Smithsonian Journeys, the travel program of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, has begun sailings in collaboration with PONANT, a leader in small ship expeditions.
“With PONANT, we’ve been able to create these unique experiences that are superior to what we could do on our own,” said Lynn Cutter, Senior Vice President of Travel at Smithsonian Journeys. “They’re leaders in high-quality adventure travel and best in class. We provide enriching educational experiences.”
Drawing on Smithsonian’s resources dating back 175 years, the sailings feature notable experts and experiences that embrace local cultures and dive deeper into a destination’s history, cuisine, language, environment, and wildlife. Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT are both focused on cultural immersion and discovery – to further inspire guests to become global citizens through travel.
The companies have joined together to offer 19 voyages in 2023, with PONANT’s ocean-class ships carrying anywhere from 184 to 264 passengers. The cruise line was started in 1988, using vessels that manage to combine “luxury” and “exploration” with a French flair. The year 2023 marks the second year Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT will offer co-branded sailings. Cutter said that the partnership was ideal.
“Our travelers typify the intellectually curious traveler,” Cutter said. “They’re passionate about travel. Each of our voyages has two experts and an array of enriching activities.”
Smithsonian’s experts are famously well-respected scientists and academics who have long been enlisted to inform their trips. As for the activities, they go way beyond the usual sightseeing and are often quite rarified. In the case of this partnership, they include meeting former Polish President Lech Walesa in Gdansk on a Baltic cruise, a behind-the-scenes visit to a Smithsonian tropical research center in Panama and traveling with conductor Keith Lockhart on a Quebec voyage.
“Lifelong learners love the intellectual components of our trip,” Cutter explained. “Generally, there are three to five talks throughout a trip. We also feature the Travelers Corner, informal discussions with the experts on board. The experts also join all excursions and meals.”
That said, Cutter says there is “absolutely an active component on all our trips and usually there are lots of options. The more active trips have more walking and other activities, including hiking. The trips also carry a difficulty rating.”
If it sounds appealing, you’re likely part of their target market. The sailings already include voyages to Iceland, Norway, Antarctica, Greece, the Caribbean and Australia. Cutter is especially excited about some of the new trips that are rolling out in 2023. They include Cruising from Morocco to Spain’s Andalusian Coast, on PONANT’s Le Dumont-d’Urville. It’s an exploration of the Portuguese, Moroccan and Spanish coasts, traveling from Casablanca to Lisbon with a stop in Tangier, along the Strait of Gibraltar. A highlight includes a trip to Granada for an exclusive private after-hours visit of the Alhambra.
Another new trip is A Circumnavigation of Sicily onboard Le Bougainville. Accompanied by Albert Leonard, an archaeologist who has directed excavations at sites around the Mediterranean during his 30-year career, travelers visit Greek ruins in Agrigento, the Greek in Taormina and the Byzantine-Arab mosaics while visiting Palermo. Cutter is also looking forward to Symphony on the St. Lawrence: From Québec to the Canadian Maritimes, on Le Bellot. It begins in Toronto and ends in Gloucester, Massachusetts, with stops in Tadoussac, Percé, Charlottetown, and Lunenburg, and Arcadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. A musical program curated by the legendary Boston Pops Conductor, Keith Lockhart, will be performed by six outstanding musicians. Lockhart himself will conduct four exclusive performances throughout the sailing.
“The area of meaningful educational and enlightening travel has huge growth potential,” Cutter said. “There’s lots of pent-up demand.”
Visit Smithsonian Journeys for more details.