Welcome to Amsterdam, a 700-year-old city that has seen legends form and prospered from the Dutch Golden Age, a time at which Dutch art was among the world’s most acclaimed. Here, a number of old masters found their inspiration, and modern galleries showcase the work that they created. When you arrive, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your contemporary Star-Ship, where you will enjoy some time to explore the city at leisure after boarding.
Amsterdam is a wonderful destination year-round, but during the Christmas period the entire city sparkles with fairylights and Christmas cheer. Snow blankets the narrow cobbled streets and the Dutch indulge on oliebollen and appelbeignets, deep fried sweets that can be purchased from stalls that look like traditional alpine huts in one of Amsterdam’s many Christmas markets.
Today, you will have the opportunity to take to Amsterdam’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed canal system during a glass top canal boat cruise, passing areas that are covered in white powdered snow and people relaxing whilst drinking warm cups of traditional hot chocolademelk.
A canal cruise
Haarlem Discovery Visit (extra expense)
The wafting aroma of freshly roasted chestnuts and mulled wine welcomes you in Cologne, where the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland can be found during the holiday season. Today, enjoy a walking tour of Cologne and visit the colourful Christmas market that sits underneath the shadows of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Cologne Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece that effortlessly creates a striking backdrop to the nativity-like scene below. More than a hundred half-timbered stalls are swathed in light, streaming down from the twinkling canopy of bulbs that criss-crosses above.
In Cologne’s many Christmas markets, you can find glittering ornaments, artisans creating handcrafted goods and freshly baked produce, including lebkuchen, a beloved round or heart-shaped type of gingerbread that usually includes honey, cardamom or candied fruit. Enjoy drinking mulled wine from a festive mug as you soak in the views of what is arguably one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Guided tour of Colognes old town
Today, set foot into the UNESCO World Heritage-listed historical landscape of the Rhine Gorge, where the beams of Rüdesheim’s half-timbered houses are covered in fairylights. Rüdesheim hosts the “Christmas Market of Nations”, where more than a hundred stalls effortlessly represent more than a dozen nations, each showcasing their own Christmas specialities, customs and celebrations.
Whilst in Rüdesheim, enjoy an excursion to Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet, and perhaps indulge in some Rüdesheim coffee, a famous drink that is made with locally distilled Asbach Uralt brandy, served with whipped cream and sprinkled with vanilla sugar and chocolate flakes. This festive drink is certain to warm you on a frosty winter’s day. Later, return to the plush surrounds of your Star-Ship for a special on-board performance.
A visit to Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum
Miltenberg - Wertheim
Welcome to Miltenberg. This postcard-worthy town can be found set against a lush backdrop created by the Odenwald forest. Christmastime swathes the area with festive cheer, and decorations and colourful window displays as far as the eye can see are all illuminated at dusk by twinkling fairylights. Miltenberg is home to one of the oldest pubs in Germany, and its delightful boutique market features stalls full of local arts, crafts and delightful treats. Perhaps try an apple streusel kuchen during your time here, a type of apple crumb cake that the area is famous for.
A guided tour of Miltenberg
Vineyard visit & Franconian wine (extra expense)
Today, enjoy a guided tour of Würzburg and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Würzburg Residence. Nestled in the heart of the old town, you will find an enchanting Christmas market. Steeped in 19th-century beginnings, more than 100 wooden stalls showcase seasonal decorations and delectable treats, all coated by the soft glow of Christmas lights. A traditional mug of Glühwein, a hot red wine infused with spices, is the best way to fight off the chill of a cold day.
The Würzburg Residence is a true icon, built by the prince bishops’ centuries ago. The opulence that it displays is truly breath-taking. Enjoy a guided tour of what is quite possibly one of the most beautiful Baroque palaces in Europe, as its gardens are blanketed by fresh snow.
A walking tour of Würzburg and visit to the Bishop Residence
Excursion to Rothenburg (extra expense)
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Bamberg is home to not just one, but four delightful Christmas markets, each acting as sparkling gems set amongst half-timbered surrounds in this quaint little town. Here, you will be able to find some of the loveliest Baroque nativity scenes that Germany has to offer.
While you enjoy a guided tour of all of Bamberg’s main highlights, make sure that you stop to try a glass of Bamberg’s famous beer. Nine breweries call the town their home, and several of their world-famous products are still made using traditional Franconian brewing methods.
A guided tour of Bamberg
Your included excursion today is a sightseeing tour of the historic city of Nuremberg, touching on the architectural wonders that have inspired famous artists for centuries and exploring the effects that the war years had. You will also have time to explore the wonderful Christmas Market in the city centre.
A guided tour of Nuremberg
Gingerbread cooking demonstration
Kelheim - Regensburg
This morning, cruise along the final stretch of the Main-Danube Canal, admiring the view as you pass over a number of aqueducts. Regensburg’s delightful past is yours to discover today, as your local guide introduces you to the treasures of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town.
After your tour, your EmeraldPLUS experience will take you right into the heart of the Thurn und Taxis Palace Christmas market, one of the loveliest in the country where traditional stalls are illuminated by twinkling lights.
A traditional Bavarian band on board
A visit to the Christmas market in the Thurn und Taxis Palace grounds
A guided tour of Regensburg
Visit to a local brewery
Passau – Linz
Welcome to Passau, a town where three of Europe’s main rivers converge underneath the castle. On this afternoon’s walking tour, stroll down old narrow alleys and look up to see the hilltop Oberhaus Fortress as it overlooks the town. Your tour will conclude at the green-domed façade of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where Passau’s annual Christkindlmarkt can be found. Here, perhaps sample some delicious warm Glühwein and freshly baked goods.
A guided tour of Passau
Excursion to Salzburg (extra expense)
Excursion to Ceský Krumlov (extra expense)
Melk – Dürnstein
History is yours to discover and enjoy during a river cruise through Europe, but the quaint village of Melk offers a wonderful introduction of some of the historic architecture that can be found on the continent. Your included excursion today is a tour of the Benedictine Melk Abbey, an ancient Baroque monastery that is known for its monumental beauty and the treasures that are kept inside of its historic library.
Later, your Star-Ship will sail through the Rhine Gorge, a landscape steeped in fairytales where the winter months only add an ethereal layer to your surroundings.
A tour of Melk Abbey
Welcome to the “City of Dreams”, Vienna. This ornate cityscape was home to famous musicians, composers and the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Today, you can explore the capital with a drive around the magnificent Ringstrasse, where opulent buildings can be seen peppering the area.
After your guided tour, enjoy some time to explore at leisure, perhaps sampling some delicious hot chocolate and baked goods in one of Vienna’s many Christmas markets.
guided tour of Vienna
Viennese evening concert (extra expense)
Visit of Schönbrunn Palace (extra expense)
Gothic architecture and tales of a communist past welcome you to Bratislava, a capital that has seen much in the way of turbulence over the past century. Today, you will discover that that turbulence is nowhere to be seen, as you stroll down peaceful streets and soak in the neo-Renaissance glory of ancient theatres and the sheer opulence of the Episcopal Summer Palace.
The Christmas season adds an extra layer to the city, where a blend of distinctive cultures come together and showcase their handcrafted ornaments and delicious treats.
Home-hosted coffee and cake with a local Slovakian family
A walking tour of Bratislava
Skoda Tour of Post-Communist Bratislava (extra expense)
Budapest is a relatively new capital when compared to other European capitals, and yet it has quickly made a name for itself as a city steeped in history and culture, where the ancient and modern exist together seamlessly. Your guided tour of the capital will touch on the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Buda Castle district, as well as Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion.
This evening, a traditional Hungarian farewell dinner is certain to delight the senses.
A traditional Hungarian folklore show
A guided coach tour of Budapest
Excursion to Szentendre (extra expense)
Jewish Heritage tour (extra expense)
After breakfast, it is time to say farewell to your fellow guests and disembark the ship for your transfer to the airport, taking memories of open squares adorned with Christmas stalls and crisp winter mornings with you.
This itinerary is a guide only and may be amended for operational reasons such as high and low water. As such, the cruise may operate altered from that stated above. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information.