Vantage celebrates its 40th anniversary this year!
Edinburgh’s imposing profile of black rock hills and rugged medieval fortifications stands in stark contrast to its cultured, quirky, and playful spirit. Since you’ll be passing through, why not add three nights to experience the U.K.’s second-most popular destination after London? Revisit Scotland’s dramatic history at Edinburgh Castle. Wander the tangle of medieval Old Town, and the neoclassical district of New Town, which together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Step aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. See the fabled fairways of St. Andrew’s. Dart into the quaint shops, inviting pubs, and fascinating museums that line the Royal Mile. Our perfect mix of included touring and leisure time allows you to discover the best Edinburgh has to offer.
Fly to Dublin
Your journey begins! Today, board an overnight flight from your home city to Dublin, Ireland. Or, depart earlier for your pre-trip extension to Edinburgh, Scotland!
Arrive in Dublin, Ireland
If you’ve purchased your airfare through Vantage, you’ll be met at the airport by a representative who will assist with your included transfer to your hotel in the heart of Dublin’s most popular district — in walking distance to pubs, restaurants, shopping, and other attractions.
The rest of the day is yours to relax. This evening, you’ll gather for a Welcome Dinner in the hotel.
Explore Dublin’s treasures, including Trinity College and the Book of Kells
After an Irish breakfast, set out for a special day discovering Dublin’s main sights, including the lush greenery of the city’s beloved Phoenix Park — home to 1,750 acres of woodlands, lakes, historic buildings, and its own herd of wild fallow deer.
Next, visit prestigious Trinity College, home of the Book of Kells, Ireland’s precious medieval artifact. One of many Irish treasures, this illuminated manuscript of the four gospels dates back to around 800 AD. The 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the Brian Boru harp, a national symbol of Ireland featured on the Guinness label, also reside at the college.
You’ll also visit Dublin Castle, a 13th-century manse erected on the site of a Viking settlement, which is now a primary building for government and administrative purposes. Lunch is on your own, followed by an afternoon at leisure to explore Dublin independently.
Take your choice of tours in Dublin before embarking the Ocean Explorer
A morning at leisure offers you some free time to get out and explore more of Dublin’s sights, including outstanding museums like the National Gallery of Ireland, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, or all things Ireland at the National Museum of Ireland. Enjoy lunch on your own and soak in as much as you can — this afternoon you’ll have your choice of tours before later embarking the Ocean Explorer.
Your first tour is a whiskey tour and tasting in Dublin — arguably the perfect way to say slán go fóill (“farewell for now” in Irish) to Ireland as you head to Wales tomorrow! It’s true that Guinness isn’t the only alcohol that Ireland is famous for, and today’s your opportunity to explore more of the history and flavors of Irish whiskey.
Your second option is an unforgettable Howth Cliff trek. If you’re a nature lover, the coastal town of Howth won’t disappoint. Set off down one of several scenic walking routes and absorb pristine nature and the truly out-of-this-world views over the Irish Sea.
You’ll head back to Dublin port after the tour, where the Ocean Explorer will be waiting. Step aboard and get settled; tonight, celebrate the start of your cruise at the Welcome Dinner. Take some time to explore its amenities, including the onboard boutique, spa and gym. Stop by the Destination Manager desk and discover all of the services available to you — from securing tickets for onshore excursions to organizing a group dinner with your travel companions. Hungry? Ask about the several dining options onboard, from a sit-down dining room to a restaurant that allows you to prepare your own meal with the ancient art of hot-rock cooking. Best of all, the small size of your ship allows you unparalleled access to your destinations. In many ports we’ll be able to dock right in the port, while in others we’ll anchor and use Zodiacs or tenders to cover the short distance to the shore.
Step into medieval Wales at Holyhead and Caernarfon Castle
This morning, the Ocean Explorer arrives in Holyhead, where you’ll enjoy a short drive to Caernarfon Castle, built by King Edward I. Its impressive towers loom over the shoreline, and you can imagine why the monarch built this fortress centuries ago to control coastline supply routes and access to the agricultural resources of neighboring lands. Your regional expert will tell you more about the castle’s fascinating history before you depart for a traditional pub lunch.
Afterward, visit the National Slate Museum, nestled into a mountainside, for a Victorian-era demonstration of this vanishing trade. Later this evening, enjoy a delectable dinner onboard, then unwind with a performance of Welsh folk music!
Make the pilgrimage to St. David’s, the spiritual heart of Wales
The Ocean Explorer arrives in Fishguard this morning. After breakfast, you’ll venture to St. David’s, the religious capital of Wales and the smallest city in the country. Enjoy a guided tour of the 12th-century Cathedral of St. David, a pilgrimage destination for hundreds of years. Other highlights include the 14th-century Tower Gate, charming art galleries, and pubs, as well as folks who flock here for St. David’s position along the water, forming part of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
You’ll return to the ship for lunch, followed by an afternoon at leisure in Fishguard. This small coastal commune offers some scenic walks and quaint shops just steps from the harbor. Don’t miss a stop into Ffwrn (“oven” in Welsh) bakery, where you can pick up some to-die-for fresh baked goods and other snacks. If you have a special activity in mind, see your Destination Manager ahead of time to plan any transportation you might need.
This evening before dinner, learn more about Wales during an enlightening lecture. After dinner, be enchanted by the sounds of a Welsh harp performance on board.
See Cork on a panoramic tour, and learn Titanic history in Cobh
Fàilte ar ais (“welcome back”) to Ireland today, as the Ocean Explorer arrives in Cork, a compact, 800-year-old city and Ireland’s foodie capital whose attractions include the busy English Market, the 18th-century Huguenot Quarter, and the magnificent French neo-Gothic cathedral. A panoramic tour of the city will reveal its many charms and landmarks.
You will also embark on walking tour of Cobh, which was the last port of call for millions of Irish citizens who emigrated to America — and the last port of call for the RMS Titanic. Our guide will provide us with insightful commentary about Cobh’s historic harbor, including interesting tidbits about the Titanic.
Lunch is back onboard, followed by your choice of tours: Head to the Blarney Castle and see the famous Blarney Stone, where lore holds that snogging this 600-year-old landmark bestows you with the “gift of gab” and the characteristic crackling Irish wit. Your second option is a visit to nearby Kinsale and the Charles Fort, which overlooks the town’s handsome natural harbor — bring your camera, the views here are spectacular. The fort also was part of some of Ireland’s most-momentous events, including the Civil War of the early 1920s. Its massive star-shaped structure is still well-preserved, despite its long history.
Discover Ireland’s lush greenery and dramatic landscapes: The Ring of Kerry
Today, set off for County Kerry to discover a region brimming with renowned and dramatic landscapes. On a drive down the spectacular Ring of Kerry — one of Ireland’s most popular attractions — you’ll be rewarded with unhindered countryside views. From Molls Gap to Kenmare, this is classic Ireland — stony hillsides dotted with sheep, fog-shrouded mountains, and narrow lanes hugged by greenery. Take in breathtaking Dingle Bay and Killarney National Park, passing through coastal villages like Glenbeigh, Waterville, and Sneem.
Lunch is back onboard, followed by scenic sailing of the nearby Skellig Islands (weather permitting) and an afternoon at leisure onboard. Later, attend an onboard cooking demonstration of a regional Irish specialty.
Dingle Peninsula’s sweeping beauty and the Blasket Centre
Discover the dramatic coastline of the Dingle Peninsula, boasting more archaeological monuments than any other landscape in Western Europe, and renowned for its cinematic beauty, as many Star Wars fans already know. As you journey to Slea Head, the westernmost point of Europe, you’ll pass glittering coves, rugged mountains, and ancient Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) communities dotted with beehive-like huts.
Learn more about what life is like here when you visit the Blasket Centre, a heritage museum chronicling daily life on the nearby islands and on Dingle itself. Enjoy exhibits of artwork, architecture, vignettes, and videos before heading back to the ship for lunch. You’ll have an afternoon at leisure to continue your explorations of Dingle on your own.
Tour Galway on a walking tour, then dine in style at Dunguaire Castle
Historic, bohemian Galway is considered Ireland’s music capital — it has the pubs, buskers, and concert venues to prove it! After breakfast, embark on a guided walk around the city’s charming medieval streets dotted with pubs, boutiques, and cafés. Walk along the Spanish Arch — a riverside remnant of the medieval walls — to the imposing Galway Cathedral. At the Hall of the Red Earl, you’ll learn about the ancient de Burgo family, one the infamous “Tribes of Galway,” whose further exploits are chronicled at the Galway City Museum.
After lunch back on the ship, you can spend the rest of the day discovering this quintessentially-Irish city on your own, perhaps soaking up the local atmosphere by listening to street performers and browsing the Galway Market, the perfect entrée into local art, handicrafts, and street food.
Later this afternoon, you’ll depart for Dunguaire Castle, built in 1520 by the O’Hynes clan on the picturesque shores of Galway Bay. Here, you’ll savor fine wines and a traditional banquet dinner complete with soul-stirring Irish storytelling. This truly will be a night to remember!
Tour the Victorian-era splendor of Kylemore Abbey and its walled garden
Wake up in Galway again and, after another delicious breakfast onboard, you’ll depart for an excursion to Kylemore Abbey. Featuring an 1800s-era castle, this estate was built by local Member of Parliament and businessman Mitchell Henry. Inspired by his love for his wife Margaret and his hopes for his beloved Ireland, Henry poured his life’s energy into creating an estate that would showcase what could be achieved in the remote wilds of Connemara. Today, Kylemore Abbey is owned and operated by the Benedictine community who have been in residence here since 1920. Learn all about the abbey — which overlooks the moody, romantic Pollacapall Lough — on a guided walking tour that also brings you to the Victorian walled garden, a 6-acre oasis displaying heritage plants from the Victorian era.
Lunch is back on the ship, followed by an afternoon at leisure onboard. Hear another lecture this evening before dinner.
Discover the majestic beauty of the Slieve League Cliffs, and visit colorful Killybegs
Today, explore the bucolic hills and pastoral scenery of Donegal, including the dramatic Slieve League Cliffs. Among the highest sea cliffs in all of Europe, the cliffs are nearly triple the height of the Cliffs of Moher and offer unrivaled views across the Atlantic Ocean.
After a tour of the cliffs, head to the quirky town of Killybegs, Ireland’s largest fishing port, for a walking tour that will take you along some of the town’s most picturesque sights and lead you to the Killybegs International Carpet Making & Fishing Centre. Along with fishing, carpet was once the town’s most important industry and today you’ll learn how the signature, Turkish-style Donegal carpets and tapestries traditionally were woven and the hand-knotting technique on a loom.
After lunch onboard, the afternoon is yours in Donegal.
Enjoy your choice of tours in Derry, Northern Ireland
Today the Ocean Explorer enters Northern Ireland and the city of Derry, the country’s second largest city. Derry was revitalized in 2013 when it was named a U.K. City of Culture and boasts a reputation as an artistic and cultural hub today. Depending on your interests, you’ll be able to craft the perfect day with your choice of tours here.
Your first option is a walking tour of the Derry city walls, which form a walkway around the inner city and offer a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town, which still preserves its Renaissance-style street plan to this day. Or visit the Museum of Free Derry, which tells the sobering story of the Free Derry movement, government oppression, civil rights, and the city’s Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972.
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure here, with dinner onboard.
Arrive in Belfast and visit Giant’s Causeway or the city’s botanical gardens
Enjoy a tranquil morning at leisure as the Ocean Explorer makes its way to Belfast. An early lunch onboard will fuel you for the day’s discoveries, including your choice of tours in Belfast. The first choice is a visit to Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring thousands of hexagonal basalt columns formed after an ancient eruption. Your second choice of tours is a visit to the Belfast Botanic Gardens, which were established in 1828 and feature rare plants and an extensive rose garden. Today, the park is enjoyed as a public space by Belfast’s citizens and students at the nearby Queens University Belfast.
You’ll have the rest of the afternoon at leisure in Belfast — if you’re interested in perusing the Titanic Museum, your onboard Destination Manager can help secure tickets.
Back on board, trace the route of the Titanic as we depart Belfast. Plus, get your foot stomping at an Irish music session, followed by dinner.
Disembark the Ocean Explorer, and discover stunning County Wicklow
Today the ship returns to Dublin, where you’ll disembark for the remainder of your journey. After breakfast, say goodbye to your room and venture out to beautiful County Wicklow, where you will explore the spectacular Powerscourt Gardens, a 45-acre extravaganza of formal gardens, sweeping terraces, exquisite statues and ornamental lakes. With more than 200 varieties of trees and shrubs, Powerscourt has been described as one of Europe's greatest gardens. From here we visit Glendalough, one of Ireland’s oldest and most important monasteries, founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Set between two idyllic lakes, its most prominent feature is the iconic High Tower where monks stored precious manuscripts and artifacts. We’ll return to Dublin on a scenic route that features the Wicklow Mountains.
After lunch in a local restaurant, grab your camera for a sheepdog demonstration. You’ll learn the thoughtful and labor-intensive training process the Border collies, the preferred breed used here, go through — including the technique called “the strong eye” to stare down the local sheep.
Next, check in to your hotel and enjoy an evening at leisure in Dublin, with dinner on your own.
Enjoy a day at leisure in Dublin
Explore Dublin as you like today. Your Cruise Director and Destination Manager will be on hand to offer plenty of ideas for what to see and visit. Perhaps you’ll visit the Jameson Distillery for a little extra pep in your step. Or, follow in the footsteps on Christ when you pay a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest in Dublin, and the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. Or search for your own masterpiece in trendy boutiques along Dublin’s renowned Grafton Street before popping into one of the Temple Bar pubs for lunch or a late afternoon pint.
Tonight, gather with your fellow travelers once more for a Farewell Reception and Dinner at the hotel.
Return home, or begin your post-trip extension in Kilkenny
Transfer to Dublin’s airport for your flight home, or head to Kilkenny on your post-trip extension.
Step back in time to Kilkenny, where medieval history lives on through jaw-dropping architecture and museums. For the duration of your stay, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the chambers and parklands of Lyrath Estate Hotel, your luxurious accommodation on the outskirts of the city. Plus, enjoy a private train tour from Black Abbey to Kilkenny Castle and learn about Kilkenny’s evolution from merchant town to brewing centre to craft capital. Don’t miss this perfect way to top off your discoveries in Northern Europe!
Please note: Ocean-cruising is not the same experience as river cruising; as such, you may experience fluctuating tides and weather patterns that may involve some rocking of your vessel. Itineraries will include all activities as planned except in extreme cases that can’t be controlled by your shipboard crew. Day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Cruise Director or regional expert.