There's something very special about small ship cruising.

And with a classically clean sleek look, Voyages to Antiquity's only ship, MV Aegean Odyssey was a sight of beauty moored on the banks of the 408 mile long Guadalquivir river, Spain's only inland port.

I'd arrived in Seville late on the previous night after a long day travelling and had spent the morning on a sightseeing tour in the sunny city, including the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Real Alcazar – one of the oldest palaces in the world and still in use by the Spanish Royal Family.

As stunning as the architecture of The Alcazar is – it's divided into sections dating from the 11th-12th century Moorish, 13th century Gothic, 14th century Mudejar and the 15th-16th century Renaissance – nothing could have prepared me for the spectacular gardens.

Instilled with an overwhelming sense of calm, the exquisite gardens are made up of a maze of pathways, hidden crevices, water features, tropical greenery and ambient courtyards, set against the contrasting backdrop of the deep blue Andalusian sky.

They truly are enchanting and I was sad to be saying goodbye to them after just a few short hours.

Although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to board Aegean Odyssey and explore my home for the next seven days.

At just 11,563 tonnes, 461ft long, 67ft across the beam and with a draft of 20.5ft, the premium class 378 passenger ship has seven passenger decks, so I was really hoping I'd find my bearings quickly.

Embarkation was swift and the crew were handing out red roses as we boarded – a personal touch that was to be a sign of things to come.

My cabin was situated on Belvedere Deck, right next to reception. Classed as a Deluxe outside, which means it has a window, it was exceptionally clean with plenty or storage space, and the separate twin beds were small but comfortable.

Aegean Odyssey has two dining venues, the relaxed Terrace Café & Grill has both indoor and outdoor seating and offers casual buffet dining, whereas the more formal Marco Polo has table service. The menus at both are almost identical, so you simply need to decide whether you'd prefer to select your own food or order from a menu and be served.

Eager to explore, it didn't take me long to find my way to the Terrace Café where there was a large selection of local inspired foods on offer, and sitting outside in the Spanish sunshine I felt the stresses of life ebb away like a tide.

Despite the small size of the ship there was never a crowd, and as we sailed down the Guadalquivir river and out into the Atlantic Ocean I relaxed by the pool on the spacious teak deck with a cocktail, ready to watch the sunset before retiring!

I awoke the next morning to one of my favourite things about cruising – a sea day!

Voyages to Antiquity is a destination based cruise line, designed for travellers who want to understand more about the history, art, culture and natural wonders of the ancient world and their on board lecturers, including historians, professors, archaeologists, authors and journalists, connect you with the places you'll visit before you go ashore for the many included excursions on offer.

For me, this meant my day was planned around the informative and well-attended lectures, where the subjects of the day were Islamic architecture, science and art, plants evolving in a Mediterranean climate and a brief history of rebuilding Lisbon after the great earthquake in 1755.

The following morning we docked in Lisbon and made our way ashore for a city highlights tour, taking in the historical Belem Quarter and UNESCO listed monastery.

As a bit of a foodie, the highlight for me was definitely the free time at Rossio Square, which involved a stop at Lisbon's famous pastry shop, Pasteis de Belém.

The queue was full of locals buying bags of the Portugese egg tarts, which is always a good sign.

I'd made sure I'd skipped breakfast to allow for the pastel de Belem, and I was so glad I did – the tart was still warm and the combination of pastry and creamy filling set off an explosion of taste and texture in my mouth.

Our next port of call was Porto, and having opted to spend some time exploring alone in the morning, I took a leisurely stroll through the grand plazas of the Avenida dos Aliados before stopping at one of the many cafes to grab lunch and soak up the atmosphere of this historic city.

In the afternoon I took the recommended excursion of a city tour, starting at the beautiful Romanesque-style Cathedral, before visiting the Stock Exchange Palace, built in the 19th century to impress European investors.

After crossing the Douro River over the iconic Dom Luis Bridge, created by a partner of Gustave Eiffel and built in 1886 – this feat of engineering resembles the detail used in the famous tower, we arrived in Gaia to visit a wine cellar for a tasting session – after all there's no escaping port in Porto.

The smell of port in the air was strong as we entered the Burmester Cellar, where we came face-to-face with the huge oak barrels on a tour that ensures you leave feeling like a connoisseur. And although I'm not a huge fan of port, the white was definitely my favourite. It was crisp, sweet and dry and with an alcohol content, like most ports, of around 20 ABV – it certainly hit the spot.

One of the main attractions of cruising is waking up in a different location every day without feeling like you've travelled, and the Spanish city of Vigo on the northwest coast was a beautiful place to do just that.

Although this Galician city has a proud heritage, and I would have loved more time to explore it, I was looking forward to taking the day's excursion to Santiago de Compostela, the final stop on the epic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail and one of the most important places in Catholicism, reputed to be the place where St James – one of the twelve Apostles of Christ – is buried.

The Cathedral stands proud in Obradoiro Square and, even for those who are not walking the Camino, watching the pilgrims arrive to the whoops and cheers of their loved ones on the final leg of their epic journeys is a sight to behold.

The narrow winding stone streets and tiny shops providing a stunning backdrop to the old cathedral, and an insight into how it would have looked in Medieval times.

With just one more stop in Bordeaux before my flight home, another day at sea awaited, and Aegean Odyssey didn't disappoint with a lecture programme that included Christian and Islamic art and architecture in the Iberian Peninsula and Monet: Painter and Gardener.

I left both having done what Voyages to Antiquity promise – understanding more about history and culture.


Join Voyages to Antiquity for a 15-day European Connoisseur sailing on June 4 2019, from £2,595 per person. After an two-night stay in Seville (Spain) the cruise departs and calls at Lisbon (Portugal), Oporto (Portugal), Vigo (Spain), Bordeaux (France), La Rochelle (France), Guernsey (Channel Islands, UK), Honfleur (France) before arriving into London Tilbury to disembark the ship. Price includes flights, guided shore excursions, all meals on board, drinks with dinner on board, gratuities and expert guest speakers.

For more information and to book, visit: or call: 01865 302550.