Jravel can truly be a form of continuing education. For the lifelong learners among us, the renowned Smithsonian Institution has created a collection of cruises enriched by curated discussions and lectures by sought-after experts intended to give passengers a deeper and richer understanding of the destinations visited by the ship.
The Smithsonian Travels the cruises have been developed in collaboration with the French small ship shipping line Ponant and resulted in a list of purpose-built cruises that promise to embrace local cultures and delve into destination discussions, both on and off the ship.
The program, originally announced in 2021, was delayed by COVID but is operational this year with cruises to Iceland, Norway, southern Spain, Portugal, the Arctic Fjords, Tahiti and the Great Lakes. .
As an example of who will be on board, on Great Lakes cruises in September 2022 and October 2023, passengers will hear Frederick Stonehouse. He is an experienced sailor and author of over 30 books on maritime history, including the bestselling The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgeraldabout a notorious shipwreck in the Great Lakes.
Along with insightful conversations, another big draw are the bespoke shore excursions included at each port of call. They include the chance to witness a total solar eclipse in northwestern Australia, explore Louvre Abu Dhabi’s extensive art collection, and a private after-hours tour of the Spanish complex. from the Alhambra fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Add to that the fact that Ponant ships carry less than 200 passengers, so experiences will be intimate and personalized – passengers will never feel like they’re lost in a crowd.
For 2023, Smithsonian Journeys will operate 21 departures to destinations around the world. These are some of the stars.
Arabian Coast Cruise from Dubai to Muscat
This eight night itinerary in January 2023 stops at seven stops during which passengers will visit places such as the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, and explore the Louvre Abu Dhabi, with more than 600 works in 23 galleries. Passengers will also sail to a spectacular natural attraction, where sheer limestone cliffs meet aquamarine water in the fjords of Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, dubbed the ‘Norway of the Middle East’. Fares for this cruise start at $7,290 per person.
Enrichment: Karl Eikenberry, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, will lead discussions focused on Middle Eastern affairs, with the aim of helping passengers develop a more nuanced understanding of the region.
A 2023 solar eclipse: from Indonesia to the Australian Kimberley
This sail in April 2023 will provide the opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse at sea off the northwest coast of Australia, the only place in the world where the eclipse will be 100% visible. The 15-night sail goes from Bali to the Komodo Islands, home to famous dragons, and Australia’s rugged Kimberley region. Rates start at $20,480.
Enrichment: On board will be Alex Young, a solar astrophysicist who is associate director of science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center outside of Washington, D.C.
Cruise from Morocco to the Spanish Andalusian coast
Explore the Portuguese, Moroccan and Spanish coasts in April 2023, sailing from Casablanca to Lisbon. Highlights ashore include a trip to Granada for an exclusive private after-hours tour of the Alhambra. From Cádiz, guests will travel to Seville, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Real Alcázar de Sevilla, a former royal palace. Rates for the seven night sailing start at $4,530.
Enrichment: Alia Kate, an expert in North African international relations and founder of Kantara, a fair trade design company specializing in Moroccan rugs from women’s weaving cooperatives, and Rafael Chacon, an art historian who has walked the Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage route stretching over 500 miles through France and Spain, will shed light on the cultural aspects of places for cruisers.
A circumnavigation of Sicily
Spend a week discovering Sicily in depth through the eyes of a renowned archaeologist. Exploration will include a visit to the well-preserved Greek ruins of Agrigento, one of Sicily’s oldest cities, dating back to 581 BCE. Then continue to Segesta, home to the unfinished Doric Temple. Passengers will also have access to the Ancient Greek Theater in Taormina and see the Byzantine Arabic mosaics in Palermo. On an evening sail, spot lava flowing over the active volcano Stromboli. Rates for this eight day sailing are from $5,370.
Enrichment: Passengers will have the chance to discuss the sites they visit with Albert Leonard, an archaeologist who has led excavations throughout the Mediterranean over his 30-year career.
Symphony on the St. Lawrence: From Quebec to the Canadian Maritimes
Sailing from Toronto to Gloucester, Massachusetts in October 2023, spend 14 nights exploring Eastern Canada and Northern New England, with a special musical twist. This cruise tour of Canadian coastal cities including Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (from Anne of Green Gables fame) and Arcadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. Added bonus: legendary Boston Pops bandleader Keith Lockhart will perform on board. Rates start at $11,860.
Enrichment: The musical program is organized by Lockhart and includes four exclusive performances by six musicians and conducted by the maestro himself.
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