One of Europe’s most legendary rivers, the Rhine meanders through a storied landscape dotted with castles, vineyards, and medieval towns. On an 8-day cruise, journey to four countries linked by this fabled waterway, discovering their intertwined histories and cultures. Set out from Switzerland to encounter Strasbourg’s charming half-timbered houses, glide along Amsterdam’s iconic canals in the Netherlands, and marvel at Germany’s magnificent castles and cathedrals from Heidelberg to Cologne. Pass through the dramatic Rhine Gorge—a UNESCO World Heritage site of stunning natural beauty—and take in panoramic views while biking along the river. 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.
Arrive in Zürich and transfer to our ship in Basel this afternoon. Settle into your spacious suite, or head to the sundeck for your first al fresco cocktail hour overlooking the river. This evening, set sail on the Rhine.
Scenic Pearl for the entire voyage
Having switched allegiances between France and Germany several times, Strasbourg is a fascinating cultural amalgam. Today you’ll have the option to explore the city on a guided tour of its half-timbered old town, or to venture beyond the riverbank, deeper into either France or Germany. Travelers who fancy a day in the French countryside will visit charming Mittelbergheim to sip Alsatian wines at a local winstub, while the more active excursion to Germany is focused on the traditional past time of hiking on a wanderweg through the coniferous Black Forest.
Go ashore in Mannheim and travel north to Grube Messel, a fossil pit that has revealed discoveries critical to our understanding of mammalian evolution. Explore this World Heritage site, featured in a February 2000 National Geographic magazine article. It was here that “Ida,” the world’s most complete primate fossil, was found in 1983. Or travel to Heidelberg, a baroque beauty that inspired authors and composers from the 19th-century German Romantic movement. Stroll the old town and visit its sandstone castle; or take a funicular up the hill, enjoying spectacular views as you hike back down to town. Tonight we’ll gather at an intimate theater in Mannheim Palace for a private concert.
In Rüdesheim am Rhein, board the Winzerexpress mini train for a visit to Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet, home to a collection of elaborate self-playing musical instruments. Then ride a cable car to the Niederwald Monument, built to commemorate the unification of Germany. Or set out on a hike through the vineyards surrounding town. This afternoon, we’ll glide past the many medieval towns and castles that dot the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, or Rhine Gorge—a World Heritage site. Head to the ship’s sundeck and practice landscape photography alongside our National Geographic photographer, capturing the perfect angle on this stunning scenery.
Today there are several options for exploring in or around Koblenz, an ancient Roman city straddling the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. Choose to visit a fish ladder and learn about the state of fisheries on the Moselle, or venture outside the city limits by bike and pedal along the river like a local. Alternatively, join a guided walking tour through our port of call, featuring stops at the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) which dates back to the 5th century, and the 17th-century Rathaus (town hall). Or choose to visit the fairy tale town of Cochem, overlooking the Moselle Valley.
Dock in Cologne and venture north to Mettmann, a town located in a valley where Neanderthal fossils were first found. The Neanderthal Museum is a tribute to human evolution, and we are invited on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of its fossil exhibits. There is also the option to explore Cologne, including a visit to its iconic Gothic cathedral. In our free time, opt to join our photographer for a unique view of the city and its surroundings.
Set out to explore timeless Amsterdam, known as the Venice of the North for its picturesque canals. Here, you can see the city from water level during a canal cruise, or take a guided visit through the renowned Rijksmuseum. Or, discover Amsterdam’s iconic outdoor markets—selling everything from household goods to cheeses, bread, and flowers—to get a local flavor of the city.
After breakfast, disembark our ship and transfer to the airport for your flight home.
- Switzerland Extension5 days from $2,050
Pre-Trip, 5 Days
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After breakfast, transfer to Basel for your cruise.