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

Gerry Herrod, an industry veteran 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 new operation in May.

After an extensive refurbishment, 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. It previously was operated by Renaissance Cruises.

According to ship historian Peter Knego of www.maritimematters.blogspot.com, the vessel was laid up near Athens for several years due to legal issues concerning its ownership, before Herrod purchased it. Knego also said the ship was completely rebuilt in 1985 and is currently being refurbished at Keratsini, near Athens, for its new operations.

AegeanInewHerrod 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 the age of ancient Greece to the First World War.

Voyages to Antiquity has planned 16, two-week itineraries, with port calls and shore excursions based on the history of those civilizations. The cruise experience will be focused on enrichment and will features guests lecturers, including Norwich, who helped craft the line’s itineraries.

Schlesinger said details of those cruises would be released in the next few weeks, along with a website. He expects sales to open in September.

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

Agents who want a brochure or to discuss group bookings can email [email protected].

Herrod founded Ocean Cruise Line in 1984 and launched Orient Lines in 1993. In 1998, he sold Orient Lines to Norwegian Cruise Line, which shut it down in 2008.

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