Circumnavigation of the Black Sea

Odessa, Ukraine
October 4, 2016
15 Days
Small-Ship Cruise
100 Guests
From $12,980


Based on the expeditionary nature of our trips, there may be ongoing enhancements to this itinerary.

Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.

Circumnavigation of the Black Sea
Pre-Trip Extension
Cappadocia & Istanbul
September 27October 5, 2016

Depart USA

September 27

Depart on your independent overnight flight to Istanbul.

Istanbul, Turkey

September 28

Arrive in Istanbul and transfer to the Renaissance Polat Hotel for dinner and overnight.

Istanbul / Ankara

September 29

This morning, fly from Istanbul to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, for a tour of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which houses a rich collection of Turkish artifacts from prehistoric peoples and Hittite, Phrygian, Lydian, and Urartian cultures; as well as the Mausoleum of Atatürk, a national shrine dedicated to the founder of modern Turkey. Dinner and overnight at the Swiss Hotel Ankara.


September 30October 2

During your time in magical Cappadocia, explore the extraordinary underground city of Kaymakli, where early Christians carved stables, kitchens, tunnels, and churches from the volcanic rock. Other examples of Cappadocian rock architecture include Pigeon Valley, where hundreds of small caves were used to house birds, and Uchisar Castle, a solid rock used as a watchtower. The peaceful, attractive valley of Pashabagi is famous for its three-headed fairy chimneys. At Zelve, view the traditional rock village and cave homes that were inhabited until the 1960s. You will also visit Mustafapasa with its impressive Greek and Ottoman architecture. Tour the open-air museum of Goreme and attend a whirling dervish performance during dinner at a local restaurant. Overnights at Cappadocia Cave Resort in Nevşehir. 

Cappadocia / Istanbul

October 3

This morning transfer to the airport for our flight to Istanbul. After lunch at a local restaurant, take a walking tour of the historic Galata and Beyoglu districts. This evening, check in to our hotel for dinner and overnight. 


October 4October 5

Spend two days touring the many cultural treasures of Istanbul. Take a cruise to Buyukada Island, and board horse-drawn carriages for a tour through narrow, traffic-free streets lined with charming summer homes and magnificent Ottoman-era villas. The next day visit the Byzantine Chora Church, noted for its beautiful interior covered with magnificent frescoes and mosaics. Continue to the Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul’s largest, constructed in the 1550s. After lunch there is leisure time to explore on your own. Return to our hotel this evening where you will join the main group for dinner. 

Day-by-Day Itinerary

Depart USA

October 4

Board your overnight flight to Istanbul.

Istanbul, Turkey

October 5

Arrive in Istanbul and transfer to our hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure before our welcome dinner and briefing.

Istanbul / Embark Island Sky

October 6
Istanbul, Turkey

After breakfast, choose from one of three tours. Set out to explore the stunning Topkapi Palace complex, then peruse the impressive collection of Turkish, Hellenistic, and Roman artifacts at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Or, choose to visit the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior of Chora, followed by the Sabanci Museum. A third option includes a morning at leisure with lunch at the hotel. In the afternoon, all groups will visit the Kiliç Ali Pasha Mosque, a lovely example of 16th-century Ottoman architecture. Afterwards, board the Island Sky and cruise toward the Black Sea up the scenic Bosporus, a strait which runs through the center of Istanbul.

Bartin / Safranbolu

October 7
Safronbolu, Turkey

From the port at Bartin, travel inland to Safranbolu, a World Heritage Site. Once an important center of saffron production and stopover for Silk Road caravans, Safranbolu boasts a wealth of well-preserved Ottoman architecture. A walking tour visits the marketplace as well as a mosque, traditional house, and Turkish hammam that date back to the 16th century. Enjoy lunch in a converted Ottoman caravanserai, with free time to explore on your own before returning to the ship in Bartin. 


October 8
Sinop, Turkey

Sinop has been continuously occupied since the 7th century B.C. Tour the ancient fortress walls; the small archaeological museum, with fascinating artifacts spanning the centuries; and the 11th-century Alaaddin Mosque. 

Trabzon / Sumela

October 9
Sumela Monastery

Ancient Greeks settled in Trabzon along a branch of the Silk Road from Asia. A highlight of our visit is a morning drive in the country-side to see the 13th- and 14th-century Byzantine Sumela Monastery, perched dramatically on a cliff face in the monastic tradition of Greek Orthodox architecture. Meet with a local expert who will share details on the extensive project to restore the magnificent interior frescoes to their former glory. Than take a stroll through this stunning alpine setting that is also a national park. This afternoon we explore the 13th-century Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine church with exquisite frescoes, and spend some free time wandering through the modern city of Trabzon.

Batumi, Georgia

October 10
Batumi, Georgia

Today the ship docks in the charming port of Batumi. Visit the colorful farmers market and take a relaxing walk through the lovely Botanical Gardens. After lunch on board, take a short drive to the ruins of ancient Gonio Fortress, which dates back to the first century A.D. Return to Batumi for a dinner of regional delicacies and Georgian wines at a local restaurant, accompanied by a fantastic folk performance of traditional music and energetic dances. 

Sochi, Russia

October 11
Sochi, Russia

This Russian mineral-spring resort community with a subtropical climate is sometimes called the Russian Riviera. This morning we explore the town with a special visit to Stalin’s dacha. Well-hidden among trees on the outskirts of town, this house was a favorite summer retreat for the infamous leader. 

At Sea

October 12

Attend lectures today and enjoy the passing scenery during a relaxing day at sea.

Odessa, Ukraine

October 13
Odessa, Ukraine

Odessa’s European-Russian heritage is evident as we ascend the Potemkin Steps to explore cobblestone streets lined with shady plane trees. Explore the compact central district’s spectacular architecture, including monuments, statuary, parks, and ornate 19th-century gems such as the Opera House and Gagarin’s Palace. We also visit one of the country’s oldest archaeological museums, housing an extensive collection of Ukrainian artifacts ranging from the Paleolithic age to the medieval period. Enjoy free time this afternoon to stroll the graceful boulevards, with the option to dine ashore on your own. 

Danube River Delta, Romania

October 14October 15
Danube River Delta, Romania

The Danube is Europe’s second longest river as well as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. During two full days, discover a wealth of natural and cultural wonders. Take a walking tour of the small port of Tulcea and visit the Danube Canal Museum and Danube Ecologic Museum. The next day, board a local boat to explore this wetland habitat looking for over 200 species of birds, including pygmy cormorants, purple herons, white-tailed eagles, and Dalmatian pelicans. On board, sample local vodka and Romanian snacks. 

Histria / Constanta

October 16
Constanta, Romania

Histria was Romania’s earliest-founded city and flourished as an extraordinary trading center, later to be abandoned and swallowed by alluvial deposits and sand. The site has been under excavation since its rediscovery in 1914. We walk through fascinating seaside ruins, tour the new museum, and spot birds in this wetland environment. Next we explore Constanta where we tour the archaeological museum and view one of the largest Roman mosaic floors in Europe. In the late afternoon, we enjoy wine tasting and a cultural performance on board. 

Varna, Bulgaria

October 17
Varna, Bulgaria

The modern port city of Varna was once the Greek colony known as Odessos. We disembark in the morning and visit Varna’s archaeological museum that chronologically traces the progress of human society in the region over the course of millennia, and includes the oldest worked gold in the world. We also explore the extensive remains of the 2nd-century Roman thermae, or public baths, which make up the largest Roman ruins in Bulgaria. Or, take a tour of the Balchik botanical Gardens and Aladzha Rock Monastery. Reboard the ship for lunch as we sail toward Turkey. 

Istanbul, Turkey / Disembark / USA

October 18

Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport for homeward flights.