Beyond the photogenic castles and cathedrals, Ireland’s capital city brims with character: here, history flows along the cobblestone streets, swirls about centuries-old pubs, and evolves along with the arts and cuisine created by its youthful, innovative denizens. Explore Dublin Castle, Phoenix Park, and Trinity College on an included city tour to get a sense of Ireland’s past glory. With Dublin’s attractions right by your centrally located hotel, you’ll have an easy time getting to know this cosmopolitan city.
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.
On our August 4, 2023 departure, enjoy an unforgettable Cultural Connection when you are our guest at the historic Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an artistic extravaganza set against the backdrop of imposing Edinburgh Castle. It’s a pageant like none other featuring parades, fireworks, dancing, military bands, and opera and classical music performances — all part of your exclusive ticket specially arranged by Vantage.
Fly to Edinburgh
Your British Isles voyage begins! Today you’ll fly overnight from the U.S. to Edinburgh, Scotland.
Please note: If you're taking advantage of the pre-trip extension to Edinburgh, you will follow the pre-trip itinerary until Day 4, when you'll board the Ocean Odyssey and join your fellow base travelers for the rest of the cruisetour. All activities and inclusions will be covered; please see the pre-trip extension itinerary for details.
Land in Edinburgh
If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, upon arrival in Scotland a Vantage representative will meet you and arrange transfer to your centrally located hotel. Settle in and if you like, enjoy a brief orientation in the historic center near our hotel. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a briefing and Welcome Dinner featuring musical entertainment from a traditional bagpiper. You'll also learn the history of this instrument, as well as a bit about Scottish clans, and more!
Discover Edinburgh and come aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia
The unforgettable city of Edinburgh unfolds before you as we ride and walk on a half-day city tour. Highlights of the Old Town include Edinburgh Castle, set high above the city on Castle Rock, and St. Margaret’s Chapel. Built around 1130, it is the oldest surviving building in town. Fast-forward to 18th-century as you explore the New Town, with its elegant neoclassical and Georgian architecture. Both districts are together listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip set sail to visit their far-flung dominion, they did it on board the Royal Yacht Britannia. You'll come aboard to inspect this elegant vessel, which often hosted a retinue of more than 45 guests. It still features the furnishings and décor favored by the Queen when the ship was launched in 1953. The balance of your day is free. Your Vantage City Host will be happy to assist with tips, directions, and making reservations.
Wind through the Scottish Highlands to Invergordon
After breakfast, we'll transfer to our awaiting ship in Invergordon via the gorgeous Scottish Highlands. This land of high mountain valleys, rushing trout streams, sparkling lochs, and sheep-dotted pastures was once the stronghold of Gaelic-speaking Scottish clans. Following the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries, small farmers were largely driven from the land, so today this remote region is one of the least-populated areas in Europe.
Our route takes us through wildly scenic Cairngorms National Park, the largest in the U.K. We’ll stop for an included lunch in the town of Pitlochry, which blossomed as a tourist destination after Queen Victoria visited in 1842. Soon thereafter you’ll arrive in Invergordon and come aboard your ship. This evening, gather with your fellow travelers for a Captain’s Welcome Dinner.
World War II heritage of the Orkneys
Named for the strong tides that rip past the Point of Ness, it’s no surprise that Stromness, where your ship will drop anchor, was once a vital whaling port. It was later used by the British for shipping in times of war in lieu of the English Channel. At the Stromness Museum, you’ll discover the Orkney Islands’ natural history. Then, learn about the Churchill Barriers, a series of four causeways linking the Orkney Islands that were built as naval defenses in WWII. Today, they serve as vital roads. World War II left a spiritual mark as well, and you and your fellow travelers will visit the ornate Catholic chapel built here by Italian POWs.
This afternoon, enjoy leisure time on board.
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. Before dinner, be entertained by a troupe of Scottish dancers!
The magical Isle of Skye, the “cloud island”
If Brigadoon really exists, you might just find it today as the Ocean Odyssey takes you for a scenic sail around the Inner Hebrides islands, the place believed to be where Scottish Gaelic literature and music originated, weather permitting. We’ll embark on a morning sightseeing tour of Skye, the Summer Isles or the Shiant Isles archipelagos, which will reveal medieval castles, villages, and vistas of the mist-enshrouded Cuillin Hills; crystal-clear lochs; and fairy pools fed by tiny cascades and streams. You’ll be grateful for the nimbleness of your small ship, 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 for shorebirds and local marine life, and keep your camera at the ready! Put your discoveries into perspective today with another lecture during sailing.
We'll have lunch on board and set out to explore. In a country of scenic superlatives, Scotland’s Isle of Skye will stand out in your memories as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. You’ll enjoy a scenic daylight coach tour around the islands, and the afternoon is yours to putter around Portree.
Discover the Isle of Mull in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides
This morning you’ll anchor at Tobermory, an idyllic port whose waterfront is lined with multicolored houses, cozy pubs, crafts shops and inviting restaurants. Enjoy an onboard lecture before disembarking to explore at your leisure, perhaps visiting the An Tobar Arts Centre or the Mull Aquarium.
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.
Time traveling on the Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is a protectorate of Great Britain, and therefore not technically a legal part of the United Kingdom. As such, it has its own independent parliament which has governed since 979 AD. Rich in flora and fauna, the island is also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, but your focus today will be the Isle of Man’s unique culture, called Manx. After breakfast this morning, you’ll hear a lecture on Manx culture to contextualize your discoveries today, which begin in the port of Douglas.
Here in the island’s capital, we’ll transfer by coach to Cregneash village, one of the last strongholds for Manx language and customs. After, we head to Castletown, the ancient capital of the Isle of Man and home of the preserved medieval Castle Rushen, which dates back to 1250.
We’ll head back to the Ocean Odyssey for lunch, enjoying a scenic ride with photo stop at Tynwald Hill. After lunch, the balance of your afternoon is free for relaxing, or discovering more of the Isle of Man on your own.
After dinner tonight, enjoy an onboard performance featuring local entertainers.
Step into medieval Wales at Holyhead and Caernarfon Castle
This morning you’ll arrive in Holyhead and enjoy a short drive to majestic Caernarfon Castle, built between 1283 and 1330 by King Edward I.
Today, massive Caernarfon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it will take your breath away. Here you can walk along its interconnected walls, punctuated by impressive towers that loom above a central green studded with (now abandoned) villages. Caernarfon dominates the shoreline and you can imagine its importance in controlling coastal supply routes and providing access to the agricultural resources of neighboring lands.
En route to a traditional pub lunch, your regional expert/local guide will tell you more about the castle’s fascinating history. Then, visit the National Slate Museum, nestled into a mountainside, to witness a demonstration of the vanishing Victorian-era trade of slate splitting. Later this evening, enjoy dinner, then unwind with a musical performance from a local Welsh singer.
Fishguard and St. David’s, the spiritual heart of Wales
After breakfast, you’ll disembark in the tiny Welsh port of Fishguard and travel to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. This is the home of St. David's, the religious capital of Wales and the smallest city in the country. Enjoy your guided tour of the 12th-century Cathedral of St. David, which was built over a site where country’s patron saint, David, established a monastery in the 6th century. The cathedral has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries. Other highlights include the 14th-century Tower Gate, Celtic Old Cross and a number of surrounding art galleries and pubs, which you can spend more time exploring during your afternoon at leisure.
This evening before dinner, learn from a local historian about Wales’ relationship with the British Empire over the centuries. Then, be enchanted by the sounds of a classical harp performance on board.
The Abbey Gardens of Tresco, Isles of Scilly
Scattered off the Cornwall coast like a handful of pearls lie the lovely Isles of Scilly. Today after breakfast you’ll visit the Tresco, tendering ashore to a paradise of shell-strewn beaches, flower-filled heaths, and dense forests.
Arriving at the Tresco Abbey Gardens you can hardly believe you are in England. For here, surrounded by protective stands of elm, sycamore, and oak, is a wonderland of exotic, subtropical flora from the Mediterranean and as far away as Brazil, Australia and South Africa. Walk with your guide among eye-popping bowers of bright orange bomarea, pink pincushion protea, spiny red and blue bromeliads, and more. Complementing the arboreal beauty are the maritime collections at the Valhalla Museum. Here you’ll admire items retrieved from shipwrecks dating back to the 17th century, including 30 figureheads, a bronze cannon, quarter boards, and more.
Back on board you’ll enjoy a leisurely lunch and an afternoon presentation on a topic that has relevance both at home and here in Britain: immigration in the United Kingdom.
Windsor Castle, arrival in London
After breakfast the cruise portion of your journey concludes. You’ll disembark ship in Poole, set on the sweeping Dorset coast. It was from here that many of the troopships involved in the D-Day landings set sail for Normandy to rendezvous with history.
From here you’ll transfer through the English countryside, stopping in Windsor to enjoy lunch on your own. Then, explore historic Windsor Castle, the world’s oldest occupied castle. Built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has served as a royal residence since then, and the current royal family, the House of Windsor, took their dynastic name from this beloved site. If you see the royal standard flying from its ramparts, that means the Queen is in residence! After your tour, you’ll proceed to London and check in to your hotel, perhaps taking some time to relax before you visit the city’s best-known restaurants for dinner.
See London’s landmarks
Today’s half-day, guided panoramic city tour takes you by coach and by foot to view some of London’s most notable landmarks — Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and more. You’ll also enjoy an unforgettable visit to the Imperial War Museum. Your afternoon is at leisure and lunch is on your own. This evening, return to your hotel to celebrate with your fellow travelers at a Farewell drink and dinner.
After breakfast you’ll transfer to the airport for your return flight home. Or, if you’re joining our post-trip extension in Dublin, you’ll stay on for three 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.