and Islamic worlds, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque) is a superb creation in the classical Ottoman style. The mosque has six towering minarets and 260 windows illuminating its vast main chamber, which is decorated with more than 20,000 Iznik tiles.
Hagia Sophia: Now a museum, Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian, and was one of the largest basilicas in the Christian world. After the Ottoman conquest, it was converted to a mosque and is today one of the most magnificent museums in the world. Take a moment to linger here to admire the fine Byzantine mosaics. (closed on Monday)
Topkapi Palace: The largest and oldest palace in the world, Topkapi is the crown jewel of the Ottoman Empire. With its treasury and exotic buildings overlooking the Golden Horn, your visit to Topkapi promises to be a truly fascinating experience. (closed on Tuesday)
Grand Bazaar: In operation since the 14th century, the Grand Bazaar is one of the world's largest covered markets, with 58 streets and over 4,000 shops. The bazaar is specially known for its jewelry, leather, pottery, spices and carpets. (closed on Sunday additional time will be spent at the other locations)
A guided walking tour of Ephesus and its major sights celebrates the historical significance of this ancient city. Visit The House of the Virgin Mary, considered by the Vatican to be the final resting place of St. Mary. Set in the Solmissos Mountains, the shrine is nestled among lush foliage; a curative steam flows through the grounds. Walk among the ruins of the Basilica of St. John, built over the tomb of St. John, where frescos and mosaics still remain and graceful columns hint at the structure's former grandeur. Next pass through the arched Magnesian Gate at Ephesus and begin a slow, downhill walk to the ruins of the Roman provincial capital, where your guide will highlight such pivotal sights as the Temple of Hadrian, the magnificent Trajan Fountain, the Odeon Theater, the beautiful Celsus Library and the dramatic Great Theater. Back at port, shop for souvenirs and view a Turkish carpet-weaving exhibition.
Meet your guide in central Athens and head off on your 5-hour sightseeing tour around the Greek capital by luxury air-conditioned coach. Pass the must-see Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that stands in front of Parliament House on Constitution Square, and see the Presidential Mansion that served as the Royal Palace before the country’s monarchy was abolished in 1974.
Watch out for Panathenian Stadium – site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 – and then relax as your coach drives along Panespistimiou, home to Athens’ National Library and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, known locally as Mitropoli.
After seeing the highlights of modern Athens, you’ll step back in time with a tour of Athens’ past. Visit the Roman Temple of Olympian Zeus, and then stop at Athens’ crowning glory – the incredible Acropolis of Athens. Built on a rocky hill towering above the city, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Acropolis is a cluster of ancient buildings that acted as a fortress – all reflecting the splendor and wealth of Athens during the 5th century BC.
Highlights of the Acropolis include the Pantheon, the Propylaea gateway and the Temple of Athena Nike – built to represent Athens’ ambition to be the leading Greek city. After spending time at leisure here, you’ll make your way back to your starting point by coach.
Entrance ticket to the Athens Acropolis Museum, your guided tour will actually finish here at the Acropolis. After receiving your ticket from your guide, head inside this fascinating museum to see a staggering collection of more than 4,000 artifacts. Highlights include statues from the Archaic period and the impressive Pantheon Hall -- dedicated to the history of the famous temple on the peak of the Acropolis.