Road Scholar has announced that it has chartered the cruise ship Aegan Odyssey for three years beginning in 2020. While the well-known educational travel organization has had tour groups on various cruise ships from time-to-time, this is the first time that Road Scholar will have full control of a cruise ship for such an extended period.
The ship Road Scholar has chartered for its cruise program is the Aegean Odyssey. This ship began life in 1973 as the cargo ship Narcis. She was subsequently converted to a passenger vessel and sailed for various owners under the names including Alkyon, Aegean Dolphin and Dolphin. In 2007, she was purchased by Voyages to Antiquity and given a major refurbishment. The ship underwent additional refurbishment this year in anticipation of Road Scholar assuming full control of her in 2020.
Road Scholar has stated that it selected this ship because: “We have successfully operated more than 100 programs on the ship since 2010, it has won several cruise ship awards and our participants consistently rave about the ship.”
Aegean Odyssey is a small ship of 12,094 gross tons. It is capable of accommodating 350 passengers and has a crew of 180, which gives it a good passenger to crew ratio. The ship has a library, a spa, salon, small pool, and a full fitness studio. There is also a buffet restaurant and an ala carte main dining room. (See deck plans)
The ship's small size will allow her to get into ports that large cruise ships cannot. Of course, the small size also means that she does not have all the “wow” features of today's mega-cruise ships but that is not the type of experience that the people Road Scholar hopes to attract are interested in. Rather, the target passengers are those looking for cultural enrichment.
Traditionally, the cruise industry has been skeptical of emphasizing cultural enrichment on cruises, preferring a “fun in the sun” approach. Some notable exceptions have been Cunard, Regent Holland America and Celebrity Cruises. However, now, even mass market lines such as Carnival Cruise Lines have been experimenting with including mental stimulation programs on some voyages.
The results of a national survey commissioned by Road Scholar support its move into cruising. One thousand men and women age 55 and older were asked for their views on travel. It found that educational travel was chosen as the most popular option for keeping brains vital and engaged. 85 per cent of respondents reported the belief that travel increases life expectancy. 55 per cent of respondents indicated that a small ship (250-400 guests) voyage would be the most appealing, rather than a large ship serving 3,000 or more guests.
Road Scholar plans to provide cultural enrichment both through lectures presented aboard the Aegean Odyssey and through shore excursions in the various ports visited by the ship.
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