Arrive Basel and embark your riverboat
Tour begins: 6:00 PM, Basel. A transfer is included from Euroairport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg or Basel SBB Railway Station to your riverboat for the start of your cruise; check-in for all guests aboard the riverboat is 4:00 PM. After a discovery briefing where you'll hear about your river travels ahead, please join us for a welcome reception followed by dinner onboard this evening to celebrate the start of a fantastic journey.
Lucerne & Mt. Pilatus or wine tasting
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; after your visit, head to the French Alsatian town of Riquewihr for lunch and a wine tasting. 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.
Sightseeing in Strasbourg & 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.
Speyer or Heidelberg & its Castle
For centuries the Rhine River was a major transport hub and a source of wealth for many; today you'll have a choice of visiting Speyer, a town that thrived on trade in the 10th and 11th centuries when construction on its double-domed cathedral began, or Heidelberg. At Speyers' impressive Technik Museum, you'll find 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. On a visit 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 morning on an excursion to Heidelberg, Germany's oldest university town. 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 (Heidelberger Schloss), 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. Return to the riverboat for an afternoon of cruising and dinner onboard this evening.
Koblenz or riverside cycling, then dinner in the country
Your riverboat arrives today 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 an afternoon 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 Altstadt, (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, taking in views of the passing pleasure boats and freighters. The late afternoon is spent back onboard your riverboat, cruising through the quiet Rhine River Valley, past small cities, churches, ancient walls and castles. Early this evening, disembark for a Tauck Exclusive private reception and family-style farm-to-table dinner at the Ehreshoven Foundation's Ecolut-Center, a modern venue in the countryside dedicated to forest sustainability. Rejoin the riverboat tonight in Köln.
A day in historic Köln
Sightseeing in Köln (Cologne) 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. Following lunch aboard the riverboat, depart Köln in the early afternoon as your river cruise sails toward its final days in the amazing Dutch capital, Amsterdam.
A day in Amsterdam - canals, museums and more
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 - and lunch onboard, spend a free afternoon as you please in Amsterdam. Return to your riverboat for tonight's farewell reception followed by dinner, then live music in the lounge - a fitting finale to an fantastic week on the River Rhine!
Tour ends: Amsterdam. Disembark your riverboat this morning no later than 9:00 AM, then fly home anytime. A transfer is included from ms Inspire to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport or Amsterdam Centraal Station. Please allow at least 3 hours for flight check-in. For guests wishing to spend more time in Amsterdam, ask at booking about extending your stay with an additional hotel night at Tauck's hotel.