Arrive Amsterdam and embark your riverboat
Tour begins: 6:00 PM, Amsterdam. A transfer is included from Schiphol International Airport or Amsterdam Centraal Station to your riverboat; check-in time aboard ship is 4:00 PM for all guests. After a discovery briefing where you'll hear about your river travels ahead, please join us for a welcome reception followed by dinner aboard your riverboat to celebrate the start of a fantastic journey.
Canals, museums and more in Amsterdam
In a city indelibly linked to water, it's fitting that your day begins with a cruise on its 17th-century grachten (canals) which fan out in crescent-shaped rings from the northern waterfront. On the drive to board your canal boat, you'll get an orientation to the city, which at its heart feels more like a village than the compact center of a cosmopolitan city. Landmarks include Centraal Station, built at the end of the 19th century and still a place in constant motion - with people, bicycles, trams and buses; De Waag (Weigh House), once a fortified gate that today houses a popular outdoor café; and the Mint Tower, a gate in the city wall (circa 1400) that marks the intersection of two canals, tram paths, a pedestrian-only shopping street, and the city flower market - an ever busy, ever interesting crossroads. Aboard the canal boat, you'll glide beneath curved bridges carrying walkers and cyclists - sometimes trams and cars - and by narrow merchant homes, whose goods were once pragmatically stored on the upper floors. After a guided visit to the famed Rijksmuseum - home to many works by Rembrandt and other old Dutch Masters - a drive to the old university town of Utrecht brings you back to your riverboat, and cruising through the gentile Dutch countryside begins!
A day in Köln and a castle dinner
Overnight your riverboat crosses into Germany; after a full morning of cruising and lunch onboard, you'll arrive in Köln (Cologne), a city made a capital of a Roman province in 50 AD. Sightseeing begins with a guided tour of the immense twin-towered Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), whose construction took a mere six centuries. Completed in 1880, UNESCO declared this Gothic "Dom" a World Heritage Site in 1995, recognizing its cultural value as "a testament to the longevity of faith." You'll explore this intimately scaled city by coach and on a walking tour, with an optional visit to the Romano-Germanic Museum adjacent to the cathedral (closed Mondays). The collection contains impressive examples of art, culture and everyday Roman life along the Rhine. Highlights include the Dionysus Mosaic, once the floor of a Roman banquet hall (which lies exactly where it was found in 1941, when workers were digging a World War II bomb shelter), the world's largest collection of Roman glass, and a miniature portrait of the Roman Emperor, Augustus. Following a bit of free time, travel to a private reception and dinner at Schloss Ehreshoven, a moated castle near Köln whose history dates back to the 14th century; now a charitable foundation, the 17th-century manor house was restored in the 1990s. Rejoin the riverboat tonight in Köln.
Koblenz or bicycling on the Rhine
Your riverboat arrives this morning in Koblenz. The city's roots go back to the Middle Ages, when its location made it a powerful one as the controller of trade along these major waterways. You may choose a morning of guided exploration of Koblenz, or a cycling excursion* along the Rheinradweg bicycle route. If you choose to explore Koblenz, your orientation tour includes a walk to Deutsches Eck - the "German Corner," where the Rhine and Moselle rivers meet - and a visit to Aldstadt (Old Town), a mix of delightful town squares, tucked-away corners, medieval churches, baroque residences and cozy wine taverns. Should you choose to go bicycling (a countrywide passion in Germany), you'll follow easy riverside trails through forest, meadows and Riesling winelands, taking in views of the passing pleasure boats and freighters. After lunch aboard the riverboat, the entire afternoon is spent cruising through the quiet Rhine River Valley, past small cities, churches, ancient walls and castles; enjoy dinner and other activities aboard the ship tonight.
Explore Speyer or Heidelberg and its famous castle
Following a morning spent cruising, arrive in Speyer early in the afternoon. For centuries the Rhine River was a major transport hub and a source of wealth for many - and Speyer was a town that thrived on trade in the 10th and 11th centuries when construction on its double-domed cathedral began. Today, you have a choice of exploring Speyer or Germany's oldest university town, Heidelberg. If you choose Speyer, your explorations begin at Speyers' impressive Technik Museum - home to exhibits dedicated to every form of technology that moves, from vintage cars to a Boeing 747 jumbo jet and a German U9 submarine that you can go inside, and the Russian BURAN space shuttle. Then walk to Speyer Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; you may be surprised by its use of natural glass windows, which pre-dated the use of stained glass, and its roof made entirely of stone - the first ever in Europe. Alternatively, you may spend the afternoon on an excursion to Heidelberg, where narrow lanes, shops and pubs housed in 17th-century structures in the Altstadt are kept lively by the cadence of student life. On the hillside above the city, you'll visit the romantic ruins of Heidelberg Castle, celebrated in writing by many, including the German poet Goethe and Mark Twain, who both spent time here. Twain wrote about the striking red sandstone ruins of Schloss Heidelberg in A Tramp Abroad; they were a magnificent residence for Bavarian royalty from the 13th to 18th centuries. The castle is an imposing ensemble of buildings, from different architectural periods, surrounding a central courtyard; from its terrace and gardens, the sweeping views impress along with the feel of 600 years of history. This evening, return to the ship for dinner and some onboard entertainment.
Sightseeing in Strasbourg and Baden-Baden
You'll wake docked on the Rhine this morning, surrounded by the hills of southern Alsace, many checkered with vineyards. The day begins in the Alsatian cultural capital of Strasbourg, France. It is home to the charming canals and half-timbered houses of La Petite France, stately city residences, a Gothic cathedral, and plenty of winstubs, traditional Alsatian beer pubs. After a morning of sightseeing in Strasbourg, you may choose to stay in town to explore on your own; go for a bicycle excursion through Strasbourg with a local guide; or travel to the German spa resort town of Baden-Baden, on the edge of the Black Forest - where you can either take a walking tour then enjoy free time in this famed spa town, or choose to visit Caracalla Spa, a day devoted to wellness and relaxation. The spa resembles a glass temple, with facilities that include whirlpools, waterfalls, counter-current pools, massage jets and turquoise pools of warm water sourced from natural springs. Add in a sauna complex with both hot and cold rooms (some wellness treatments at additional cost) and you'll feel re-energized at the end of your visit. Return to the ship for dinner and an evening of cruising en route to Basel.
Mt. Pilatus or wine tasting along the Alsatian wine route
Welcome to Switzerland! Mountain scenery, shimmering Lake Lucerne, and forests and meadows straight out of a picture book are in store for you today if you choose to join our excursion to Lucerne. In this "city of lights," landmarks include the Kappelbrucke, a covered wooden footbridge crossing the Reuss River that dates back to the 1330s, an octagonal Water Tower once used as a prison, narrow lanes and lovely squares, like the Kornmarkt, Weinmarkt and Hirschenplatz. In Altstadt Lucerne, narrow cobblestone lanes lead to town squares lined with houses painted with frescoes. From town, you'll head out for the heights of Mt. Pilatus aboard the world's steepest cogwheel train, climbing from Alpnachstad at the edge of Lake Lucerne to the very top (Oberhaupt) - nearly 7,000 ft. high. Getting to the top is definitely part of the fun, as you travel upward at a 48° angle, while soaking up views of Alpine meadows, and mountain streams, goats and flowers. Alternatively, you may prefer the pleasures of lunch and a wine tasting along the Alsatian wine route. If so, you'll head to Château Haut-Koenigsbourg, originally built in the 1200s on a rocky promontory high above the French Alsatian plains - an ideal spot for observing comings and going. Burned, abandoned and restored to its former glory in 1899, the castle presents a picture of a mountain fortress of the Middle Ages, brimming with beautiful details. Regardless of your choice, your day ends in Basel, which lies at the center of the "Three Corners," where France, Germany and Switzerland meet at the Rhine. On an orientation tour of this affluent and cultured city, you'll find green areas, parks, dozens of museums and art galleries, and chic restaurants. Along the Rhine Promenade, broad steps feature inviting cafés with views of the city skyline, dominated by the 14th-century Münster Cathedral. From the 16th-century town hall, painted in red and gold, to state-of-the-art works of architecture along the Rhine by internationally acclaimed architects like American Frank Gehry and Japan's Yoshio Taniguchi, you'll find a small city that has served as a major crossroads of travel and thought since the 15th century. Join us this evening for the captain's farewell reception followed by dinner aboard ship.
Tour ends: Basel. Disembark your riverboat this morning by 9:00 AM. A transfer is included from the riverboat to Basel's Euroairport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg or Basel SBB Railway Station. Fly home anytime. Allow 3 hours for flight check-in. For guests wishing to spend more time in Basel, please ask us at booking about additional hotel nights.