European Coastal Civilizations: including Normandy beaches

From the old-world sophistication of Portugal and the artistic riches of Spain’s Basque Country, to the rugged beauty of France’s Côte Sauvage, and the United Kingdom’s charming Channel Islands, a riveting canvas of important yet seldom-visited seaports awaits you along Europe’s western coast. 


Travel with the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) from April 30 – May 9, 2017, on this small ship itinerary featuring the captivating historical legacies and the enduring cultures of European coastal civilizations. From the old-world sophistication of Portugal and the artistic riches of Spain’s Basque country, to the Celtic heritage of Brittany and the timeless, stately elegance of London, a riveting canvas of influential European seaports awaits you along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

Visit three UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Oporto, the center of world-famous port wine production; Santiago de Compostela, where you will walk in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims to visit the tomb of St. James; and the magnificent Mont-St-Michel and its impressive abbey that appears to rise out of the sea. Cruise Spain’s ruggedly beautiful Costa Verde, tour Bilbao’s Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum and, in a grand finale, sail past the White Cliffs of Dover and up the River Thames into the heart of London, where your ship will overnight beneath the illustrious Tower Bridge.

A highlight is sure to be your experience at the hallowed beaches of Normandy with special guest speaker Dwight David Eisenhower II, grandson of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied Forces during World War II, where the course of world history was altered in 1944 with the historic D-Day landings. Join culinary expert Kristine Kidd, former editor of Bon Appétit magazine, for the exclusive C’est Bon!  Culinary Traditions™ enhancement to this program, featuring specially arranged culinary lectures, demonstrations, tastings, and unique epicurean excursion options.

This is an extraordinary nine-day cruise aboard the specially chartered, Five‑Star m.s. Le Boréal, and it features an included cultural excursion in each port. Join alumni, friends, and participants from cosponsoring associations on this unique itinerary. Please contact the Alumni Travel Study Program office to book now while choice accommodations and Early Booking Savings are available!

Dates and Prices:

Trip Dates: April 30 - May 9, 2017

Prices: from $4,495 - $12,495 per person based upon double occupancy

At this time we ask that you please contact us to check availability prior to sending in any new reservations.

Program Itinerary:

U.S. - Sunday, April 30

Depart the U.S. on independently arranged flights.

Lisbon - Monday, May 1

Arrive in Lisbon and embark the Five-Star M.S. LE BORÉAL. Attend the Captain’s Welcome Reception and dinner this evening.

Leixões for Oporto - Tuesday, May 2

Dock in Leixões, northern Portugal’s principal port, and transfer to Oporto, a former Roman outpost and the center of the world-famous port wine trade since the 13th century. Oporto’s historic city center, Ribeira, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a picturesque neighborhood of medieval streets lined with colorful houses where you will visit the Gothic Church of São Francisco and the neoclassical Stock Exchange, with its intricately gilded Arabian Hall inspired by the famous Moorish Alhambra palace. The city showcases great artistic and architectural treasures that remain from the Moorish period, when previous Greek and Roman influences, along with religious tolerance between the Jewish and Christian faiths, created a coexistence of cultures in which disciplines like mathematics, medicine, optics, horticulture, art and architecture fl ourished. A celebrated local chef introduces you to traditional Portuguese cuisine during the C’EST  BON!  CULINARY TRADITIONS™ “Robust Flavors of Oporto” option. Then, enjoy a specially prepared lunch in Oporto’s oldest district and a tasting of renowned regional port wines.

La Coruña, Spain, for Santiago de Compostela - Wednesday, May 3

Travel into the oak and pine-forested hills of Galicia, one of Spain’s self-governed principalities, infl uenced by its Roman, Germanic, Moorish and Castilian heritages and infused with an unexpected Celtic atmosphere. Golden-hued granite buildings grace its well-preserved capital, Santiago de Compostela, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where medieval pedestrian stone streets lead to the expansive Plaza del Obradoiro and the city’s grand Romanesque cathedral. A national monument and pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages, the cathedral was built to enshrine the tomb of St. James, who preached on the Iberian Peninsula, and is recognized for its distinctive Baroque façade, original medieval portico and incomparable Churrigueresque altar.

Santander for Bilbao - Thursday, May 4

From Santander transfer to Bilbao, surrounded by the verdant Basque Mountains. Discover this dynamic and sophisticated city with a stop in the historic casco viejo (old quarter) and the promenade of El Arenal, a popular route for Bilbaínos’ evening paseos (leisurely strolls). Enjoy a guided architectural tour of the iconic Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum with time to explore its galleries of modern and contemporary art.  Basque cuisine is a ritual of love passed down through the generations. During the C’ESST T BOON! N!   CULINARY TRADITIONS™ “A Taste of Basque Tradition” option, sample traditional Basque cuisine, including pintxos (tapas), in a 16th-century caserio (country house) located in an idyllic setting just outside of Bilbao.

Cruising the French Coast - Friday, May 5

While cruising the dramatic west coast of France, attend an exclusive onboard lecture by special guest lecturer and historian Dwight David Eisenhower II. Also enjoy a C’EST BON!  CULINARY TRADITIONS™ demonstration by the ship’s master chef. 

St. Malo, France,for Mont-St-Michel - Saturday, May 6

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Mont-St-Michel is one of the most awe-inspiring sights in all of France—its spectacular, soaring spires rise majestically from a tidal plain seemingly suspended above the sea. A pilgrimage site since the early eighth century, this fortifi ed village began as a humble oratory and grew into an infl uential Benedictine monastery between the 12th and 13th centuries, becoming a renowned medieval center of learning. Experience the extraordinary beauty of its cloisters, refectory, stained-glass windows and the Abbaye du Mont-St-Michel, a three-story Gothic masterpiece known as La Merveille (The Miracle) since the 12th century. The romantic region of Brittany is renowned for its French crêpes and delectable caramels. During the optional C’EST T BON! CULINARY TRADITIONS™ “A Taste of Brittany” excursion, sample its savory and sweet offerings, including the delicious caramel au beurre salé—salted butter caramel.

Caen, for Normandy Beaches - Sunday, May 7

Dock in Caen and travel through the scenic countryside to the historic Normandy beaches. In the company of Dwight David Eisenhower II, walk where Allied forces landed on June 6, 1944, under the direction of his distinguished grandfather, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower. Contemplate the solemn commemorative crosses and Stars of David in the American Military Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer overlooking Omaha Beach. Envision the heroic soldiers of the United States Army Second Ranger Battalion, who scaled the 100-foot sheer cliffs to capture German gun emplacements at Pointe du Hoc. Following lunch, continue to Arromanches to see the remnants of Mulberry Harbor, constructed by the British to support Allied landings on the Normandy beaches. View exhibits chronicling the campaign at the D-Day Museum overlooking Gold Beach; alternatively, you may choose to see the famous 230-foot-long Bayeux Tapestry, a stunning visual chronicle of the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Cruising the English Channel/White Cliffs of Dover/The River Thames/London, Great Britain - Monday, May 8

Be on deck this morning as the ship cruises past the famous, spectacular White Cliffs of Dover, just 21 miles north of the shores of France. These limestone bluffs served as vital strategic defense sites for Allied Forces during both World Wars. Then, experience a once-in-a-lifetime cruise up the River Thames into the heart of London, a memorable passage possible only by small ship. Enjoy a cup of afternoon tea while passing the Thames Barrier; historic maritime Greenwich, where the Cutty Sark ship is moored and the prime meridian lies; and the soaring skyline of Canary Wharf. Culminate your voyage in a dramatic approach to London’s iconic Tower Bridge.  Dock overnight on the River Thames across from the Tower of London and alongside the historic naval vessel H.M.S. Belfast. Attend the Captain’s Farewell Reception this evening.

London/U.S. - Tuesday, May 9

Following breakfast this morning, disembark and continue on the London’s Royal History Post-Cruise Option or transfer to the airport for your fl ight home.London’s Royal History

Post-Cruise Option ◆ May 9 to 11

Experience stately London, where living history makes each successive visit more enjoyable than the last. Visit the Tower of London and see the magnifi cent Westminster Abbey, both UNESCO World Heritage sites; then stroll through legendary Hyde Park and see Buckingham Palace, where history, tradition and modernity meet. Accommodations for two nights are in the elegant INTERCONTINENTAL PARK LANE HOTEL, just steps from 350-acre Hyde Park. Grande Lisboa Sintra and CascaisPre-Cruise Option ◆ April 28 to May 1Lisbon’s charm exudes from its illustrious palaces, magnifi cent churches and impressive castle that link the city to its rich cultural heritage. A historic gateway for world exploration and Portugal’s intimate, welcoming capital, Lisbon is the ideal prelude to your cruise. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the magnifi cent 16th-century Jerónimos Monastery and the nearby sleepy village of Sintra where the former Moorish fort is the last remaining medieval royal palace in Portugal, and explore the charming town of Cascais on the Estoril coast. Accommodations are for two nights in the centrally located, deluxe DOM PEDRO PALACE HOTEL.


  • A rare private opportunity to meet guest speaker, DWIGHT DAVID EISENHOWER II, Grandson of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and esteemed political scientist and American historian.
  • Visit the Beaches of Normandy, accompanied by David Eisenhower II
  • Uniquely designed and exclusive itinerary a with a Shore Excursion included in every port.
  • Call on seldom-visited Guernsey Island, Channel Islands; the spectacular French island of Belle-Île; and Bilbao to visit the iconic Guggenheim Museum.
  • Visit the famous pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela.
  • Visit three UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Lisbon Pre-Cruise Option and London Post-Cruise Option.

ACTIVITY LEVEL: Moderately Active
Many of the cities and towns being visited were founded centuries ago, and the terrain is rugged.  Therefore, a fair amount of walking along narrow cobblestone streets, stone floors or uneven and/or slippery terrain and climbing several flights of stairs (some without railings) is to be expected.  Walking excursions often cover distances of at least one mile/1.6 km and are approximately three hours in length.


  • Eight-night cruise from Lisbon, Portugal, to London, Great Britain, with port calls at Leixões for Oporto, Portugal; La Coruña for Santiago de Compostela, and Santander for Bilbao, Spain; St. Malo for Mont-St-Michel, and Caen for the Normandy Beaches, France; and cruise up the River Thames to the Tower Bridge, London.
  • Elegantly appointed, Five-Star Suite or Stateroom, each with a private bathroom.
  • Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Receptions.
  • Complimentary open bar with alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages served throughout the cruise. 
  • All meals—continental breakfast, buffet breakfast, buffet lunch, afternoon tea and dinner—throughout the cruise, featuring fine international and regional cuisine, served at single, unassigned seatings.
  • Complimentary wine is served with lunch and dinner. 
  • Expert Kristine Kidd will provide three exclusive C’EST BON! CULINARY TRADITIONS™ lectures.
  • Excursion to Oporto, a UNESCO World Heritage site. 
  • Excursion to Santiago de Compostela, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Visit to Bilbao’s iconic Guggenheim Museum.
  • Walking tour of Mont-St-Michel and a visit to its 11th-century Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Full-day excursion to the historic Normandy D-Day beaches, including a visit to a military cemetery and an opportunity to visit the D-Day Museum overlooking Gold Beach, where British troops constructed Mulberry Harbor, or to see the legendary Bayeux Tapestry, chronicling the Norman Conquest of 1066, with lunch.
  • Cruise the Strait of Dover past the dramatic White Cliffs of Dover, an iconic symbol of Great Britain. 
  • Once-in-a-lifetime cruise up the River Thames into the heart of London, with overnight on board ship docked near the Tower Bridge. 
  • The ship’s master chef will provide an exclusive C’EST BON CULINARY TRADITIONS™™  demonstration.
  • All excursions and visits, as outlined in the itinerary, led by experienced, English-speaking local guides.
  • Complimentary use of a state-of-the-artaudio headset for each participant during guided excursions.
  • Transfers and luggage handling abroad for   participants whose arrival(s)/departure(s) coincide with the scheduled group transfer(s).
  • Gratuities to local guides and drivers on included excursions.
  • The services of an experienced team of professional travel directors throughout the program.
  • Hospitality desk aboard the ship.
  • Complimentary bottled water in your Suite or Stateroom and on excursions.
  • Exclusive C’EST BON! CULINARY TRADITIONS™ ™ optional excursions available at additional cost.

Not included:
Airfare; Taxes; passport fees; visas and fees for obtaining visas; personal expenses such as laundry and telephone calls; accident/sickness, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance; gratuities to ship and hotel personnel; optional sightseeing excursions; excess baggage charges on aircraft; local departure air taxes; airfare and associated local taxes*, airport facility taxes and federal inspection fees not listed int he "included features" section of the program brochure; transfers and baggage handling to/from airport/hotel on day(s) of arrival and/or departure 1) if you have not purchased your air arrangements through our tour operator, or 2) if you are arriving earlier or later and/or departing earlier or later that scheduled group transfer(s); meals and and alcoholic beverages not listed in the "Included Features" section of the program brochure; and all other services not specifically mentioned in the "Included Features" section of the program brochure.

Please call us toll-free at (866) 325-8664 or email us at for more details.