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 this storied waterway, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—from guided tours of iconic sites to culinary experiences and active adventures.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After breakfast onboard, transfer to the airport in Amsterdam and connect with your flight home.