Starting when our ancient ancestors crossed continents by foot, to the epic voyages of Odysseus and Marco Polo, and reaching through time to space exploration of the modern day, the thrill and romance of setting out for uncharted territory has been the making of heroes and the source of legends. Exploration is in our DNA.
Never were there so many consequential discoveries as during The Age of Exploration, a period of 200 years from the 15th to the 17th centuries when Europeans including Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco da Gama, and Christopher Columbus mapped lands and seas, established trade routes, and etched their names into history books.
A TRIBUTE TO SEAFARING EXPLORERS
Magellan and da Gama were both Portuguese, and Columbus, although Italian and sailing under the Spanish flag, received extensive training in Portugal. It is fitting then that the epic celebration of explorers, the Monument to the Discoveries, faces the Tagus River in Lisbon. This 184-foot Sintra limestone ship is lined with 32 important figures from the country’s age of expansion, with Henry the Navigator—a Portuguese prince who sponsored many explorations and a school for navigation—at the prow. It's a thrilling sight to take in from the deck of the National Geographic Resolution, which you'll do when our Culture and Cuisine from Porto to Basque Country itinerary sets sail from Lisbon.
SAILING IN THE PATH OF COMMERCE
Settlements sprang forth from the shores of rivers, oceans, and canals as they were first landing points, and then blossomed into bustling centers of commerce. Lindblad Expeditions takes you right to the front doors of these fascinating and colorful coastal cities and villages, without the hassle of airports, rail stations, huge ports, or changing hotels. Our small ships deftly navigate island chains, fjords, and canals, giving you the perspective of the explorers who came before us. We approach these locations that have played crucial roles in history in an authentic time-honored way, and experience them deeply, connecting to those who helped shape them.
PORTS WITH A VIVID PAST
Two noteworthy seafaring ports we explore on Navigating the Atlantic Coast: Brittany, Wales & England’s Channel Islands are the French ports of Saint Malo and La Rochelle. Walking on the ramparts of Saint Malo or sailing between the medieval towers of La Rochelle, the adventures of pirates, knights, and early explorers are palpable.
Sharing the same bay and similar architecture as Mont-Saint-Michel, Saint Malo has a storied history of corsairs, writers, and explorers like Jacques Cartier. La Rochelle is a backdrop for action scenes in the book The Three Musketeers and in the movies Das Boot and Raiders of the Lost Ark for good reason. The only deep water port on the French Atlantic coast, through the centuries it has experienced wars and expedition launches; and as an important port for trade between England and the Mediterranean, the Knights Templar long used La Rochelle as a base, stationing their largest fleet here.
CONNECTING THE TRAILS OF NORTHERN EUROPEAN EXPLORATION
As Ireland is connected to America, it is as well to Scotland. On Exploring Scotland’s Wild Isles: Shetlands, Orkneys & Inner Hebrides, we walk in the footsteps of St. Columba of Ireland, who established a monastery on Iona in 563 AD to bring Christianity to Scotland. On this windswept small island next to the hauntingly beautiful medieval ruins of a later abbey, an ancient royal cemetery holds the remains of kings, including the real Macbeth. Traditionally, there are only two ways to find yourself upon this remote island: to be a deceased and legendary King of Scotland, or to venture by ship, just as St. Columba did. We recommend the latter!
We explore Scotland’s ties to Scandinavia on Norwegian Fjords and Scottish Isles, from the Scottish Isles to Norway’s breathtaking Hardangerfjord and the pastel-colored port of Bergen. In remote, ancient sites surrounded by the dark sea, we learn how Vikings arrived first in Shetland in the 8th century. Exploring the region we'll gain a greater understanding as to how ships enabled this migration and were essential to the development of these rich geographies.
Guests on the North Sea Voyage will transit a historic and little-known canal that is used as much as both the Suez and Panama canals combined. Building on the pre-existing Eider Canal of 1784, Germany’s Kiel Canal links the Baltic and the North seas, freeing ships from having to round Denmark’s storm-heavy, 286-mile Jutland Peninsula. En route from the Hanseatic capital of Lübeck to Amsterdam, we will be among the 32,000 vessels that annually cross this canal, which took 9,000 workers eight years to construct, starting in 1887. As we glide past cows grazing on rolling hills and half-timbered houses, we will be traveling on the world’s most frequented artificial waterway.
Sites of more modern history—battles that helped determine the outcome of World War II—are woven into North Sea Voyage: Northern Europe and the Normandy Beaches. We sail past the white cliffs of Dover, walk through the wartime tunnels beneath Dover Castle, and stand at the embarkation point for the Dunkirk rescue mission. The weight of history is sobering on Omaha Beach where 4,000 American soldiers were killed or wounded, and at the American Cemetery where a seemingly endless sea of white crosses mark the graves of soldiers from all 50 U.S. states. The future of our planet was forever redirected the morning of June 4, 1944 as the Allies approached the beaches of Normandy in the trepid dawn fog—just as guests aboard the National Geographic Explorer will view from her deck
Experience Europe, the Lindblad-National Geographic Way
Our unique ships are perfect platforms for exploring, with on board kayaks and Zodiacs. Kayak the breathtaking coasts of the Shetland and Orkney Islands, or, on Staffa, take a Zodiac into awe-inspiring Fingal’s Cave, which prompted Mendelssohn to compose “Hebrides Overture.”
Expert historians, cultural specialists, naturalists, and Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructors enhance each voyage, helping you connect with each destination, illuminate all you encounter, and enable you to beautifully capture stunning landscapes and colorful markets. Plus, undersea specialists reveal the unexpected beauty of the world below the surface of the water, allowing you to experience aquatic wonders without getting wet. They will dive, capture footage, and present their intriguing findings during daily Recaps.
Each of our ships positioned in Europe is exceedingly comfortable, with saunas and wellness centers, observations decks and libraries; and intimate, carrying from 126 to 148 guests. The brand new Scandinavian-inflected National Geographic Endurance and National Geographic Resolution rival any five-star hotel; and National Geographic Explorer is a welcoming base camp after a day of exploring.
We look forward to welcoming you aboard to revisit or discover new European regions, as we help you get to know each destination actively, insightfully, exclusively, and effortlessly.
Ready to see Europe from a new point of view? Explore our diverse array of itineraries.