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Here’s an interesting way to spice up a cruise:

On Hapag-Lloyd’s five-star-plus ship Europa 2 — considered the finest ship afloat today — the passengers will get to decide most of the itinerary. This should appeal to many baby boomers’ sense of adventure.

The ship will set sail from Istanbul on May 14, 2016, and reach Piraeus, Greece, the port of Athens, 10 days later, but where it goes in-between will be decided by the passengers once the ship has set sail.

The Captain will offer some help by letting those aboard know where the sun will be shining brightest during those days. And lecturers on board will present the highlights of the potential destinations.

While the Europa 2 is a German ship, this “Surprise Cruise” is bilingual with English shore excursions. (You just don’t know where the shore excursions will be.) I sailed on the Europa 2 a couple of years ago and can attest that the crew members and staff speak fluent English and that the entire ship is state of the art.

Here’s how Hapag-Lloyd describes the intriguing possibilities (marked by red dots on the map):

“To Limenas with its long, sandy beaches and peaceful bays?

“Or to Kavala with its Byzantine old town?

“Thessaloniki was a metropolis even in biblical times, and today the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“Perhaps Limnos: green, fertile and full of olive trees.

Or Volos, home to the famous Meteora monastery complex.

“You can try a Greek speciality — ouzo — in Mitilini on Lesbos.

“Setting out from Dikili, the most famous excavation site in Turkey, Pergamon is not far away as you relax in particularly casual style in the marina of Kusadasi or take a detour to the impressive ruins of Ephesus.

“You will detect a hint of Hollywood on Skopelos – the global hit Mamma Mia! was filmed here in 2008.

“Chios is the Greek Mecca for divers;

“On Inousses you can spend peaceful hours in the retreat of Greece’s high society.

“Samos is small but beautiful, with white villages and the remarkable ruins of the Hera Temple.

“Bodrum draws visitors with its hidden bays.

Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia, Church of the Holy Wisdom) at dawn in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia, Church of the Holy Wisdom) at dawn in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

“Marmaris with the beach in Icmeler.

“And Rhodes with an old town encircled by majestic fortified walls.

“Set out from Agios Nikolaos to discover the legendary Palace of Knossos on Crete.

“The ancient majesty of a UNESCO World Heritage Site will excite you on the almost uninhabited island of Delos.

“There are two more islands to choose from: Mykonos and Santorini await you with dreamlike panoramic views.

“Afterwards, how about a detour to Nauplia with its narrow alleyways full of steps and small shops and tavernas?”

This would be a tough choice. Of the potential destinations, I can personally recommend the ruins at Ephesus in Turkey (reached from Kusadasi); and the Greek islands of Samos, Rhodes, Crete (for the Palace at Knossos), Mykonos and Santorini. I enjoyed them all.

But if I were aboard, I’d probably vote for places I hadn’t been: Nauplia, perhaps, or Thessaloniki or Lesbos or Kavala or Limnos or Volos.

Either way, I couldn’t lose.


Note: In honor of Valentine’s Day, I hope you’ll check out my friend Samantha Scott’s post on Stride Travel  on Romantic Getaways Around the World. Santorini is one of them!

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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