Ancient riverside towns, the Black Forest, landscapes brought to life by the Brothers Grimm, terraced vineyards, castles and cathedrals - all beckon on this escorted cruise of Germany’s legendary Rhine River. Explore artsy Basel then head to Breisach, gateway to the Black Forest. Wander the cobblestone streets of colorful Colmar and walk through two centuries of history in Koblenz; perched at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. Pass a parade of castles and vineyards while gliding through the world famous Rhine Gorge to magnificent Mainz. Explore Strasbourg’s UNESCO town center strolling amid half-timber homes whose windows are draped with flowers. On your way to fabled Cologne, discover the splendid Gothic Cathedral and charming Old Town. Windmills, tulips, canals, street markets, and museums await in vibrant and energetic Amsterdam.
Day 1 - Depart for Zurich, Switzerland
Arrive at the airport and check-in for the overnight flight to Zurich, Switzerland to begin our adventure cruising the romantic Rhine River through Switzerland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Day 2 - Arrival in Zurich – Embarkation on the MS Symphonie
Upon arrival in Zurich, we transfer to Basel and the MS Symphonie for check-in. After getting settled, there is free time to explore the city of Basel whose medieval old town center around Markplatz is dominated by a 12th-century Gothic Cathedral with spectacular city views. Basel has one museum per square mile with a total of 40 making it the “Art Capital” of Switzerland. Back on our vessel, we will meet our ship’s crew at a welcome Cocktail Reception. This evening, we enjoy our first meal of locally prepared French Cuisine in the best Alsace tradition. (D)
Day 3 - Basel - Breisach, Germany
The ancient town of Breisach is situated among rolling vineyards between the Rhine River and the Black Forest. The city is surrounded by stone ramparts dominated by the impressive Saint Stephen’s Cathedral that has pastel-hued buildings and cobblestone streets. After our tour of this historic city, we will have a wine tasting of some of the best wines of the region that was once German and then French.
This afternoon, we visit Colmar and the Unterlinden Museum. Colmar is known for its colorful half-timbered houses, its historic old town, and the canals that run through the heart of this town giving it the nickname, “the Little Venice of France.” It is believed that Colmar was one of the French villages that inspired the movie “Beauty and the Beast.” We’ll spend time, exploring the romantic Little Venice neighborhood before visiting the Unterlinden Museum that is located in a 13th-century convent. Amazingly, this museum has collections spanning 7,000 years! The most regarded masterpiece in its collection is the Issenheim Altarpiece by artists Niclaus of Haguenau and Grünewald. Later, we return to the MS Symphonie for an evening of leisure and entertainment. (B,L,D)
Day 4 - Breisach - Strasbourg, France
Wake to a hearty breakfast as the river carries you past vineyards and picturesque towns. Glide into the dramatic scenery of the Rift Valley that separates the Vosges Mountains, and the beautiful Black Forest Mountains with its pine-studded landscapes and cascading waterfalls. This area is famous for its beautiful landscapes that merge into the Alsatian plains.
We arrive in Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region that is bisected by canals and narrow streets lined with pastel-colored timber-framed houses with hanging baskets of blooming flowers. The best way to explore the city is on its quaint waterways, which is why we are taking a canal tour through the UNESCO World Heritage city center. Unforgettable sights include an area known as Petite France, where tanners and millers once lived and worked, the Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral with its medieval astronomical clock considered to be a great technological invention for the time, and the multi-towered Ponts Couverts covered bridges. Don’t miss a chance to sample the local wine in popular cafes known as winstubs. Tonight we enjoy a sumptuous meal and an evening of dancing in the lounge as we cruise toward the historic city of Mainz. (B,L,D)
Day 5 - Mainz, Germany - Koblenz
When you emerge this morning from your cabin you will be greeted by hills and valleys covered with vineyards glowing bright green in the morning light. Our destination is Mainz, considered to be Germany’s wine capital. On our way to Mainz, the river narrows as we cruise through the Rhine Gorge that is dotted with castles and fortresses. Our first excursion of the day takes us on a vineyard tour of Mainz in an open-air wagon. On this leisurely excursion, we will go through one of the largest vineyards in Germany. Along the way, we will enjoy picture-perfect views of the Rhine and the surrounding bucolic landscape. A highlight is the traditional treat of traditional bread, wine, and a cold-cut snack that this region is famous for.
This afternoon we continue to cruise through the romantic Rhine Valley past amazing scenery and small towns and villages. A highlight along the way is the legendary rock of the Lorelei that sits 132 feet above the River Rhine, in the Rhine Gorge at Sankt Goarshausen, which is part of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site. The statute of Lorelei, high above us illustrates the German legend of a beautiful maiden who threw herself into the Rhine River over a faithless lover and was transformed into a siren who lured fishermen to their destruction.
After a sumptuous dinner onboard our vessel we will have a guided tour of the medieval and early modern districts of the city of Mainz. The most famous son of Mainz was Johannes Guttenberg, the inventor of the moveable printing press, and the Guttenberg Bibles. A must-see attraction is the Mainz Cathedral built in the Romanesque style whose cornerstone was laid in 975 A.D. and is one of the oldest in Germany. (B,L,D)
Day 6 - Koblenz – Cologne - Dusseldorf
This morning we say goodbye to Mainz and begin our cruise to Cologne, passing the cities of Andernach, Konigswinter, and Bonn. We will cruise past the historic city of Koblenz located at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers that is nestled in several mountain peaks.
As our ship approaches Cologne, you’ll catch a glimpse of the ancient volcanic forested Seven Hills, known as Siebengebirge that inspired the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, including Snow White.
Upon arrival in Cologne, famous for its 12 Romanesque churches, we have a locally guided tour of this magnificent city; the crossroads of Europe since the Middle Ages. Discover Cologne’s massive Gothic cathedral, one of the largest in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will leave you in awe. It is the tallest twin-spire church in the world and is the most visited landmark in Germany. On our tour of Old Town, we will stroll the winding streets passing the famous Farina Fragrance Museum, and the City Hall, the oldest public building in Germany dating back more than 900 years. Cologne’s Old Town has countless alleys lined with traditional houses, cafes, shops, galleries, and restaurants that you can explore in your free time. Don’t miss the chance to stop for a beer in one of Cologne’s rustic pubs where they serve kolsch, the signature beer of the city. Returning to the ship you will freshen up for a festive gala evening. (B,L,D)
Day 7 - Dusseldorf – Xanten – Nijmegan - Amsterdam
As we dine on a hearty breakfast, our cruise continues through Dusseldorf, the fashion capital of Germany, to Arnhem and the Netherlands Open-Air Museum where you will experience what Dutch life was like in the countryside. This national museum, Netherland’s first, biggest, and best folk museum focuses on the everyday life of the Dutch people throughout the country’s history. Explore more than 100 historic buildings, from cottages to farmhouses, factories, to mills, and many other interesting structures brought here from around the country that illustrates the Dutch culture and heritage. Not only can these buildings and houses be viewed from the outside, but you can also go in them as well, giving you a true sense of culture and history. As you wander through the village at your own pace, watch traditional crafts in action or take an authentic tram around the site.
As you are enjoying your day, our ship cruises to Nijmegen. Later in the afternoon, we will rendezvous with our vessel and begin our cruise to Amsterdam, one of the most important ports of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century during the “Dutch Golden Age.” (B,L,D)
Day 8 - Haarlem, Holland
Amsterdam is a magical city that celebrates individuality and quirkiness with a dash of Avant Garde fun. It is an interesting city with a long history from the 17th century glory days to the vibrant art scene, interesting shops, countless museums, and trendy restaurants that visitors enjoy today. Today, we get off-the-beaten-path with a bike tour of Amsterdam to discover places only the locals know about. As we ride, we’ll pass in front of many famous monuments and sites, including Dam Square, the Royal Palace, the Anne Frank House, Nieuwmarkt, the Rembrandt House Museum, and much more! Keep your eyes peeled for the city’s hidden “hofjes” or squares of tiny almshouses set around picturesque courtyards. (B,L,D)
This afternoon, we depart for the Haarlem. Known as the ”City of Tulips”, Haarlem has been the main production and export center for tulip bulbs for centuries. With its ancient buildings, cobbled streets, and winding waterways, this medieval town has been an inspiration for generations of artists. Today, it is considered one of the most photogenic destinations in the Netherlands, and, routinely voted as the Netherlands’ best shopping destination. We’ll discover the Amsterdamse Poort (Amsterdam Gate), built-in 1400, and the only vestige from the city’s fortifications, the Grote Markt (Main Square), the Corrie Ten Boom House, used as a hiding place during World War II, and the impressive Gothic Cathedral of St. Bavo dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. In Haarlem, you’ll get the chance to see a great number of “beguinages”, with the oldest dating back to 1395. Before heading back to Amsterdam, there will be some free time for you to explore and go shopping.
Day 9 - MS Symphonie Disembarkation – Depart Amsterdam
Enjoy one last breakfast on board before disembarking at 9:00 a.m. and head to the airport for the return flight home. (B)