Embark on your cruise in Amsterdam
Tour begins: 5:00 PM, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Welcome to Amsterdam! Transfers are included from Schiphol Airport or Amsterdam Centraal Station to your riverboat, where embarkation will begin any time after 4:00 PM. Enjoy a welcome cocktail reception followed by a leisurely dinner as you settle into your floating hotel for a memorable weeklong cruise on the Rhine and a visit to Italy's sparkling Lake Como region and remarkable Milan.
Amsterdam & its canals
Awaken aboard your riverboat in Amsterdam and disembark to be introduced to this unique city in two distinct ways - on an orientation tour of the city center, and aboard a canal boat cruise. As you float through the city's 17th-century network of canals and enjoy a bite of lunch, you'll pass under bridges, check out the distinctive houseboats, see the historic buildings lining the canals, and watch the locals go everywhere on their bicycles... with their groceries, briefcases, and children onboard! In Amsterdam, bicyclists have their own lanes in the streets, ride fast, and don't always stop for pedestrians who get in their way... so keep your eyes open! After your canal cruise, you'll catch up with the riverboat in Utrecht, then depart for an overnight sail to Dusseldorf, Germany, during which you'll enjoy dinner onboard.
A choice of discoveries in Dusseldorf
Arrive this morning in Dusseldorf - one of Germany's wealthiest cities, known for its charming Altstadt (Old Town) on the riverfront; its modern avant-garde architecture; Königsallee ("the Kö"), a super high-end shopping street near Altstadt that rivals Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles and Fifth Avenue in New York; and a lively promenade by the river. Walk off the riverboat into town for your choice of either a beer hall tour that visits a number of local breweries to give you a taste of the varieties of dark Altbier the region is known for; or a walking tour focused on the city's history and architecture. After lunch onboard, your riverboat charts a course for Koblenz this afternoon. As you cruise, enjoy an onboard lecture by your Tauck Director, and the chef's Signature Dinner this evening.
Koblenz or cycling & an exclusive palace dinner
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 exploration of Koblenz with your Tauck Director, or a cycling excursion* through town. If you choose to explore Koblenz, your tour includes 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 the town, forests, and 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. And speaking of castles... after docking in Rüdesheim tonight, you'll travel to Aschaffenburg for a sparkling Tauck Exclusive evening featuring a private dinner with entertainment at Schloss Johannisburg, an impressive 17th-century palace built of local red sandstone; nearly destroyed during World War II, the palace was painstakingly rebuilt over several decades following the war. (Note: The July 30 departure will feature a Tauck Exclusive private evening at Schloss Vollrads in Oestrich-Winkel.)
The many charms of Old Heidelberg
Drive to Heidelberg today for a guided visit to the splendid ruins of Heidelberg Castle, a sprawling red sandstone compound high above the city, and a reminder of 600 years of history, followed by a walking tour of town. Check out the Heidelberg Tun, the biggest wine barrel in the world (and walk on top of it). Learn about centuries of movers and shakers, and the romantic story of the Elisabeth Gate, built in 1615 as a present from Elector Frederic V to his wife Elisabeth Stuart, the daughter of King James I of England. He had the triumphal arch secretly crafted in sections and put up as a whole the night before her birthday to surprise her the next morning. The views of the Neckar River Valley from the castle are unforgettable. While strolling in Old Town Heidelberg below, be sure to try a Heidelberg Student Kiss - a special treat invented in the 19th century by a sympathetic chocolatier to give young men a way to express their affections for young women they were not allowed to talk to! Meet your riverboat in Germersheim and spend the afternoon cruising south. You'll have time to enjoy the gym, get a massage... or curl up in a chair on the Sun Deck with a snack and your favorite drink. Have dinner onboard tonight.
Bicycling in the Black Forest... or exploring Alsace
This morning, your riverboat arrives in historic Strasbourg, France - capital of the Alsace and known as the "Crossroads of Europe," home to the European Union's headquarters - from which you'll have a choice of excursions. One possibility is to go on a guided bicycle ride in the scenic Black Forest, stopping in the resort village of Hinterzarten for a traditional German lunch and a demonstration of the art of making Black Forest cake. Your other choice is to drive along the bucolic Alsatian wine route, through countryside where some of the world's best Rieslings are made, to charming Riquewihr for a walking tour of this medieval wine town. On the list of "The Most Beautiful Villages in France," Riquewihr is situated between the Vosges Mountains and the Plain of Alsace, right in the heart of vineyard country. After lunch, enjoy a tasting at one of the local wine cellars before returning to the ship in Strasbourg, and continuing your cruise to Basel, Switzerland.
Choose to discover either Zurich or Basel
Today you have two great Swiss cities to decide between. One possibility is to drive to Zurich, a world capital of banking (not to mention chocolate), for a walking tour with a local guide. Visit Bahnhoffstrasse, the city's exclusive shopping boulevard, connecting lovely Lake Zurich with the main railway station. Head into Zurich's Old Town to wander through Niederdorf, a pedestrian area of winding streets, lined with shops, artisan studios, and restaurants. You'll pass by two important places of worship, the Romanesque Protestant church Grossmünster and Fraumünster, once an abbey home for aristocratic ladies, graced with stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. Enjoy a traditional Swiss lunch in a historic Guild House and hear a private talk by a Swiss banker over dessert. Your other possibility for the day is to stay in Basel and embark on a walking tour of its Old Town with a local guide before setting off to explore on your own. There's much to discover; the city is known for its many contemporary buildings by noted international architects, and it has the highest density of museums in the country, including the world-class Basel Art Museum. Have dinner back aboard your riverboat, docked in Basel for the night.
By rail through Switzerland & the Alps to Milan
After breakfast onboard, bid your crew farewell and disembark your riverboat in Basel, where you'll catch a high-speed train for a railway journey traversing the center of Switzerland, through the Alps and across the border into Italy. Late afternoon, you'll arrive in Milan, a bustling city that reigns as a world capital of fashion and design, and check into the Hotel Principe di Savoia, a splendid 1920s landmark decorated in classic Italian and Art Deco style, centrally located on the Piazza della Repubblica. Home to the national stock exchange, Milan has been Italy's financial engine since the Industrial Revolution, and is known for its upscale culinary scene and shops, which you'll discover as you explore the city on your own this evening.
Discovering Milan... and "The Last Supper"
Immerse yourself in magnificent Milan on an orientation and walking tour that includes an outside visit to the incredible Gothic Cathedral of Milan, il Duomo, the third largest Catholic church in the world. It took 500 years to finish this forest of spires and pinnacles topped by the iconic statue of the golden madonnina. Steps from il Duomo, stroll through the city's premier gathering place, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a.k.a. "the living room of Milan." This massive yet elegant shopping arcade, topped by an airy glass octagonal dome, was built as a symbol of Italian unity in the late 19th century and named after the first king of Italy. You have reservations to see Milan's pièce de resistance, Leonardo da Vinci's mural, The Last Supper, which adorns the dining room at the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent and has a way of drawing the viewer in. You might just feel as if you could walk into the picture, sit down at the table, and strike up a conversation with the apostles (subject to availability; the day of visit may vary). The rest of your day is free. You might want to take in La Scala, one of the most famous opera houses in the world, where Maria Callas sang her heart out... Pinacoteca di Brera, a great art collection including works by Raphael, Bellini, Piero della Francesca, and Caravaggio... the fashion district between pedestrianized Via della Spiga, via Montenapoleone, via Manzoni, and Corso Venezia... or the mildly bohemian Navigli neighborhood of canal-side bars, restaurants, and shops. As you go, be sure to taste the traditional flavors of Milan - sipping a Campari bitter aperitif and sampling dishes like yellow risotto, cassoeula, and ossobuco.
Villas and villages of Lake Como
You're off for a day's tooling around Lake Como, one of Italy's most beautiful lakes, in the shadow of the snowcapped Alps - a mecca for the well-heeled on holiday since ancient Roman times. Drive to tiny Tremezzina, where you'll board a boat for belissima Bellagio. Your Tauck Director leads an orientation walk in this resort village, known as "the Pearl of the Lake, " and you'll have a bit of free time. Take in the lake views and explore the centuries-old buildings, stone lanes, and cobbled stairways lined with shops. Cruise over to the island of Isola Comacina for a quick tour and a six-course lunch at a family-owned trattoria, where you'll learn the story of Lake Como's only island, once the refuge of Lombardy's kings. After lunch, a boat cruise shows you more of Lake Como, which the poet William Wordsworth described as "a treasure whom the earth keeps to herself." The forested shoreline is punctuated by small towns with ancient stone bell towers and opulent villas. Perhaps you'll see villas belonging to George Clooney or Richard Branson! Disembark the boat in the town of Como and head back to Milan, where you'll join us this evening to cap a memorable journey with a farewell reception and dinner at the hotel.
Tour ends: Milan. Fly home anytime; a transfer from Hotel Principe di Savoia to Milan Malpensa or Linate Airports OR Milan's Central Train Station is included. Allow a minimum of three hours for flight check-in at the airport. For additional hotel nights in Milan, ask at booking.