Amsterdam to Lisbon Expedition Cruise: A European Tapestry of History and Culture

Amsterdam to Lisbon Expedition Cruise: A European Tapestry of History and Culture

Amsterdam to Lisbon Expedition Cruise: A European Tapestry of History and Culture

Amsterdam to Lisbon Expedition Cruise: A European Tapestry of History and Culture

Travel information 11 Days MS Spitsbergen
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

Discover the rich history and cultural legacy of Europe’s Atlantic coast as we sail from Amsterdam to Lisbon.   

Ancient abbeys, medieval masterpieces and D-Day battle sites

Setting sail from Amsterdam, you’ll be on a deep-dive journey into Europe’s fascinating history. You’ll explore Dover, the strategic gateway to England, and marvel at the sprawling castle built atop the famed white cliffs. From there we’ll sail to Normandy and walk on a beach where the Allied troops landed on D-Day, as well as visit Caen, the medieval town where William the Conqueror left his indelible mark. 

In Brittany you’ll stroll through the old quays of Roscoff, for centuries a home for corsairs and smugglers. We’ll then sail down through the Bay of Biscay to the rugged northern coast of Spain, looking out for marine wildlife along the way. In Galicia you’ll see the world’s oldest still-functioning extant lighthouse – the Tower of Hercules – and seek out Celtic links to the past in A Coruña. 

Culture, cuisine and cruising 

Enjoy getting lost in the maze of streets around the Vigo’s Old Town, and when hunger strikes the many bars and restaurants there won’t disappoint. Sample local fare, including Gallego cuisine and popular dishes in Porto, and savour authentic tapas with your Galician cider. Our cruise of discovery comes to an end in culture-saturated Lisbon, the jewel in Portugal’s crown. 

Our experienced and knowledgeable Expedition Team is on hand to ensure you get the best experience on your cruise. Aboard the comfortable MS Spitsbergen, they’ll host informative in-depth lectures about our destinations. 

Amsterdam to Lisbon Expedition Cruise: A European Tapestry of History and Culture Amsterdam to Lisbon Expedition Cruise: A European Tapestry of History and Culture
  • Day 1
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    The city where land meets sea

    Estimated time of departure is 6:00 PM

    Your expedition cruise begins among the quaint cobbled streets and reflective canals of Amsterdam – the city where the land meets the sea. Where could be better to kick off our cultural exploration of the Atlantic seaboard of Europe?

    Founded in the Middle Ages, Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan city with a rich cultural heritage. Located at the estuary of the river Ij, the original settlement was built on islets of moving sand linked by a thousand bridges. Today, water remains all pervasive and it’s still is a city that looks to the sea. 

    Start your exploration by strolling beside the iconic canals and across the old bridges between the rivers Amstel and Ij. You’ll probably come across the charming townhouses lining the canals of the Grachtengordel. They were built in the 17th and 18th centuries by wealthy merchants, and are now protected by UNESCO.

    If you have time to spare, head over to Museumplein, where three of the world's top museums await you. The Rijksmuseum has one of the greatest European galleries, known for its unrivalled collection of Dutch masters, including Rembrandt. Meanwhile, the Vincent Van Gogh Museum has the world’s largest collection of the troubled genius’s paintings, while the Stedelijk Museum is one of the best places to view modern art.

    All cultured out? Your comfortable expedition ship MS Spitsbergen will be ready and waiting for you in the port of Amsterdam. Once you board and check in, you’ll receive your complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket – which may come in handy with the sometimes-unpredictable weather we may encounter along the way.

    There’ll be time to settle into your cabin and explore a bit of the ship before attending a mandatory pre-departure safety drill. After this, we’ll start sailing out to sea and head towards the English port of Dover, our first destination tomorrow morning.


    There’s so much to see and do in historic Amsterdam, so why not extend your stay by booking our optional Pre-Programme. This includes one night in a centrally located hotel, meaning you’ll have more time to discover the city at your own pace. When it’s time to leave on your cruise, a transfer takes you from your hotel to MS Spitsbergen.

    Day 1
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    The city where land meets sea

  • Day 2
    Dover, United Kingdom

    Iconic white cliffs and medieval fortifications

    Estimated time of departure is 6:00 PM

    Located facing the narrowest stretch of the English Channel and flanked by spectacular chalk cliffs, Dover has been the gateway to Britain since prehistoric times. Founded during Roman times, the settlement of Dover quickly became the main port between the provinces of Britannia and Gallia Balgica, and its strategic position has remained important ever since.

    Start your day with a visit to the sprawling Dover Castle, with dazzling views of the Channel, just a short walk from the port. If you’re a history buff, you won’t be disappointed by this huge fortress. Admire the Roman lighthouse, the 13th century gates and the massive outer defences built during the Napoleonic Wars.

    You might want to pay a visit to the underground barrack tunnels that served as the fire command post during the Great War, and later as the headquarters of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay during the evacuation of French and British soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940. 

    If you haven’t had your fill of historical sites, make your way to Dover’s only remaining Norman church, the 12th century St. Mary’s, which survived the heavy bombing of WWII. Or explore another medieval building that survived the war, the 13th century Hospital of St Mary, also known as Maison Dieu, and now part of the Town Hall.

    The Western Heights of Dover are worth a visit if you’re looking for more fortifications to explore. Within walking distance from the port, these vast defences are made up of forts, strongholds and ditches built in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    Of course, don’t miss the opportunity to snap the perfect shot of the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, just east of Dover Castle. Continue eastwards to the South Foreland Lighthouse for magnificent views or explore the picturesque St. Margaret’s Bay, four miles away.

    Day 2
    Dover, United Kingdom

    Iconic white cliffs and medieval fortifications

  • Day 3
    Ouistreham, France

    Steeped in history and medieval charm

    With a rich and turbulent past, Normandy is a region inextricably tied up with European history. From the Viking Rollo’s arrival in 911, to being the seat of the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066, and the D-Day landings in 1944, Normandy is a captivating mix of medieval abbeys, sprawling beaches and moving WW2 memorials. Ouistreham is known for its D-Day landing sites in connection with Operation Overlord. A 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast was sectioned into five areas, with Ouistreham codenamed Sword. The invasion here was the responsibility of the British Army, with backup from the navies of Norway and Poland. Learn more about the landings and the heavy battle that was fought here at the Musée de Debarquement No 4 Commando.

    Visit the extensive German fortifications at the restored Grand Bunker Mur de l’Atlantique Musée, dedicated to the Atlantic Wall, and pay tribute to the fallen at the war cemetery of Hermanville-sur-Mer, three miles west of Ouistreham. Afterwards, stroll along the beautiful Riva-Bella beach and feel the salty Atlantic breeze. You might also enjoy a visit to the nearby 12th century church of St Samson and the 1905 lighthouse. Located 11 miles from Ouistreham, Caen was named Catumagos by the Romans after a Celtic term for battlefields. Fortified by William the Conqueror, who preferred it to Rouen, the city changed hands repeatedly and was occupied several times. Despite being heavily bombed during WW2, Caen was rebuilt and has retained its considerable charm. Don’t miss the impressive 11th century Romanesque church of Saint-Étienne.

    Stroll the pleasant streets and take in the small shops, pavement cafés, green parks and restaurants. If you appreciate fine art, you’ll enjoy the Musée des Beaux-Arts housed in the remains of the Château de Caen. 

    Day 3
    Ouistreham, France

    Steeped in history and medieval charm

  • Day 4
    Roscoff, France

    Buccaneers’ hideout, corsairs den

    Sheltered by the island of Batz, old Roscoff is a delightful little port heavily charged with a pirating past. Simply promenading up and down the quays of the old tidal harbour, with the bustle of boats to the island of Batz, the fishing boats, and the modern yachts, is a pleasure not to be missed. And don’t be fooled by the ferry port as it has no effect on the charm of the old port. Built in the 1970s just to to east of the historical centre, the deep-water port has been a bless to Roscoff, preserving the traditions seafront as it was. 

    Old Roscoff success story is intimately related to the conflicts with England. Shipowners, corsairs, and smugglers were engaged, and profit from, a centuries-long struggle with their northern neighbours across the channel. Roscoff corsairs sailed off from the old port to join in the battle for control of the seas that raged for ages between France and England. Lest bloody was the parallel success of many merchants, trading for centuries with the Hanseatic League, Flanders, Portugal, and Spain. 

    The city benefited from its wealthy citizens, who left behind a succession of lavish buildings. Take your time to enjoy the picturesque streets of the historic town overlooking the sea, visit the church of Notre-Dame de Kroaz Batz, walk up and down the street of Rue Albert-de-Muns, observe the centuries old houses built since the 16th century, and make your way to the Pointe de Bloscon, with its tiny Chapelle Ste-Barbe and the views of Morlaix Bay. And if you are and adventurous foody, there are many restaurants where you can taste local specialties such as fresh fish, seafood platters, and the traditional and world-famous Breton crêpes. 

    Roscoff is the gateway to Haut-Léon, the northernmost shire of the department of Finistère, the Land’s End region of France. If you want to explore more of this fascinating corner of Brittany, don’t hesitate to join one of our optional excursions to some of the gems of the Breton heritage. 

    Day 4
    Roscoff, France

    Buccaneers’ hideout, corsairs den

  • Day 5
    At sea

    Sailing the Bay of Biscay

    Today we’ll enjoy a leisurely day at sea as we sail across the western edge of the Bay of Biscay on our way down to Spain’s Galicia region.

    Back in the days of the Romans, these waters were named Sinus Cantabrorum after the Cantabri, the Celtic tribe inhabiting the northern coasts of the Iberian Peninsula. Today, the southern portion of the Bay of Biscay, adjacent to the northern Spanish coast, is still called the Cantabrian Sea. 

    Relax on deck with your binoculars and look out for wildlife. Cetaceans can often be spotted here, with up to a quarter of the world’s species of whales, dolphins and porpoises having been recorded in the waters of the Bay. They are drawn here by the nutrient rich waters around the edge of the continental shelf, and it’s one of the few places in the world where beaked whales can be seen, if you’re lucky.

    If you haven’t already done so, now could be a good time to get to know the onboard Science Center. Here you’ll have plenty of information at your fingertips and you can learn about the marine biology of the seas along our cruise. There are hands-on demonstrations to take part in, high-tech microscopes to view marine microorganisms, and nature photography tips to learn.

    Join the Expedition Team in the Explorer Lounge for in-depth lectures on different topics related to the days ahead. These might include learning about the history, geography, and the environment of the destinations to come. And don’t forget to make full use of the leisure facilities on board MS Spitsbergen – why not try out the panoramic sauna if you haven’t done so yet?

    Day 5
    At sea

    Sailing the Bay of Biscay

  • Day 6
    A Coruña, Spain

    Guided by the light of Hercules

    We continue our Atlantic journey across the Bay of Biscay, towards Finisterre, the Land’s End region of north-western Spain. Despite its apparent isolation at the edge of the Iberian Peninsula, Finisterre and the rest of the Galicia region have played a central role in Atlantic Europe since prehistoric times.

    Ships sailing to and from the Mediterranean had to navigate the rugged Galician coast and seek shelter from the occasional fury of the ocean in the natural rias. Fjord-like in appearance, these rias are not flooded glacial valleys like the Norwegian fjords, but river valleys flooded after the last glaciation. Their gentle banks hold an age-old allure and are the reason why farming and fishing have thrived in this region.

    The oldest extant lighthouse in the world that’s still functioning, known as the Tower of Hercules, bears witness to this enduring relationship with the sea. Built around 2,000 years ago in Roman times, the tower of A Coruña has survived to this day and helps ships navigate the tricky Finisterre coast of Spain and safely enter A Coruña’s natural harbour. The lighthouse has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009.

    We expect to dock at A Coruña in the evening, giving you plenty of time for a leisurely stroll into town from the port and a chance to visit the unique lighthouse. Galicians, it has long been claimed, are among the toughest fishermen in Spain, and their maritime heritage still permeates many aspects of life here, as you will discover as you explore.

    Day 6
    A Coruña, Spain

    Guided by the light of Hercules

  • Day 7
    La Coruña, Spain

    Gateway to Galicia

    A Coruña is one of the main cities in Galicia, a region of Spain that’s culturally distinct and with its own identity. With a dialect that’s closer to Portuguese than Spanish, Galicians are proud of their Celtic roots.

    Settled by Celtic peoples from at least the first millennium, A Coruña flourished under the Romans. It was conquered during the Arabian Invasion at the beginning of the eighth

     century and reconquered shortly after by soldiers under Christian command. As if that wasn’t enough, A Coruña was also repeatedly attacked by Vikings in the ninth and tenth centuries.

    Today, the historical centre is an enticing mix of charming squares, winding streets and narrow alleys. The perfect city for exploring on foot, it’s also home to ancient chapels, Baroque convents, and plenty of neoclassical architecture. Stroll through the old town and admire the famous glass-fronted buildings by the harbour, and don’t miss the architectural structures at Plaza María Pía and the archaeological museum located at the old castle.

    If you didn’t manage to see the Tower of Hercules yesterday evening, be sure to do so today. After your wanderings, have a rest at one of the many bars or restaurants, and sample the unique gallego cuisine. Ask for a selection of tapas, which might include the classic pulpo a la gallega – Galician octopus – and sample a glass of famous Galician cider, traditionally poured into the mouth from a height. 

    A Coruña is an excellent base to explore the highlights of Galicia, including the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Roman walls of Lugo and the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela. Join one of our optional guided tours to explore these two major sites.

    Day 7
    La Coruña, Spain

    Gateway to Galicia

  • Day 8
    Vigo, Spain

    Galician traditions

    Perfectly sheltered inside a ria, and protected by the beautiful Cíes Islands, Vigo has one of the best natural harbours in Galicia. The city flourished in the 16th century, attracting traders and settlers, as well as pirates and other invaders. But Vigo persevered and grew to become the main trading and fishing port of Galicia.

    For centuries, Vigo was the gateway to the Americas. Many Galicians, as well as other Spaniards, emigrated to the New World from here. Even today, in many Latin American countries, people of Spanish descent are sometimes known as Gallegos, regardless of where in Spain their ancestors came from.

    Vigo expanded eastwards in the 19th and early 20th century along the bustling Rúa do Príncipe with an eclectic mix of buildings in neoclassical and Art Nouveau styles. Perhaps the most impressive structure of all, is the 16th century Castro castle and its surrounding park with spectacular views of the town. Nearby, you’ll find the remains of an iron age castro, the original settlement of Vigo from more than 2,000 years ago.

    The port is perfectly located for exploring the city on foot. Vigo is built on the slope of a hill overlooking the ria, which means that almost everything is uphill from the harbour! The maze of streets in the old town are organised around Plaza de Igrexa and the 19th century neoclassical cathedral of Santa Maria.

    On your way to the square and the cathedral, stop by Rúa da Pescadería, the best street in town to sample the delicious seafood Galicia is famous for. After that, have a coffee break on the Praza da Constitución, a lovely square with pretty houses, cafés, and restaurants.

    Day 8
    Vigo, Spain

    Galician traditions

  • Day 9
    Porto, Portugal

    The city of port wine

    MS Spitsbergen will dock at Leixoes, an excellent first base in Portugal for a spot of exploration. Head north towards the small fortification of Forte Leça de Palmeira and continue along the beach to Avenida Liberdade, or visit the Lighthouse of Leça, the Chapel of Boa Nova, and the beautiful Praia Azul beach.

    A shuttle bus is available take you the six or so miles to Porto. Famed for its port wine and UNESCO-listed historic centre, Portugal’s second city will win you over with its charismatic looks and surprise you with its modernity. It’s a place made for strolling, with a maze of narrow streets and unique monuments, and where everywhere eventually seems to lead to the Douro River.

    Don’t skip the Church of San Francisco, the Romanesque cathedral with an opulently gilded Baroque interior, or the panoramic views from the top of the Church of the Clérigos. Do you like books? Lose yourself among the magical neo-Gothic interior of the beautiful Lello bookstore, and afterwards discover the Palácio de la Bolsa and stroll along Avenida de los Aliados.

    Soak up the atmosphere along the bustling riverside promenade at the Ribeira Docks, packed tight with pastel-coloured houses and beautiful tiled façade. Cross the Douro via the top deck of the Eiffel Tower–inspired Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge, see the warehouses and port cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia on the south bank, and cross the bridge again, this time along the lower walkway.

    Reward yourself afterwards with a refreshing glass of white port and tonic at one of the many lively bars and restaurants on the pier. Built up an appetite? Try Porto delicacies like the francesinha – a popular grilled meat and cheese sandwich – and the local variant of salt cured cod, called bacalhau.

    Day 9
    Porto, Portugal

    The city of port wine

  • Day 10
    Lisbon, Portugal

    Legendary Lisbon

    Estimated time of arrival is 7:00 AM

    We’ll be sailing south all morning, so why not join the Expedition Team for more fascinating talks, or head out on deck to scan the sea for marine life. We expect to arrive in Lisbon in the afternoon, so get ready to discover the ultimate destination on your cruise.

    Located close to the Old Town, Lisbon Cruise Terminal is perfectly situated to explore the historical centre of the Portuguese capital on foot. Built on seven hills along the shores of the scenic River Tagus, Lisbon ranks among southern Europe’s most enchanting cities — with a fascinating history to boot.

    The Phoenicians were the first to discover the commercial potential of the Tagus Estuary, but not the last. Lisbon’s great strategic location attracted the Celts, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors, each of whom occupied the city and left their mark.

    A walk around Baixa, Bairro Alto, and Alfama, the classical districts of Lisbon, is essential. Almost everything of historic interest is here, as well as a great number of small shops and boutiques. Start at the Praça do Comercio in the Baixa district and make your way to Praça Rossio to see the statue of King Pedro IV before heading up to Largo do Chiado to explore the narrow streets of Bairro Alto.

    In Alfama’s labyrinthine streets around the old Islamic quarter you’ll find Lisbon Cathedral; the remains of the Roman amphitheatre; and Castelo de San Jorge, the impressive 11th century Moorish fortress, which offers the best views of the city.

    There are two historical gems you must leave the centre to see. Follow the river just over four miles downstream and visit Torre de Belém and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Closely connected to Portugal’s Age of Discovery and explorers such as Vasco de Gama, Belém is also home to the famously delicious Pastel de Belém custard tart – which you’ll definitely want to try!

    • Included Lisbon - Fado Performance on Board
    Day 10
    Lisbon, Portugal

    Legendary Lisbon

  • Day 11
    Lisbon, Portugal

    Farewell in Lisbon

    Our expedition cruise ends at Lisbon. After breakfast it’ll be time to bid a fond farewell to MS Spitsbergen and all those who made your expedition so memorable, including the Expedition Team and other crew members.


    We feel sure that you’ll have had a great cruise discovering the fascinating history of the Atlantic coastline of Europe, but you don’t need to go home just yet. If you would like to explore Lisbon and its surroundings before you return home, we recommend joining our optional Post-Programme.

    Not only will you see Lisbon’s fascinating historic districts, you’ll also explore the royal resorts outside the city, including the UNESCO town of Sintra, Monserrate Palace and the beaches of Cascais city during a guided excursion. Afterwards, you’ll return to Lisbon where you’ll spend the night.

    As you return home, no doubt you’ll already be planning your next adventure. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon!

    Day 11
    Lisbon, Portugal

    Farewell in Lisbon


What’s included

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in a cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in our Aune restaurant
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to use at water refill stations on board
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organise and accompany activities on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard Activities

  • Experts on the Expedition Team deliver in-depth lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • Citizen Science programme allows guests to assist with live scientific research
  • Professional onboard photographer gives top tips and tricks for the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • Use of the ship’s hot tubs, panoramic sauna and indoor gym
  • Informal gatherings with the crew such as daily recaps and preparation for the day to come

Landing Activities

  • Complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition Photographers help with your camera settings before landings

Not included in your voyage

  • Air Travel
  • Travel insurance
  • Luggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners
  • Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team

  • All planned activities are subject to weather and – if relevant - ice conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please make sure you meet all entry and boarding requirements
  • No gratuities expected
MS Spitsbergen
Longyearbyen, Svalbard - MS Spitsbergen
Photo: Genna Roland
A group of people posing for the camera
Photo: Stefan Dall / Hurtigruten
Your ship

MS Spitsbergen

Year built 2009
Year of refurbishment 2016
Shipyard Estaleiro Navais de Viana do Castelo (POR)
Passenger capacity 220
Beds 243
Car capacity 0
Gross tonnage 7,344
Length 100.54m
Beam 18m
Speed 14.5 knots
MS Spitsbergen

MS Spitsbergen is named after the crown jewel of Arctic Norway – the Svalbard archipelago and its biggest island, Spitsbergen. Hurtigruten has a long history of travelling to Spitsbergen, beginning in 1896 with the `Sports Route´.

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