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Lisbon to Praia
Join us aboard the wonderfully comfortable MS Hebridean Sky for a journey that will take us from Portugal and then south to Cadiz before we cruise along the Moroccan coast visiting Casablanca, Essaouira and Agadir as well as the opportunity to take the road to Marrakech for an overnight stay in this most enchanting ancient oasis city. We continue our voyage to two little visited places along the coast of Western Sahara, Laayoune and Dakhla. This region promises to be a most memorable experience and, for those who enjoy visiting out of the way places where tourists are a rarity, it is a unique opportunity. Reaching the Cape Verde archipelago, we will island hop between these remote islands and discover volcanic landscapes, colonial towns and villages and beautiful beaches. It is a little world of its own, each island having a distinct culture and atmosphere and an ideal region for exploring by small ship. Our voyage will be particularly enjoyable as it includes some daytime sailing, allowing for time to relax on deck and attend the informative lectures by our knowledgeable Guest Speaker who, along with the excellent local guides will bring to life all we see.
Fly by scheduled flight. On arrival transfer to the MS Hebridean Sky and enjoy Welcome Drinks and Dinner. This evening we set sail for Portimao.
This morning the MS Hebridean Sky arrives on the Algarve Coast at the fishing port of Portimao on the banks of the Arade River. During a morning call we head west to explore the more rugged Algarve and discover its place in history. We visit the historic town of Lagos, its sturdy Medieval walls testifying to its importance as a 15th century ship building and trading post. We then head to wild headland of Cabo Sao Vicente, its 200-foot cliffs face the Atlantic waves and it lies at the extreme south western corner of Europe. At nearby Sagres, Henry the Navigator built his school of Navigation and it was from here that many sailors set out to discover the New World. Spend the afternoon on board as we approach the coast of Andalucia.
Spend the morning in Cadiz, a city located on a peninsula jutting out into a bay and almost entirely surrounded by water. It is the oldest surviving city in Spain and was founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC and later occupied by the Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths and Moors. During our guided tour we will discover the most beautiful monuments and landmarks of the city 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. Return to the ship for lunch and an afternoon of cruising.
There will be a choice of activities today. For those wishing to see Casablanca, join a morning drive during which we will visit the city’s most important sights, including the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Olive Market. The highlight of our tour, however, is a visit to the Hassan II Mosque, the largest religious monument in the world after Mecca. It took 3300 traditional Moroccan artisans to create the beautiful mosaics, marble floors and the splendid wood ceilings. The mosque also has the world’s tallest minaret, soaring 200 metres above the city. Return to the ship for lunch and a free afternoon in the city. Alternatively, you may wish to join an overnight trip to Marrakech. Leaving the ship after breakfast we will drive inland to the “red city”. During our time in Marrakech we will see the rich monuments of this second imperial city including the Koutoubia Minaret, a symbol of the city for 800 years, the Bahia Palace with its lovely courtyards, late Moorish architecture and the Saadian tombs including the royal pavilion. We will have time to wander in the souks, visit the Jemaa El Fna square, the Marjorelle Gardens and enjoy some wonderful meals in local restaurants. Guests on this tour will re-join the ship in Safi on day 5.
For those who have remained on board we will depart the port of Safi and head along the coast to Essaouira. Founded in the 18th century, Essaouira was built to be a rival city to Agadir. Formerly known as Mogador, meaning small fortress, it was designed as a fortified town surrounded by Vauban-style ramparts and played a major role as an international trading seaport, linking Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa with Europe and the rest of the world. On our full day tour, we will see the amazing mixture of Portuguese and Berber architecture, the 16th century sea bastions built to protect the city, the 18th century Medina and in the Mellah we find the souks dedicated to gold, spices and fish. We enjoy a seafood lunch near the beach before returning to the MS Hebridean Sky in Safi. Those who have travelled to Marrakech return to the ship this evening and once we are all back on board we will set sail.
This morning we arrive in southern Morocco in the vast bay of Agadir. A morning tour will include time at the Kasbah, built to defend the Atlantic shoreline and offering wonderful views over the coast, and the Talborjit Mosque. After some time in the souk we will drive through the fertile Souss valley to the gold, pink and orange tinted imperial city of Taroudant, a past capital of the Saadian dynasty. Explore the medina with its souks and climb the red ramparts and end with a visit to the Assarag and Tamaklotte Squares. After a local lunch we return to the ship and sail this evening.
Spend a relaxing day at sea, maybe join the lecture programme or find a spot on deck.
From the port of El Marsa drive across the sand dunes to the city of Laayoune. There are not many travellers who can boast of a visit to the territory of Western Sahara. Mostly consisting of flat desert, it is one of the least populated regions in the world. It makes for a really interesting morning as we take in the unique Spanish-Saharan architecture in the old town, visit the Roman Catholic church, the Moulay Abdelaziz Mosque and see the food and artisan markets. Return to the ship for lunch and an afternoon at sea.
After a morning at sea we arrive after lunch at Dakhla in the far south of Western Sahara. The town occupies a long peninsula which juts out into the Atlantic and is well off the traditional tourist routes. We will drive along the lagoon, a paradise for migratory birds, before visiting a Sahraoui camp in the sand dunes. We will learn about the nomadic Sahraoui culture, partake in a tea ceremony and use the 4x4 vehicles to see the stunning views from the top of the dunes. Return to the ship and sail this evening for the Cape Verde Islands.
A day of relaxation. Maybe join one of the on board lectures or enjoy a book on deck.
The island of Sal was relatively undeveloped until the mid-nineteenth century when salt export business was developed and this afternoon we will visit one of the original sites at Pedra de Lume. We will see the saltpans, learn of the salt extraction process and even have the chance to float in the waters. Alternatively transfer to the town of Santa Maria for a relaxing afternoon swimming from the beaches or exploring the local shops for Cape Verdean crafts.
We have a full day on the most beautiful of the islands, Sao Antao. Driving up the old trading route, we pass the volcanic crater ‘Cova’ with its agricultural plantations and enjoy panoramic views of the island before arriving in the tiny picturesque mountain village of Fontainhas, on the northern side of the island. After lunch in the seaside village of Ponta do Sol, we will take the coastal road towards the greenest valley in the archipelago, the valley of Paul. Here we will enjoy a coffee break whilst learning about the production of sugarcane on the island. Also discover ‘Grogue’, the national drink of the islands and have a taste of it at the oldest traditional Grogue distillery of the island. Drive back along the coast to the southern side of the island and our waiting ship.
Sao Nicolau is a charming, peaceful and attractive island of plantations, small holdings and busy farming villages. It also has impressive, almost untouched mountain scenery, friendly residents and lively traditions. On our tour we will drive through a spectacular landscape towards the historical capital Ribeira Brava. Here we will discover the lively centre of the island which reflects the character of the people and learn why Ribeira Brava was the bedrock of Cape Verdean intellect in the 19th century. After lunch enjoy an afternoon at leisure.
Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport for our return flight to London via Lisbon.
Itineraries are subject to change.
Vessel Type: Expedition Length: 90.6 metres Passenger Capacity: 118 Built / Refurbished: 1992 / 2016 The MS Hebridean Sky is one of our three flag ships and sister vessel to the MS Island Sky and MS Caledonian Sky. All three vessels were built in the same ship yard in Italy at similar times and share the same excellent attributes that make them three of the finest small ships in the world. Formerly known as the Sea Explorer, the vessel underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment in Sweden in Spring 2016 before being re-launched as the MS Hebridean Sky. Your Suite. On board there are 59 exceptionally spacious and well-designed suites. All feature a sitting area and fourteen suites have private balconies. The feeling of luxury is enhanced by the wood panelling and brass which predominates throughout the vessel conveying the atmosphere of a private yacht. The passenger accommodation is arranged over five decks and all suites have outside views with suites on the Scott and Shackleton Decks featuring private balconies. Each suite affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring vanity unit with sink and walk-in rainfall shower, large wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool and excellent storage. There is a minifridge, flat screen television and a telephone in each suite. Refillable water bottles, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort. Additional facilities include a programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted Molton Brown toiletries and individually controlled air-conditioning and heating. Soft hues and blended tones enhance the traditional maritime style making the passenger accommodation an inviting and relaxing place to be. The beds in each suite can be configured as twins or double with the exception of suite 601 and 602 which feature fixed double beds. The impressive Hebridean Suite, located on the Shackleton Deck consists of a separate bathroom and sitting room with extra large balcony stretching the length of the suite. Additional benefits of booking this marvellous suite include complimentary mini-bar stocked with your preferences and complimentary laundry. Your Space. The spacious and finely decorated public rooms on board the MS Hebridean Sky include a large lounge on the Byrd Deck featuring a selection of seating options from individual armchairs and sofas to side cushioned benches. Daily briefings given by the Cruise Director and talks from Guest Speakers and expedition staff take place in The Lounge which is fitted with the highest standard of presentation equipment including multiple screens. In addition to the Lounge, there is also The Club, located on the Mawson Deck which features the main bar where the onboard pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The Club also offers a 24-hour tea and coffee station. Towards the aft of the ship on the Mawson Deck is The Library which is well stocked with reference books pertaining to the destinations the vessel is visiting and a selection of essential reads. A collection of games and devices to access the internet via the ship’s satellite can also be found in the library. Access to the ship’s satellite Wi-Fi via your own device is complimentary on board (signal strength varies depending on location and demand). The Dining Room which can seat all guests at one sitting is located on the Amundsen Deck and is a bright and charming setting to enjoy the delicious meals on board. Outside there is a rear Lido Deck located on the Scott Deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. Whilst heaters and blankets make dining al fresco comfortable in cooler climates. Further to this, on the top Shackleton Deck there is an observation area which offers a fantastic platform for spotting wildlife complete with deck furniture, ideal for relaxing with a book or catching up with fellow travellers. You will also find a clinic and Doctor on board and a lift that serves all decks. Additionally there is a small hairdressers with appointments made on request. Your Dining. It is quite a task to create a dining experience as that found on board our Sky vessels when you are cruising in far-flung corners of the globe, indeed it takes a team of highly talented chefs to deliver fresh, varied dishes no matter where you are at sea. Fortunately, our catering teams are well adapted to the world of small ship cruising where no two days are the same and the menus are often scheduled and tailored around the days’ excursions. With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the cuisine on board is of a consistent superior quality that befits such vessels. Where possible and when it meets their high standards, our accomplished chefs will obtain local produce in markets. Such purchases enhance the well-stocked larders and enable the chefs on board to exhibit their culinary skills and bring a local touch to the varied menus, emphasising the international expertise of the chefs on board. Afternoon tea and pre-dinner canapés take place every day in either the comfort of the Lounge or out on the Lido Deck when the weather is favourable. Tea and coffee are also available 24 hours a day. Special diets can be catered for with sufficient notice. In keeping with the informal atmosphere on board, when dining you are able to choose your seating arrangements at your leisure. Whether that be joining a table of four to six other passengers outside on the Lido Deck in the evening’s sunshine or whether you prefer to enjoy meals in the à la carte restaurant. For those travelling alone, our onboard friendly restaurant staff will take care to ensure you are seated with other like-minded travellers. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order on request. Lunch and dinner are à la carte with an excellent choice of dishes, with the menu reflecting the daily catch or local delicacies. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with both meals and there is also a comprehensive wine list with a wide selection of new and old world wines from which to choose. The onboard catering and restaurant staff are experienced at sea and enthuse a passion for superb service. Whether it be ensuring you have an outdoor blanket as you enjoy the crisp sea breeze on the Lido Deck or sharing their knowledge of the characteristics of the days’ wine selections, you will experience a service on board like no other. You may also enjoy sumptuous barbeques on deck whilst at times, the chef will make your dish to order at special pasta or stir fry stations. For Your Comfort. The MS Hebridean Sky is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilizers to minimize the ship’s motion. During your voyage we hope to offer the opportunity to visit the Captain and Officers on the Bridge to check the vessels progress by charts and learn more about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and Doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to a specific area on deck. Life Onboard. If large resort-style vessels accommodating many thousands of passengers are your ideal, then our ships are not for you as you will not find endless entertainment, round the clock buffets and the people management which is so much a part of today’s big ship on board style. However, if like us you prefer a more peaceful life at sea you will find our flagships the perfect vessels. When choosing your next voyage the choice of vessels is astounding. You can select a ship carrying in excess of 4000 passengers with impersonal service or join us aboard the MS Caledonian Sky, MS Island Sky or MS Hebridean Sky where peace, high quality service and attention to detail are the order of the day. We promise there will be no organised entertainment, fancy dress, deck games or any of the usual big ship experiences. Instead, the atmosphere is warm and convivial and more akin to a private yacht or country hotel in which you can learn more about the wonders of nature, culture and ancient civilisations in the company of like-minded people. A little music in the lounge or bar after dinner, Guest Speakers and informative port briefings from our Expedition Leader or Cruise Director and of course good food with wine included at lunch and dinner, all contribute to make any voyage aboard these wonderful vessels a memorable and joyful experience. After a day ashore you will return to the comfort and peace of an exceedingly comfortable ship. The daily programme on board is in the capable hands of our Cruise Director or Expedition Leader and staff who coordinate with the Captain and Officers to make the most of each day. Briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage together with a ‘Daily Programme’ that is distributed every evening to your suite outlining the next day’s activities. Dress on board is casual and relaxed and there will be no ‘black tie’ evenings.
• Discover historic town of Lagos, its sturdy Medieval walls testifying to its importance as a 15th century ship building and trading post • Visit Cadiz, a city located on a peninsula jutting out into a bay and almost entirely surrounded by water • Arrive in southern Morocco in the vast bay of Agadir. Explore the Kasbah, built to defend the Atlantic shoreline and offering wonderful views over the coast, and the Talborjit Mosque • Drive across the sand dunes to the city of Laayoune. There are not many travellers who can boast of a visit to the territory of Western Sahara. Mostly consisting of flat desert, it is one of the least populated regions in the world