The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, transfers, most meals, one night's hotel accommodations, and seven nights aboard a cruise ship, from $1,849 per person—plus taxes and port charges of up to $382.
When: Depart on Oct. 29, Nov. 5, 12, 19, 2008.
Gateways: New York City; add $43 for Miami, $54 for Denver, $146 for Houston, $159 for L.A., $215 for Seattle; additional cities are available.
The fine print: Airline fuel surcharges (which can be as high as $240 per person), eight breakfasts, seven lunches, seven dinners, and all transfers are included. Taxes are an additional $114-$192. Port charges are an additional $190. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $525. U.S. passport holders do not need a visa to enter Greece or to take shore excursions in Egypt and Turkey. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Gate 1 Travel, 800/682-3333, gate1travel.com.
Why it's a deal: In a recent search on Kayak, the lowest round-trip fares between New York City and Athens we found for departures in late October start at $677 (Swiss International Air). For an additional $1,554 per person, including all taxes and port charges, Gate 1 will cover a night in Athens, a seven-night cruise, all transfers, and most meals. When compared to high-season prices, this fall package offers a discount of 40 to 60 percent.
Trip details: The package includes round-trip airfare on a British Airways or Alitalia airlines carrier and accommodations in Athens and aboard a cruise ship.
Once you arrive in Athens, you'll be transferred to the 241-room Oscar Hotels, a three-building property (the Oscar, the Oscar Annex, and the Oscar Inn) located less than a mile from the heart of Athens. You'll stay overnight in one of the properties, selected at random, before embarking on your cruise.
Depending on what time you arrive, you may be able to squeeze in some sightseeing in the Greek capital on your own. The Oscar is conveniently located across the street from the central rail and metro station, Larissa Station, so you can easily get to most attractions. The most famous include the National Archeological Museum; the Agora, Athens's ancient commercial and civic center; the Acropolis; and the Monastery of Daphni.
The ship will set sail at 2 p.m. on the following day. Your home for the next seven nights will be a two-bed inside cabin aboard the 483-cabin Cristal, which can accommodate up to 1,278 passengers. Passengers will have access to an outdoor swimming pool, a spa, a fitness center, a beauty salon, a casino, a dining room, four lounges, and three bars.
The first port of call is Istanbul, the Turkish metropolis with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia. You'll have from mid morning to early evening to tour the city on your own. You could marvel at the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace, or put your haggling skills to use at the Grand Bazaar.
Next, spend an afternoon exploring Kusadasi, a popular beach destination on Turkey's western coast. You'll then sail toward Greece and stop for a day at Rhodes, the largest island of the Dodecanese archipelago; the medieval Old Town was built by the 14th-century Knights of St. John.
The cruise proceeds from Greece to Alexandria, Egypt, where the ship will stay docked overnight. You'll be free to explore this Mediterranean city, founded in 331 B.C. by Alexander the Great. While Alexandria's greatest treasures (think of the ancient library and the Pharos lighthouse) were destroyed in fires and earthquakes, the city boasts various other worthwhile attractions like Qaitbey Fort; the Corniche, the seaside promenade stretching the length of the city; and the Kom el Shokafa Catacombs.
After a day and a half in Egypt, you'll sail back north to Greece and disembark in Fira on the picture-perfect island of Santorini. Stroll along the hilly, narrow streets lined with outdoor cafes and whitewashed houses. There is speculation that Santorini might be the lost continent of Atlantis. And the recent Minoan excavations in Akrotiri, south of Fira, may support that idea. You'll sail back from Santorini to Athens to catch your flight home.
Note that you can customize your trip with optional guided tours available at each stop. Add-ons range in price from $67 per person for a tour of the Old City and Philermos on the island of Rhodes to $129 per person for a Highlights of Istanbul tour with lunch.
You can also choose to upgrade your accommodations. Add $50 per person for a night at the 395-room Stanley Hotel in Athens and seven nights in a superior inside cabin; add $250 per person for a night at the 242-room Divani Palace Acropolis and seven nights in a standard outside cabin; add $350 per person for a night at the 265-room Royal Olympic Hotel and seven nights in a superior outside cabin.
While there is no option to extend your stay after the trip, you can add pre-tour nights in Athens at the Oscar & Oscar Inn for $99 per person per night. For more tips on what to do in the area, visit the official Web sites of the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, and the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office.