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: $5,050 * Price includes special offer 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 Athens to Venice (aboard Le Lyrial)

8 days from $5,050

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

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. 

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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. 

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)

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