A new cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT 

On an 8-day voyage from Casablanca to Spain’s southern coast, delve into the historic medinas of Rabat and Tangier and discover a palpable undercurrent of Moorish culture in the vivacious cities of Andalusia. 

Starting at: $5,300 Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 The Alhambra of Granada
 Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca
 A plaza in charming Ronda
 The main plaza in Seville
 The immense Gothic cathedral of Seville
 Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon
 Belem Tower, Lisbon
 Archways in Palacio de Generalife at Granada's Alhambra
 A courtyard in the Alcazar, or Royal Palace, in Seville
 Vintage tram on the street in Lisbon

Cruising from Morocco to Spain’s Andalusian Coast

Casablanca to Lisbon on the 184-guest Le Dumont-d'Urville

8 days from $5,300

A new cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT 

On an 8-day voyage from Casablanca to Spain’s southern coast, delve into the historic medinas of Rabat and Tangier and discover a palpable undercurrent of Moorish culture in the vivacious cities of Andalusia. 

or Call 855-330-1542

Overview

Pre-Cruise Program — 4 Days, 3 Nights

With origins as a crossroads on the ancient caravan routes to and from Timbuktu, Marrakech has long been at the center of Moroccan commerce and culture. Part Berber, part Arab, part African, Marrakech is where the disparate elements of Morocco's past mingle with one another in a fascinating space where the exquisitely refined palaces of wealthy princes sit alongside the huts of snake charmers and musicians who ply their trades in the open air of the city's streets. 

Day 1 – Marrakech, Morocco

Arrive at Marrakech Airport, where you will be met and transferred to the Sofitel Marrakech Lounge & Spa, your home for the next three nights. Check-in time is 3:00 p.m. A local representative will be present at the hospitality desk in the afternoon to welcome you and answer any questions you may have. The afternoon is yours to settle in and rest before you join fellow travelers for a welcome cocktail reception this evening. Dinner is independent and at your leisure.

The Sofitel Marrakech Lounge & Spa

Day 2 – Marrakech

After breakfast at the hotel, join a walking tour of Marrakech's Medina, the Old Town, where the city's traditions continue to thrive. Your first stop is the emblematic Koutoubia Mosque, which dominates the skyline. Built in the 12th century, Koutoubia’s minaret is considered one of the highlights of Islamic architecture in North Africa and the inspiration for the Giralda in Seville and the Hassan Tower in Rabat. A short walk from the mosque brings you to Bahia Palace. Built in the mid 19th century as the residence of the Grand Vizier, it was converted by the French in the early 20th century for use by the Resident General of the Protectorate. The sprawling palace covers two acres in the middle of the Medina and contains 150 rooms opening onto a large courtyard filled with fountains and gardens. The nearby Dar Si Said Museum exhibits a range of architectural styles and traditional crafts. Of particular interest are the collections of Berber jewelry, textiles, carpets, and musical instruments that provide a taste of everyday life in Morocco before the arrival of Islam.

Your tour of the Medina continues with a visit to the souks of Jemaa El Fna, the city's main square and home to a multitude of street-artists and food stalls. Over the years the square has become the beating heart of Marrakech, where fire-eaters, acrobats, snake-charmers, and street musicians perform at every turn. In the Souk Semmarine you will find a maze of colorful alleys and small squares housing a bewildering array of stalls and ateliers devoted to a seemingly endless variety of arts and crafts. A short drive will bring you to a restaurant for a leisurely lunch before you return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure. In the evening, gather with fellow travelers for your transfer to a local restaurant for a sumptuous Moroccan dinner in the heart of the Old Medina.

The Sofitel Marrakech Lounge & Spa

Day 3 – Marrakech | Atlas Mountains

Today's excursion takes you through the countryside and into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, North Africa's greatest mountain range. Here you will encounter two very different worlds: the ancient villages of the Berbers and the post-modernist fantasia of André Heller's Anima Garden. Set out from the hotel in 4x4 vehicles for the trip south, pausing briefly in the village of Asni for stunning views of snow-capped mountains before continuing the climb toward the village of Imlil at the base of Djebel Toubkal, the highest mountain in the Atlas range. Upon arrival in Imlil, you begin a leisurely hike around this village and the neighboring village of Aroumd, where you are surrounded by the natural beauty of the valley and have the chance to discover Berber culture. Berbers are the original inhabitants of North Africa, comprising several tribes scattered throughout the region. Proud and hard-working, they have their own dialect, customs, and traditions. You will be welcomed into the home of one of the local families, who will share some of their customs and show you how they manage to live in largely traditional ways.

Enjoy lunch at Roche Armed, one of the small hotels in the village, overlooking the valley and village of Imlil, with the Atlas Mountains in the background. After lunch, drive to Anima Garden, created by multimedia artist André Heller. Opened in 2016, his garden is a unique mixture of art and nature that combines paintings, sculptures, and other objets d'art that draw on motifs from around the world with carefully chosen and landscaped flora in ways that are meant both to provide inspiration for contemplation and to stimulate the senses. The experience of a visit here is notoriously difficult to describe, but a New York Times critic comes as close as anyone, calling it "a Wonderland of exotic gardens, gazebos, ponds and mystical artworks." Return to the hotel in Marrakech to freshen up before driving to Al Fassia Aguedal Restaurant for dinner in celebration of your last night in Marrakech.

The Sofitel Marrakech Lounge & Spa

Day 4 – Marrakech | Casablanca | Embarkation

After breakfast at the hotel and check out, board your motorcoach for the short ride to Majorelle Garden for a morning of strolling through lovely grounds of exotic trees and plants and visiting two museums on the property. The gardens were once the home and haven of their namesake, French painter Jacques Majorelle, who settled in Marrakech in 1924 and created this retreat with a stunning home and vast garden of 300 plant species from five continents. In the center of this surreal garden is an electric-blue (the hue is known as 'Majorelle blue') art deco studio that now houses a museum of Berber art.

In 1980, the property was purchased by Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé, who lived here during some of the happiest years of their time together, restoring and maintaining the gardens and adding to the collections of the Berber Museum. In 2017, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent de Marrakech, a five-minute walk from the Majorelle Garden, was opened to the public.  The brainchild of Pierre Bergé, the YSL Museum in Marrakech, like its counterpart in Paris, is dedicated to Saint-Laurent's work at the intersection of fashion and art. The 43,000-square-foot building displays more than 5,000 dresses and 15,000 haute couture accessories in its permanent collection, and has space for exhibitions of Moroccan artists as well. After your exploration of the garden and museums, enjoy a leisurely lunch at Dar Rhizlane Restaurant before re-boarding your motorcoach for the drive to Casablanca, where you will embark your ship in late afternoon.   

Your hotel:

The Sofitel Marrakech Lounge & Spa, located just a short walk from the Jemaa El Fna Square, near the heart of Marrakech, is a magnificent Moorish property set among manicured gardens and fountains. The bright rooms and suites feature balconies and terraces, which offer beautiful views over the mountains, pool, or gardens. The interior design combines French elegance with a dash of Moroccan art de vivre. The hotel has two restaurants, four pools, a fitness center, and a spa.

Your program includes:

  • 3 nights at the Sofitel Marrakech Lounge & Spa (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 and lunch on Days 2, 3, and 4
  • Dinner 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 advisor for further details.
  • The official currency is the Moroccan Dirham. 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. 

Itinerary

Day 1 — Casablanca, Morocco

Arrive in Casablanca, Morocco’s main port city. Settle into your cabin and meet your fellow travelers at a welcome dinner tonight. (D)

Day 2 — Casablanca

Set out to explore the sites of Casablanca, a relatively new city that has evolved into Morocco’s economic capital. Visit the Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world—and one of the few that allow non-Muslims to enter. Built in the 1990s, the mosque is a stunning tribute to traditional Moorish architecture, with exquisite mosaics and carved stucco as well as remarkable technological innovations. Then see the work of a world-renowned stained-glass artist at Notre Dame de Lourdes Church and explore the “new medina,” or Habous district, built by the French in the early 20th century. Drive along the seaside Corniche to Rick’s Café, inspired by the film Casablanca, for a leisurely lunch. Alternatively, spend the day in the World Heritage site of Rabat. Take a guided tour of this coastal capital city, including the Royal Palace, the Chellah Necropolis, the Mohamed V Mausoleum, and Hassan Tower. Venture into the picturesque Kasbah of the Oudayas and wander its maze of narrow lanes and whitewashed houses. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Tangier

Sail north to Tangier, an ancient city whose strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar has led to a tumultuous history under many different rulers—and for several decades, none at all. Today Tangier is an exciting hub of culture, home to great museums and revitalized neighborhoods. Take in views of the legendary strait from a hilltop fortress before heading into the city. Tour the wonderful Tangier American Legation Museum, a tribute to the long relationship between the U.S. and Morocco, the first country to recognize American independence in 1777. Then visit the Kasbah Museum of Mediterranean Cultures to learn of the many civilizations that have left their mark on the region. Alternatively, delve in Morocco’s tradition of religious tolerance on a walking tour to three historic houses of worship: the Kasbah Mosque, the Moshe Nahon Synagogue, and Saint Andrew’s Church. Admire their remarkable architecture and discover how the three faiths are interwoven in Tangiers. Instead of staying in Tangier, choose an excursion to Tetouan, set at the foot of the dramatic Rif mountains. Visit Dar Sanaa, a former palace where traditional Moroccan crafts are now taught, and explore Tetouan’s World Heritage-listed medina. Transit the Strait of Gibraltar this evening. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Málaga, Spain

Dock in Málaga, birthplace of Picasso, and spend the day in Granada, scenically located atop three hills and framed by the snow-clad Sierra Nevada mountains. From here, the monarchs of the Nasrid Dynasty ruled for 250 years over the last Moorish kingdom in Spain, leaving a priceless architectural legacy—the magnificent Alhambra, a World Heritage site. Our visit begins with a walk through city center to the Cathedral and Royal Chapel, final resting place of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic monarchs who brought an end to Islamic rule in Iberia. Later, enjoy dinner in a beautiful setting before heading to the Alhambra for a private evening tour. Admire the exquisite architectural details of its palaces and courtyards, and continue with a visit to the beautifully landscaped Generalife Palace and Gardens, built as a summer residence for the Sultan. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Marbella or Ronda

Sail west to Marbella, and venture into its whitewashed old town on a walking tour. Discover the leafy squares and charming, boutique-lined lanes that made the town an elegant retreat in the 1950s and 1960s. Stroll the Patio de los Naranjos and see a collection of sculptures by Salvador Dalí on Avenida del Mar. Then drive into the hills to the charming village of Mijas to take in sweeping views of the Costa del Sol and enjoy a delicious Andalusian lunch featuring traditional flamenco music and dance. Or travel overland to Ronda, an ancient town built on a cliff above deep gorges. Examine layers of history as you tour the twisting streets of its Moorish-influenced center and learn about its Roman occupation. Visit the Plaza de Toros, Spain’s oldest bullfighting ring and one of its most architecturally beautiful, and tour the onsite museum. (B,L,D) 

Day 6 — Cadiz and Seville

Anchor in Cadiz, founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC and one of the oldest cities in Europe. Travel through olive and orange groves to Seville, the captivating capital of Andalusia.  Shaped by a succession of often-clashing civilizations—Roman, Moorish, Jewish, Christian—Seville is a vibrant melting pot of cultures with a fascinating history. Stroll through the Murillo Gardens on your way to the World Heritage site of Real Alcazar, the former residence of Seville’s Moorish and Spanish rulers. Continue to the World Heritage-listed Cathedral of Seville, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the site of Christopher Columbus's tomb. La Giralda, built as a minaret for the city's chief mosque in the 12th century, now serves as the bell tower and a symbol of Seville. After a lunch of Andalusian tapas, enjoy a walking tour and time at leisure in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the city’s former Jewish quarter. Alternatively, travel from Cadiz to the “white village” of Vejer de la Frontera, and take a walking tour of this charming town of whitewashed houses and cobblestoned streets. Drive south through thick forests to Cape Trafalgar to see the spot where Lord Nelson defeated Napoleon’s forces at the Battle of Trafalgar. Return to Cadiz for a thrilling performance of flamenco and a tapas lunch. (B,L,D) 

Day 7 — At Sea

As we make our way toward the Atlantic coast of Portugal, enjoy a day to relax at sea, taking advantage of the ship’s superb amenities. Opt for a treatment in the spa or get a work out at the fitness center. If the weather permits, go for a swim in the pool or read a book on the sundeck. Our Smithsonian Journeys experts will present lectures on the region, and PONANT photographers will be on hand to share photo editing techniques. Visit the ship’s upper deck to take in views of the open sea. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Lisbon, Portugal

Arrive in Lisbon and disembark after breakfast this morning. Extend your stay in this flourishing city upon seven hills, or transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

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

Related Tours