Grand Circle Corporation launched the first of three, new 50-passenger ocean- going ships that will operate in the E. Mediterranean, the Adriatic, and the Aegean.

The M/S Athena departed from Split, Croatia to Athens, Greece on its inaugural sailing May 7, 2007. The M/S Athena and her two sister ships will serve travelers of Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), one of Grand Circle's travel divisions.

"Small ship travel has become by far the number one way that Americans over 50 want to see the world,” said Alan E. Lewis, chairman and CEO of Grand Circle. "Small ship ocean adventures are in high demand, and Croatia, Greece and Turkey are among our most requested itineraries. Our new ships are setting a whole new standard for ocean travel in this part of the world: four-star service, an intimate 50 passenger capacity, access to small ports that larger ships cannot access, and a value that's unrivalled. Unlike larger cruise ships with travelers from all parts of the world, our market is solely Americans over 50, which means no wait for multiple language translations on board and on land, meals that are geared toward the American palate, and culturally-rich itineraries that give our travelers exactly what they want: unique opportunities to connect with local people and their ways of life.”

Built in Split, Croatia at the Brodosplit-Special Vessels Shipyard, the four-star M/S Athena was exclusively designed for Americans over 50 by Grand Circle's own nautical staff in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Modeled to some extent on a 1930's-style-yacht, the 50-passenger ship features warm wood paneling, leather and rattan furniture, and touches that include brass fittings, black and white photographs, wooden shutters, and old ship lanterns. The ship has a comfortable, intimate feel with a sundeck, dining room, salon with bar, 26 cabins (24 twins, 2 singles), a staff of 21, single, open seating in the dining room, and more.   Of the cabins, 18 on the upper deck have balconies, six on the main deck have opening portholes, and two singles on the lower deck have fixed portholes.

The new ships will sail on several itineraries that OAT is currently planning for the E. Mediterranean, Aegean and the Adriatic. Both the M/S Athena and the next ship, the M/S Artemis that will launch this fall, will sail on OAT's "Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast & Greece,” a 16-day cruise tour that begins at $4695 and features a 10-11 night cruise and visits to Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes, Split, Hvar, Korcula, Dubrovnik, Bay of Kotor, Mentenegro, Butrint, Albania, Corfu, and Athens.  While OAT travelers will have a choice of itineraries, key to each will be the efforts of the ship's captain, hotel manager and Trip Leaders to share their extensive regional knowledge and engage passengers with local people and their ways of life.

M/S ATHENA SPECIFICATIONS:
Size:            50 passengers; 21 crew
Cabins:         24 doubles, 2 singles (double beds can be configured as twins)
Average Cabin Size:    161.4 sq. ft (15 sq. m), including the bathroom
Length overall:     192.9 feet (58,80 m)
Breadth:        34.7 feet (10,58 m)
Draught:        9.5 feet (2,90 m)
Tonnage:         1158 GT
Sailing:        Multiple itineraries from March-November
Amenities:     Restaurant with open seating, sun deck bar/grill, salon with bar, front desk, Internet and more.
Cost:            $10M+ per ship

CABIN:
Twin cabins have convertible beds that can be configured to a double. Single cabins have a twin bed.  Each cabin has a bedside table with two drawers and reading lights, sitting area with two chairs and a round table, room safe, hairdryer and U.S. style electrical sockets, and a flat screen TV with CNN and other selected cable channels, large windows and porthole. Built-in furniture features a wardrobe with a four-drawer chest and vanity unit.  Cabin walls are half paneled with rich wood and the ceiling features a crossed beam pattern. Deck-level cabins have balconies (37.6 sq. ft/3.5 sq. m) with teak decks, two chairs and a table.