updated 5/14/2010 10:04:00 AM ET 2010-05-14T14:04:00

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Travel by: June 12, 2010

The deal: It’s not often that you find something at a 75 percent discount, let alone a summer cruise through the Mediterranean — but that’s exactly what our editors have uncovered. Jump aboard NCL’s Norwegian Gem, the newest in the Jewel line of vessels, for a round-trip, 7-night Mediterranean cruise for as little as $499!

When cabins are booked through America’s Vacation Center, travelers will receive an amenities package valued at $137, as well as an exclusive coupon book for valuable savings on purchases aboard the ship such as spa treatments and alcoholic beverages.

The Norwegian Gem sets sail on June 12 from Venice, Italy and heads southwest to Dubrovnik, Croatia. There, passengers can spend the day walking along the walls of the well preserved old-town of Dubrovnik, a city that Lord Byron described as “the pearl of the Adriatic.”

Vacationers will then sail further south before calling to port in Athens, Greece — the birthplace of western civilization. As travelers walk through the preserved history lesson that is the Athens Acropolis, breathtaking views of the city are in abundance.

The Gem then brings passengers further east to Izmir, Turkey, where the ancient city of Smyrna is kept in remarkable condition at the Agora Open Air Museum of Izmir.

The cruise makes a final stop in Nafplion, Greece, where the old-town jutting out into the Argolic Gulf makes for endless picturesque moments. During the final two days at sea, passengers can relax aboard the Gem as it sails back to Venice.

The dollars: All quotes are per person and based on double occupancy. Rates cover accommodations, meals and entertainment on the ship. Fees and taxes, as well as shore excursions, personal expenses, alcoholic beverages, and tips are additional.

The catch: Travelers may experience simultaneous relaxation and learning — two rarely melded activities.

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