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Macaronesia & Bissagos Islands

Dakar - Lisbon (Northbound) - Example 22 Day Cruise aboard MS Spitsbergen
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Join MS Spitsbergen on this 22-day Macaronesia and Bissagos Islands grand expedition cruise, starting in Dakar, visiting Île de Gorée, and sailing to the Bissagos Islands. View different bird species, rare saltwater hippos, manatees, and more in the Bissagos UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Discover Cape Verde’s culture and volcanic landscapes when you visit Boa Vista, Santiago, Fogo, and Santo Antão. Explore the Canary Islands and visit El Hierro, La Gomera, and La Palma. You'll sail through the verdant landscapes of Madeira and the picturesque beaches and wildlife of Porto Santo. Your expedition cruise ends in Lisbon, one of southern Europe's most enchanting cities.
DakarGoree Island Dakar SenegalVolcanic FogoSanto AntaoDolphinLa Palma IslandMadeira PortugalPorto Santo
Highlights
  • Discover La Palma, also known as La Isla Bonita.
  • Explore Santo Antão largely untouched wilderness sanctuary.
  • See landscapes of lava on Fogo, an island dominated by an active volcano.
  • View wildlife in the Bissagos UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Places Visited
Activity Level: Relaxed
Involves minimal physical effort and is typically associated with leisurely activities. Activities are low-intensity or last less than a few hours each day.
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Dakar, Senegal

  • 1 Lunch
Dakar is colorful and captivating—the perfect place to start your West Africa expedition. The capital of Senegal is an exciting and diverse mix of cultures. It is also a showcase for stable African democracy. Many visitors come here to visit the sad remnants of the Atlantic slave trade on the nearby Île de Gorée. Take some time to adjust to a new culture and get ready for the exciting voyage ahead.

If you want to explore more the area before your expedition cruise, you can book a Pre-Program excursion to visit the Bandia Nature Reserve. Ride an open vehicle safari through the African savanna for some exciting wildlife spotting. Keep an eye out for giraffes, buffalo, monkeys, gazelles, ostriches, rhinos, and more.

Day 2: Visiting Île de Gorée | Embark

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After breakfast you’ll visit the historical UNESCO site of Île de Gorée. The largest slave trading center on the African coast, this island of forts and museums is a memorial to the suffering of the countless enslaved peoples who passed through this tragic place. 

Learn more on a visit to the Maison des Esclaves museum – the Slave House. You'll also tour the baobab-shaded streets of the town, where local artisans sell their crafts.  

MS Spitsbergen is waiting for you back on the mainland.  

Day 3-6: Bissagos Expedition

  • Ship
  • 4 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners
Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1996, the Bissagos Islands are abundant in wildlife. They support turtles, manatees, crocodiles, and snakes, plus more than 500 types of birds. Look out for saltwater hippos, best spotted in November and early December.

Over the next four days, you’ll explore a maze of islands and channels, seeking out mangroves, tropical forests, savannah woodlands, and coastal lagoons. The small boats (RIBs) can take you down the smaller channels and on-shore landings with the Expedition Team. They may also launch the kayaks.

You’ll meet and learn more about the local Bijagós people, a tribal society organized in clans. Practicing a life that is in balance with nature, they hold the world around them as sacred and have retained their ancestral traditions.

Local conditions can determine when and where you can land and explore, but whatever you do you can be sure you’ll experience the rich diversity of the archipelago up close.

Day 7: Bound for Cape Verde

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy a relaxing day at sea as you head towards the Cape Verde archipelago. The islands are known for their magnificent volcanic landscapes, dramatic valleys, and towering volcanoes, with the highest point at Pico de Fogo (literally meaning ‘peak of fire’), rising 9,250 ft above sea level.

As you cruise, you’ll learn more about the geology and history of Cape Verde through lectures from the Expedition Team. There can be opportunities to participate in scientific projects in the Citizen Science program. You can also take it easy and relax on deck in the tropical sun.

Day 8: Boa Vista

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
You've now reached Cape Verde’s easternmost island, Boa Vista.

You’ll be awed by the rugged beauty of the Sahara-like desert formations and landscapes of this volcanic island. The sand dunes and oases found here are in stark contrast to the other islands you visit on this cruise.

Stroll the streets of the island’s capital, Sal Rei, where you can explore its history and traditions, and visit Santa Isabel Church. The Ponta do Sol nature reserve is within hiking distance of the town and a great way to enjoy the scenery.

Day 9: Diverse Santiago

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Santiago embodies the spirit of the Cape Verde archipelago. Here, you can enjoy a little of everything, from historical sites and bustling markets to lush valleys and jagged mountains.

The capital of Praia is a dynamic city that attracts immigrants from the rest of Cape Verde and the African continent.

Explore Praia’s vibrant culture on a city tour. Visit the museums and buildings around the Plateau, which displays artifacts recovered from the islands’ shipwrecks. Stop by viewpoints, the local market, and more

Day 10: Volcanic Fogo

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today's expedition day takes you to Fogo, an island dominated by a cone-shaped active volcano. Centuries of eruptions, the last in 2014, have left an incredible landscape for you to explore.

Enjoy a tour of São Filipe’s cobbled streets and charming historic center. Don’t miss the stunning lava fields of Chã das Caldeiras.

Fogo doesn’t have any natural harbors, so you’ll only land if conditions allow you to launch the small boats (RIBs). Otherwise, you’ll take in the spectacular volcanic scenery as you cruise around the island.

Day 11: Rugged Santo Antão

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Santo Antão’s landscapes of peaks, gorges, and canyons have benefited from their unsuitability for agriculture. Largely untouched, this wilderness sanctuary is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.

You’ll land in Porto Novo, the island’s main port, which has spectacular views across to São Vicente. Enjoy a ride around the island, which takes you on a nature tour through the island’s ribeiras. These are deep, narrow canyons with near vertical walls.

Or you could take a nature walk and admire the beauty of these local spots up close. Walk along trails through mango and almond groves, punctuated by the delicious aroma of roasting coffee wafting through the villages.

Day 12-14: Canary Islands Bound

  • Ship
  • 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
With volcanic landscapes and a rich history, you may want to learn more about the Canary Islands before you arrive. The Expedition Team is on hand to teach you all about these remarkable islands.

Enjoy life onboard, edit your photos, and relax on deck while looking for whales, dolphins, and seabirds as you head north across the Tropic of Cancer. Dine on delicious meals prepared in the onboard restaurant and watch the sunset from the Explorer Lounge &Bar.

You recommend heading over to the Science Center and taking part in Citizen Science projects that support marine conservation. You believe everyone can make a difference in protecting the world’s most precious habitats.

Day 15: Remote El Hierro

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
With lava-sculpted rocks and fields filled with flowers, the remote El Hierro is a truly remarkable island. In fact, this young oceanic shield volcano is classified as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The port for the day is Puerto La Estaca, just over four miles away from Valverde, the only landlocked capital in the Canary Islands. Stroll the streets of this easy-going capital and soak up its traditional atmosphere.

Choose a panoramic drive tour or explore the island’s photogenic forests, meadows, and volcanic formations on a hike. These varied landscapes are all connected with crisscrossing trails.

Day 16: Unspoiled La Gomera

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
La Gomera is the second-smallest island in the Canaries, and the nature is largely untamed. You’ll find island life here at its most authentic.

In San Sebastian’s historic center, you can visit the Iglesia de la Virgen de la Asunción, a Baroque church, where Christopher Columbus and his crew are said to have prayed before setting sail. You can also visit the archeological museum to learn about the mysterious Gaunche people who first settled these islands.

Consider hiking through the beautiful laurel forests and idyllic palm-covered valleys of the mountainous Garajonay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day 17: La Palma, the Pretty Isle

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Known as La Isla Bonita or ‘The Pretty Island’, La Palma is home to unspoiled pine and laurel forests, banana trees, and palm groves. Santa Cruz, its capital, is considered one of the most attractive towns in the archipelago.

Lined with magnificent Renaissance-era buildings with lavishly adorned plants and flowers, Santa Cruz displays a fantastic example of Canarian architecture. Don’t miss the eccentric La Palma Island Museum, set inside an old convent.

In the districts of La Canela and San Telmo, you’ll see signs of faded colonial grandeur. Walking in La Palma is superb, with some walks starting right in Santa Cruz. Outside the city, you can join a walk to experience the spectacular Caldera de Taburiente National Park.

Day 18: Timanfaya National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy a leisurely day at sea as you sail towards the Madeira Islands.

Soak in a hot tub, work up a sweat in the gym, enjoy a sauna, or take in ocean views from the Explorer Lounge &Bar. If you want to improve your camera skills, ask for some pointers on landscape composition from the expedition photographer.

Don't miss the Expedition Team’s fascinating lectures on Madeira's history and wildlife. Learn about important conservation projects, like how locals are working to remove invasive plant species from Madeira Natural Park.

Day 19: Verdant Madeira

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enveloped by swathes of humid laurel forest, Madeira rises majestically out of the Atlantic in various shades of green. Funchal is its quaint and cosmopolitan capital, filled with old world charm.

Visit the historic old town and see the beautiful cathedral. Dating to 1485, its wooden ceiling and is a classic example of Manueline architecture. Sample Madeira's fortified wines and try the sweet ananas-banana fruit, which looks like a giant pickle.

For glorious views, take the cable car to the picturesque village of Monte. If you dare, slide the mile back down to Funchal in a carro de cesto, a wicker sled on wooden skis. It’s a fun and memorable experience!

Day 20: Sands of Porto Santo

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
As you approach Porto Santo, keep your binoculars handy for dolphins and seabirds, including Cory’s shearwaters, northern gannets, and Bulwer’s petrels.

In Vila Baleira, walk to the palm-lined square, Largo do Pelourinho, and enjoy a glass of vinho do Porto Santo in one of the bars before visiting the Christopher Columbus House Museum.

Join the on a panoramic bus tour to Ponta da Calheta, Pico do Castelo, and Fonte de Areia, whose waters are said to guarantee eternal youth. If you prefer a nature walk, join a hike to spectacular Pico Branco, where much of the endemic flora on the island can be found.

Day 21: At Sea

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
As your journey draws to a close, today is all about reflection. The Expedition Team can be eager to share with you the best moments of the trip and present their final talks.

Edit your photos, update your travel journal, or read a book—there are plenty of quiet corners on the ship where you can simply relax.

After a lovely last dinner on board, sit back in the panoramic Explorer Lounge &Bar, drink in hand, and exchange the highlights of your expedition cruise with your new-found friends as you sail towards Lisbon.

Day 22: Enchanting Lisbon | Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast
Your expedition cruise ends in Lisbon. The Portuguese capital is rich in history and culture. If you’re able to spend some time here, you won’t be disappointed.
Take a stroll through Baixa and the narrow streets of Bairro Alto to Alfama and the old Islamic quarter. You can also visit the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, a little farther from the city center.
You recommend joining the optional Post-Program for a sightseeing tour of Lisbon’s fascinating historic districts. You’ll also explore the UNESCO town of Sintra, Monserrate Palace, and the beaches of Cascais before enjoying an overnight stay in this lovely city.

Ship/Hotel

MS Spitsbergen

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
Rates are dynamic and fluctuate based on capacity. Contact us for a specific quote.
Rates are subject to change without notice. Book early to get the best rate.
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Polar Inside - B
Outside cabin, 193 sq ft. With limited/ no view, queen bed, kettle, TV, bathroom with shower. Accessible to guests with limited mobility
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Polar Inside - I
Most cabins have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, some have a double bed or upper and lower berths, shower/wc
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Polar Inside - K
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, shower/wc
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Polar Outside - AJ
Upper and lower berths, shower/wc, limited/no view
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Polar Outside - J
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, or upper or lower berths, shower/wc, limited/no view
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Polar Outside - A
Upper and lower berths, shower/wc
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Polar Outside - N
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, or upper or lower berths, shower/wc
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Polar Outside - O
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, or upper or lower berths, shower/wc
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Arctic Superior - P
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, kettle, coffee/tea, shower/wc
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Arctic Superior - U
Some cabins have a double bed, some have 3 or 4 beds, some have a seating area, kettle, coffee/tea, TV, mini bar, shower/wc, limited/no view
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Arctic Superior - QJ
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, kettle, coffee/tea, shower/wc
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Expedition Suite - Q
One room with a double bed, some with seating area, some with 3-4 beds that can be upper beds, TV, mini bar, kettle, coffee/tea, shower/wc, view
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Expedition Suite - MG
One or two rooms with seating area, double bed, TV, stereo, mini bar, kettle, tea/coffee, shower/wc, some with bathtub, most with private balcony or bay window
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Expedition Suite - MX
Two rooms with a double bed, seating area, dining table, TV, mini bar, kettle, coffee/tea, stereo, shower, w/c, private balcony
Included
  • 21 Breakfasts, 21 Lunches, 20 Dinners
  • 21 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Photography Guide on Expedition Team
     
  • Complimentary Expedition Jacket
  • Loan of Boots, Trekking Poles, & All Equipment for Activities
  • Photos & Film/Video Footage from the Voyage Shared in The Expedition Logbook
  • Wine, beer, juice, and soft drinks served with lunch and dinner on board ship
  • Coffee and tea are included throughout the day. Beverages (beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water in all ship restaurants)
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with very limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • À la carte restaurant Lindstrøm included for suite guests
  • Transfer from Dakar airport to the ship on day of embarkation
  • Overnight at a hotel in Dakar, including lunch and breakfast 
  • Full-day tour to Gorée Island, including lunch
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Luggage Handling 
  • Mandatory medical evacuation insurance

Map

When to Go

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.

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