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Board an overnight flight to Athens, Greece
Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Athens. Or, depart earlier for your pre-trip extension in Istanbul, Turkey.
Welcome to Athens, the fabled Cradle of Civilization. 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 Briefing and Dinner at the hotel alongside your fellow expeditioners.
Classical Wonders of Athens
This morning, enjoy a panoramic 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 in the charming Plaka district, nestled at the foot of Acropolis Hill.
Enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure. Dinner is on your own tonight, and you're in luck. Athens restaurants are world-class, but so is its street food — at a fraction of the cost. Don't miss souvlaki, fava purée and pita, a classic Greek salad, or anything involving whipped feta.
Explore Athens on your own, embark the Ocean Explorer
You have the day at leisure in the Cradle of Civilization to uncover some of its 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 who is sure to have your size.
Later, continue to Piraeus to embark the Ocean Explorer. Get settled in your cabin, then take some time to explore its amenities, including the onboard boutique, spa, pool, and gym. Stop by the Concierge desk to perhaps even reserve a spa appointment. Later, gather for the first of your daily port talks to hear about tomorrow’s exciting destination. You'll enjoy your first meal tonight, just a taste of the curated dining we've prepared. Tonight the ship sets sail for Nafplion.
Ancient treasures in and around Nafplion
Your first morning on the Ocean Explorer begins with a delicious breakfast as 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, you’ll have the afternoon to explore Nafplion at your leisure. Our onboard lecture today provides insight into the ancient Greeks.
In the elegant dining room tonight, savor a special Captain’s Welcome Dinner.
The Rock of Monemvasia and 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 facades 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.
Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to enjoy your ship’s amenities, perhaps swimming in the infinity pool or visiting the spa. Learn more about your 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.
After lunch on board, continue to explore Pylos are your leisure. Your onboard Concierge can provide recommendations on other fascinating sights and tours. 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 the Magna Grecia Olive Oil Farm. 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.
Relax on board with a day at sea
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.
This afternoon, continue to soak up Taormina’s refreshing views. 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 cuisine 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 neo-classical gem.
After lunch on board, perhaps you’ll stroll the streets of Monte Carlo to take in its monumental architecture. 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; disembarking the Ocean Explorer
This morning you'll disembark the Ocean Explorer — we hope you enjoyed your expedition on the inaugural season of Vantage's first ocean-going expedition vessel!
This morning you'll get to know the sophisticated capital of Catalonia on a panoramic tour that includes the hugely successful revitalization project of Port Vell, the Olympic Village that hosted the 1992 Games. Then, ascend Montjuic for spectacular city views. Continue to the Plaza de España, adorned with Venetian towers and a towering fountain, and to La Sagrada Família cathedral, Antoni Gaudí’s famous masterpiece and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which you'll be able to visit on your own. After seeing the architectural treasures along the tree-lined Passieg de Gràcia — including surreal buildings by Gaudí — there’ll be plenty of time to shop the city’s famous pedestrian-only Las Ramblas. The tour concludes 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 evening at leisure with dinner on your own. And after that, prepare yourself for a passionate flamenco performance at a local tablao. This is an experience you won't soon forget!
Follow your own whims and desires in Barcelona
During this free day in Barcelona, you may 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. Browse the colorful food stalls of the Mercat de la Boqueria, a foodie’s paradise for its artisanal cheeses, smoked meats, chocolate truffles, and so much more.
Tonight, reunite with your fellow travelers and celebrate your expedition together during a Farewell Drink and Dinner.
After breakfast, transfer to the Barcelona airport for your return flight home, or enjoy a longer stay in the city with 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.
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.