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Join the inaugural sailing season of the Ocean Explorer and embark on your own Age of Discovery on an expedition from Lisbon to London that includes explorations into the hidden gems and overlooked ports of France and Spain. From Belle-Île’s laid-back shores and Saint-Malo’s medieval walls to the ports of northwest Spain and the Basque resort town of San Sebastián, this cruise will illuminate the historical, cultural, and culinary wonders of both ancient and contemporary life.
You’ll cruise on the brand-new Ocean Explorer, an agile and state-of-the-art expedition vessel that can navigate to places larger ships can’t, including Bordeaux, France, where you’ll spend two days on what’s sure to be a centerpiece of this expedition. Arguably the wine capital of the world, Bordeaux will quench your curiosity for renowned French vintages, Michelin-starred dining, and introduce you to the fabulous La Cité du Vin wine museum for a tour and tasting.
With 22 included sightseeing tours and Cultural Discoveries, including a full-day exploration of Santiago de Compostela and an overnight stay in Bordeaux, you’ll enjoy the most intimate and immersive experiences. Discover more during your free time with onboard bicycles, or personalize your journey with the expertise of an onboard worldwide Concierge — make restaurant reservations in Bordeaux, visit a neighboring town or nearby wine estate, or plan your own itinerary according to your interests! Optional pre- and post-trip extensions to Madeira and London round out this historical — and delicious — expedition of Europe’s western coastline.
Board an overnight flight to Portugal
Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Portugal. Or, depart earlier for your pre-trip extension to Madeira.
Welcome to Lisbon! If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, a representative will meet you at the airport and assist with the transfer to your hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to acclimate and Welcome Briefing later today. Tonight, enjoy a Welcome Dinner alongside your fellow expeditioners at the hotel.
Lisbon landmarks, tasting renowned Pastéis de Belém
The Age of Discovery launched in Lisbon, so it’s fitting that you begin the morning with a spate of them. On an included panoramic and walking tour of the Portuguese capital, you’ll explore the city’s famed monuments, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Belém Tower and Monastery of Jerónimos, which you’ll peruse and walk through. The latter is inextricably tied to the country’s history of exploration, and it’s said that Vasco da Gama spent his last night here before sailing for the Far East (his tomb is in the monastery). Your tour culminates in a stop at the towering Monument to the Discoveries: a massive white-stone tribute to some of the world’s most intrepid sailors and explorers. While on your tour, sample Pastéis de Belém custard pastries, Portugal’s favorite treat.
Enjoy an afternoon at leisure, with dinner on your own.
Further explore historical Lisbon on your own, embark the Ocean Explorer
Enjoy a day at leisure in Lisbon today. If you’d like an introduction to southwest Portugal’s most iconic destinations, our Vantage Concierge can help secure a full-day tour of the region, including an optional tour to the UNESCO-listed Cultural Landscape of Sintra.
If you remain in Lisbon, perhaps you’ll further your explorations with a taste of the city’s dynamic culinary scene at a gourmet market or by sampling local seafood in one of Lisbon’s celebrated restaurants. Portugal is renowned for bacalhau — dried, salted codfish — as well as its tinned seafood, much of which is sardines, and you’ll find these delicacies almost everywhere.
Active travelers can embark on a hike through Lisbon’s trademark seven hills for must-see views of the city or head over to the Castelo neighborhood for a trek up to São Jorge Castle. This Moorish fortress offers a stunning overlook of the entire city and shopping opportunities for everything from local pottery to Portugal’s famous azulejo tiles.
This afternoon, embark the Ocean Explorer and begin your own journey of discovery. Among the highlights? The curated dining you'll experience tonight during your first dinner on board, and throughout your expedition.
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.
Inside Porto, the “Unvanquished City”
Enjoy breakfast as the ship arrives to Porto, known as the “Unvanquished City” because the Romans or Moors never overtook it. According to 15th-century legend, the people of Porto donated all their meat to a military fleet departing for battle — leaving themselves with nothing but offal (tripas). Considering the sacrifice an ancestral badge of honor, Porto residents still proudly call themselves Tripeiros.
Embark on a panoramic drive through Portugal’s second largest city, which includes its UNESCO-listed city center and a visit to a local market. Return to the ship for lunch, with an afternoon at leisure to explore Porto on your own. Don’t miss a visit to one of the top bookstores in the world, Livraria Lello (which inspired J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter library), where you can peruse the shelves and admire the décor of this one-of-a-kind gem. If you’re a wine enthusiast, our optional port wine tasting tour showcases the best of the Douro region’s vintages.
Later this afternoon, hear an onboard lecture about local history. Dinner is on board, with overnight sailing to Spain.
Exploring UNESCO-listed Santiago de Compostela
Your expedition brings you to Vigo, Spain, and the country's westernmost corners today, where you’ll experience a full-day exploration of the UNESCO-listed Santiago de Compostela, one of the most sacred places in the world for Christian pilgrims. It’s believed that Saint James was buried here in the first century, but the location was forgotten over the years until a ninth-century hermit saw a shining light over a spot in a wooded field, sparking an ensuing investigation that revealed what was believed to be the lost tomb of Saint James. A church was constructed, and it quickly became one of the most famous pilgrimage destinations of medieval times. It remains so today, with more than 200,000 people walking the nearly 500-mile path (called the Way of Saint James) annually. You’ll get a chance to see both the church and the route that millions have taken to get there. Vantage will provide you money in the local currency to explore on your own and get some lunch, including tapas in numerous local restaurants.
Oviedo, Spain’s cosmopolitan northern capital
Discover Oviedo, the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s northern coast and home to some impressive churches including Cathedral of San Salvador, which is where the original Way of St. James began. Soak in the old-world beauty of this town and its collectively listed UNESCO monuments before returning to the ship for lunch.
Then, spend an afternoon at leisure in Gijón, a city of beautiful beaches and a rich history situated on the shimmering Bay of Biscay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Return to the ship this evening for dinner on board and another scintillating lecture on board.
Seaside splendor in the resort town of San Sebastián
Wake up in San Sebastián today, one of Spain’s most alluring resort towns renowned for its beaches and its food. A morning tour of the city’s historical gems includes the Parte Vieja (Old Town), the twin-towered Santa Maria Church, and Good Shepherd Cathedral, but merely strolling the streets of this coastal treasure — or watching the waves break over La Concha beach — is a pleasure all its own.
Enhance your walking tour discoveries when you give biking a try and cover more ground. Your Concierge or Cruise Director can help you reserve two wheels and suggest a few paths. Alternatively, explore more of northern Spain with optional guided tours of Bilbao or Pamplona.
Before dinner this evening, enjoy a local tuna band. The Ocean Explorer will cruise to France overnight.
Discover one of Basque country’s shiniest stars: Bilbao. You’ll transfer by motorcoach from San Sebastián, embarking on a panoramic sightseeing tour through the city, seeing the UNESCO-listed Vizcaya Bridge along the way. Then, prepare yourself for architect Frank Gehry’s Spanish masterpiece: the Guggenheim Museum.
Enjoying a million visits per year, the Guggenheim Bilbao has become one of the emblems that have made Bilbao one of the avant-garde cities of the 21st century. Bilbao is part of the select group of cities hosting a Guggenheim Museum. The inside collection focuses on art from the mid-20th century to the present, including work by modern and contemporary Basque and Spanish artists.
Bordeaux, the Port of the Moon
Today the agile Ocean Explorer makes its way down the Garonne River and into Bordeaux, France — one of the smaller ports most vessels can’t reach!
As you cruise there this morning, spend some time in the boutique, soaking up sun in the swimming pool, or sightseeing from the deck. Join your guest lecturer for another talk that prepares you for the exciting explorations we've planned: two days exploring UNESCO-listed Bordeaux, known as the “Port of the Moon” because of its crescent-shaped docks along the river.
Often overlooked by the glamorous outposts of Paris and Marseille, Bordeaux is arguably the wine capital of the world, and home to La Cité du Vin wine museum, which you’ll visit on an afternoon city tour that includes a wine tasting, too.
Enjoy an evening at leisure in Bordeaux, with dinner on the Ocean Explorer. You'll overnight in Bordeaux, so take advantage of the extra time by heading into town for an after-dinner cocktail or glass of wine, or simply stroll around town.
Leisure time to experience Bordeaux as you please
Enjoy an entire day at leisure in Bordeaux. Alongside its wine, the city is also renowned for its food, including oysters, lamb, and duck — as well as porcini mushrooms, which celebrated French chef Joel Robuchon called “the best in France.” Make a request to your Concierge ahead of time if you’d like to secure Michelin-starred restaurant reservations — these book well in advance! You may also be interested in an optional tour to Saint-Émilion that includes a wine tasting, or to the seaside resort of Arcachon for fresh oysters.
Hear another talk from the guest lecturer before a delicious dinner as the ship sails overnight to Belle-Île.
Belle-Île, a sandy and secluded isle off France’s Brittany coastline, is yours to explore today. Most people arrive to the island via ferry from the mainland, or not at all — this is another oft-overlooked outpost that the versatile Ocean Explorer can reach.
On a morning tour, discover the stunning pastel-hued harbor and its homes, the star-shaped citadel in capital Le Palais, and charming inland villages like the commune of Sauzon — once the muse for Monet, who spent several months here during the climax of his career. This island is a favorite among celebrities who love its laid-back charm and rich history of arts and crafts. Don’t miss the regional seafood when you enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before returning to the port of Le Palais.
The best of Brest
Once destroyed by Allied air attacks in World War II, today’s rebuilt Brest is a major French hub, and the site of your explorations today. Depart on a city tour via coach and walking, including a visit to the Château de Brest, a strategic military outpost and the oldest functioning castle in the world. After a lunch aboard ship, enjoy an afternoon at leisure in town, perhaps touring the Musée des Beaux-Arts or the stunning Brest National Botanical Garden, which features one of the largest collections of endangered plant species in the world. Another enlightening lecture takes place before dinner on board.
Saint-Malo and Mont Saint-Michel
You’ll be transported back to medieval times when you arrive in Saint-Malo, France, today. This walled city has a long seafaring history and is the birthplace of Jacques Cartier, the first European man to discover Canada. Inside its walls, Saint-Malo’s streets overflow with cafés and restaurants — the modern mixing with the medieval.
A full-day tour unveils a true gem of France: Mont Saint-Michel. You'll transfer to this Benedictine abbey, which is dramatically situated on a hulking granite island surrounded by granite walls. It is so iconic that UNESCO deemed it a World Heritage Site. On a guided tour, learn about the history of this legendary place while wandering the tangle of lanes within. Afterward, seek out a classic French meal at a nearby brasserie with provided lunch money. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to shop and explore Saint-Malo.
Exploring Windsor Castle
Today you'll say goodbye to the Ocean Explorer when you disembark in Poole — we hope you enjoyed your expedition on Vantage's first small ship oceangoing expedition vessel! Today, en route to London, you’ll set off on a tour of Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Queen Elizabeth spends most of her private weekends at the castle, which has housed 39 monarchs since its founding by William the Conqueror in the 11th century.
Afterward, enjoy lunch on your own, then transfer to London where you’ll check into your hotel. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure, with dinner on your own. Your hotel is very centrally located, and you'll have a bevy of dining options to choose from.
From Big Ben to Buckingham Palace: Exploring London’s landmarks
Today you’ll discover this great metropolis on a half-day guided city tour that introduces you to London’s landmarks, including Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (UNESCO), Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and much more. You’ll also enjoy a fascinating visit to the Imperial War Museum, which explores conflict from WWI to the present day. This afternoon, discover more of the English capital on your own, before a Farewell Dinner at the hotel reunites you with your fellow expeditioners, as you toast your adventure one last time.
Return home, or stay longer in London
Transfer to London’s airport this morning for your return flight home, or spend an extra few days in London with a post-trip extension.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itinerary is preliminary and subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Cruise Director or regional expert. In addition, should there be an extreme change in water levels, Vantage will do everything possible to provide either the included excursion or an alternate excursion at Vantage’s discretion.
Please Note: Port times & itineraries are subject to change. Fluctuating water levels may affect itinerary.