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Join the inaugural season of Vantage's first expedition vessel, the luxurious Ocean Explorer, with this expedition that traces the Sinai Peninsula and the Eastern Mediterranean, two regions offering some of the most picturesque cruising in the world. Desert palm-dotted sands flow into the sea like endless beaches. Whitewashed buildings cling to volcanic rock, forming a romantic cubist canvas. And the endless Aegean sun glitters on the waters like diamonds. The most luxurious way to experience it all is aboard the 5-star Ocean Explorer. You’ll call on ports steeped in legend and biblical history, from Cyprus and Santorini to Israel. Enjoy a fascinating crossing of the Suez Canal. And immerse yourself in the rich cultures of Jordan pre-cruise and Athens post-cruise.
Our dedicated onboard Cruise Director and Concierge bring you to the doorstep of religious history during included tours to Galilee and to Jerusalem (or Masada and the Dead Sea if you prefer). You’ll discover the historic and cultural treasures of Cyprus, also on your choice of two tours. And marvel at the spellbinding vistas of Mykonos and Santorini and the medieval splendor of Rhodes. Visits to magnificent Petra and Ephesus — two of the world’s archaeological wonders — round out this unrivaled expedition.
Enlightening onboard lectures provide immeasurable insight as you explore, as well as 29 included features and Cultural Discoveries, including an invitation to a Cypriot village where you'll learn how the island’s renowned cheeses and baskets are made. And celebrate the vibrant cultures of this captivating region when we invite local performers to perform traditional dance and music on board.
When you’re not exploring, treat yourself to a massage or a soak at the onboard spa, relax in the infinity pool, get energized in the gym, or sip a cocktail on the panoramic sun deck. Our small passenger-to-crew ratio ensures optimum service, while onboard bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards give you plenty of ways to stay active. Want to explore on your own? Our complimentary onboard Concierge can help you customize your incredible journey.
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 even see more of the remarkable “White City” of Amman, a fascinating blend of Roman-era monuments, busy souks, and urban sophistication. Plus, enjoy the use of your hotel room, right up until your evening departure.
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, join us at your hotel for a discussion with a local about life in Jordan before heading to our Welcome Drink and Dinner.
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. Then, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant within the Petra archaeological site.
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. If you're looking for something more adventurous, your onboard Concierge can help you set up an excursion, perhaps to nearby Cairo. 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. We’ll make a brief stop in Port Said before cruising into the Mediterranean.
Your choice of 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 from an expert. Then a port talk fills you 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 the 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 where 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. Your onboard Concierge may suggest a scenic ride to Lindos, where an ancient Acropolis sits atop an ancient rock mound overlooking the sea.
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.
This afternoon you’ll enjoy an afternoon at leisure in Kusadasi, which offers great walks, restaurants, and shops. If you’d like to learn more about Ephesus, seek out your onboard Concierge for a possible excursion to the Basilica of St. John and the House of the Virgin, believed to have been Mary’s last home.
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, who 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 white-washed 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. You can relax in Mykonos on your own, perhaps exploring by bike, or arranging a guided tour of Delos — a Greek archaeological treasure — with your onboard Concierge.
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 and visit the archaeological site Akrotiri
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 and your waiting tender.
If you’re a wine enthusiast, our onboard Concierge may also recommend a visit the Santo Winery or the Prehistoric Museum.
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 final dinner on board, with ample options of locally inspired cuisine.
Santorini’s wines aren’t to be missed, and this optional excursion to Santo Winery introduces you to the unique methodology used to make Greek wines. From pruning to harvesting, everything is done by hand at Santo winery, and during a presentation and tasting, you’ll learn about the “koulouri” way of pruning the grapes, as well as how they’re grown in unique volcanic soil. Afterward, you’ll transfer to the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, which houses finds from the excavations at Akrotiri, including wall paintings, bronze artifacts, pottery, jewelry, and the recent discovery of a gold ibex.
Classical wonders of Athens
Arrive in Piraeus this morning and disembark for a thrilling tour of Athens, the sophisticated capital of Greece where mythology and ancient history come alive. You’ll 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. You’ll also 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. Enjoy lunch on your own, perhaps seeking out a restaurant in the charming Plaka district, nestled at the foot of Acropolis Hill.
The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure. Alternatively, embark on an optional excursion to Cape Sounion, where the remains of the Temple of Poseidon stands. Remember: you can always contact your Concierge in advance to help you plan your time in Athens.
Cape Sounion is one of the most famous and picturesque places in Attica. Bordered by the sea on three sides, its sharply indented coastline is fringed with beautiful beaches. Today, you will see some of the marvelous vistas Attica offers overlooking the sea. Departing from the hotel, you will drive along the scenic west coast of the Attica Peninsula, affording you fine views of the Saronic Gulf, and the fertile countryside inland. The island of Aegina will be on your right as you pass Voula, Lagonissi, and other resorts on your way to the southeasternmost tip of the land mass of Europe — Cape Sounion. Here on top of the cliff, which King Aegeus threw himself into the sea that now bears his name, stand the 17 remaining Doric columns of the 5th-century BC Temple of Poseidon. Built in Pentelic marble, the columns have retained much of their original gleaming white appearance. Many visitors, both illustrious and ordinary, have carved their names on the pillars since the 18th century. Lord Byron proudly carved his signature, but you are discouraged from leaving your mark!
The breathtaking panorama from this lofty spot is superb with the deep blue Aegean Sea studded with the islands before you.
Peel back the rich layers of Athens on your own
You'll have a day to explore Athens anyway you see fit — your Vantage Concierge can provide plenty of tips and recommendations for what to see, do, and eat! You may even delve into Greek history with an optional tour of both the old and new Acropolis Museums.
If you stay in Athens, set out to uncover some of the Cradle of Civilization's lesser known gems. If you’re looking for a deal, head over to the Monastiraki flea market, an atmospheric agora of secondhand Athenian treasures. While you’re there, seek out a traditional sandal-maker sure to have your size.
Tonight, celebrate your expedition together during a Farewell Drink and Dinner.
Travel back in time at the National Archaeological Museum, the largest archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important museums in the world devoted to ancient Greek art. It was founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece, preserving their historical, cultural, and artistic value.
Continue with a visit to the newly redesigned Acropolis Museum, which has been ranked as one of the top museums in the world. You’ll view all of the original surviving masterpieces from the temples of the Acropolis; excavations are also visible under glass floors and walkways. The museum was designed by the renowned Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and the notable Greek architect Michalis Photiadis.
After breakfast, transfer to the Athens airport for your return flight home, or continue to Istanbul, Constantinople of old, on our optional post-trip extension.
Please note: Arrive to your destination rested and refreshed! Convenient gateway city stopover options mean you can break up longer flights easily — just ask our Flight Experts for assistance.
Immerse yourself in the exoticism, fascinating history, and resplendent architecture of Istanbul, where Europe meets Asia along the bustling Bosphorus Strait. You’ll step into the world of Ottoman sultans at the Topkapi Palace, marvel at the towering domes and minarets of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, and roam the endless passageways of the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market, teeming with colorful carpets, leather goods, jewelry, and lanterns. Your three nights in this intoxicating cultural capital is the perfect way to round out your ocean expedition.
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.