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Hidden gems, hidden mysteries. Join the inaugural sailing season of the Ocean Explorer and unearth some of Europe’s most enigmatic stories on a journey from London to Copenhagen, featuring a mix of lesser-visited ports and cultural capitals in six different nations. You’ll cruise on Vantage's agile and state-of-the-art small ship that can navigate to places larger ships can’t — including Kolding, Denmark; Delfzijl, the Netherlands; and Honfleur, France.
You’ll also explore Amsterdam and Bruges by foot and by canal tour, cruise up the Elbe River into Hamburg, and uncover Viking-era runestones on the scenic Jutland Peninsula. Alongside 27 included features and Cultural Discoveries, you'll enjoy distinctive gastronomical experiences, including a Normandy oyster tasting and a visit to a food market in Copenhagen — arguably the most innovative and celebrated food destination in the world.
Onboard spa, infinity pool, gym facilities — these are but a few of the luxury amenities you’ll relish on the Ocean Explorer. Its small passenger-to-crew ratio ensures optimum service, while a complimentary onboard Concierge can customize your journey by planning additional excursions, securing Michelin-starred restaurant reservations, and offering expert insight into every port. Add optional extensions to London and Copenhagen — the perfect way to cap off an exploration of Europe’s nooks, crannies, and unsung glories.
Fly to London
Your European voyage is underway — today you’ll fly overnight to London, England.
Please note: If you're taking advantage of the pre-trip extension to Dublin, you will follow the pre-trip itinerary until Day 2, then you will join your fellow base travelers for the rest of the journey. All activities and inclusions will be covered; please see the pre-trip extension itinerary for details.
Land in London
Land this morning in London. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, a Vantage representative will meet you and arrange transfer to your centrally located and elegant hotel. Enjoy the balance of the day free until this evening’s Welcome Briefing and Dinner at the hotel.
London’s landmarks and UNESCO Sites
Today’s half-day guided city tour by coach and by foot includes some of London’s most notable landmarks — Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and more. You’ll also be delighted by a visit to the Churchill War Rooms, the underground nerve center where Winston Churchill and his inner circle directed the Second World War. Lunch and dinner are on your own — perhaps you'll do as the locals do and head to the nearby pub!
Tour inside Windsor Castle, embark the Ocean Explorer
From the bustling heart of London you’ll transfer to Poole to board the Ocean Explorer. Along the way, embark on a guided tour of Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Today, 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. Enjoy free time and lunch on your own.
After embarking the Ocean Explorer later this afternoon, take some time to explore its amenities, including the onboard boutique, spa, pool, and gym. Stop by the Concierge desk to perhaps even reserve a spa appointment. Later, join the Captain and crew for an onboard Welcome Briefing, followed by the Captain's Welcome Dinner.
Tour and sample the delights of Honfleur
You might’ve fallen asleep in Britain but today you’ll wake up in France! Enjoy a delicious breakfast on board this morning, perhaps catching the sunrise from the observation deck, before today's explorations.
Charming Honfleur is the focus today as you set off on a guided walking tour of this picturesque town — birthplace of the early Impressionist painter Eugene Boudin and a favorite of Monet, Courbet, and other artists, who maintained studios near the harbor. One of the beauties of the Normandy region is undoubtedly the seafood, and you’ll get a sampling during a delightful oyster tasting session! Normandy is responsible for 25 percent of all oyster production in France, but the region is also renowned for its cheese and wines, too.
Return to the ship for lunch, then enjoy an afternoon at leisure to wander Honfleur on your own.
Back on the ship, enjoy a lecture on Impressionism and an evening of jazz, courtesy of a local group who will join you on board after dinner.
Taste of Normandy tour, Étretat’s iconic cliffs
Your second day in Honfleur deliciously unravels with an included half-day Taste of Normandy tour. You’ll board motorcoaches bound for the Fécamp Benedictine monastery where you’ll see how the famous Benedictine liqueur — with its secret blend of 27 herbs and spices — is produced. Afterward, a scenic drive along Normandy’s limestone sea cliffs brings you Étretat for a visit. This scenic coastal village inspired artists ranging from Claude Monet to the novelist and poet Victor Hugo. You’ll have plenty of time to breathe in the sea air and admire the striking shapes of Étretat’s iconic cliffs.
Another delectable lunch awaits you back on the Ocean Explorer, followed by an afternoon at leisure on board. Get in a workout at the fitness center, enjoy the weather and a good book on the sun deck, or simply relax in your room. Attend a fascinating lecture on the culture of the area before another memorable dining experience on board.
Fall under the spell of Bruges, a storybook city and UNESCO World Heritage Site
Enjoy breakfast this morning as the Ocean Explorer nears Belgium.
After docking in Ostend, you'll embark a motorcoach for a short ride to picturesque Bruges, one of Europe's best-preserved medieval cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then, experience Bruges on a walking tour with ancient cobbles under your feet and fairy-tale turrets overhead. Stop inside the Church of Our Lady to study Madonna of Bruges — a small but remarkable marble sculpture by Michelangelo and one of his only works found outside of Italy.
Lunch is back on board, and you’ll enjoy an afternoon at leisure with shuttle service into Bruges’ center for further exploration. If you like, join our optional tour of the Atlantic Wall, Hitler’s massive — and eventually failed — coastal fortification against Allied forces during World War II. Later, attend a lecture that will contextualize your discoveries in Bruges today. Dinner is on board tonight, with overnight sailing to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam highlights and exploration at your leisure
You’ll get a chance to explore the Dutch capital today on a morning sightseeing tour before lunch back on the Ocean Explorer.
We've given you the afternoon at leisure to pursue your own interests in this city, with shuttle service from the ship into the city center. Perhaps you’ve had the Concierge reserve advance tickets to the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum. Or, join us on an optional culture walk through the city’s former Jewish District. Whatever your whim, Amsterdam is home to more than 1,200 bridges, 1,500 bars and cafés, 165 canals, and limitless charm, so there’s plenty to discover!
Hear a lecture on the Dutch Royals tonight before dinner. After, we've invited more local entertainment on board to entertain you!
During centuries of persecution in Europe, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews fled to Amsterdam in order to live and worship in peace. That changed during World War II, when the Nazis invaded Holland and turned a theater in the Jodenbuurt Quarter into a deportation center and this once-prosperous area into the infamous Jewish Ghetto. On this tour, you’ll visit this theater as well as the rest of the Jewish Cultural Quarter, which includes the Portuguese Synagogue and other monuments in this historic section of the city. Join us on this tour that highlights the powerful story of this unique part of Amsterdam.
Please note: On Saturdays, the synagogue is not available for visits and will be replaced by the Jewish Historical Museum.The Hollandsche Schouwburg will temporarily close its doors for renovation from June 2020 and is expected to re-open in September 2022. During this period, groups will visit the Jewish Historical Museum.
Cruise Amsterdam's UNESCO canal ring and visit the Rijksmuseum
Today you'll embark on a lovely canal cruise along the city’s 17th-century canal ring, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don't forget your camera or GoPro to photograph Amsterdam's charming houses, as well as the canals!
Next, visit the recently renovated Rijksmuseum, home of Amsterdam’s premier art collection, including works by such Dutch masters as Rembrandt and Vermeer.
You'll have a late lunch back on board, and later this afternoon, enjoy panoramic sailing out of Amsterdam en route to Delfzijl. Another scintillating lecture adds more dimension to your discoveries before our culinary team presents another wonderful dinner on board.
Arrive in Delfzijl, and visit a shipyard in Papenburg, Germany
This morning's breakfast on board precedes another lecture that will offer insights into the unique experience that awaits today.
On a morning tour to Papenburg, Germany, you'll visit the shipyard of Meyer Werft to see firsthand how massive ocean liners are built and learn about the history of the organization — how the company started from much simpler ships in 1795 to the gigantic vessels cruising on the oceans today (unlike the intimate experience you’re enjoying on this cruise). Return to the ship for a late lunch on board, and enjoy time at leisure in Delfzijl before dinner on board this evening.
Enjoy Hamburg's UNESCO highlights and more
Enjoy breakfast and an early lunch on board as the ship cruises up the Elbe River and into Hamburg today. Upon arrival, set off on a coach and walking tour of the city known as Germany’s “Gateway to the World.” After the destruction of WWII, Hamburg was notable in moving Germany's economic livelihood forward, as its ports and location on the water have made it an indispensable hub for trade. It's also modern-day Germany's hub for media, publishing, and advertising. Your tour will include seeing the Elbphilharmonie, Town Hall, the UNESCO-listed Speicherstadt and Kontorhous districts, and more. You'll have leisure time in Hamburg to shop and explore before dinner on board.
After dinner, if you're feeling up to it, you can explore more of Hamburg on your own — ask your Concierge for suggestions! Nightlife lovers will find no better place to be than St. Pauli, which is home to myriad nightclubs and cocktail bars. Over in the Reeperbahn district, another neighborhood famous for its nightlife, you'll find more bars and clubs, including a few that once hosted the Beatles before they made it big as a band. As John Lennon once said, "I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg." You'll see exactly what he means tonight.
A scenic Kiel Canal crossing, with live commentary
You’ll have the morning at your leisure today. Perhaps take this opportunity to relax on deck or mingle with your fellow travelers in the lounge, or head off the beaten path on an optional tour of Hamburg’s Eppendorf and Winterhude districts.
Later, a special treat awaits you today — a scenic daylight cruise through the Kiel Canal, a historic waterway connecting the North and Baltic seas. The 59-mile-long feat was completed in the late 19th-century and is currently the busiest artificial waterway in the world. Gain more insight into the history of this waterway during a lecture that narrates your entire canal crossing! What’s more, the cruise will showcase the beautiful scenery along the way and will include a delightful champagne reception.
Spiritual touchstones of Denmark
As you’re enjoying breakfast this morning, the Ocean Explorer will approach the Danish port of Kolding via its long fjord. Often overlooked by tourists, Kolding is home to the 13th-century Koldinghus Castle and the celebrated Trapholt Art Museum, dedicated to the modernist furniture for which Denmark is renowned.
After breakfast, you’ll set out to explore two of Southern Denmark’s most remarkable religious landmarks, both of them UNESCO World Heritage Sites. First, view the 10th-century Jelling Monuments, Viking-era runestones with etchings tied to the conversion of Danes to Christianity. Then, visit Christiansfeld’s planned Moravian Church Settlement, dating to 1773. A walking tour reveals its fascinating rise and fall. This afternoon, get to know more of Kolding with independent exploration or with an optional guided walk of the Old Town and Koldinghus Castle.
Tonight's onboard lecture helps you put the region into perspective before a dinner that heralds your arrival into Scandinavia.
Disembark the Ocean Explorer before a panoramic tour of Copenhagen
The ship arrives to Copenhagen this morning and after your final breakfast on board, you'll disembark the Ocean Explorer — we hope you enjoyed your time on Vantage's first small ship ocean-cruising small ship!
Today's panoramic tour of charming, friendly Copenhagen features the famed Little Mermaid statue on her watery perch, the Nyhavn canal district, towered and turreted Rosenborg Castle, and the dignified Amalienborg Castle where Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II resides today. Part of your tour includes a scenic canal boat ride, and you’ll see how Copenhagen’s residents make use of these historic channels.
From renowned Noma restaurant to an up-cropping of other Michelin-starred gems, food has become Copenhagen’s main attraction! On a visit to a local food market, you’ll see what the locals are cooking up. Lunch is on your own here, too, among more than 60 stalls selling everything from tacos to tapas, sushi to salad.
After, check into your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure, with dinner on your own in one of this city's numerous celebrated restaurants.
A leisurely day in Copenhagen on your own
You have today to uncover the delights of Copenhagen at your leisure. Your Concierge can arrange an optional full-day tour of North Zealand’s historic castles, which includes a traditional Danish lunch. If you opt to explore on your own, don't miss a stroll down the city’s famed Strøget, one of the longest pedestrian streets in the world, or rent a bicycle and join the many locals who use two wheels to get around. Later, celebrate your Baltic journey with your fellow travelers at a Farewell Drink and Dinner.
Fly home from Copenhagen, or spend more time here with a post-trip extension
After breakfast you’ll transfer to the airport for your return flight home. Or, if you’re joining the post-trip extension right here in Copenhagen, you’ll stay on for two more nights!
Important Note: Day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Cruise Director or regional expert.
Please Note: Ocean cruising is not the same experience as river cruising; as such, you may experience fluctuating tides and weather patterns that may involve some rocking of your vessel. Itineraries will include all activities as planned except in extreme cases that can’t be controlled by your shipboard crew.