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Seabourn Cruise Line

6100 Blue Lagoon Dr., Suite 400, Miami, FL 33126. tel. 800/929-9391. www.seabourn.com.

The top of the line in the cruise world, Seabourn excels in many areas, including food, service, itineraries, and a luxurious and refined environment. These cruises are pricey, and the customers who can afford them are well-traveled sophisticates used to being doted on.

Although the ambience can be casual during the day, it becomes decidedly more formal in the evening, although new dining options with modern cuisine and an "always informal" option at the restaurant at the top of the ship go a way to making it feel more casual. There's an open-bar policy (all alcoholic and soft drinks are included in the fare) and lots of open, teak decks, which make these ships very yachtlike. The ships are all-suite with marble bathrooms, walk-in closets, plush software, stocked mini bars, elegant fine dining and more.

Nighttime entertainment is low key, though cabaret nights with themes like 1950s rock 'n' roll can get the audience going.

Seabourn has three nearly identical ships, and a trio of new larger ships. The Seabourn Legend (built in 1992; 208 passengers; 10,000 GRTs) and Seabourn Pride (built in 1991; 208 passengers; 10,000 GRTs) dip into the Greek Isles, though the newer larger Seabourn Odyssey (built in 2009; 450 passengers; 32,000 GRTs) and Seabourn Quest (built in 2011; 450 passengers; 32,000 GRTs) offer many more Greek itineraries.

All cabins on the Seabourn Legend and Pride are outside suites, many with French balconies -- sliding doors you can open to let in the ocean breezes (the ships were built before full balconies were all the rage). The other cabins have 1.5m-wide (5-ft.) picture windows, plenty big enough to make the room bright and airy. Owner's suites are plush and offer private verandas.

The Seabourn Odyssey and Quest boast verandas on 90% of all staterooms. There is a main open-eating restaurant, two alternative venues, plus a poolside grille. Enjoy a two-level state-of-the-art gym and spa, which includes a pair of spa villas.

Seabourn Odyssey Seven-day Athens-to-Istanbul cruise calls at Mylos, Rhodes, Patmos, Khylos, Kusadasi (Turkey). May 8; July 3; August 21. Rates: From $5,135. Seven-day Istanbul-to-Athens cruise calls at Dikili (Turkey), Kusadasi (Turkey), Bodrum (Turkey), Santorini, Mylos, Nauplion. May 15; July 10, July 31; August 28. Rates: From $5,135. Seven-day Venice-to-Athens cruise calls at Sibenik (Croatia), Bari (Italy), Cephalonia, Katakolon, Gythion, Mykonos. May 29; June 26; August 14. Rates: From $5,530. Seven-day Athens-to-Istanbul, Istanbul-to-Athens and Venice-to-Athens, Athens-to-Venice cruises continue until October 23.

Seabourn Spirit Seven-day Civitavecchia-to-Athens cruise calls at Sorrento (Italy), Lipari (Italy), Katakolon, Itea, Nafplion. May 8. Rates: From $4,260.

Sea Cloud Cruises

32-40 N. Dean St., Englewood, NJ 07631. tel. 888/732-2568. www.seacloud.com.

The flagship vessel Sea Cloud (built in 1931; 64 passengers; 2,532 GRTs) was built for heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who was involved in the design and construction of the sailing ship, planning the layout of the vessel down to where the antiques would be placed. At the time it was the largest sailing yacht to be built. The Sea Cloud served as a military support ship during World War II, was briefly owned by Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo, and sat tied up for 8 years before it was bought by a Hamburg-based group in the late 1970s and given a new, luxurious lease on life.

Guests can still see the care that Post originally put into it: Fireplaces in the cabins, antiques, marble, and shining wood. In the owner's suite, guests sleep in a Louis XIV-style bed next to a decorative marble fireplace; the bathroom alone is 9 sq. m (97 sq. ft.). The Category 5 cabins, on the other hand, are upper-and-lower berths, but Sea Cloud points out that since the cabins open to the promenade deck guests can sleep with the doors open to let in the sea air. Sailing buffs will be happy to gaze up at the 3,973 sq. m (32,000 sq. ft.) of sail -- it has 36 separate sails, from the flying jib to the mizzen royal to the jigger gaff.

Sea Cloud is often chartered out by tour operators, who set their own itineraries for the ship; contact Sea Cloud for information on additional Greece cruises through tour operators. The company has a total of four vessels, including a riverboat.

Sea Cloud Seven-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Crete, Mylos, Naxos, Siros, Nafplion. May 31. Rates: From $4,515. Seven-day Athens-to-Istanbul cruise calls at Mylos, Siros, Patmos, Kusadasi (Turkey), Dikili (Turkey), Lesbos. June 7; July 9. Rates: From $4,515. Seven-day Athens-to-Istanbul cruise calls at Mylos, Santorini, Marmaris, Rhodes, Patmos, Kusadasi (Turkey). July 31. Rates: From $4,515.

Seadream Yacht Club

2601 S. Bayshore Dr., Penthouse 1B, Coconut Grove, FL 33133. tel. 800/707-4911. www.seadreamyachtclub.com.

The owner and operator of SeaDream Yacht Club, Atle Brynestad, has a luxury-line pedigree as the founder of Seabourn Cruise Line. For more than 10 years, he has been carrying on the Seabourn tradition of luxury and elegance, on a smaller, more casual, yachtlike scale. SeaDream in 2001 purchased the Sea Goddess I and Sea Goddess II from Seabourn, and after renovations renamed them SeaDream I and SeaDream II (built in 1984; 116 passengers; 4,260 GRTs). Updated in 2009, the ships have all new bedding and one additional suite.

The company defines itself not as a cruise line but an ultraluxury yacht company whose vessels journey to smaller, less-visited destinations. Guests are offered an unstructured, casually elegant vacation (no formal nights) with plenty of diversions. Toys carried aboard include jet skis and mountain bikes. You can dine outdoors or indoors; there are enough tables to accommodate all the passengers in one outdoor lunch seating. None of the cabins have private balconies, but the line often urges guests to treat the teak decks as one large veranda where you can sprawl on bed-size Balinese loungers. With advanced reservations, they will even make the beds up for you with a turndown service so you can sleep under the stars. Another evening option is to meet for a drink at the Top of the Yacht Bar -- SeaDream has an open-bar policy.

Seadream II Ten-day Venice (Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Split (Croatia), Korcula (Croatia), Dubrovnik (Croatia, overnight), Kotor (Montenegro), Sarande (Albania), Delphi, Mykonos, Santorini, Hydra. May 30. Rates: From $6,999. Seven-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Delos, Mykonos, Rhodes, Fethiye (Turkey), Gocek (Turkey), Bodrum (Turkey, overnight), Hydra. June 9. Rates: From $4,999. Seven-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Hydra, Delphi, Olympia/Katakolon, Gythion, Elafonsios, Santorini. June 16. Rates: From $5,199. Seven-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Hydra, Santorini, Paros Island, Patmos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Kepez (Turkey). June 23. Rates: From $5,199.

Seadream I Seven-day Dubrovnik (Croatia) to Athens cruise calls at Parga, Delphi, Hydra Patmos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini. July 21. Rates: From $5,199. Seven-day Athens to Dubrovnik (Croatia) cruise calls at Hydra, Delphi, Parga, Sarande (Albania), Kotor (Montenegro), Kotor (Montenegro), Dubrovnik (overnight). July 28. Rates: From $5,199. Seven-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Capri (Italy), Sorrento (Italy, overnight), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Fiskardho, Delphi, Hydra. August 25. Rates: From $5,199. Ten-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Hydra, Santorini, Lindos, Antalya (Turkey), Bodrum (Turkey), Patmos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Kepez (Turkey), Istanbul (overnight) Rates: From $6,999. Seven-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Kepez (Turkey), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Patmos, Bodrum (Turkey), Rhodes, Santorini. September 22. Rates: From $6,199. Seven-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Santorini, Lindos, Gocek (Turkey), Bodrum (Turkey), Agadir (Morocco), Hydra. September 29; October 6. Rates: From $4,999.

Silversea Cruises

110 E. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301. tel. 800/722-9055. www.silversea.com.

The luxurious Silver Wind (built in 1995; 296 passengers; 16,800 GRTs) and newer and larger Silver Spirit (built in 2009; 540 passengers; 36,000 GRTs) carry their guests in splendor and elegance. Passengers are generally well traveled and used to the good life. Fares include all alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages along with tips.

Aboard both the Wind and the Spirit, all accommodations are outside suites with writing tables, sofas, walk-in closets, marble bathrooms, stocked minibars, and all the amenities you'd expect of top-of-the-line ships. Throughout, both vessels allot more space to each passenger than most other ships. Dine on some of the best cuisine at sea in open-seating restaurants that allow you dine when and with whom you desire. The larger Spirit boasts four restaurants, including La Terrazza for indoor or alfresco dining with breakfast and lunch buffets; Le Champagne for a six-course epicurean experience in an intimate atmosphere; The Pool Grill for lunch and dinner; the intimate Seishin Restaurant for a range of Asian-fusion menu items, from Kobe beef and spider lobster to caviar and lots of sushi choices (per-person degustation menu cost is $40); and the Stars Supper Club, where live music, dancing, and nightclub-style entertainment complement the innovative menus and provide a relaxed feeling.

Silver Wind Fourteen-day Barcelona (Spain) to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise overnights in Barcelona and calls at Marseille (France), Monte Carlo (Monaco), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy, overnight), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy), Palermo (Sicily, Italy), Valletta (Malta), Crete, Athens. March 13 Rates: From $6,518. Ten-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Canakkale (Turkey), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt). March 27. Rates: From $4,678. Eleven-day Athens to Barcelona (Spain) cruise calls at Santorini, Valletta (Malta), Siracusa (Sicily, Italy), Palermo (Sicily, Italy), Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy), Alghero (Sardinia, Italy), Port Mahon (Menorca, Spain), Ibiza (Spain), Palma de Mallorca (Spain). April 6. Rates: From $5,158. Nine-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Patmos, Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Hydra, Mykonos. May 26. Rates: From $5,678. Nine-day Athens to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Mylos, Zakynthos, Itea, Corfu, Gallipoli (Italy), Sorrento (Italy, overnight). June 4. Rates: From $5,678. Nine-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Canakkale (Turkey), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Damascus (Syria), Beirut (Lebanon), Limassol (Cyprus), Rhodes, Santorini. July 20. Rates: From $5,678. Nine-day Athens to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Mykonos, Crete, Itea, Corfu, Kotor (Montenegro), Hvar (Croatia), Venice (overnight). July 29. Rates: From $5,678. Nine-day Venice (Italy) to Athens cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Zadar (Croatia), Dubrovnik (Croatia, overnight), Brindisi (Italy), Agrostoli, Monemvasia, Nauplion. August 25. Rates: From $5,678. Seven-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey). September 3. Rates: From $4,118. Seven-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Mykonos. September 17. Rates: From $4,118. Seven-day Athens to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Monemvasia, Corfu, Kotor (Montenegro), Split (Croatia), Venice (overnight). September 24. Rates: From $4,118. Nine-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Canakkale (Turkey), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Alanya (Turkey), Antalya (Turkey), Rhodes, Mykonos, Patmos. October 10. Rates: From $5,318. Twelve-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Limassol (Cyprus), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Crete, Nauplion. October 31. Rates: From $6,438.

Silver Spirit Seven-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise overnights in Athens and calls at Crete, Rhodes, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Mykonos. October 1. Rates: From $5,318. Seven-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Mykonos. June 25; August 13; October 8. Rates: From $5,318. Seven-day Athens to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Monemvasia, Corfu, Kotor (Montenegro), Split (Croatia), Venice (overnight). July 2; August 20. Rates: From $5,318. Seven-day Venice (Italy) to Athens cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Hvar (Croatia), Corfu, Itea, Olympia/Katakolon, Monemvasia. September 24. Rates: From $4,958. Seven-day Athens to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Monemvasia, Valletta (Malta), Catania (Sicily, Italy), Palermo (Sicily, Italy), Sorrento (Italy). October 15. Rates: From $4,958.

Star Clippers

7200 NW 19th St., Suite 206, Miami, FL 33126. tel. 800/442-0550. www.starclippers.com.

Star Clipper (built in 1991; 170 passengers; 2,298 GRTs) is the name of the handsome old-timey vessel this three-ship line, named Star Clippers, is sending to Greece in 2012. It's a replica of the big 19th-century clipper sailing ships (or barkentines) that once circled the globe. Its tall square rigs carry enormous sails, are glorious to look at, and are a particular thrill for history buffs. And on this ship, the 3,345 sq. m (36,000 sq. ft.) of billowing sails are more than window dressing. The Star Clipper was constructed using original drawings and specifications of a leading 19th-century naval architect, but updated with modern touches so that today it is among the tallest (68m/226 ft.) and fastest clipper ships built.

The atmosphere onboard is akin to being on a private yacht rather than on a mainstream cruise ship. It's active and casual in an L.L. Bean sort of way, and friendly too. Cabins are decorated with wood accents; the top categories have doors that open up directly onto the deck. There is one owner's suite. The public rooms include an open-seating dining room, and an Edwardian-style library with a Belle Epoque fireplace and bookshelf-lined walls. There are two small swimming pools. Local entertainment is sometimes brought aboard and movies might be shown, plus you can always count on silly contests and games at the deck bar as part of the after-dinner offerings. Other activities on the ship tend toward the nautical, such as visiting the bridge, observing the crew handle the sails, and participating in knot-tying classes. Or you can just pad around the decks and lie in a deck chair underneath the sails. When seas are calm you can lie in the rigging.

Star Seven-day round-trip Athens cruise to the northern Greek islands calls at Camilimani (Turkey), Kusadasi (Turkey), Patmos, Amorgos, Mykonos, and Monemvasia. Once a month or so between May and October. Rates: From $2,075. Seven-day round-trip Athens cruise to the southern Greek islands calls at Rhodes, Bodrum (Turkey), Daylan River (Turkey), Santorini, Hydra. Once a month or so between May and October. Rates: From $2,075.

Swan Hellenic Cruises

Lynnem House, 1 Victoria Way, Burgess Hill, West Sussex, RH15 9NF. tel. 800/257-5767 or 0844 871 4603. www.swanhellenic.com

This British company founded in 1954 excels in small-ship cruising and features the Minerva (built in 1996; 320 passengers; 12,500 GRTs). The line appeals to those who really want to learn something about a destination. Escorted shore excursions are included in the fares (and so are all tips) and impressive guest lectures speak about the islands' history and culture. Called a "country house at sea," the ship has two open-seating restaurants, two bars, a cinema, swimming pool, gym, spa, salon, and beautiful tiered decks and teak promenade offering plenty of vantage points for sightseeing. For some downtime, bring a book and your daydreams to the conservatory-style Shackleton's Bar, with its cane chairs and potted palms.

Minerva Fourteen-day Sharm-El-Sheikh (Egypt) to Athens cruise overnights in Sharm-El-Sheikh and calls at Sokhna (Egypt, overnight), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Damascus (Syria), Latakia (Syria), Antalya (Turkey), Fethiye (Turkey), Santorini, Athens (overnight). April 11. Rates: From $3,199. Thirteen-day Athens to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise overnights in Athens and calls at Itea, Olympia/Katakolon, Argostoli, Preveza, Kotor (Montenegro), Korcula (Croatia), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Palermo (Sicily, Italy), Rome (overnight). April 25. Rates: From $2,499. Fourteen-day Valletta (Malta) to Athens cruise overnights in Valletta and calls at Dubrovnik (Croatia, overnight), Korcula (Croatia), Split (Croatia), Trieste (Italy), Venice (Italy), Pula (Croatia), Kotor (Montenegro, overnight), Sarande (Albania), Itea, Athens (two overnights). August 15. Rates: From $3,999. Fourteen-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise overnights in Athens and calls at Souda Bay, Gythion, Nauplion, Delos, Mykonos (overnight), Paros Island, Chios, Symi, Fethiye (Turkey), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey, overnight), Istanbul (overnight). August 29. Rates: From $3,899. Fourteen-day Izmir (Turkey) to Athens cruise overnights in Izmir and calls at Thessaloniki, Kavala/Philippi, Rhodes, Antalya (Turkey), Tasucu (Turkey), Latakia (Syria), Damascus (Syria), Limassol (Cyprus), Syros, Athens (overnight). September 26. Rates: From $4,199.

Travel Dynamics International

132 E. 70th St., New York, NY 10021. tel. 800/257-5767. www.traveldynamicsinternational.com.

This operator of small ships offers a number of interesting itineraries that include Greek ports, and no wonder: The cofounders of Travel Dynamics are two Greek brothers from the island of Rhodes. The journeys are tailored to be unique, visiting some of the smaller and lesser-known ports. Top-notch onboard educational programs complement the itineraries, and shore excursions are included in the cruise price. This line won't attract the budget-minded passenger or the folks who want to laze around. Itineraries are fast paced and educational. Each day has several components: a museum in the morning and an archaeological site in the afternoon, for example. The company's itineraries often include references to the nearby sites (Iraklion for Knossos or Gortyn, for example).

The cozy Callisto (built in 2006; 34 passengers; 499 tons) is adorned with rich fabrics, wood, polished brass, rare antiquities, and artwork, with cabins offering marble bathrooms, minibars, and fresh flowers. There's a swimming platform, hot tub, and library as well. The larger Corinthian II (built in 1992; 114 passengers; 4,200 GRTs) also has luxe touches including marble bathrooms, minifridges, and private balconies. An outdoor bar and cafe accommodates alfresco diners. The ship also has a gym, salon, sun deck with hot tub, and Internet cafe.

Corinthian II Ten-day Venice (Italy) to Limassol (Cyprus) cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Zadar (Croatia), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Kotor (Montenegro), Corfu, Pylos, Rethymnon, Chania, Anamur Limani (Turkey), Tasucu (Turkey). April 27. Rates: From $8,295. Ten-day Limassla (Cyprus) to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Tasucu (Turkey), Antalya (Turkey), Marmaris (Turkey), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Delos, Platamonas, Thessalonica (overnight), Canakkale (Turkey). May 17. Rates: From $7,995. Ten-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Canakkale (Turkey), Nauplion, Pylos, Valletta (Malta), Trapani (Italy), Naples (Italy), Messina (Sicily, Italy), Ithaca. May 27. Rates: From $7,995. Eight-day Athens to Catania cruise calls at Argostoli, Lipari (Sicily, Italy), Sorrento (Italy), Agropoli (Italy), Palermo (Sicily, Italy), Marsala (Sicily, Italy), Syracuse (Sicily, Italy), Catania (Italy). June 6. Rates: From $7,795. Ten-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Athens cruise overnights in Rome and calls at Salerno (Italy), Olympia/Katakolon, Rethymnon, Santorini, Rhodes, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Athens (overnight). June 22; July 10. Rates: From $7,695. Ten-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Chios, Santorini, Rethymnon, Valletta (Malta), Marsala (Sicily, Italy), Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy), Alghero (Italy), Bonifacio (Corsica, France). July 28. Rates: From $7,995. Twelve-day Venice (Italy) to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Split (Croatia), Ploce (Croatia), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Kotor (Montenegro), Durres (Albania), Nafpaktos, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Thessalonica, Constanta (Romania), Nessebur (Bulgaria). September 5. Rates: From $8,495. Ten-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Canakkale (Turkey), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rethymnon, Pylos, Syracuse (Sicily, Italy), Taranto (Italy), Vlore (Albania), Kotor (Montenegro), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Split (Croatia). September 17. Rates: From $7,985. Eleven-day Venice (Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Split (Croatia), Vlore (Albania), Taranto (Italy), Syracuse (Sicily, Italy), Gytheion, Agios Nikolaos, Fethiye (Turkey), Marmaris (Turkey), Bodrum (Turkey). September 27. Rates: From $8,495. Twelve-day round-trip Athens cruise overnights in Athens and calls at Santorini, Heraklion, Cairo/Port Said (Egypt), Jerusalem/Tel Avia (Haifa, Israel), Limassol (Cyprus), Fethiye (Turkey), Marmaris (Turkey), Rhodes, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey). October 7. Rates: From $9,395. Fourteen-day Athens to Casablanca (Morocco) cruise calls at Itea/Delphi, Saranda (Albania), Taranto (Italy), Calabria (Italy), Syracuse (Sicily, Italy), Valletta (Malta), Marsala (Italy), Tunis (Tunisia), Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy), Annaba (Algeria), Bejaia (Algeria), Tangier (Morocco). October 19. Rates: From $9,395.

Callisto Nine-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Nauplion, Gytheion, Rethymnon, Santorini, Rhodes, Patmos, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Delos. April 17; May 23. Rates: From $8,995. Nine-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Milos, Rethymnon, Santorini, Rhodes, Didyma, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Delos, Palea Epidavros. September 8, September 26. Rates: From $8,995. Nine-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Ithaca, Parga, Preveza, Assos, Pylos, Kalamata, Nauplion. June 10. Rates: From $8,995. Nine-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Folegandros, Amorgos, Nisyros, Patmos, Chios, Skopelos, Limni, Kea. June 28; July 7, July 16. Rates: From $8,995. Nine-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Rethymnon, Chania, Aghia Galini (overnight), Ierapetra, Aghia Nicolaos, Heraklion, Santorini. August 3. Rates: From $8,995. Nine-day Kusadasi (Turkey) to Antalya (Turkey) cruise overnights in Ephesus/Kusadasi and calls at Bodrum (Turkey), Cnidos (Turkey), Symi, Rhodes, Ekincik (Turkey), Fethiye (Turkey), Castellorizo, Kekova (Turkey). October 15, October 24; November 2, November 11. Rates: From $8,995.

Variety Cruises

494 Eighth Ave., 22nd Floor, New York, NY 10001. tel. 800/319-7776. www.varietycruises.com.

These line's Greek-flagged and -operated yachts might be just the ticket if you're looking for a casual, intimate experience with a more international flavor. Formerly known as Zeus Tours, the cruise portion of the company has been around since the mid-1960s when it chartered the yacht Eleftherios; it began scheduled weekly cruise service in 1973. Today, it divides its ships into three divisions. The more upmarket Variety Cruises division emphasizes a blend of cruising and yachting, relaxing, and exploring Greece's historical treasures. Ships in this fleet include the yacht Harmony G (built in 2001; 46 passengers; 490 GRTs).

There are sun decks but no pools except for the surrounding Mediterranean: passengers can swim off the side of the ship during swim stops. Fares include two meals a day, breakfast and then either lunch or dinner, depending on the itinerary, which gives guests the chance to eat and drink in port. There's no organized onboard entertainment per se, except for chatting with other guests in the saloon or while catching rays on deck. And with only a couple dozen other guests, you'll probably get to know everyone within a day. Open-seating dinner helps with the mingling.

Harmony G Seven-day round-trip Athens cruise call at Nauplion/Mycenae, Gythion, Pylos, Olympia/Katakolon, Delphi. February 17, February 24; March 2, March 9, March 16, March 23; April 13. Rates: From $1,071.

Voyages of Antiquity

Frensham House, Headley Road, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 8PT. tel. 877/398-1460. www.voyagestoantiquity.com.

The midsize Aegean Odyssey (built in 1973; 350 passengers; 11,563 GRTs) is a cozy boutique-style ship with classic lines and a retro feel. Built as a ferry, the ship was converted to a cruise ship in 1988 and extensively refurbished. Perfect for history buffs and class ship lovers, the Aegean Odyssey is an old-world gem, with two restaurants, six bars and lounges, a library, theater, Internet center, spa, and salon. Expert lecturers, often professors and historians, sail on board to educate guests about the region and fares include excursions; pre- and/or posthotel stays in Athens or Istanbul or Rome; all meals; free wine, beer, or soft drinks with the evening meal; and tips. Voyages of Antiquity is geared to sophisticated travelers looking to be immersed in the destination and the focus is on education and learning.

Aegean Odyssey Fourteen-day Athens to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) includes 2-night precruise hotel stay in Athens; cruise calls at Nauplia, Monemvasia, Heraklion, Rethimnon, Syracuse (Sicily, Italy), Valletta (Malta), Trapani (Sicily, Italy), Palermo (Sicily, Italy, overnight). March 19. Rates: From $3,795. Fifteen-day Venice (Italy) to Istanbul (Turkey) includes 2-night postcruise hotel stay in Istanbul; cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Pula (Croatia), Split (Croatia, overnight), Korcula (Croatia), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Corfu, Monemvasia, Rethimnon, Santorini, Naxos, Lemnos. April 13. Rates: From $4,595. Fourteen-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens includes 2-night precruise hotel stay in Athens and 2-night postcruise hotel stay in Istanbul; cruise calls at Lemnos, Mount Athos, Skiathos, Izmir (Turkey, overnight), Delos, Mykonos, Santorini, Rethimnon, Nauplia. April 23; August 25. Rates: From $4,450. Fifteen-day round-trip Athens included 2-night precruise hotel stay; cruise calls in Nauplia, Monemvasia, Rethimnon, Rhodes, Delos, Mykonos, Samos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey, overnight), Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Mount Athos, Skiathos. May 2; September 3; October 16. Rates: From $4,695. Thirteen-day Athens to Venice (Italy) includes 2-night precruise hotel stay in Athens; cruise calls at Nauplia, Monemvasia, Olympia/Katakolon, Ithaca, Corfu, Sarande (Albanic), Dubrovnik (Croatia, overnight), Split (Croatia), Zadar (Croatia), Venice (overnight). May 14. Rates: From $4,250. Thirteen-day Venice (Italy) to Athens includes 2-night postcruise hotel stay in Athens; cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Zadar (Croatia), Split (Croatia, overnight), Korcula (Croatia), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Corfu, Preveza, Olympia/Katakolon, Nauplia. June 23; October 7. Rates: From $4,250. Fourteen-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) includes 2-night precruise hotel stay in Athens and 2-night postcruise hotel stay in Istanbul; cruise calls at Nauplia, Rethimnon, Santorini, Delos, Mykonos, Izmir (Turkey, overnight), Skiathos, Lemnos. July 1; September 15. Rates: From $4,450. Seventeen-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) includes 2-night precruise hotel stay in Istanbul and 2-night postcruise hotel stay in Rome; cruise calls at Lemnos, Izmir (Turkey), Delos, Mykonos, Athens, Nauplia, Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Palermo (Sicily, Italy, overnight), Sorrento (Italy, overnight). July 22. Rates: From $4,995. Seventeen-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Istanbul (Turkey) includes 2-night precruise hotel stay in Rome and 2-night postcruise hotel stay in Istanbul; cruise calls at Sorrento (Italy, overnight), Palermo (Sicily, Italy, overnight), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Nauplia, Athens, Delos, Mykonos, Izmir (Turkey), Lemnos. August 13. Rates: From $4,995. Fifteen-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Venice (Italy) included 2-night precruise hotel stay in Istanbul; cruise calls at Mount Athos, Thessalonica, Volos, Patmos, Athens, Monemvasia, Preveza, Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Korcula (Croatia), Ravenna (Italy). September 24. Rates: From $4,750. Twelve-day Athens to Limassol (Cyprus) cruise overnights in Athens and calls at Nauplia, Santorini, Rethimnon, Heraklion, Rhodes, Fethiye (Turkey), Antalya (Turkey), Tasucu (Turkey). October 30. Rates: From $3,750.

Windstar Cruises

2101 Fourth Ave., Suite 1150, Seattle, WA 98121. tel. 87-STAR-SAIL (877/827-7245). www.windstarcruises.com.

Although they look like sailing ships of yore, Wind Star and Wind Spirit (built in 1986 and 1988; 144 passengers; 5,350 GRTs) and their bigger sister Wind Surf (built in 1990; 312 passengers; 14,745 GRTs) are more like floating luxury hotels with the flair of sailing ships. These vessels feature top-notch service and cuisine, yet have a wonderful casual vibe. Million-dollar computers operate the sails, and stabilizers allow for a smooth ride.

Windstar deploys its two smaller vessels, Wind Spirit and Wind Star, in the Greek islands. Casual, low-key elegance is the style. There's no set regime and no dress code above "resort casual." Most of the passengers are well heeled; the ships appeal to all ages except children. (There are no dedicated kids' facilities onboard the ships.)

None of the roomy outside cabins have balconies, but they do have large portholes. The top-level owner's cabins are slightly bigger. Refurbishments in 2009 include flatscreen TVs and DVD players; new mattresses, bedding, carpet, and curtains for the cabins; an expanded gym; and an updated spa.

A watersports platform at the stern allows for a variety of activities when the ships are docked. Entertainment is low key and sometimes includes local entertainers brought aboard at ports of call. Most of the onboard time revolves around the sun deck, plunge pool, and outdoor bar. The ships also have small casinos.

Wind Spirit Seven-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Ischia (Italy), Lipari (Italy), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Gythion, Monemvasia. April 28. Rates: From $2,496. Seven-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Bodrum (Turkey), Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey). May 5, May 19; June 2, June 16; July 14, July 28; August 25; September 8, September 22, October 6. Rates: From $2,949. Seven-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Bodrum, Santorini, Mykonos. May 12, May 26; June 9, June 23; July 21; August 4; September 1, September 15, September 29; October 13. Rates: From $3,431. Seven-day Athens to Valletta (Malta) cruise calls at Gythion, Argostoli, Butrint National Park (Albania), Siracusa (Sicily, Italy), Gozo (Malta). June 30; August 11; October 20. Rates: From $2,948. Seven-day Valletta to Athens cruise calls at Gozo (Malta), Siracusa (Sicily, Italy), Butrint National Park (Albania), Argostoli, Gythion. July 7; August 18; October 27. Rates: From $3,091. Eight-day Athens to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Monemvasia, Gythion, Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Lipari (Italy), Sorrento (Italy), Ischia (Italy). November 3. Rates: From $2,379.

Wind Star Seven-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Bodrum (Turkey), Santorini, Monemvasia. June 2, June 16, June 30; August 25; September 8, September 15, September 22, September 29; October 6, October 20. Rates: From $3,431. Seven-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Bodrum (Turkey), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey). June 9, June 23; August 18; September 1, September 15, September 29, October 13. Rates: From $3,431. Eight-day Athens to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Monemvasia, Gythion, Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Lipari (Italy), Sorrento (Italy), Ischia (Italy). July 7; October 27. Rates: From $2,756. Seven-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Ischia (Italy), Lipari (Italy), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Gythion, Monemvasia. August 11. Rates: From $2,496.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.