Stepping aboard you will appreciate the superb surroundings of your floating luxury hotel for the next seven nights with spacious and well-appointed cabins or suites, private bathrooms and meticulously prepared fine cuisine.
From Cologne, we slip our moorings and head on our journey south to Koblenz spending a morning exploring this historic town sitting at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers then continuing to the beautiful old town of Boppard for the evening. Continuing our journey we navigate through the outstanding natural beauty of the world-famous Rhine Gorge onto Mainz famous for the ‘Gutenberg’ Bibles. Next we enjoy a guided tour of stunning Heidelberg, on the route of Europe’s ‘Grand Tour’, nestling by the picturesque river Neckar.
By day five, we arrive in Strasbourg, a delightful city with its centre largely unchanged since the 14th century, a mosaic of winding alleys and lanes lined with quirkily crooked, half-timbered houses. During periods of its history Strasbourg has been both German and French, and today you can see this influence in its language, cuisine and appearance, creating a truly individual city. Then to Colmar, almost embarrassingly perfect - a typically quaint medieval Alsatian town.
The following day we return journey downstream, stopping in Rudesheim one of the liveliest towns on the river, before continuing through the Rhine Gorge to Cologne. Here we enjoy a guided walking tour of the city with time to explore the stunning cathedral, an excellent finale to this most wonderful cruise.
DAY 1 - EMBARK IN COLOGNE
Arrive in Cologne, where your five-star floating hotel is moored in the picturesque historic center. The dedicated English-speaking crew welcomes you on board and helps you to your cabin. After settling into your spacious and tastefully furnished accommodation, there’s time to familiarise yourself with this splendid ship.
DAY 2 - KOBLENZ & BOPPARD
When you peek out from your cabin this morning, you’ll realize the ship has slipped quietly away from Cologne; the view that greets you is of vine-covered valleys sides aglow in the morning light, bidding you a warm welcome to the charms of the Rhine. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of anticipation when gliding alongside the promenade of a river port, snatching tantalizing glimpses of what lies ashore, and Koblenz – beautifully located at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers – doesn’t disappoint. The city is immersed in two millennia of history: founded by the Romans, it was successively occupied by the Franks, chosen as a residence of the German prince electors, conquered by the French and fortified by the Prussians! All have left their marks in the city’s rich array of castles, churches, and historic buildings.
Koblenz is a romantic’s dream – forest-covered hillsides dominate the skyline, while the lower slopes are strewn with pretty, half-timbered buildings so typical of the Rhineland. After a satisfying breakfast, we disembark to enjoy an insightful guided tour through ‘Old Koblenz’, a patchwork of narrow streets and squares, many lined with exquisitely restored traditional houses and cozy cafés. There’s time to explore on your own, maybe taking in a little shopping, before ambling back to the cruise ship. We continue upstream as we enjoy our first relaxing lunch on board and before long we arrive in Boppard, a gorgeous town on a dramatic, almost U-shaped river bend. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Rhine’, Boppard is renowned for its storybook medieval atmosphere of cobbled streets and ancient houses. Here we’ll enjoy a guided tour lead by one of our local experts, with highlights including the beautiful white stone St. Severus and Carmelite churches, the marketplace with the ruins of the fortress and the old town with its charming winding alleys and half-timbered houses. The early evening is an ideal time to wander along the town’s attractive riverside Rheinallee promenade before thoughts turn to tonight’s menu, prepared by the ship’s chef and served to your delight in the restaurant.
DAY 3 - RHINE GORGE & MAINZ
Slipping our moorings in Boppard we cruise through the Rhine Gorge, where the waters narrow to one-fifth their normal width and flow more swiftly. Sheer valley walls soar 600 feet and magnificent birds of prey glide on the thermals above. Teutonic knights built the numerous redoubtable castles as symbols of their power and to extract tolls from ships, but the fortresses now stand as silent ruins on forested hillsides as reminders of how fortunes change with the passage of history. This really is the magical Rhine of our imagination, so find a comfortable spot on the Sun Deck or in the forward observation lounge and enjoy the experience of cruising this famous stretch of water.
Your next port of call is historic Mainz for an unmissable guided tour. The city is renowned today as Germany’s wine capital but whose most famous son was Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the movable type printing press. You can visit the excellent museum housing a reconstruction of his workshop and, outstandingly, two original 1455 Gutenberg Bibles. The museum is in a beautifully restored 17th-century building in the heart of Mainz’s Old Town, opposite the impressive Romanesque cathedral.
DAY 4 - HEIDELBERG
Overnight we cruise further downstream and, after breakfast, we take a short drive to Heidelberg, undoubtedly one of Germany’s most perfect architectural treasures and all the more remarkable because it escaped bombing during the Second World War. Set in an almost idealized German landscape, this jewel sits on the banks of the River Neckar, surrounded by forests and with an imposing castle dominating the church spires and terracotta gabled roofs of the compact Aldstadt – the romantic Old Town. Its 14th-century university, one of the most prestigious in Europe, lends Heidelberg a genteel atmosphere rather similar to its ‘twin’ town – Cambridge. During the 19th century, it was the center of Germany’s Romantic Movement, on the route of the ‘Grand Tour’ and visited by many artists including JMW Turner, who captured its splendors for eternity. There are few more delightful places to explore, as you’ll discover on our guided walking tour, which reveals its principal attractions – including the magical stone bridge with its twin white towers – and local secrets. Afterward, you’ll have time to explore on your own before returning to the ship to enjoy the gorgeous views as the sun sets.
DAY 5 - STRASBOURG & COLMAR
By breakfast, we’ve arrived in France and the charming city of Strasbourg, capital of the Alsace region. The city is a complete delight – its center a mosaic of winding alleys and lanes lined with quirkily crooked, half-timbered houses largely unchanged since the 14th century. During its history Strasbourg has been both German and French, and you see influences of both in its language, cuisine and appearance, creating a truly individual ambiance. This morning, we explore this delightful city on a walking tour with a local guide leading us to its enchanting center – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – taking in the Petite France quarter of pretty canals lined with classic pastel-colored houses crisscrossed with timbers and with flower-filled window boxes, the famous multi-towered Ponts Couverts, or covered bridges, and, of course, the stunning Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral, which Victor Hugo memorably described as a ‘veritable tiara of stone’.
Just south of Strasbourg lies a picturesque wine route, virtually an open-air museum of romantic medieval villages, cobbled streets and Renaissance chateaux strung like pearls on a necklace against a sweeping backdrop of rolling hills. We enjoy all this on a splendidly scenic drive, soon arriving in the medieval town of Colmar, the best-preserved in Alsace. Little known outside the area, it’s a magical concoction of canals, former merchants’ houses, ancient religious buildings and antique shops. The cathedral quarter is surrounded by pastel-colored half-timbered houses displaying the intricate wrought-iron hanging signs so typical of this area of Europe. We’ve plenty of time here to sit, enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by or just wander. We return to the ship in Strasbourg for dinner.
DAY 6 - RÜDESHEIM
After a relaxing morning cruise, we arrive in Rüdesheim by late afternoon for a wonderful walking tour – if you imagine a typical Rhine town, then this would be it! Narrow crooked streets lead down to the sweeping river with a backdrop of wooded and vine-covered slopes. Riesling is the specialty grape here and Rüdesheim has many atmospheric Weinstuben where you can sample local wines produced from the surrounding vineyards. On board tonight, we enjoy a culinary spectacular – the Captain’s Dinner – featuring a range of irresistible specialities from the countries and regions we visit during our cruise. This special occasion is hosted, of course, by the Captain himself.
DAY 7 - COLOGNE GUIDED TOUR
This morning, early risers can enjoy phenomenal views as once again we pass through the Rhine Gorge where, in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the Rhine Maidens guard lost treasure, the ‘Rheingold’. What better way to spend the morning than relaxing on the Sun Deck beneath dramatic rocky, vineyard-topped valley sides dotted with romantic ruined castles.
The valley sides dissolve and hills give way to plains as we progress majestically to Cologne. This afternoon you can discover this fascinating city on our tour led by a local guide who’ll help you get the most out of your visit, which of course takes in the twin-spired cathedral, the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe, miraculous survivor of Second World War bombing and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It took six centuries to complete, and among its many treasures are the magnificent stained glass windows and gilded sarcophagus said to contain the remains of the three kings from the Nativity story. We also see the vibrant Old Town, beautifully restored and boasting an abundance of excellent shopping and cozy bars, some of which still brew their own beer. As night falls, a sumptuous dinner provides the perfect finale to this memorable cruise through the romantic River Rhine.
DAY 8 - DISEMBARK IN COLOGNE
This morning, the crew bids you farewell before you disembark.