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: $4,580 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 $4,580

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

Overview

Discover the treasures that lie along the shores of the Adriatic as you sail between Venice and Athens along Croatia’s island-studded Dalmatian Coast. Encounter an array of World Heritage sites—from the walled town of Dubrovnik to Montenegro’s breathtaking Gulf of Kotor—as you explore the legacy of Greeks, Romans, Venetians, and Byzantines across the Balkan Peninsula. *Note: 2023 departure will operate in the reverse direction.

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

Delphi and the Corinth Canal: From the port of Itea, venture to the ancient site of Delphi, home to the mythical Oracle and considered by the Greeks to be the center of the world; or explore St. Lucas Monastery, a spectacular monument of Middle Byzantine architecture. Then make a thrilling passage through the dramatic Corinth Canal, an ultra-narrow waterway that cuts through the rocky Isthmus of Corinth and is navigable only by small ship. 

Kotor: Sail into Montenegro’s spectacular Bay of Kotor, a World Heritage site surrounded by towering peaks, and tour the historic town of Kotor.  

Dubrovnik: Enjoy a full day in exquisite Dubrovnik to see the famous landmarks of this iconic World Heritage-listed walled city.  

Hvar: Step into history on beautiful Hvar on a walking tour of the 17th-century squares and monuments of Hvar town; or travel into the countryside to view lavender fields and enjoy an easy hike to the beach.  

Istria (2022): Admire Venetian architecture and venture into a warren of enchanting lanes on a guided walking tour of Rovinj, built on a rocky island now connected to the mainland of Croatia’s Istria Peninsula.  

Corfu (2022): On the Ionian island of Corfu, a retreat for royalty since the Roman era, take a walking tour of the Old Town, where French, British, Venetian, and Greek influences co-exist.  

Sarande and Butrint (2023): Venture to Albania to encounter sites long cut off from the rest of the world. Uncover layers of history at the World Heritage site of Butrint, set on a picturesque peninsula, or taking a walking tour of Sarande and explore its ancient sites.

Mostar and Ston (2023): In the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina, tour the Ottoman outpost of Mostar, now a World Heritage site, and see the famous Stari Most bridge, destroyed during the Bosnian War and painstakingly reconstructed to its 16th-century form. Or visit the centuries-old saltworks in the walled town of Ston, and set out on a local boat to see how oysters and mussels are farmed here—and taste the fresh catch.

Note: The 2023 departure will operate in reverse direction and visit Sarande and Mostar, instead of Corfu and Rovinj. 

2022 Itinerary - Venice to Athens

Map - Cruising the Dalmatian Coast and the Ionian Sea

Day 1 — Venice, Italy

Arrive in legendary Venice, built on the edge of a lagoon in the 5th century. Together the city and its lagoon—which played a major role in the power and defenses of the Venetian Empire—make up a World Heritage site. Embark the ship this afternoon and set sail on the lagoon in the early evening. (D)

Day 2 — Rovinj, Croatia

Our first port of call is Rovinj, set on the shores of Croatia’s Istria Peninsula. The seat of the Venetian government in Istria from the 14th to the 18th century, Rovinj still displays the influence of the Venetian Empire in its history and architecture. On a guided walking tour of the town’s historic center, built on a rocky island that is now connected to the mainland, venture down narrow streets intersected by covered passageways and arcades. Visit the baroque Basilica of Saint Euphemia and the Batana Eco-Museum, named for the batana boat, Rovinj's emblematic flat-bottom fishing vessel.  The award-winning museum celebrates local fishing traditions and the cultural heritage of the coastal communities. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Hvar

Since the 4th century B.C., Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Venetians have all left their mark on the island of Hvar. Known for its fields of rosemary, lavender, and laurel, this fertile island has produced olives and wine since the ancient Greeks. Discover Hvar on your choice of two excursions today. Step into history on a walking tour of Hvar Town with a visit to the handsome Renaissance Franciscan Monastery and its museum, the Cathedral of St. Stephan and its four-story bell tower, and the Venetian Loggia. At the Benedictine Cloister, learn about Hvar lace, crafted by local nuns out the fibers of dried agave leaves, and see their handiwork at a small museum. Your final stop is the 17th-century Arsenal, which houses Europe's oldest Municipal Theater, established in 1612 and still in use today.  Alternatively, head into the island’s interior on a scenic drive to the village of Velo Grablje, set among lavender fields. Meet a local grower to learn about the importance of lavender to Hvar's economy and way of life. Then follow a medieval trail on an easy hike to Milna, and spend some time on the beach this afternoon. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Dubrovnik

Magnificently positioned on a rocky spur on the Adriatic coast, the walled city of Dubrovnik is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe—despite having suffered a devastating earthquake in 1667 and the ravages of many wars. Your walking tour begins on the Stradum, a wide pedestrian way lined with shops and cafés and a remarkable number of historic buildings. Venture into the exquisite cloister of the Franciscan Monastery and see the oldest pharmacy in Europe, founded in 1317 and still offering traditional salves today. Continue to the Cathedral of the Assumption, a treasure trove of reliquaries and artwork, including an altarpiece by Titian. Stroll past important cultural monuments, from Sponza Palace to the Onofrio Fountain, fed by a 15th-century aqueduct that carries potable water from a spring seven miles away. End the tour at the Gothic-Renaissance Rector's Palace, now a museum that tells the story of Dubrovnik’s days as the capital of the Republic of Ragusa, a maritime power that rivaled Venice in the late Middle Ages. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Kotor, Montenegro

Montenegro is one of the newest nations in the world, having gained its independence in 2006. The spectacular Bay of Kotor, deeply carved into the Montenegrin mountains, leads to the charming medieval town of Kotor, a World Heritage site known for the incredible Venetian and baroque architecture of its fortified Old Town. On a walking tour, admire 14th-century frescoes at the Romanesque Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, and explore the town’s seafaring and naval traditions at the Maritime Museum.  Then visit the Lapidarium, a collection of stone sculpture, monuments, and architectural embellishments dating from Roman times to the 18th century that were rescued from the debris of earthquakes and wars. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Corfu, Greece

Awaken off the Ionian Island of Corfu, Homer’s “beautiful and rich land,” prized for its natural splendor and resources and for its strategic position at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea. Here, the empires that have ruled the island are reflected in French-style boulevards, Georgian mansions, and Venetian and Greek monuments. Take a short drive to the village of Gastouri to visit the Achilleion Palace. Built in 1889 by Empress Elisabeth of Austria, the palace served as the headquarters of the German occupation during both World Wars. Follow the coast to Perama to take in views of picturesque “Mouse Island" before continuing to the Old Town. On a walking tour, stroll the Esplanade and the main square, and meander through narrow streets lined with Venetian forts, loggias, palaces, and churches. Pass the residence of the British High Commissioner, the historic Cambiello Quarter, and the town hall on your way to the Church of St. Spyridon, patron saint of Corfu. Enjoy free time in Corfu before boarding the ship. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Itea and Delphi

Dock in Itea, a small port tucked away in the Gulf of Corinth on mainland Greece. From here, set out on your chosen excursion to the World Heritage sites of Delphi or St. Lucas Monastery. Delphi was considered the center of the Greek world in the 6th century B.C., when Greeks of all classes flocked to this sacred ground to consult the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo on matters as routine as farming and as monumental as the declaration of war. Follow the Sacred Way to the Temple of Apollo and see the temple’s marble Altar of the Chians, where both the common and the mighty awaited the oracle’s pronouncements. Visit the Delphi Archaeological Museum, and enjoy free time in the town of Delphi. Or head to the walled St. Lucas Monastery, a spectacular monument of Middle Byzantine architecture and art. Continue to Arachova, on the northern slopes of Mount Parnassos, and get a sense of local life as you explore this quaint village where traditional textiles, wines, and cheeses are produced. This afternoon, you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cruise through the Corinth Canal, a rare and thrilling highlight. This conduit between the Adriatic and Aegean Seas was first proposed at the end of the 7th century B.C. but not fully realized until 1893. Just 70 feet wide and navigable only by small ships, the impressive waterway cuts dramatically between vertical ochre cliffs through the Isthmus of Corinth. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Athens/Return Home

Arrive in Greece’s legendary capital city and transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B) 

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

2023 Itinerary - Athens to Venice

Map - Cruising the Dalmatian Coast and the Ionian Sea

Day 1 — Athens, Greece

Arrive in Athens, and transfer to the port of Piraeus. Embark the ship this afternoon and set sail on the Saronic Gulf. Later this evening you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cruise through the Corinth Canal, a rare and thrilling highlight. This conduit between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas was first proposed at the end of the 7th century B.C. but not fully realized until 1893. Just 70 feet wide and navigable only by small ships, the impressive waterway cuts dramatically between vertical ochre cliffs through the Isthmus of Corinth. (D)

Day 2 — Itea and Delphi

Dock in Itea, a small port tucked away in the Gulf of Corinth on mainland Greece. From here, set out on your chosen excursion to the World Heritage sites of Delphi or St. Lucas Monastery. Delphi was considered the center of the Greek world in the 6th century B.C., when Greeks of all classes flocked to this sacred ground to consult the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo on matters as routine as farming and as monumental as the declaration of war. Follow the Sacred Way to the Temple of Apollo and see the temple’s marble Altar of the Chians, where both the common and the mighty awaited the oracle’s pronouncements. Visit the Delphi Archaeological Museum, and enjoy free time in the town of Delphi. Or head to the walled St. Lucas Monastery, a spectacular monument of Middle Byzantine architecture and art. Continue to Arachova, on the northern slopes of Mount Parnassos, and get a sense of local life as you explore this quaint village where traditional textiles, wines, and cheeses are produced. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Sarande and Butrint, Albania

A country the size of Maryland with a long Adriatic coast, Albania harbors no less than four World Heritage sites. These treasures were hidden from the world for much of the 20th century, during the brutal reign of communist dictator Enver Hoxha. Arrive in the port of Sarande and discover this fascinating and complex country on one of two excursions. Visit the World Heritage site of Butrint, where the vestiges of Byzantine and Venetian rule intermingle with ancient Greek and Roman ruins on a stunning peninsula. Or explore Sarande, starting with a visit to the Ottoman Lekursi Castle, built by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1537. Take in the views all the way to Corfu from the hilltop fortress, then visit a winery for a tasting of wine, brandy and local specialties. Continue on a walking tour of Sarande that includes the ruins of the ancient Illyrian city and its 4th-century fortifications, and the remnants of an early Christian monastery. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Kotor, Montenegro

Montenegro is one of the newest nations in the world, having gained its independence in 2006. The spectacular Bay of Kotor, deeply carved into the Montenegrin mountains, leads to the charming medieval town of Kotor, a World Heritage site known for the incredible Venetian and baroque architecture of its fortified Old Town. On a walking tour, admire 14th-century frescoes at the Romanesque Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, and explore the town’s seafaring and naval traditions at the Maritime Museum.  Then take a scenic drive to Perast for a walking tour of its historic old town and a short boat ride to Our Lady of the Rocks.   Alternately a full day tour includes a scenic drive towards the mountain of Lovćen to a viewpoint overlooking the World-Heritage protected Boka Bay.  Continue to Cetinje, the old Royal capital and cultural center of Montenegro.  After a walking tour, enjoy a lunch of traditional Montenegrin specialties. Descend the mountains to the coastal town of Budva, known for its perfectly preserved walls.  End the tour in Kotor for a guided tour of the Old Town.  (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Dubrovnik, Croatia

Magnificently positioned on a rocky spur on the Adriatic coast, the walled city of Dubrovnik is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe—despite having suffered a devastating earthquake in 1667 and the ravages of many wars. Your walking tour begins on the Stradum, a wide pedestrian way lined with shops and cafés and a remarkable number of historic buildings. Venture into the exquisite cloister of the Franciscan Monastery and see the oldest pharmacy in Europe, founded in 1317 and still offering traditional salves today. Continue to the Cathedral of the Assumption, a treasure trove of reliquaries and artwork, including an altarpiece by Titian. Stroll past important cultural monuments, from Sponza Palace to the Onofrio Fountain, fed by a 15th-century aqueduct that carries potable water from a spring seven miles away. End the tour at the Gothic-Renaissance Rector's Palace, now a museum that tells the story of Dubrovnik’s days as the capital of the Republic of Ragusa, a maritime power that rivaled Venice in the late Middle Ages.  Or take a short walk through Old Town, then drive along the lovely Zupa coastline to the picturesque seaside resort of Cavtat for a walking tour of the town founded by Greek settlers from Epidaurus.  Continue to the Konavle region to the village of Ljuta. Visit a traditional water mill and learn its history with a demonstration of flour production. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Ston, Croatia

Dock in Ploče today and head inland to Mostar, a historic town in the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Venture into the World Heritage-listed Old Town, an Ottoman garrison town in the 16th century.  Visit the mosque and a typical Turkish house, and see the storied Stari Most, a graceful Ottoman bridge that was famously destroyed during the Bosnian War. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant.  Alternatively, travel to the walled town of Ston on Croatia’s Pelješac Peninsula.  Take a walking tour and visit the town’s saltworks, established in the 13th century and some of the oldest in Europe.  Continue to Mali Ston, the shellfish capital of Croatia.  Board a local boat to see the oyster and mussel beds and taste the fresh catch.  After lunch at a local restaurant, visit a local winery and sample some of the best wines of the region. (B,L,D)        

Day 7 — Hvar, Croatia

Since the 4th century B.C., Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Venetians have all left their mark on the island of Hvar. Known for its fields of rosemary, lavender, and laurel, this fertile island has produced olives and wine since the ancient Greeks. Discover Hvar on your choice of two excursions today. Step into history on a walking tour of Hvar Town with a visit to the handsome Renaissance Franciscan Monastery and its museum, the Cathedral of St. Stephan and its four-story bell tower, and the Venetian Loggia. At the Benedictine Cloister, learn about Hvar lace, crafted by local nuns out the fibers of dried agave leaves, and see their handiwork at a small museum. Your final stop is the 17th-century Arsenal, which houses Europe's oldest Municipal Theater, established in 1612 and still in use today.  Alternatively, head into the island’s interior on a scenic drive to the Stari Grad Plain to Hora and the Agroturizam Pharos, where a local family is continuing the traditions of the ancient Greeks today.  This working farm produces a range of organic food and wines as well as processing lavender.  Take a guided tour of their lavender distillery and learn  about the importance of lavender to Hvar's economy and way of life. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Venice / Return Home

Arrive in legendary Venice, built on the edge of a lagoon in the 5th century. Together the city and its lagoon—which played a major role in the power and defenses of the Venetian Empire—make up a World Heritage site. Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B) 

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