Vantage celebrates its 40th anniversary this year!
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!
Fly to Montréal
Today, you’ll fly to Montréal. Or, depart earlier for your pre-trip extension to Ottawa! If you purchased your airfare through Vantage, you'll be met upon arrival by a representative who will assist in your transfer to the hotel. Enjoy free time to get settled into Montréal before a Welcome Briefing and Welcome Dinner.
Explore Montréal, a UNESCO-listed City of Design
Set out to explore this remarkable city, situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River. This UNESCO City of Design (one of only a few in the world), is home to more than 50 national historic sites, and it boasts a lively downtown arts and cultural scene. View many of its gems, including historic Old Montréal’s stunning architecture, and the magnificent neo-Gothic Notre Dame Basilica, one of the crown jewels in Québec's rich religious heritage. Then, a scenic drive takes you from Montréal’s downtown district to the top of Mont Royal for commanding views of the city and the St. Lawrence River.
At lunchtime, you'll take part in a traditional sugar shack meal, rich and laden with maple sweetness that reaching peak flavor for the season. This afternoon, you'll have time to explore this magnificent city on your own.
Enjoy a morning at leisure in Montréal, then embark the Ocean Explorer
Enjoy a morning at leisure today to wrap up any loose ends in Montréal — perhaps you want to run out for a last-minute shopping trip to buy souvenirs or enjoy lunch on your own. Later, you’ll embark the Ocean Explorer — welcome aboard!
Today provides the perfect opportunity to savor the easy pace and camaraderie that small ship cruising affords. Our inviting lounge area and elegant common spaces offer ideal settings to relax, have a cocktail, and get to know your fellow adventurers. During your cruising, take advantage of your ship’s many amenities, and see how days on board can be just as exciting as days offshore. Perhaps enjoy a spa treatment, relax and curl up with a book on deck, or pop into the boutique for any items you may need.
Find a touch of the Old World in Québec City
In 2018, the Travel + Leisure “World’s Best” poll ranked Québec City as Canada’s #1 city, citing the romantic old-world atmosphere, friendly residents, and great dining, among other things. See if you agree with the poll during today’s discoveries!
Discover Québec City (the Upper and Lower Town) through its history, architecture, and culture. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was one of New France’s most heavily fortified settlements. Today, its ramparts are the only remaining fortified city walls in North America north of Mexico. You will also visit the historic Lower Town, where Samuel de Champlain established the first French foothold in 1608. See also the imposing Château Frontenac, a luxury hotel that’s also a National Historic Site. Its grand fortress-tower design commands the skyline. You might also see the Terrasse Dufferin overlooking the St. Lawrence River, and City Hall, a former Jesuit college with lovely fountains and a garden. Continue via the shop-lined Grande-Allée to Montmorency Falls, a roaring and scenic cascade that feeds the St. Lawrence, for a photo stop.
Your tour concludes in time for you to enjoy lunch on board and some further exploration in town. Perhaps you’ll visit the Musée des Beaux Arts, or explore the bohemian Saint-Jean-Baptiste district. This evening, dinner is back on board.
Cruising the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River
Enjoy a day at sea to unwind and take advantage of the ship’s facilities. By this time, you’ve likely familiarized yourself with the onboard Destination Manager, who can help make spa appointments or plan activities on land. Head to the spa for a soothing treatment, get in a workout at the fitness center, or take in some sightseeing from the sundeck. You can also soak in the hot tub, check out a book from the library to read in the multistory lounge, and enjoy curated lectures we’ll be providing throughout your expedition.
Experience the beauty of Newfoundland in Gros Morne National Park
This morning we’ll make landfall on Woody Point, a scenic town on Bonne Bay on the island of Newfoundland (in Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador province). You’ll enjoy a brief tour of Woody Point, which will be our jumping-off point for Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the effects of plate tectonics have created a breathtaking landscape. On our tour, you’ll walk on the Tablelands, which is the landform that gives the park its UNESCO designation. Gros Morne National Park’s interpreters will join us here to discuss this region’s unique geology. This is as close as you will ever get to the mantle of the Earth or the surface of Mars!
Your Expedition Team will coordinate today’s additional explorations, which focus on the park’s northern reaches. As you explore, you’ll learn about the fishing culture of Newfoundland and Labrador. At the Western Brook Pond, you’ll be amazed to find an inland fjord that was carved by the sea some 15,000 years ago, then cut off by glaciation. When the ice melted, the fjord was filled with fresh water. Today this water has been assigned the highest purity rating available for natural bodies of water. You’ll also see the park’s namesake Gros Morne Mountain, which at 2,644 feet is the island’s second highest peak.
Cruising the Labrador Sea
Enjoy two days at sea as your ship makes its way toward Greenland. Your Expedition Team might offer a lecture today on this historic voyage; you might also join a fitness class, do some dancing in the lounge, attend a cooking demonstration, or simply curl up with a book from the library.
Revel in the beauty and nature of Nanortalik, Greenland
Nanortalik means “the place with polar bears,” and though you won’t find too many within the city limits, if you scan the ice packs as they float by you might just spot one of these white ursine wonders lounging about. Otherwise, the southernmost town in South Greenland has plenty to attract your eye, as Nanortalik is carved by deep fjords and surmounted by jagged peaks.
Nanortalik is South Greenland’s adventure capital, attracting mountaineers, climbers, kayakers, and extreme sport enthusiasts from around the world. After breakfast on board, your Expedition Team will coordinate some soft adventures for you to choose from, based on local conditions.
Cruising the Prince Christian Sound along the coast of Greenland
Enjoy another relaxing day at sea, perhaps indulging in a spa treatment, sipping cocktails in the lounge, and attending onboard workshops presented by your expedition crew. As you take in the scenery from the decks, you might notice that the icebergs have a uniquely blue color. That is because the icebergs in southern Greenland are older and denser with less air.
Explore Isortoq, one of the most remote places on Earth
Isortoq means “Foggy Sea,” and it sits less than 3 miles from the edge of the polar ice cap. Today you will set foot on pristine land that may just well be the most remote place you’ve ever been in your life (so far!).
Experience Inuit traditions in Greenland’s smallest village, where fewer than 100 or so residents eke out a life by hunting and fishing. In summertime, they are also sustained by boat shipments of fresh produce and other supplies, but for most of the rest of year, Isortoq is largely inaccessible — surrounded by pack ice and battered by the powerful polar winds called piteraqs. Based on local conditions, your Expedition Team will coordinate a visit to the settlement, where you can observe the native Inuit lifestyle firsthand.
Head to remote Kulusuk and experience another day at sea
A sea day allows for more downtime as we sail north to remote Kulusuk. Today provides the perfect opportunity to savor the easy pace and camaraderie that small ship cruising affords. Our inviting lounge area and elegant common spaces offer ideal settings to relax, have a cocktail, and get to know your fellow adventurers. During your cruising, take advantage of your ship’s many amenities and see how days on board can be just as exciting as days offshore.
Explore Greenland’s remote Kulusuk Island
If you are an early bird, you might wander up on deck as your ship cruises into the harbor of Kulusuk, ringed by brightly painted houses set against green hills and dark mountains that rise above the iceberg-flecked blue water. Only about 250 permanent residents call Kulusuk home. The island was originally settled by the Paleo-Eskimo cultures. Next came the Thule people who are descendants of today’s Inuits. Some Danes ran aground here in 1909, built a church, and stayed. As a result, today Kulusuk blends European and Inuit cultures. Most people earn their livings hunting and fishing, and some are skilled tupilaq carvers. Tupilaq means “soul of the ancestor,” and these carved figurines are said to offer protection against evil. Perhaps you’ll pick one up as you explore the town.
Your Expedition Team will determine where and how our activities will take shape based on the weather and local conditions, and you will have options for how active you want to be. You might hike from the shore of Kulusuk to the top of the 984-foot-high hill known as Isikajia Mountain for jaw-dropping views of the village, the icebergs, and the stunning fjords that chisel the coast. As you explore, keep your eye out for sea birds. You might also be lucky enough to spot ravens, white-tailed eagles, or even the occasional rare gyrfalcon.
Rest and relax with a day at sea
A day at sea prepares you for the next leg of your expedition: Iceland. This is your opportunity to indulge in a treatment at the onboard spa. Perhaps you want to plan something special in Iceland, in which case you can see your Concierge to make any arrangements!
Land in Iceland and tour Siglufjörður’s Herring Museum
Discover the fjord town of Siglufjörður on a walking tour, once the hub of the global herring industry. This town, which is now enjoying a rebirth in popularity, is the focus of our explorations today. Our first stop is the award-winning Herring Era Museum, located on the town’s vibrant harbor front. Enjoy free time to wander exhibits illustrating the fascinating history of the herring industry before witnessing a live herring salting demonstration, which offers a unique insight into a practice that helped define this region and its inhabitants. Lunch is back onboard, followed by an afternoon at leisure.
Take in the expansive vistas at Ísafjörður and visit Thingeyri village
As you’re enjoying breakfast this morning, the Ocean Explorer will arrive to Ísafjörður, an idyllic town in the Westfjords region. We’ll board motorcoaches for a tour, which allows us jaw-dropping views of dramatic fjords carved by ancient glaciers, sheer table mountains that plunge into the sea, and pristine North Atlantic vegetation. As we continue through the mountains, we’ll stop to explore the historic village of Thingeyri. With a population of about 260 inhabitants, Thingeyri is both the area’s first trading post and one of the oldest settlements. We’ll have lunch in a local community house and enjoy Viking musical entertainment before continuing to the thunderous Dynjandi, the highest and most impressive waterfall in the Westfjord region.
Get a true taste of Iceland, from Bloody Marys to hot springs
Venture out along the Golden Circle to discover some of Iceland’s most unforgettable natural attractions today. First, we’ll pay a visit to a tomato farm and greenhouse where you’ll see how Iceland’s geothermal activity helps produce some of the juiciest and most flavorful tomatoes in the world. Taste for yourself when you’re poured a fresh Bloody Mary — but this is no Sunday standard. This version has been called the “best Bloody Mary in the world” by The Guardian!
Our explorations continue in UNESCO-listed Thingvellir National Park, which is renowned for its extraordinary landscapes and boasts a rich history that stretches back to the first settlers in Iceland. We’ll also stop to admire the spectacular Gullfoss Waterfall and the hot springs of the Geysir geothermal field during our Golden Circle discoveries.
Discover the Westman from Heimaey Island, Iceland
The Vestmannaeyjar, or Westman archipelago, is a collection of 15 volcanic islands and about 30 rock pinnacles and skerries off Iceland’s southern coast. Most of the islands have sheer cliffs overlooking the sea, which are fertile habitats for all of Iceland’s seabird species including guillemot, gannet, kittiwake, Iceland gulls, and the iconic puffin (which is the symbol of the Vestmannaeyjar). It is also a good place to spot whales, including orca or killer whales.
Today, we will pull into Heimaey, the largest of the Westman islands, and enjoy a full day of discovery.
Bear in mind as you travel by coach across the lava fields of Heimaey that this wonderland is still being formed by volcanic action. You’ll see some of nature’s handiwork in the Herjólfsdalur valley, whose name means “Valley of Magic” — a moniker that is attested to by the amphitheater-like slopes, rocky cliffs and massive seascapes. Continuing on to the scenic western part of the island, keep your eyes wide open in case we spot some of the remaining puffins, more than 8 million of which seasonally come to roost here each summer.
Why is Heimaey known as the “Pompeii of the North”? You’ll find out at the Volcanic Center and Eldheimar Museum, which chronicles the effects of the 1973 Eldfell volcano whose massive lava flow destroyed half the town. The museum is built around the remains of one of the homes. You’ll also learn about the recent arrival of Surtsey Island, which emerged from the ocean during a volcanic eruption in 1963, and continued to form for four years thereafter.
Enjoy a day at sea on the Ocean Explorer
Today is your day to fully relax on board your 5-star ship. Throughout the day, your light expedition team will be conducting different presentations on topics relevant to your destinations, and you’ll also have a moment to take advantage of your ship’s other amenities to refresh and restore yourself, perhaps visiting the sauna or enjoying a soothing massage in the spa.
Explore Europe’s best kept secret: the Faroe Islands
If you’re an early riser, hit the deck as we approach the Faroe Islands, and perhaps you’ll spot some wildlife. The 18 Faroe Islands form an autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark. The islands’ main industry is fishing and the 50,000 or so inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living. Your ship will dock on the island of Streymoy, in Tórshavn. Tórshavn was founded in the 10th century, and many historians believe it to be the oldest (albeit smallest) capital in Europe. The name means “Thor’s Harbor” and it’s fitting that the town be associated with the god of thunder, since the Faroes can be quite storm-tossed.
Your tour showcases the main attractions of Tórshavn, plus some of the surroundings. In Tinganes, the narrow neck of land that divides Tórshavn’s two harbors, you’ll see a cluster of modest, red wooden houses that was one of the oldest parliamentary gatherings in the world. Vikings would convene here for regular “Thing” meetings to resolve conflicts and establish laws. Contrast this with the contemporary Løgting or “Law Assembly” that serves as the Faroese Parliament. The office of the prime minister is also located here. At the National Museum of the Faroe Islands, you’ll see various displays celebrating the islands’ natural and cultural heritage. One of the most important is the Kikjubøstólarnirlso which are pew ends from the ancient St. Olav’s church. Dating from the 12th century, these national treasures feature elaborate carvings depicting the apostles and other biblical lore.
For the rest of the day, you may choose to relax or embark on an independent exploration. Perhaps you’ll stroll the side streets and admire the pastel-colored houses with their turf roofs. Or maybe you’ll amble down Tórshavn’s main shopping street, Niels Finsens gøta, in search of some stylish Faroese knitwear.
Enjoy a little pre-dinner entertainment as a local Faroese folk troupe comes aboard to serenade us.
Follow in the footsteps of the Vikings
Floating between the Atlantic and the North Sea, the Shetlands are as far north as you can go and still be in Scotland. But at the same time, centuries of Norse rule make these spectacular green jewels a unique cultural hybrid. If you are on deck, perhaps a flock of northern fulmars or gannets will herald our arrival as our ship makes its way towards Mainland, the largest of the archipelago’s 16 inhabited islands.
Take a guided walking tour of Lerwick and pay a visit to Clickimin Brock to visit a farm and learn about the famous Shetland ponies.
Enjoy walking "In Viking Footsteps" on a tour you won't soon forget. You’ll start with a motorcoach ride across the stunning countryside to Old Scatness on the southern tip of the island. It was here in the 1970s that an airport expansion project revealed the heretofore unknown presence of an ancient mound that was inhabited for nearly 2,000 years since the Iron Age. It includes a broch (round tower) and a village that was occupied by Iron Age, Pictish, and Viking people. Many of the Pictish houses were reused by the Vikings, who left many soapstone artifacts behind. From here you’ll head to Sumburgh and visit Jarlshof, which was occupied from about 2500 BC to AD 1500. It features rectangular Viking longhouses, and a 16th-century, fortified manor house.
Your afternoon will be at leisure, giving you ample time to visit the Scalloway Museum should you choose to, before going back onboard. If conditions permit, perhaps this evening one of our expedition team members will host a stargazing session.
This small group excursion is one you will remember for a lifetime! Explore the soul-stirring polar environment of the Arctic on a world-class kayaking adventure! Led by knowledgeable and experienced Expedition Leaders, you will go to places that Zodiac boats can’t reach. These unique excursions let you experience the jaw-dropping landscapes and encounter wildlife up-close, in a responsible way. Tours take place in calm and protected waters, with only two individuals per kayak. This optional tour is available on all expedition cruises and perfect for adventurous adults. Participants must possess the appropriate fitness level and previous kayaking experience is a plus. You must read the Kayaking Preparation Notes and the Kayaking Terms and Conditions, and complete the Kayaking Participation Statement in order to confirm your spot on the tour. Download the Kayaking Participation Statement form here.
A medical declaration for this journey must be completed and submitted to the ship’s doctor upon embarkation. Download the Medical Form here.
*Optional kayak excursions are offered in place of regular excursions. The number of available excursions will depend on itinerary and weather conditions.
*The tour is available during your time in Antarctica.
Delve into the World War II heritage of Kirkwall in the Orkneys
Rise and shine in beautiful Kirkwall, the capital of Scotland’s northern Orkney Islands. Kirkwall was mentioned in a Norse saga from 1046, but the islands were inhabited long before that, as is evident in the island’s various Neolithic sites.
Your touring today reveals what is one of the best-preserved ancient Norse towns in Scotland. Kirkwall sits on a calm harbor and is laced with mysterious wynds (lanes) that lead to the main edifice, the imposing St. Magnus Cathedral. It is named for a local noble son who refused to participate in the Viking’s violent raids, and was martyred for it. St. Magnus stands in sharp contrast to the charmingly quaint Italian Chapel at Lamb Holm. This fanciful white stucco church was built during WWII by Italian POWs, who wanted a place to worship. They had been sent to the Orkneys to help construct the causeways (called the Churchill Barriers) that served as defensive links between the islands. Today, they are still vital roads. You’ll see both of these landmarks during your tour.
After lunch on board, enjoy and onboard lecture along with leisure time on the ship, or continue to explore Kirkwall at your leisure. Perhaps tour one of the local gin or whisky distilleries, or visit the town’s many craft galleries and boutiques to find a handmade souvenir.
Explore Stromness and unravel the mysteries of Skara Brae
Named for the strong tides that rip past the Point of Ness, it’s no surprise that Stromness was once a vital whaling port — in fact, it was used by the British for shipping in times of war in lieu of the English Channel. You’ll cruise into its port this morning.
Then, embark on a tour to Skara Brae, a 3,000-year-old village of stone dwellings that was discovered in 1850 when a coastal storm stripped away the earthen covering. The site is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perhaps the most recognizable landmarks here is the Ring of Brodar, a mysterious Neolithic stone henge that forms an almost perfect circle, and the only henge of its kind in Britain. You’ll witness this marvel as well as the standing stones of Stenness and Maeshowe, the sites of various inscriptions left behind by the 12th century Vikings, on your morning tour.
The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure in Stromness. Perhaps you’ll peruse the varied collections housed at the Stromness museum, or utilize the onboard bicycles provided to take a ride through town. Later, enjoy an onboard cooking lesson where you’ll learn to prepare a local specialty.
Isle of Lewis and the mystical Callanish Stones
Enchanting thatched-roof cottages await you today when you arrive at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, first settled as a trade port by the Vikings. Your group will visit the prehistoric Callanish Stones — a hilltop, cross-shaped arrangement of standing stones with a circular ring and central monolith. Dating back some 5,000 years to Neolithic times, they are even older than Stonehenge and have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next, visit the nine thatched-roof cottages of Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. Here, at the Carloway Mills, you’ll see a demonstration of the region’s most time-honored craft — tweed-weaving. Lunch is back on board, and you'll enjoy an afternoon at leisure, with another eye-opening lecture planned. This afternoon, be entertained by a troupe of Scottish dancers!
The magical Isle of Skye, the “cloud island”
This morning, you’ll enjoy breakfast onboard as we sail toward Portree, our next port of call. Enjoy an informative onboard lecture before lunch.
This afternoon, you’ll depart for the Isle of Skye. In a country of scenic superlatives, this Scottish isle will stand out in your memories as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Embark on a sightseeing tour by motor coach that reveals medieval castles and villages, and vistas of the mist-enshrouded Cuillin Hills; crystal-clear lochs; and fairy pools fed by tiny cascades and streams.
If Brigadoon really exists, you might just find it today as the Ocean Explorer takes you for a scenic sail around Skye, the Summer Isles, or the Shiant Isles archipelagos. This is when you’ll be grateful for the nimbleness of your expedition vessel, as we hug the rugged coastline and discover waterfalls that plummet off high cliff-tops right into the sea and romantic moors that sweep to the rocky shore. Watch out for shorebirds and local marine life, and keep your camera at the ready!
Explore Tobermory and tour Duart Castle
This morning you’ll anchor at Tobermory, an idyllic port whose waterfront is lined with multicolored houses, cozy pubs, crafts shops and inviting restaurants. You'll have some time at leisure to explore, perhaps visiting the An Tobar Arts Centre or the Mull Aquarium.
This afternoon, you’ll depart for a half-day tour of Duart Castle, or the ancient seat of the Scottish Clan McLean for the last 700 years. En route, you’ll take in the natural beauty of the Isle of Mull during a panoramic drive while listening to an informative lecture about the cultural Heritage of this region. When you arrive at Duart Castle, you'll take an informative tour, followed by light refreshments of tea or coffee and cake.
After, enjoy a dolphin and whale watching experience with guidance from members of a local marine life trust.
Belfast, Antrim, and the Giant’s Causeway
Locals will tell you that the Giant’s Causeway was formed when the giant Finn McCool tossed massive boulders in the water in order to battle another giant across the way in Scotland. Scientists will tell you that this amazing natural phenomenon (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) was created when basaltic lava from an ancient eruption solidified into thousands of hexagonal columns. Your eyes will tell you that you are witnessing something quite otherworldly. Also breathtaking is the power and beauty of the Antrim coast, which you’ll travel along, too. Afterward, enjoy a delightful lunch in a local restaurant before continuing on to Belfast, Northern Ireland's capital.
The city that launched the Titanic is often remembered today for the Troubles — but as you’ll discover on a panoramic tour, with those days well behind it, Belfast bubbles with activity, centered on a revitalized Victoria Square. Your tour ends at the Titanic Belfast museum, where you can mull over the stories behind this ill-fated ship.
Later this evening, we’ll return to the ship for an Irish music performance before dinner.
Disembark the Ocean Explorer and discover Dublin
This morning, you’ll bid farewell to the Ocean Explorer before setting off to discover Ireland’s energetic capital. You’ll set out for a special day discovering Dublin’s main sights, including the prestigious Trinity College, where Ireland’s most precious medieval artifact, the Book of Kells, lives. One of many Irish treasures, this illuminated manuscript of the four gospels dates back to around 800 AD. The college also hosts the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the Brian Boru harp, a national symbol of Ireland featured on the Guinness label. Then, Marvel at 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. Your tour will conclude at Dublin Castle, where you’ll enjoy a brief tour of the inside.
Lunch is on your own this afternoon, and you’ll have time at leisure to pursue your interests in Dublin. Perhaps you’ll visit the Guinness storehouse and browse the souvenirs there, or ask your Program Manager to help you find the best fish and chips.
Take your pick of tours in Dublin
Enjoy the morning at leisure. Perhaps you’ll explore one of the many outstanding museums such as the National Gallery of Ireland or the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
This afternoon, choose from two very different but equally enticing experiences — take a whiskey tour of Dublin, or embark on a Howth Cliff walk. The former will bring you to the most important sites of Dublin’s 200-year-old whiskey tradition, providing you with ample opportunities to sample Ireland’s famous whiskey. The latter will take you out of the city to the coastal town of Howth, where you’ll embark on a cliffside nature walk with incredible views of the sea.
Tonight, toast to the discoveries you’ve made with your fellow travelers during a Farewell Dinner at your hotel.
This morning after breakfast, transfer to the Dublin airport for your flight home. Or, join us on our Kilkenny, Ireland post-trip extension and stay on for two more nights!
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.