Sailing from Singapore to Alexandria, Egypt, four continuous distinct voyages will trace the ancient trade routes of legendary explorer Marco Polo. The voyages mark the inaugural chapter of small-ship exploration line Cruise West’s world cruise, Voyages of the Great Explorers. Delving deep into Southeast Asia and the Middle East, each voyage will be enhanced by the observations and insights of acclaimed authorities on the region’s rich culture and history.

Cultural and historical experts bring knowledge to each voyage

Award-winning Marco Polo biographer, historian and chronicler of exploration, Laurence Bergreen brings his keen knowledge of the region to Voyage 1: Singapore to Chennai – the inaugural voyage hosted by Chairman and Managing Director Dick West. In addition, esteemed Captain Reidulf Maalen will be at the helm. Guests will explore the cultural treasures, colonial history, Buddhist and Hindu temples, and lush tropical flora that Polo found in Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and India. Intriguing ports include Malacca, Malaysia; Georgetown, Penang; Langkawi; Phuket and Kho Yao, Thailand; Similan Islands; Rangoon, Myanmar; Andaman Islands; and Chennai, India. The 16-night voyage departs March 5, 2010; prices start at $12,695 per person before savings.

Voyage 2: Chennai to Mumbai again features Cruise West’s own “Modern Day Explorer” Captain Reidulf Maalen whose love for the sea was born on the island of Tustna, Norway. Guests will be immersed in a cultural melting pot that vividly illustrates how trade with Europe influenced this intriguing region. Joining Maalen is author and photographer Doranne Jacobson, Ph.D, an India expert on social change and gender roles, who will present engaging lectures on these topics. Fascinating port calls include the former French community Pondicherry, Tuticorin, Trivandrum, Cochin, Mangalore and Marmagao, India; Galle, Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka; and Male, Maldives. The 16-night voyage departs March 20, 2010; prices start at $9,995 per person before savings.

Foreign policy specialist Stephen Dachi, PhD brings 30 years experience as former U.S. diplomat in South Asia, Central Europe and Latin America to Voyage 3: Mumbai to Muscat. This exciting voyage showcases fascinating ports including Bandar Abbas, Iran; Abu Dhabi, Sharjag, Dibba and ultra-modern Dubai, UAE; scenic cruising aboard a traditional dhow in the Musandam Peninsula; and a visit to the exotic desert landscapes of Sohar and Muscat Oman. Cruise West is including FREE round trip international airfare from four select U.S. Cities: San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Houston (HOU) and New York (JFK) on the 14-night voyage that departs April 4, 2010 (a value of $1,300 per person). Prices start at $7,395 per person before savings.

Often called the father of modern adventure travel, Richard Bangs brings 30 years of experience as an explorer to Voyage 4: Muscat to Alexandria – the final voyage of Chapter 1. Noted for leading first descents of 35 rivers around the globe, Bangs co-directed the IMAX film, Mystery of the Nile, and co-authored the accompanying book. In addition, Jenifer Neils, Smithsonian Journeys lecturer, archaeologist, author, and Ruth Coulter Heede Professor of Art History and Classics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will share her vast knowlwdge of the region.

The 18-night voyage departing April 17, 2010, includes three Ultimate Explorers Experiences (full day tours in Petra, Luxor & Valley of the Kings and Cairo at the Pyramids and Sphinx) and is filled with ancient wonders, exotic scents, and even a modern-day miracle of engineering. In Oman, guests will visit the Salalah Frankincense Museum and the tomb of Job, sacred to all three Abrahamic faiths; stop in Eritrea, with its evocative Ottoman architecture; explore the tombs of the pharaohs in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings; the rose-hued ruins of Petra; before sailing from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, the most direct water route between Asia and Europe. Prices start at $10,695 per person before savings. As an added bonus, Cruise West will include a three-night post-voyage land tour of Cairo (a value of $1,390 per person).

Each of the four voyages offers guests all-inclusive excursions at every port of call designed to foster personal discoveries and reveal natural and man made wonders. Ultimate Explorers Experiences including visits to Rangoon’s 2500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda; dinner at the famed Raffles Hotel (Voyage 1); an Indian elephant orphanage; Sri Lankan tea plantation (Voyage 2); Shiraz’s ornate mosques, tombs and bazaars; Persepolis, seat of the glorious Persian Empire (Voyage 3); and Luxor and Karnak, where monuments ornamented with hieroglyphics testify to the achievements of the pharaohs (Voyage 4).

Book by Voyage or by Chapter

The Voyages of the Great Explorers – which begins March 5, 2010, on board Cruise West’s flagship, the 120-guest, all-suite Spirit of Oceanus, is a collection of 24 individual voyages, any of which can be booked separately, that combine to form a 335-day circumnavigation of the world along the major routes inspired by history’s great ocean explorers. Sailing ever westward, this world voyage returns to Singapore on February 3, 2011.