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This cultural expedition on the inaugural season of the Ocean Explorer is made from the stuff of dreams. On one sweeping journey, you’ll cruise from the azure waters and emerald-hued islands of the Caribbean to the legendary Amazon River, cruising upriver along vast stretches of rain forest. Best of all, you’ll explore in luxury aboard Vantage’s Deluxe, 5-star Ocean Explorer.
This is not just another cruise through the Caribbean. You’ll admire the breathtaking beaches and lush islands, for certain. But beyond the tourist crowds, a roster of 25 included excursions and Cultural Discoveries immerse you in the nuanced heritage of these islands: You’ll see how local cheeses and breads are made in the Dominican Republic, and tour an old rum distillery in Martinique and a sugar mill on St. Lucia. Dock overnight at Barbados for fuller explorations of this island paradise with a British accent. Step into the past at Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park on St. Kitts. Prefer some beach time? You’ll have ample opportunity to indulge at your leisure with the help of our onboard complimentary Concierge.
Such an in-depth exploration of the Caribbean would be a rewarding experience by itself, but we’ve paired it with an eye-opening journey up the Amazon — a 900-mile journey. As you cruise, keep watch on its dense rain-forest shores for the most biodiverse menagerie of creatures on the planet. We’ve even put binoculars in your cabin. You’ll witness the remarkable Meeting of the Waters and cast your line for the infamous piranha fish. And during full days of river cruising, enjoy insightful lectures, birdwatching opportunities, and tranquil sunsets.
Hotel stays in Nassau, the colorful Bahamian capital; and Manaus, the Amazon city with a European flair bookend this unique itinerary. Along the way, indulge in the amenities of the Ocean Explorer. Relax on deck, by the pool, or in the spa. Watch river and coastal vistas unfold from the Observation Lounge. Savor thoughtfully prepared meals from our talented chefs. Join us on this one-of-a-kind expedition into two of the world’s most coveted destinations!
Fly to Nassau, the Bahamas
Welcome to Nassau. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, upon arrival at the airport a Vantage representative will meet you and arrange transfer to your centrally located hotel. Settle in and relax, or perhaps do some exploring on your own. The city is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, thanks to its prolific and colorful Crafts and Folk-Art traditions, so you’re sure to come upon island-made handicrafts and other creative pursuits. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner at your hotel.
Get into island time in Nassau, the Bahamas
The Bahamas lays claim to the clearest water on Earth. A full day of leisure lets you immerse yourself in its many pleasures — by water and by land — as you like. Your hotel is within walking distance of downtown Nassau, so everything is within easy reach. Perhaps you’ll visit the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, or shop for handicrafts at the Straw Market. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are spectacular dive sites, and plenty of opportunities to swim with dolphins, feed sharks, or enjoy water sports from kayaking to jet-skiing and more. At the Pirates of Nassau museum, you can learn about infamous privateers like the notorious Blackbeard through fun, interactive exhibits and performances. You might also join an excursion to the Atlantis Resort, where you will find the Aquaventure water park, walk-in aquariums, 11 pools, the largest open-air marine habitat, a golf course, casino, and more.
Tour Nassau and then embark the Ocean Explorer
Begin your island tour at the Rawson and Parliament squares, lined with colorful stucco Georgian neo-classical buildings. The Supreme Court, Senate Chambers, and House of Assembly are here. Then, cross the Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge to Paradise Island to get a look at the spectacular Atlantis Hotel Resort & Casino. Leaving here, you’ll pass the Queen’s Staircase, 66 limestone steps that connect Fort Fincastle to the lower town. It was carved out of the sheer rock by slaves in 1793. You’ll also see the Government House and Graycliff, a stunning mansion built in 1740 that is now a famous hotel. After a photo stop at historic Fort Charlotte, you’ll pass other landmarks such as the College of the Bahamas, Sir Harry Oakes Monument and Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre. You’ll also pass colorful Arawak Cay, a jumble of multicolored shacks and cafés that are collectively known as “Fish Fry.” Be sure to come back during your free time to enjoy the famous conch fritters, fried chicken, and tropical conch salad, and to hear a local storyteller share some Bahamian lore.
During your tour you’ll stop at the historic 1789 Buena Vista Estate, home of the John Watlings Distillery where you will enjoy a self-guided tour and rum tasting. Upon departing the distillery you’ll visit Aradastra Gardens, a lush tropical setting where you’ll be introduced to some local denizens such as monkeys, flamingos, snakes, lorikeets, and other native species.
After lunch on your own, a short transfer takes you to the pier to embark the Ocean Explorer, bound for the Caribbean and the mighty Amazon River! There’ll be time to settle in and perhaps have a drink on deck as you set off on your adventure. Tonight, enjoy a Welcome Dinner with your fellow travelers.
Relax on board the Ocean Explorer
Treat yourself to your ship’s amenities as you cruise into the legendary Caribbean Sea. Take advantage of this time to read a book from our library or enjoy a soothing massage at the spa. The time is yours! This afternoon, attend the first in our series of onboard lectures by experts in their fields. Learn about local culture, Caribbean history, and the breathtaking natural world. In the elegant dining room this evening, savor a special Captain’s Welcome Dinner.
Indulge in the cultural riches of the Dominican Republic
Immerse yourself in the colors and textures of “DR” today during an enlightening tour that reveals the island’s flavors, bucolic way of life, and remarkable history. After a stop at the island’s renowned Botanical Garden, stop by Geo’s Cheese Factory, where cheeses are lovingly crafted. You’ll witness the production process and, of course, sample the results. After a panoramic drive around Imbert Plaza, stop at a local Catholic church, then continue to Melasa’s Bread Factory to see how breads are made from sugarcane extract. Next, drop by a typical artisan’s house, where palm leaves are used to make brooms, baskets, and ropes. Later, during a visit to a tobacco plantation, see how leaves of a different sort are fashioned into DR’s popular cigars. During lunch at a local ranch, you’ll be regaled by traditional, foot-stomping Dominican music.
Back on board, relax by the infinity pool in the late afternoon sun. You may also attend an onboard lecture to learn more about this captivating region from an expert.
Relax on board with a day at sea
Enjoy a day at sea as the Ocean Explorer plies the historic waters of the Caribbean. 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 cooking up. Gain more insight about your upcoming destinations from your onboard lecturer.
Ride the rails to a historic fortress on St. Kitts
Dock this morning in Basseterre, the capital of the sovereign nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. These lush islands were first colonized by France and Britain in the 1620s and became independent in 1983. Today, you’ll venture to Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Erected by the British, this was the largest fortification ever built in the Western Caribbean. You’ll arrive at the fort via a splendid two-hour rail trip aboard the open-air carriages of the St. Kitts Scenic Railway, a thrilling experience through lush countryside and past sweeping vistas awash in the Caribbean’s azure waters and distant emerald-hued islands. After visiting the fort, you’ll have the afternoon at your leisure to explore St. Kitts on your own. Today’s onboard lecture illuminates more of the islands’ rich culture and heritage.
Discover Martinique, the "Island of Flowers" and birthplace of an empress
The French island of Martinique boasts a fascinating culture born of its Carib and French colonial heritage. We anchor offshore today and tender to shore for a drive to Les Trois-Îlets and Pagerie Museum: birthplace and childhood home of the future Empress Josephine, who became the first wife of Napoleon in 1804. We’ll also visit the Clement plantation, where the presidents of France and the United States met in 1991, before admiring the vibrant tropical blooms of the 16-acre Botanical Garden. At an old distillery, you’ll find the insight about the island’s rum production, domestic plantation life, and Creole architecture to be downright intoxicating. Peek into one of its aging cellars, fragrant with wood and alcohol, and enjoy a rum tasting before returning to the ship.
After lunch onboard, venture out to discover Martinique at your leisure — your onboard Concierge will be able to provide recommendations on where to go! This evening, get into the rhythm of the islands when local performers bring their talent to the onboard lounge.
Volcanic splendors of St. Lucia
Arrive in Soufriére this morning, the scenic and pastel-hued capital of St. Lucia tucked into a natural amphitheater. A scenic drive showcases its beautiful colonial architecture. Continue to Sulphur Springs Park, the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano where pools of bubbling hot springs create an otherworldly landscape. Then, stop to admire the vivid, exotic hues and melodious birdsong at the Diamond Botanical Garden and Waterfall. Later, visit the island’s Old Sugar Mill. Its waterwheel, built in 1765, once crushed sugarcane and limes and even generated the island’s first electricity. During your visit, jive to the rhythms of a local band over a refreshing drink and snacks.
Following your lunch on board, the afternoon is at your leisure. Perhaps explore more of St. Lucia with a tour set up by your onboard Concierge, or stroll the streets of Soufrière in search of a handcrafted souvenir. As you leave St. Lucia behind, you will cruise past the island’s most famous landmark — the twin volcanic spires of the Pitons, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Barbados: brimming with British charm
Few places other than Barbados blend calypso music and cricket so seamlessly, thanks to its rich British heritage. This is one of the Caribbean’s most stunning islands, as you’ll have ample time to discover during a stay here. Your explorations begin in the island’s northern reaches at Animal Flower Cave, the only accessible sea cave on the island. After admiring its beauty, stop in Tent Bay at the Atlantis Historic Inn. You might spot faraway fishing boats hauling in their catch as you relax in the warm sun over a refreshing drink. At St. John’s Parish Church, perched 800 feet above the sea, enjoy stunning views of the ocean and the town of St. John. One of the island’s most fascinating residents was a descendant of the Byzantine Imperial family, today buried in the cemetery here after his 1678 death. Conclude your tour with lunch at Sunbury House, dating to 1650. This grand manse is brimming with antiques and echoes of plantation life, including the Caribbean’s largest collection of carriages and some of the first optical machinery in the West Indies. You’ll anchor overnight in Bridgetown which, together with its Garrison, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy — check with our Concierge for suggestions on what to see and do in Barbados. Perhaps you’ll lounge on one of its warm white-sand beaches, or explore Bridgetown’s history on a stroll around the Careenage, the city’s original harbour around the Constitution River. This evening, we’ve invited some talented performers on board to regale you with lively entertainment.
Experience the magnificence of Harrison’s Cave
Head out this morning to visit what many call the Caribbean’s most spectacular natural sight — Harrison’s Cave. What makes this cavernous chamber so spellbinding is the crystallized limestone from which it was formed over millennia. An electric tram takes you down into its depths, a stunning canvas of stalagmites, stalactites, gurgling streams, and waterfalls plunging into emerald pools.
Your onboard lecturer provides more insight and illumination about the natural and cultural wonders of the Caribbean. You cruise out of Barbados before the dinner hour. Be sure to take a cocktail up to the Observation Lounge or the sun deck to bid this spectacular island farewell.
Two days of bliss and relaxation at sea
You have two days to indulge in the amenities of the Ocean Explorer. Relax by the swimming pool, visit the spa for a soothing treatment, or perhaps get a workout in the gym. At mealtime, savor incredible culinary creations thoughtfully prepared by your onboard chefs. In the evening, head up to the Observation Deck for some of the most magnificent stargazing you’re ever likely to experience. Each day, you’ll learn about your upcoming ports along the coast of South America and the Amazon during onboard lectures by local specialists.
Devil’s Island, French Guiana
Home to one of history’s most feared penal colonies, Île du Diable, or Devil’s Island, today is one of coastal South America’s most enthralling sites. This was where France sent its most notorious criminals; the prison was long considered inescapable until the two convicts broke out against all odds — depicted in the novel by Henri Charrière and its film adaptation, Papillon. You have time on your own here to explore the prison’s buildings and grounds — made all the more atmospheric by resident monkeys cavorting in the canopy and distant bird calls echoing through the forest.
After a fascinating morning, set sail along the French Guiana and Brazilian coasts. Attend another onboard lecture to learn about this lush and biodiverse region.
Ply Atlantic waters, cross the equator, and cruise up the Amazon
Enjoy these two days treating yourself to the indulgences on board the Ocean Explorer as the outside world fades away. Lounge by the infinity pool, lose yourself in a book from our library, enjoy a calming treatment at the spa, and savor refined cuisine from breakfast to dinner. As you cruise, the observation lounge offers incredible views.
You’ll achieve a travel milestone on Day 16 as you cross the equator. Our staff and crew will help you mark the occasion with a fun ceremony, honoring a tradition with ties to naval and maritime trade ships. Later, head up to the top deck as you approach the mouth of the Amazon River. By some accounts, the Amazon estuary stretches some 200 miles along Brazil’s coast. The waters you’ll cruise along this breathtaking and iconic waterway have coursed their way from as far away as Peru and Bolivia. Setting a course upriver into this realm of mystery, you’ll want to grab the binoculars we’ve provided in your cabin to get your first glimpse of the rainforest’s wild beauty.
Over these two relaxing days, our onboard lecturer will keep you informed and enlightened about the wonders of the Amazon you’re likely to witness during fascinating lectures.
Piranha fishing and nature cruise out of Santarém
After lunch, you’ll arrive at the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajós Rivers, where the city of Santarém rises on the banks. The people of this small market town rely on boats to get around; the 60 miles of white-sand beaches on the river have earned it the nickname “the Amazonian Caribbean.”
During your stay, you’ll view a rare natural phenomenon along the river and learn how the locals fish for the notorious piranha. You head downriver on a small local boat to witness the Meeting of the Waters, where the Amazon and the Tapajós converge. Each waterway has its own distinct color and they run side by side, one deep blue and one milky brown, for several miles. Soon, you arrive at Lake Maica, a natural outlet of the Amazon and home to abundant wildlife and birdlife. Your captain will cut the motor here so you can cast a line into the water in hopes of catching and releasing voracious piranha fish. Or, just sit back and take in the lush flora and plentiful fauna of the Amazon. After resuming our journey upstream, learn more about the Amazon’s natural wonders from your onboard lecturer.
Scenic Amazon cruising
Take in the splendor of the Amazon during a full day of cruising today. We’ve included binoculars in your cabin to help you seek out the wildlife that thrives amidst the forest. Birdsong and the screech of monkeys provide a soundtrack to your exploration as the sunlight glitters on the water. You may also take advantage of the ship’s amenities, perhaps swimming in the infinity pool, admiring breathtaking views from the observation lounge on top deck, and indulging in a treatment in the spa. This afternoon, your resident lecturer shares more about the remarkable biodiversity of the Amazon.
Browse the Municipal Market of Manaus
Arrive in Manaus this morning and bid farewell to your ship. You might find that Manaus has a fascinating contradictory feel; it is a city in the middle of a jungle, and despite its size, it is only accessible in a practical sense by boat or plane. And though seafaring vessels dock here, the ocean is 900 miles away. It’s all part of the intrigue of the Amazon!
If you’re in the market for exotic fruits, Amazon herbal medicines, and local handicrafts, you’ll love rubbing elbows with the people of Manaus during a visit to the Mercado Adolpho Lisboa. Fashioned after the Les Halles market of Paris in 1882, it is the city’s oldest market and a scintillating way to immerse yourself in the culture. Produce from the surrounding countryside and fish from the river are delivered every morning. Cross the street to see how all these goods arrived — aboard the armada of fishing boats and cargo boats bobbing on the Amazon’s waters. Enjoy lunch during your market tour, then check into your hotel.
Discover Manaus, gateway to the Amazon
After a free morning and lunch on your own, get better acquainted with the largest city in the Amazon basin during an included tour that features the Teatro Amazonas Opera House. This stunning vision in pink — opened in 1896 at the height of the rubber barons’ prosperity — was built with European bricks, French glass, and Italian marble. Conclude your tour with a festive Farewell Dinner. You transfer to the airport late tonight for your flight home.
Your flight leaves Manaus during the overnight hours early this morning. You'll arrive at your gateway city on Day 22, and then connect to your flight back to your home city. Or, explore more of the Amazon on an enriching post-trip extension!
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.
Important: 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.