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Join the inaugural sailing season of the Ocean Explorer on this expedition of Spain and Portugal, two countries that have long been celebrated for their spirit of exploration. You’ll indulge in the luxuries of this brand-new expedition ship as you trace Iberia from Barcelona to Lisbon, immersing yourself in rich cultures and epic histories along the way. Visit Mallorca, overlooked by most cruise lines, to take in the stunning island capital of Palma. Uncover layers of history in Cartagena. Explore the lively and Moorish-flavored cultural centers of Granada and Seville. And witness the rustic charms of Portugal’s magnificent Algarve. All while the dramatic and sweeping landscapes of Iberia unfold before you.
With 24 included features and Cultural Discoveries, you’ll experience the real Spain and Portugal up close as you visit a bull-fighting ring to hear how Spaniards view the event today, share an intimate dinner at a family bull farm, and gain immeasurable insight into Iberia’s history and legacy during onboard lectures with notable experts. Plus, our small ship size lets us journey up the Guadalquivir River into the pristine wilderness of Doñana National Park, something large ships could never do!
Dedicated onboard Cruise Director, City Hosts, and Concierge accompany you as you explore. With their insider connections, they’ll open doors you could never step through on your own, whether they’re pointing out the intricacies of azulejo tile work at a seldom-visited Portuguese parish church, recommending the best places to sample a slice of Britain while visiting Gibraltar, or letting you in on the works you absolutely must see at Málaga’s Picasso Museum.
The Ocean Explorer embodies the perfect marriage of luxury travel and expedition cruising. Savor fine cuisine in our elegant restaurant, then grab one of the ship’s bicycles to explore the beauty of Mallorca. Sip a vintage glass of wine on the sun deck while cruising up the scenic Guadalquivir. And each day, our onboard Concierge is eager to help you make your own plans in port. Simply, there is no better way to witness the wonders of Iberia.
Proud capital of Spain’s Catalonia province, Barcelona offers an unrivaled blend of historic treasures, cosmopolitan culture, and architectural showpieces, all underlined by a spectacular culinary scene. This is the city of Antoni Gaudí, the modernisme architect whose surreal style changed the cityscape with works like La Sagrada Família Cathedral. This is a famously gracious city where wide, tree-lined boulevards were made for strolling, intimate tapas and wine bars were made for lingering, and richly historic quarters and artistic institutions were made for deep exploring. Immerse yourself in Barcelona and find out what Catalonians are so passionate about.
Board an overnight flight to Barcelona, Spain
Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Barcelona.
Please note: If you're taking advantage of the pre-trip extension to Barcelona, you will follow the pre-trip itinerary until Day 4, when you'll board the Ocean Explorer and join your fellow base travelers for the rest of the expedition. All activities and inclusions will be covered; please see the pre-trip extension itinerary for details.
Arrive in Barcelona, the vibrant capital of Spain’s Catalonia region. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, a representative will meet you at the airport and assist with the transfer to your hotel. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner at the hotel with your fellow expeditioners, including those on the Barcelona pre-trip extension.
Exploring Catalonia’s vibrant cultural heart
This morning you'll get to know the sophisticated capital of Catalonia on a panoramic tour that includes the hugely successful revitalization project of Port Vell, the Olympic Village that hosted the 1992 Games. Then, ascend Montjuic for spectacular city views. Continue to the Plaza de España, adorned with Venetian towers and a towering fountain, and to La Sagrada Família cathedral, Antoni Gaudí’s famous masterpiece and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which you'll be able to visit on your own. After seeing the architectural treasures along the tree-lined Passieg de Gràcia — including surreal buildings by Gaudí — there’ll be plenty of time to shop the city’s famous pedestrian-only Las Ramblas. The tour concludes at La Barceloneta Beach, where an included lunch awaits.
Afterward, you may return to La Sagrada Família with individual tickets for entrance. Then, enjoy an evening at leisure with dinner on your own. And after that, prepare yourself for a passionate flamenco performance at a local tablao. This is an experience you won't soon forget!
Follow your own whims and desires in Barcelona
After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy your day at leisure in Barcelona. Alternatively, learn the secrets to cooking the perfect paella on our optional cooking class with included lunch! After lunch on your own, you'll be welcomed aboard the luxurious Ocean Explorer. Get settled in your cabin, then explore the many amenities, including the sun deck, swimming pool, and fitness center. See your Concierge to reserve an appointment at the onboard spa. After, gather for the first of your daily port talks to hear about tomorrow’s exciting destination. In the elegant dining room, savor a special Captain’s Welcome Dinner. We get underway later in the evening.
Mallorca: Jewel of Spain’s Balearic Islands
The ship arrives in in Palma de Mallorca this morning. Perhaps you'll catch the sunrise this morning from the Ocean Explorer's observation deck, or get in a morning workout at the gym before a delicious breakfast.
Ringed by pristine crescent beaches and cloaked in lush green forest, Mallorca is an island paradise for the Spanish and visitors alike. On a panoramic city tour, you'll explore the stunning circular Bellver Castle, built in the 14th century for the Kings of Mallorca. Later, step inside the massive, Gothic La Seu Cathedral. This honey-colored masterpiece boasts a cavernous interior designed by Antoni Gaudí and a 144-foot-high nave. Return to the ship for lunch before an afternoon at leisure in Palma de Mallorca.
Before dinner this evening, you'll hear the first in a lecture series that will highlight the historic and fascinating destinations visited on your expedition.
Exploring Cartagena's Roman flourishes
After breakfast on board the ship arrives in the natural harbor of Cartagena, in use since the city was established as a major naval center by the Carthaginians in 227 BC. You’ll get acquainted with its history at La Concepción Castle, which overlooks the old Roman Theatre, the second largest in Iberia. Walking down the Calle Mayor, you’ll also see some of the Cartagena’s noteworthy art nouveau buildings, including the gleaming white façade of the Cervantes House and the elegant Grand Hotel, where you have time to explore on your own.
After returning to ship for lunch your afternoon is free. Perhaps you’ll relax by the infinity pool or take in some Spanish sunshine on deck. Before another gourmet dinner on the Ocean Explorer, yet another lecture illuminates more about this historic region.
Exploration of the storied city of Granada
From our berth in Almería you set out on a full-day excursion to fabled Granada, the last stronghold of the Spanish Moors. Set in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada boasts one of the world’s most spectacular fortified palace complexes, the legendary Alhambra. On a guided tour, you'll see its most famous attractions, including the renowned fountains and gardens of the adjacent Generalife.
Enjoy lunch in a typical Spanish restaurant. You'll learn more about Andalusia during today’s onboard lecture as you set sail for Málaga late this evening.
Beauty and history in seaside Málaga
Wake up in Málaga, the provincial capital and birthplace of Pablo Picasso that recently remade itself into a popular cultural hub with a restored historic center. Your city tour reveals Málaga's wide boulevards lined with turn-of-the-century apartments; the Gothic Cathedral and Gibralfaro Castle, an 11th-century Moorish fortification, and the adjacent Alcazaba, the old Moorish palace. You will also visit the Picasso Museum, home to almost 300 of the artist’s works.
After lunch on board you’ll have the afternoon to relax on the spacious sun deck or explore Málaga on your own. If you like, indulge your passions with our optional Wine & Tapas tour or Nerja Caves & Village tour. You'll overnight in Málaga to fully experience all this town has to offer.
This evening, enjoy another informative lecture before another sumptuous dinner on the Ocean Explorer.
Discover posh Sotogrande and the stunning Ronda gorge
After breakfast we drop anchor in Sotogrande, a flashy residential enclave in historic Andalusia. Head inland to the heights of the sierras and Ronda, first settled by the Celts. A procession of Phoenicians, Arabs, Romans, Moors, Berbers, Visigoths, and other Europeans have since left their cultural mark in the town’s distinctive white stucco neighborhoods. You’ll see the old Roman Bridge spanning the deep El Tajo Gorge below, the stately Casa de Don Bosco, and Mondragon Palace. Then visit the Plaza de Toros — the oldest bullring in Spain. Here, a docent will provide an informative talk on the history of Spanish bullfighting.
While in Ronda, we’ll have lunch in a local restaurant and enjoy free time in the city. After dinner onboard we welcome some local entertainers on our ship for a lively cultural performance.
A taste of Britain at the tip of Spain
Step ashore in Gibraltar, known as “The Rock” for its most famous and dominant geographic feature. Throughout the day, you will have expansive views of both Europe and Africa. Our tour includes a funicular ride to the Castle of Gibraltar. Keep your eyes peeled and cameras ready in case you catch a glimpse of the famed Barbary apes (macaques) that live on the rock. British-flavored Gibraltar is a great spot for pub-hopping and duty-free shopping before we return to ship for lunch. You have the afternoon free to wander Gibraltar’s streets, perhaps coming up on a red Victorian post box or a fish-and-chips shop. Our afternoon lecture sheds light on your discoveries and you have the evening to admire the imposing Rock of Gibraltar as you sip a cocktail on the sun deck.
Give in to the seductions of Seville, home-hosted dinner on a family-owned bull farm
After breakfast you’ll tour Andalusia’s storied capital, Seville, including the Real Alcázar, a monumental complex of fortifications, palaces, and gardens spanning the Arabic period through the 19th century. Stop at the old University of Seville, whose main building is housed in the former Royal Tobacco Factory where Bizet set the famous opening scene of his opera Carmen.
At the Plaza de España, constructed for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, admire an elegant canvas of tiled fountains, bridges, and arcades. Another UNESCO site featured today is the Archivo General de Indias, a Renaissance building housing priceless historic records of the Spanish Empire. You may also step inside the Seville Cathedral — where Ferdinand, Isabella, and Christopher Columbus are entombed — and have the opportunity to climb to the top of its soaring La Giralda Tower.
Enjoy an afternoon at leisure in Seville to shop and explore; your onboard Concierge can also arrange an optional flamenco lesson at El Palacio Andaluz, Seville’s largest tablao. Later, you'll set out into the countryside to a local family’s bull farm, where you will enjoy a tour, a delicious home-hosted dinner of Spanish fare, and a rich cultural exchange.
Uncover the treasures of Seville and Guadalquivir River sailing
Start the day after breakfast with a lecture about the riches of Andalusia. Then, today is full of possibilities as you have the day at leisure to explore the Andalusian capital on your own. If you’d like to delve into the region’s culture, consider our optional Horses & Wine tour in Jerez, or a visit to a local farm to learn about pata negra — the Iberico pigs known for some of the most expensive ham in the world.
If you remain in Seville, our included shuttle service will whisk you into town. Take in city views from atop the Metropol Parasol, a remarkable wooden structure of 100-foot pillars topped by a wavy roof traversed by a winding walkway. Or visit the excellent Fine Arts Museum.
Portimão, gateway to the vistas and villages of The Algarve
Cruise along Portugal’s scenic Algarve region this morning before mooring in Portimão, a former center of fishing and shipbuilding. Journey to the historic town of Silves, surrounded by orange and lemon groves, to visit its red sandstone Moorish Castle and 13th-century cathedral constructed by Alfonso X of Castile. There’ll be time to peruse the fascinating exhibits of the Archaeological Museum before continuing to the market town of Monchique, a delightful mountain enclave of cobbled streets where small decorative doorways lead into artisan workshops where folding wooden chairs are still handmade as they were in Roman times. You will visit the 17th-century Franciscan monastery for splendid views of the Old Town and admire the traditional azulejo tiles adorning the 16th-century parish church.
We'll head back to the Ocean Explorer for a late lunch with an evening at leisure. Before dinner, don't miss another lecture that elucidates the history and culture of this captivating region.
Lisbon: Monumental city with an epic past
Arrive in Lisbon this morning, center of the Age of Discovery and a living history of Portugal’s past. You'll disembark the Ocean Explorer — we hope you enjoyed your expedition on Vantage's newest small ship ocean vessel!
On a panoramic and walking tour of Lisbon, you'll visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Belém Tower, the city’s iconic gateway at the mouth of the Tagus River. Nearby, marvel at the ornate Hieronymites Monastery, an exquisite example of Portugal’s superb Manueline architecture. While here you’ll also enjoy a taste of Pastéis de Belém, a buttery custard confection based on an old recipe from the monks and still Portugal’s favorite pastry. After a panoramic tour of this remarkable city, check into your hotel and have the rest of the day free.
A rewarding day on your own in Lisbon
You have the entire day at your leisure to immerse in the history and culture of Portugal’s atmospheric capital. Prepare for your day with a Pastéis de nata, the custard tart for which the city is known. Or, if you haven’t visited Lisbon museums, now is the time: The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian houses the private collection of an oil magnate, including works by Rembrandt and Monet. Alternatively, your Vantage Concierge can help secure an optional full-day tour of nearby Queluz, Sintra, and Cascais. This evening, raise a glass to your expedition during a Farewell Dinner with your fellow travelers.
This full-day tour introduces southwest Portugal’s most iconic destinations, including Queluz Palace, the extravagant estate of Pedro and Maria I. You’ll peruse its gilded rooms and gorgeous gardens before continuing to Sintra for a walking tour of the city’s stunning architectural styles. Conclude your day in Cascais, the sunny beach resort beloved by locals and vacationers from across Europe, where you’ll have time for independent exploration and lunch on your own. You’ll return to Lisbon via motorcoach along a scenic coastal route.
After breakfast, transfer to the Lisbon airport for your return flight home, or enjoy a longer stay in the city with our optional post-trip extension.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Cruise Director or regional expert.
Please Note: Port-of-call orientation walking tours are subject to change based on port time and weather conditions