It looked like a reincarnation of the ship in my childhood dreams. But this one sailed farther: through the entire Mediterranean world and into the Aegean, Ionian, Adriatic, and Black seas – to Byzantine Turkey, Renaissance Italy, Pharaonic Egypt, Classical Greece, even exotic ports of Asia.
The cruise line hosted a presailing tour of the Acropolis. Our guide told how it had been sacred terrain even during the Minoan and Mycenaean periods, before Classical-era Greeks created the Parthenon there – Athena's temple, dedicated to wisdom. Later, the guide said, the edifice became a church and mosque.
Just steps from the Agora where democracy was born, her words conjured up an enclave of spiritual and noble yearnings. All this, I felt, must be empowering today's Athenians in their own yearnings for dignity and prosperity.
The first night, on the ship's al fresco dining terrace, the captain regaled me with tales of steering the ship through celebrity waters – the same wine-dark seas that Homer's Odysseus had sailed. Leaning over, as if to impart a secret, he said: "At our next stop, Epidaurus – the best preserved of all ancient Greek theaters – the tragedies of Euripedes and Sophocles are still performed. Shakespeare's masterpieces, too."
Later, in my cabin, I thought of the parallel quest, from Sophocles to the Elizabethan bard, to unfold the mysteries of the human psyche.