Expedition Overview

Expedition Overview


2021 River Cruises: Free Airfare Offer

Book by October 31, 2020 and receive free round-trip economy airfare between the U.S. and Europe on select 2021 departures.

On 11+ day itineraries receive free round-trip premium economy airfare between the U.S. and Europe on select 2021 departures.

Offer is subject to availability and valid for new bookings only, and may not be combined with other promotions. Free roundtrip economy air available with a maximum value of $1,200 per person. Free roundtrip premium economy air available on 11+ day Europe sailings with a maximum value of $1,800 per person. Please call for details.

  • Experience the Christmas spirit like never before at some of Europe’s oldest and grandest Christmas markets.
  • Discover the rich history of the Rhineland as you explore magnificent cities in France, Germany, and the Netherlands alongside National Geographic experts.
  • Capture spectacular images of castle ruins and gothic churches, using tips and tricks from our accompanying National Geographic photographer.
  • Enjoy an exclusive behind-the-scenes visit to the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann; and explore Grube Messel pit, the famed fossil site featured in National Geographic magazine where “Ida”—the world’s most complete primate fossil—was found.



Winter in northern Europe means the arrival of long nights, crisp snows, and dazzling celebrations of the holiday season. Cruise in comfort along the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam, disembarking along the way to explore magical Christmas markets exhibiting customs unique to each city. Wander through medieval squares filled with the sounds of traditional carolers, the scents of mulled wine and spices, and the sparkle of ornamented Christmas trees. Browse stalls displaying delicate handmade trinkets and toys, explore fairytale castles and cathedrals decked with tinsel, and bring home holiday cheer to brighten the new year. As we sail these storied waterways, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—and benefit from the insights provided by the National Geographic Expert and the National Geographic photographer who accompany us on the journey.

Day 1: Basel, Switzerland

Embark our ship in Basel and settle into your spacious suite. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner and raise your glass to the beginning of a magical trip along the Rhine.

Meals Included:Dinner

Scenic Crystal or Scenic Jasper for the entire voyage

Day 2: Strasbourg, France

Having alternated allegiances between France and Germany several times over the course of its 2,000-year history, Strasbourg is a fascinating cultural amalgam that boasts spectacular Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque architecture. Enjoy a guided tour of the city, including the historic Grand Île, a UNESCO World Heritage site. As you stroll the enchanting cobblestone streets, marvel at half-timbered houses and stroll across the Ponts Couverts, a trio of covered medieval bridges. During your free time, explore the ornamented stalls of Strasbourg’s famous Christkindelsmärik, one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in Europe. As you take in scents of mulled wine and spices, discover why Strasbourg is known as France’s “capitale de Noël.”

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3: Baden-Baden, Germany

This morning we venture inland to the charming spa town of Baden-Baden, famous for its Roman baths. Choose between several ways to explore the city, including a guided tour of the old town or a hike to the 12th-century Hohenbaden Castle ruins, perched high above the town and offering breathtaking views of the surrounding Black Forest. Or visit the Mercedes-Benz factory to glimpse a state-of-the-art assembly line and learn the history of this iconic brand. In the evening, enjoy a private concert at a baroque palace.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4: Heidelberg, Germany

Discover the rich history and romantic cityscape of Heidelberg. Weather permitting, visit the ruins of the Renaissance-era Heidelberg Castle and hike back to the old town. Alternatively, tour the city’s picturesque baroque-style streets, or enjoy an exclusive visit to the World Heritage site of Grube Messel, a quarry renowned for its superbly preserved plant and animal fossils. One of the best preserved primate fossils in the world—nicknamed Ida—was discovered here in 1983, and then analyzed by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Jørn Hurum in 2009. This afternoon, we continue our cruise along the Rhine.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5: Koblenz, Germany

Arrive in Koblenz, situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Glide past the colossal equestrian statue of Emperor William I that presides over the two waterways, and observe the clash of colors where the waters meet. Disembark for a guided tour of this historic city, and delve into a colorful Christmas wonderland. During the holiday season, six of the city’s old squares are utterly transformed by sparkling lights, ornamented trees, cottage-style market stalls, and an Advent calendar fashioned out of the 24 dormers in the baroque-style town hall. Listen to traditional choirs while sampling Germany’s festive “fire cup” of mulled wine, potato fritters, and the famous Lebkuchenherzen gingerbread hearts. Alternatively, explore Cochem, a medieval gem nestled in the Moselle River Valley. A guided tour culminates in a visit to the Reichsburg Castle, a fairytale cluster of conical towers perched high above the town.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6: Cologne, Germany

Go ashore in Cologne, and gaze up at the intricate twin spires of the city's iconic cathedral—one of the only structures left standing in the city following the heavy air raids of World War II. Explore Cologne’s extensive cultural offerings, including dozens of acclaimed museums and galleries. Discover Romanesque churches and unique medieval structures, such as the stone city gates and the Town Hall. Alternatively, join an excursion to the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, located near the site where the bones of an Ice Age human were recovered for the first time. Or discover the distinctive red-roofed stalls of the Cologne Christmas market at your own pace, in search of hand-made gifts for friends and family. Set sail for Amsterdam this afternoon.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 7: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Arrive in the Dutch capital city of Amsterdam today, and set out to explore one of the many Christmas markets set along its picturesque canals. Sample delicious treats such as oliebollen, Dutch doughnuts, or poffertjes, small pancakes topped with butter and powdered sugar. Choose to explore the city’s medieval canals on a boat cruise, or opt for a guided tour of the Rijksmuseum, home to historical exhibitions that tell the story of the Netherlands, as well as masterpieces by famous Dutch painters from Rembrandt to Vermeer. Alternatively, head outside the city to discover the colorful fishing towns of Volendam and Edam, where vendors sell Dutch favorites such as herring and the famed Edam cheese.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8: Amsterdam, Netherlands

After breakfast onboard, transfer to the airport in Amsterdam and connect with your flight home.

Meals Included:Breakfast



  • Switzerland Extension
    5 days from $2,050
Switzerland Extension

Graced with sparkling lakes, rolling meadows, and the majestic Alps, Switzerland abounds with breathtaking scenery. Spend time exploring Zürich, the country’s pleasant and posh financial hub; then venture to the picturesque lakeside towns of Lucerne and Montreux. Enjoy visits to charming Alpine hamlets, and take in views of Switzerland’s incomparable mountain peaks on a scenic train ride across the countryside.

Day 1: Zürich, Switzerland

Arrive in Zürich and settle into your city center hotel, located steps from the lakefront. Enjoy an evening at leisure in Switzerland’s posh financial hub.

Accommodations:Hotel Schweizerhof
Day 2: Zürich/Lucerne/Bern

Set out to explore Zürich's Altstadt, or Old Town. Wander winding lanes, and see the Romanesque Grossmünster church and the Fraumünster, home to stunning stained-windows designed by Marc Chagall. Later, journey into the majestic Swiss Alps for a visit to the lovely lakeside city of Lucerne, famous for its covered bridges and frescoed building facades. Stroll amid the candy-colored buildings lining the waterfront promenade, and cross the Reuss river via Kapellbrücke, one of Europe’s oldest wooden bridges. Continue to our hotel in medieval Bern.

Meals Included:Breakfast
Accommodations:Hotel Bellevue Palace Bern
Day 3: Gstaad/Montreux

Ascend into the mountains of the Bernese Oberland and spend time exploring Gstaad, a small upscale ski village. Popular pastimes during the town’s warmer months include exploring the surrounding forested slopes on area walking trails, and simply enjoying the traditional Alpine ambiance of the village center. Continue to Montreux and settle into our hotel on the shores of stunning Lake Geneva.

Meals Included:Breakfast
Accommodations:Fairmont Le Montreux Palace
Day 4: Montreux/Château-d’Oex

Board a first-class car for the scenic train journey to Château-d’Oex. Take in views of rolling meadows and chalet villages through the train’s panoramic windows. Upon arrival, head to a local restaurant to watch cheesemakers at work, transforming fresh milk into the hard savory cheese the region is known for. Taste the final product and enjoy time to explore before returning to Montreux for an afternoon at leisure.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5: Montreux/Basel

After breakfast, transfer to Basel for your cruise.

Meals Included:Breakfast