Ponant is collaborating with Smithsonian Journeys on a series of co-branded sailings to the Italian island of Sicily for 2023 and 2024.
According to a press release, each of the itineraries will be led by two Smithsonian Journeys Experts—whether an art historian, a solar astrophysicist, or an international relations expert—who will share their expertise on the visited destinations.
Among the new sailings is a nine-day circumnavigation of Sicily on Le Champlain, departing on April 14, 2024.
Sailing from Valletta, the capital of Malta, the itinerary includes visits to Greek ruins, Norman cathedrals, active volcanoes, and a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
With onboard discussions by Smithsonian Journeys Experts complementing shore excursions, the voyage will give travelers a sense of these country’s ancient civilizations and cultural riches, Ponant said.
From Valletta, Le Champlain will make its way to the smaller Maltese island of Gozo to see the megalithic temples of Ġgantija and an adjoining archaeological museum.
Then it’s on to the southwestern coast of Sicily, home to the seaside commune of Porto Empedocle and the UNESCO-recognized Temple Valley, an archaeological site with temples dedicated to Zeus and other mythological gods.
Rounding the western tip of the island, the ship will arrive in Trapani for an excursion into the countryside, the ancient Doric temple of Segesta, and the medieval hilltop commune of Erice.
From there, it’s on to Palermo, the capital of Sicily, where guests will choose activities ranging from a tour of the Capella Palatina, a Byzantine-Arab-Norman structure, to a drive to nearby Monreale and its famed Norman cathedral.
Just north of Sicily is Lipari, the largest of the Aeolian islands, characterized by lava stone quarries and a castle within a fortified citadel. After a visit here, travelers will sail north to Stromboli, taking in panoramic vistas of the active volcano, before crossing through the Strait of Messina to arrive at Taormina, the so-called St. Tropez of Sicily.
There, visit a winery on the slopes of Mount Etna — the largest active volcano in Europe— or tour Taormina town with its historic Greek Theater which looks out to the coastline.
The final port of call is Syracuse, colonized by the Greeks in the 8th century B.C. and one of the most powerful cities of the ancient world, where guests will visit the Roman Amphitheater of Augustus and the 15,000-seat Greek theater.
Rates start at $6,500 per person.