Day 1 Arrive in Amsterdam, Holland (Embarkation).
Welcome to Amsterdam! Holland’s sophisticated, modern capital has a rich 700-year-old history and a distinct ambiance. Maybe stroll through the lively marketplace or see the works of famous Dutch masters at world-renowned museums such as the Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh. This afternoon, board your river cruise ship and meet your crew at an evening welcome reception. (D)NOTE:Guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.
Day 2 Amsterdam.
Today, get a unique perspective of Amsterdam on an included CANAL CRUISE, floating along the elegant grachten lined with stately homes dating back to Amsterdam’s “Golden Age.” There’s free time in the city this afternoon—you might like to join an optional biking tour (weather permitting). Afterward, bid tot ziens (farewell) to Holland and set sail for Germany. (B,L,D)
Day 3 Cologne, Germany.
Today, enjoy a peaceful morning of cruising before reaching Cologne after lunch. One of Germany’s largest cities and capital of the Rhineland, Cologne straddles both sides of the Rhine and is known for its soaring, twin-steepled gothic cathedral. Choose between a GUIDED CITY WALK or JEWISH HERITAGE WALK. Later, during free time, consider checking out the Romano-Germanic Museum, home to a large collection of artifacts from the Roman settlement on which modern Cologne is built—a must for history buffs! The Old Town abounds with cafés, shops, and taverns. Be sure to try a Kölsch pale lager, locally brewed in Cologne for over a hundred years! (B,L,D)
Day 4 Rhine Gorge–Rüdesheim.
This morning, cruise through the dramatic RHINE GORGE—without a doubt, the most beautiful stretch of river and where ancient castles stand sentry on lofty cliffs rising 400 feet above the waters. Cruise past the rock of the Lorelei, where legend tells of enchanted siren song that lured sailors to their doom. On your included shore excursion in pretty Rüdesheim, visit SIEGFRIED’S MECHANICAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MUSEUM, where you’ll be mesmerized by the self-playing calliopes and music boxes from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Enjoy a SPECIAL TREAT and free time to pick up some souvenirs on the narrow, cobblestoned Drosselgasse, where colorful flowers, open-air wine gardens, and live music add to the festive atmosphere. (B,L,D)
Day 5 Miltenberg.
Relax on board this morning as you sail the tranquil Main River. Tucked away behind medieval defensive walls and towered gates, the picturesque Bavarian village of Miltenberg is a cultural gem. This afternoon’s GUIDED WALK will acquaint you with the town’s delightful Marktplatz (market square) centered around a Renaissance-era fountain, as well as the striking half-timbered buildings, cobblestone lanes, one of the oldest inns in Germany—Haus zum Riesen (the giant’s house), and the gothic splendor of the Merchant Hall. (B,L,D)
Day 6 Würzburg.
Surrounded by verdant hillside vineyards, Würzburg, the “Pearl of the Romantic Road,” makes an immediate impression with imposing Fortress Marienberg perched above town and the 15th-century Alte Mainbrucke (Old Main Bridge). On your GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR this morning, visit the magnificent baroque BISHOP’S RESIDENZ, home to the largest ceiling fresco ever painted. Depart Würzburg at lunchtime and spend a leisurely afternoon cruising the Main River. (B,L,D)
Day 7 Bamberg.
Relax this morning, then before lunch, attend a fascinating ONBOARD LECTURE to learn more about the European Union. This afternoon, arrive in medieval Bamberg, former residence of one of Germany’s most powerful imperial dynasties and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your GUIDED WALKING TOUR takes in its historic center, including the great 13th-century Romanesque cathedral and the fascinating Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)—built on an island in the middle of the Regnitz River when the bishop refused to give the townspeople land for a town hall! Wander the town’s serpentine streets with their charming houses and 18th-century mansions. Before dinner we’ll introduce you to some of Germany’s FAMOUS BEERS! (B,L,D)
Day 8 Nuremberg.
Although 90% of Nuremberg’s Old Town suffered extensive damage during WWII, much of it has been restored to the glory it once knew as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. This morning, choose a GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR and marvel at this thousand-year-old city’s medieval fortifications, extraordinary gothic churches, and the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle), or join a more specialized “NUREMBERG TRIALS” tour. During free time, be sure to try some tasty Lebkuchen and make a wish at the beautiful fountain in the Hauptmarkt (main square). Legend says your wish will come true if you turn its gold ring three times. This afternoon, relax on board and attend an interesting LECTURE about the engineering marvel that is the Main Danube Canal. (B,L,D)
Day 9 Regensburg.
Dating back to the time of the Celts around 500 BC, Regensburg is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities. Established during the Holy Roman Empire and the only German city not bombed during WWII, Regensburg has at least 1,300 listed buildings of “historic interest.” Architectural highlights of your GUIDED WALK include the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), built in the 13th century, and Porta Pretoria, gates to an ancient Roman fort built in 179 AD. Wander through the city’s lanes and alleys to discover the many mansions with high towers. Wealthy families built these towers to emphasize their status and wealth during the Middle Ages, and many still remain today. Walk across the 12th-century Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge), the oldest of its kind in Germany, then grab a beer and enjoy a SNACK at the Historische Wurstküche (Old Sausage Kitchen), one of Germany’s oldest restaurants. Here—where the locals congregate—feel the vibrant atmosphere and take in the remarkable views along the river. (B,L,D)
Day 10 Passau–Linz, Austria.
Uniquely located where the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers converge, Passau is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets lined with beautiful patrician houses. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a masterpiece of Italian baroque architecture, houses one of the world’s largest church organs with 17,774 pipes. Take in the highlights on the included GUIDED WALK through this charming town, and find out much more about the “City of Three Rivers.” During lunchtime, set sail for Linz, where you arrive in the evening. Alternatively, you might like to join a full-day optional excursion to Salzburg to see the popular Sound of Music sights or to Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rejoin your ship in Linz. (B,L,D)
Day 11 Melk–Dürnstein.
A day of charming towns and magical scenery awaits you today! In Melk, enjoy a GUIDED VISIT of the magnificent 11th-century BENEDICTINE ABBEY, one of Europe’s largest monasteries. The abbey church houses stunning frescoed ceilings and an ornate library with a large collection of medieval manuscripts. Next, head into the heart of the Wachau wine region to Dürnstein, known for its baroque blue Stiftskirche. A Local Guide will take you on a WALKING TOUR and tell you the tale of England’s King Richard the Lionheart, who was imprisoned in the castle whose ruins still stand above the town. (B,L,D)
Day 12 Vienna.
Early this morning, arrive in Vienna, the “City of Music,” which inspired the creative genius of Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss. Once the center of the mighty Habsburg Empire, Austria’s magical capital on the blue Danube is a showcase of gilded architecture. This is home to the lavish Hofburg Imperial Palace complex with its Vienna Boy’s Choir and dazzling Lipizzaner stallions; the neo-renaissance Vienna Opera House; and awe-inspiring St. Stephen’s Cathedral—plus, countless other sites you’ll see on your GUIDED TOUR. Stroll through the delightful pedestrian Kärntnerstrasse, and be sure to take a break and enjoy a piece of decadent Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel in one of the classic Viennese coffee houses—historic institutions that helped shape Viennese culture! An optional concert is available tonight. (B,L,D)
Day 13 Bratislava, Slovakia.
At the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains is Bratislava, the dynamic capital of Slovakia. After breakfast, join your Local Guide for a tour of the city, including a GUIDED WALK of its fascinating Old Town, where winding cobblestoned streets and narrow alleyways twist and turn to reveal the Town Hall, one of the oldest stone buildings in the city. Also visit gothic ST. MARTIN’S CATHEDRAL, coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th to 19th centuries. This afternoon is free to explore on your own. (B,L,D)
Day 14 Budapest, Hungary.
Spanning the banks of the Danube, Budapest is one of Eastern Europe’s liveliest cities. Whether you’re seeing the sights, shopping for handcrafted embroidery or Herend porcelain, or basking in the coffee house culture over a rich cream cake in the renowned Gerbeaud Café, Budapest’s unique energy is positively palatable. On your GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR, see the massive hilltop castle complex with its remarkable Fishermen’s Bastion and 11th-century Matthias Church. Be sure to take note of the city’s eight bridges—many famous sights in and of themselves—which connect ancient Buda on the right bank with Pest on the left. In your free time this afternoon you may want to walk across Chain Bridge, a symbol of Budapest built in 1849. Alternatively, consider visiting St. Stephen’s Basilica with marvelous views of the city from its viewing platform, or stroll along Váci utca, the main shopping street. (B,L,D)
Day 15 Budapest (Disembarkation).
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)