The founder of Orient Lines and Discovery World Cruises will launch a new cruise line centered on Mediterranean history and culture, called Voyages to Antiquity.

Gerry Herrod, who founded Ocean Cruise Line in 1984 and launched Orient Lines in 1993, has purchased the former Aegean I cruise ship from Greek shipping interests and plans to launch the operation in May.

After an extensive refurbishment, currently under way near Athens, the ship's capacity will drop from 560 passengers to 380 passengers. The 11,563-ton vessel was built in 1973 and has been sailing for Golden Sun Cruises.

Ship historian Peter Knego of said the vessel was laid up near Athens for several years due to legal issues concerning its ownership before Herrod purchased it.

Herrod is launching the line with a team of Orient Lines alum.

Mitchell Schlesinger, Voyages to Antiquity's head of sales development in North America, was the head of sales and marketing for Orient. David Yellow, managing director of Orient Lines in London, will assume the same position for the new venture.

According to Schlesinger, Herrod's inspiration for Voyages to Antiquity came from John Julius Norwich's "The Middle Sea," a history book that examines the rise and fall of civilizations in the Mediterranean region, from ancient Greece to World War I.

Voyages to Antiquity has planned 16 two-week itineraries, with port calls and shore excursions based on the history of those civilizations.

Schlesinger said details of those cruises would be released and a website would be launched in the next few weeks. He expected sales to open in September.

Schlesinger said that the line, which will be headquartered in the U.K., expected to source half of its passengers from North America and the other half from Europe.

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