SeaCloud II

The Liberator: Aboard the Sea Cloud II

Malta, Sicily & Italy
FEATURING ALEX KERSHAW, GORDON H. “NICK” MUELLER, PHD, AND ROBERT M. CITINO, PHD
October 19 - 28, 2018

Tour Overview

Follow in the footsteps of US Army officer Felix Sparks, subject of Alex Kershaw’s best-selling book, The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau, while seeing the best of Italy and visiting many of the key sites in the Italian WWII campaign.

Follow in the footsteps of US Army officer Felix Sparks, subject of Alex Kershaw’s best-selling book, The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau, while seeing the best of Italy and visiting many of the key sites in the Italian WWII campaign. Hear stories of sacrifice and heroism while sampling the best of the country’s hospitality, culture, and cuisine. Join Kershaw, along with Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, cofounder and President & CEO Emeritus of The National WWII Museum, and Robert M. Citino, PhD, the Museum’s Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian, on a unique voyage of celebration and commemoration.

Starting on the ancient island of Malta—the heart of Allied operations and plans until 1943—guests explore one of the most beautiful cities in the Mediterranean. In Valletta, Malta’s capital, our odyssey begins in the very room where Eisenhower fine-tuned plans for Operation Husky and launched the invasion of Sicily. Visit the nearby underground tunnels dug by beleaguered civilians to protect themselves from Italian and German air raids during one of the longest and most dramatic sieges in history. At the National War Museum, discover Malta’s importance throughout history as the key to control of the entire Mediterranean.

In Sicily, stand where Audie Murphy, World War II’s most decorated American soldier, came ashore with the 3rd Infantry Division in July 1943, and explore the amazing Valley of the Temples.

Mainland Italy offers the chance to explore the landing beaches at Salerno, where the Texans of the 36th Division fought hard against a fiercely determined German enemy. Follow the Allies north via Pompeii and the Isle of Capri to the verdant Liri Valley—the land of “mountains, mules, and mud”—and on to the Rapido River where Americans launched into a bloody but vain assault against stiff German defenses. After visiting the ancient Abbey of Monte Cassino and nearby San Pietro, head to Anzio where the caves of Pozzoli are a haunting reminder of just how costly the campaign to liberate Italy became.

On June 4, 1944, after almost 10 months of hard fighting in Italy, Rome fell to the Allies, a triumph quickly overshadowed by the Normandy landings on June 6. At the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, pay your respects to the thousands of young Americans who gave their lives so the Allies could liberate the first Axis capital in Europe—warriors whose sacrifice and courage we commemorate to mark the 75th anniversary of the Italian campaign.

The odyssey ends with visits to some of the great sites of Rome before celebrating the liberation of the city at its ancient heart. A post-tour extension explores the wonders of Rome and Florence and the heroics of the 10th Mountain Division in the mountains south of Bologna, completing the story of the war in Italy.

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Tour Inclusions

  • Full-time logistical tour manager
  • Shore excursions with expert local battlefield guides at each port
  • Roundtrip airport transfers (when arriving and departing on scheduled group tour dates)
  • Two nights at the historic five-star Grand Hotel Excelsior in Malta
  • Six nights aboard the Sea Cloud II
  • One night at the Westin Excelsior in Rome
  • Private, first-class, air-conditioned motor coach transportation
  • Personal listening devices on all included touring
  • Included gratuities to shipboard staff, guides, drivers, porters, and servers
  • All meals onboard and as indicated on land in the program itinerary
  • Free-flow beer, wine, and soft drinks with included lunches and dinner on land
  • Unlimited beverages while on board the Sea Cloud II including house wines, spirits, beer, coffee, water, teas, soft drinks, and juices
  • Welcome and farewell receptions
  • Informative map book including useful maps and archival images to be used throughout your journey
  • Document wallet, personalized luggage tags, and customized name badge
  • Personal journal and pen to document your journey

Onboard Amenities

  • Welcome bottle of champagne in your cabin
  • Fresh fruit basket in your cabin, replenished daily
  • Cabins serviced twice daily
  • Hair dryer and cosmetic mirror
  • Bathrobes
  • Top quality bath products
  • Watersports activities including snorkeling (weather permitting)
  • Free laundry service for guests in suite categories 

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Download the official The Liberator: Aboard the Legendary Sea Cloud II brochure for a full listing of inclusions, accommodations, and other useful information.

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The Liberator: Aboard the Legendary Sea Cloud II

Tour Itinerary

Full Tour Itinerary

October 19, 2018 - Day 1

Arrival

Upon arrival into Malta International Airport (MLA), transfer to the five-star Grand Hotel Excelsior, where the Museum’s travel team welcomes you. Enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.

Grand Hotel Excelsior

October 20, 2018 - Day 2

The Defense of Malta

Today's tour highlights the WWII history of the 2018 European Capital of Culture: Valletta, Malta. The most bombed city in Europe during Word War II, Valletta suffered more than 3,000 individual bombing raids from 1940-1942. Visit the National War Museum where the George Cross, awarded to the people of Malta for their bravery and tenacity, is displayed prominently. Explore the Lascaris War Rooms, the underground headquarters–Eisenhower's base during the planning and operation of the July 1943 Sicily invasion, Operation Husky. At the St. John’s Co-Cathedral, uncover the history of the Knights of St. John and Napoleon’s role in naming the church as a Co-Cathedral.

Grand Hotel Excelsior (B, L, D)

October 21, 2018 - Day 3

Malta's Unique Heritage

Explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Megalithic Temples of Malta, where Malta’s first settlers migrated from Sicily more than 7,000 years ago. Temple construction here began in 3600 BC, and the tour today also begins here with the Ħaġar Qim Temples. These fantastic temples sit atop a ridge overlooking the sea and were never completely buried in their 5,000-year existence. In fact, the tops of the temples appear in paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. The nearby “Silent City” of Mdina traces its history back 4,000 years. This walled city is home to Malta’s noble families, some of whom are descendants of the Norman, Sicilian, and Spanish overlords who made Mdina their home from the 12th century onwards. This diverse collection of people is a result of Malta’s strategic location and influence. Your historian will describe the leading powers in the Mediterranean over the centuries and Malta’s status as a British colony during World War II.

Sea Cloud II (B, L, D)

October 22, 2018 - Day 4

Sicily-Licata and the Valley of the Temples

The day begins at the landing beaches in Licata where the 3rd Division came ashore on July 10, 1943. Among the invaders was the legendary Audie Murphy, destined to become the most decorated US solider of Word War II. Licata was also where Lieutenant Colonel William Darby, one of the greatest combat leaders in the Italian campaign, went into action with his First Ranger Battalion. While exploring these western shores, visit the producer of the finest olive oil in the region before exploring the amazing Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Sea Cloud II (B, L, D)

October 23, 2018 - Day 5

At Sea

Experience the Sea Cloud II at her finest—in full sail, cutting through the Mediterranean toward mainland Italy. Tour historians discuss the highlights of the Sicilian campaign in two sessions—one before lunch and the other at cocktail hour—notably, General Patton’s race against the British to be the first to Messina, and the hastily assembled plans to invade Italy at Salerno.

Sea Cloud II (B, L, D)

October 24, 2018 - Day 6

Operation Avalanche: Paestum and Salerno

Famous for the ruins of three Greek temples, Paestum was the landing zone of the ill-fated 36th Infantry Division during the bloody Salerno invasion in September 1943. Wounded young Texans lay beneath ancient columns as the Allies fought desperately to hold onto a fragile toehold in Italy. At the legendary Tobacco Factory, Felix Sparks’s fellow comrades in the 45th Division, the “Thunderbirds” fought one of the most violent battles of the war. The ruins still stand, stark reminders of how Italy was no “soft underbelly” but rather a “tough old gut.” The inland, hilltop village of Altavilla, scene of a stubborn defense by the 82nd Airborne, provides extraordinary views of the entire battlefield and the Bay of Salerno.

Sea Cloud II (B, L, D)

October 25, 2018 - Day 7

Pompeii and the Isle of Capri

The day begins at the ruins of Pompeii. In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, throwing a plume of ash and rocks into the sky. The citizens of the town of Pompeii, near the base of the volcano, watched this spectacular event, and for those who did not immediately flee, conditions became severe. The ash fell, making it difficult to breathe, buildings collapsed, and poison gas and rock rolled down from the mountain. By the next day, Pompeii was buried under millions of tons of volcanic ash. In the mid-18th century, explorers dug under the layers of dust, rock and ash to find the city preserved as it was at the time of the eruption. The uncovered art and architecture inspired new trends throughout Europe, and the site continues to fascinate visitors today. Travel across the sea to the Isle of Capri, a resort island that has captured the imaginations of writers and artists for centuries. The top of the island offers breathtaking panoramas, and the social hub of the island, La Piazzetta, bustles with activity. German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp established the Gardens of Augustus, a road designed and built by engineers, with hairpin turns scaling a 300-foot cliff. The top of the Gardens offers a view of the rocks of the Faraglioni.

Sea Cloud II (B, L, D)

October 26, 2018 - Day 8

Monte Cassino

After heavy fighting around the Salerno beachhead, the arduous journey up the rocky spine of Italy began. Mountainous terrain and successive lines of German defenses slowed the Allied advance to a bitter crawl. At the Liri Valley’s Rapido River the 36th Infantry Division once again suffered mightily as German artillery observers looked down from the Abbey of Monte Cassino. In a preannounced but nonetheless shocking move, the Allies dropped thousands of tons of explosives on the abbey, reducing it to rubble. We visit the Abbey, restored “where it was, as it was,” and learn how its destruction influenced the treatment of other cultural and historical landmarks in Italy during war. Nearby stands the “ghost town” of San Pietro Infine, subject of John Huston’s masterful documentary, The Battle of San Pietro. Towering above the village is Monte Sammucro where Captain Henry Waskow, subject of Ernie Pyle’s most moving column, was killed in a December 13, 1943, attack that Huston captured in his film.

Sea Cloud II (B, L, D)

October 27, 2018 - Day 9

Anzio

Today, visit the battlefields of Anzio, scene of the costliest stalemate of World War II for the Western Allies and the most intense, unrelenting combat of the Italian campaign. Hitler ordered repeated counter-attacks to destroy the Allied “abscess” south of Rome, and in February 1944 came very close to pushing Allied forces back into the sea. Had it not been for the 45th Infantry Division, particularly Felix Sparks and his regiment, German armor would have stormed down the Via Anziate, dealing a fatal blow. We exclusively visit the caves where Sparks lost his entire infantry company. Armed with flashlights and led by local guides, enter the caves and imagine the close combat and the echoes of each explosion and gunshot. At the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, a special ceremony honors Captain Henry Waskow, the company commander immortalized in the Ernie Pyle column, “The Death of Captain Waskow.”

Westin Excelsior Rome (B, L)

October 28, 2018 - Day 10

Departures

Transfer to Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino International Airport (FCO) in Rome for flights home, or continue on the post-tour program, Rome to the Gothic Line.

(B)

Extension - Optional 3-Day Post-Tour Extension

Rome to the Gothic Line

Extend your stay in the Eternal City and experience its storied history. Visit the Ardeatine Caves where the Germans murdered 335 Italian citizens in revenge for a partisan bombing that killed 33 SS police officers. Tour the Coliseum, a favorite backdrop for GI photos. In addition to the ancient parts of the city, notice the fascist architecture of the 1930s and the surviving images of Benito Mussolini. Finish the day with a leisurely night out in Rome.

Continue to Florence on day two for an exploration of the heart of the Italian Renaissance, as well as the nearby Gothic Line, the last line of defense in Italy for the retreating Germans. The Germans placed more than 2,000 machine gun nests on the Gothic Line in an attempt to wear down the Allies and escape back to Germany intact. The Allied assault on the Gothic Line included numerous counts of heroism: the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team led the way up Mt. Folgorito in a nighttime march; Medal of Honor recipient Vernon Baker destroyed several German positions near Castle Aghinolfi; and future US Senator Robert “Bob” Dole, who served with the 10th Mountain Division, was wounded southwest of Bologna.

The beautiful and historic city of Florence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site listed by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the “best cities in the world,” provides a welcome retreat after touring the battlefields, and provides an opportunity to explore some of the greatest artistic treasures in the world, many of which are displayed at the Uffizi Gallery.

On departure day, transfer to the Toscana Aeroporti Firenze for your flights home.

The Liberator: Aboard the Legendary Sea Cloud II

Featured Guests & Historians

Alex Kershaw

Alex Kershaw is the author of the acclaimed best-sellers The Bedford Boys, The Longest Winter, The Few, The Liberator, and Escape from the Deep, as well as biographies of Jack London, Raoul Wallenberg, and Robert Capa. Inspired by The Liberator, this itinerary traces the 500-day journey of Felix Sparks and the 157th Infantry Regiment. An honorary colonel in the 116th Infantry Regiment, Kershaw has hosted many tours to Europe for The National WWII Museum, including the exclusive Soldiers and Spies tour. He is also a popular and regular speaker at the annual International Conference on World War II in New Orleans. He is currently researching a follow-up book to The Bedford Boys about D-Day.

Robert M. Citino, PhD

Robert M. Citino, PhD, is America’s leading historian of the German army and an award-winning scholar with 10 published books, including The Wehrmacht’s Last Stand: The German Campaigns of 1944-1945, The Wehrmacht Retreats: Fighting a Lost War, 1943, and Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942. He has written numerous articles covering World War II and 20th-century military history. He speaks widely and contributes regularly to general readership magazines such as World War II. Dr. Citino enjoys close ties with the US military establishment, and previously taught at the US Military Academy at West Point and at the US Army War College. He currently serves The National WWII Museum as the Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian.

Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD

Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, former historian and Vice Chancellor at the University of New Orleans, served as Founding President and CEO of The National WWII Museum. Mueller’s exceptional contributions to the preservation and interpretation of WWII history and his special contributions to public awareness of the D-Day landings in Normandy have resulted in numerous awards, including the French government’s Legion of Honor, which he received in May 2016. Dr. Mueller’s new role as President and CEO Emeritus affords him time for research and writing a history of the Museum and on other WWII topics. He continues to lead overseas WWII tours and speaks widely on the war experience, the American Spirit, and nonprofit leadership.

The Liberator: Aboard the Legendary Sea Cloud II

Accommodations

Sea Cloud II

Providing guests with the comfort of four expansive decks, a relaxed social atmosphere, and space for private contemplation aboard the majestic Sea Cloud II. After retracing remarkable battlefield stories on shore, be enchanted by a diverse range of delicious dishes onboard. Enjoy public spaces exuding a classic maritime atmosphere that is as timeless as the ocean.

Malta, Italy

Grand Hotel Excelsior

Ideally located on the doorstep of Malta's capital city, Valetta—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—the Grand Hotel Excelsior overlooks the treasures of this historic city. This five-star, certified eco-friendly hotel offers three restaurants and four bars, as well as a marina, indoor and outdoor pools, a private beach, and a private spa. The hotel also offers outdoor watersports, including PADI and IANTD SCUBA diving. Rooms include spacious balconies, individually controlled AC/heat, satellite TV, in-room safe, minibar, coffee and tea-making facilities, and a spacious bathroom with soaking tub and shower.

Rome, Italy

The Westin Excelsior Rome

Located on one of the most celebrated streets of Rome, the Westin Excelsior Rome is nestled between the Spanish Steps and the Borghese Gardens. The hotel offers exclusive dining in two restaurants on the Via Veneto, a piano bar, and Westin’s signature “breakfast on the bed.” The 3,200-square-feet Kami Wellness Center offers massages and other spa treatments, a sauna, Turkish bath, Jacuzzi, indoor swimming pool, and a fitness center with personal trainers. Luxurious, classically designed rooms offer signature Westin Heavenly® Beds, LCD TVs, complimentary WiFi, individual climate control, in-room refreshment center, and marble bathrooms with bathrobes, and White Tea by Westin™ bath amenities.

Florence, Italy

The Westin Excelsior Florence

A stunning renaissance palace, the Westin Excelsior Florence is a masterpiece in its own right, with cutting-edge interiors flawlessly paired with unique features from its renaissance life. Each room offers a taste of Florentine tradition combined with modern amenities: the signature Westin Heavenly® Bed, in-room movies and cable TV, in-room safe, and minibar. In addition to two restaurants and a bar, the West Excelsior also offers room service and a special “breakfast on the bed.” In addition to the WestinWORKOUT Fitness Studio, the hotel offers workout clothing and shoes, as well as a map for a jog around Florence.

The Liberator: Aboard the Legendary Sea Cloud II

Pricing

Program Pricing

Price per person based on double occupancy


Owner's Suite
$13,999

SOLD OUT

Junior Suite
$11,999

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Deluxe Category C
$9,999

SOLD OUT

Deluxe Category D
$9,499

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Deluxe Category E
$8,999

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*Taxes and fees are additional $329 per person.
Single supplement add 30%.


Post-Tour Extension Options

Rome to the Gothic Line
Price per person based on double occupancy

$2,499

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*Taxes and fees are additional $159 per person.

The Liberator: Aboard the Legendary Sea Cloud II

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