A NEW cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT

Experience an astonishing sweep of history and culture on a voyage from the sacred sites of the Holy Land and the Pyramids of Giza to the archaeological wonders of Turkey and Greece—and delve into the rich culinary traditions of Cyprus along the way.

Starting at: $12,410 Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 The Western Wall and Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
 Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
 View of Jerusalem from Damascus Gate
 The Dead Sea, Israel
 View of Masada
 The enigmatic Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza
 Funerary mask of Tutankhamen, Cairo's Museum of Egyptian Antiquities
 Town of Paphos, Cyprus
 Roman mosaic at the archaeological park, Paphos, Cyprus
 Roman mosaic, Paphos, Cyprus
 Tomb of Kings, archaeological site in Paphos, Cyprus
 Historic entrance to the harbor in Rhodes, Greece
 Medieval square in Rhodes, Greece
 Entrance to the Grand Master's Palace, Rhodes, Greece
 The citadel of Lindos, Rhodes, Greece
 Hadrian's Temple and the Marble Way, Ephesus, Turkey
 Statue of Nike, Ephesus, Turkey
 Library of Celsus, Ephesus, Turkey
 The Terrace Houses, Ephesus, Turkey
 Palace of Knossos archaeological site, Crete, Greece
 Throne room in the Palace of Knossos
 Room at the Palace of Knossos, Crete, Greece
 Valletta harbor, Malta

Ancient Civilizations by Sea

Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey

13 days from $12,410

A NEW cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT

Experience an astonishing sweep of history and culture on a voyage from the sacred sites of the Holy Land and the Pyramids of Giza to the archaeological wonders of Turkey and Greece—and delve into the rich culinary traditions of Cyprus along the way.

or Call 855-330-1542


Over thousands of years, great civilizations and enduring religious movements have made their mark across the eastern Mediterranean, leaving us with soaring pyramids, spectacular mosaics and frescos, and some of the most sacred monuments on Earth. Experience a vast sweep of history on a voyage from the Red Sea to Malta, encountering the palaces of the Bronze Age Minoans on Crete, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Greco-Roman cities of Ephesus and Paphos. Explore the holy sites of three world religions in Jerusalem’s Old City and discover the legacy of the knights of the Crusades in Rhodes. Along the way, float in the Dead Sea, sail the Suez Canal, and enjoy a delectable culinary adventure in the charming villages of Cyprus.

The Smithsonian Journeys / PONANT  Experience: Each cruise will be accompanied by two Smithsonian Journeys Experts. An excursion or activity is included in each port of call. You may have a choice of excursions in many ports so that you can delve more deeply into subjects that interest you.

Highlights Include:

  • The Holy Land: From Eilat, take an excursion to the ancient mountaintop fortress of Masada, a World Heritage site, and hear the tale of its siege as you explore the evocative ruins. Then descend to the mineral-rich Dead Sea for lunch and a swim. Or discover the archaeological site of King Solomon’s copper mines, set amid stunning sandstone formations; then observe the marine life of the Red Sea at an underwater aquarium. Travel from the Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem and spend a day discovering the sacred sites of the incomparable Old City. 
  • Giza, Egypt and the Suez Canal: Encounter the extraordinary Pyramids and the Sphinx on a guided visit and enjoy lunch at the historic Mena House. Gain insights into ancient Egypt during a talk by a renowned professor, then see King Tut’s treasures—and much more—at the long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum.  
  • Cyprus: Embark on a culinary tour to discover—and make—some of the island’s unique foods. Learn how halloumi is made and knead your own Cypriot sourdough. Taste wine made from the island’s varietal grapes, and sample traditional dishes and desserts at a mezze lunch. Spend a day in delightful Paphos, discovering the underground Tombs of the Kings, sites associated with Aphrodite, and the stunning mosaics of the House of Dionysos.  
  • Rhodes and Ephesus: Uncover layers of history on Rhodes, encountering the legacy of ancient Greeks, Romans, and the knights of the Crusades as you visit the Street of the Knights and the Palace of the Grand Masters. Travel to beautiful Lindos to visit its hilltop Acropolis and its temples. Then sail to the Turkish coast for a visit to the World Heritage site of Ephesus, home to the Library of Celsus, a beautifully preserved theater, and the fascinating Terrace Houses. 
  • Crete: Venture to the storied Palace of Knossos, the political center of Minoan civilization and legendary home of King Minos. Then browse an impressive collection of ancient Greek artifacts at the Archaeology Museum in Heraklion.  


Days 1–2 — Aqaba, Jordan / Eilat, Israel

Arrive in Aqaba, Jordan’s main Red Sea port, and board the ship in the afternoon. A short evening voyage brings you to neighboring Eilat, where the ship will remain docked for the night. The following day, choose to travel north to the Roman fortress of Masada, built by King Herod atop an isolated plateau. As you explore ancient defensive towers, palaces, and one of the world’s oldest synagogues, retrace the captivating history of the site, where some 960 besieged Jews held off the Roman army in 73 AD before sacrificing themselves to avoid enslavement. Descend to the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea, and enjoy lunch and a swim in the buoyant, saline water, known for its therapeutic qualities. Alternatively, head to Timna Park for a visit to King Solomon’s copper mines, where the Egyptians sourced copper as early as the 11th century BC. Examine hieroglyphs at an Egyptian temple that guards the site, and see the towering rocks known as Solomon’s Pillars. Back in Eilat, get a glimpse at the vibrant reefs and tropical marine life of the Red Sea at an underwater aquarium. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — At Sea

During a day on the water, sail out of the Gulf of Aqaba to the Red Sea, and round the tip of the Sinai Peninsula to enter the Gulf of Suez. Attend talks by your Smithsonian Journeys Experts and other guest speakers, relax by the pool, or take in a show in the onboard theater. (B,L,D)

Days 4-5 —Giza, Egypt / Suez Canal

Go ashore at Ain Sukhna, and travel through the desert to the Pyramids of Giza, just west of Cairo. Here, encounter the only wonder that remains of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Explore the three main pyramids at the site, built as tombs for pharaohs of Egypt’s 4th dynasty. See the fabled Sphinx, carved out of rock around 2650 BC; then gather for lunch at the historic Mena House, located in the shadow of the pyramids. Enjoy a lecture by a renowned professor from Cairo University before visiting the new Grand Egyptian Museum, an incredible trove of ancient Egyptian artifacts, including the treasures of King Tutankhamen’s tomb—a highlight of the visit. Return to the ship late this afternoon. Tonight, begin your passage through the Suez Canal. Spend the next day following the narrow canal north and enjoying lectures and time at leisure on board. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Jerusalem and The Holy Land

Awaken in Ashdod, an Israeli port town just south of Tel Aviv. Head east to the holy city of Jerusalem, stopping first on the Mount of Olives to take in a spectacular view of the Old City. Visit the Church of All Nations, next to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed before his arrest. Then delve into the evocative streets of the Old City on a walking tour, entering from the Zion Gate and strolling the Via Dolorosa. Visit the Armenian and Jewish Quarters, lined with the city’s legendary golden-stone architecture, and see the sacred sites of three faiths: the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre; the Western Wall, the most important Jewish prayer and pilgrimage site; and the glittering Dome of the Rock, which marks the spot where the Muslim prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven. Return to the ship late this afternoon. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Limassol, Cyprus

Set at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Cyprus has developed a unique cuisine that spotlights the island’s fresh herbs, produce, and olive oil. Set out on a tour of local culinary traditions, driving into the wine-producing regions of western Cyprus. Start in the village of Letymbou with a real Cypriot coffee, then learn to concoct the island’s famous cheese, halloumi, and enjoy a tasting. Try your hand at making traditional sourdough bread and sample loukoumades, a popular desert of beignets drizzled with honey. Visit the village’s lovely Byzantine church before a tasting at a boutique winery that features Cypriot grape varietals. Your tour continues with a typical meze lunch featuring a range of hot and cold small plates, a main dish, and a traditional desert. Later, stop at Peyia to see the famous Edro III shipwreck just off the coast. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Paphos, Cyprus

Spend the day in the World Heritage site of Paphos, once the center of the cult of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. At the remarkable archaeological site here, venture into the Tombs of Kings, a complex network of underground burial chambers cut into the rock. In the seaside town of Yersokipou, see Aphrodite’s legendary sacred garden and the impressive, five-domed Byzantine church of Agia Paraskevi. Return to Paphos to continue exploring layers of history, from castles and medieval monasteries to the House of Dionysos, a 3rd-century villa adorned with exquisite mosaics. Discover charming Paphos harbor during free time before returning to the ship. (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Rhodes, Greece

Poised just off the coast of Turkey, Rhodes is a living testament to history of the Mediterranean, bearing evidence of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Ottomans, and Venetians who occupied the island over the centuries. Discover Rhodes’ cultural treasures on a walking tour that includes the Palace of the Grand Master and the Street of the Knights, a cobbled lane flanked by beautifully preserved medieval buildings that once housed the Knights of St. John. Or drive through citrus groves to Lindos, set dramatically between cliffs, and visit the hilltop Acropolis and its Doric Temple of Athena Lindia. You may also choose to learn the secrets of Greek cuisine during a cooking class and a meal at a popular restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Kusadasi and Ephesus, Turkey

Go ashore at Kusadasi and travel inland to Ephesus, one of the most beautifully preserved Greco-Roman cities in the world.  Explore its many temples, including the Temple of Hadrian, and encounter the legendary Library of Celsus, one of the largest in the Roman Empire. Venture into the immense theater, known for its excellent acoustics and still in use today.  Stroll the Sacred Way, once lined with the homes of the aristocracy, and see traces of an innovative water and sewer system built beneath the marble paving stones. Gain insight into family life at the acclaimed Terrace Houses, the residences of wealthy Ephesians from the 1st to the 7th centuries, equipped with running water and heating systems and adorned with frescos and mosaics. This afternoon, sail toward the Greek island of Crete. (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Heraklion / Crete / Greece

Considered the birthplace of Zeus, the island of Crete was the heart of the sophisticated Minoan civilization. Take a morning tour of the Palace of Knossos, the political center of Minoans and the site of the Minotaur’s labyrinth in ancient Greek mythology. Walk among its re-creations and ruins, admiring the frescoes and architectural flourishes of a once-grand city. Next, visit Heraklion’s Archaeological Museum, which houses artifacts representing 5,500 years of Cretan history, from the Neolithic period to Roman times. Examine the renowned Minoan collection, much of which was excavated from the Palace of Knossos. Enjoy a lunch at an elegant restaurant featuring ingredients sourced from the surrounding villages. (B,L)

Days 12-13 — At Sea / Valletta, Malta / Return Home

Spend a day sailing west and enjoying the many amenities aboard the ship. Opt for a treatment in the spa, read a book on the sundeck, or attend a talk by your Smithsonian Journeys Experts. After breakfast the following day, disembark in Valletta and transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B) 

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

Related Tours