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.
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 aboard for lunch and an enjoyable afternoon of Dutch diversions: sample handcrafted Dutch cheeses and jenever, a distilled juniper liquor, and try your hand at sjoelen (Dutch table shuffleboard). We cruise through the night. (B, L, D)
Continue along the Rhine this morning; arrive in Cologne and disembark for a walking tour. Stroll through Old Town past St. Martin’s Church, and spend some time inside Cologne’s Dom, a remarkable Gothic cathedral whose construction began in 1248 and was only completed in 1880. Explore the dockside taverns, cafés and shops on your own. As always, your Program Director can help you plan your free time. Dinner is served aboard and we remain docked until late evening. (B, L, D)
Proceed along the Rhine, disembarking to tour the 700-year-old Marksburg Castle and its museum. Enjoy an onboard lunch as you marvel at this scenic passage, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where castles 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 aboard your ship, or in town if you prefer. We depart after midnight. (B, L, D)
Cruise through the morning as you enjoy breakfast and the passing scenery. Arrive in Mannheim and disembark for a tour of Heidelberg to see Germany’s oldest university, founded in 1386. Then, 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.
Rejoin your ship in Speyer this afternoon and take some time to look around. You dock in full view 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. Dine aboard and enjoy free time this evening in the amiable little city of Kehl. (B, L, D)
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 and see a cuckoo clock-making demonstration. Return to Breisach or choose an optional excursion to the quaint Alsatian town of Colmar. Dine aboard 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. Enjoy the scenic landscape of the Swiss Alps with a view from your hotel, situated on the banks of beautiful Lake Lucerne. (B)