Iberian Stepping Stones

Iberian Stepping Stones

From £3,895 GBP


Our late summer voyage from Bordeaux to Cadiz around the Iberian Peninsula offers an opportunity to experience the wonderful wine and food of the region as well as an insight into the splendid architecture and fascinating history. Who could fail to be enchanted by the natural splendour of the coastal scenery and vineyards, or by the timeless beauty of Lisbon and Oporto.

During our voyage there will be ample opportunity to taste a variety of some magnificent French, Spanish and Portuguese wines and our visits to some of the vineyards should coincide with the grape harvests. We have ensured our voyage is a well-balanced itinerary incorporating visits to vineyards, Medieval towns and natural wonders as well as allowing time for individual exploration made easy due to our ability to moor centrally in the towns and cities we visit.

Trip Name
Iberian Stepping Stones
Vessel Type: Small Ship Length: 87 metres Passenger Capacity: 107 (from Dec 2018 - 95) Built / refurbished: 1960 / 2013 / 2018 We are delighted to have had the MS Serenissima on long term charter since 2013. There are so few ships of her generation still cruising and the fact that she is is a great testament to her owners who invest considerable sums to keep her in top form. In December 2018, the vessel will once again undergo a significant refurbishment after which she will accommodate a maximum of just 95 guests. MS Serenissima is a charming vessel and one of her best known and loved features of this vessel is its unique style. During a major refit the then owners commissioned Swedish interior designers to create a Gustavian style interior. This bright Swedish 18th century influenced, country house style works particularly well on a vessel of this vintage, providing intimacy and classic nautical sensibility often lacking in larger vessels. The vessel is equipped with a fleet of Zodiac landing craft allowing us to visit remote places where normal tender arrangements are not possible. The European Captain, Officers, Expedition Staff, and crew offer a first class service and have been selected for their professionalism and caring attitudes. The atmosphere on board is warm and welcoming and dedicated to discovery and relaxation. AIR-CONDITIONING The ship is air conditioned throughout. Please note that only the Serenissima Suites have individually controlled air-conditioning. DAILY PROGRAMME A Daily Programme, detailing the following day’s arrangements as well as any specific information about the day’s activities is produced onboard and delivered to your cabin each evening during the turn down service. DINING, DRINKING AND DIETARY REQUIREMENTS The Venice Restaurant onboard serves international cuisine and accommodates all guests at a single open seating. Tables seat 4 to 10 diners. In addition, there is an outside dining area for when the weather and itinerary permit. Breakfast and lunch are both buffet style, dinner is waiter service only. Complimentary (red and white) house wine, beer and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner. Bar drinks and other beverages with meals are not included; these may be purchased onboard and paid for at the end of your cruise. Complimentary tea and coffee are available between 07:00 hours and 23:00 hours at the tea and coffee station located in the Andrea lounge. Please advise of any special dietary requests in advance. DISABLED FACILITIES The ship can accommodate passengers with mobility restrictions and wheelchair dependent passengers in cabin 407, which has a wider door and no step into/out of the bathroom and shower area. There is a lift serving decks 3 to 6, but there is no stair lift. DOCTOR A medical doctor is available on board 24 hours a day. A fee is charged for any consultations and medication prescribed. Please ensure you carry adequate supplies of any regular medications you may require.  ELECTRICITY The electrical outlets in the cabins and public areas are 220V and take a two-round-pin plug (as in continental Europe). There is a 110/220V, 60Hz outlet for electric shavers in the bathroom. We recommend that you bring an international adaptor. GRATUITIES Gratuities to crew and whilst on excursions are included in the cost of your holiday. INTERNET The onboard library has a computer equipped for email/internet access and Wi-Fi access is available in public areas, although you will require your own laptop, tablet or smartphone, and charges apply – 100mb for €15 Euros, or 500mb for €25 Euros. Please note that connection is dependent on weather conditions and location. LANGUAGE All members of the crew speak English. MONEY The following payment methods are accepted for settlement of shipboard accounts: Cash (Euros or British Pounds), Credit Card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express), Debit Card (MasterCard and Visa). Please note that personal cheques and Travellers’ Cheques are not accepted. PUBLIC AREAS • Andrea Lounge (on Deck 5). The bar is open from 11.00 until 24.00. • Harald Jarl Lounge (on Deck 5). There is a small library here with books and games. There is also a computer for public use (charges apply for internet access) • Lido area (on Deck 5) with a Jacuzzi and fitness room with two running machines • Observation Deck (access from Deck 5 lido area) • Deck 5 and Deck 6 outside seating areas SNORKELLING Snorkelling equipment is kept onboard. Please note that there is no snorkelling from Zodiacs. All snorkelling stops will operate from a beach.  TELEVISION The ship is equipped with a satellite TV system which receives 15 channels. TV reception depends on the satellite dish and on occasion it may not be possible to receive a signal. There is one central video channel on which it is possible to listen to the lectures delivered in the Andrea Lounge. There is also a channel for the ship’s camera located in front of the ship. ZODIACS Some destinations may require the use of Zodiacs to go ashore. These are usually on expedition cruises though may sometimes be used on destination cruises. 


Day 1 - Day 1 - London to Bordeaux, France.
Fly by scheduled flight. Arrive into Bordeaux this afternoon and on arrival transfer to the MS Serenissima where we moor overnight.
Day 2 - Day 2 - Bordeaux & Medoc.
A morning tour will explore the history and beauty of the elegant 18th century city centre with stunning buildings including the Grand Theatre, built in 1773 by Victor Louis and the 13th century Cathedrale St Andre as well as the Chartrons district, a lively quarter which used to be the cradle of wine trade in Bordeaux, the World War II German submarine base, the beautiful squares and the right bank. We will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before continuing this afternoon to the Medoc vineyards. Despite its location close to the Atlantic the area was developed from the late 17th century as a wine centre and it is the quality of the soil, rather than the weather, which is thanked for providing the impressive wines from the region. From our berth we will drive through the enchanting countryside along the Medoc wine route also known as the “Route des Chateaux”. Afterwards we will explore the expansive cellars at one of the Chateaux’s and discover the secret techniques used to produce the high quality wines of the region before enjoying a tasting. From here we continue to the MS Serenissima which will have sailed to the port of Le Verdon to meet us.
Day 3 - Day 3 - Bayonne.
Situated at the junction of the Nive and Adour rivers lies Bayonne, the regional capital steeped in history. Originally a Roman garrison, Medieval Bayonne developed on the same site, under the coat-of-arms of both France and England. The town became a flourishing port during 300 years of English rule, which originated in the famous marriage between Alienor of Aquitaine and Henry Plantagenet. We spend the morning strolling the narrow pedestrian streets of “Old Bayonne” which are lined with 18th century homes. After lunch on board we enjoy a taste of Basque culture as we visit Ainhoa and Sare, two charming French villages with particularly rich Basque influences. In Sare village we visit a traditional farmhouse and sample delicious local delicacies of cheese and Basque cake as well as local wine and cider. In Ainhoa we explore a town that was virtually destroyed by the Spanish in 1629 and rebuilt during the 17th and 18th centuries. Its main street boasts some of the finest houses in the Labourd style.
Day 4 - Day 4 - San Sebastian, Spain.
Our first call in Spain will be the charming town of San Sebastian. A morning tour will explore the town including driving up to Monte Igledo from where there are wonderful views over the town and bay below. Enjoy lunch on the ship or stay in town and enjoy tapas at one of the many restaurants situated in the cobblestoned old town. This afternoon is free to explore San Sebastian at your leisure or alternatively join us on a tour to nearby Getaria and a cellar which produces Txakoli wine which is unique to this region. We will visit the vineyard, the cellar and after the visit enjoy a taste of white wine and local specialities before returning to the ship and sailing this evening.
Day 5 - Day 5 - Gijon.
Gijon is the largest city in Asturias and our base for a day of discovery in the region. Choose from a full day at the lakes of Covadonga nestled in the Picos de Europa Mountains. Drive into the mountains where we will see the two glacial lakes of Covadonga: Lagos Enol and Lagos Ercina-the original centre of the Picos de Europa National Park. Marvel at the serene, mirrorlike waters before going to check out the beautiful pink-hued, twin-spired Basilica of Santa Maria la Réal. Lunch will be served at the Parador of Cangas, before returning to Gijon. Alternatively, enjoy a morning in Oviedo, the modern capital of the Asturias region. Oviedo is recognised as the most culturally significant and historically interesting city of the province and after a panoramic drive we begin a walking tour during which we will see the San Salvador Gothic Cathedral before exploring the restored Old Town. Return to Gijon for lunch and an afternoon at leisure.
Day 6 - Day 6 - Villagarcia de Arousa.
Enjoy a morning at sea arriving in the Galician port of Villagarcia de Arousa at lunchtime. Here we have a choice of tours. Maybe take a half day tour to some of the wonderful houses and gardens of the Galicia region or visit the Pazo de Oca, a Baroque stately home known as the “Galician Versailles” and “El Generalife of the north” due to the beauty of its gardens. Continue to Pazo de Ribadulla dating from the 16th century and set in a beautiful location on the shores of the Ulla Valley. The gardens were developed by the Armada family in the 1870s and today are renowned for its outstanding collection of trees and flowers. Alternatively enjoy an afternoon discovery of “Rias Baixas” which translates as low estuaries and taste some of the local wines. Visit the 15th century Pazo de Rubianes where we find one of the three official lordships in Spain. Visit the 11 hectare garden with eucalyptus trees and the French style flowerbeds of sequoias and camphors. Continue to the cellar of Martin Codax where we will learn about local wine production. The grape harvest starts in September and we hope to time our visit with this event.
Day 7 - Day 7 - Vigo
From our berth in Vigo we embark on a full day tour to Tui and Bayona. The beautiful walled Medieval city of Tui is located on a hill next to the Portuguese border on the River Mino. We will visit the imposing cathedral, built in the 12th century and later converted into a battlement-studded fortress, the logical response to the frequent invasions endured by the town. Its tower forms a magnificent balcony over the river and, from it the city appears to be terraced out of the hill. A tasting of local produced wines awaits us at the beautiful Parador, which is a reproduction of a rural Galician country house set among mountains and rivers. Afterwards we continue to Bayona, one of the most important coastal towns in Galicia because of its harbour and fishing fleet. We enjoy some free time to walk around before going up along the walls of the Castle of Monterreal to get to the Parador and taste some wines and tapas from Galicia.
Day 8 - Day 8 - Oporto, Portugal.
Arrive this morning into the port of Leixoes, the base for our day of activities around Oporto. This morning we will see the impressive St. Francis Church and the Ribeira, a riverside quarter made up of narrow, twisting streets and shadowy arcade, before continuing to a local wine cellar. Here we will learn all about the wines and how they are produced and enjoy a tasting. Return to the ship for lunch and enjoy a free afternoon to explore independently or for those keen to learn more about the local wine industry enjoy lunch ashore and continue to Penafiel, situated 30 kilometres east of the city of Oporto in the heart of the Vinho Verde Demarcated region. The Atlantic climate together with the granitic soil produces the characteristics so appreciated in Vinho Verde - a young fresh wine with a low alcoholic content and a lightly fruity flavour.
Day 9 - Day 9 - Lisbon.
Set on seven hills on the banks of the River Tagus, Lisbon has been the capital of Portugal since the 13th century. Today there are distinct modern and ancient sections, combining great shopping areas with culture and sightseeing in the Old Town, built on the city’s terraced hillsides. During a morning tour we enjoy a relaxing drive through the town, seeing the famous landmarks and places of interest such as the Monument to the Discoveries and Belem Tower. Return to the ship for lunch and an afternoon at sea.
Day 10 - Day 10 - Cadiz, Spain.
After a morning at sea we arrive in Cadiz. The town stands on a peninsula jutting out into a bay, and is almost entirely surrounded by water. It is the oldest surviving city in Spain which was founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 B.C. and was later occupied by the Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths and Moors. Enjoy a choice of tours this afternoon. Either discover the most beautiful monuments and landmarks including the Mudejar-style tobacco factory, Santo Domingo Church, the Santa Catalina Fortress and finally the cathedral of Cadiz and Diocesan Museum in the old city or join a tour to nearby Jerez where we will visit one of the most famous wine cellars, ‘Bodegas Real Tesoro’ and learn about the different types of sherry produced here including the Tio Mateo Sherry. We will also visit the Bodega’s stud where Spanish thoroughbred horses are bred and there will be time to admire these magnificent animals and to visit a collection of antique harnesses and carriages before we end at the Bodega’s Art gallery where you can see over 100 engravings by Picasso as well as works by Chillida, Miró, Zuluoaga, Tàpies, Dalí and many other contemporary artists. Our visit will end with a tasting of the local produce.
Day 11 - Day 11 - Seville to London.
Disembark this morning and transfer to the airport for our return scheduled flight to London.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
10-09-201720-09-2017£5,325Standard Stateroom Sole
10-09-201720-09-2017£5,495Executive Suite
10-09-201720-09-2017£5,495Owners Suite
10-09-201720-09-2017£4,325Standard Stateroom Plus
10-09-201720-09-2017£5,325Standard Stateroom Plus Sole
10-09-201720-09-2017£3,895Inside Single
10-09-201720-09-2017£4,495Superior Stateroom
10-09-201720-09-2017£4,725Deluxe Stateroom
10-09-201720-09-2017£4,225Standard Stateroom
10-09-201720-09-2017£3,895Inside Cabin
10-09-201720-09-2017£5,125Junior Suite
10-09-201720-09-2017£4,225Standard Single


    • Enjoy a taste of Basque culture as we visit Ainhoa and Sare, two charming French villages with particularly rich Basque influences.
    • Take a half day tour to some of the wonderful houses and gardens of the Galicia region or visit the Pazo de Oca, a Baroque stately home known as the “Galician Versailles” and “El Generalife of the north” due to the beauty of its gardens.
    • Join a full day tour to Tui and Bayona.
    • Enjoy a relaxing drive through Lisbon, seeing the famous landmarks and places of interest such as the Monument to the Discoveries and Belem Tower.
    • Arrive in Cadiz. The town stands on a peninsula jutting out into a bay, and is almost entirely surrounded by water. It is the oldest surviving city in Spain which was founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 B.C. and was later occupied by the Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths and Moors.