European Coastal Civilizations
Visit Belle-Île-en-Mer, France’s “Beautiful Island,” off the coast of Brittany, Caen, Normandy, and Paris on this journey also featuring Portugal and Spain.
- Insights from the West of Ireland
- Fabulous shots from Smithsonian Journeys Expert Kirt Kempter
- Visiting Mount Fuji, by way of rural Japan
- Saturday in Pamplona
Sail from Lisbon to Honfleur on this popular cruise to explore key historic sites and learn about the enduring yet dynamic cultures found along Europe's Atlantic coastline. Accompanied by historian Dianne Konz, visit Oporto, located along the Douro River in Portugal's renowned port wine region. In Spain, you'll walk in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims on St. James Way in Santiago de Compostela; cruise the breathtaking Costa Verde; and observe the intriguing balance of ancient and modern in Bilbao, with a visit to the illustrious Guggenheim Museum. Farther north, survey the sheer cliffs and rolling moorlands of France’s Belle-Île-en-Mer, and explore the U.K.'s charming Guernsey Island. You'll also visit the legendary Normandy Beaches, accompanied by Dwight David Eisenhower II, before concluding your cruise in Paris. Optional extensions to Lisbon and Paris are also offered.
April 23-24 — U.S., Lisbon, Portugal, Embark M.S. Le Boréal
Depart the U.S. for Lisbon. Upon arrival the next morning embark the M.S. Le Boréal. (D)
April 25 — Leixões, Oporto
Dock in Leixões, northern Portugal’s principal port and transfer to Oporto, a former Roman outpost and the hub of the country’s world-famous port wine trade. Visit the Gothic Church of São Francisco in the historic city center, a World Heritage site, and the Stock Exchange, with its elaborate Arabian Hall inspired by the famous Moorish Alhambra. (B,L,R,D)
On an optional culinary excursion,* enjoy a specially prepared lunch in Oporto’s oldest historic district where a celebrity chef introduces you to traditional Portuguese specialties. Then, tour the cellars of a renowned port wine producer and enjoy a tasting among the seasoned oak casks.
Attend the Captain's Welcome Reception and dinner this evening.
April 26 — La Coruña, Santiago de Compostela
Today’s excursion travels into the oak- and pine-forested hills of Galicia, one of Spain’s self-governed principalities influenced by its Roman, Germanic, Moorish and Castilian heritage, and steeped in an unexpected Celtic atmosphere. Golden‑hued granite buildings grace its well-preserved capital, Santiago de Compostela, a World Heritage site. Here mostly pedestrian streets lead to the expansive Plaza del Obradoiro and the city’s grand Romanesque cathedral, a national monument built to enshrine the tomb of St. James, who preached on the Iberian Peninsula. A pilgrimage destination since the Middle Ages, the church is recognized for its distinctive Baroque façade, original medieval portico, and incomparable Churrigueresque altar. (B,L,D)
April 27 — Santander, Bilbao
From Santander, transfer to nearby Bilbao, surrounded by the verdant Basque Mountains. Bilbao is home to architect Frank Gehry’s iconic Guggenheim Museum of Contemporary Art. Enjoy a guided architectural tour of this marvelous structure with time to stroll through the galleries of modern and contemporary art. Afterwards, enjoy an orientation tour of the historic casco viejo (old quarter) and the promenade of El Arenal, a popular route for Bilbainos’ evening paseos (leisurely strolls). (B,L,D)
On today’s optional culinary excursion* learn more about Basque pintxos (tapas) in a historic setting in the oldest café in Bilbao.
April 28 — Belle-Île-en-Mer, France
Spend the morning at sea and in the afternoon anchor at Belle-Île-en-Mer, France’s “Beautiful Island,” off the coast of Brittany. Much of the island’s current population is descended from repatriated Acadian colonists who returned to France from Acadia (Nova Scotia) in 1755. Explore the charming island community of Le Palais and visit the 18th-century Vauban Citadel, a World Heritage site. Admire the unique beauty of the island’s stunning Côte Sauvage on a panoramic tour, highlighting the “wild coast” that has inspired artists from the time of Romans and medieval monks to the modern French Impressionist Claude Monet. (B,L,D)
During the optional wine tasting* aboard ship this evening, sample Spanish and French wines and Calvados, an apple brandy from the lower-Normandy region.
April 29 — Guernsey, Channel Islands, United Kingdom
An English outpost located off the coast of France, Guernsey is a fascinating mosaic of fishing villages, greenhouses, and fields dotted with its well-known chestnut‑brown-and-white dairy cows. The island’s distinct culture is a delightful amalgam of English tradition and French lifestyle. Its capital, St. Peter Port, is an old Regency town distinguished by granite buildings and wrought-iron garden railings. It was here that Victor Hugo lived in exile from 1855 until 1870 and wrote Les Miserables. See the remnants of Germany’s occupation of the Channel Islands, a launching point for invading Great Britain during World War II. Visit the German Occupation Museum and drive along the coastal road to Vazon Bay and Fort Hommet to see the permanent fortifications constructed to keep a German foothold in Europe. Enjoy time at leisure to explore the quaint cobblestone streets and picturesque harbor of St. Peter Port.
This evening attend historian David Eisenhower's exclusive onboard lecture while cruising the Normandy coast. (B,L,D)
April 30 — Caen, Normandy Beaches, France
Dock in Caen and travel through the scenic countryside to the historic Normandy Beaches. In the company of historian David Eisenhower, walk where Allied forces landed at the direction of his famous grandfather, on June 6, 1944. Step respectfully among the solemn crosses and Stars of David in the American Military Cemetery at St. Laurent, overlooking Omaha Beach. Envision the brave American rangers who scaled 200‑foot heights to capture German gun emplacements at Pointe du Hoc. See remnants of Mulberry Harbor, constructed to support Allied landings, and then view exhibits chronicling the campaign at the D-Day Museum that overlooks the beach at Arromanches. As an alternative to the D-Day Museum, you may choose to see the famous 230‑foot‑long Bayeux Tapestry, a stunning visual chronicle of the Norman conquest of 1066.
Join the Captain on board the ship for a Farewell Reception this evening. (B,L,R,D)
May1 — Honfleur, Disembark, Paris, Return to the U.S.
Disembark the ship in Honfleur and travel to Paris for your return flight to the U.S. or continue on the Paris and Giverny Post-Cruise Optional Extension. (B)
*Optional excursions are available at additional cost. Details will be provided with your reservation confirmation.