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Are you ready for an enlightening European voyage? It's time to explore the UNESCO canals of Amsterdam, sip wine in Bordeaux, and be wowed by the artistic fishing town of Honfleur. These experiences and more await you on a 20-night cruise through the most iconic European ports of call — and a few hidden gems, too.
Embarking in Lisbon, you'll spend a few days sampling Pastéis de Belém sweets and admiring the colors of Porto. Cruise onward to Spain for some urban exploration in Oviedo, then land in the wine city of Bordeaux for tastings and savoring French vintages. Learn about Dutch masters in the Netherlands, then explore the sparkling lights of Hamburg, Germany. Your journey concludes in Denmark, but not before you fall in love with Copenhagen and the Scandinavian spirit.
While exploring eight wonderful countries throughout Europe, you'll have the pleasure of staying aboard the Ocean Explorer on its inaugural voyage. This 5-star vessel offers amenities such as an onboard spa, infinity pool, gym facilities and premium dining services. Not to mention, your onboard Concierge is thrilled to suggest itinerary customizations to ensure your trip is unforgettable.
All in all, indulge 47 included features and Cultural Discoveries while you cruise, including endless culinary delights and 14 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Celebrate the Old Continent with an aesthetically rich, naturally beautiful, and deeply historic cruisetour.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Afterward, transfer to La Coruña, stopping for photos at the Tower of Hercules — the world’s oldest working lighthouse and a UNESCO World Heritage Site — along the way. Re-embark ship in La Coruña and enjoy a special show tonight — we've curated your first onboard performance with fado, a traditional Portuguese music that’s typically melancholic and features two 12-string guitars.
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.
Before dinner this evening, enjoy a local tuna band. The Ocean Explorer will cruise to France overnight.
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!
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.
Mysterious Stonehenge and Bath
This morning, you’ll lay eyes upon one of England’s most mysterious wonders — Stonehenge. Join the tradition of pilgrims that have ventured to this mystical site for the past 5,000 years to gaze upon these staggering ceremonial stones. Later, head for Bath, where you’ll visit the circa 79 AD grand complex for socialization and some of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world, the eponymous Roman Baths (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Continue on with a guided walking tour and admire 18th-century Georgian architecture; perhaps your insightful local guide will take you to Bath Abbey, whose Victorian-Gothic interior belies its medieval exterior. There are several art galleries and two universities. Discover the city’s fascinating culture with free time on your own for lunch.
Touring (and sampling) 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 duo 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. Later, attend a lecture that will contextualize your discoveries in Bruges today. Dinner is on board tonight, with overnight sailing to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam highlights, a lecture on Dutch Royals, and leisure time to explore the city
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. 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!
Amsterdam canal cruise, meeting the Dutch masters at 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, the Netherlands, and see how an ocean liner is built in nearby 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 expedition cruise). Return to the ship for a late lunch on board, and enjoy time at leisure in Delfzijl before dinner on board this evening.
Highlights of Hamburg, nightlife on your own
Enjoy breakfast and an early lunch on board as the ship arrives in Hamburg today. Then, 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.
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.
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.
Panoramic Copenhagen: Castles, queens, and cuisine
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 expedition vessel!
A leisurely day in Copenhagen on your own
You have today to uncover the delights of Copenhagen on your own. 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 journey with your fellow expeditioners 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 three more nights!
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.