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On this thrilling 35-day journey, the vast sweeping landscapes and rich cultures of northern Europe unfold just off the bow as you cruise our new luxurious expedition ship, the Ocean Explorer. Even the smallest ports of this fabled and fascinating region are within your reach, thanks to the small size and smooth maneuverability of our state-of-the-art ship.
Explore the cultural treasures of the Baltics, from cosmopolitan Stockholm to Peter the Great’s glittering St. Petersburg. Visit continental Hanseatic gems such as Gdansk and Hamburg. Cross the remarkable Kiel Canal and ply the North Sea to take in the charms of canal-laced Amsterdam and the trendy sophistication of Belfast. The beauty of our expedition vessel is its ability to take you beyond these must-see cultural capitals to lesser-visited ports and remote isles that other ships can only dream of visiting: The bucolic Baltic islands of Gotland and Bornholm. The serenely beautiful Orkney and Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The Isle of Man, tucked in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland. You won’t just visit these awe-inspiring enclaves of history; you’ll fully experience them during visits to cheese-makers and oyster shuckers, bagpipers and harpists, whiskey distillers and Welsh and Irish storytellers. What’s more, our onboard lecture series enlightens and illuminates your discoveries in every port.
In all, you’ll visit 12 countries. And no matter how remote your shores, you’ll begin and end each spectacular day amid the elegant comforts of your expedition ship. Treat yourself to the onboard spa, lounge around the infinity pool, get a workout at the gym. When you want to explore on your own, our onboard Concierge can point you in the right direction, whether on one of the ship’s complimentary bicycles or in a private car he or she has arranged at your request. There’s no more luxurious way to lose yourself in the pleasures of northern Europe.
From its start around 1000 AD as a Viking trading hub and its heyday as a Northern Renaissance maritime power, to its current position as Sweden’s cultural and political capital, beautiful Stockholm is the place to go for anyone wishing to understand Scandinavia. It’s also a clean, safe, modern and delightful haven that is easy to explore, thanks to its design-forward infrastructure, cosmopolitan cuisine, and friendly people. Your centrally located hotel is the perfect base from which to explore this beautiful capital built on 14 small islands filled with parks, medieval squares, picturesque footbridges, and more. An included Swedish cultural tour and a food tour give you a jump-start on getting oriented to the Nordic world. Then, you’ll have ample time to explore on your own or on some intriguing optional tours. This is the perfect way to enhance your ocean cruise experience, and a tremendous value in a region known to be costly to visit.
Board an overnight flight to Stockholm
Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Stockholm. Or, depart earlier for your pre-trip extension in Stockholm.
Welcome to Stockholm, Sweden’s sophisticated capital. 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 before an afternoon orientation walk and evening Welcome Briefing. Tonight, enjoy a cocktail — perhaps sampling a taste of aquavit, Scandinavia’s beloved herb-flavored spirit — with your fellow expeditioners at a Welcome Dinner at the hotel.
Enjoy a panoramic city tour of Stockholm, including the Vasa Museum
Get acquainted with the irresistible charms and remarkable history of Stockholm, spread across 14 islands knit together by some 57 bridges. On your cultural tour of this “Venice of the North,” you’ll walk through the narrow streets of the delightful Gamla Stan, or Old Town, and enjoy views of Stockholm City Hall and the city’s equally attractive newer sections.
On an included tour, visit the fascinating Vasa Museum, where you’ll see the amazing “ghost ship” of the same name — the world’s only fully intact 17th-century warship. The massive vessel sank just offshore on its maiden voyage in 1628. It lay preserved in the mud for three centuries, before being recovered and displayed in its full glory. Lunch and dinner are both on your own today. If you'd like to try some Swedish specialties, your Concierge can point you in the right direction and suggest a few dishes, too.
Explore Stockholm on your own and embark the Ocean Explorer
You have the entire day to take in the sophisticated pleasures of Stockholm at your leisure.
Start your day with a lussekatt (a saffron bun), then set out to stroll the endless waterways of the archipelago on which the strikingly beautiful and compact city is built. Head to the cobbled lanes of the Gamla Stan, the Old Town, or visit the renowned Skansen Museum, an open-air recreation of history’s traditional Swedish houses.
Later, embark the Ocean Explorer. Get settled in your cabin, then explore the ship's many amenities, including a pool, observation lounge, and fitness center. Perhaps you'll visit the Concierge to plan a spa appointment. After, gather for a port talk to learn about our next thrilling Scandinavian capital. In the elegant dining room, savor a special Captain’s Welcome Dinner, the first of many sumptuous meals we've curated for this expedition.
Helsinki’s grand squares and sacred cathedral
Arrive in Helsinki while enjoying breakfast. Today you will take both walking and panoramic tours of the city. Whether you’re viewing Helsinki’s 1852 cathedral, crossing one of its many parks or squares, or pondering your reflection in the glass of a modern building, you'll find that there’s an appealing orderliness and grace to this northern capital. The panoramic city tour includes the bustling waterside Market Square, locally known as the Kauppatori, and Old Market Hall.
As you admire the stately government buildings of Senate Square, the impressive green domes of the Helsinki Cathedral tower over you. This neoclassical wonder — completed in 1852 as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, the Grand Duke of Finland at the time — crowns the cityscape like a jewel. Today, it is the worship house for the city’s Evangelical Lutherans. Its rooftop statues of the Twelve Apostles and high perch remind Helsinki’s pious citizens of their ever-present devotion.
Pass the Sibelius Monument, sculpted in tribute to the famed Finnish composer, and the remarkable Temppeliaukio Church, built into solid rock.
Before another gourmet dining experience this evening, you'll hear another lecture that contextualizes tomorrow's explorations of St. Petersburg.
Glittering St. Petersburg and Peterhof Palace
Enjoy breakfast this morning as the ship arrives in St. Petersburg. Peter the Great broke ground for his gilded capital city in 1703, intending to emulate and surpass the best of Western Europe. He was quite successful; no matter how often you’ve been, you simply cannot get enough of this magnificent city.
Today’s full day of travel first takes you on a panoramic tour. Visit the palaces, canals, and churches in the heart of the city, followed by lunch in a local restaurant. Later, head to Peterhof, the spectacular “Russian Versailles.” Peter designed and built this place on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, with emphasis on its lush gardens and the Grand Cascade of fountains.
After tonight's sumptuous dinner, Russian entertainers will join you on board for a lively performance. Enjoy the region’s prolific, colorful tradition of music and dance as you’re docked for the night in St. Petersburg. Learn about tomorrow’s discoveries during a port talk.
The magnificent art of the Hermitage
This morning, enjoy an early, “pre-rush” visit to what is widely considered the world’s most comprehensive collection of Western European art. The lavish Hermitage Museum was founded by Catherine the Great, expanded under subsequent tsars, then grew exponentially as the Soviets seized scores of private collections. Immerse yourself in the masterpieces in a relaxed setting. Admire the vast collection as you wind through the spectacular exhibition halls of the gilded Winter Palace.
After a lunch of local specialties at a nearby restaurant, tour the magnificent St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Completed in 1858 as a Russian Orthodox church, today the cathedral operates as a fascinating museum.
The ship departs for Estonia later this afternoon. Hear another talk in the lounge; then, a port talk will detail all that awaits in Tallinn.
Medieval splendors in Tallinn
Tallinn, one of the Hanseatic League’s trading centers, was been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After breakfast, attend a lecture that will offer some insight into your day’s exploration.
After an early lunch on board, set off on a panoramic tour of the city. Two-levelled Tallinn has an enchantment all its own. Discover its charm from the winding streets of the Lower Town to the fortified Upper Town on Toompea Hill, with sweeping vistas from the Patkuli viewing platform. Visit the Dome Church and Opera House before heading to the Song Festival Grounds. Here, you’ll see where locals once raised their voices, singing in protest to banish the Soviets during the “Singing Revolution.”
Tallinn also boasts a thriving high-tech economy, earning it the reputation as Europe’s Silicon Valley. The young, entrepreneurial population supports a lively cultural and dining scene.
Back on board this evening, enjoy a fascinating lecture before dinner.
Enjoy the cobbled streets of Riga with an included organ concert and a special inaugural dinner
When you awake this morning, you’ll be sailing in the Gulf of Riga, headed for the Latvian capital of the same name. After lunch on board, set out into the largest city of the Baltic States for a rewarding tour by coach and by foot. Begin on the eastern bank of the Daugava River, where Vecriga, or Old Riga, is punctuated by the three spires of St. Peter’s, the Dome Cathedral and St. Jacob’s. These streets are dripping with charm and beauty, much of it embodied in graceful art nouveau architecture. After exploring, pause at St. John’s Church for an included concert on the church’s splendid organ that’s sure to inspire.
Tonight's dinner is a special one and takes you off the ship. Head to a celebrated local restaurant for a special inaugural dinner where you'll get a taste of traditional Latvian foods and watch a festive performance of traditional Rigan organ music and dancing.
You will overnight on board in Riga. Take some time to attend this evening’s port talk to learn how you may further explore this charming city tomorrow.
Riga at leisure
Today is free for you to explore as you please, and you can take advantage of complimentary shuttle service between the ship and Riga’s Old Town for your convenience. You may also check with our Concierge to plan a unique and exciting excursion: perhaps you’d like to visit one of the beautiful beaches on the Gulf of Riga or explore the atmospheric Vecriga on two wheels using our shipboard bicycles. Or, perhaps your Concierge can arrange a spa treatment or special dining experience onboard. After, participate in an insightful lecture on the Singing Revolution of the Baltic states. Our port talk previews our next exciting destination before another delicious dinner on board as the ship begins its overnight sail to Sweden.
The Hanseatic gem of Visby, Sweden
Enjoy breakfast as the ship drifts into Visby, a charming seaside town located on the large Swedish island of Gotland. Rightfully declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the extraordinarily preserved medieval, Visby was a key part of the powerful Hanseatic League. On your walking tour of the Old Town’s winding streets, wander through Almedalen Park, the Powder Tower, Fish Alley, and Visby Cathedral.
After lunch back on board, enjoy leisure time to return to favorite spots on your own. Perhaps you’ll admire the cathedral’s lovely stained glass and ornate altarpiece. If you wish, stay on the ship to use its amenities —reserve a massage, hit the gym, or shop in the boutique.
Listen to fascinating lecture, followed by a port talk on tomorrow's adventures. Savor dinner this evening as you cruise to your next destination: Gdansk, Poland.
Follow the Solidarity Route through historic Gdansk, Poland
This morning, the Ocean Explorer arrives in Gdansk. A powerful member of the Hanseatic League — the maritime organization that controlled much of medieval trade in the area — the city’s prosperous legacy has been lovingly restored. On a morning tour, set out to explore the naval magic of Gdansk, whose shipyards served as the incubator in 1980 for the legendary Solidarity movement. This was the first crack in what would ultimately be the crumbling of the entire Soviet Union. Follow the Solidarity Route through this historic seaport, including Old Town and the massive St. Mary’s Church, one of the largest brick churches in the world. A visit to the European Solidarity Centre reveals this history in impressive detail. Enjoy an English-language audio tour through the captivating exhibits.
Return to the ship for lunch, then utilize the shuttle service from the ship back to Gdansk's Old Town. Stroll down Long Street, also known as the Royal Route for the kingly processions it once hosted, to witness reconstructions of its beautiful 17th-century buildings.
Learn about “The Liberation of Poland” during a captivating lecture. Savor a gourmet dinner on board, as well as a port talk about your next destination.
Cliff-top castles and the Danish gastronomy of Bornholm
Explore Bornholm Island this morning, where the open fields and granite headlands get more days of sunshine than anywhere else in Denmark. Summer tourists are drawn in by more than the sandy beaches. On your island tour, stop for photos at the dramatic cliff-top ruins of Hammershus, a medieval castle. Stop in the quaint fishing village of Svaneke, one of the best-preserved market towns on the island, and visit a fascinating, round 12th-century church to admire its architecture.
Taste the island’s burgeoning reputation as a food destination firsthand. Not only is its climate ideal for growing a common fig, known as the Bornholm Diamond, but the island also showcases the products grown on its own farms. You'll sample dishes at the Garden, a food and cultural house that reveals Bornholm’s exciting flavors.
After lunch onboard, relax in the evening with a fascinating lecture. Enjoy dinner and attend a port talk to learn about tomorrow’s explorations of Copenhagen.
According to the UN’s World Happiness Report, Danes consistently rank among the “the happiest people in the world.” Your panoramic tour of charming, friendly Copenhagen will give you a glimpse as to why.
At once cozy and elegant, tidy and colorful, hip and historic, Copenhagen is a multi-faceted city. Keep your camera handy on today’s tour, as you’ll see the famous Little Mermaid statue on her watery perch. Then, visit the Nyhavn canal district, where you will take a scenic boat ride, learning how Copenhagen’s residents make use of these historic channels. Pass by the towered and turreted Rosenborg Castle, juxtaposed by the dignified Amalienborg Castle. Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II resides at the latter, where you might catch the Changing of the Guards. You’ll also see Christiansborg Palace, home to the Danish Parliament; the popular pedestrian shopping street of Strøget; and Tivoli’s amusement park area.
From the renowned Noma restaurant to a bevy of Michelin-starred locales, food has quickly become Copenhagen’s main attraction. You’ll visit the Torvehallerne Food Market to see provisioners who keep local fare fresh and on trend. See what the Danes are cooking up, while savoring the freshest cuisine and interacting with the people who make the city’s gastronomy possible. With provided money for lunch, you can sample from among more than 60 stalls – selling everything from Danish smørrebrød sandwiches and sushi to cappuccino and quesadillas.
Spiritual touchstones of Denmark
Over 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 as well as the celebrated Trapholt Art Museum. The latter is dedicated to the modernist furniture for which Denmark is renowned.
Afterward, set out to explore two of southern Denmark’s most remarkable religious landmarks – both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. First, view the 10th-century Jelling Monuments, Viking-era runestones with etchings depicting the Danes’ conversion to Christianity. Then, visit Christiansfeld’s planned Moravian Church Settlement, dating to 1773. A walking tour reveals its fascinating rise and fall. Get to know more of Kolding and its Old Town this afternoon by exploring on your own. If you prefer time to unwind, take advantage of the Ocean Explorer's countless amenities. Tonight's onboard lecture delves into local culture before dinner.
Cruise through the scenic Kiel Canal and enjoy a night out in Hamburg
Enjoy a morning at leisure before we set sail today. A scenic daylight cruise awaits you: cross through the Kiel Canal, a historic waterway connecting the North and Baltic seas. Completed in the late 19th-century, this 59-mile-long feat is currently the busiest artificial waterway in the world.
The Ocean Explorer will arrive at Hamburg after dinner tonight. We’ll then set out for a “City of Lights” tour. Nightlife seekers will find St. Pauli ideal, with its myriad nightclubs and cocktail bars. The Reeperbahn district is another neighborhood famous for its nightlife, where you'll find more bars and clubs that once hosted the Beatles in their younger years. As John Lennon once said, "I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg." You'll see exactly what he meant tonight.
Enjoy Hamburg's UNESCO highlights and more
Enjoy breakfast and lunch on board as the ship arrives in the “Gateway to the World.” After the destruction of WWII, the city of Hamburg propelled the country's economic livelihood forward, as its port made it an indispensable trading hub. It's also central for modern-day Germany's media, publishing, and advertising. Your tour includes the Elbphilharmonie, Town Hall, as well as the UNESCO-listed Speicherstadt and Kontorhous districts.
Dinner will be served on board, with the rest of your evening at leisure. Ask your Concierge for suggestions as to how to best explore Hamburg. Take advantage of leisure time to shop and explore Hamburg.
Take in another lecture this evening before the Ocean Explorer's culinary team presents another delectable dinner.
Witness how an ocean liner is built in Papenburg, Germany and explore Delfzijl, the Netherlands
On a morning tour to Papenburg, Germany, you'll visit the shipyard of Meyer Werft to see firsthand how massive ocean liners are built. Learn about the organization’s history: from the company’s humble beginnings in 1795 to today. You’ll see how they transitioned from much simpler ships to the gigantic vessels that currently voyage the oceans.
Return to the ship, noticing how distinct our intimate vessel is from those you saw at Meyer Weft. Enjoy a late lunch on board and take advantage of your leisure time to explore Delfzijl, Netherlands.
Attend an on board lecture this evening before dinner.
Explore Amsterdam’s highlights on foot
Set out into the Dutch capital today on a morning sightseeing tour before lunch back on theOcean Explorer.
We've given you the afternoon at leisure to pursue your own interests in Amsterdam, with shuttle service from the ship into the city center. Ask the Concierge to reserve advance tickets if you wish to see the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum. With more than 1,200 bridges, 1,500 bars and cafés, 165 canals, and limitless charm, there’s plenty to discover in the city — no matter your whim!
Hear a lecture on the Dutch Royals tonight. After dinner, delight in local entertainment on board.
Cruise Amsterdam's UNESCO canal ring and visit the Rijksmuseum
Embark on a lovely canal cruise today along the city’s 17th-century canal ring. This UNESCO-designated site brings the perfect opportunity to photograph Amsterdam's charming houses and unique waterways. After your cruise, visit the renovated Rijksmuseum. Home to Amsterdam’s premier art collection, it features works by Dutch masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer.
You'll have a late lunch back on board, then enjoy panoramic sailing out of Amsterdam en route to Belgium. A scintillating lecture will add dimension to your Dutch encounters. Enjoy dinner on board with another presentation by our talented culinary team.
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, take a short motor coach ride to picturesque Bruges, one of Europe's best-preserved medieval cities. Experience this UNESCO World Heritage Site on a walking tour — with ancient cobbles under your feet and fairy-tale towers overhead. Step inside the Church of Our Lady to admire Madonna of Bruges — a small, yet remarkable marble sculpture by Michelangelo. This is one of his only works found outside of Italy.
After lunch on board, enjoy an afternoon at leisure to further explore Bruges’ center. Shuttle service is provided.
Later, attend a lecture to contextualize today’s discoveries in Bruges. Enjoy dinner on board tonight while sailing the evening away to France.
Tour and sample the delights of Honfleur
You might’ve fallen asleep in Britain but today you’ll return to 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 Normandy’s finest flavors and ponder Étretat’s iconic cliffs
Your second day in Honfleur deliciously unravels with an included half-day Taste of Normandy tour. At the Fécamp Benedictine monastery, 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 to Étretat. This scenic coastal village inspired many incredible artists, from the painter Claude Monet to the novelist/poet Victor Hugo. Absorb the moment, breathing in the sea air and admiring Étretat’s striking 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 a good book on the sun deck, or simply relax in your room.
Attend a fascinating lecture on Normandy’s culture before another memorable dining experience on board.
Arrive in Poole, England, for Stonehenge and Bath excursions
Welcome to England! This morning you’ll visit one of the globe’s most enigmatic places: Stonehenge. This ancient site — now a UNESCO World Heritage Site — is part of vast complex of prehistoric burial mounds, earthworks, and avenues. To this day, it attracts modern druids for summer and winter solstice celebrations.
After lunch on your own, head to the town of Bath for a walking tour. You’ll visit the preserved remains of one of the ancient world’s greatest religious spas. The city’s unique thermal springs come to a head at these Roman baths, created circa 79AD. The baths still flow with natural hot water at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture and lush pools are a true feast for the senses. Close your eyes and envision what life was like here thousands of years ago.
The Abbey Gardens of Tresco, Isles of Scilly
Off Cornwall’s Atlantic coast, the Isles of Scilly await you. The largest island, Tresco, is a paradise of shell-strewn beaches, flower-filled heaths, and dense forests. We’ll explore Abbey Gardens’ subtropical flora, originating from as far as South Africa. Surrounded by Sycamore and Oak trees, the plants range from orange bomarea to spiny blue bromeliads.
Complementing the arboreal beauty are the maritime collections at the Valhalla Museum. Here you’ll admire items retrieved from shipwrecks dating back to the 17th century, including 30 figureheads, a bronze cannon, quarter boards, and more.
Back on board, you’ll enjoy a leisurely lunch and an afternoon lecture that will contextualize your discoveries. You're the guest of honor this evening at a Captain's Welcome Dinner.
Fishguard and St. David’s, the spiritual heart of Wales
After breakfast, you’ll disembark in the tiny Welsh port of Fishguard, and travel to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. This is the home of St. David's, the religious capital of Wales and the smallest city in the country. Enjoy your guided tour of the 12th-century Cathedral of St. David, which was built over a site where the country’s patron saint, David, established a monastery in the 6th century. The cathedral has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries. Other highlights include the 14th-century Tower Gate, Celtic Old Cross and several surrounding art galleries and pubs.
This evening before dinner, learn from a local historian about Wales’ relationship with the British Empire over the centuries. Then, be enchanted by the sounds of a classical harp performance on board.
Step into medieval Wales at Holyhead and Caernarfon Castle
This morning you’ll arrive Holyhead, and enjoy a short drive to majestic Caernarfon Castle, built between 1283—1330 by King Edward I.
Today, massive Caernarfon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it will take your breath away. Here you can walk along its interconnected walls, punctuated by impressive towers that loom above a central green studded with (now abandoned) villages. Caernarfon dominates the shoreline and you can imagine its importance in controlling coastal supply routes, providing access to the agricultural resources of neighboring lands.
En route to a traditional pub lunch, your local guides will tell you more about the castle’s fascinating history. Then, visit the National Slate Museum, nestled into a mountainside, to witness a demonstration of the vanishing Victorian-era trade of slate splitting. After tonight's dinner, unwind with a musical performance. In contrast to yesterday's classical performance, this evening our Welsh harpist will perform lively and lilting Welsh folk music, complemented by folktales and local lore that enhance the music.
Explore the Isle of Man, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
The Isle of Man is a protectorate of Great Britain, and therefore not technically a legal part of the United Kingdom. As such, it has its own independent parliament which has governed since 979 AD. Rich in flora and fauna, the island is also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, but your focus today will be the Isle of Man’s unique culture, called Manx.
You’ll arrive in the port of Douglas, the island’s capital, and transfer to the Douglas Railway Station for a steam train ride to Port Erin. The ride takes about an hour and is filled with spectacular scenery and countryside vistas — so don’t forget your camera or GoPro! Afterward, you’ll transfer from Port Erin to nearby Peel, a small fishing port and the island’s third-largest town, where you’ll have free time to sightsee on your own. Then, transfer from Peel to St. Johns, stopping for photos at Tynwald Hill along the way.
Heading back to the Ocean Explorer for lunch, you’ll witness more of the island’s natural diversity as stunning panoramas unfold before you. You’ll also pass through Castletown, whose most famous redoubt was built for a Viking king. After lunch on board the balance of your afternoon is free for relaxing or discovering more of the Isle of Man on your own. Perhaps you’ll visit the House of Manannan, a museum dedicated to the island’s mythological sea god and its rich Celtic, Viking, and maritime history.
Before dinner you’ll enjoy a presentation on Manx culture. Then, enjoy an onboard performance featuring local entertainers.
Discover Northern Ireland and the Giant's Causeway
Enjoy a panoramic tour of Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland. The city that launched the Titanic is often remembered today for the Troubles — but as you’ll discover on your tour, with those days well behind it, Belfast bubbles with activity, centered on a revitalized Victoria Square.
From Belfast, travel to Giant’s Causeway, with lunch in a local restaurant en route. Locals will tell you that the Giant’s Causeway was formed when the giant Finn McCool tossed massive boulders in the water in order to battle another giant across the way in Scotland. Scientists will tell you that this amazing natural phenomenon (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) was created when basaltic lava from an ancient eruption solidified into thousands of hexagonal columns. Your eyes will tell you that you are witnessing something quite otherworldly. Also breathtaking is the power and beauty of the Antrim coast, which you’ll travel along, too.
Tonight, enjoy a unique presentation from a speaker who was part of the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Discover the Isle of Mull in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides
This morning you’ll anchor at Tobermory, an idyllic port whose waterfront is lined with multicolored houses, cozy pubs, crafts shops and inviting restaurants. You'll have some time at leisure to explore, perhaps visiting the An Tobar Arts Centre, or the Mull Aquarium. It is Europe’s first catch-and-release aquarium and who knows? You might spot whales, dolphins, sharks, or rare seabirds should you walk along the shore.
After lunch on board theOcean Explorer, you’ll take a short drive outside Tobermory. A visit to the “Isle of Mull Cheese”— the only dairy farm on the island — will present local varieties of cheddar cheese for you to savor.
Follow this delicious experience with spicy sips, thanks to a sampling session at Tobermory Distillery. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the differences between Irish and Scotch whisky — along with what single malt means — this is your chance.
Before dinner, retire to the lounge for another fascinating talk.
Exploring the "cloud island" of Skye
In a country of scenic superlatives, Scotland’s Isle of Skye will stand out in your memories as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We’ll tender to the capital and port of Portree, where you’ll embark on a morning sightseeing tour that reveals medieval castles, and villages, and vistas of the misty Cuillin Hills; crystal-clear lochs; and fairy pools fed by tiny cascades and streams. After, enjoy some time at leisure in Portree before a late lunch on board.
If Brigadoon really exists, you might just find it today as the Ocean Explorer takes you for a scenic sail around Skye, the Summer Isles, or the Shiant Isles archipelagos. This is when you’ll be grateful for the nimbleness of your expedition vessel, as we hug the rugged coastline and discover waterfalls that plummet off high cliff-tops right into the sea and romantic moors that sweep to the rocky shore. Watch out for shorebirds and local marine life and keep your camera at the ready!
This afternoon, put your discoveries into perspective today with another lecture preluding dinner.
Isle of Lewis and the mystical Callanish Stones
Enchanting thatched-roof cottages await you today when you arrive at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, first settled as a trade port by the Vikings. You’ll have free time to explore independently here, then your group will visit the prehistoric Callanish Stones — a hilltop, cross-shaped arrangement of standing stones with a circular ring and central monolith. Dating back some 5,000 years to Neolithic times, they are even older than Stonehenge and have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next, visit the nine thatched-roof cottages of Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. Here, at the Carloway Mills, you’ll see a demonstration of the region’s most time-honored craft: tweed-weaving. Lunch is back on board, and you'll be entertained by a troupe of Scottish dancers! Tonight, hear another eye-opening lecture before dinner.
World War II heritage of the Orkneys
Named for the strong tides that rip past the Point of Ness, it’s no surprise that Stromness was once a vital whaling port. It was later used by the British for shipping in times of war in lieu of the English Channel. At the Stromness Museum, you’ll discover the Orkney Islands’ natural history. Then, learn about the Churchill Barriers, a series of four causeways linking the Orkney Islands that were built as naval defenses in WWII. Today, they serve as vital roads. World War II left a spiritual mark as well, and you and your fellow travelers will visit the ornate Catholic chapel built here by Italian POWs.
This afternoon, enjoy leisure time on board. If you’d like to dive deeper into the history of these islands, your Concierge can plan for a tour to Skara Brae, a 3,000-year-old village of stone dwellings. It was discovered in 1850 when a coastal storm stripped away the earthen coverings that left Skara Brae Europe’s best-preserved Neolithic village. The site is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Before dinner on board, hear a lecture that delves into the culture of the region.
Wind through the Scottish Highlands to Edinburgh
The cruise portion of your journey ends this morning in Invergordon, your gateway to the gorgeous Scottish Highlands. This land of high mountain valleys, rushing trout streams, sparkling lochs, and sheep-dotted pastures was once the stronghold of Gaelic-speaking Scottish clans. Following the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries, small farmers were largely driven from the land, so today this remote region is one of the least-populated areas in Europe.
Our route today takes us through wildly scenic Cairngorms National Park, the largest in the U.K. We’ll stop for an included lunch in the town of Pitlochry, which blossomed as a tourist destination after Queen Victoria visited in 1842. Soon thereafter you’ll arrive in Edinburgh and check into your hotel. Tonight, dinner is on your own — ask your Cruise Director for recommendations!
Discover Edinburgh, and come aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia
The unforgettable city of Edinburgh unfolds before you as we ride and walk on a half-day city tour. Highlights of the Old Town include Edinburgh Castle, set high above the city on Castle Rock, and St. Margaret’s Chapel. Built around 1130, it is the oldest surviving building in town. Fast-forward to 18th-century as you explore the New Town, with its elegant neoclassical and Georgian architecture. Both districts are together listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip set sail to visit their far-flung dominion, they did it on board the Royal Yacht Britannia. You'll come aboard to inspect this elegant vessel, which often a hosted a retinue of more than 45 guests. It still features the furnishings and décor favored by the Queen when the ship was launched in 1953. The balance of your day is free. Your Cruise Director will be happy to assist with tips, directions, and making reservations.
Your Farewell Dinner tonight will feature musical entertainment from a traditional bagpiper. You'll also learn the history of this instrument, as well as a bit about Scottish clans, and more!
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 Edinburgh, you’ll stay on for three more nights!
Edinburgh’s imposing profile of black rock hills and rugged medieval fortifications stands in stark contrast to its cultured, quirky, and playful spirit. Why not add extra time to delve deeper into the U.K.’s second-most popular destination after London? Revisit Scotland’s dramatic history at Edinburgh Castle. Wander the tangle of medieval Old Town, and the neoclassical district of New Town, which together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dart into the quaint shops, inviting pubs, and fascinating museums that line the Royal Mile. A highlight will be your included excursion to the fabled fairways of St. Andrew’s, the home of golf. Our perfect mix of included touring and leisure time allows you to discover the best Edinburgh has to offer.
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.
*Note that on our special harvest itineraries, winery visits may occur on days other than advertised.