A cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT 

Trace the legacy of ancient empires on an 8-day cruise, exploring numerous World Heritage sites as you follow the spectacular Adriatic coast to the legendary ports of Dubrovnik, Hvar, Venice, and more.

Starting at: $4,810 Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Traditional street in Dubrovnik  The Grand Canal at dusk  The coastal town of Hvar  Fort and Old City of Dubrovnik  Iconic harbor of Dubrovnik  Bay of Kotor, Montenegro  <i>Dying Achilles</i> at the Palace of Achilleion Museum, Corfu  The island of Corfu  Temple at Delphi  The Corinth Canal  The Acropolis of Athens

Cruising the Dalmatian Coast and the Ionian Sea

From Venice to Athens (2022 Le Jacques Cartier) / Athens to Venice (2023 Le Lyrial)

8 days from $4,810

A cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT 

Trace the legacy of ancient empires on an 8-day cruise, exploring numerous World Heritage sites as you follow the spectacular Adriatic coast to the legendary ports of Dubrovnik, Hvar, Venice, and more.

or Call 855-330-1542

Activity Level

Level 3: Moderate / Active

This cruise includes half day excursions, many of them walking tours that include standing and walking for extended periods of time. During the coastal cruise the ship will pull up to a pier for disembarkation via a gangway. In certain ports, the ship will be at anchor and disembarkation will be by tender. Morning and afternoon excursions off ship will include walks at archeological sites and on cobblestone streets, walkways and city hills. Stairs may not have handrails and there will be limited or no access to elevators. Some guided walks will depart directly from the pier and others will require a motor coach to reach the site. The ship does have elevators 

Appropriate for: Travelers who are physically fit, walk on cobblestone streets, and on steep or uneven paths. 

2022 Tour Extension

2022 Pre-Cruise Program3 Days, 2 Nights

At the height of its imperial power, Venice justly referred to itself as La Serenissima, the most serene republic. Today, Venice still lays claim to the title, as the city basks in the enduring splendor of its history.

Day 1 – Venice, Italy                                                                                                           

​Arrive at Venice's International Airport, where you will be met and transferred to The Splendid Venice via water taxi. A local representative will be present at the hospitality desk in the afternoon to welcome you and to offer suggestions for dining and independent exploration. Join fellow travelers this evening for a welcome cocktail reception at the hotel. Dinner is on your own.

Splendid Venice

Day 2 – Venice

After breakfast at the hotel, a walking tour explores nearby St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. The Basilica, originally a private chapel, became the focus of the religious life of the city in 829, when the remains of St. Mark were brought from Alexandria and interred here. The interior is covered with 14,000 square feet of gold mosaics, mostly from the 12th and 13th centuries. Of particular note is the altarpiece known as Pala d'Oro, universally considered the most refined expression of Byzantine sensibility in the world. A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Doge’s Palace is an impressive structure comprising layers of construction and ornamentation, from its 14th and 15th century original foundations to its Renaissance and Mannerist additions. It was the working center of Venetian government when Venice dominated the entire eastern half of the Mediterranean, and the grandeur of its chambers befits its role. When your tour concludes, the remainder of the day is at leisure for you to explore Venice on your own. Lunch and dinner are at your leisure.

Splendid Venice

Day 3 – Venice / Embark

Enjoy a relaxing breakfast at the hotel and a morning at leisure. After an independent lunch, join a walking tour that visits two more of Venice's impressively adorned buildings. Begin at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, whose walls and ceilings are covered with murals by Tintoretto, depicting stories from the Old Testament and episodes in the life of the Virgin as well as the Passion of Christ, including the artist's massive painting of the Crucifixion, which covers an entire wall of one of the galleries. Continue to the Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, which, despite its rather plain exterior, contains a treasure trove of paintings and sculptures by artists including Titian, Canova, Sansovino, Donatello, and Bellini. After taking in the wonders of this special church, your tour ends at the pier for embarkation in late afternoon.

Your hotel:

The Splendid Venice is a 5-star property in the center of the city, near St. Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace. It features 165 rooms, a restaurant, two lounge bars, 24-hour room service, marvelous views of the surrounding area, and all of the services you would expect from a luxury hotel in a major European city.

Your program includes:

  • 2 nights at The Splendid Venice (or similar)
  • Transfer and luggage handling from the airport to the hotel on the scheduled program arrival day
  • Transfer and luggage handling from the hotel to the ship on embarkation day
  • Welcome Reception on Day 1
  • Breakfast on Days 2 and 3
  • Sightseeing and programming as noted in the itinerary
  • Local English-speaking guide
  • Gratuities for the drivers and local guides

Your program does not include:

  • Transfer from the airport to the hotel on any day other than the scheduled program arrival day
  • Personal expenses and other services and meals not mentioned as included in the program

Please note:

  • It is imperative that your flight arrival details are communicated at least 30 days prior to the beginning of your cruise in order to secure your transfer from the airport to the hotel.
  • Early check-in and/or late check-out are available depending on availability and at a supplement. An additional night is possible, upon request and depending on hotel availability. Please, contact reservations or your travel agent for further details.
  • The official currency is the Euro. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, shops, and restaurants.
  • This pre-cruise program is offered as a package. There will be no refunds for unused accommodations, meals, or excursions.
  • Program is offered on a space available basis.
  • Program is subject to change without notice.
2023 Tour Extensions

2023 Pre-Cruise Program — 2 Days, 1 Night

Athens is the birthplace of democracy and philosophy and home to the most enduring symbol of classical civilization—the Parthenon. Join this specially designed program to explore the incomparably rich legacy of this amazing city. 

Day 1 – Athens, Greece

Arrive at Athens International Airport, where you will be met and transferred to the Hotel Grande Bretagne. A local representative will be present at the hospitality desk in the afternoon to welcome you and to offer suggestions for dining and independent exploration. Join fellow travelers this evening for a welcome cocktail reception. Dinner is on your own. 

Hotel Grande Bretagne

 Day 2 – Athens / Embark

After breakfast at the hotel, your first visit will be at the New Acropolis Museum, opened to the public in 2009 and designed to house and showcase all of the artifacts found on the Acropolis since archaeological work at the site began. The result is the exhibition of some 4,000 objects dating from the Greek Bronze Age through the Roman and Byzantine periods. Your tour of the Acropolis itself includes the Propylaea, which serves as the entrance to the complex, the Temple of Athena Nike, or Wingless Victory, and the Erechtheum with its classical Porch of Maidens. And of course, there is the Parthenon, the most perfect example of classical architecture in the world, designed as a shrine to Athena and at one time housing a massive gold and ivory statue of the warrior goddess. At the end of this tour, enjoy time at leisure to stroll the pedestrian walkways of the Plaka, the ancient neighborhood at the base of the Acropolis, where you will find a variety of shops and cafés where you can browse and have an independent lunch before boarding your coach for the transfer to the pier to embark your ship.

Your hotel:

Located in historic Syntagma Square, the 5-star Hotel Grande Bretagne is the perfect venue for a visit to Athens. Within walking distance of exclusive shopping areas, museums, and the business district, the hotel boasts 320 rooms and suites, two restaurants, and a spa. Its views of the city center, from the Parliament building to the Parthenon, are unrivaled.

Your program includes:

  • 1 night at the Hotel Grande Bretagne (or similar)
  • Transfer and luggage handling from the airport to the hotel on the scheduled program arrival day
  • Transfer and luggage handling from the hotel to the ship on embarkation day
  • Welcome cocktail reception on Day 1
  • Breakfast on Day 2
  • Sightseeing and programming as noted in the itinerary
  • Local English-speaking guide
  • Gratuities for the drivers and local guides

Your program does not include:

  • Transfer from the airport to the hotel on any day other than the scheduled program arrival day
  • Personal expenses and other services and meals not mentioned as included in the program

Please note:

  • It is imperative that your flight arrival details are communicated at least 30 days prior to the beginning of your cruise in order to secure your transfer from the airport to the hotel.
  • Early check-in and/or late check-out are available depending on availability and at a supplement. An additional night is possible, upon request and depending on hotel availability. Please, contact reservations or your travel agent for further details.
  • The official currency is the Euro. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, shops, and restaurants.
  • This pre-cruise program is offered as a package. There will be no refunds for unused accommodations, meals, or excursions.
  • Program is offered on a space available basis and is subject to change without notice. 

​---

2023 Post-Cruise Program — 3 Days, 2 Nights

At the height of its imperial power, Venice justly referred to itself as La Serenissima, the most serene republic. Today, Venice still lays claim to the title, as the city basks in the enduring splendor of its history.

Day 1 – Venice, Italy

Disembark after breakfast and join your knowledgeable guide for an exploration of two of Venice's most emblematic crafts: fashioning the masks worn during the Venetian Carnival and manufacturing the gondolas for which the city is famous. Your first visit is to the studio of an expert mask-maker, who will introduce you to the mysterious origins of the use of masks in Venice and their association with Carnival from the 13th century onward. You will learn how the masks are designed and produced and will see some of the splendid variety of their decoration.

A walk through some lesser-known neighborhoods of the city will bring you to one of the few remaining squeri—the workshops where gondolas are built and maintained. In the past, these boatyards were located all along the Grand Canal, attesting to the importance of gondolas in the life of the city. A local artisan will describe the traditional methods of designing a boat to meet the individual needs of each gondolier and will explain the history of this uniquely Venetian method of transport. After your visit to the boatyard, follow your guide on a leisurely walk across the Ponte dell'Accademia and through the center of the city to The Splendid Venice hotel, your home for the next two nights. Official check in begins at 3:00 p.m. Lunch and dinner are independent and at your leisure.  

The Splendid Venice                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Day 2 – Venice 

After breakfast at the hotel, a walking tour explores nearby St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. The Basilica, originally a private chapel, became the focus of the religious life of the city in 829, when the remains of St. Mark were brought from Alexandria and interred here. The interior is covered with 14,000 square feet of gold mosaics, mostly from the 12th and 13th centuries. Of particular note is the altarpiece known as Pala d'Oro, universally considered the most refined expression of Byzantine sensibility in the world.

A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Doge’s Palace is an impressive structure comprising layers of construction and ornamentation, from its 14th and 15th century original foundations to its Renaissance and Mannerist additions. It was the working center of Venetian government when Venice dominated the entire eastern half of the Mediterranean, and the grandeur of its chambers befits its role. When your tour concludes, the remainder of the day is at leisure for you to explore Venice on your own. Lunch and dinner are at your leisure.

The Splendid Venice

Day 3 – Venice / Home 

Following breakfast and official check out by 10:00 a.m., transfer to the airport for your return flight home. 

Your hotel:

The Splendid Venice is a 5-star property in the center of the city, near St. Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace. It features 165 rooms, a restaurant, two lounge bars, 24-hour room service, marvelous views of the surrounding area, and all of the services you would expect from a luxury hotel in a major European city. 

Your program includes:

  • 2 nights at The Splendid Venice (or similar)
  • Breakfast on Days 2 and 3
  • Transfer and luggage handling from the ship to the hotel on disembarkation day
  • Transfer and luggage handling from the hotel to the airport on the scheduled program departure day
  • Sightseeing and programming as noted in the itinerary
  • Local English-speaking guide
  • Gratuities for the drivers and local guides

Your program does not include:

  • Transfer from the hotel to the airport on any day other than the scheduled program departure day
  • Personal expenses and other services and meals not mentioned as included in the program

Please note:

  • It is imperative that your flight arrival details are communicated at least 30 days prior to the beginning of your cruise in order to secure your transfer from the hotel to the airport.
  • Late check-out is available depending on availability and at a supplement. An additional night is possible, upon request and depending on hotel availability. Please, contact reservations or your travel agent for further details.
  • The official currency is the Euro. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, shops, and restaurants.
  • This post-cruise program is offered as a package. There will be no refunds for unused accommodations, meals, or excursions. 
  • Program is offered on a space available basis and is subject to change without notice. 
Ship

Le Lyrial

Launched in 2015 by PONANT, the highly acclaimed Le Lyrial is a new generation of small ship, along with sister ships Le Boréal, Le Soléal, and L'Austral. These ships of the PONANT fleet are of the highest quality, featuring a sleek design, and distinctive French decor.

Spacious, Ocean-view Suites and Staterooms

Ninety-five percent of the 122 large, deluxe, air-conditioned, outside staterooms and suites (from 200 to 600 square feet) feature private balconies. Most accommodations have two twin beds that convert to one queen-size bed. Each cabin has a private bathroom with shower (bathtub in limited number of staterooms) and the luxurious amenities of a fine hotel, including individual climate control, satellite flat screen television, wireless Internet access, safe, minibar, full-length closet, writing desk/dressing table, and plush robes.

Chic and Casual Dining

International and regional cuisine are served in the stylish, spacious dining room in single, unassigned seating; alfresco in the casual indoor-outdoor restaurant; or from 24-hour room service. Continental and buffet breakfast, buffet lunch, afternoon tea, and a four-course dinner are served daily. Complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are included.

Spacious Public Areas, World-Class Service, and Facilities

Inviting and spacious public areas accommodate all passengers comfortably. Enjoy views from the Panoramic Lounge, nightly entertainment in the Main Lounge, and lectures, cultural performances, and film screenings in the state-of-the-art theater. There is a library, Internet salon, Sun Deck, swimming pool, beauty salon, spa, Turkish bath-style steam room, full range of fitness equipment, and two elevators. The infirmary is staffed with a doctor and nurse. The highly trained and personable, English-speaking, international crew provides attentive service.

Respect for the Environment

The state-of-the-art propulsion system and custom-built stabilizers provide an exceptionally smooth, quiet and comfortable voyage by minimizing vibration and engine noise. The ship company is proud of its 'Clean Ship' standing, an extreme rarity among ocean cruising vessels, as its commitment to energy efficiency and environmental protection of marine ecosystems is of paramount importance.

Le Jacques Cartier

Le Jacques Cartier, launched in 2020 by PONANT, ushers in a new generation of five-star small ships, combining revolutionary design and a new standard of luxury for unparalleled cruising. Dock in smaller ports inaccessible to larger ships and where authentic cultural experiences and majestic scenery await you.

Respect for the Environment

The newest addition to the Ponant “clean ship” fleet, a prestigious certification among ocean‑cruising vessels, Le Jacques Cartier is energy efficient and eco‑friendly, protecting fragile marine ecosystems while providing a safe and comfortable voyage.

Chic and Casual Dining

Dine indoors or alfresco on international and regional cuisine served in the stylish, spacious indoor‑outdoor restaurant, at the casual pool deck grill or from 24‑hour room service. Daily meals include continental and buffet breakfasts, buffet lunch, afternoon tea, and four‑course dinner.

92 Elegant Suites and Staterooms, 100% with Private Balconies

Each five‑star stateroom and suite (up to 484 square feet) features a private balcony. Grand Deluxe Suites have a bay window and spacious private terrace. Accommodations offer two twin beds or one queen bed, private bathroom with shower, individual climate control, and luxurious hotel amenities.

Life on Board

Enjoy sweeping views from the lounges, which open to the outdoors, and lectures, cultural performances, or film screenings in the state‑of‑the‑art theater. Relax in the spa and sauna or the Sun Deck’s infinity‑style swimming pool. There is a beauty salon, fitness room, and three elevators. Complimentary Wi‑Fi is available throughout the ship.

World-Class Service

The highly trained, English‑speaking crew are personable and attentive, and the ship has a medical center staffed with a doctor and nurse.

Le Lyrial

Launched in 2015 by PONANT, the highly acclaimed Le Lyrial is a new generation of small ship, along with sister ships Le Boréal, Le Soléal, and L'Austral. These ships of the PONANT fleet are of the highest quality, featuring a sleek design, and distinctive French decor.

Spacious, Ocean-view Suites and Staterooms

Ninety-five percent of the 122 large, deluxe, air-conditioned, outside staterooms and suites (from 200 to 600 square feet) feature private balconies. Most accommodations have two twin beds that convert to one queen-size bed. Each cabin has a private bathroom with shower (bathtub in limited number of staterooms) and the luxurious amenities of a fine hotel, including individual climate control, satellite flat screen television, wireless Internet access, safe, minibar, full-length closet, writing desk/dressing table, and plush robes.

Chic and Casual Dining

International and regional cuisine are served in the stylish, spacious dining room in single, unassigned seating; alfresco in the casual indoor-outdoor restaurant; or from 24-hour room service. Continental and buffet breakfast, buffet lunch, afternoon tea, and a four-course dinner are served daily. Complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are included.

Spacious Public Areas, World-Class Service, and Facilities

Inviting and spacious public areas accommodate all passengers comfortably. Enjoy views from the Panoramic Lounge, nightly entertainment in the Main Lounge, and lectures, cultural performances, and film screenings in the state-of-the-art theater. There is a library, Internet salon, Sun Deck, swimming pool, beauty salon, spa, Turkish bath-style steam room, full range of fitness equipment, and two elevators. The infirmary is staffed with a doctor and nurse. The highly trained and personable, English-speaking, international crew provides attentive service.

Respect for the Environment

The state-of-the-art propulsion system and custom-built stabilizers provide an exceptionally smooth, quiet and comfortable voyage by minimizing vibration and engine noise. The ship company is proud of its 'Clean Ship' standing, an extreme rarity among ocean cruising vessels, as its commitment to energy efficiency and environmental protection of marine ecosystems is of paramount importance.

Le Jacques Cartier

Le Jacques Cartier, launched in 2020 by PONANT, ushers in a new generation of five-star small ships, combining revolutionary design and a new standard of luxury for unparalleled cruising. Dock in smaller ports inaccessible to larger ships and where authentic cultural experiences and majestic scenery await you.

Respect for the Environment

The newest addition to the Ponant “clean ship” fleet, a prestigious certification among ocean‑cruising vessels, Le Jacques Cartier is energy efficient and eco‑friendly, protecting fragile marine ecosystems while providing a safe and comfortable voyage.

Chic and Casual Dining

Dine indoors or alfresco on international and regional cuisine served in the stylish, spacious indoor‑outdoor restaurant, at the casual pool deck grill or from 24‑hour room service. Daily meals include continental and buffet breakfasts, buffet lunch, afternoon tea, and four‑course dinner.

92 Elegant Suites and Staterooms, 100% with Private Balconies

Each five‑star stateroom and suite (up to 484 square feet) features a private balcony. Grand Deluxe Suites have a bay window and spacious private terrace. Accommodations offer two twin beds or one queen bed, private bathroom with shower, individual climate control, and luxurious hotel amenities.

Life on Board

Enjoy sweeping views from the lounges, which open to the outdoors, and lectures, cultural performances, or film screenings in the state‑of‑the‑art theater. Relax in the spa and sauna or the Sun Deck’s infinity‑style swimming pool. There is a beauty salon, fitness room, and three elevators. Complimentary Wi‑Fi is available throughout the ship.

World-Class Service

The highly trained, English‑speaking crew are personable and attentive, and the ship has a medical center staffed with a doctor and nurse.

Reading List

Highly Recommended

The World of Venice: Revised Edition
By: Morris, Jan
Travellers History Of Croatia (The Traveller's History)
By: Benjamin Curtis
DK Eyewitness Croatia (Travel Guide)
By: DK Eyewitness
DK Eyewitness Greece, Athens and the Mainland (Travel Guide)
By: DK Eyewitness

Also Recommended

City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas
By: Crowley, Roger
Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World
By: Scott, Michael
Dubrovnik: A History
By: Harris, Robin
Croatia: A History from the Middle Ages to the Present Day
By: Tanner, Marcus
Mysteries of the Middle Ages: And the Beginning of the Modern World (The Hinges of History)
By: Cahill, Thomas
The Balkans: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles)
By: Mazower, Mark
The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets
By: Broad, William J.
Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History
By: Kaplan, Robert D.
My Family and Other Animals
By: Durrell, Gerald
How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed
By: Drakulic, Slavenka
The Colossus of Maroussi (New Directions Paperbook)
By: Miller, Henry
Death at La Fenice: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery
By: Leon, Donna
The Bridge on the Drina (Phoenix Fiction)
By: Andric, Ivo, McNeill, William H.
The Likeness of Venice: A Life of Doge Francesco Foscari
By: Romano, Dennis
24x36 World Wall Map by Smithsonian Journeys - Tan Oceans Special Edition (24x36 Laminated)