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Join the inaugural season of the new Ocean Explorer and get a new perspective on five European nations on this expedition that fully navigates the Iberian Peninsula, and adds France and England, too. You’ll uncover some of the most captivating and smaller ports of these countries on the Ocean Explorer, built to navigate the rivers and to the coastal ports that larger ships cannot — all while delivering a new class of luxury and ushering in a game-changing way to traverse the world’s seas.
From Barcelona to London, we’ve curated this expedition with 44 sightseeing excursions and Cultural Discoveries to fully immerse you in the history, culture, and cuisine of these fabulous destinations. Visit Mallorca, overlooked by most cruise lines, to take in the stunning island capital of Palma. Share an intimate dinner at a family bull farm in Spain. Spend two days in Bordeaux, France, where you’ll discover renowned French vintages and Michelin-starred dining, and also glean invaluable wine insights at a fabulous tour and tasting at La Cité du Vin wine museum.
Plus, be introduced to the intimate ports and islands that make this expedition so unique. Photograph the medieval flourishes on Saint-Malo and Mont Saint-Michel … journey up the Guadalquivir River into the pristine wilderness of Doñana National Park … discover the soul of the Basque region in Santiago de Compostela, Oviedo, and holidaymaker haven San Sebastián. Sailing from the Algarve region north to Porto, discover the Portuguese coastline and see what the writer Mary McCarthy meant when she wrote in 1962, “Any Portuguese town looks like bride’s finery — something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.”
The indulgences of the brand-new Ocean Explorer will keep you entertained with a roster of curated performances, lectures by notable experts, and even cooking classes with renowned chefs. Savor gourmet cuisine in our elegant restaurant. Enjoy watersport opportunities in the prime of an European summer. Bring your cocktail to the sun deck for a scenic ride up the Guadalquivir; your included binoculars in hand. Unpack just once on this landmark voyage that also comes with free international airfare! Only with the services of our complimentary worldwide Concierge can this expedition get any better.
Proud capital of Spain’s Catalonia province, Barcelona offers an unrivaled blend of historic treasures, cosmopolitan culture, and architectural showpieces, all underlined by a spectacular culinary scene. This is the city of Antoni Gaudí, the modernisme architect whose surreal style changed the cityscape with works like La Sagrada Família Cathedral. This is a famously gracious city where wide, tree-lined boulevards were made for strolling, intimate tapas and wine bars were made for lingering, and richly historic quarters and artistic institutions were made for deep exploring. Immerse yourself in Barcelona and find out what Catalonians are so passionate about.
Board an overnight flight to Barcelona, Spain
Embark on your incredible expedition today on an overnight flight to Barcelona.
Please note: If you're taking advantage of the pre-trip extension to Barcelona, you will follow the pre-trip itinerary until Day 4, when you'll board the Ocean Explorer and join your fellow base travelers for the rest of the expedition. All activities and inclusions will be covered; please see the pre-trip extension itinerary for details.
Arrive in Barcelona
Arrive this morning in Barcelona, the vibrant capital of Spain’s Catalonia region. 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 in time for a Welcome Dinner at the hotel with your fellow expeditioners, including those on the Barcelona pre-trip extension.
Let Barcelona, Catalonia’s vibrant cultural hub, capture your heart
Get to know the sophisticated capital of Catalonia during a panoramic tour. that includes the wildly successful revitalization project of Port Vell, the Olympic Village that hosted the 1992 Games. Then, ascend Montjuic for spectacular city views. Continue to Plaza de España, adorned with Venetian towers and a towering fountain. Next, you’ll see La Sagrada Família cathedral, Antoni Gaudí’s famous masterpiece and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Absorb the architectural treasures along the tree-lined Passieg de Gràcia — including surreal buildings by Gaudí — then take advantage of the city’s famous, pedestrian-only Las Ramblas and its shopping opportunities. The tour finishes at La Barceloneta Beach, where an included lunch awaits. Afterward, you may return to La Sagrada Família with individual tickets for entrance. Then, enjoy an afternoon at leisure on Las Ramblas, with dinner back onboard.
Tonight, we've curated a special event to set the tone for your expedition: A passionate flamenco performance at a local venue!
Follow your own whims and desires in Barcelona, then embark the new Ocean Explorer
During this free day in Barcelona, you might set your sights on the city’s atmospheric Gothic Quarter, the Barrio Gótico adjacent to Las Ramblas. It is pure delight to follow its labyrinthine streets into intimate squares, or plaças, stopping along the way for a café crema or a lunch of traditional tapas and Rioja wine. See the old Roman and medieval walls, visit the magnificent neo-Gothic Barcelona Cathedral, or stroll the Portal de l’Àngel, called the most expensive street in Spain. You’ll also want to peruse the colorful food stalls of the Mercat de la Boqueria or El Nacional Market, a foodie’s paradise for its some artisanal cheeses, smoked meats, chocolate truffles, and so much more.
Afterwards, you'll be welcomed aboard the luxurious Ocean Explorer. Get settled in your cabin, then explore the many amenities, including the sun deck, swimming pool, and fitness center. See your Concierge to reserve an appointment at the onboard spa. After, gather for the first of your daily port talks to hear about tomorrow’s exciting destination. In the elegant dining room, savor a special Captain’s Welcome Dinner. We get underway later in the evening.
Bask in Mallorca: Jewel of Spain’s Balearic Islands
Arrive in Palma de Mallorca this morning, perhaps catching the sunrise from the Ocean Explorer's observation deck before savoring 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, with its 144-foot-high nave, encloses a cavernous interior designed by Antoni Gaudí.
Return to the ship for lunch before an afternoon at leisure in Palma de Mallorca. Before dinner this evening, enjoy another lecture highlighting the history of the Mallorca.
Explore Cartagena's Roman flourishes
After breakfast on board, you’ll arrive in the natural harbor of Cartagena. Established as a major naval center by the Carthaginians in 227 BC, this port has been in use ever since. Get acquainted with its history at La Concepción Castle, Here, you’ll overlook the old Roman Theatre, the second largest in Iberia. Walking down the Calle Mayor, witness some of Cartagena’s countless noteworthy art nouveau buildings. These include the Cervantes House’s gleaming white façade 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 culturally layered region.
Discover Granada’s storied city
From our berth in Almería, you’ll 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 Generalife.
Enjoy lunch in a typical Spanish restaurant. Learn more about Andalusia during our onboard lecture as you set sail for Málaga in the moonlight.
Soak in seaside Málaga’s beauty and history
Wake up in Málaga, the provincial capital and birthplace of Pablo Picasso. Just recently, it renovated itself into a popular cultural hub with its restored historic center. Your city tour reveals Málaga's wide boulevards lined with turn-of-the-century apartments. Along the way, you’ll encounter the Gothic Cathedral and Gibralfaro Castle, an 11th-century Moorish fortification; and the adjacent Alcazaba, the old Moorish palace. You’ll also visit the Picasso Museum, home to almost 300 of his spellbinding works.
After lunch on board, the afternoon is yours to relax on the spacious sun deck or explore Málaga on your own. Perhaps you’ll sample tapas — Spain’s famous, bite-sized delicacies — in some of Málaga’s liveliest bars. Another option is visiting the Museo del Vidrio, a lovely 16th century home, renowned for its collection of antique and ancient glassware.
This evening, enjoy another informative lecture before another sumptuous dinner on the Ocean Explorer. You'll stay overnight in Málaga to fully experience all this town has to offer.
Encounter posh Puerto Banús and the stunning Ronda gorge
After breakfast, we’ll drop anchor in Puerto Banús, a luxury marina on the Costa del Sol. Head inland to the heights of the sierras and Ronda, which was 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 neighborhoods. Pass the old Roman Bridge spanning the deep El Tajo Gorge, the stately Casa de Don Bosco, and Mondragon Palace.
We’ll then visit the Plaza de Toros, Spain’s oldest bullring. A docent will provide an informative explanation of the history of Spanish bullfighting.
After lunch back on board, 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.
An onboard lecture further illuminates the region’s culture and history. After dinner, we’ll welcome local entertainers to the ship for a lively cultural performance.
Relish British culture at the tip of Spain
Step ashore in Gibraltar, known as “The Rock,” due to its most renowned, 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 watch for the famed Barbary apes, or macaques, that inhabit the rock. British-flavored Gibraltar is a great spot for pub-hopping and duty-free shopping; take advantage before we return to ship for lunch.
Your afternoon is free to wander Gibraltar’s streets, perhaps encountering a red Victorian post box or a fish-and-chips shop. Today’s lecture sheds light on your discoveries in Gibraltar. In the evening, sip a cocktail on the sun deck while admiring your last views of the magnificent Rock of Gibraltar.
Give in to the seductions of Seville, home-hosted dinner on a family-owned bull farm
After a sumptuous breakfast this morning, tour Andalusia’s storied capital, Seville. Destinations include 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. This is 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. Step inside the Seville Cathedral — where Ferdinand, Isabella, and Christopher Columbus are entombed — and, if you wish, climb to the top of its soaring La Giralda Tower.
Enjoy an afternoon at leisure in Seville to shop and explore. Later, set out into the countryside to visit a local family’s bull farm. Enjoy a tour of the farm; a delicious, home-hosted Spanish dinner; and — above all — an unparalleled cultural exchange.
Uncover the treasures of Seville and sail the Guadalquivir River
This morning after breakfast, learn about the riches of Andalusia during a special lecture. The rest of the day is filled with possibilities! With the day at leisure, explore the Andalusian capital on your own.
If you remain in Seville, our included shuttle service will transfer you into town. Take in city views from atop the Metropol Parasol. This remarkable wooden structure of 100-foot pillars is topped by a wavy roof, traversed by a winding walkway. Another inimitable option is the excellent Fine Arts Museum.
We’ll depart Seville this afternoon and cruise along the historic Guadalquivir River through Doñana National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an important habitat for waterfowl. Commentary from the bridge will provide insight about this pristine wilderness. Animal lovers can 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, the deck may provide your best opportunity to capture some great images.
Arrive in Portimão, the Algarve’s gateway to villages and vistas
This morning, cruise along Portugal’s scenic Algarve region before mooring in Portimão, a former fishing and shipbuilding center. Journey to the historic town of Silves, surrounded by orange and lemon groves. You’ll visit its red sandstone Moorish Castle and 13th-century cathedral, constructed by Alfonso X of Castile. Peruse the Archaeological Museum’s fascinating exhibits before continuing to the market town of Monchique. This delightful mountain enclave of cobbled streets is lined with small, decorative doorways that lead into artisan workshops. Here, folding wooden chairs are still handmade as they were in Roman times. Visit the 17th-century Franciscan monastery for splendid views of Old Town, admiring 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 the lecture elucidating the history and culture of the Algarve.
Delve into Lisbon: A monumental city with an epic past
Arrive in Lisbon this morning to explore its historic highlights. First is the Belém Tower, the city’s iconic structure at the mouth of the Tagus River. Ships laden with treasures from Portugal’s far-flung empire would stop to be assessed here. Nearby, marvel at the ornate Hieronymites Monastery, an exquisite paradigm of Portugal’s Manueline architecture. Unique to Portugal, this baroque style blends religious and nautical symbols with fanciful interpretations of the New World’s flora, fauna, and people.
Enjoy lunch on your own with provided money. Enjoy a taste of Pastéis de Belém, a buttery custard confection based on ancient monks’ recipes. It’s not only Portugal’s favorite pastry, but a trendy treat for foodies around the world.
Travel inside Porto, the “Unvanquished City”
Enjoy breakfast as the ship arrives in Porto. It is known as the “Unvanquished City” because the Romans and 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, known locally as 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, including its UNESCO-listed city center and a visit to a local market.
After returning to the ship for lunch, you’ll have time to explore Porto on your own. Don’t miss a visit to one of the top bookstores in the world, Livraria Lello – the inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter library. Peruse the shelves and admire the décor of this one-of-a-kind bibliophiles’ paradise.
Later this afternoon, hear an onboard lecture about local history. Dinner will be savored onboard while sailing overnight to Spain.
Explore UNESCO-listed Santiago de Compostela
Today, your expedition brings you to Vigo, Spain, and the country's westernmost corners. Here, you’ll experience a full-day exploration of the UNESCO-listed Santiago de Compostela, one of Christian pilgrims’ most sacred places in the world. It’s believed that Saint James was buried here in the first century, but the location was forgotten over the years. In the 9th century, a hermit saw a shining light over a spot in a wooded field, sparking an ensuing investigation that revealed the purportedly lost tomb of Saint James. A church was thereby constructed, quickly becoming one of the most famous pilgrimage destinations of medieval times.
It remains so today, with more than 200,000 people annually walking the nearly 500-mile path, called the Way of Saint James. You’ll see both the church and the route that millions have taken to get there. Vantage will provide euros for you to explore on your own and get some lunch. Local restaurants specialize in a variety of tapas.
Afterward, transfer to La Coruña, stopping along the way for photos at the Tower of Hercules — the world’s oldest working lighthouse and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Embark the Ocean Explorer again in La Coruña for a special performance tonight. Onboard, you’ll enjoy a curated fado show. This traditional, melancholic Portuguese music features two 12-string guitars and is absolutely soul-stirring.
Visit Oviedo, Spain’s cosmopolitan northern capital
Discover Oviedo, the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s northern coast. Home to impressive churches, it features Catedral de San Salvador — where the original Way of St. James began. Soak in this town’s old-world beauty and its collectively listed UNESCO monuments before returning to the ship for lunch.
Spend the afternoon at leisure in Gijón, situated on the shimmering Bay of Biscay. This city of magnificent beaches and abundant history is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Return to the ship this evening for dinner. We've invited a guest lecturer on board to present another scintillating talk.
Let coastal San Sebastián enthrall you
Wake up in San Sebastián, one of Spain’s most alluring resort towns renowned for its beaches. A morning tour of the city’s historical landmarks includes the Parte Vieja (Old Town), the twin-towered Santa Maria Church, and Good Shepherd Cathedral. 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 by using a bicycle and covering more ground. Ask your Concierge or Cruise Director to help you reserve a bike and suggest a few paths.
Before dinner this evening, enjoy a local tuna band. The Ocean Explorer will cruise to France overnight.
Delight in Bordeaux, the Port of the Moon
Today the agile Ocean Explorer makes its way from the Gironde Estuary to the Garonne River and into Bordeaux, France — one of the smaller ports most vessels can’t reach! While you drift there this morning, take advantage of the ship’s boutique, soak up the sun by the swimming pool, or simply ponder the view from the deck.
Join your guest lecturer to prepare for your exciting, upcoming explorations. You’ll have two blissful days exploring UNESCO-listed Bordeaux, known as the “Port of the Moon” due to its crescent-shaped, riverside docks. Often overlooked by the glamorous outposts of Paris and Marseille, Bordeaux is arguably the wine capital of the world. It boasts La Cité du Vin wine museum, which you’ll visit during an afternoon city tour. The highlight of your visit will, of course, feature wine tasting.
Enjoy an evening at leisure in Bordeaux, with dinner on the Ocean Explorer. The ship will dock overnight in Bordeaux, so take advantage by heading into town for leisurely stroll or an after-dinner cocktail.
Experience Bordeaux as you please
Relish in an entire day of leisure in Bordeaux. Apart from its wine, the city is also renowned for its food, including oysters, lamb, and duck. French chef Joel Robuchon calls Bordeaux’s porcini mushrooms “the best in France.” If you’d like to secure Michelin-starred restaurant reservations, put in a request to your Concierge ahead of time — these book well in advance!
Your Concierge or Cruise Director can also help you enhance your Bordeaux discoveries by reserving a bicycle to discover even more of the city.
Tonight, a guest lecturer will give an informative talk. Savor a delicious dinner as you sail through the night to Belle-Île.
Journey through Brittany’s 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, as well as the star-shaped citadel in the capital Le Palais. Wander through charming inland villages like the commune of Sauzon — once the inspiration for Monet, who spent several months here during the climax of his career. A favorite among celebrities, this island is beloved for its laid-back charm and artistic proclivity. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant, savoring the regional seafood, before returning to the port of Le Palais.
Discover renovated Brest
Once destroyed by Allied air attacks in World War II, today’s rebuilt Brest is a major French hub. Depart on a city tour today, which will be on foot and via coach. Destinations include the Château de Brest, a strategic military outpost and the oldest functioning castle in the world.
After lunch aboard the ship, enjoy an afternoon at leisure. Perhaps you’ll visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts or the stunning Brest National Botanical Garden, featuring one of the world’s largest collections of endangered plant species.
An enlightening lecture about France Today takes place before dinner on board.
Experience Medieval times in Saint-Malo and Mont Saint-Michel
Arrive in Saint-Malo, France, and be transported back into medieval ages. This walled city has a long seafaring history. It was the birthplace of Jacques Cartier, the first European man to discover Canada. Inside its barriers, Saint-Malo’s streets overflow with cafés and restaurants — the modern mixing with the feudal.
Your full-day tour then unveils one of France’s most vital locales: Mont Saint-Michel. Dramatically situated on a hulking granite island, and surrounded by granite walls, this Benedictine abbey is truly unique. Mont Saint-Michel is so iconic that UNESCO deemed it a World Heritage Site. On a guided tour, wander the tangle of lanes while learning about this legendary site’s history.
Afterward, seek out a classic French meal at a nearby brasserie with provided euros. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to explore Saint-Malo and shop for local crafts.
Explore Windsor Castle
Today you'll say goodbye to the Ocean Explorer when you disembark in Poole — we hope you enjoyed your expedition on Vantage's first small ship oceangoing expedition vessel! Today, en route to London, take a guided tour of Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Even now, Queen Elizabeth spends most of her private weekends at the castle. This legendary structure has housed 39 monarchs since its founding, by William the Conqueror, in the 11th century.
Afterward, enjoy lunch on your own, then transfer to London where you’ll check into your hotel. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure, with dinner on your own. Your hotel is very centrally located, and you'll have a bevy of dining options to choose from.
From Big Ben to Buckingham Palace: Explore London’s landmarks
Today’s half-day guided city tour by coach and by foot includes some of London’s most notable landmarks: Trafalgar Square, UNESCO-listed Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and more. You’ll also be delighted by a visit to the Churchill War Rooms, the underground nerve center where Winston Churchill and his inner circle directed the Second World War.
This afternoon, discover more of the English capital on your own, before a Farewell Dinner at the hotel reunites you with your fellow expeditioners, as you toast your adventure one last time.
Return home, or stay longer in London
Transfer to London’s airport this morning for your return flight home or spend an extra few days in London with our exciting post-trip extension.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Cruise Director or regional expert.