Arrive Valletta, Malta Tour begins: 6:00 PM, Phoenicia Hotel Malta. A transfer is included from Malta International Airport to the Phoenicia Hotel Malta. Rich in historic treasures, Valletta was founded by the Knights of St. John in the 16th century. Join us tonight for a Tauck Exclusive welcome reception and dinner at Palazzo Parisio; originally the hunting lodge of Grand Master Don Antonio Manoel de Vihena who ruled the Order of the Knights of Malta between 1722 and 1736. The property was lived in by noble families for centuries and is still owned by the great-granddaughter of the Marquis Scicluna, who owned the palazzo at the end of the 19th century. Stay: Hotel Phoenicia (D)
A guided tour of Malta includes the medieval walled city of Mdina, perched atop a cliff, and a drive around St. Julian's Bay, a favorite setting for the colorful Maltese boats that are often photographed here for worldwide enjoyment. Return to Valletta for a walking tour and The Malta Experience, an audio-visual show that tells the dramatic story of Malta's 7,000-year history; Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a virtual open-air museum of Baroque architecture. Visit the splendid St. John's Co-Cathedral to see its silver and gold-leafed interior and rare art treasures, including the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Italian painter Caravaggio. Le Ponant awaits in the Grand Harbour; set sail for Sicily tonight. Stay Seven Nights:
Aboard Le Ponant
Taormina, Sicily Go ashore at Giardini-Naxos and transfer ashore by Zodiac for a choice of sightseeing excursion. First possibility is a visit to Taormina, a terraced town clinging to high cliffs on the east coast of Sicily with Mt. Etna towering in the distance sightseeing. A guided tour takes you to Teatro Greco, featuring both Greek and Roman elements, and for a stroll along the Corso Umberto, Old Town, Taormina's main pedestrian street lined with cafés and pasticcerie.
Or, join us for a visit to Mount Etna, the largest volcano in Europe - and still very active. Travel by cable car up its slopes and board a special off-road vehicle, accompanied by local guides, for the ascent to one of the world's most stunning panoramas 9,514 ft. (2900 meters) above sea level. View Mount Etna's varied landscapes up close and gain insights into volcanic activity. Everyone enjoys some afternoon free time in Taormina before Le Ponant departs for Siracusa. (B/L/D)
Lipari, Sicily The largest of the Aeolian Islands, Lipari sits on red volcanic rock and looks like "a wall of bronze" according to the Greek poet Homer. Archaeological remains found have yielded clues to civilizations which date to 1700 BC, including the Neolithic stones that sit alongside ancient tombstones, and ruins of Greek walls and Roman villas. The Spaniards found their way here in the 16th century, building the castello (castle) and the 17th-century cathedral that is perched above the harbor. Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands, noted for its colorful houses, 17th-century cathedral and 16th-century castle.
You have a choice of two sightseeing excursions today - a walking tour of Lipari plus a visit to the Archaeological Museum or a drive across the island and a visit to the village of Quattropani and its unique vineyard. Back aboard ship, experience a different view of these volcanic islands when you sail by the island of Stromboli tonight, home to one of the world's few constantly active volcanoes - it has continuously erupted for 2,000 years. The view is unforgettable. (B/L/D)
Amalfi Coast, Italy Le Ponant calls on mainland Italy and the picturesque town of Amalfi. You can explore Amalfi today on a guided that includes a drive along the dramatic Amalfi Coast, one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Arrive in stunning Ravello, perched on cliffs overlooking the sea, for a visit to Villa Rufolo. This beautifully restored castle boasts amazing architectural, a history rich with cultural legacies, and outstanding coastal views; enjoy a wonderful lunch of seasonal specialties in Ravello.
Or, if you wish, go on a guided walk in picturesque Amalfi followed by a drive along the Amalfi Coast to Positano, a stunning cliffside town that has been a magnet for the world's jetsetters - writers, painters, film stars, royalty, fashion designers - for centuries. Your walk ends with a return to Amalfi by motorboat where you'll get a different perspective on this fabulous coastline. Everyone who has traveled ashore returns to Le Ponant late afternoon; spend the evening as you please aboard ship. (B/L/D)
Ponza, Italy Ponza is fringed with dramatic coves and cliffs lined with yellow and pink houses. Fishing boats set out from the 18th-century harbor and vineyards cover the hillsides for a quintessential snapshot of daily life here. Enjoy time at leisure to explore the sights as you please. (B/L/D)
Bonifacio, Corsica Sail into the nearly hidden Corsican port of Bonifacio with a deep, narrow harbor sitting at the base of sheer limestone cliffs - a highlight of most Mediterranean cruises. Your entrance into the harbor aboard Le Ponant will be remembered forever... keep your camera at the ready! The fortified 12th-century town is built on the top of the cliffs with great views of the sea. You have a choice of exploring today; take Le Petit Train for a ride to the town's walled fortress area where you'll explore medieval lanes, stroll along the bluff above the harbor, and see the former barracks of the French Foreign Legion. Or, board a local boat for a cruise along the coast of Bonifacio for a visit to the Lavezzi Islands and a beach visit. Make an afternoon return to Le Ponant, and set sail once again, bound for Ponza. (B/L/D)
Elba, Italy Le Ponant in the Mediterranean cruises to the island of Elba and the secluded harbor of Portoferraio. Today you'll learn about the isolated life of Napoleon Bonaparte on Elba, who spent a brief exile here in 1814 prior to his daring escape. You'll have two choices of sightseeing - visit Villa San Martino, where he lived for a time; spend some free time in Porto Azzurro; and go to a wine tasting at a family-owned Elba winery before reboarding the ship. Alternatively, take a walking tour of Portoferraio and the Teatro dei Vigilanti. Return to the ship mid-afternoon; say farewell to Le Ponant this evening at a reception and dinner. (B/L/D)
Disembark Le Ponant in Nice, France, for a brief sightseeing tour and time to explore on your own. Next, travel to the medieval village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence for a walking tour that introduces centuries of history, chronicled in the architectural treasures that are found along its cobblestone streets; visit the grave of artist Marc Chagall, a picture of serenity overlooking panoramic views of the countryside. Continue on to Monte-Carlo, arriving in Monaco in mid-afternoon; join us for a visit to the palace and gardens, schedule permitting. Your hotel is located in the heart of glittering Monte-Carlo, close to the famed waterfront casino. Stay Two Nights: Fairmont Monte Carlo
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France See more of Monte-Carlo today, visiting the royal palace and gardens in Monaco-Ville or spending time exploring as you please. Join us this evening at the hotel for a farewell cocktail reception and dinner to toast warm memories of a fabulous Mediterranean cruise! (B/D)
Depart Nice Tour ends: Nice. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the Fairmont Monte Carlo to the Cote d'Azur Airport in Nice. Allow a minimum of 3 hours for flight check-in. (B)