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Jordan is rich in biblical history, breathtaking natural beauty, and a vibrant culture that has a long tradition of welcoming others with open arms. Begin your journey with this discovery-packed extension and experience firsthand what others have only dreamed of. Visit the legendary sites of Bethany, where Lazarus was raised from the dead, and Mount Nebo, from where Moses first laid eyes on the Holy Land. Explore the ancient Roman ruins of Jerash, legendary outpost of the Empire. Float on the Dead Sea’s famously buoyant waters and meet a local artisan to learn about the region’s renowned mosaics. And with extra time, you can see even more of the remarkable “White City” of Amman, a fascinating blend of Roman-era monuments, busy souks, and urban sophistication.
Board an overnight flight to Amman, Jordan
Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Amman. Or, depart earlier for your pre-trip extension to Jordan and the Dead Sea.
Welcome to Amman, known as Jordan’s “White City” for the hypnotic hue of its cityscape. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, a representative will meet you at the airport and assist with the transfer to your hotel. You arrive this evening; depending on your arrival time, join a late dinner at the hotel with fellow expeditioners.
This morning, join a Welcome Briefing that will explain procedures and other logistical information on your expedition. Then, get acquainted with this multifaceted Arab metropolis during a guided tour. Amman was originally built across seven hills but today spreads out over 19, creating an undulating city canvas. Throughout your tour, the impressive Jebel Amman Citadel watches over you from its hilltop perch as the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer echoes off ancient buildings. After an included lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy the afternoon to explore on your own, perhaps exploring the bustling Al Balad downtown area surrounding the splendid King Hussein Mosque. This evening, gather for a Welcome Drink and Dinner at your hotel.
Journey to the Lost City of Petra and Aqaba, embark the Ocean Explorer
Today, you’ll set out for Aqaba to meet your expedition ship. But first, visit one of the world’s most magnificent archaeological treasures — awe-inspiring Petra. Dating back to approximately 300 BC, this prehistoric city was carved into the pink sandstone cliffs of Jordan’s southwestern desert by the ancient Nabataean people. As you explore Petra’s Great Temple and tombs, you will listen to some of this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site’s long and intriguing history.
After lunch at a local restaurant within the Petra archaeological site, you’ll continue to Aqaba, Jordan’s only coastal city, to embark the Ocean Explorer. Get settled in your cabin and take a walk through the ship, checking out the luxurious amenities offered, then gather for a port talk to hear about tomorrow’s exciting destination. In the elegant dining room, savor a special Captain’s Welcome Dinner, giving you just a glimpse of the curated fine dining you'll experience throughout your expedition. The ship leaves port later in the evening.
Dramatic landscapes and religious heritage of Sharm El Sheikh
Catch the sunrise from the ship's multilevel observation lounge before enjoying breakfast on board as the Ocean Explorer arrives in Egypt. Situated near the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm El Sheikh is a seaside desert oasis for Egyptians and travelers alike. Its waters are renowned for their diverse marine life and crystalline visibility. Jacques Cousteau called it a “corridor of marvels” and, depending on conditions and timing, you may have time to take out one of the ship’s kayaks or snorkeling equipment and see this underwater world for yourself. But first, you can join an included morning tour. Visit the magnificent Mustafa Sheikh Mosque with its soaring minarets flanking an impressive dome and marble façade. Marvel at the biblical artwork of the Coptic Orthodox Church, spiritual home to the largest Christian denomination in Egypt. After a stop at Soho Square, Sharm’s modern entertainment and shopping complex, and a perusal of the vibrant, energetic market, return to the ship in time for lunch.
Your afternoon is at leisure in Sharm El Sheikh, or perhaps you'll explore the spectacular coral reef and colorful fish here. Back on board, attend the first of several interesting onboard lectures. A port talk lets you know what to expect during our upcoming crossing of the astonishing Suez Canal.
Crossing the Suez Canal
Prepare yourself for today's travel milestone, and settle in on the sun deck as you traverse the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea.
While at sea, an onboard lecturer will offer poignant lectures on the Suez Canal and the history of the region. You'll also enjoy some onboard entertainment, which has been curated to give you a glimpse of the region's art and culture.
These two days provide the perfect opportunity to savor the easy pace and camaraderie that small ship cruising affords. Your included binoculars will give you a closer view of the desert hills and sands unfolding all around while our inviting lounge area and elegant common spaces offer ideal settings to get to know your fellow adventurers. A port talk will give you a glimpse of what’s ahead once you reach the Mediterranean.
During your cruising, take advantage of your expedition ship’s many amenities, and see how days on board can be just as exciting as days offshore. Perhaps enjoy a spa treatment, relax by the infinity pool, curl up with a book on deck, or pop into the boutique for any items you may need. Your meals will bring a taste of Egypt and the Levant to your experience. Before you cruise into the Mediterranean, you briefly stop in Port Said so travelers can re-embark following the overnight Cairo excursion.
Your choice of a full-day tour in Israel
Arrive in Ashdod, one of the oldest cities in the world, this morning. Then, choose your Israel experience during one of our included tours, ideal for travelers who have visited Israel before and may be looking for new opportunities. Join a full-day tour to Jerusalem, starting at the Mount of Olives so you can take in the ancient city from a breathtaking viewpoint. Proceed to the Gardens of Gethsemane, where Jesus and his disciples slept the night before his crucifixion and whose olive trees may date back as far as Christ. After stopping to see the Church of all Nations, enter the UNESCO-listed Old City for an unforgettable walking tour that includes the Western Wall. After lunch, browse the Arab Bazaar, then follow the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, site of Jesus’ tomb.
Alternately, choose to spend the day on a full-day tour to Masada and the Dead Sea, with an included lunch. Begin at the famed desert fortress where a band of Jewish rebels chose the ultimate act of resistance against a siege by Roman soldiers. A short cable car ride to the top will show you the full scope of the desert and Dead Sea below. Then, head down to its famously curative salt waters, where you can test how buoyant they really are. (Don’t forget your swimsuit!)
Following your tour to Jerusalem or Masada, you'll have the opportunity to explore Ashdod with a bit of free time this afternoon.
Enjoy a pre-dinner lecture about Israel on board. Then, a port talk fills you in on what’s happening tomorrow.
Uncover a biblical past from Haifa
Arrive in Haifa this morning, the picturesque northern Israeli port in the shadow of Mt. Carmel. Today’s full-day tour features many places from the life of Jesus. First, head to Nazareth, where Jesus lived with Mary and Joseph after his birth. Marvel at the mosaic-filled Basilica of the Annunciation. Next, view the Wedding Church where Jesus turned water to wine. In the ancient fishing village of Capernaum, see the ancient synagogue where Jesus taught. After a local St. Peter’s fish lunch, embark a boat to cross the legendary Sea of Galilee, believed to be where Jesus walked on water. Then, visit Tabgha, site of the miracle of the fishes, and the Mount of Beatitudes, topped by the stunning church with its octagonal dome representing the 8 Beatitudes.
This afternoon’s onboard lecture will illuminate some of what you have seen today. And today’s port talk prepares you for the next unforgettable stop, the fabled island of Cyprus.
Witnessing the history and traditions of Cyprus with your choice of tours
Your morning is at leisure today, another ideal opportunity to take a swim, catch up on a book in the sun, or simply sleep late in preparation for a day of discovery. After an early lunch on the ship, you'll arrive in Cyprus. The people of this island country enjoy a warm Mediterranean climate, dramatic coastal vistas, the pine-wooded Troodos Mountains, and some of the finest ancient mosaics in the world. You will join them today as you choose from two included afternoon tours.
During a half-day tour to Paphos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its natural and cultural treasures, stop to view Aphrodite’s Rock, said to be the spot from which the goddess of love and beauty rose from the sea. Visit the Chrysopolitissa Church, built on the remains of a Byzantine basilica, and St. Paul’s Pillar. At the Paphos Archaeological Park, view the remarkably preserved floor mosaics at the Houses of Dionysos, Aion, and Theseus. Enjoy free time to take in the relaxed atmosphere at the Harbor of Paphos.
Or, you may choose a half-day tour to the UNESCO-listed traditional village of Choirokoitia, where our local friend Petros reveals the secrets behind making Halloumi and Anari cheeses at his home. Settle in for a visit and delightful tasting of farm-fresh cheeses with honey, olives, home-baked bread, and salad. Petros will also show you how he weaves the island’s distinctive baskets. After a walk around the village, enjoy a scenic coastal drive back to the ship.
This evening, learn more about this fascinating island during an onboard lecture. And after our port talk, some Cypriot performers join us on board for a lively folklore show.
Relax on board with a day at sea
Enjoy a day at sea as the Ocean Explorer makes its way into the fabled waters of the Aegean Sea. Visit the spa, get in a workout at the gym, lounge in the swimming pool, relax on the sun deck catching up with a great book, and enjoy the fabulous cuisine the chefs are offering. Today’s onboard lecture provides more fascinating context to this legendary part of the Mediterranean. And this evening’s port talk previews your next incredible destination: the remarkable island of Rhodes.
Rhodes, island of the Knights of St. John
Spend this morning exploring Rhodes, Europe’s largest inhabited medieval town. See the old port of Mandraki. Traverse the heights of Agios Stefanos, or Monte Smith, for sweeping views. In the Old Town, visit the vast Grand Masters Palace, home to the Knights of St. John crusaders, and stop by the Archaeological Museum, once the Knights’ hospital. If you wish, you may linger on your own to explore more of this remarkable enclave of medieval treasures, perhaps strolling the cobbled Street of the Knights.
Back on board, learn more about the rich history that has shaped the Aegean. And though nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking sights of our next destination, Ephesus, our port talk will try!
The rich biblical past of Ephesus
Discover the historical country of Turkey today. Step into the ancient past during a half-day visit to Ephesus, once the most important trading center in the Aegean. These breathtaking ruins are steeped in biblical history, as you will learn during a guided stroll down the Arcadian Way, once lined with colonnaded buildings and adorned with mosaics. Pass the impressive amphitheater and marvel at the towering façade of the Library of Celsus. This third-largest library in the ancient world was built to house 12,000 parchment scrolls. You will also view the Temples of Hadrian and Diana before returning to the ship for lunch.
Enjoy an afternoon at leisure in Kusadasi, which offers great walks, restaurants, and shops. Back on board, there’ll be ample opportunities to immerse yourself in Turkish culture. Get into the rhythms of traditional song and dance during a performance by locals. Gain more insight into the past when you sit in on a lecture. And savor the creations of a Turkish master chef, whom we have invited into the kitchen to prepare you dinner.
Mykonos is big on discovery and beauty, and is renowned for its pure-white houses, tidy churches with blue domes, charming windmills, and pristine beaches. See what captivated Jackie Onassis and other celebrity yachters during a driving tour to some of its most stunning beaches: Agios Ioannis, Ornos, Kalafatis, and Agia Anna.
Then, visit the magnificent whitewashed village of Ano Mera. After stopping at its unique 1542 Panagia Tourliani Monastery, enjoy a tasty bite and a sip or two of ouzo in the square. A guided walking tour reveals the narrow passages and cobbled lanes of Mykonos before you return to the ship for lunch and an afternoon at leisure.
Your day is further enlightened by another onboard lecture this afternoon, followed this evening by some fun onboard entertainment. Today’s port talk prepares you for the wonders of Santorini, tomorrow’s beguiling destination.
Be dazzled by Santorini
Santorini has been called the most magnificent of the Greek Isles. With its soaring cliffs tumbling into turquoise waters, you’re sure to agree. You will tender ashore and take a scenic drive to the ancient site of Akrotiri, a Minoan village frozen in time by the ash of a devastating volcanic eruption. This wonder has been compared to Pompeii both for its fate and for its incredible preservation. Explore its wonders with a guide, then continue to the beautiful clifftop village of Oia. This vision of whitewashed and pastel houses clinging to dark volcanic rock was once home to wealthy seafarers. Its narrow streets are a paradise for walkers, as you will experience firsthand. Then, move on to Fira, perched high over the Aegean on more cliffs. You may explore here on your own and return to the ship at leisure via a dramatic cable car ride and your waiting tender.
This afternoon, an onboard lecturer adds more enlightenment to your knowledge of the Aegean. Later, a port talk fills you in on what you can expect from our visit to the Cradle of Civilization: Athens. Savor your dinner on board, with ample options of locally inspired cuisine.
Classical Wonders of Athens
Enjoy a panoramic tour of Athens, the sophisticated capital of Greece where mythology and ancient history come alive. You’ll visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Parliament House on Constitution Square, the Pan Athenian Stadium, and the Presidential Palace. Along the famed Panepistimiou Avenue, pass the Catholic Cathedral, Academy of Athens, the University of Athens, and the National Library. You’ll also visit the iconic Acropolis, where it was said that Poseidon and Athena fought over who would be patron of the city. This was the architectural pinnacle of Athens, crowned by its breathtaking Parthenon. Enjoy lunch in the charming Plaka district, nestled at the foot of Acropolis Hill.
Ancient treasures in and around Nafplion
This morning the ship arrives in Nafplion. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Arcadian Mountains, this ancient city enjoys a sheltered location below a rocky headland. Admire its impressive Venetian castle as you approach. Then, set out to discover two of Greece’s most renowned ancient sites. First, explore the ancient healing center of Epidaurus. UNESCO has described its Sanctuary of Asklepios as “one of the purest masterpieces of Greek architecture.” The sanctuary was dedicated to the god of medicine. You will also view its remarkably preserved amphitheater built into a mountain slope, still celebrated for its excellent acoustics. After, continue to the ruins of Mycenae, the Bronze Age capital of one of the first great empires of the ancient Mediterranean and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Look for the massive archway with the carved lions, the symbol of the ancient city-state.
After lunch on board, discover more of coastal Greece with an afternoon at leisure in Nafplion. Do some shopping in Plateia Syntagma, the port's main square, or head to a wine shop to pick up some refreshing local wines. Our onboard lecture today provides insight into the ancient Greeks.
The Rock of Monemvasia and a wine tasting
The small island of Monemvasia simply takes the breath away. The small size of our ship allows us to dock on its shores so you can explore this seldom-visited enclave. Called “The Rock" for its massive dominating rock, it is truly a unique and thrilling slice of the Aegean. Walk the charming narrow streets of its fortress, passing Byzantine churches and old houses with graceful archways. Visit the 13th-century Church of Christ Elkomenos, home to impressive old Byzantine icons. Continue to the Liotrivi Mansion, surrounded by vineyards whose grapes produce the famed Malvasia wine. The Byzantine-era setting provides the ideal atmosphere for a wine tasting. You are welcomed by the vintner, who leads you on a tour of the centuries-old property before popping open a bottle or two for your sampling. After lunch on board, you have the afternoon to stroll the atmospheric streets of Monemvasia on your own.
Later today, a lecture illuminates more about this historic region. This evening, we welcome local entertainers on board for a lively cultural performance.
Gythion, Gateway to Byzantine Mystras
Arrive this morning in Gythion, with ties to the legendary Trojan War. From here, head inland on the Peloponnese Peninsula to Mystras, the last stronghold of the Byzantines. This stunning site atop Mount Taygetos was a Byzantine center of culture in the 14th and 15th centuries. Stroll the narrow lanes of the once-invincible fortress, viewing the stone-carved façades of the Cathedral of Agios Dimitrios, where Constantine XII was coronated, the Church of Agia Sophia, the sprawling Palace of the Despots, and the Monastery of Pantanassa, with its brilliant frescoes.
This afternoon, enjoy an afternoon at leisure to enjoy Gythion or to take advantage of your ship’s amenities, perhaps swimming in the infinity pool or visiting the spa. Learn more about the day’s experience during today’s onboard lecture, before another evening of culinary delights.
The stunning preservations of Pylos
Uncover the rich Greek, Venetian, and Ottoman past of the Peloponnese today during your visit to Pylos. A scenic drive takes you first to Methoni, an important port in the 13th century. Its stunning fortress, a shining example of Venetian, Ottoman and French military architecture, is surrounded on three sides by the sea and on the landward side by an old moat. Back in Pylos, explore the Ottoman castle of Neokastro, one of Greece’s best preserved. Continue to the newly restored Mycenaean Palace of Nestor, a compound of four buildings and 105 apartments.
Today’s onboard lecture reveals more about the sites of the storied Peloponnese Peninsula.
Katakolon & the Birthplace of the Olympics
This morning, arrive among the low forested hills of Katakolon and its quaint fishing port. Then, head inland to Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympics in 776 BC. Set in an idyllic valley, the sacredness of this site to the ancient Greeks predated the first Games. See the Temple of Zeus, the Gymnasium, the Palestra, Temple of Hera and the Philippeion. The stadium here once seated 45,000 spectators. A guided tour of the Museum of the Ancient Olympic Games illuminates the site for you. Continue for a fascinating visit to a local farm that produces wine and olive oil. During a tour, learn how to taste the elixir and enjoy samples of extra virgin and scented oils with a delicious lunch and some red wine, all while being regaled with cultural entertainment. Back on board, enjoy another enriching lecture.
Enjoy a day at sea as the Ocean Explorer makes its way into the heart of the Mediterranean. Visit the spa, get in a workout at the gym, lounge in the swimming pool, relax on the sun deck catching up with a great book, and enjoy the fabulous cuisine our chefs are offering. You'll enjoy another scintillating lecture to enrich your understanding of Mediterranean history.
Taormina's rich history and breathtaking setting
Arrive on the shores of Sicily today, the breathtaking island at the tip of Italy’s toe. From your anchor in Giardini Naxos, you head to Taormina, the historic city set on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea. This chic resort town offers splendid views of Mount Etna in the distance and a charming medieval ambience. During your tour, admire the Moorish and Islamic influences in the exterior of the 15th-century Palazzo Carvaia. Continue to the fantastic Greek Theater, originally built in the 3rd century by Romans. You can marvel at its coastal vistas before heading to the Public Gardens, boasting some 200 species. Take time to sample a refreshing granita while here, then we provide you with the euros you’ll need to enjoy lunch at an inviting spot of your choosing.
Another onboard lecture deepens your understanding of the region. This evening, get into the rhythms of the Triskele Band, named for the three-legged triskelion symbol on the Sicilian flag.
Lipari: Gem of the Aeolian Islands
It is only because of our small ship size that we can pause for a day to explore the Aeolian Islands, Italy’s archipelago northwest of Sicily. Drama greets you at every turn on these soaring, majestic volcanic islands. You anchor off the shore of Lipari and tender to Marina Corta, walking with your guide along the Via Garibaldi. At the Rock of the Castle, set high on a promontory, peer deep into the island’s past at an archaeological site and visit the Cathedral of Bartholomew, the island’s patron saint. Then, get a panoramic view of the island, visiting the villages of Quattrocchi and Quattropani. As you explore, enjoy splendid views of other Aeolian Islands, including Stromboli with its ever-active towering volcano. You will also stop to take in the vistas of Lipari Beach and observe the ubiquitous pumice stone deposited here by volcanic eruptions from millennia past. After lunch on board, enjoy leisure time in Lipari.
This afternoon’s onboard lecture provides more fascinating context to this legendary part of the Mediterranean.
This evening, shipboard commentary accompanies our scenic cruising among the magnificent Aeolian Islands.
Uncovering the mysteries of Pompeii
Arrive this morning along the legendary Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where seaside villages and dizzying cliffs create a dreamy landscape. No visit here is complete without a tour of Pompeii, the ancient city buried by the ash of Vesuvius in 79 AD. A walking tour with a private guide helps you step back 2,000 years into a world of cobbled lanes worn by horse-drawn cart wheels, fascinating villas still adorned by colorful murals, Roman baths, the old forum, and more.
This afternoon, take part in something truly extraordinary — don't forget your camera! We've coordinated an afternoon lunch visit to a local farm, where you'll meet your hosts for a tour and a class in creating the perfect pizza, the famed dish of nearby Naples.
Back on board, learn more about local history and culture before another delectable dinner brings you even more flavors of this region.
The cultural riches of coastal cliff-top Corsica
This morning, enjoy breakfast and an early lunch as the Ocean Explorer nears Corsica. This mountainous Mediterranean outpost offers a fascinating glimpse of France in the middle of the Mediterranean. With its chalk-white coastal cliffs and rugged vistas, it is one of the area’s most breathtaking islands — known to the French as “l’Île de Beauté.” Arriving midday, you set out to explore Bonifacio, its castle and pastel-hued Old Town perched on a cliff edge. Explore its Gothic church, the only one on the island, and climb if you wish the 189 steps of the Roy d’Aragon. Then, embark a small boat for a thrilling expedition to explore the Lavezzi Islands and their dramatic cliffs and sea caves carved by the surf over millennia.
An onboard lecture this afternoon reveals more about this seldom-visited corner of the Mediterranean.
Glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo
Arrive this morning in Monte Carlo, capital of the tiny independent principality of Monaco. Playground to well-heeled Europeans, this sovereign nation has been ruled by the Grimaldis since the 13th century. You will arrive via the world-famous Grand Prix track of Formula One fame. Then, marvel at the world-renowned Belle Époque Grand Casino, a vision of extravagance and wealth. See the lush gardens, too, before viewing the Hôtel de Paris, a 19th-century grand dame. In the historic quarter of Le Rocher (“The Rock”), admire stunning sea views 200 feet below while strolling past the Prince’s Palace, just in time to see the Changing of the Guard. Nearby, the Neo-Romanesque Monaco Cathedral is a vision in white; the Grimaldis, including Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, are entombed here. After seeing the Justice Palace, your tour ends at the Oceanographic Museum, another neoclassical gem.
After lunch on board, the afternoon is at leisure to explore Monte Carlo on your own. Later, an onboard lecture fills you in on more fascinating details about this glittering Mediterranean coastline.
Exploring the magic of the south of France
Steeped in history and boasting a newly revived waterfront, Marseille provides a beguiling glimpse of a French medieval port. From here, you have two ways to delve into the celebrated south of France today: a full-day tour to romantic Provence, or a full-day safari in Camargue National Park.
The first included tour takes you deeper into the heart of Provence. Begin at the Gordes Castle in its namesake town, a picture-postcard hilltop village climbing a slope from the Vaucluse plateau. After, continue to the red cliffs and ochre quarries of Roussillon. The emerald pine trees and vivid blue Provençal sky create a stunning canvas. We provide you some euros to have lunch at a restaurant of your choosing, then it’s on to a walking tour of Aix-en-Provence’s Old Town, strolling under the lovely plane trees of Cours Mirabeau past elegant mansions. If you wish, you may visit Paul Cézanne’s atelier during your free time.
Your second tour option is decidedly wilder. Head into Camargue National Park to explore the vast Rhône River Delta, a pristine region of swamps, river tendrils and ponds teeming with numerous bird species, including the pink flamingo. Throughout your safari, you will pause as opportunities arise to view the region’s wild Camargue horses and bulls grazing as manades, or free-roaming herds. You will visit a working farm to learn more about the horses and bulls and stop for lunch at a local restaurant.
After dinner, we have invited local performers to entertain you with dances and songs of their country.
Historic and cultural wonders of French Occitanie
The seaside resort of Sète is your entrée to two historic treasures. Again today, you can select the tour that suits your interest: A full-day tour of Carcassonne, or a half-day tour to Montpellier and Château de Flaugergues.
If you choose the first option, you'll journey to UNESCO-listed Carcassonne, the largest and best preserved fortified medieval town in Europe. Step back in time within its massive walls, exploring narrow, cobbled streets, the breathtaking St. Nazaire Basilica, an 11th-century Romanesque church, the 12th-century Château Comtal and countless other treasures from the Middle Ages. After lunch at a local restaurant, tour the lovely Fontfroide Abbey, founded in 1093, with its hushed cloister and vaulted chapter house.
Alternately, visit the historic and stylish city of Montpellier, capital of the Languedoc-Rousillon region. In the Old Town, admire elegant mansions and other stunning architecture that fuses the classical and the avant-garde. In the Place de la Comèdie, admire the Three Graces fountain. You will also see the fortress-like Cathedral St. Pierre and the Arc de Triomphe. Later, stop for a tour and wine tasting at the 18th-century Château de Flaugergues. Romans were the first to cultivate grapes on these grounds 2,000 years ago. After the tasting, you'll be back on board the Ocean Explorer for lunch and an afternoon at leisure in Sète.
Barcelona, Catalonia’s vibrant cultural heart
This morning, get to know the sophisticated capital of Catalonia during a panoramic tour. Ascend to Montjuic for spectacular panoramic views of the city and port. Descend to the Plaza de España, adorned with Venetian towers and a towering fountain, Gran Vía, and Plaza Catalunya. After, enjoy free time to shop along the city’s famous pedestrian-only Las Ramblas, followed by a trek to La Barceloneta Beach, where lunch is in a local restaurant. Afterward, head to La Sagrada Família Cathedral, Antoni Gaudí’s famous masterpiece, with individual tickets for entrance. An afternoon at leisure gives you ample time to shop in Barcelona or to enjoy the Mediterranean weather from the ship’s pool.
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, enjoy another lecture highlighting 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 Generalife.
Enjoy lunch in a typical Spanish restaurant and a passionate flamenco performance. 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, perhaps seeking out tapas in some of Málaga’s liveliest bars that serve up the famous bite-sized delicacies, or visit the Museo del Vidrio, renowned for its collection of antique and ancient glassware inside a lovely old home from the 1700s. 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.
Posh Puerto Banús and the stunning Ronda gorge
After breakfast we drop anchor in Puerto Banús, a luxury marina on the Costa del Sol. 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.
After lunch back on board, you might enjoy a dip off our ship’s swim deck, take a paddle in one of our kayaks, or roam the posh streets of Puerto Banús. Another onboard lecture illuminates more of the region’s culture and history, and after dinner we welcome some local entertainers on board 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. 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. 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 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.
This afternoon, we depart Seville and cruise along the historic Guadalquivir River through Doñana National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important habitat for waterfowl. Commentary from the bridge gives you insight into this pristine wilderness, and birders should take advantage of the provided binoculars to get a good look at some of the birds, including Thekla's lark and the western olivaceous warbler. If you've brought a telephoto lens for your camera, try to get some images from the deck.
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. There is also a 17th-century Franciscan monastery renowned for its splendid views of the Old Town where you could 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 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
Today you have the opportunity to immerse yourself 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. Then, search for more culinary pleasures at the Mercado da Ribeira, perhaps washing down your finds with a glass of Vinho Verde, Portugal’s signature wine. 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. This evening, raise a glass to your expedition during a Farewell Dinner with your fellow travelers.
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.
Featuring year-round balmy weather and a trademark fortified wine, the Portuguese island of Madeira boasts a lush beauty that earned its label as the “Floating Garden of the Atlantic.” During your three-day stay in the lovely island capital of Funchal, you’ll enjoy a half-day city tour and immersion into local island life. Peruse the covered market at the edge of the Old Town and visit a local wine cellar where you’ll savor the island’s Madeira wine. You’ll also have the option of an espetada evening complete with dinner and a folklore show, and a chance to explore Madeira’s natural wonders on a botanical garden tour that spans the island. Raise a glass to this oceanic outpost — the perfect complement to your Mediterranean cruise!
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.