Print

Day by Day Itinerary

Portuguese cities which launched discoveries around the world … Moroccan minarets and palaces from which sultans ruled an empire … Spanish lanes lined with flowerpots and white-washed pueblos (adobe homes) … a British territory with more than a millennia of history. Experience the crossroads of Europe and North Africa in singular style aboard a cruise ship small enough to navigate not only the grandest harbors from Lisbon to Casablanca but also thesmaller ports and rivers all the way to the heart of Seville.  On this Western Mediterranean cruise, you’ll be immersed in diverse cultures, from language lessons to meeting locals, and spending time in a Moroccan village. From ancient histories to modern cities, the bountiful gifts of the region will be on full display.

  • hidden

    Depart today on your flight to Lisbon, Portugal. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times. Or begin your discoveries early with our pre-trip extension to Lisbon, Portugal.

  • hidden

    Arrive in Lisbon, Portugal, where a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport. Travelers who arrive early this morning will have time to relax and enjoy light refreshments prior to embarkation. Those who arrive later will transfer directly to the harbor to embark the Corinthian, your home for the next seven nights. Onboard, you'll meet your fellow travelers during an included lunch.

    This evening, toast to the discoveries ahead during a Welcome Briefing, followed by dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Disembark this morning for a full day of discoveries in Lisbon.

    In the late 15th century, the port of Lisbon was the staging point for Portuguese explorations that would usher in the great Age of Discovery—and make Lisbon the richest European capital for the nest three and a half centuries. The immense riches brought back by these explorers and navigators ushered in a period of building and expansion that gave birth to a new Manueline architectural style, noted by its ornately carved decorative motifs. You'll see the examples of this style of architecture during a panoramic tour of Lisbon with photo stops in the historic section of Belem, at the ornate Belem Tower, and the 16th-century church of the Jeronimos Monastery.

    Next, enjoy a short walk through Alfama, Lisbon's oldest neighborhood. Then, enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch, you’ll stroll downtown through the bustling Rua Augusta—which will take you past two of Lisbon’s most magnificent squares: the Rossio Square and Commerce Square.

    Tonight, you will return to the ship to enjoy a Welcome Dinner with your fellow travelers.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    The Corinthian anchors this morning in Portimao. After breakfast, you'll travel overland to visit Sagres, enjoying an exclusive Discovery Series Portuguese language lesson en route. 

    Upon arrival, you'll explore the Fortress of Sagres, which Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator constructed in the 16th century to defend the important shipping lanes—part of his quest to position Portugal as a vanguard in world exploration. Strengthened and expanded over the next two centuries, enhancements to the structure were completed in 1793—the site also contains a 16th-century chapel and a compass rose made of stones.

    Next, you’ll depart for Lagos, a town with a maritime history both celebrated and controversial: While Lagos was important to Henry the Navigator during the 15th- and 16th-century Age of Discovery, it was also once the heart of the European slave trade. After a walking tour, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

    Enjoy dinner onboard this evening. 

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Anchoring in Casablanca, your Moroccan discoveries begin as soon as you disembark, with a Discovery Series language lesson to teach you the version of Arabic you will hear spoken throughout this portion of your trip.

    This morning, get to know Casablanca—or “Casa,” as the locals say—during an included walking tour. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Casablanca boomed from a small hamlet in 1515 to a 20th-century powerhouse under French rule, becoming the heart of Moroccan industry along the way. You'll see this confluence of influences during your tour, as you walk past sites such as the Neo-Gothic Casablanca Cathedral, known as the Church of the Sacred Heart during its first decades as a Catholic institution and now a secular cultural center. You'll also pass the main square at Place Mohammed V. Outlined with civic buildings, including the tile-fronted home of the King of Morocco, this elegant square ends in the palm tree-lined Arab League Park.

    You'll witness a source of national pride at the Hassan II Mosque, the largest of Morocco's mosques and site of the world's tallest minaret. A slender tower rising nearly 700 feet, this minaret shines a green laser beam toward Mecca at nightfall. With room for 25,000 worshippers inside and 80,000 outside, the mosques was funded entirely by donations from Moroccans, and has become the symbol of the city.

    Discover a blend of cultures when you enjoy an included tour of Habous, the “new” medina (the Arabic word for city), which was designed in 1930 to blend Moroccan market culture with French influences. Here, you'll also see the Mahkama, a 60-room reception hall for the Pasha of Casablanca—a parliamentary building which houses the court of justice—that showcases a Spanish-Moroccan architectural style.

    Following an included lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy some free time to explore Casablanca on your own before returning to your ship. You'll dine with your fellow travelers onboard tonight.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Anchor this morning in Tangier, a city with a swirling mixture of French and Arabic influences. After breakfast, you’ll depart for the 500-year-old fortified town of Asilah, perched above the Atlantic coast, where you'll enjoy a walking tour, as well as a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family, an exclusive Discovery Series event. 

    This afternoon, you'll return to Tangier to enjoy an included city tour that offers a multi-sensory display. As you stroll through the Grand Socco medina, you'll hear a multitude of languages, catch the aroma of exotic spices, and witness the colorful clamor of traditional bazaars. Following your tour, you'll have free time to explore even more of these highlights on your own.

    This evening, enjoy an included dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning, you’ll anchor in Gibraltar, located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. The promontory here has been settled for more than a millennium, first by Phoenicians and then, in turn, by Arab sultans and Spaniards. Today it’s a British territory.

    After a brief walk, you’ll visit the famed Rock of Gibraltar, a 1,300-foot limestone tower that is literally the stuff of legend, known in ancient times as one of the Pillars of Hercules (the other being located across the Strait of Gibraltar in Morocco).

    You’ll then ascend to St. Michael’s Cave, perched 980 feet above the sea, to witness its dramatic stalactites and stalagmites. You may even catch a glimpse of Barbary macaque monkeys—Gibraltar is the the only European colony home to this species. You’ll also discover a man-made wonder as you navigate a network of underground military tunnels created by the British during World War II. Afterward, return to the ship for lunch.

    Later this afternoon, the day is free for you to enjoy at your own pace. For example, you may choose to ride in a cable car, then behold a glimpse of the past as you explore Gibraltar’s ancient walls—a collection of gates, walls, and bastions surrounding the inner city. While first built by the Moors, later modifications were made by both the Spanish and the British. Today, the government of Gibraltar is in the process of restoring the structures to their original beauty and might.

    Enjoy an included dinner onboard this evening.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Unlike larger cruise ships, the Corinthian is small enough to sail up the Guadalquivir River and dock right in the heart of Seville, saving you a transfer and arrival by motorcoach.

    After breakfast, you'll go directly ashore to this city of flowerpots and tapas bars, the birthplace of Don Juan, and a favorite for romance-seekers. Legend says Seville was founded by Hercules himself, and it's certainly been a bustling settlement for at least 2,000 years. Today Seville boasts a blend of Spanish flavor and Moorish influences from its five centuries of sultan rule. On a panoramic tour of the city's boulevards, you'll soak in scenes of whitewashed homes, impressive mansions, and charming plazas. And you'll also take in the architectural feat that is Seville Cathedral: With its 12th-century tower, the longest nave in Europe, and an interior gilded in gold, the world's largest Gothic cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    On our way back to the ship for lunch, we’ll stop to stroll through Seville’s bustling, 150-year old Triana Market.

    Later this afternoon, you’ll discover the Macarena section of Seville on a panoramic tour. The traditional and original name for Seville, La Macarena is now located just north of the city center. While here, you will visit one of the most important churches in Spain, the Basilica of Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza Macarena (Our Lady of Hope Macarena). The basilica is home to one of the largest, most popular, and most passionate Easter celebrations in the country—and for the entirety of Easter’s Holy Week, the streets of Macarena are closed and everyday life slows to witness the spectacle. Fifty-eight processions with 116 large platforms, or thrones, with life-sized images portraying scenes of the Passion are carried out of the basilica and paraded through the streets. You will be able to view some of these ornate thrones for yourself.

    That evening, celebrate the last night onboard the Corinthian with a Farewell Dinner.

  • hidden

    This morning you will bid farewell to the Corinthian and disembark in the city of Malaga. Adjacent to the Costa del Sol, Malaga has all the charms of a Mediterranean port mingled with the stately elegance of a historic city center. This morning, you'll enjoy a panoramic tour culminating at the lively Plaza de la Merced square.

    From there, your discoveries continue on foot as you walk toward a local tapas restaurant for lunch. Tapas are typically a wide assortment of appetizers and small plates intended for sharing. Enjoying tapas is a major component of Spanish culture—some locals will even make an entire evening of enjoying different tapas at various restaurants and bars.

    After savoring this Spanish specialty, you'll visit the Picasso Museum. The birthplace of artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Malaga was deemed the perfect place to showcase a collection of the famous painter’s works, and to celebrate his life.

    Later this afternoon, you will check into your hotel before enjoying dinner at a local restaurant. 

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer from your hotel to the airport for your flight home. Or begin our post-trip extension for more discoveries of Malaga.

  • hidden

    Depart today on your flight to Spain. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times. Or begin your discoveries early with our pre-trip extension to Malaga, Spain.

  • hidden

    Arrive in Lisbon, Portugal, where a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport. Travelers who arrive early this morning will have time to relax and enjoy light refreshments before embarkation. Those who arrive later will transfer directly to the harbor to embark the Corinthian, your home for the next seven nights. Onboard, you'll meet your fellow travelers during an included lunch.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning you will explore the city of Malaga. Adjacent to the Costa del Sol, Malaga has all the charms of a Mediterranean port mingled with the stately elegance of a historic city center. This morning, you'll enjoy a panoramic tour culminating at the lively Plaza de la Merced square.

    From there, your discoveries continue on foot as you walk toward a local tapas restaurant for lunch. Tapas are typically a wide assortment of appetizers and small plates intended for sharing. Enjoying tapas is a major component of Spanish culture—some locals will even make an entire evening of enjoying different tapas at various restaurants and bars.

    After savoring this Spanish specialty, you'll visit the Picasso Museum. The birthplace of artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Malaga was deemed the perfect place to showcase a collection of the famous painter’s works, and to celebrate his life.

    Later, you will return to the ship and set sail. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Unlike larger cruise ships, the Corinthian is small enough to sail up the Guadalquivir River and dock right in the heart of Seville, saving you a transfer and arrival by motorcoach.

    After breakfast, you'll go directly ashore to this city of flowerpots and tapas bars, the birthplace of Don Juan, and a favorite for romance-seekers. Legend says Seville was founded by Hercules himself, and it's certainly been a dynamic settlement for at least 2,000 years. Today Seville boasts a blend of Spanish flavor and Moorish influences from its five centuries of sultan rule. On a panoramic tour of the city's boulevards, you'll soak in scenes of whitewashed homes, impressive mansions, and charming plazas. And you'll also take in the architectural feat that is Seville Cathedral: With its 12th-century tower, the longest nave in Europe, and an interior gilded in gold, the world's largest Gothic cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    On our way back to the ship for lunch, we’ll stop to stroll through Seville’s bustling, 150-year old Triana Market.

    Later this afternoon, you’ll discover the Macarena section of Seville on a panoramic tour. The traditional and original name for Seville, La Macarena is now located just north of the city center. While here, you will visit one of the most important churches in Spain, the Basilica of Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza Macarena (Our Lady of Hope Macarena). The basilica is home to one of the largest, most popular, and most passionate Easter celebrations in the country—and for the entirety of Easter’s Holy Week, the streets of Macarena are closed and everyday life slows to witness the spectacle. Fifty-eight processions with 116 large platforms, or thrones, with life-sized images portraying scenes of the Passion are carried out of the basilica and paraded through the streets. You will be able to view some of these ornate thrones for yourself.

    That evening, enjoy dinner onboard as we sail to our next destination.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning, you’ll anchor in Gibraltar, located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. The promontory here has been settled for more than a millennium, first by Phoenicians and then, in turn, by Arab sultans and Spaniards. Today it’s a British territory.

    After a brief walk, you’ll visit the famed Rock of Gibraltar, a 1,300-foot limestone tower that is literally the stuff of legend, known in ancient times as one of the Pillars of Hercules (the other being located across the Strait of Gibraltar in Morocco).

    You’ll then ascend to St. Michael’s Cave, perched 980 feet above the sea, to witness its dramatic stalactites and stalagmites. You may even catch a glimpse of Barbary macaque monkeys—Gibraltar is the only European colony home to this species. You’ll also discover a man-made wonder as you navigate a network of underground military tunnels created by the British during World War II. Afterward, return to the ship for lunch.

    Later this afternoon, the day is free for you to enjoy at your own pace. For example, you may choose to ride in a cable car, then behold a glimpse of the past as you explore Gibraltar's ancient walls—a collection of gates, walls, and bastions surrounding the inner city. While first built by the Moors, later modifications were made by both the Spanish and the British. Today, the government of Gibraltar is in the process of restoring the structures to their original beauty and might.

    Enjoy an included dinner onboard this evening.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Anchor this morning in Tangier, a city with a swirling mixture of French and Arabic influences. After breakfast, you’ll depart for the 500-year-old fortified town of Asilah, perched above the Atlantic coast, where you'll enjoy a walking tour, as well as a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    This afternoon, you'll return to Tangier to enjoy an included city tour that offers a multi-sensory display. As you stroll through the Grand Socco medina, you'll hear a multitude of languages, catch the aroma of exotic spices, and witness the colorful clamor of traditional bazaars. Following your tour, you'll have time to explore even more of these highlights on your own.

    This evening, enjoy an included dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Anchoring in Casablanca, your Moroccan discoveries begin as soon as you disembark, with a Discovery Series language lesson to teach you the version of Arabic you will hear spoken throughout this portion of your trip.

    This morning, get to know Casablanca—or “Casa,” as the locals say—during an included walking tour. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Casablanca boomed from a small hamlet in 1515 to a 20th-century powerhouse under French rule, becoming the heart of Moroccan industry along the way. You'll see this confluence of influences during your tour, as you walk past sites such as the Neo-Gothic Casablanca Cathedral, known as the Church of the Sacred Heart during its first decades as a Catholic institution and now a secular cultural center. You'll also pass the main square at Place Mohammed V. Outlined with civic buildings, including the tile-fronted home of the King of Morocco, this elegant square ends in the palm tree-lined Arab League Park.

    You'll witness a source of national pride at the Hassan II Mosque, the largest of Morocco's mosques and site of the world's tallest minaret. A slender tower rising nearly 700 feet, this minaret shines a green laser beam toward Mecca at nightfall. With room for 25,000 worshippers inside and 80,000 outside, the mosques was funded entirely by donations from Moroccans, and has become the symbol of the city.

    You'll stop for lunch at a local restaurant. Then, discover a blend of cultures when you enjoy an included tour of Habous, the “new” medina (the Arabic word for city), which was designed in 1930 to blend Moroccan market culture with French influences. Here, you'll also see the Mahkama, a 60-room reception hall for the Pasha of Casablanca—a parliamentary building which houses the court of justice—that showcases a Spanish-Moroccan architectural style.

    This afternoon, enjoy some free time to continue discovering Casablanca on your own, or to relax. You'll dine with your fellow travelers onboard tonight.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    The Corinthian anchors this morning in Portimao. After breakfast, you'll travel overland to visit Lagos, enjoying an exclusive Discovery Series Portuguese language lesson en route. While Lagos was important to Henry the Navigator during the 15th- and 16th-century Age of Discovery, it was also once the heart of the European slave trade. After a walking tour, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

    Next, you'll depart for Sagres. Here, you'll explore the Fortress of Sagres, which Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator constructed in the 16th century to defend the important shipping lanes—part of his quest to position Portugal as a vanguard in world exploration. Strengthened and expanded over the next two centuries, enhancements to the structure were completed in 1793—the site also contains a 16th-century chapel and a compass rose made of stones.

    Return to your ship and set sail for your last night aboard the Corinthian. Enjoy a Farewell Dinner with your fellow travelers.

  • hidden

    Disembark this morning for a full day of discoveries in Lisbon.

    In the late 15th century, the port of Lisbon was the staging point for Portuguese explorations that would usher in the great Age of Discovery—and make Lisbon the richest European capital for the nest three and a half centuries. The immense riches brought back by these explorers and navigators ushered in a period of building and expansion that gave birth to a new Manueline architectural style, noted by its ornately carved decorative motifs. You'll see the examples of this style of architecture during a panoramic tour of Lisbon with photo stops in the historic section of Belem, at the ornate Belem Tower, and the 16th-century church of the Jeronimos Monastery.

    Next, enjoy a short walk through Alfama, Lisbon's oldest neighborhood. Then, enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch, you’ll stroll downtown through the bustling Rua Augusta—which will take you past two of Lisbon’s most magnificent squares: the Rossio Square and Commerce Square. Later this afternoon, you will check in to your hotel.

    Tonight, you will enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer from your hotel to the airport for your flight home. Or begin our post-trip extension for more discoveries of Lisbon.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

There's no better way to learn what a trip is like than from the firsthand experiences of your fellow travelers, and our Traveler Reviews are the real deal—unbiased and unedited—giving you an honest appraisal of the experiences that await you on this trip.

Have you been on this trip? Share Your Thoughts, Sign In

Please note: If you have taken this trip, please log into your My Account & return to this page. You will be prompted to post your review. Reviews are limited to 10,000 characters. Due to our moderation process, please allow up to 72 hours for your review to appear.

loading reviews

Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

Sign in to ask a question

Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

Sign in to ask a question

Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Travel considerations for you and your small group of no more than 25, on Classic Cities & Moorish Traditions of Iberia & Morocco.

Pacing

  • 9 days, with 7 nights aboard the Corinthian; and 1 single-night stay

Physical Requirements

  • You must be able to walk 2 miles unassisted and participate in 2 hours of physical activities each day
  • Travelers using mobility aids or with medical conditions that might require immediate attention or evacuation will not be able to board the Corinthian

Small Ship Cruising

  • If docked at a pier, gangway incline can be steep
  • Weather conditions and tides may require adjustments to your itinerary
  • Good agility, balance, and strength needed for possible rough seas
  • You must be cleared by a country’s local port authorities before disembarking the ship—you must wait onboard while this process is completed

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 62-76°F during cruising season

Terrain

  • Travel over uneven surfaces, including unpaved paths, steep hills, stairs, and cobblestone

Transportation  

  • Travel by 33- to 45-passenger coach and 98-passenger small ship

Cuisine

  • Meals will be a mix of local specialties and familiar American standards
  • Meals onboard feature a variety of entree options, including vegetarian

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Corinthian

    The ocean-cruising Corinthian is 290 ft. long and carries 98 passengers in 49 outside-facing cabins. Each of these cabins is at least 215 sq. ft. and has portholes, a window (some with partially obstructed views), or a balcony.  The cabins have a sitting area, queen-size bed (convertible to twin beds), a closet, flatscreen TV, a DVD/CD player, telephone, mini-refrigerator, and a private bath with shower, hair dryer, and toiletries. An elevator serves all passenger decks. Common areas include a restaurant and two lounges. On some trips, it may be necessary to use local tenders in some ports.

Main Trip

  • Monte Malaga Hotel

    Malaga, Spain

    The First-Class Monte Malaga Hotel overlooks the Rio Guadalmedina and offers striking seaport views. Within walking distance of the Malaga Cathedral and the CAC Malaga contemporary art museum, it’s well suited to enjoy all the city has to offer. Each air-conditioned room includes a TV and high-speed Internet, plus private bath with hairdryer. Onsite, enjoy a spa, bar, and saltwater pool.

  • Altis Grand Hotel

    Lisbon, Portugal | Rating: Superior First Class

    Rising 13 stories over the cultural heart of Lisbon, with views of St. George’s Castle, the Superior First-Class Altis Grand Hotel has a stylish, contemporary feel. Facilities include an indoor swimming pool, penthouse-level restaurant and lounge, and fitness club. Your air-conditioned room features cable TV, minibar, refrigerator, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

Extensions

  • Monte Malaga Hotel

    Malaga, Spain

    The First-Class Monte Malaga Hotel overlooks the Rio Guadalmedina and offers striking seaport views. Within walking distance of the Malaga Cathedral and the CAC Malaga contemporary art museum, it’s well suited to enjoy all the city has to offer. Each air-conditioned room includes a TV and high-speed Internet, plus private bath with hairdryer. Onsite, enjoy a spa, bar, and saltwater pool.

  • Altis Grand Hotel

    Lisbon, Portugal | Rating: Superior First Class

    Rising 13 stories over the cultural heart of Lisbon, with views of St. George’s Castle, the Superior First-Class Altis Grand Hotel has a stylish, contemporary feel. Facilities include an indoor swimming pool, penthouse-level restaurant and lounge, and fitness club. Your air-conditioned room features cable TV, minibar, refrigerator, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

Flight Information

Customize Your Trip

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to customizing your trip—and creating your own unique travel experience:

Purchase Flights with Grand Circle

  • Choose the departure city and airline that works best for you
  • Depart from one city and return to another
  • Upgrade your air itinerary based on your travel preferences
  • “Break away” before or after your trip to explore independently or re-energize
  • Combine two or more trips to make the most of your value—and avoid another long flight
  • Extend your discoveries with pre- or post-trip extensions

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Enjoy an improved travel experience in Iberia & Morocco in 2016 with our FREE itinerary enhancements

Deeper discoveries.
Better pacing.

WATCH VIDEO

Based on feedback from travelers who have already sailed with us on Classic Cities & Moorish Traditions of Iberia & Morocco—as well as recommendations from our regional offices and Boston headquarters—we have enhanced our 2016 itinerary with better overall pacing which will provide a more relaxed experience and add more free time in favorite ports. These improvements will create better opportunities to discover the culturally-rich destinations along the Iberian coast.

New destination: Malaga, Spain

We’ve added a new destination to your explorations of Spain—the enchanting city of Malaga. Adjacent to the Costa del Sol, Malaga has all the charms of a Mediterranean port mingled with the stately elegance of its historic city center. During your stay, you’ll enjoy an included city tour, where you’ll admire landmarks such as the magnificent Castillo de Gibralfaro—a Moorish castle dating back to the tenth century—and visit the famous Picasso Museum. For dinner, you’ll experience traditional Spanish tapas.

You can also expand your discoveries of this city on our brand new pre- or post-trip extension: Malaga, Spain. Tour a working bull ranch—owned and operated by a real torero (also known as a matador)—then savor a traditional meal while there. You’ll also stroll through the sun-drenched beach towns of Marbella and Mijas on included tours, where you’ll slip into the easy vibe of Andalusian culture.

Improved sailing experience

Our new sailing schedule will allow you to arrive at your first destination with time to settle in at your own pace and relax—rather than departing on your first night there. You’ll now start with two days in Lisbon, sail to the same ports of call as previously planned, and then finish your cruise in a new destination: Malaga, Spain. Or, you may choose to begin your cruise with two days in Malaga and end in Lisbon. Either way, you’ll now have more time to appreciate all these beautiful cities have to offer.

Better pacing, more free time

Your trip’s improved sailing schedule not only allows more time at the beginning of your trip, but we’ve also improved the pacing throughout your cruise to ensure a better experience in each port we visit.

Seville: We’ve eliminated the optional flamenco performance, which travelers felt was too touristic, and added a tour through its bustling, 150-year old Triana Market.

Tangier: Even more time is allotted to your Moroccan medina (market) visit, so you can browse, shop, and interact with the locals at your leisure.

Gibraltar: We’ve rescheduled our tour for the morning to allow for free time in the afternoon to explore this fascinating destination at your own pace.

Space is limited—call 1-800-221-2610 to reserve your spot TODAY

History, Culture & More

Learn more about the history, art, culture, and more you’ll discover on this trip by reading the features below. These articles were collected from past newsletters, Harriet’s Corner, and special features created for Grand Circle by our team of writers.

City of Discovery

Part of Lisbon’s charm is to be found in its many neighborhoods, each with its own identity. Read about them here.

Read More »

Iberian Echos

See how a Moorish army transformed Europe forever when they invaded the Iberian Peninsula.

Read More »

The Colorful Charm of Morocco’s Famous Rugs

The close ties between Morocco and textiles date back more than a thousand years. Learn about it here.

Read More »

History, Culture & More

City of Discovery

Monuments to the Age of Exploration are just one of Lisbon’s delights

A city steeped in history

With more than 20 centuries of history behind it, Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, having been settled even before Rome, London, and Paris. It is believed to have been founded by the Phoenicians around 1200 BC. Attracted by its setting on the Tagus, the Phoenicians dubbed the city Allis Ubbo—translated variously as “Safe Harbor,” “Friendly Bay,” and “Enchanting Port.”

The Romans were the next to control the city, naming it Felicitas Julia after Julius Caesar and building an underground complex of chambers, rooms, bridges, and corridors (though this network still exists today, it is rarely open to the public, due to safety considerations). The Romans were followed by Germanic tribes beginning in the fifth century AD. During the eighth century, the city was conquered by the Moors, who named it Lissabona and declared it the capital of the region. The Moors ruled here for 450 years, leaving an indelible mark on the city’s architecture—most prominently in the form of Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George’s Castle), built on the ruins of Roman and Visigoth fortresses high on a hill overlooking the Tagus.

In 1147, the city was captured by the Christians in one of the most important battles of the Second Crusade. At that time, the Kingdom of Portugal was confined to the northern part of the territory we know as Portugal today, and it was Portugal’s King Afonso I (also known as Afonso Henriques) who pushed the boundary of this kingdom beyond the Tagus River. Interestingly, although Lisbon has served as the Portuguese capital since 1255, it is unusual in that it has never been granted that official status.

Monuments to the Age of Exploration

Of course, Lisbon’s rise to prosperity and prominence on the world stage occurred during Portugal’s great Age of Exploration, when legendary explorers set out to discover a New World. At the time, Europeans depended on spices to disguise the flavor and aroma of meat that spoiled over the long winter months, and traders were also eager to gather stores of gold from the great continent of Africa. By the 14th century, the Portuguese fleet had begun sailing into the waters around North Africa searching for a trade route that would help them avoid the northern Mediterranean ports that were controlled by the northern Italian city-states of Venice and Genoa. In 1415, the Moroccan trading port of Ceuta fell to Portugal’s Prince Henry the Navigator, who founded a School of Navigation in the city of Sagres and launched the Age of Exploration.

The turning point in this great age of exploration occurred in 1498, when Vasco da Gama first charted a course to India. Portuguese explorers became the first Europeans to cross the Equator, round Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, establish trade with China and Japan, visit Australia and Newfoundland, and even circumnavigate the globe. As a result, Portugal became the wealthiest country in Europe, and the riches of this heyday may be seen in the Manueline style of architecture that survived the earthquake that devastated Lisbon in 1755.

Among these are two monuments that, together, have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery. Both have also been named among the Seven Wonders of Portugal by the Ministry of Culture.

The icon of the city, Belem Tower was built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to the Tagus River and as a commemoration of Vasco da Gama’s expedition. Although it has been used as a prison for political prisoners, a telegraph post, and a storage site for ammunition over the course of its history, it is best remembered as the last image seen by sailors setting off on their voyages of discovery and as an excellent example of Manueline architecture.

Also an excellent example of this style, and a monument to the Age of Exploration, is the Jeronimos Monastery, which began construction in 1501 and which was established to celebrate the success of Portuguese explorers. Set on the banks of the Tagus River, the monastery became the home of the Order of St. Jerome (Hieronymites, or dos Jeronimos), who were charged by King Manuel I to celebrate daily mass in perpetuity for himself and his successors, as well as Prince Henry the Navigator. Largely restored since the 1755 earthquake, the monastery was turned over to the state in 1833 and is now home to a collection of museums.

Welcome to the neighborhood

Today, Lisbon remains one of the leading cities of Europe, playing an important role in a number of industries, including international trade and finance, education, tourism, entertainment, and the arts. Lively and cosmopolitan, embracing both the old and the new, Lisbon has also been named the most livable Portuguese city in an annual survey published by a leading Portuguese newspaper.

Part of the city’s charm is to be found in its many neighborhoods, each with its own identity. The Belem neighborhood is home to Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery, boasts several monuments in addition to those cited by UNESCO, as well as attractive gardens and parks.

The heart of the city is Baixa, whose reconstruction after the earthquake is a fine example of urban planning and a forerunner of earthquake-resistant architecture. Today, it offers the city’s best shopping, as well as Terreiro do Paco (Black Horse Square) and Praça do Rossio (Pedro V Square).

Lisbon’s oldest district is the Alfama neighborhood. Because this area was largely unscathed by the earthquake, many vestiges of the city’s Moorish heritage still survive here. Its name is derived from the Arabic word for “fountains” or “baths” (al-hamma), in honor of the public baths that were popular here from the 17th to early 20th century. Fado, Portugal’s unique form of the blues, is often heard in bars and restaurants throughout this neighborhood.

History, Culture & More

Iberian Echos

The lasting legacy of the Moors

by Philip McCluskey, for Grand Circle

At the narrowest point on the Strait of Gibraltar, only nine miles separate Europe from Africa. It’s an inconsequential distance in global terms—just a short boat ride, really—and yet for countless centuries, Africa had seemingly small influence on the continent of Europe. That changed in the eighth century when a Moorish army from the northwestern portion of Africa invaded the Iberian Peninsula—and transformed Europe forever.

Culture of tolerance

The term “moor” is a generic term referring to an amalgamation of different peoples of northwest Africa: largely Arabs and Berbers. The common thread that tied them together was their Muslim faith. Islam was still a young religion in the 700s (Muhammad had received his Koranic revelations only 100 years earlier), but the faith and its armies had spread rapidly across the Arabian Peninsula and into North Africa to what is now known as Morocco by the early eighth century.

The Moors sought to continue this tide of conquest. In 711, led by General Tariq ibn-Ziyad, the Moors of the Umayyad Caliphate invaded the Iberian Peninsula. (A caliph is the title for the ruler of an Islamic community.) The Umayyad sect wrested control from the fading Visigoth armies at the Battle of Guadalete, and within eight years, held most of the peninsula. They would retain control of it—to varying degrees—for nearly 800 years.

The Moors called this region Al-Andalus, and it consisted of lands known today as Spain, Portugal, Andorra, and southern France. Though the Moors were defeated at the Battle of Tours in AD 732—thus ending their march through European territory—they would influence Europe immensely over the next several centuries as they built their kingdom in Iberia.

Despite the fact that it was a religious empire—and the spread of their religion to that point was predicated on forced conversions—the Moorish Muslims were tolerant of Christianity and Judaism in Iberia. Islam was the official religion, but people were permitted to maintain their own beliefs, provided they paid tribute (called a jizyah) to the Moorish conquerors. This payment also excused Jews and Christians from having to join the Islamic army.

This live-and-let-live culture helped to create a thriving and relatively peaceful environment, and the advancements made during the centuries that followed were spread across many areas. Perhaps best of all, the influence of these innovations was long-lasting—and helped to inspire others in the years to come.

Epicenter of education

Moorish Spain was a paragon of scientific study at a time when most of Europe was in a period of relative intellectual stagnancy. The capital of Al-Andalus, Cordoba, had 50 hospitals, 70 libraries and even streetlights at a time when London was languishing in the Dark Ages (England’s capital had only 20,000 people at this time; Cordoba boasted 500,000).

Education was very important to Islamic Iberians. For one thing, they founded seventeen different universities in Al-Andalus during a period when Europe had just a handful. Intellectuals from all over the Middle East and Europe traveled to Al-Andalus to share ideas at these institutions, making for a cross-pollination of knowledge that would lead to great advancements in thought and practice. In fact, the Spanish Moors presided over impressive leaps forward in astronomy, philosophy, mathematics, and medicine, and some luminaries of these pursuits emerged from this fertile intellectual landscape.

Ibn Zuhr, for example (ibn is a prefix meaning “son of” in Arabic), was a renowned 12th-century physician whose thoughts on the treatment of disease and the practice of surgery were hugely influential in Europe. Ibn Rushd was an esteemed philosopher who was instrumental in furthering Aristotelian thought. Ibn Tufail, a physician and novelist, is said to have inspired the notion of tabula rasa (the mind as a “blank slate” at birth), propagated by the eminent philosopher John Locke.

Moorish scholars and practitioners were so influential, in fact, that many key words in science and mathematics—including algebra, algorithm, alkaline—have Arabic roots (evidenced by the “al” prefix so prevalent in the language). Arabic numerals supplanted Roman ones during this time, as well. Even the concept of zero—which originated in the East—was introduced to Europe within the intellectual climate of medieval Iberia.

Epicurean advancements

Food was another area of Moorish innovation. To begin with, the introduction of advanced irrigation (influenced by Syria and Arabia) allowed what were the once-dry and largely useless plains of Iberia to become arable farmland.

The Moors also introduced a number of crops to the region, including oranges, lemons, hard wheat, and sugar. Almonds also became important as an ingredient in many of Spanish desserts, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and saffron added new flavors to local dishes. Most important of all, perhaps, was the introduction of rice into Iberian culture—a staple of the local diet included in paella. In fact, the Spanish word for rice—arroz—comes directly from the Arabic word for the same, al-ruzz.

Not surprisingly, the Moors greatly influenced the evolution of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine. It is believed that gazpacho was created during the time of the Islamic occupation. Though olives had been cultivated on the peninsula for centuries, they became a much bigger part of the diet during this time. Pickling was a process introduced, as well; today, pickled anchovies are a common dish found on tapas menus in Spain.

Stills were also introduced to Al-Andalus during the medieval era. Though Muslims did not drink as a matter of religious principle, they used the devices to create alcohols for medicinal purposes. It is no shock that the less-religious residents of the region often used the stills to create intoxicating beverages. (Interestingly, “alcohol” is yet another word distilled from an Arabic root.)

Al-Andalus’s grand palaces

Perhaps the most celebrated area of Moorish expertise passed down over the centuries was architecture. The surviving palaces and structures have justifiably earned worldwide admiration for their distinctive and stately beauty. The style evolved over the centuries, but there were several elements that distinguished them, including elaborate decorative tile, horseshoe arches, cupolas, Islamic calligraphy, and more.

The Alhambra Islamic palace and fortress in Granada is a truly impressive structure, and it remains the most famous building of Moorish Spain. Yet one of the finest examples of Moorish architecture can be found in Seville—the Alcazar, or “palace.” With bubbling fountains, elaborate gardens, ornate halls, and gilded cupolas, it’s not hard to see why this regal building still functions as a palace for the Spanish monarchy when rulers visit Seville.

The original structure was built by the first caliph of Al-Andalus, and was expanded considerably even after the Moors were gone. Though they had ejected the Moors, the Spanish kings loved Moorish architecture—so they continued creating palaces in the Mudejar style (referring to Muslims who stayed in Spain after the end of Moorish rule) while also adding Gothic, neoclassical, and other elements. The Alcazar itself retains an exotic Moorish feel, but you can see examples of iconography added by later Christian monarchs (such icons would not have been permitted by the Muslim faith).

The Moors also had a significant influence on architecture in Portugal, though fewer examples remain. The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, which killed thousands and destroyed 85 percent of the capital’s buildings, is certainly a big reason why few structures remain intact. There are echoes of the Islamic past here, however—specifically in the Alfama district of Lisbon (from the Arabic al-hamma, meaning “baths”).

The neighborhood is still laid out as it was when it was primarily populated by Arabs, with narrow cobbled paths and whitewashed houses. Today, as one walks through the steep streets past cafes, notes of traditional Portuguese fado music often float through the air. There also may be some of the famous and ubiquitous ornamental tiles along the walls that line the streets. Called azulejos (from the Arabic al-sulayi, meaning “polished stone”), this glazed ceramic tile work has Arab roots and has become a pervasive part of Portuguese culture over the centuries. Azulejos can be found all over Portugal, featuring everything from geometric and floral motifs to artistic depictions of historic events.

Luckily, the tragic 18th-century earthquake didn’t destroy everything. One stellar surviving example of Moorish might is the Castle of Silves, a fortification in the Algarve region (the name of this region comes from “Al-Gharb,” meaning “the west”).

Originally a Roman and Visigothic citadel, the castle was taken by the Moors sometime around AD 716. The Caliphate made extensive additions to the walls and it remained in their hands for centuries. Like so many Moorish strongholds, however, it was the target of Christian armies looking to take back Iberian land. After some back and forth—during which the Moors lost and recaptured the castle several times—the castle eventually fell. In the end, they all did.

New era, abiding influence

In 1492, as Christopher Columbus was preparing to embark on his famous journey and begin a new era, another was coming to an end.

After centuries in which the Moors had a significant presence throughout Iberian Peninsula, Christian forces had steadily been taking back much of the land once held by Muslims. Granada (and its mighty fortress, the Alhambra) was the last great Moorish bastion, and it survived—and, in fact, thrived—in the latter stages of what was called the Reconquista, or reconquering of European lands.

The inevitable, though, finally came to pass. King Ferdinand of Aragon laid siege, destroying the once fertile fields of Granada in order to starve the city into submission. The move eventually worked, forcing the Moorish king Boabdil to surrender in January of 1492.

Ferdinand’s first actions were entirely at odds with what had become the norm during the Moorish control of the region. He immediately burned thousands of Arabic manuscripts, and created a system of forced conversion to Catholicism for Jews and Muslims. It was enforced, in part, through another of King Ferdinand’s legacies: the Spanish Inquisition.

On that fateful day in 1492, legend has it that Boabdil wept after giving the keys to the city to Ferdinand. As he rode his horse out of Grenada, it is said that Boabdil came to a precipice and looked back upon the city he was leaving behind. It was there, knowing that his empire was no more, that he let exhaled sadly in what has since been called the “Moor’s Last Sigh.”

The nearly 800-year stretch of Moorish occupation in the Iberian Peninsula came to an end that day. Their influence on this region, however, would remain—and it does to this day in Portugal and Spain.

History, Culture & More

The Colorful Charm of Morocco’s Famous Rugs

Vibrant textiles and timeless traditions

by Victoria Welch

What comes to mind when you first think of Morocco? When you ask around, you’ll typically hear one of two distinct responses: Casablanca or rugs. And while Bogart and Bacall’s 1942 black-and-white romance did put Morocco on the map for much of the American public, today’s travelers to this Northern African nation often seek its iconic—and colorful—weavings.

The close ties between Morocco and textiles date back more than a thousand years—to its indigenous people, the Berbers. More than three dozen tribes of Berbers have called much of modern-day Morocco home throughout history, with a lifestyle based on caring for livestock. Following livestock’s migratory patterns resulted in a semi-nomadic way of life that prompted several needs: to be able to easily transport and create textiles appropriate to their latest environment, and to be able to sell their wares for profit. And given the diversity of terrain and climate throughout Morocco, indigenous people were required to adapt to survive and thrive equally well in desert and mountainous conditions.

A natural solution was weaving—creating textiles to serve particular locations and situations ranging from clothing to bedding. Tribes began to develop patterns, color choices, and techniques to showcase their niches within the greater Berber population.

Those identifiable approaches have become time-honored traditions passed from one generation to the next. For instance, many style aficionados think of Beni Ourain pieces when they think of Moroccan rugs. Typically light and neutral in color, they feature a dark pattern of diamonds that combine to evoke thoughts of waves. Meanwhile Zemmour rugs often feature bold hues in intricately designed stripes.

Rating rugs

Given their beauty and popularity, rugs are big business in Morocco, and those seeking an authentic product have much to consider. The market has become flooded with products produced by machines, or featuring synthetic materials or dyes. For a traveler in search of a fun and whimsical keepsake, a vibrant, synthetic rug may prove perfectly suitable—and relatively affordable. For those seeking an investment piece, it’s critical to conduct research and ask questions to ensure that you don’t find yourself led astray.

  • All-natural is your best bet for authenticity: Ask questions about the materials used in a prospective rug. A rug made of 100 percent wool is the highest quality, followed thereafter by wool and cotton blends. For the softest rugs around, seek out live wool (sheared from a live sheep). Then take the next step and ask about the dyes. Traditional Moroccan rugs typically utilize indigo plants, poppies, and saffron for their hues.
  • Note knot density: The highest quality Moroccan rugs are tightly woven and knotted works of art, featuring about 160,000 knots per square meter of rug. On the other end of the scale, a square meter of standard quality rug consists of about 20,000 knots.

Labor pains

There are long-standing concerns about how authentic Moroccan rugs are made, and this casts a shadow over the industry. While the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor noted in 2012 that Morocco has attempted to make strides in reducing child labor, “Some children were apprenticed before the age of 12, particularly in small family-run workshops in the handicraft industry. Children also worked in the informal sector in textiles, weaving carpets, and light manufacturing. Children’s safety and health conditions and wages were often substandard.”

Efforts are being made here and in nations to help raise awareness—and prevent people from supporting businesses that utilize child labor. GoodWeave is an international organization, founded in 1994, to certify child-labor-free rugs in textile-heavy nations around the world; if a rug features a GoodWeave label on it, importers and exporters must follow a strict series of regulations to ensure it was produced without any child labor involvement. While much of this effort has been based around textiles produced in India, Nepal, and other regions of South Asia, Morocco does have its first GoodWeave-certified seller located in Casablanca.

As awareness continues to grow, it’s wise to continue to ask questions from a prospective seller about the piece you’re considering. You’re fully entitled to ask about where a piece came from, who worked on it, and whether children work on those looms. Should you feel uncomfortable about the answers given—or if the prospective seller can’t give you any answers—move on and continue your search for the perfect piece of Morocco to bring home.

NEW Best Price Guarantee

When you and your friends travel on a Grand Circle Cruise Tour, we guarantee you will always receive the best combination of value and experience, at the best price.

1. Find your departure date

Select your dream Grand Circle vacation—and the departure date that best suits your travel preferences.

2. Compare other trips to ours

Our NEW Best Price Guarantee means that, if you and your friends can find a lower price on a comparable trip from another tour company, we’ll match it. It’s that simple.

We encourage you and your friends to compare our prices and value to the following companies:

  • Collette
  • Go Ahead Tours
  • Grand European Travel
  • Gate 1 Travel
  • SmarTours
  • Vantage Deluxe World Travel
  • Tauck

How do you know if you’ve found a comparable trip?

  • Does their trip visit the same or similar locations?
  • Does their trip include the same or similar number of days?
  • Does their trip include the same or similar number of meals and included tours?
  • Prices vary by season—does their trip depart in the same month as ours?
  • If their trip has internal flights, are they included in the price?
  • Is their trip led by a guide who accompanies the group for the entire trip?

3: Call us at 1-800-221-2610 to see if you found a match

If you think you have a comparable trip, don’t delay. Call us today and get the best price on your vacation—guaranteed. Our Travel Counselors will be able to either give you a response on the spot or will get back to you within 24 business hours.

Tell your friends: They can also enjoy our best price, guaranteed, and you can all benefit with our Vacation Ambassador Referral Program.

See full Best Price Guarantee Terms & Conditions.