Academy Travel is proud to offer a tour that explores the islands of the Mediterranean in style, featuring a seven-day cruise on the luxury 50-cabin sailing yacht Sea Cloud II. As well as the ancient sites, travellers will encounter masterpieces of medieval Arab, Norman and Byzantine society and the exuberant baroque art and architecture of later periods. All this takes place in a setting of remarkable beauty – the spare, rocky shores of Malta, the dramatic mountains and volcanoes of Sicily and the countless bays and cliffs of the coastline.
The Sea Cloud II
The Sea Cloud II is a luxurious 3-masted barque, traditionally crafted in teak, but with modern features. White cloth sails and understated elegance create a unique environment that is at once nostalgic and luxurious. Although most of the journey takes place under motor, on some days the crew climb the rigging to set the square sails and jibs and you experience the thrill of ocean yachting.
Cruising for six nights aboard Sea Cloud II, a very different experience to mainstream cruising, with outstanding service, fine food and wine
Exploring the city-fortress of Valletta, constructed by the Knights of St John
Touring the Neolithic temple complex at Hagar Qim and Mnajdra
Caravaggio’s paintings in Malta and Sicily
Sailing around the volcanoes of Stromboli and Vulcano, viewing active eruptions
Outstanding archaeological museums in Siracusa and Agrigento
The UNESCO World Heritage mosaics of Monreale and the Palatine Chapel in Palermo
Days 1–5: Arrive Valletta, tour Malta’s main sites, including the Neolithic complex of Hagar Qim and the medieval walled town of Mdina.
Days 5–11: Six-night cruise on Sea Cloud II, disembarking in Siracusa. Ports-of-call include Trapani, Palermo, Lipari and Taormina, plus a full day at sea.
Days 11–12: Explore Siracusa’s archaeological sites and baroque architecture.
Days 13–14: Travel to Agrigento’s Greek temples via the Roman villa at Piazza Armerina.
Days 15–17: Explore Palermo, including Monreale and the Palatine Chapel. Depart with a group flight to Rome.
The tour begins at the Valletta hotel and ends at Rome Fiumicino airport. Emirates and Qatar Airways offer direct flights to Malta and onwards from Rome, following a group flight from Palermo. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Monday September 23: Arrive Malta
This afternoon meet your tour leader Robert Veel at the hotel to take a short boat cruise of Valletta’s imposing harbour before a welcome drink and light dinner in our hotel. Overnight Grand Hotel Excelsior, Valletta (D)
Tuesday September 24: From the Stone Age
After a morning talk we visit two of the most impressive temple sites in Malta, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, adjacent to each other on the remote south-west corner of the island. The temples in Malta are the oldest monolithic stone structures in existence and provide reason alone to visit the islands. There is an excellent museum at Hagar Qim, with many artefacts from the temple period, 3-3,500BCE. After a welcome lunch at the harbour town of Marsaxlokk, we drop in at the stone age caves of Ghar Dalam, where a remarkable range of human and animal remains have been found. In the later afternoon we take a stroll through the streets of Valletta. Overnight Valletta (B, L)
Wednesday September 25: Mdina – Roman and Medieval Malta
The beautifully-preserved inland town of Mdina was the Roman, Norman and Arab capital, so it boasts a lot of history. This morning we visit the Roman House and catacombs of St Paul, associated with the apostle who spent months on the island. We then stroll the medieval city centre and enjoy lunch at the Xara Palace restaurant. This afternoon we drive back to Valetta vis the centre and north of the island, stopping at a range of natural and historic sites. Overnight Valletta. (B, L)
Thursday September 26: The Knights of Malta
After a morning talk we briefly visit Birgu and the Sant’Angelo Fort, the city of the Knights of Malta before the construction of Valetta. The rest of the day is spent in Valletta itself. The city was built immediately after the Great Siege of 1565 and is a remarkable example of urban planning and harmonious architecture. A highlight of our visit will be St John’s Co-Cathedral, which contains Caravaggio’s Beheading of St John the Baptist, painted in 1608 while the artist was seeking refuge from Italy. After lunch in a local restaurant, the tour continues. The late afternoon and evening are at leisure. Overnight Valletta (B, L)
Friday September 27: Embark Sea Cloud II – Valletta
This morning we visit the 3,000-year-old hypogeum from the temple period, an underground burial vault and one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. We then return to Valletta to visit the excellent archaeological museum. Finally, in the afternoon we stop by the National War Museum. Located in the restored St Elmo Castle, the museum explores in particular the role of the British on Malta. In the later afternoon we transfer to the port of Valletta to board Sea Cloud II. At sunset we make the breathtaking exit from Valletta harbour. All meals are included on our cruise. Overnight aboard Sea Cloud II (B, D)
Saturday September 28: At Sea
Our first day is spent at sea, with much of the day under sail. You will get to witness the crew setting sail and various technical aspects of the ship will be explained by staff. Weather permitting, you should also be able to journey out from the ship on zodiac dinghies to get a view of the Sea Cloud II under sail. Today there will also be a background talk on Sicily. Overnight aboard Sea Cloud II (B, L, D)
Sunday September 29: Trapani – Segesta
Get up early this morning to enjoy our sailing through the Aegadian Islands, before docking at Trapani on Sicily’s west coast. Our private excursion will take us to the 6th-century BCE Greek-style temple at Segesta, considered by many to be the most beautiful temple site in the ancient world. High above the temple sanctuary is a Greco-Roman theatre with breathtaking views to Sicily’s north coast. We rejoin Sea Cloud II for its early afternoon sailing. This afternoon there is a talk on board. Overnight aboard Sea Cloud II (B, L, D)
Monday September 30: Palermo
Unlike other travellers on the cruise, we have the luxury of a return to Palermo at the end of the tour, so our first day will be but an introduction to the city. We will first visit the 12th-century La Zisa hunting palace, built by the Normans in imitation of an Arab palace, and an intriguing example of the diverse cultural influences in Norman Sicily. We then take a walking tour from the open-air Ballarò markets, in the former Arab heart of the city, to the grand Teatro Massimo, Palermo’s 19th-century opera house. We reboard Sea Cloud II in the late afternoon with a short pre-dinner talk. Overnight aboard Sea Cloud II (B, D)
Tuesday October 1: Lipari – Aeolian Islands
We arrive at Lipari in the early morning. We will explore the acropolis and the excellent archaeological museum. The Aeolian Islands have been known since the Neolithic period, when the island’s obsidian was a valuable trading commodity. After a scenic drive around the island, we return to Sea Cloud II in time for lunch onboard. This afternoon’s sailing is one of the most beautiful of the cruise, through the Aeolian Islands to Stromboli, where we have a dusk viewing of this still-active volcano. Overnight aboard Sea Cloud II (B, L, D)
Wednesday October 2: Mount Etna
This morning we dock at Giardini-Naxos, beneath the resort town of Taormina. Weather permitting, we depart immediately on an excursion to the summit of Mt Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. We will ascend to nearly 3,000 metres, so warm clothes and reasonable fitness are required. If visibility is poor, we will instead visit Taormina. Highlights include the superbly situated Graeco-Roman theatre, the medieval palaces lining the main street and the views to the sea. We return to Sea Cloud II for lunch and an afternoon sailing. Overnight aboard Sea Cloud II (B, L, D)
Thursday October 3: Disembark Sea Cloud II – Siracusa
Today we arrive at the Sea Cloud II in the ancient city of Siracusa, second only to Athens in the ancient Greek world. This morning we take a walking tour of the old city. Charming laneways and restored medieval buildings make this a delightful place to wander. Highlights include the cathedral, converted from a 5th-century BCE Greek temple, and Caravaggio’s painting, TheBurial of Saint Lucy, honouring Siracusa’s patron saint. We farewell Sea Cloud II with lunch on board before disembarking and checking in to our hotel. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Overnight Grand Hotel Ortigia, Siracusa (B, L)
Friday October 4: Ancient Siracusa
This morning, after a talk we visit the Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum, one of the most important in Europe. It offers a survey of Greek, Roman, and early Christian Sicily. After a lunch break we stroll through the equally impressive archaeological park, visiting the Greek theatre, the quarries and a vast altar built by one of the city’s Greek tyrants. Overnight Siracusa (B)
Saturday October 5: Piazza Armerina and Agrigento
We depart Siracusa this morning, heading westward through the geographic centre of Sicily. Today’s highlight is the Villa Roman del Casale at Piazza Armerina, featuring a series of intact floor mosaics from the 4th-centur, created by North African artisans. After lunch we continue to Agrigento, arriving in the late afternoon. There is dinner tonight in our hotel. Overnight Hotel Colleverde, Agrigento (B, D)
Sunday October 6: Agrigento and Palermo
Agrigento – ancient ‘Akragas’ — was founded in the 6th-century BCE and enjoyed a reputation as one of the wealthiest colonies of the Greek world. The extensive and well-preserved sacred area is testament to this wealth, comprising four major temples in excellent preservation as well as a number of smaller structures. We tour the temple site and visit the fine archaeological museum. In the afternoon we continue to Palermo. We dine in a restaurant close to our hotel. Overnight Piazza Borsa Hotel, Palermo (B, D)
Monday October 7: Norman Splendour
Today we tour some of Palermo’s best medieval sites, including the Norman Palace and Palatine Chapel, with its gold mosaics, and the Byzantine-style church of La Martorana. We then travel to the hills behind Palermo to view the cathedral and abbey of Monreale, founded by the Norman King William II in the 12th century. Their superb architecture and vast mosaic decoration are testament to the aspirations of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. Overnight Palermo (B)
Tuesday October 8: Cefalù
This morning we visit the pretty coastal town of Cefalù. Here we admire the Norman cathedral and visit the Mandralisca Museum, whose drawcard is a fine Renaissance portrait by Antonello da Messina. We return to Palermo via the mountain shrine of Santa Rosalia, protector of the city. Tonight there is a farewell dinner in one of Palermo’s best restaurants, L’Ottava Nota. Overnight Palermo (B, D)
Wednesday October 9: Departure
After breakfast we travel to Palermo airport. Our group flight to Rome departs at 12.00pm. This schedule connects to the afternoon Emirates flight out of Rome, for those returning to Australia. (B)
A cultural historian and founding director of Academy Travel, with a strong interest in visual arts, architecture and music.
Robert Veel is a cultural historian with over 20 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, the USA, Scandinavia and Turkey. He has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, architecture and music, and is a founding director of Academy Travel.
Robert holds a BA, Dip. Ed and M.Ed, all from the University of Sydney. He worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney before a long stint at the University’s Centre for Continuing Education, lecturing in Italian history and culture and working as Assistant Director. Robert continues to teach occasionally in Continuing Education courses.
Robert’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through the early 20th century. In Italy he has led many tours focusing on the Medieval and Renaissance periods. In the United States he likes to focus on the founding of the Republic and the Gilded Age of the early 20th century. In Scandinavia he is particularly interested in national identity and its role in Scandinavian literature, design and architecture. Robert speaks fluent Italian.
Robert led his first tour to Italy in 1990 and has not looked back! He has led more than 50 tours and designed many of Academy Travel’s most popular tours, including Sicily, New York, Rome and Venice residential tours, and our Scandinavia tours. More recently Robert led the first offering of Academy Travel’s tours to Tasmania and New Zealand.
We asked Robert, what do you enjoy most about leading tours?
“I really enjoy travelling with like-minded, interested travellers who are up for a bit of an intellectual adventure. It’s often the unexpected things that create the ‘shared joy’ of group travel”, says Robert “a wonderful, but little-known painting, a great performance or a fabulous meal. These are the things we travel for.”
“Over the years travellers have commented on my seemingly boundless enthusiasm. It’s true that I am curious about most things – people, places, history and artistic expression. There’s a kind of alchemy when this enthusiasm rubs off on others – hopefully with a bit of useful information as well!”
Set on Ortigia Island near the main marina, this elegant five-star hotel is within walking distance to the main historical sites. www.grandhotelortigia.it
Agrigento, Hotel Colleverde Park (1 night)
This four-star hotel overlooks the Valley of the Temples and is a 15-minute walk to the archaeological site. www.colleverdehotel.it
Palermo, Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa (3 nights)
This centrally located four-star hotel is within walking distance of many of Palermo’s historical sites. www.piazzaborsa.it
What is included in the tour price?
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.