Arrive at the Brussels airport, then transfer to Bruges, Belgium, one of Europe’s best preserved medieval treasures. You will have some free time to get acquainted with the city on your own.
During a guided walking tour, take in the historic atmosphere of Bruges. Your city walk leads you past the town’s scenic network of canals and proud guild houses torn from a mercantile past. You will stop to visit the Church of Our Lady, with Michelangelo’s famous Madonna and Child. Also see the Béguinage, a modest complex that housed a semi-monastic community of lay sisters – Beguines – dedicated to a life of piety. Afterward, you will have free time to stroll more of Bruges’s charming cobbled lanes, stop by an artisan’s shop to see how intricate lacework is created or sample sweet Belgian chocolates at any of the superb chocolatiers. (B)
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and transfer to Ghent, Belgium, one of the richest cities of the Middle Ages, thanks to a thriving wool trade. This city on the Scheldt River has a long and colorful history, which can be appreciated in the town’s beautiful old buildings and its impressive cathedral with Jan and Hubert van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, one of the greatest early Flemish paintings. Continue to Amsterdam, the canal-laced capital of The Netherlands built on the riches of the Dutch East India Company. (B)
After breakfast, embark on a canal tour by glass-topped boat to see architecture from the city’s Golden Age. In the afternoon, take free time to visit the van Gogh Museum, the renovated Rijksmuseum with its marvelous collection of Dutch Masters, or just explore the city’s charming neighborhoods. As always, your Program Director can help you plan your afternoon. (B)
Enjoy a full day at leisure in Amsterdam. Explore the many charming side streets in the city’s canal belt, visit the Royal Palace on Dam Square or enjoy contemporary art at the Stedelijk Museum. Take time to relax in a café and try some of the local fare. In the afternoon, we will bring you to your ship for embarkation. Welcome aboard! (B, D)
This morning we sail to Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a tour of this ingenious network of windmills and other flood management devices. You learn why the windmills were built and see how they work, plus you enter a working windmill for a tour of its mechanisms and living quarters. Return on board for lunch and an enjoyable afternoon of Dutch diversions: sample handcrafted Dutch cheeses and jenever, a distilled juniper liquor, and take in a culturally enriching presentation on the Dutch Golden Age. We cruise through the night. (B, L, D)
You have a morning tour of Cologne, including a visit to the Dom, Germany’s largest cathedral and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After your tour, spend the rest of the day and evening exploring Cologne on your own: Roman ruins, interesting neighborhoods and museums like the Fragrance Museum and the Chocolate Museum. As always, your Program Director can help you plan your free time. Or, join an optional excursion on which you will ascend to the Dom’s roof, enjoying up-close views of the cathedral’s architecture and bird’s-eye vistas of Cologne. Lunch and dinner are served on board; we depart at midnight. (B, L, D)
Proceed along the Rhine, disembarking to tour the 700-year-old Marksburg Castle. Alternately, choose an optional excursion that offers a lively and informative tour of Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, or enjoy an optional guided exploration of Koblenz on foot. After, enjoy an onboard lunch as you cruise the scenic Middle Rhine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where turreted castles and fortresses overlook the river from their hilltop posts. Arrive in Rüdesheim in the late afternoon. Spend free time in the pedestrian-only Drosselgasse and sample a glass of locally produced wine at one of the restaurants or wine bars. Dine on board your ship, or in town if you prefer. You may also choose to experience one of our optional dinners on shore tonight. We depart after midnight. (B, L, D)
Cruise into mid-morning as you enjoy the passing scenery. After breakfast, disembark for a tour of Heidelberg, the home of Germany’s oldest university, founded in 1386. Visit the beautiful sandstone ruins of imposing Heidelberg Castle and take in the scenery of the Neckar River Valley and the city’s many red rooftops from this hilltop post. Continue with a walking tour through Old Town to Heidelberg’s renowned gates. On your way back to your ship, visit the historic town of Speyer and take in views of the imposing Romanesque cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 11th century on the site of a former basilica, the building’s design influenced Romanesque architecture for centuries to come, and is the final resting place of eight German monarchs. Its soaring interior features graceful rows of sandstone columns and a large stained-glass window that was installed in the western facade during a later Gothic period. (B, L, D)
We dock this morning in Kehl and disembark for a guided tour of Strasbourg. See the European Parliament and tour the interior of the city’s famed cathedral. The afternoon is free to further explore this Alsatian city’s blend of French and German cultures, resplendent churches, medieval covered bridges, verdant parks and handsome Art Nouveau and modernist architecture. Alternately, join our optional excursion into Alsatian wine country for an informative winery tour and tasting. Or, spend your full day exploring culinary Strasbourg on an optional excursion; as you explore the city and take in its sights, you will savor samples of the renowned Alsatian cuisine, from regional dessert specialties and meats to wine pairings with local foods. On board this evening, enjoy a Taste of Germany dinner event.
Arrive in Breisach this morning, gateway to the Black Forest. Take a scenic excursion through the area’s renowned mountain landscape, rolling meadows and dense forests. Once there, visit a local workshop to see a cuckoo clock-making demonstration, and learn how Black Forest Cake is made. Return to your ship for lunch. This afternoon, perhaps join an optional excursion to the quaint Alsatian town of Colmar to discover the storybook charm of its streets lined with medieval, Gothic and Renaissance buildings, and visit a fine arts museum. Alternately, choose an optional excursion that explores Colmar’s World War II history. Dine on board this evening and cruise on through the night. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, disembark and proceed to the airport for your return flight.* Or, extend your journey with 2 nights in Lucerne or Basel, or 3 nights in Lake Como. (B)